Favorite Cover Artists Countdown # 4: Mac Raboy

Well… it’s been a long (and time-consuming) road, but we’ve finally made it to my Final Four of cover artists. Today, it’s Mac Raboy, an artist who was able to draw people that seemed human, almost fragile at times, but ones that were nevertheless BURSTING with power. Raboy’s covers were rarely overly complex, but what they did was radiate drama and strength, and it’s for that reason that he towers among my giants of cover artists.

Favorite Cover Artist # 4: Mac Raboy

Arguably my favorite Raboy cover, and easily one of the best representations of "I'm SO sweetly invulnerable" seen in comics. Captain Marvel Jr.'s nonchalance here is wonderful. Not only can he stand in the midst of an artillery barrage... he can just plain look smooth doing it.

Spy Smasher is contemplating how much he really enjoys smashing spies. He's probably dreaming about a smashed-spy pie.

Whether tossing it aside, or crushing the shit out of it… Mac Raboy’s heroes had an intense dislike for the swastika.

Raboy's war covers were simply the best. Each one of them hearkened to the feel of the actual war propaganda posters of the time. Simple images. And a simple message... Victory.

Original art from the above cover, so you can see some of Raboy's amazingly confident / lush linework.

All I want for Christmas is this original Mac Raboy cover.

If you’re uncomfortable clinging to the Green Lama’s back while shooting down Nazi warplanes, then perhaps you would enjoy a ride in Captain Marvel Jr’s flying motorcycle.

A Raboy painting of Captain Marvel Jr.... possibly an unused cover for Captain Marvel Jr. # 1, or intended as a premium.

The published cover for Cap Jr. # 1. I love how he seems like an actual kid. To me, that makes it all the more dynamic when he does the superheroics.

The cover and original art from the epic story that introduced Captain Marvel Jr. to the world. I believe this is his first cover appearance. Oh wait… I’m on a computer. I can check. Hold on a second. And… yes. Yes it is. (although I looked it up in an Overstreet Price Guide instead of on the computer)

The Marvel Family, in the Fawcett Comics years, all three had separate and distinct personalities. Captain Marvel himself was a bit of a jokester, almost always good-natured, and his stories were usually of the "fun" variety. Mary Marvel was similar, but even more so... a girl who liked pretty dresses and wanted everything to work out in the end, but who could kick ass whenever she wanted. And then there was Freddy Freeman, a crippled boy whose parents were killed by Captain Nazi. How do you think you're going to turn out when your parents are killed by CAPTAIN NAZI? Captain Marvel Jr.'s stories were far more serious, and often revolved around real world problems, and for a time there was no bigger real world problem than World War II. How did Captain Marvel Jr. react to the war? Just read that cover blurb, and you'll get an idea.

Captain Marvel Jr. often skipped right past the "taking names" stage... saving himself a bit more time for kicking ass.

Let’s get in a quick gallery.

I have to tell you, it looks to me like the Japa-Nazis are in for some "prison shower-room" time.

Printed cover from the above art. Still not looking good for the Axis.

I have sort of a major crush on Mac Raboy’s Bulletgirl. I mean, I know she’s not REAL or anything, but if some statuesque brunette were to cosplay her, there might be some free comics involved.

Mac Raboy's model sheet, given to other artists, on the proper way to draw Captain Marvel Jr. Lesson one: Be Mac Raboy.

Raboy left the field of comics relatively early in his career and went on to work on the Flash Gordon comic strip, a strip that he drew for over twenty years, until his death in 1967. Below are a couple of examples of his Flash Gordon Sundays.

Two more of Raboy’s classic war covers.

Another part of the storyline that introduced Captain Marvel Jr. I love this cover for the cocky stance of Captain Nazi, and how Captain Marvel and Bulletman are just facing him down. Screw you, Nazi.

A beautiful cover, to me, because I get the sense that Captain Marvel Jr. is flying. He's not just in the air... he's in his element, and I really love the poetry (yes, I said that word) of this cover.

Ibis conjures up Taia, aka "Another girl that Paul has a crush on."

And now, bidding an extremely fond farewell to Raboy, here’s some more view of Raboy heroes kicking butt in World War II.

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.

5 Comments

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5 Responses to Favorite Cover Artists Countdown # 4: Mac Raboy

  1. That cover to Master Comics no. 30 is one of my all-time favorites of Raboy’s. The staging, that yellow rim lighting, it’s perfect. And that model sheet for Jr. is a great find. I really like what you said about the distinct personalities of the three Marvels, spot on.

  2. Beautiful covers! In addition to Design and Figure Drawing lectures I show my Kubert School students the work of a different artist each week, and this time it was Mac Raboy. I showed them many of these covers as well as others, all printed from high res scans, as well as his final Green Lama story which was drawn on duoshade paper. Would love to see the original art for that if it still exists! Apparently Elvis Presley was a Capt. Marvel Jr. (and Raboy) fan as well, as he modeled his tossled forehead curls after Jr., and later adapted a lightning bolt and cape outfit in the ’70s(!). Some of Elvis’ ex-girlfriends claim that he was quite generous except when it came to his Capt. Marvel Jr. comics: “No, you don’t touch mah funny books, NO, ma’am!”

  3. Paul Tobin

    Hah! That’s funny. I’d known Elvis was a Captain Marvel Jr. fan… but I didn’t know about him valiantly protecting his comic books from his girlfriends!

  4. Mac Raboy was a phenomenal cover artist (his interior art ain’t bad either!), and some of these samples are “Schomburgian” in their complexity. But, Mac Raboy employed light and shadow, back and reflective light, which added depth and emotional dimension, and Alex Schomburg’s work doesn’t have that particular quality. I’ve breathed comic books for 50 some odd years, and it was ALWAYS the covers that I was more interested in than the stories. Great stuff, can’t wait to see more of your rankings.

  5. Paul Tobin

    Yeah… for modern day comics, I’m all about the interiors, but for pre 1980’s comics, and ESPECIALLY for Golden Age comics, it’s those covers!

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