There is no doubt that sex sells. For decades, pinup calendars, models, music, television, movies, commercial advertising, and clothes have gotten skimpier all on the premise that this will increase sales. Comic books are no different and used bondage, torture, branding, or even just beautifully drawn women to sell comics (tame by pulp book standards). This became much harder in the early 1950s when Frederic Wertham published Seduction of the Innocent (Rinehart, 1953), also known as SOTI, attributing all juvenile delinquency to comic books. The result was self-censorship by the Comic Code Authority in 1954.
Below you will find my personal favorite pre-code Good Girl covers (and some honorable mentions). Of course, many more could make this list, but these are the ones I like the most. Don’t be surprised that many of the covers were done by the artists Matt Baker or Jack Kamen. I don’t think many people could dispute that were the undisputed kings in the comic book world of drawing beautiful women.
10. Zoot Comics #11 (Fox Features Syndicate, 1947)
Bondage, snakes, a breaking tree limb, imminent death and a half naked Rulah start off the list. Fox publishing was infamous for pushing the envelope to get kids to buy their books. A great Kamen cover to have and would be one of the pinnacles of your collection.
Honorable Mention: Zoot #16
What is better than a tied-up Rulah in bondage? Maybe two scantily clad females are more to your liking.
9. Phantom Lady #23 (Fox Features Syndicate, 1949
It should be no surprise that a Phantom Lady makes this list, but most will be surprised that the book isn’t the fabled #17. Don’t get me wrong, I love #17 too, but this one has always been more of a favorite. I am also very partial to #16. I like the “gun through the window” concept on comics for some reason. While #17 is part of SOTI and the attempt to shut down “headlight” covers, I have always thought this one was worse.
8. Reform School Girl #nn (Avon, 1951)
Seduction of the Innocent said that this book “blends sex, violence and torture in its context”. The girl on the cover is Canadian ice skater Marty Collins. Does anyone care about figure skating? I bet you do now! One of the harder books to get, there are 50 blue labels on the census, with 5 ranking at 8.0. How many above 8.0 you ask? Zero! Very high grades of this book do not exist. One must guess as to how beautiful this book looked on the stands, but with inferior inks and paper (oh and let us not forget about book burnings… yes, we had them in America during the 1950s. Look it up if you don’t believe me!), they didn’t survive well.
7. Blue Beetle #54 (Fox Features Syndicate, 1948)
It seems ridiculous to me when I look at my top ten, that this book is so far down on the list. I cannot tell you how much I LOVE this Jack Kamen cover, one of four covers on this list. Of course, this classic cover was also used in SOTI and contains a hanging panel. Hopefully by the time you finish this list, you have as much a difficult time ranking it higher just as I did.
6. Claire Voyant #4 (Leader Enterprises, 1947)
I would have practically sold my soul for the Promise Pedigree copy of this book. It is one that I have never been able to own to my chagrin. I have always been fascinated by reflection covers as this one is (you can see the hero rushing in from the reflection in the mirror). A woman in bondage with a falling open robe and negligee, a bad guy with a gun, money, and a hero rushing in. What more could you want in a cover?
Honorable Mention: All four of the Claire Voyant books. They are all awesome!
5. Brenda Starr #14 (#2) (Superior Comics, 1948)
Well over two decades ago I purchased copies of the Gerber Photo Journals. I went through them and made a list of books I would love to own. Of course, this great Jack Kamen cover was on it. You may ask why I keep showing Promise Pedigree books as the main picture. Simply put, they were some of the nicest Golden Age books we have ever seen, and many of them were the highest graded. If they weren’t the highest graded, they tended to sell for the most ever for that copy at that time, so they show up first on the search!
4. Saint #4 (Avon, 1948)
Have you ever sold or traded a book and then as soon as you did so you went “oh my god what did I just do??? Why did I do that??”. That is my experience with this book. As soon as I sold my copy I did went “why???”. Of course, mine wasn’t as beautiful as the Promise Pedigree copy, but still, I really miss it! A Matt Baker cover along with a black cover, this book shows flaws way too easily and is very difficult to get in high grade. There are only 35 total blue labels on the census, with only 4 of them above 9.0 (and none in 9.0).
3. True Love Pictorial #11 (St. John, 1954)
I firmly believe that St. John books are some of the hardest books to get in high grade. The comic industry was already reeling by the time this book came out, and while Baker wasn’t doing anything wrong, I am sure he was adding fuel to the fire in regards to the thought that comics were bad for young kids, especially when you don’t really need to guess what her “one thing” would be. I just want to point out, does anyone else think that looks like a similar Mary Jane Watson from Amazing Spider-Man? Could that be a “down on his luck starving artist Peter Parker” in another life?
2. Archie Comics #48 (Archie, 1951)
Everyone wants the #50. Not me. I personally believe that #48 is the quintessential Archie. I never liked Archie until I started working for Heritage Auctions mainly because I thought they were for younger kids. Was I ever wrong! Not only do I have great appreciation for them, now they are some of my favorite comics. Their innuendo covers, like listed above, are some of my absolute favorites.
Honorable Mention: Ok, ok…. I will mention the #50! Stop twisting my arm!
The ultimate “classic cover” for Archie and one of the best Bob Montana images. In the classic words of another publisher and famous spokesperson… “Nuff said”.
1. Torchy #4 (Quality, 1950)
This has always been my #1 in terms of Good Girl covers, specifically because I can never find one, or if I did, couldn’t afford it at the time. With an amazingly beautiful cover by Gill Fox (and I think all the Submariners in the bay agree with me!), this is the Good Girl cover I have always desired. The problem is they aren’t easy to obtain as they are never up for sale! There are only 26 total unrestored CGC blue labels on the census. This is a “black hole” book. It goes into someone’s collection and doesn’t come out. For comparison, we have only sold this book 15 times in our 20+ year history. Expect this book to be harder and harder to find as the years go on.
Honorable Mention: Anything by Gill Fox! His artwork is beautiful!
With the dissolution of the Comic Code Authority, and the harsh censorship that came with it, artists now have more autonomy than ever before. The Modern Age is rife with Good Girl artwork, and one can easily find beautiful covers without looking very hard, however there are a few artists and items that specifically deserve an honorable mention.
Modern Age Honorable Mention #1: Dave Stevens
Taken too early from us, Dave Stevens was the creator of the Rocketeer, and reintroduced Bettie Page to a whole new generation (even though she has been the ultimate pinup girl). Dave’s curvy and gorgeous women put him at the forefront of “Good Girl” art in the 1980s and 90s. I can only lament his passing knowing that everyone was forever denied more of his absolute genius and beautiful artwork.
Modern Age Honorable Mention #2: Dan DeCarlo
I mentioned earlier that Archie Comics were rife with “innuendo” covers and “double entendres”. While they are still used in the Modern Age, sometimes they just got straight to the point with no guesswork as can be seen in the above Veronica #28 cover. The boys in the back are so “hot” they are melting the snow! DeCarlo was infamous for his Good Girl art and any original artwork with Betty and/or Veronica in bikinis command much higher auction prices than anything else. Side note about this cover, I do find it hilarious that DeCarlo had to put a palm tree inside the indoor pool area!
As I said at the beginning, many more could be listed here. I could probably have given you my top 100 and made a novel out of it as there are so many comic covers attributed to Good Girl art, that collecting (or listing) them all would take decades! Now that the Comic Code Authority is gone, expect to see many more that continue to hit the stands, because… sex sells!
Feel free to respond to this article telling us your favorite covers!