Rafael De Soto is considered by some to have been the best cover artist in the business. He was artistically trained in Spain and Puerto Rico (Lesser 12).
De Soto’s power came from building the suspense right into the painting with unanswered questions. Like in the top piece: How do these two know each other? Why does the man have a handcuff on his left wrist? Why is she handing him a gun? Why is she dressed up? Is there a party or a nice dinner? Where are they? Why is he climbing down a shaft labeled “INCINERATOR”?
The same effect is captured in the bottom piece: Where did this man come from? What is she pouring into that mug? Is he running from the cop who’s having his meal or was that cop just in the neighborhood? Is the cop suspicious? Did the cop stop by because of a tip he had gotten?
It’s also significant to note that more emphasis is place on the suspense of the scene than the actual depictions of the people. Both couples have some striking similarities. Both men have one wrist handcuffed and have similar bedraggled hair. Both women are blonde haired and blue eyed and have similarly curled hair. The man in the incinerator may have caught the woman in the red dress at work for all the similarities these pieces share.
So it begs the question: are they supposed to be the same couple? The top piece was used as a cover in Detective Tales in August 1947 (Lesser 72), whereas the bottom piece was used in Dime Detective Magazine in July 1940. It can be reasonably assumed that these do not depict the same man and woman considering they were commissioned for different magazines and were published seven years apart.
There is an importance to these generic depictions. Women were supposed to be pretty in the magazine were to sell. The men who read these publications were probably very much of the opinion that a blonde’s a blonde. On top of that, making a generic male hero (or villain) allows the reader to imagine himself in the middle of all the action.