Monday, May 1, 2017

Panel Discussion: Covering Ed Hannigan!

Martinex1: Good day all!   I am not sure if the name Ed Hannigan is recognizable to our regular BitBA visitors, but I find his work from back in the Bronze Age to be quite enjoyable and perhaps more influential than we all realize.  So today in Panel Discussion, we are going to take a look at Mr. Hannigan's body of work and discuss his contribution to our favorite comics.

Martinex1: From what I can gather, Ed Hannigan started contributing as a penciller to Marvel in 1975.  His first story work was in a Planet of the Apes comic which was quickly followed by work in Giant Size Man-Thing issues #4 and #5.   That same year he premiered as a cover artist for a variety of Marvel's horror anthology titles, and he also contributed cover work for The Incredible Hulk and Marvel Team-Up while also modernizing some of the Western titles.  He was off to a fast start.  The below Frankenstein Monster (July 1975), Ringo Kid (January 1976) and Two-Gun Kid (February 1976) were amongst his earliest work.   I enjoyed Hannigan's sense of action; his mid-fight captures attracted my eye easily.   I also liked his use of space and the overall exciting and angled perspective..

Redartz:  Hannigan's earlier work included some of my favorite Bronze Age covers, particularly Marvel Team-Up. Your examples here really show off Hannigan's feeling for the dramatic...

Martinex1: In the early going, Hannigan seemed to be relegated to the second and even third tier titles, particularly those with a horror aspect.  His covers for Werewolf By Night were quite interesting and much better than the stories inside.   If there were ever covers that improved a title's sales, I think these are good examples.  Hannigan demonstrated a mastery of various heroic poses; his skill was recognizable in the Werewolf and Moon Knight characters on #37's cover.   I've included the inked version of Werewolf By Night #40 because I think his detailed line art often gets hidden by the colors.

Redartz:  Great point, Marti. That Werewolf cover is truly striking; strong composition, nice lines and shadow. Additionally, he makes effective use of some "Kirby Krackle", which contrasts nicely with the more linearly (is that a word?) rendered foreground. And as for poses- he seems to make frequent use of unusual body positions, no stock poses here. And he executes them well.

Martinex1: Later that decade, Hannigan was tied to The Defenders title, starting with more cover work.  And this is where it gets interesting, because he also was the writer on the title for a couple of years.  He had started writing in 1978 with issues of Marvel Premiere (starring Tigra), Power Man and Iron Fist, and Black Panther before taking over the writing duties of The Defenders with issue #70.  Prior to that he had already handled some of the art chores with the book.  I think his Defenders' covers are amongst the best and most memorable of the series.

Redartz:  His Defenders work really put him on my radar. This Scorpio cover has some great visual effects. He combines the innovation of a Steranko with the solid, smooth finish of a Romita. Plus, it is a fine example of Hannigan's skillful manipulation of cover elements and symbols, also nicely done on the webbing on issue 61's cover. 

Martinex1: Ed Hannigan had a way with figures on the cover that often had me buying the book even if the tale was rather weak.  A few that I find memorable are shown below.  Omega was a mere  curiosity for me, but looking back at it I think Hannigan made the character seem much more "Marvelized."   His Fool Killer, a C-list character, looked rather cool highlighted on The Defenders cover, and Amazing Spider-Man #168 was one of the first comics I ever purchased, and it was the cover that got my attention.   John Romita worked with Hannigan on that one, but the perspective and the use of signs and structures is all Hannigan; that would later become a bit of his "trademark" as you will see.

Martinex1:  On top of that, Hannigan designed some iconic covers that you may not have realized were his creations.  He really rolled out some nice poses and layouts.  And that also led to work in which he helped design cover layouts for other artists.  He would quickly thumbnail or sketch covers to be handed to other artists to work from.  In the late 1970s and early 1980s he impacted the look of Marvel with his extensive guidance and suggestions to other artists.  These below though are all his.

Redartz:  He really seems to choose some unique points of view. Very nice depth and foreshortening on the Hawkeye image. That Avengers 226 cover is a wonderful bit of compositional play: his positioning of the beam, Cap's pose and the Black Knight lead the viewer's eye around and around. And that Deathlok cover ranks with the very best.

Martinex1:  Here is some more of Hannigan's work uncolored.   The original art shows the amount of detail he would employ; he used shadows and the balance of light and dark quite well.  Perhaps that is why he was such an influence on the appearance of Cloak and Dagger.
Martinex1: Hannigan became known for playing with text and for modified logos.   During his run on Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man, he had the characters impact the corner box, logo, and text.  Keep in mind that this was before the wonders of modern computers and that Hannigan changed, angled, and destroyed the headers the old-fashioned way.  He had a wonderful run on that book.

