I can almost feel a collective, “Who?” going out across the internet… but by the end of this post you’ll be able to spot an L. B. Cole cover in a tenth of a second. Cole’s covers had the most distinctive colors of all time… vibrant, raw and swirling colors that remind us all, I think, of that time we smoked a bit of hashish out back of high school during the home football game when we were trying to get the Chatfield girl’s top off. We all remember that, right? Anyway… that’s what Cole’s covers feel like… a mass of raw and nearly insane emotion, slapped straight in your face.
Favorite Cover Artist # 2: L. B. Cole (It pained me no end, but I couldn't find a photo of Cole. This is pretty much what I think he looked like, though)
Let's start with a bang. One of my favorite Cole covers. It has all his best elements... the swirl of chaotic elements, the colors, the psychedelic feel. Everything.
You see what I mean about the colors? This guy made things INTENSE. He came from a lithography background, and he pushed the limits of what colors could do on a comic book cover. He was an innovator that remains unmatched despite the decades of technological advancement in the field.
Seriously... you can hurt your eyes looking at some of these covers. I've owned a few comics with cover by L. B. Cole, and they leap out of a pile of comics and grab you. They must have been something to behold when stacked together at the local newstands.
Coloring directions for one of Cole's more famous covers.
Two of Cole’s most collected covers.
L. B. Cole's 1980 recreation of the original art for one of his covers.
It's too bad that the interiors of most of Cole's comics didn't live up to the interiors. Cole mostly worked for lesser companies, and the interior stories were not only often done by 2nd rate creators, but often they were even reprints of earlier works by 2nd rate creators. Cole didn't very few interior stories himself.
This strange skull-headed spider creature adorns the covers of two of Cole’s most sought-after covers.
When the Gerber Photo-Journal Guides to Comic Books came out (circa 1990) is made a HUGE difference in the world of comic collecting. The guides had beautiful reproductions of thousands of comic books, and this was in the days long before the internet, so many collectors and enthusiasts had a whole world of past comic book history opened up to them. L. B. Cole was largely forgotten by that time, but his memory enjoyed a huge resurgence as a new wave of readers were exposed to his works for the first time. I heartily recommend these books. I have two copies of each volume and love them to death.
Let’s shake a bit of gallery goodness, here.
An L. B. Cole painting from the 1970's. Somebody buy me a van, because I need this painted on the side RIGHT NOW.
Can I have another serving of Gallery, please sir?
Cole did a beautiful run of covers for the original Catman series. Many of them with poor Catgirl in trouble. It makes one wonder why superheroes ever have sidekicks, since they're ALWAYS getting into trouble and needing to be saved. Of course, that said, I'd want Catgirl around as well.
A couple more Catman covers. Gotta love heroes in short shorts and long boots.
A 1980 recreation for a Catman cover. I think it's strange how, on these recreations, Cole was trying to actually recreate the original art, as if it were to be inked. Most recreations I've ever seen try to recreate the cover itself, rather than a single step in the process of making that cover.
More recreation goodness. Again from 1980... almost 40 years past the original publication date.
A different type of Cole recreation. Here, Cole just went ahead and painted the darn thing. I so wish this was on my wall.
Let’s dine on another sampling of gallery, shall we?
When Cole left comics behind he went on to illustrate a few paperback novel covers, and a large amount of interior illustrations for adventure magazines. I have one Cole piece in my collection… a b&w wash piece of a hunter fighting a bear.
Beautiful recreation painting. Kinda makes you not want to go to hell, eh? Unless you're the devil, because then hell apparently rocks and you get to wear tight shorts and wave your trident around. Kick ass.
Hah! The devil really IS a bastard sometimes. Although, by the look of his shorts, I can see why he's popular with the ladies.
I can't look at this cover without my protective instincts kicking in. I want to save the pretty lady. Also, I can't look at this cover without being amused at the "The story starts" tombstone, heightened by the hand instructing you to turn the page... IF YOU DARE.
I think we've all had just this exact sensation when walking into bathrooms at certain dive bars.
Cole's pencil work. Never has Dracula been more after your soul, not just your blood.
I love Cole’s “Big Menacing Head” covers. Also… black magic, voodoo and jungle mystery is looking pretty good to me right now. I might get into that.
The Evil Eyes of Death look pretty good in a bikini.
Cole was very prolific as a cover artist, and didn’t restrict himself to only one genre. The same man that did all these bizarre horror covers also did romance covers, funny animal comics, everything. The one thing he always took with him was his intense color scheme.
Killer Octopus vs. Underwater Ballet Squad! Who will win?
The Thing in the Pit may well be a ceremonial dagger carved entirely out of peyote.
Another commission piece... this one fully realized with beautiful pencils excepting for the woman's face. It's possible that Cole was intending to illustrate the face of a different woman than the original cover... possibly the commissioner's girlfriend / wife / mom / etc.
And that concludes our look at the works of L. B. Cole. Goodnight, Psychedelia.