A lot of you probably haven’t heard of Joe Maneely, and that’s a damn shame. It really is. He was a prolific artist despite crafting quite a bit of detail into his shading. He was Stan Lee’s favorite artist… the Atlas comics “go-to” guy, but in 1958, perhaps misjudging a distance due to the recent loss of his glasses, Joe accidentally fell between the cars of a moving commuter train and was killed, still clutching his portfolio. He was only 32 years old.
Joe left behind a wealth of published material. An amazing amount of work both in covers and interiors. Stan Lee loved giving Joe jobs, and Joe always came through, and it’s very possible that if Joe hadn’t died then he would have been the artist that helped define the Marvel Age. He could have been the man who pencilled Fantastic Four # 1, or Amazing Fantasy # 15. Comic book history might have been very different except for one missed step.
Because Joe’s sadly abbreviated career took place during a time when super-hero comics weren’t popular, there are very few examples of his work in the genre. Above are a couple of the exceptions, and then starting below are some quick looks at the areas that saw most of Joe’s work.
Joe did a huge amount of horror / mystery titles. I love the sparseness of the Astonishing cover, and the very sensible advice to “Look Out For Lakoonda” on the cover of Adventures into Terror.
And lots of “jungle” action, including a cover with MAN-OO the Mighty, which of course is Marvel’s all time best character, and the Leopard Girl, who… I might have to revive. She’s kinda pretty.
And Joe also did some astounding humor work. He was an artist with an incredible range. I would have never guess that the artist for these two books was the same, let alone that the artist did works in other styles / genres as well. Joe, when he passed away, was moving towards doing work for the early Cracked magazine, and hoping to get work at Mad.
A couple of Joe Maneely’s exceptional war covers.
And then Westerns. TONS of westerns. There were also a smattering of romance comics. There wasn’t anything Joe couldn’t do.
Because I love Maneely’s work so much… and because he is sadly forgotten, I’m going to do two gallery areas here… mostly in tribute to one of the greats, but also in the hopes of inspiring his memory to kick up a few new fans.
And now… another gallery, because Joe Maneely deserves it, and I’m glad to do my part to keep the legacy of Marvel’s “lost” genius alive. Wish to hell we could have seen how he would have developed over the years.
Parts you’ve probably read in earlier posts:
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.