While the number one driver of comic book demand and value is and will remain character introductions (I have some posts coming on that topic too) there is no denying that cover appeal is the second biggest comic value and desirability driver. We’ve discussed before how the CGC encapsulation has essentially turned the comics into a collectible akin to sports cards and coins; you look at the front and you look at the back. It’s only natural that more focus has gone to the covers.
Covers are actually a massive topic and I thought it best to break the topic up into digestible pieces. Today I want to talk about one of the cornerstones of comic book cover driven collecting: Good Girl Art (GGA). Sex sells is the old adage and while it would be a given for adults one would have to question the validity of the adage when talking about comic books; weren’t comics aimed at kids back in the day? Teenaged boys are technically kids and they bought enough I guess to ensure that some of the comics coming off the presses had GGA covers.
We’re really not interested in the monthly sales of these things in 1949 or any other date, we want to explore the aftermarket that developed for these things, an aftermarket fueled by adult collectors.
You can’t really say that these covers were so provocative that they substituted for porn, they obviously did not. Why then did a massive collecting genre develop around GGA?
I think it was driven by the art so in a way it was as pure a cover driven collecting strain as can be. Imagine a collector trying to fill in his Detective Comics run or his Marvel Mystery run and in his travels, he comes across a copy of Brenda Starr #14. Most guys would say ‘wow what a cover, I want a copy’. I think over time enough of these books that were set to the side of core collections morphed into a full-blown collecting genre and one that has developed a connoisseur hierarchy.
The quality of the art and subject matter of the image drive GGA demand as does this established hierarchy I mentioned above. Guys love a well-drawn girl and while comics never had Gil Elvgren working in the field it did have pioneers and massive talents that included the likes of Matt Baker, Will Eisner, Jack Kamen, Bill Ward, and others. Today we still have artists renowned for their ability to draw pretty girls: these artists are the most in-demand cover artists around. Frank Cho, Adam Hughs, J. Scott Campbell and Art Germ quickly come to mind.
Back to the early days, I’m thinking GGA wasn’t a huge success initially because current supply is so tight on these old books. Archie Comics was selling in the millions and the odd covers that went a little offside with the GGA depictions of Betty and Veronica are the issues everyone wants today but titles like Phantom Lady and Brenda Starr probably sold way fewer copies; never mind the meagre sales that a title like Giant Comics Editions with its bound up remainders must have had.
The hierarchy I mentioned above exists, there are several “grail” comics in this genre that have been “grails” for decades. I’m not qualified to rank them but I do know they include Matt Baker’s Giant Comics Editions #12, Will Eisner’s Spirit #22, Jack Kamen’s Brenda Starr #14 and maybe the most celebrated of them all, Matt Baker’s Phantom Lady #17.
What about the new GGA collectors flushing out new “grails” to suit their sensibilities. We’ve seen the new collectors reshuffle the pre-code horror hierarchy over the last 5 years, is the same happening to GGA? I think books like Archie Comics #50 and True Life Secrets #23 have enjoyed recent run-ups in demand but I have not seen anything threatening the top tier.
Do you collect GGA? What are the best books covers? Are there any hidden gems you can share? I love my high-grade copy of Torchy #5, I have a nice Eh! #4 and I do prize my low-grade copy of Giant Comics Editions #15 (Baker’s other famous cover in that title run).
The GGA collecting genre is here to stay: the trend towards covers bringing value continues unabated, the subject matter is as timeless and universal as humanity itself, the allure of this topic infiltrating the comic book medium sprinkles just enough spice into the mix that I can see all collectors having a few GGA favourites in their pile.
I’m going to have to think about this one, as there are hundreds of beautiful GGA covers, some subtle, some not-so-subtle, to choose from; but the Phantom Lady ranks in there. IMO, GGA appeals to all hetero males and many women, both hetero and non. This is why pin-up artists like Elvgren and Moran made a good living.
Jungle comics, Blue beetle comics, Airboy and flight comics and Planet comics
While I don’t doubt the initial sales of GGA comics was probably low, the desire for them must have started shortly after. My first Overstreet guide was #6 with a Ward Torchy cover. You figure this was a mere 25 years after a lot of the covers we are talking about hit the stands. I also wonder if the publishers were aware of an older audience as well because comics were consumed by a portion of adult readers. Good Girl Art was definitely present through out the history of pulps, and at the time these comics were seeing print there were a huge number of GGA sci-fi pulps also on the newsstand and those WERE geared toward adults.
