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

Tentacle Tuesday: Can of Worms

Today we play a game: yes, those long slithery things are wrapped around somebody’s ankle… but are they tentacles, or worms?

In real life, worms (even predatory) don’t really wind around their prey or suffocate them. A biologist could tell us whether they ever ‘hunt’ in huge numbers, but I think we can be fairly certain that the scenes depicted below have never happened in real life. If disbelief must be suspended, I’d rather string it up for a cephalopod invasion, rather than a worm onslaught (ick)… But the characters of this post have had to deal with both kinds of threat. Let’s get on to it!

Worm or tentacle? Well, these have eyes at the end of… of whatever it is… and they seem like individuals, so probably worm. Hey, those who have read this issue before, no spoilers, please!

The Saga of Swamp Thing no. 6 (October 1982, DC). Cover by Tom Yeates.

Let take a look inside this issue…

Page from Sins on the Water, scripted by Martin Pasko, pencilled by Tom Yeates and inked Tom Yeates.

What do you think? These seem to originate from the same source. Let’s peek at the next issue – cephalopod confirmed!

Page from I Have Seen the Splintered Timbers of a Hundred Shattered Hulls, scripted by Martin Pasko and pencilled by Tom Yeates. This story was published in The Saga of Swamp Thing no. 7 (November 1982, DC).

Moving on to our next puzzle! Those are surely tentacles, belonging to some cephalopod monstrosity with a thousand arms:

Hex no. 4 (December 1985, DC). Cover pencilled by Mark Texeira and inked by Klaus Janson.

And yet… the cover story is Worms, scripted by Michael Fleisher, pencilled by Ron Wagner and inked by Carlos Garzón. I stand corrected!

Worms. Grabby, slithering worms. Ugh, please.

Moving on! With a texture distinctly reminiscent of some sort of slug, the following whatchamacallits could be either… but the planet that hungers is using its tentacles, and not worms, to feed. Ping! Correct. This makes the following scene no less disquieting – oh, somebody bring me back to the normal, sea-faring octopus…

This is Battlestar Galactica no. 10 (December 1979, Marvel). Cover pencilled by Pat Broderick and inked by Terry Austin.

Let’s have one last go. This cover so clearly depicts Abby getting grabbed by some underwater tentacled monster, that it regularly appears in tentacle-related searches…

Swamp Thing no. 11 (July-August 1974, DC). Cover by Luis Dominguez (speaking of whom, co-admin RG has a treat for you later this week!)

And yet! The cover is the self-explanatory The Conqueror Worms!, scripted by Len Wein and illustrated by Nestor Redondo. The star creatures of this story are actually pretty adorable, especially their mini-trunks and moist, sensitive eyes:

When somebody killed one of those things, I was seriously peeved.

I hope some of these examples gave you pause, even if for just a little bit!

~ ds

Jonah Hex’s Bumpy Friday the Thirteenth

« Whut in the ding-dong? »

Jonah Hex originators John Albano (1922-2005) and Tony DeZuniga (1941-2012) take the piss out of their boy in a little tale that was, according to Paul Levitz, intended for a (self) parody title provisionally titled Zany (having cycled through the tentative monikers Black Humor and Weird Humor), and that never saw the light of day… This feature was the only one completed for the abortive endeavour, and it saw print in the Plop!-themed issue of The Amazing World of DC Comics (October, 1976), its thirteenth, of course. Incidentally, Plop’s own cancellation was announced in that very issue of AWODCC. Bummer.

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Why, yes… now that you mention it, an ice-cold root beer *would* be nice.

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« Lying out in the ‘dessert‘ », Jonah? That was either a root-beer float mirage or a careless letterer’s oversight.

I would be earning myself a sound flogging if I didn’t share Sergio Aragonés‘ adroitly-done cover, so here it is.

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-RG

Tentacle Tuesday, from goofily scary to scarily goofy

It’s that time of the week again!

Let’s start with something hair-raising. Well, not really – we’re a blasé audience, and it takes something special to truly scare us. Yet can you deny the foul-smelling, palpable sense of foreboding, the billowing and swirling nightmare that beckons from the elegant inks of this page?

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« She boiled up out of the sea that hellish night — a monstrous hideous creature, she was, with the craggy face of an evil eyed witch! » Giant-Size Chillers no. 1 (February 1975). The cover promises a « frightful, fearful first issue! » Does it deliver? Eh, not really. Here’s a page of the best story in it, The Gravesend Gorgon, scripted by Carl Wessler and pencilled + inked by Alfredo Alcala.

Gravesend is an ancient town in northwest Kent, England; as for the gorgon part, it’s not entirely accurate, but it’s clear that comic writers cannot resist an alliteration.

On a slightly more humorous front (unless one is directly involved with this green monstrosity, in which case the situation would quickly lose its humour), here’s a page that hails from Jonah Hex: Riders of the Worm and Such no. 4, (June 1995). The story features the half-worm, half-human albino Autumn Brothers, whom you can see here greeting the big worm-momma. Texas blues rockers Johnny and Edgar Winter attempted to sue, but the suit was dismissed after a judge begrudgingly ruled that « the First Amendment dictates that the right to parody, lampoon and make other expressive uses of the celebrity image must be given broad scope. » Thank you, Los Angeles court. Frankly, it seems that the brothers are more remembered for the lawsuit than their music.

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« Sure like to make big worm happy, whatever she want. Not care much for tentacle down throat. » Jonah Hex: Riders of the Worm and Such no. 4, June 1995. Scripted by Joe R. Lansdale,  pencils by Timothy Truman, inks by Sam Glanzman.

Jonah Woodson Hex, created by writer John Albano and artist Tony DeZuniga in 1971, curmudgeonly and disfigured but bound by a personal code of honour, is a favourite character of mine, although I only like the way he is written for DC’s Weird Western Tales. Well, with one exception, this one! I most tentacularily recommend Jonah Hex: Shadows West, a collection of the three Vertigo-published mini-series scripted by Lansdale and illustrated by Tim Truman and Sam Glanzman, containing the stories Two-Gun Mojo, Shadows West and Riders of The Worm and Such.

And to wrap this up, on an even goofier note, here’s Jughead getting into yet another weird situation, which is pretty standard for him.

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This page from The Eyes Have It comes from Jughead no. 77 (October 1961). Script by George Gladir, pencils by Samm Schwartz, inks by Marty Epp. Schwartz is absolutely the best Archie artist to draw tentacles; most everybody else would have made a mess of it.

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~ dsTentacleTuesdayIcon

 

Hallowe’en Countdown, Day 18

« Sorry fella! But yuh fergot tuh git yore ticket punched! »

In the early 1970s, despite the western genre’s waning prospects in comics, DC found itself with a surprise hit in John Albano and artist Tony DeZuniga‘s antihero Jonah Hex, thanks to a healthy infusion of grit and spaghetti sauce. The battle-scarred Civil War veteran first reared his memorably homely puss in All-Star Western no. 10 (Feb.–Mar. 1972), which soon changed its title to Weird Western Tales with issue 12 to better accommodate its new star.

WWT’s reliably great covers probably didn’t hurt sales. Most of them were the work of Argentine Luis Dominguez, in tandem with the all-star design team of publisher Carmine Infantino, art director Nick Cardy and production manager / colourist Jack Adler. These covers all possess that elusive allure of « Mysterioso », as Infantino termed it.

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This is Weird Western no. 25 (Nov.-Dec. 1974), featuring Showdown with the Dangling Man. Script by Michael Fleisher, art by Noly Panaligan.

– RG