And on the final day of Comic-Con, here are the top 25 Comic Covers.
X-Men #190. Chris Bachalo. There’s something about this cover that I just can’t get out of my mind…but I have trouble putting my finger on what exactly it is that speaks to me. I mean I love all the white (as mentioned previously) and I obviously adore the integration of the title into the illustration so we’ve got less crap covering it all up, and it’s a great concept, but I don’t know, there’s just something sweet about it. That kiss, which maybe is supposed to look passionate…to me looks…compassionate. It’s Bachalo’s best cover to date if you ask me. And I’m a fan.
Fables #18. James Jean. This one never fails to move me. The vibrant luscious colors, the subtle but definite dark outline. The composition. The desire to get lost in whatever world that Jean creates. This was the first of Jean’s covers I ever saw, and I think the first of his work I ever saw, and it shocked me with its stunning beauty on the stand. If I recall correctly I said, “OH.” and dropped everything else I had to pick it up. And such began a fervent love affair with James Jean’s work.
Astonishing X-Men #2. John Cassady. More monochromatic blues…YUM. The dichotomy of the simplicity and complexity blended together here is what really does it for me I think though. You’ve got the blank background, barely a different color than Emma, and with the title open and see through to that background. The intensity of Emma’s eyes, commanding the reader’s attention. The power of her over Cyclops optic beams, and the power of her over Scott himself. It’s all rather brilliant while beautiful and because of how this story arc of Whedon’s plays out, it’s a great tease to the readers of all the complexities that are to come.
The Walking Dead #48, Charlie Adlard. All of Aldard’s work is pretty wonderful, but I picked this one, because to me (and Mr. Adlard and I have of course had no actual conversations about this – so maybe I’m way off the mark) but to me, he’s placed the horizon line so high on the page because our characters become more and more enveloped by the dead around them with every issue. As if they’re trapped in a room with a rising tide, and we just know that eventually, they will drown. Our main character Rick is seen here, already missing a hand, burying the dead, and almost pushed off the page because the dead fill it. It’s such a simple little thing, but is really an inspired and brilliant choice.
Batman #1. Bob Kane. This iconic cover, portraying my favorite comic book hero Batman in his own comic’s first issue, is instantly recognizable. And though the color scheme has changed much over the years (yellow and red in today’s Gotham? Never!) the swinging into action position of Batman (and Robin) is dead on. This issue is also notable for being the first appearance of Catwoman/Selina Kyle then known as The Cat in 1940. Very cool stuff.
Action Comics #2. Leo E. O’Mealia. It blows my mind how fantastic this cover is, and how overlooked is often is, simply because Action Comics #1 was the first appearance of Superman. But really look at this cover – the movement, the composition, the positive and negative space, the color scheme, and really just the quality of the illustration work – it’s all quite stunning – and it was done in 1938…Amazing.
Although, it is worth noting that I also found this scan (see below) of Action Comics #2, with a decidedly different feel in the color work – no bad or worse than the one above, but decidedly different and since I’ve never seen an original I can’t say which is more accurate to the original color – anyone else know? I personally prefer the first one, but both are nice and deserving of their place.
The Spirit #4. Darwyn Cooke. I spent the last few weeks pouring over comic book covers and you’d be shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, to find how few covers have a woman carrying a man, whereas I’m sure you can guess how many have a man carrying a woman (I’d guess somewhere around a billion). Anyway, so that alone is enough to earn this cover my undying love, but then it’s also drawn by Cooke and so it’s freaking gorgeous too boot. This is another example of all that great positive and negative space – the sun, the dunes, the figures – it’s really quite beautiful. And then you’ve got lots of white space which we’ve established I’m a fan of in combination with the great movement to Cooke’s figures – her knees nearly buckling, the sand shifting below her, the way her shoulders are turned to carry the weight – it’s wonderful. But the face is what really sells it for me. There’s such determination but also sadness and fear there – it’s an amazing bit of cartooning. Love it.
Uncanny X-Men #141. John Byrne. What a classic. You’ve got old man river Wolverine and grown up Kitty Pryde, trapped in a spotlight in front of a poster of all their friends and loved ones and the horrible fates they’ve met. Are you kidding me?! That concept is just made of WIN! And then of course it’s John Byrne, so it’s beautifully executed. This is one of the most iconic and recognizable comic covers of our time – how could it not rank in the top 20?
