The Demons and Rockets of L.B. Cole

There’s probably no need to write a panegyric on Leonard Brandt Cole, 1918-1995. (But did you know he had a doctorate in anatomy and physiology?) The first thing that springs to mind is his use of primary colours over frequently black backgrounds, what he referred to as “poster colours”. Indeed, most L.B. Cole covers would, and occasionally do, make great posters. Going into biographical detail, one might also mention his publishing company, Star Publications, founded in 1949 and singled out in Fredric Wertham’s 1954 exposé Seduction of the Innocent for the “grisly” nature of its published horror titles. Then there’s his work as art director and editor at Dell in the early 1960s… but as usual, I’ll let others get to the nitty-gritty of his life and career. Here are some of my very favourite L.B. Cole covers, in chronological order.

LBCole-Mask2
Mask Comics no. 2, April-May 1945 (Rural Home). Read it here. The classically-oriented study of human expressions had me smitten even before I noticed the devil’s muscular thighs.
LBCole-GreatComics1
Great Comics no. 1, 1945 (Novack Publishing). Read it here.

« An avid science fiction fan, Cole was known for slipping in sci-fi elements even when they weren’t appropriate, such as rocket ships and ray guns appearing on the covers of Captain Flight Comics and Contact Comics. Both titles were supposed to be devoted to contemporary aviation. » (source) Fuck being appropriate, I say!

LBCole-CaptainAeroComics26-1946
Captain Aero Comics no. 26, August 1946 (Continental Magazines). Read it here. This is like a Soviet poster in overdrive.
LBCole-CatmanComics31
Cat-Man Comics no. 31, June 1946 (Continental Magazines). A great scene, isn’t it? Though shoddily printed, the tension of the moment comes through loud and clear, and I love the dots of snow in the darkness. Cat-man isn’t to be confused with Catman, a supervillain and enemy of Batman (first appearance in Detective Comics in 1963). Catman: a professional trapper of jungle cats turned to crime for the usual reason (i.e. boredom) after procuring himself a costume made out of ancient African cloth (?!) Cat-man: raised by a tigress to be an upstanding member of society and scourge of criminals, with 9 lives, super-strength and night vision at his disposal. The moral – be kind to tigers! Read the issue here.
LBCole-CatmanComics32
Cat-Man Comics no. 32, August 1946 (Continental Magazines). Cat-Man (created by Irwin Hasen), usually paired up with sidekick Kitten (created by Charles M. Quinlan), a former circus acrobat. That’s them frolicking underwater on this cover – tigers love water, by the way. This is the last issue of Cat-Man, so Kitten, who was 11 years old when her association with son-of-tigress began, is at her shapeliest. Mr. Cole wasn’t well-versed in anatomy for nothing. Read it here.
LBCole-JeepComics3
Into its gurgling ghastliness goes Peep… sailing blithely in the rocket car...” I somehow imagine that read out loud with a British accent. And yes, there’s a character named “Peep” in the story. Jeep Comics no. 3, March-April 1948 (Spotlight Publishers). Read the issue here.
LBCole-GunsAgainstGansters
Guns Against Gangsters vol. 1 no. 6, July-August 1949 (Premium). Read the issue here. Another cover with that blue-green-yellow gradation, and while I love these colours together, it’s the cartoony shark that gets my vote (and sympathy). Sadly, when one pits a woman in high heels and a miniskirt against a huge shark, the latter will always lose.
LBCole-BlueBolt105-1950
Blue Bolt no. 105, April-May 1950 (Star Publications). I can’t resist the combination of a dragon/bird flown straight out of a Slavic fairy-tale with stylish space opera.
LBCole-BlueBoltWeirdTalesofTerror113
Blue Bolt Weird Tales of Terror no. 113, May 1952 (Star Publications). A genuinely spooky cover.
LBCole-BlueBoltWeirdtalesofterror114
Blue Bolt Weird Tales of Terror no. 113, August 1952 (Star Publications). « It was a terrible thing that moaned and cried out in the dark vistas  of the deep bayous… » This cover is busy, no doubt about it, but I think it works. That slow, grotesque shuffle through water… brrr! Say what you will about L.B. Cole’s style or his propensity for using reds and greens, but the guy knew what he was doing.

~ ds

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