Redartz:  He did indeed. His Spectacular Spider-Man covers were among the most memorable eye-catchers on the stands. They often made the covers of ASM seem staid by comparison. Hannigan had a nice touch of Ditko, but more importantly, had a wonderful talent for cover design all his own. He seemed a perfect choice for drawing the web-slinger. It is odd that he doesn't seem to get much notice for his stint of PPTSM; these are beautiful...

Martinex1: In the late 80s, Ed Hannigan moved to DC and was just as impactful with Mike Grell on Green Arrow.  He continued to crank out memorable covers for the DC line.

Martinex1: Here are some more examples of covers that he created throughout his career.  I particularly enjoy his work on The Inhumans and the reimagining of the old Avengers in Marvel Triple Action.  The Marvel Two-In-One Annual was not the best comic, but that cover is very interesting despite all of the text.

Martinex1:  And in case you think Hannigan was just a cover artist, take a look at the detailed layout of his interior art with this splash page.

Redartz:  I'm glad you included the above page, partner! Hannigan's interior art on PPTSM was every bit as sharp as his covers were. And his pencils held up well under the sometimes heavy inking of Jim Mooney and Al Milgrom. Actually, I thought Milgrom's inks were particularly well-suited for Hannigan's style on this book.

Martinex1:  He definitely had a way with shadows, and I like how he plays with the shadows on these books.

Martinex1:  If you are interested in Ed Hannigan then you have to take a look at his site where he shares information about his work designing covers.   He shares examples like the below and other insights about his art.   In addition, here is a wonderful 2014 interview with Hannigan from

Redartz:  Again, you choose some great examples, Marti. Fascinating to see that color rough of the Hobgoblin cover above. A great talent, and one of the 'unsung heroes' of the Bronze Age.
Martinex1:  So what do you think about Ed Hannigan's art?  Were you aware of his work and influence?   Why is he lesser known than others in the field?   Whether coloring, penciling, inking, writing, or later in his career editing - what did Hannigan do the best?  We are interested to hear what you think about the Bronze Age talent?


Anonymous said...

Yes indeed, Ed Hannigan and Jim Mooney were the artists on "Evolution's Nightmare" which appeared in Marvel UK's Planet Of The Apes #20-22, dated March 8th, 15th and 22nd 1975 (I don't know the number of the American POTA magazine). Of the covers shown, the one that really stands out for me is Fantastic Four because that was also the cover of Marvel UK's The Complete Fantastic Four #37 which was the final issue before cancellation - it came out on Wednesday, May 31st 1978 which was the day after I saw Star Wars :)

Selenarch said...

Wow, I own about half a dozen of the books depicted, but if you had asked me who had done the covers, I would have been all at sea. You're right, even if the story was somewhat lacking, as that Defenders Fool-Killer issue was, the cover art was enough to draw you in. And I wholeheartedly agree that that Deathlok cover is a true Bronze Age treasure. I also recently picked up a couple of old Werewolf by Night and was pleasantly struck by the solid design of the covers. Great to finally put a name to the art!

Doug said...

Fantastic research and display as always, gents. Hannigan is a creator I might have dismissed in the past. You've shown today that his work bears a second (or third!) look. Very nice tribute.


J.A. Morris said...

Great topic. One of the greatest cover artists of all time, so many Hannigan covers made me buy the comic. I recently re-read those early Cloak and Dagger stories, some great pencils, very Eisner-esque.

Redartz said...

J.A.- you make a good observation about the Eisner-seque quality of those issues. The use of text and lettering, the heavy shadow, the framing- all show Will's influence. More of what made PPTSSM such a great read at the time...

Unknown said...

wonderfully done gents!

Mike Wilson said...

Yeah, Hannigan's covers were always pretty cool; makes me wish he'd done more interiors. Those Cloak and Dagger ones are classics, the other Spidey stuff is great, and the Batman stuff was pretty good too (as were the stories, if I remember right).

I liked Hannigan's Defenders run too; his stories were pretty good (I liked how he played up the friendship between Patsy and Valkyrie), and coming between Gerber and DeMatteis, that's saying something.

ColinBray said...

Lovely post chaps, very informative and insightful. These covers are a feast for the eyes, and you are right, Hannigan is surely under appreciated.

