Luis Domínguez (1923-2020): A Farewell in Twelve Covers

« Painting is the art of hollowing a surface. » — Georges Seurat

If you’ll forgive me the venial but gauche sin of quoting myself… three years ago, I posited:

« Luís Ángel Domínguez, reportedly born ninety-five years ago to the day… and still among the living… as far as we know. I like to envision him warmly surrounded by several generations of loved ones and well-wishers, an impish gleam in his eye. »

I found it sadly infuriating that such an important and accomplished artist’s latter-day whereabouts and circumstances were so shrouded in mystery… and largely, it would seem, indifference. The usual story: he didn’t really do superheroes.

Neither Lambiek nor the Grand Comics Database have anything to add on the subject, but a spot of digging turned up that he indeed was still alive until recently, though purportedly afflicted with Alzheimer’s in his waning years. Then I found what may well be his… very basic obituary, placing his date of birth exactly one month off (unsurprisingly, since accounts have long varied) and his date of death as July 1st, 2020, in Miami, FL. Unless something more definitive comes along, it’ll have to do.

I think we can all agree that ninety-six years is a pretty good run, even with the doleful decline near the end. Let’s look back on what’s surely his peak decade in comics, the 1970s. My picks have nothing to do with ‘key’ issues, character débuts or popular crossovers. I’ve judged these on artistic merit, keeping the pernicious influence of nostalgia at arm’s length.

First, a little biographical background! This helpful piece appeared in the pages of Eerie no. 44 (Dec. 1972, Warren), which also boasted a Domínguez cover… albeit reproduced too small.
The folks at Warren were apparently first in North America to recognise and call upon of señor Domínguez’s masterly painting skills. This is Famous Monsters no. 93 (Oct. 1972, Warren).
My personal favourite of his too-few Warren covers, this is Eerie no. 43 (Nov. 1972, Warren).
While Luís had been steadily working on the insides of Gold Key comics since 1967, it wasn’t until 1974 that they gave him a crack at a cover. That was either this one, Space Family Robinson no. 40 or Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 55, both cover-dated July, 1974… (incidentally, the GCD misattributes to him several of his colleague George Wilson‘s paintings).
DC hardly ever used painted covers, but they did keep Domínguez busy as a cover artist. I assure you, this ambitiously-muted cover must have been a printer’s nightmare. This is The Phantom Stranger no. 32 (Sept. 1974, DC), a great issue that features Arnold Drake and (returning to the Stranger after a 27-issue absence!) Bill Draut‘s It Takes a Witch! and a gorgeous Michael FleisherNestor Redondo Black Orchid backup.
This is House of Secrets no. 125 (Nov. 1974, DC). For once, Domínguez also illustrates the cover-featured story, E. Nelson Bridwell‘s Catch as Cats Can!
Then of course, Marvel soon after got in on the act. This is Dracula Lives no. 9 (Nov. 1974, Marvel). I would have picked the even better previous issue, but I’ve already featured it, so you get to enjoy both!
The printed version of this piece, featured as the cover of UFO Flying Saucers no. 5 (Feb. 1975, Gold Key) pales in comparison with the surviving original art, so that was an easy choice.
This issue’s original art also survived, and seeing both versions is most instructive as an insight into production manager Jack Adler’s methods. This is House of Mystery no. 235 (Sept. 1975, DC), and the original can be viewed here. As an aside, this issue’s The Spawn of the Devil, written by Maxene Fabe and drawn by Ramona Fradon, is the only DC horror story I ever found scary. Perhaps editor Joe Orlando should have hired women more often!
Another one whose printed version fails on the reproduction front, this is Mighty Samson no. 31 (Mar. 1976, Gold Key), the title’s final issue. Let’s again rejoice at the original art’s survival!
This is Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery no. 94 (Sept. 1979, Gold Key); I hold that Dominguez’ three finest consecutive covers came near the end of Gold Key’s Karloff anthology and, wouldn’t you know it? … we have already featured the other two. You’ll find issue 92 here, and issue 93 (and its original art) in one of ds’ posts, which also showcases another top-flight contender, which I couldn’t use for reason of… tentacles, Dagar the Invincible no. 11.
This is The Comics Journal no. 56 (Fantagraphics, May 1980). According to masthead notes, « Luís Dominguez’s painting was originally scheduled for the fourth issue of DC’s Digest Comic, “Jonah Hex and Other Western Tales“, but the title was cancelled with no. 3. » The magazine’s larger size certainly affords us a better view of this richly detailed scene.
And as bonus, this mysterious, undated, possibly unpublished cover painting to Edgar Allan Poe‘s famous tale. Acrylic on board, 36 x 50 cm (14″ x 20″). The corners confirm that Domínguez worked from dark to light (which largely accounts for his marvellously luminous colours) and faint lines (on this and other works) indicate that he used a grid to scale up his preliminary sketches accurately.

