Scott's Classic Comics Corner: The Cover Art of Win Mortimer Pt.2

On Tuesday, we took a look at some of Win Mortimer’s iconic superhero covers. Today, I thought I dig a bit deeper into his career as a DC Cover Artist and examine some cover he did in other genres.

The first time I saw the cover to Mr. District Attorney #3, I was completely blown away. It was one of the most intriguing cover images I had ever seen – more like something from a detective novel than a funnybook. I thought that it was both beautiful and sinister. I just had to have it. That was more than 15 years ago, and it was this cover that put Win Mortimer on my radar screen. Last year, over at the Classic Comics forum – this cover charted as my #12 all-time favourite (Hmmm… maybe I should do my top 12 here on here some day). The cover to Mr. District Attorney #4 is more straightforward, but still very interesting. In particular, I like the lighting effect Mortimer used here to contrast the guys in the lineup against the figures in the foreground. The posture of the 3 men in the lineup really conveys a sense of discomfort.

Mr. District Attorney was just one of many licensed properties adapted for comic books by DC in the late 40s and well into the 50s. Gang Busters was another long running series to which Mortimer contributed many memorable covers. I’ve selected the cover to Gang Busters #4 as another example of Mortimer’s clean style. His figured out that a motorcycle bursting through the cover is enough to grab someone’s attention and left it at that. Win Mortimer cover for The Adventures of Alan Ladd #9 was one of the few non-photo covers used for that short-lived series. I may be reaching here, but I can’t helpf but feel that Mortimer’s 1951 cover influenced the look and atmosphere of many of the 50s spy characters that were just around the corner, including Carmine Infantino’s King Farraday, Don Heck’s Duke Douglas and Pete Morisi’s Johnny Dynamite.

You know that amazing cover to House of Mystery #1, the book that kicked off a 300+ issue series? Well, it’s a Win Mortimer cover, too. I’ve always been attracted to this rather haunting image of the semi-ghostly woman running with the wolves. While these particular wolves may not be 100% zoologically correct – there’s a real rabid fierceness to them. It’s a real beauty, spoiled only by too much dialogue and the large caption box (I’ll blame editor Jack Schiff for those flaws). My final choice here is the cover to Strange Adventures #8. It’s a nicely designed cover – as Mortimer cannot rely on the pure image to convey the narrative, so the used of a chalkboard is ingenious. Leaving the rest of the cover dialogue-free was a very good decision. I may be mistaken, but I think that this was likely the first “Gorilla Cover”, and I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when Julie Schwartz and Win Mortimer sat down to brainstorm over the cover.

That ends my quick look at Win Mortimer work as DC’s key cover artist in the late 40s and early 50s. Aside from a few Stanley and His Monster and Inferior Five covers in the late 60s, he never did any more cover work at DC. It’s too bad, as he was an incredibly talented artist with a very understated, yet effective style.

For more comic talk, stop by my blog Seduction of the Indifferent.

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