Page 3: Jumbo Comics Cover Artists

SEP 38 TO NOV 40
According to The Spirit: The Origin Years, No. 2 Jul 92, Will Eisner was responsible for the cover of Jumbo Comics No. 1, the image on the previous page (see link above).  In their essay, Sheena of the Comic Books, Bill Black and Bill Feret report that Eisner would draw 3 to 4 pencil roughs for each cover, and these would be discussed in a group conference.  Once a decision had been reached Eisner would either ink the covers himself or pass the chore on to one of the other in-house artists.
There is not a lot of certainty about who illustrated the first twenty or so Jumbo Comics covers.  The Book of Jumbo Comics Covers, one of the more definitive sources, attributes Eisner's involvement to issues 5, 6, 9, 12, and 13, although some of these were collaborations with other resident Fiction House artists.  The first nine oversized issues were printed in black and white on tinted paper and all of these covers resembled the cover for the first issue, in that each was a busy composite of several of the stories to be found inside.  Several had small single-panel depictions of Sheena, but the one of most interest to Sheena fans is issue No. 7, which had a row of three panels of Sheena across the centre of the page, with similar three-panel drawings of Peter Pupp and Spencer Steel above and below the Sheena strip respectively.
The first regular-sized comic, also printed in colour - issue No. 9 - gave star billing to Sheena on the cover.  Stuart Taylor was on the cover of issue No. 10, ZX-5 on No. 11, and The Hawk on No. 12.  Sheena and The Lightning alternated on the next four covers with the jungle queen on issues No. 13 and No. 15, and the caped, masked hero on issues No. 14 and No. 16.
Sheena finally attained her royal status on issue No. 17 for she held the cover position for the rest of the run of the publication, except for the last seven issues, where she was present but in a diminished capacity (see the Decline of Fiction House page).  To be more precise, she appeared on 144 sequential covers from issue No. 17 to No. 160.  If you include the three covers she graced prior to No. 17, this means that Sheena dominated 147 covers of the 167 Jumbo Comics published over a 15 year period.

NOV 40 TO MAY 43
Starting with issue No. 21 the cover art chores were handed to Dan Zolnerowich, who stuck with it for three-and-a-half years.  Zolnerowich started work at Fiction House in 1939 and stayed there until 1944.  While there he illustrated a number of different covers during this time, among them Jungle Comics, Planet Comics and Rangers Comics.  He also illustrated a number of comic stories for the studio, including Super American, Suicide Smith, Kaanga, Kayo Kirby, The Hawk, Captain Terry Thunder, and Captain Wings.  Starting in November 1940 he drew every one of the Jumbo Comics from No. 21 to 51, except for four in his early days.  Zolnerowich did covers 21, 22 and 23, but John Celardo did issues 24 and 27, while Nick Viscardi did Nos. 25 and 26.   Zolnerowich later provided art for romance, science fiction, and western titles for Hillman Publications and several Quality Comics titles - Blackhawk, Dollman, Merlin the Magician, Swiss Sisson and Hercules.  He changed his name to Dan Zolne in the 1950s and mainly worked as a technical illustrator for Popular Science magazine in the 1950s and 1960s.  During his comic career he also used the names Dan Enloz, Lance Blackwood, Zolne Rowich and Dan Zolne (Lambiek).

Black and Feret correctly point out that Zolnerowich's covers do not depict Sheena as well as she could have been, but acknowledge that they are extremely dynamic and that they did further the image that Sheena would eventually achieve (right).  To my mind the distinctive thing about the art of his Sheena covers is that frequently the figures appear quite stiff, the proportions are unnatural, especially the way the heads are connected to the bodies, and Sheena's hair always resembles a candle flame (see Jumbo Comics cover gallery).

JUN 43 TO JUL 44
In August 1944 Joe Doolin was assigned the job of producing Jumbo covers, something he would continue doing almost without interruption for five years.  There was a period of just over a year between the long period of Zolnerowich and the long Doolin phase when the covers were provided by three different artists - Nick Viscardi, John Martin and Artie Saaf.