Batman #648. Jock. Wow. The angle on this is freaking incredible and seeing the Batman figure jumping from the roof from below is powerful. The shape that Batman and his cape create in the negative space of the alley…with all the bats in the sky…it’s really wonderful stuff. I could certainly do without the giant yellow “All They Do Is Watch Us Kill” text and that cheesy Bat logo…yuck…I don’t know who’s responsible for that garbage…but someone should lose a job or something. But nothing in life is perfect I suppose.
X-Men #137. John Byrne. Another classic and iconic X-Men cover by Byrne. Everyone knows this moment. I don’t think I need to explain myself. Especially since I’m going to use words like “amazing positive and negative space”! I do want to say that I’m sure we all wish we could go back in time and convince Marvel to remove that giant “This marvel comic could be worth 2,500 to you!” banner from the top of this iconic masterpiece. They couldn’t wait until we were onto a less milestone-y moment to get super advertiser-y on the freaking cover? Jeez Marvel. Fail. Fail HUGE.
Top Ten #1. Alex Ross. I really like Ross’ new take on the “team shot” here, and it’s also very different from most of his Astro City stuff. A little darker and grittier, much like the Top Ten world is. The characters are lovingly rendered here, as usual by Ross, but there’s a real immediacy to the cover that’s somewhat hypnotic. Also, like most of Ross’ work there’s so much layering and detail in his work that you can constantly find things you missed the first dozen times you looked at it.
Watchmen #1. Dave Gibbons. ‘Nuff said.
Acme Novelty Library Presents – Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid On Earth. Chris Ware. Within my circle of artist friends and colleagues Chris Ware is generally considered one of the best (if not the best) working cartoonist today. I guess I don’t really know how the mainstream world of comics feels about his work…or if they even know about it. But as someone that has basked in the genius of Chris Ware, I say you must try it out. And there’s nowhere better to start than Acme Novelty Libarary #1 and Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid On Earth. It’s truly brilliant stuff and you can tell from just the cover above that you’re going to have to put in some time. Ware’s layering knows no bounds and every single thing he draws has purpose.
Catwoman #43. Jock. Love it. Talk about iconic images. Catwoman, whip in hand, leaping from buildings, a red Gotham sky behind her, and the city alive and pulsing, but in some ways totally different than Batman’s Gotham hovering below her. The juxtaposition of the great negative space of the sky contrasted with the incredibly deteailed city of lights and traffic is fantastic. And the Catwoman figure is just nailed. It’s heroic. It’s iconic. And it makes me want to be Catwoman…even more than usual.
Y The Last Man #21. Aron Wisenfeld. This is great on so many levels, particularly if you’ve read the Y The Last Man series. The badass chicks only in silhouette, the shapes that their shadows make across the pavement, the way those shapes take on a now familiar Y shape, the moodiness of the colors, and the sketchiness of the illustration all working together in perfect harmony to create a sublime cover moment. There’s also a real female power vibe to me about this cover that I dig. These women are completely not sexualized, yet we know they’re women…because of course there are many ways to know a figure is female without overtly sexualizing her…but that rarely happens in comics. It’s interesting and thoughtful…I’m a fan.
Uncanny X-Men #135. John Byrne. The first in our top 10, we have the last of the classic and groundbreakingly iconic X-Men covers. And it’s a doozy. Jean transformed into The Dark Phoenix, huge like a god, her teammates defeated at her feet, and her, literally crushing the X-Men title with her hands (a symbol of what she plans to do to the real things…oooooh!). A truly amazing cover, from one of the most famous (and notorious?) stories the X-Men and comics in general had to offer.
Nightwing #124. Jock. I don’t even read freaking Nightwing and this cover has me totally bewitched. I mean are you kidding? The slightly stylized iconic hero figure (a trademark of Jock’s at this point), sailing through the air with perfect superheroic form, bent on who knows what destination, in the company of only blue sky and birds (or are they bats? I kind of love that they look like both). I particularly love in this cover how empty the right side of the page is, with all the action and the building anchoring the left. Really beautiful stuff. Somebody tell me more about this…Nightwing character…
Detective Comics #745. Dave Johnson. How cool is this cover? I mean, seriously, try to convince me that you don’t want to be friends with it. I dare you. Because it is just fucking sweet. The totally desaturated city, the perfect iconic dark black streak of Batman shooting through the sky? It’s picture perfect. I love it. What’s that you say? Why don’t I marry it? You know what? I will marry it!