I am hoping CGC will offer digital downloads of the contents of encapsulated books in the future. Some of that GGA that graces the covers extends to the insides as well, as with artists like Baker, and Eisners best work is on interior splashes and pages!
not to be nit-picky , but , it was Overstreet #8 that had the Ward cover . GGA was always popular before that book , but , once number 8 was released , with all of those wonderful covers shown to the vast unwashed populace , it definitely made the books jump in price . I remember trying to save up for a fine copy of that Phantom Lady ( $75 ) , but after the release of Overstreet 8 , it jumped to $125 , and I never did buy a copy . now , I’d love to buy one at that price , lol !
So we could blame Overstreet #8 ! Overstreet sure did wield massive market influence back in the day.
remember , back in the 70’s , before computers , internet , smart phones , we only saw covers like that on fanzines , where the publisher had personal copies the he could then put into their fanzines , for all us fanboys to see . so , to see Overstreet 8 with all of those GGA covers were for me and my friends was like a dream come true ! A lot more books were put onto our want lists , lol !
remember when the Gerber Photo-Journals came out , the same thing happened . A lot of books became very desirable , hence the upward pricing of said books , groan !
times were a lot simpler back then . going to different shops and finding rare books you thought you’d never find , only priced from $3 to $5 , ah , nostalgia , eh ?
Blame Overstreet 8. Yes that was it. Overstreet educated the masses, Ducks, in the previous Overstreet did not get me.
After OS8 I jumped into mail orders and got Blue Ribbon Comics 2 and 4 with Matt Baker romance covers. Yes 1979, age 18, a Batman fan was buying romance comics. There is no denying the beauty in a Matt Baker cover.
And Phantom Lady 17 is the most valuable GGA comic. Brenda Starr 14 just behind.
Of course Overstreet in the next few issues touched on many other great genres. But I leave that to Walter to continue with the topic.
While we are on influences of publications that inspired a desire for covers… my first was Steranko’s History of Comics. Not a lot of good girl art but all those little b&w pics sure made me want Golden Age books! I couldn’t quite remember the edition of OS Chris… for some reason I thought 8 was the EC edition… but that was 9… which I purchased the hard cover as well at the time. I am not sure it had the same influence on prices as the previous edition.
Damn fellas, I really like where the comments have taken this post. There should be a whole post devoted to these market influencers of the past.
A big book of nothing but the greatest and sexiest GGA covers, much like the big pin-up book put out years ago. Now I’d buy that.
Chris Elliott: are the fellow currently acting on Schitt’s Creek and who got his start playing the guy living under the stairs on the old Late Night with David Letterman show?
no , I am older than that actor who ruined my good name , lol !
Walter ! Overstreet really DID make comics go up in price , but , to have all of that knowledge in 1 book was a real boon to collect comics you liked . the one shop I used to go to was run by a guy in his late 40’s or early 50’s who had massive amounts of GA comics . once he got to know me personally , and I bought a ton of books from him ( $$$$$$ ) , he’d let me peruse his wares . I was 15 or 16 at the time , it was hard not to drool down my chin looking at early Military Comics , Blue Bolts , Whiz , etc . most of the later ones were like I said , $3 to $5 each , still a lot of money in the early 70’s , though ! the earlier issues were generally $20 to $25 each ! oh , for a time machine !
I’d add the late Dave Stevens to the roster of modern GGA artists. I love his Rocketeer and art and have been picking up some of the other comics just for his lovely women covers, like Airboy #5, Jonny Quest, Cheval Noir, Betty Pages, etc. Nice to know I started my own collecting strain without knowing it.
I try to have a diversified portfolio so I have some GGA covers, but I am not a huge fan. The main attraction for me is their place in the pre-Code world. I guess the Baker Phantom Ladys are about the epitome of the sub-genre, but I much prefer Eisner’s work.
I do dig the Fiction House damsels in distress. I especially like Planet #33 (Renee), Planet #52 (Doolin), Rangers #26 (Doolin), and Wings #91 (Lubbers), and I have demonstrated my affection.
I agree with Klaus that a big book of the best GGA covers would be very nice.
Its interesting I only started collecting Romance and GGA this past year. I remember in the early 70’s being enamored with the art in The Heart of Juliet Jones, Apt 3-G, and Rip Kirby in my local paper because of the way the women were rendered and attempted to draw them the same way! Guess I had the seeds planted at that time!
I have a few GGA Jungle books but was always attracted to the covers in the 70’s. I always stared at this Wally Wood portfolio from 1977 behind the counter in my LCS. https://www.instagram.com/p/BShBjthj4lZ/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
Also in 1977 Thorne’s Red Sonja #1 is amazing. And Jeff Jones Wonder Woman #199 is one of my favorites. https://www.instagram.com/p/BYFEqwOjBZH/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
Hey Tim, yes, Dave Stevens was great !
Forgot about Jeff Jones!! Good call.
I just brought a phantom lady 17. My first and only GGA
Shaheed is starting at the top !!