Graham Ingels Covers Lance Lewis & Marna, Startling Comics at Auction
While Standard/Better/Nedor's art director, Graham Ingels created standout covers there before being hired by Al Feldstein for EC Comics.
Sometimes a classic little moment in comic book history can slip through the cracks misunderstood, forgotten, or perhaps a bit overshadowed. Such is the case with the Lance Lewis & Marna covers for Startling Comics #44-46, from the legendary artist Graham Ingels for publisher Standard/Better/Nedor. These three issues, cover-dated March-July 1947, feature the beginning of Startling Comics' transition from a superhero title that had featured Pyroman and Fighting Yank covers, to a science fiction title with covers featuring Lance Lewis, Space Detective and his companion Marna. Ingels would then hand the cover duties off to Alex Schomburg, whose airbrushed "Xela" cover run here achieved far more fame among collectors (most notably the infamous "Bender" cover of Startling Comics #49). But Ingels kicked this cover run off with some striking work of his own, and there's a Startling Comics #44 (Better Publications, 1947) CGC VG 4.0 Off-white to white pages and Startling Comics #45 (Better Publications, 1947) Condition: VG+ up for auction in the 2023 February 23 The Thrillingly Exciting Heroes of Nedor Comics Showcase Auction #40219 at Heritage Auctions.
Lance Lewis, Space Detective first appeared in Mystery Comics #3, an issue of Standard/Better/Nedor's (or perhaps more specifically, Richard E. Hughes') unusual collaboration with specialty direct marketing publisher William H. Wise. He was a time traveling, jetpack wearing, raygun toting science fiction hero in the Buck Rogers mold, and would be the cover feature of Startling Comics until the end of the title with issue #53. Of course, featuring Lance's girlfriend, the intrepid Marna, was a large part of the point of what turned out to be a spectacular cover run.
The Lance Lewis covers of the two issues available here are by Graham Ingels, while the interior Lance Lewis story for Startling Comics #45 also by Ingels. After spending much of the early part of his career at Fiction House, legendary artist Ingels would spend a brief period in 1947 as the art director of Standard/Better/Nedor, before being hired by Al Feldstein in 1948 to contribute to EC Comics, where he soon became a horror comics legend on titles such as The Haunt of Fear, Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror. Ingels penchant for the bizarre is certainly on display with the creatures he designed for these Startling Comics covers.
This copy of Startling Comics #44 has been graded CGC VG 4.0 Off-white to white pages. The Startling Comics #45 available here has been graded VG+ Heritage Auctions. There are only 34 entries for Startling Comics #44 and 24 for Startling Comics #45 on the CGC census. While the Schomburg covers of this run get all the glory, Ingels work here is worth your collecting time as well. Two of them are available in Heritage Auctions' 2023 February 23 The Thrillingly Exciting Heroes of Nedor Comics Showcase Auction #40219. If you are new to Heritage Auctions to check out their FAQ on the bidding process and related matters.