Cover painting; L.B. Cole mixed media and signed on board; matted and framed 21.75" x 28"
Jon Berk CollectionThere is no historical record to help us comprehend the reaction comic book readers had to L.B. Cole's disturbing and presciently modern cover design for 1945's Mask Comics 1. One can only assume that "shock" was one of the words used to describe the emotions of unsuspecting newsstand or comic rack browsers of the era. Featuring a dark, foreboding design replete with bold strokes of color, a technique Cole employed throughout his career, this recreation, by the artist himself, stands as one of the most radically different and thematically resounding covers of the Golden Age.
The image of humanoid butterflies being drawn towards a candle emblazoned with the word "EVIL" is a stunningly simple evocation of the human condition and the failures of mankind to always entertain their own best interests. Toward the end of his life, Cole lovingly recreated some of his most memorable and revered pieces for the collector's market, this Mask Comics 1 cover was one of the last, and greatest, in the thirty-five-piece collection. Over time fans and collectors of GA art have discovered the rich body of work which was L.B. Cole's output, as his legend grows so, surely, will the value of his art.
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Leonard Brandt Cole was a comic book artist, editor, and publisher who worked during the Golden Age of Comic Books, producing work in various genres. Cole was particularly known for his bold covers, featuring what he referred to as "poster colors"—the use of primary colors often over black backgrounds. In addition to his covers, Cole did interior art for comics published by Holyoke Publications, Gilberton, and Ajax/Farrell. He also worked as an editor for Holyoke in the 1940s.
Cole's comic book career started in the early 1940s, mainly as a cover artist for titles such as Suspense Comics (Et-Es-Go Magazines) and Contact Comics (Aviation Press). He soon became known for his distinctive covers: examples include the covers to Mask Comics #1, Mask Comics #2 (Rural Home), Contact Comics #12, and Captain Flight Comics #11 (Four Star Publications). An avid science fiction fan, Cole was known for slipping in sci-fi elements even when they weren't appropriate, such as rocket ships and ray guns appearing on the covers of Captain Flight Comics and Contact Comics. During this time, Cole created the character "Wiggles the Wonderworm" who appeared in five issues of Taffy Comics, published by Rural Home/Orbit Publications.
In 1949, publisher Novelty Press sold its characters and artwork to Cole, who was the cover artist for Novelty's Blue Bolt Comics. Using his new assets, Cole began Star Publications, which operated from 1949 to 1955. After the closure of Star, Cole continued doing cover illustrations, many for Classics Illustrated Junior. In the early 1960s, Cole was art director and editor at Dell Comics.
He gained further recognition when comic fandom grew in the late 1960s and through the 1970s. In 1981, he created a new painting that was featured on the cover of the 11th edition of the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. During this same time, he began selling re-creations of his classic covers. In the early 1990s, Ernie Gerber published his two-volume Photo Journal Guide To Comic Books which featured on its covers a number of Cole's covers. As a result, the demand for Cole's work increased dramatically.