In the latest Comic Book Legends Revealed, discover the bizarre lengths Marvel went through to get a Brian Bolland cover on to a She-Hulk issue.
Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the eight hundred and eleventh installment where we examine three comic book legends and determine whether they are true or false. As usual, there will be three posts, one for each of the three legends. Click here for the first part of this installment's legends.
Marvel did a special wraparound handout of Sensational She-Hulk #14 for comic book stores so that they could get the Brian Bolland cover that was supposed to appear on that issue.
As you well know by now, in the history of comic book sales, in the days before the direct market, comic book covers were naturally the best way that a comic book could get a potential reader to pick that comic book out from all the other ones on the market. In the pre-direct market day, you were specifically targeting impulse purchases, while later on, you were appealing to established comic book fans (as a direct market reader already made the trip to the local comic book store, so their interest in picking up a comic book was already a given).
Irwin Donenfeld, son of DC Comics founder Harry Donenfeld, and an executive at DC during the 1950s and 1960s (right up until the company was sold to the company that later bought Warner Bros. and named the new company Warner Bros.) explained the impact of comic book covers to Jon B. Cooke in Comic Book Artist #5 from TwoMorrows, "Everybody knows that the cover sells the product. I made a book that had photos of the covers of every magazine that we published and when I got the sales reports, I put the numbers underneath the cover. So I followed every single magazine that we produced and I was able to see how certain themes would sell. For example, I discovered that gorillas sell."
" We had gorilla covers on Star-Spangled War Stories or Wonder Woman. You name a magazine, we had a gorilla on it."
"You know what happened? Sales exceeded our expectations. I found dinosaurs before any one else in the world did! We had dinosaurs on covers you can't believe! Even in Tomahawk! Sales shot up."
Another common cover trope was the Earth being in danger, like being cut in half...
The importance of the comic book cover was also demonstrated in how DC Comics editors would often come up with the cover first, before the story inside the comic book was written. Superman editor Mort Weisinger would talk to his young readers and get cover ideas from them, find out what kind of weird things that THEY wanted to see, like a shrunken Superman accosted by a team-up of Lex Luthor and Brainiac!
That cover was technically suggested by a teenage Cary Bates, but the same thing applies. Weisinger would take cover ideas from young people and then have his writers try to come up with stories to match the striking covers.
Julius Schwartz would do the same thing, although I don't believe he went to his audience for ideas like Weisinger did. Schwartz would have the artists draw an outlandish, eye-catching cover and then the writer would have to come up with a story to match the cover...
In other words, the newsstand system had an entirely different sales model than the direct market, although there naturally is some overlap, and that overlap is that great covers still help sell comic books and that is why an artist as brilliant as Brian Bolland is still heavily involved in the world of comics despite not really doing any regular interior comic book work in quite some time. Bolland is one of the world's most foremost comic book cover artists. Comic book editors are THRILLED to get Brian Bolland to do a cover for their comic book. It can really mean a boost to the sales of a comic.
Bolland later noted on his late, lamented blog (well, I miss it, at least), "Unfortunately my artwork for the She-Hulk cover turned up a day late for Marvel Comics. In Marvel's haste to get a cover on this issue they got someone in the Marvel office to trace over my rough and produce a quick but on-time version of this picture which graced the cover of this issue."
Well, Chase likely felt awful seeing the Bolland cover come in JUST too late, so Marvel did a delightful thing. They created a wraparound fold-out with Bolland's cover on it and then gave that to comic book stores so that customers could take the wraparound and put it around their published copy of Sensational She-Hulk and now the Bolland cover could appear on the issue in question...sort of...
Isn't that such a clever idea? I am so impressed that Marvel approved the extra funds it must have cost to create that giveaway.
See how detailed Bolland's rough sketch was that Texeira's cover is pretty darn similar to Bolland's!
Thanks to Brian Bolland for the informative quote!
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