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

Hallowe’en Countdown IV, Day 9

« It was the spookiest horror ride anywhere! Mr. Awrus… a charming little old man, really… made it that way, because he liked to entertain people! But then the snake-thing arrived… and the others… heh-heh… and people went in… and didn’t come out… » — Horror Beasts Dine Tonight

Forrest J. Ackerman and James Warren’s Famous Monsters of Filmland, despite its own humble beginnings (or partly thanks to them!) went on to inspire quite a spate of imitators of… varying quality.

First out of the gate was Irwin Stein’s Magnum Publications, with Monster Parade (four issues). It was soon followed by Monsters and Things (two issues).

Define ‘Tunnel of Love‘… This is Monsters and Things no. 2 (April, 1959). Edited by Larry Shaw, with a cover by Stanley ‘Bob Powell’ Pawlowski (1916-1967).

As for the magazine’s grimy guts, there’s regrettably nothing outstanding: a couple of reprints of pre-Code material that was pedestrian to begin with… Curse of the Living Crossbones, illustrated by Ken Rice (a retitled Spectres of the Jolly Roger and True Tales of Unexplained Mystery #44, a one-pager about vengeful German gargoyles, illustrated by Sy Grudko, both plucked, minus colour, from Web of Mystery no. 22 (Jan. 1954, Ace Magazines).

The issue does contain a couple of fun wash illustrations, including this one by the esteemed Mr. Powell, also (along with the cover), accompanying the main feature, Horror Beasts Dine Tonight. “And will that be your usual table, sirs?
A sample of the classifieds. Do I, er… detect a certain pattern? One clear advantage of the Pin-Up Ghouls calendar is that you can reuse it next in 2026, so keep an eye out for gently-used copies!

Of further interest: An intriguing article about M&T’s predecessor, Monster Parade: http://frankensteinia.blogspot.ca/…/covers-of…

Still, it must be said that the dank, meandering back alleys of sleaze magazine publishing of the era are oddly fascinating, if decidedly disreputable places.

– RG

Hallowe’en Countdown, Day 7

« Aww, I bet he wasn’t so tough!
Look how skinny he was! »

Egyptian-born (but of Greek descent) Basil Gogos (March 12, 1929 – September 13, 2017), may be most celebrated for his prodigious run of Famous Monsters of Filmland cover paintings. Ah, but that’s hardly all he’s done, and done well: advertising, paperback covers, film posters*, men’s adventure illustration…

His forays into the world of Uncle Creepy and Cousin Eerie were quite rare, so let’s savour them. This is Eerie no. 30 (November, 1970), depicting a scene from Don Glut and Jack Sparling‘s “The Return of Amen-Tut!”. Read it here.

Eerie30A

…and here’s a look at Gogos’ original painting.

Eerie30OrigA

Thanks for all the colourful nightmares, Mr. Gogos!

*his Alain Delon looked more like Bob Guccione Sr., which frankly is no compliment. And is that supposed to be Ornella Muti? No cigar, Mr. Gogos. Still, the film (misleadingly) depicted here, « La mort d’un pourri » (1977), is a superior political thriller that anticipates several of the less savoury aspects of globalization. This is the original art from the Spanish poster… « Muerte de un corrupto ».

GogosPourriA

Guccione

And here are Mr. Guccione, bon vivant and founder of Penthouse Magazine, and Ms. Muti, the quintessential Italian starlet of the 1970s, as she appears in the film.

– RG