Nicholas Viscardi was the birth name of the famous comic artist who would later change his name to Nick Cardy.  He was born in New York in October 1920 and studied painting and sculpture at the Art Students League in that great city.  His first job in the comics industry, at the age of 18, was working for Iger and Eisner on Fiction House projects.  He provided artwork for Fight Comics, Jungle Comics, Wings Comics and Kaanga, and was the first artist to draw Senorita Rio in Fight Comics.  During his time with the studio he only contributed four Jumbo Comics covers.  As mentioned above in the Dan Zolnerowich section, Viscardi drew two early Jumbo covers on issues 25 and 26.  The only other two he did were the June and July 1943 covers (Nos. 52 & 53).  In his later career he would become the major cover artists at DC Comics in the early to mid 1970s, rendering well-known titles like Superman, Batman, and Flash.  He also worked as a commercial artist prior to his retirement (Lambiek).  The two early Viscardi covers portray Sheena with very male-like proportions and little curvaceousness.  The two covers he provided in 1943 are more shapely but the figures have a flat "cut out" appearance with little volume definition (left).  They are also memorable because they are the first Jumbo covers with Sheena wearing a two-piece outfit.  His rendition of animals is very detailed and reasonably realistic.  His artwork on Senorita Rio is more satisfying and in his later DC career he developed a reputation for illustrating gorgeous female characters (see Jumbo Comics cover gallery).
John Martin's real name was Rafael Astarita, but he also used John Charles.  At Fiction House he provided features like Captain Terry Thunder, Futura, Kaanga and Tabu.  These titles appeared inside Wings Comics, Planet Comics, Rangers Comics, Jumbo Comics and Jungle Comics (Lambiek).  His art did not appear on many covers at Fiction House.  The Aug 43 issue of Jumbo Comics (No. 54) was his only Sheena cover and the three Jungle Comics he did the same year appear to be his only others.  Strangely, the male figures in his covers have a lot of muscular definition, but the Sheena character is flat and two dimensional.  This may be because of the common Fiction House practice of using artists that specialized in the female form to draw Sheena, so Martin probably never drew her.  This is confirmed by the fact that the animals on his covers are also very detailed with a lot of musculature and are done in his own distinctive style.  Martin's only Jumbo cover is shown at the top right of the main cover montage above (top of page).

The next eleven Jumbo Comics covers, from Sep 43 to Jul 44, were drawn by Artie Saaf (left), and all show Sheena wearing a two-piece leopard-skin costume.  Saaf, who was born in Brooklyn of Swedish and German ancestry, worked for most of the major comic book companies from the 1940s through to the 1980s.  He was a self-taught artist who began work in comics in 1938 through agencies.  He studied at the Pratt Institute, the School of Arts and Mechanics, and the Art Students League.  His covers are rich in texture and are very dynamic (right).  The Saaf Sheena figures are beautifully proportioned and portray strength and physical power.  They are probably the best renditions of the female form on Jumbo covers up to this point.  At Fiction House he also worked on numerous Fight Comics covers and also illustrated characters like Kaanga and Camilla in Jungle Comics.  Most of his later comic work was on romance titles and from the mid-1950s though the 1960s he began working in the television industry, illustrating storyboards for programs like the Jackie Gleason Show (Lambiek) (see Jumbo Comics cover gallery).  Artie Saaf died from complications of Parkinsons Disease on 21 April 2007.

AUG 44 TO JUL 49
As mentioned above, the next artist to work on Sheena covers, Joe Doolin, fulfilled the task for five full years.  Information on Doolin is very difficult to find, mostly because there is no biography for him available on the Lambiek Comiclopedia site.  I did manage to learn that he was born 1902 and began providing artwork for the Weird Tales pulp magazine in 1925.  Over the next fifteen years he worked on pulp titles like Air War, Thrilling Adventures, Texas Rangers, Startling Stories and Strange Stories.  He appears to have joined Fiction House in 1943, for the previous year he was working for Thrilling Publications, one of Fiction House's competitors.  In 1943 he is first associated with a Fiction House publication, the pulp title, Planet Stories.  He soon become involved in the comics section there and contributed his first cover to the January 1944 issue of Jungle Comics.  His first rendition of Sheena appeared on the cover of the August 1944 (No. 66) issue of Jumbo Comics.  He quickly became the preferred cover artist on Fiction House comics and was obviously a prolific, and supposedly rapid, artist because he provided the covers for all six of the major titles - Jumbo, Jungle, Fight, Planet, Wings and Rangers Comics - through to the late 1940s.

Doolin produced more than sixty Sheena covers for Jumbo Comics, more than any other artist who worked on that title.  Black and Feret point out that the quality of his covers varied, that they were all at least good, but some are superb.  They are among the best in the series. They also point out that the Sheena figures on Doolin's covers were delineated by the "good girl art" experts at Fiction House.  Doolin's art is bold, dramatic and beautifully crafted.  He uses confident flowing lines and the athletic figures are drawn with depth and volume.   The Sheena figures are also given an eye-catching pin-up quality, despite the dynamic poses (see Jumbo Comics cover gallery).

AUG 49 TO MAR 51
Black and Feret claim that Jack Kamen and Maurice Whitman drew the balance of the Jumbo covers, but the story does not appear to be that clear cut.  The lists of cover artists provided in both The Book of Jumbo Comics Covers and the Fiction House Index provided by Disbrow (see Source below) do not mention Kamen.  An artist named Shaw is listed as providing alternate covers with Joe Doolin from issue No. 114 (Aug 48) to No. 127 (Sep 49), immediately prior to Doolin's departure.  Shaw is then credited with providing every one of the covers from Nov 49 to Mar 51 (issues 128 to 145).  No first name is not given and, strangely, I have been unsuccessful in finding any reference to a Fiction House cover artist named Shaw on The Net.  If you can help solve this mystery please do not hesitate to write me.

