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the george lois esquire cover mystery

This image stopped me in my tracks (click it for the full-size version).

I was digging around in the Esquire cover gallery, specifically for the purpose of enjoying the work of George Lois. He was their art director from 1962 to 1972, and in that time he created some of the greatest magazine covers in American history. There's plenty of amazing work in that archive, but none of it floored me the way this did.

It might be the finest magazine cover I've ever seen, but more than that it might be one of the finest pieces of journalism I've ever seen. It brings home the stark truth of war in a way that only a true master could, asking you to question your assumptions without forcing or advocating any one particular world-view. It does, in other words, what great popular art should: grab your attention and make you think.

As I looked it over, though, I uncovered an oddity. If you click on the image to see the full-size version and look in the upper right-hand corner, it reads "December 1962" -- despite the fact that the Esquire site has it labeled as 1972.

Then when you go to the December 1962 spot in the archives, this is what you get.

I did a little more digging and it turns out this image was never published. According to James Wolcott at Vanity Fair, it was too much for the Esquire editors and they nixed it. That's a damn shame, for sure, but no matter. It's a fantastic piece of work and I'll give Esquire credit for putting it online -- even if (as I suspect) it happened by accident.

(you can read some more about Lois and Esquire here)

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