Favorite Cover Artists Countdown # 29: Russ Heath

Russ Heath? This means WAR!!! Specifically… it means a bevy of gray wash war covers. Heath was a master of the gray wash techniques, and his covers really stand out because of that.

Favorite Cover Artist # 29: Russ Heath

I just love the framing of the action, here. The circle grabs my attention right away. And the bullet trajectories and the line of the bazooka freeze the action in place. Masterfully done.

The line of divebombing planes receding into the distance and the angry red sky make this another standout cover. This is a cover where something is HAPPENING. You'll hear me say this again and again during the countdown, but too many of today's covers are just people staring up at the reader. It makes me want to ask them, "So, are you GO to do anything, or just stare at me until I go away?"

Heath's covers for Sea Devils are always wildly fantastic. When you have a book about a bunch of scuba warriors, you need some fantastic stories to liven things up. Let's see... how about an undersea giant walking his angry pet octopus? Yeah... that'll do.

Or... wait. How about a beautiful giantess attacking the Sea Devils with a gargantuan snake? That could work.

Oh! I got it! A manically grinning Spock-earred giant traps the Sea Devils in a bottle. How will they get out? You'll have to read the comic to find out. THAT'S another reason I don't like a lot of modern covers. There's nothing to find out. There's no mystery. No hook. I'm not going to buy a comic to see if the heroes "stop standing around."

See? THIS is what I'm talking about. This cover depicts confrontation, tension... a story. It draws you in. How did these people find themselves here. Who will walk away? How?

I love the framing for this cover... with the man in the foreground, the man in the window, the man on the rooftop, and the man behind the building, all of them framing our heroes in the center. The black objects in the foreground give depth, which is important. And I love the Sea Devil with the "Oh SHIT!" eyes. Plus, this is a cover about a shootout in an Old West Ghost Town... THAT'S UNDER WATER. How can you not love that?

This cover almost literally screams, "WAR TALES! God damn you! WAR TALES! What are you... some kind of pansy?! WAAAAAR TALES!!"

Bonus feature. A look at how Heath worked from models. I believe that's even Heath himself doing the modelling... though I'm not positive.

It's funnier if you just pretend he's drunk.

It's a wonder he didn't blow up his studio... just to be more authentic.

Parts you’ve probably read in earlier posts:

The Disclaimer:

You might not see your favorite artist during this countdown. That’s okay. Don’t get mad. Some of MY favorite artists aren’t here. Hugo Pratt, Bernie Krigstein, Mike Wieringo… these guys (and others) are fantastic artists, but their covers just don’t strike me. Some people need sequential panels in order to have their art sing… and that’s okay. Furthermore, this list is subjective to my moods of the moment, so if you disagree with me, then rest assured that I probably disagree with me, too. That said, I welcome any and all comments as this list progresses over time.

THE FINE PRINT: (Why I’m doing this)

Recently, on a trip to a comic store, I was DISGUSTED by the overall lack of design on covers. Most covers were nothing more than two or three characters punching each other and snarling, the exact kind of design that I would have worked out when I was eight years old, and spat on by the time I was ten. So, why do such covers proliferate the shelves? One reason is for trade dressing… so that any cover can be put upon almost any trade compilation, which is one of the reasons behind the other Far Too Common cover design… that of the character or team standing at attention, looking tough, staring at the viewer. Fuck that. I’m lucky enough to work largely with editor Nate Cosby, who does very good work at hiring talented cover artists and creating covers that don’t piss me off, but in consideration of my other less lucky friends, and the industry as a whole, I’m going to spend the next few weeks counting down my own personal Top 40 Comic Book Cover Artists… the ones who got it right.

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