APR 51 TO APR 53

The final Fiction House cover artist to work on Jumbo Comics before the title eventually went out of production was Maurice Whitman (right) .  Whitman was born in Catskill NY in June 1922.  He had no formal artistic training and was completely self-taught.  He entered the comic industry in the 1940s working for the Harry "A" Chesler shop and Funnies Inc, contributing art to Yankee Girl and Fawcett's Nyoka.  He drew The Grey Mask, Golden Archer, and Red Cross for Holyoke Publications and Iron Ace for Hillman Periodicals.  He joined Fiction House in the late 1940s and contributed to Kaanga, Mysta of the Moon, Star Pirate, Tabu and other titles through to the mid-1950s.  He also illustrated covers for Jungle Comics, Rangers Comics, Wings Comics, and Fight Comics.  After leaving Fiction House he spent the late-50s working for Charlton Comics on a wide variety of titles that included crime, science fantasy, funny animals, and historical fiction.  He provided artwork for Atomic Mouse and Atomic Rabbit, Fightin' Marines, U.S. Air Force, Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshall, and numerous other comics.  He spent the 1960s contributing to some of the publications of Wally Wood and also worked at Warren Publications, well-known for titles like Eeerie and Creepy, and later Vampirella.  In the 1970s he began working for DC Comics, where he worked on some of their war and mystery titles.  During this time he also did work for BBDO, one of the largest advertising agengies in the world.  In 1977 he provided the art for a digest-sized comic adaptation, The Man of Bronze.  He also maintained a small studio on City Island, the Bronx, where he worked in oils and other media.  He died in May 1983, a month before his 61st birthday (Whitman & Lambiek).

Black and Feret suggest Whitman's art contained more realism than pin-up quality and point out that he transformed Sheena into a savage fighter.  He is a master of shading, and as a result his Sheena is considerably more muscular than previous artists.  He carries this skill through to wonderful effect on the brawny bodies of natives and the pelts of his animals.  The Whitman covers are truly wonderful compositions of dynamic violence.  He produced some of my favourite Jumbo Comics covers, notably issue No. 159 (bottom right on the main cover montage above); No. 155 (I used his Sheena image on the Sheena main page); No. 153; and 160 (left).  These, and some of Joe Doolin's top work, especially Nos. 75; 94 (above right); 97; 98 (a popular favourite); and 99, really stand out as the best of the bunch in a fascinating run.  I was entralled by Jumbo Comics as a kid, and they still manage to put a smile on my face (see Jumbo Comics cover gallery). 

It is interesting to note that as the popularity of Fiction House comics began to drop away the cover layout went full circle.  The first nine issues of Jumbo were montages of small images and Sheena was just one of many characters represented (see the The Origin of Sheena page).  From issue No. 161 (Jul 51) Sheena's rule was toppled and she again became just another small panel around the margin, the same way she had been in the late-30s.  The story of the expiration of Fiction House is told in more detail on the The Decline of Fiction House page.  Her reign had been long and resplendent and many talented people had helped keep her in power.  During those years she had helped send many young children off to sleep with warm cozy images of predatory carnivores, marauding gorilla bands and bloodthirsty witchdoctors floating around in their innocent minds.  When you are ten years old a little bit of violence goes a long way.

Click on the image below to view a complete set of Jumbo and Jungle Comics covers, and examples of other Fiction House titles:

The Spirit: The Origin Years, No. 2 Jul 92, quoted in TV's Original Sheena - Irish McCalla, by Bill Black and Bill Feret, Paragon Publications, 1992
• Essay, Sheena of the Comic Books, by Bill Black & Bill Feret, in TV's Original Sheena - Irish McCalla, by Bill Black and Bill Feret, Paragon Publications, 1992
The Book of Jumbo Comics Covers, Book Number 1: Issues #1 thru # 81, published by Al Dellinges, 1979
• Comic artist biography information is from the Comiclopedia at the Dutch website,
The Iger Comics Kingdom by Jay Edward Disbrow, Blackthorne Publishing 1985
• I am indebted to Jon Whitman, who generously filled in the gaps in his father's biography for me, and provided the wonderful early-50s photo of his father.  Visit the Murder Ink Tattoos website for a tribute to his father and examples of his own art
• Main cover images montage above of: Jumbo Comics No. 33 (Zolnerowich); No. 54 (Martin); No. 121 (Shaw); and No. 159 (Whitman) are from a CD-Rom of comic covers in my private collection
• The Dan Zolnerowich cover of Jumbo Comics No. 34 is from the same CD-ROM
• The Nick Viscardi cover of Jumbo Comics No. 53 is from the same CD-ROM
• The Artie Saaf cover of Jumbo Comics No. 60 is from the same CD-ROM
• The Joe Doolin cover of Jumbo Comics No. 94 is from the same CD-ROM
• The Maurice Whitman cover of Jumbo Comics No. 160 is from the same CD-ROM
• The montage of Fiction House covers below was created from the same CD-ROM
• The Art Saaf web site, which is maintained by his son Steve, has extensive biographical info and numerous examples of his art

SHEENA © is the property of Sony Pictures Corporation
This independent, fan-based analysis of the Sheena material is copyright © 2006 Paul Wickham