Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Top 10 Ragman Covers

Despite never having amounted to much in the greater scheme of things, I'll always have a soft spot for the Tatterdemalion of Justice. Created by the Sgt. Rock team of Bob Kanigher and Joe Kubert to star in his own eponymous 1976 series, you didn't get much more blue collar than Rory Regan. A 'Nam vet troubled by his past, Rory inherited a thrift store when his father was killed by mob enforcers. Whether delusional or truly empowered by the souls of his departed loved ones, Regan donned a suit of fabric scraps to become the vigilante Ragman. At least, that's how I was introduced to him in a favorite issue among the earliest comics I ever bought, The Brave and the Bold #196. Later on, he went from a skid row Batman to the Jewish Ghost Rider, which worked out well for him, since he is a cornerstone of Chanukah celebrations in holiday-themed comics. In honor of his finally receiving his own character-themed blog, Ragman - DC's Tatterdemalion of Justice!, I now present his finest covers...

10) Ragman #2 (November, 1991)

Truth to tell, I struggled to get to ten on this countdown, and there were several other covers that could have filled this slot. Ragman covers suffer from a sense of sameness. Most are by either Joe Kubert, who never comfortably illustrated super-heroics, or Pat Broderick, whose faces were often too overwrought with comical expression. Both did a lot of unintentionally goofy supernatural themed pieces, which always struck be as an ill-considered affectation to hang on a very street level concept. I picked this piece because it portrays the primary alteration of the character Post-Crisis, Ragman's suit eating the souls of the evil to fuel its vague power. It's also nicely rendered, even if the woman does look more overcome by the offensive odor of the rags than other undesirable aspects of her fate.

9) Ragman: Cry of the Dead #5 (December, 1993)

You may laugh at that windsock hood and those stretched out tights, but don't tell me you don't know exactly who the character is based on a silhouette. I also appreciate how insanely busy the crowd is to contrast against that central negative space.

8) Ragman #3 (January, 1977)

A terrorized black kid in bell-bottoms chased by '50s mobsters spouting concise exposition while the hero lurks just far enough off-center to suggest panel progression and nudge the fourth wall? Such a '70s DC cover!

7) Ragman: Cry of the Dead #6 (January, 1994)

Contemporary Dickensian street kids piling on Ragman is much more in the spirit the hero as originally conceived than any of the supernatural hokum and team book antics we've seen since the '90s.

6) Ragman: Suit of Souls #1 (October, 2010)

This is more of a cool pin-up than a cover. Yes, it does demonstrate the queer costume inhabited by dark spirits, but they're pretty demonic, and where's the environment? To my mind, the whole point of Ragman is that he's a skid row hero, not a supernatural Batman, not that you can tell from the bleached void behind him. The suit is too shiny and form fitting, like a franchise star.

5) The Brave and the Bold #196 (March, 1983)

Beyond being a sentimental favorite of mine, how fantastic and unusual is this piece? Inside the book, Jim Aparo was able to get the creepiness and melodrama of Ragman across, but was too clean and graceful in his depiction. That's not a problem on the outside art, a grimly impressionistic work of wrought iron frames and fires blazing without explicit source. You know there's balconies and gunplay, but only by filling in the blanks of obscured objects in a part of town too dark even for the Dark Knight toget by on his own.

4) Ragman #5 (July, 1977)

A prominent color hold on the busy logo, the big "Junkyard of Death," the burning bills-- bleeding hearts aside, that's some darned fine slumsploitaton.

3) Ragman #2 (November, 1976)

A much better cover than on the debut issue, both in terms of marketability and in conveying who the character is. Still kind of mainstream for such a niche character, but how can you not dig that textured surprint or the copy "Scourge of the Ghetto Lords?"

2) Ragman #4 (March, 1977)

Ragman was a super-hero created by a guy who didn't believe in such a thing. As with Sgt. Rock, Joe Kubert presents a disaffected, unposed man of action struggling through a bad situation. I love how the patchwork of green fabric elongated to an inhuman degree contrasts against the bleeding red background. Using the perspective of triggermen frames the image well. If only it wasn't so lackadaisical.

1) Ragman #1 (October, 1991)

While a bit generic in posturing for a nighttime avenger, this is overall the best Ragman cover. Pat Broderick really went to town with the town on this mini-series, making for a damned dirty looking tenement to squat on. The raggedy logo is in full effect, and the uncommon brick of text explains the Post-Crisis take on the character in a nutshell. The result feels like it could double as a movie poster. Had Joe Kubert ever fully knocked a Ragman cover out of the park, he'd have been a shoo-in for the top spot. As it stands this is as iconic as is available.


Tony said...

Not bad, but I totally disagree with your #1 choice. The original Ragman #1 would have been my choice. True, it might not be that representative of the character, but the depiction of the person falling to his death freaked me out as a kid, and to me, it's still a very powerful cover.

Diabolu Frank said...

I can see where you're coming from, so I'm sorry to slight your favorite.

Tony said...

No worries, I get your point as well. If the Ragman image in the background wasn't such a dull color, the cover would be that much better.

Chad Bokelman said...

And you never thought to mention this post to me....why? How DARE you let me find out about this via Google! lol

Diabolu Frank said...

Yeah, well, thanks the Comicvine turning stingy on their cover art remote linking, I'm not exactly drawing attention to these countdown posts. I'll turn it into a video eventually, though.