Aquaman, Vol 1 #51, May 1970, DC Comics, Cover by Nick Cardy.
The POP Retro Cover Of The Week continues its examination and celebration of iconic comic covers from the 1970s through the 2000s, this week returning to the end of the Silver Age of Comic Books, the early Seventies. A decade that began with comics still cover-priced at 15 cents, printed on pulpy paper, and sold on squeaky spinner racks at pharmacies and convenience stores.
Aquaman had been a DC character since the Golden Age of Comics in the 1940s, but didn’t manage to get his own series until 1962. Nick Cardy was the cover and interior artist until issue #40, when Jim Aparo took over, but Cardy continued as cover artist.
Whether it was coincidence or not, his cover designs, which had already grown in dynamic leaps and bounds over the last couple of dozen issues, suddenly became iconic nearly every issue. Cardy started taking even more advantage of the dramatic tension caused by putting his compositions on an extreme angle, as demonstrated on the cover of Aquaman #51.
In the previous issue, Aquaman had been abducted and transported to an alien world, where he encountered otherwordly dangers, perhaps including an otherwordly beauty that he was immediately attracted to, and despite a language barrier it was obvious the feeling was mutual. I suspect this was “The Big Pull” that the story’s title referred to, as Aquaman acknowledges the attraction, and since nothing close to the cover’s dangerous scenario occurs in the story itself.
Cardy’s cover design featured an unseen alien creature’s tentacles dragging Aquaman and his mutual crush down into the depths of the weirdly colored and swirling alien ocean. To emphasize the pull of the creature, the story title, the word balloons, and even the Aquaman logo itself submit to the force, and angle downward.
In an era when most DC covers were relatively even-keeled and quietly designed, Cardy’s diagonal designs stood out on the spinner racks, and did what great graphic design is supposed to do: grab your attention.
Next week: A cover from the rad 1980s!