The quest to discover the Best Cover EVER? continues. Every weekend we have another contender, and every weekend, they’re right. For just that time, for themselves. Because we all know it’s an impossible question, don’t we?
Best Cover EVER? Well, that’s your favourite cover right now. Ask in 5 minutes and odds are it will be a different selection. But that’s half the fun, seeing just what a variety will be chosen….
This time it’s time for the best cover spotlight to fall on Marvel UK and artist Paul Neary, as chosen by Paul Rainey, the much lauded artist on a couple of great series. First there was the brilliant, wonderfully complex soap opera sci-fi that was There’s No Time Like The Present, which is being released by Escape Books in 2013. And currently Rainey is serialising Thunder Brother: Soiap Division, both online and in comic form, another brilliantly composed piece of kitchen sink sci-fi meets soap opera.
Issue 3 is out in print form at the end of November, available from selected retailers and Rainey’s online shop.
So over to Paul, and his choice for his favourite cover…… well, sort of…. read on, you’ll see what I mean…..
Marvel Superheroes Issue 1 – Cover by Paul Neary – Marvel UK 1979
During the 1970s, Dez Skinn managed to persuade Marvel that their British comic publishing arm would be a lot more effective if they relocated it to the UK. Up until then, Marvel UK’s comics were put together in the States while their British offices were comprised solely of future Pet Shop Boy, Neil Tennant, whose job it was to open readers’ letters and attend Spider-Man live action TV pilot presentations in cinemas dressed as the character… probably. Now in charge, Skinn launched the ‘Marvel Revolution’, which involved ditching the glossy covers for paper, dropping the page counts from 36 to 24 and amalgamating two US comic pages into single UK pages demonstrating a disregard for any overall composition that the original artists may have demonstrated. Despite all of this, and the prices staying the same (they may have even gone up), I thought the Marvel Revolution was really exciting.
One of the reasons for this was Hulk Comic, Marvel UK’s cash-in on the recent live action TV series and the place where some of the budget savings from all the cuts got redirected to. For its first five months, Hulk Comic featured predominantly originated material and is the place that I first saw Paul Neary’s artwork.
These days, Neary is better known as the go-to inker for Brian Hitch and Alan Davis (if Mark Farmer is busy) but in the late seventies and early eighties, he seemed to draw the majority of Marvel UK’s original output. For Hulk Comic, he drew most of the Hulk strips (designed to ease kids more familiar with the TV show from the non-verbal growling version to the chatty, child-like comic character) and The Black Knight. Later, when Hulk Comic’s budget for original material was relocated to Doctor Who Weekly, he drew backup strips there.
For reasons unknown to me, Marvel UK at this time didn’t want to just reprint US covers on the fronts of the paper reprints. The publisher seemed eager to produce originated covers. The go-to artist for these always seemed to be Paul Neary. It was as if the editors had some sort of budget scam going on or had hastily signed an exclusive agreement with Neary guaranteeing him a significant amount of work. My memory is that he probably drew hundreds of covers during this period. It was definitely more than tens of covers, although it’s unlikely to have been in the thousands.
This cover to Marvel Superheroes number one isn’t my favourite comic cover (I find that impossible to choose); it’s probably not even my favourite Paul Neary cover. At the time that this comic was published, Silver Age artists had drifted out of fashion at Marvel US. The publisher seemed to prefer the clean styles of Sal Buscema and a young John Byrne. Neary always had a bold and dramatic art style that was, on one hand, recognisably his own but, on the other, featured the vigour and drama similar to his clear influences, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. Neary’s cover his is like the most fantastic piece of fan art, the best type of art there is. An American comic reader of this period could have looked at this cover and, despite the characters depicted thereon, would have recognised the artist as foreign and, who knows, maybe even British. I like that thought.
I also like to imagine that this is a blown up panel from a comic strip in which The Avengers have a race. In the panels before, Captain America is given a head-start because he hasn’t got any superpowers (It’s the only explanation for him being in the lead). I like how on this cover, he and Thor are throwing their weapons as if they’re so desperate to come first that they think if anything of theirs crosses the finishing line first then that makes them the winner. Consequently, in successive panels, a naked Tony Stark is attempting to throw his armour across the line too.