Hannigan inserted a fun panel into one of those Spectacular issues - Spidey is on a nighttime sojurn in New York and as he swings past a high rooftop he and we see an artist drawing away. Spidey makes a comment about the guy whose art box shows the letters 'Mi' before being obscured.

All in all a nice reference to a certain creator who used to sketch the NY skyline at night prepping for his Daredevil stories.

Martinex1 said...

Hi all. Thanks for commenting. I liked Hannigan's work - even before I knew who was doing the work. Sometimes for me he fell into the Sal Buscema category of just being solid and reliable (in a great way) and having an unnoticeable ease around his design. Even with the changed-logo covers, there was a certain comfortableness to it. It was somehow cool but also not splashy if that makes sense. Looking back at it, I am surprised the fan magazines of the time didn't take more notice.

Regarding his work with other artists... I would really like to know what covers he influenced. It is not that easy to investigate, but I "hear" that he had his hand in the design of some very key Marvel covers. I have no way of knowing (and would love it confirmed) as this is just hearsay, that he actually did the thumbnail design for Uncanny X-Men 141 - the iconic Future Past wanted poster. I don't know if that is true, but he was heavily involved with designing the look of covers at the time and passing it along to the artist to refine, tweak, finalize, and ultimately "create".

If anybody knows what key covers he had a hand in - please share. And please don't quote me on the above as I may have it totally wrong.

Martinex1 said...

Also with so many good covers, I somehow left out Marvel Premiere #28 "Legion of Monsters." Again, the story was forgettable or worse, but who doesn't recognize that cover and who didn't wish that book was a hit? The cover was completely done by Ed Hannigan.

The Prowler said...

"Is no one going to comment that the 'hosts' just said 'Giant Size Man Thing'"?

And there's a Team USA cover included!?! The Devil's in the details, boys, the Devil's in the details...

For me, personally, I bought Marvel Triple Action 27 for the cover. It was my first Marvel Triple Action and I was hooked.

Great job guys!!! Enjoyed it. Now, the topic would demand I insert "We Love You, Miss Hannigan" from Annie but seeing how today is May 1st, I have to go with this:

(We met as soul mates
On Parris Island
We left as inmates
From an asylum
And we were sharp
As sharp as knives
And we were so gung ho
To lay down our lives

We came in spastic
Like tameless horses
We left in plastic
As numbered corpses
And we learned fast
To travel light
Our arms were heavy
But our bellies were tight

We had no home front
We had no soft soap
They sent us Playboy
They gave us Bob Hope
We dug in deep
And shot on sight
And prayed to Jesus Christ
With all of our might

We had no cameras
To shoot the landscape
We passed the hash pipe
And played our Doors tapes
And it was dark
So dark at night
And we held on to each other
Like brother to brother
We promised our mothers we'd write
And we would all go down together
We said we'd all go down together
Yes we would all go down together

Remember Charlie
Remember Baker
They left their childhood
On every acre
And who was wrong?
And who was right?
It didn't matter in the thick of the fight

We held the day
In the palm
Of our hand
They ruled the night
And the night
Seemed to last as long as six weeks
On Parris Island

We held the coastline
They held the highlands
And they were sharp
As sharp as knives
They heard the hum of our motors
They counted the rotors
And waited for us to arrive
And we would all go down together
We said we'd all go down together
Yes we would all go down together

Goodnight, Saigon).

Anonymous said...

Dr. Glitternight!
He's the bald dude floating in the air like a kite on the Werewolf covers.
I never did understand what his deal was, exactly, other than floating around like a big-ass kite, that is.
He was weirder than a six-dollar bill.
Yup, Hannigan could be pretty inventive.


Martinex1 said...

I was just able to locate confirmation that Hannigan handled the layout for X-Men 141. On John Byrne's "Byrne Robotics" site, Byrne was asked what inspired the famous cover. He responds, "You'd have to ask Ed Hannigan if he recalls the inspiration for his cover sketch." (Oct 20 2012) Byrne later goes on to explain that he does not think he designed any of the X-Men covers himself.

Here is the link info to that page of dialogue on his site.

That is pretty amazing. I would really like to see the original sketch.

Graham said...

I was mostly familiar with Hannigan from his covers, but looking back on some of the items you posted, I was actually more familiar with him than I thought in his other capacities. Thanks for posting this.

I was fortunate enough to pick up PPTSPM during his (and Frank Miller's) runs as cover artists. One thing I liked about both of them was how their work paid tribute to Will Eisner's artistry with The Spirit. I had recently started reading The Spirit for the first time and I saw so many things that both artists did that were acknowledgements to Eisner.

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