Thursday, March 12, 2009

Unpublished Detective Comics #481 Cover, featuring Batman and Hawkman

As promised, here's my other example of excellent but unpublished cover art. From Detective Comics, scheduled for issue 481:

Why was this one never used? In this case, it's fairly easy to deduce DC's decision. With issue 481, 'Tec was suddenly merged with the recently-cancelled Batman Family, expanding from a then-standard 50 cent format to a jumbo "Dollar Comic". The merged series featured characters from the Batman family exclusively, so Hawkman was dropped. The nifty little Hawkman shot (Jim did a great Carter Hall!) would have had to go, but that's far from the only problem preventing the use of this cover. As a Dollar Comic, 481 had lots of extra features: Robin, Batgirl, Man-Bat, and a second Batman yarn. DC needed some cover space to advertise these new additions to the contents, and there's just not enough available space on Jim's cover to fit it in. DC replaced it with the jam-packed Michael Kaluta Jim Starlin (thanks for the correction, Groovy Agent!) cover on the right. Just look at all the additional blurbage, the cameos, and the Marshall Rogers panel--that's a lot of cover real estate. They could have simply reduced Jim's artwork--they'd done that back when Brave and Bold was a Super-Spectacular, to make room for shots from the reprint backups, but I think most comics fans would agree that that reduction really hurt the impact of the art. And Jim's original for this issue was a pretty detailed rendering which would have suffered significantly (Note that Kaluta Starlin, with less space for the main image, went with a far simpler design: Batman and a skull). And thus, alas, DC had to scrap a heckuva good cover. Nowadays, with generic pin-up covers in vogue, covers are frequently so generic that they could be slapped onto any issue at all, but Jim's art was too tied to the actual contents of the comic, as was expected back then, to be useful, say, on the next issue of the standard-format Batman comic book. And thus, into a drawer it went, until after entering the original art market in the Internet age, it finally emerged into the light at last.


  1. Excellent summary, analysis, and deductions. However, that's a Jim Starlin cover, not Mike Kaluta. The skull definitely gives the cover a Kaluta-vibe, though, I'll grant ya!

    Viva Aparo!

  2. It's too bad that great cover wasn't used. Thanks for posting this unseen beauty.