For more Domínguez delights, just click on this link and explore away! I daresay that I only managed to keep it to an even dozen (difficult!) choices because we’ve already spotlighted many of his finest covers.

-RG

9 thoughts on “Luis Domínguez (1923-2020): A Farewell in Twelve Covers

  1. Matt Brunson December 4, 2021 / 11:35

    Really enjoyed this piece. As a teenager who would back-order as many FMs as possible, #93 was one I nabbed, largely due to that astounding cover.

    Thanks also for the link back to your Karloff column. Glad to see the shout-outs to THE BODY SNATCHER and TARGETS as two of his best. In his book ALTERNATE OSCARS, Danny Peary gave his 1945 Best Actor award to Karloff for THE BODY SNATCHER — an inspired choice, methinks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gasp65 December 9, 2021 / 22:19

      Thanks, Ben! This lack of information (and closure) about Mr. Domínguez’s final fate was really bugging me. Nearly a century after his birth, it was more than likely that he’d passed away, but I wanted it on record. Society forgets so quickly — I mean, after all he’s done, the man doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry of his own!

      Oh, and indeed, “Catch as Cats Can!” was truly ideal fodder for Comic Book Cats. Prrr.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Arnold Guerrero March 4, 2022 / 19:15

    Do you (or anyone reading this) know any artists still doing work in LD’s style? Old school painted covers, would appreciate an email if so, I’d love to chat with them. Arnold – azartdirector@gmail.com

    Like

  3. Lenona May 9, 2022 / 11:18

    I think more investigating is needed. Why?

    Because that tiny Miami “source” is the only one that claims he was born in November. Not to mention there are no other details!

    Whereas I found TWO sources (early last fall), with the typical October birth date, that claim he died much longer ago, in 2010 – in Queens or Flushing, NY. Trouble is, they did not include where he was born or his occupation. So I’m hoping someone who lives in that area will use the library information I included below and find out more. (I’m not about to pay for it. But if I have a reason to travel to NY, I’ll go to the library.)

    https://groups.google.com/g/rec.arts.comics.strips/c/_3q8RbpV-20/m/L5FD3yKQAQAJ

    Also, in 2019, D.D. Degg wrote at the Daily Cartoonist that Dominguez developed Alzheimer’s circa 2007. On average, such patients only live for 8 years. So a 2020 death date seems implausible.

    Like

    • gasp65 May 9, 2022 / 11:24

      You’re quite right, Lenona… case not closed. I’m also keeping my eyes and ears open, and will certainly revise my post if anything definite comes to light. Thanks for your admirable diligence!

      Like

  4. Lenona May 10, 2022 / 19:57

    Plus, if you like, here’s what I posted elsewhere in 2016 (unfortunately, I can’t find the INSIDE illustrations for these books online, right now):

    I saw his work years ago, not from his comics, per se, but in “The Mammoth Book of Trivia” (1979), which is a compilation of three books by different authors, with multiple illustrators (they all drew in B&W). One was “Incredible But True!” by Kevin McFarland, illustrated by Dominguez.

    About “Incredible But True!”:

    “A collection of anecdotes about extraordinary people, unusual plants and animals, unique structures, and astounding historical events.”

    About “The Mammoth Book of Trivia” (great fun – but the cover was drawn by another illustrator):

    http://forums.abebooks.com/discussions/AbeBookscom_BookSleuthreg/_/_/abesleuthcom/19857.1

    Here are some subjects that Dominguez illustrated in both books:

    Niagara Falls daredevil Blondin (19th century), Chilean liberator Bernardo O’Higgins and his army of animals (ditto), British boxer/politician John Gully (ditto), Mozart, “Living Skeleton” Claude Seurat, Australian fakir Azzar (1969), Montreal strongman Louis Cyr (19th century), the life of the beaver, Greek monk Mihailo Tolotos (died 1938), who never saw a woman, the Man in the Iron Mask, the life of the platypus, India’s 1920s “wolf girls,” imposter Otto Witte who posed in 1913 as the Prince of Albania, Milo of Crotona (6th century B.C.) who carried an ox, the Earl of Bridgewater and his dogs, Benjamin Franklin, Stradivarius, Olympic athlete Bob Mathias, Pheidippides the original Marathoner, gladiator Theogenes, Houdini, and the 14th century Turco-Mongol conqueror Tamerlane.

    Like

    • gasp65 May 14, 2022 / 16:59

      Thanks, Lenona! As it happens, I count my copy of the “Mammoth Book of Trivia” among my prized possessions. I apparently paid five dollars for it some years ago — obviously a good deal for me! Scores of choice ‘pebbled board’ Domínguez illustrations in there.

      Like

  5. Lenona May 10, 2022 / 20:00

    Oops – I forgot there was no illustration for the Greek monk. Sorry.

    Like

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