Update: I originally had this listed as Jock – don’t know what I was thinking – Johnson is clearly listed as the signature – chalk it up to too many late nights looking at these covers over and over again. Thanks to ramon and Greg who pointed out the error in the comments – and apologies to Dave Johnson and Jock!
Love & Rockets #1. Jaime Hernandez. I know Jaime, I know you thought all these iconic superheroes had you beat…but don’t despair…I’ll never forget you. This great Usual Suspects type line up has been used dozens of times for comic covers, and will be used dozens of times more I suppose (even I’ve used it) but nobody does it better than Jaime Hernandez. Fucking beautiful.
The Walking Dead #19. Tony Moore. The first appearance of Michonne, one of the most badass female characters ever created for comics. How can you not fall in absolute love with a bitch that shows up with her dead zombie boyfriend and his friend, both armless and chained up behind her, so that it keeps the other zombies off her scent? Also, she has an equally badass katana blade as her only weapon. Hello, I think I love you.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #1. Frank Miller. With The Dark Knight Returns Frank Miller changed Batman forever and blew our minds in the process. And he started with this unbelievably powerful and iconic cover. I don’t really think I need to explain myself here…just bask in the glory.
Black Hole #4. Charles Burns. Oh Charles – what a devil you are. I LOVE this shit. First of all the colors are just off the charts amazing here (and I don’t even like purple) and if you’ve read Black Hole, you know exactly who this girl with the tail is and how great it is to see her here eating a sandwich…naked. It’s just one of those great covers that grabs you by the collar and shakes you until you wake up from the pathetic coma of your life and you slowly walk to the register going “must…must know…what lurks inside…”
And lucky for you one of the greatest stories ever told is inside. Congratulations.
Fables #71. James Jean. In my next life I want to come back as this woman. And that’s the outfit I want to be wearing. Other than Jean having reached into my head and plucked out my dreams and fantasies and put them on the cover of a comic book for all to see, I think the thing that I love most about this cover is that this woman is like bottled sex, and yet she’s showing about an inch of skin. I mean, I don’t want to sound like someone’s grandmother here, but I think the ladies of today…and the idiot boys that follow them around…and the artists…and well, all of Hollywood…could learn a little about sexuality and class by looking at this cover. You don’t have to show it all for everyone to know what you have. You can be the most beautiful badass on earth, and you can do it wearing a parka…just ask Jean to show you how.
Oh – also, lots of white space – loooooove it!
Uncanny X-Men #269. Jim Lee. I know, I know, how on earth is this cover better than The Dark Knight Returns #1…and how dare I put a Jim Lee cover as number 2 of 100 covers when so many other (more) talented artists barely made the top 25. I know. And I understand if you throw rotten fruit at me.
But the sixteen year-old in me would just not be silenced here. As a teenager I loved Rogue like I loved nothing else. She was the be all end all comic book heroine for me, and quite frankly, though I am now WAY past being a teenager, I still love her. I seek her out all the time. Unfortunately, countless writers/editors/heads of places that rhyme with CARVEL have ruined her…or at least ruined who she was to me when I so fell in love.
Regardless of that though, this was my single favorite comic book as a child and I must have read it a thousand times. In fact, my copy is in really shit shape (anyone have a spare they want to donate?).
There are so many things wrong with this cover. The floating Magneto head? Lame. The text bubble proclaiming unnecessarily who we’re looking at? Lame. The weird grey maybe it’s mountains…maybe it’s sky…maybe it’s both background? Lame. And most lame of all, something that bothered even my sixteen year-old self – the colorist fucked up the coloring on the title – some bits are pink, some are orange…or if that’s not a fuck up I hope that guy was immediately fired for thinking hmm..pink and orange? That will look awesome!
But let’s talk about what’s great about the cover. Rogue looks the best she ever has or ever will. In her sweet green and black costume, with the punk rock hair, the skunky stripe, and sass to spare. For my money, back in the day, nobody drew Rogue as well as Jim Lee. Silvestri often got close, and Art Adams gave them both a run for their money, but Lee wins out.
On top of looking awesome, she’s fighting a decaying zombie-like Ms. Marvel – how does it get better than that?! Additionally from an illustration point of view the cover is completely kinetic, with wonderful action and great positive and negative spaces created by our two dueling figures.
But at the end of the day, it’s really just about me, seeing Rogue on the cover, and knowing she was not only back, but that she was going to star in her own issue (or maybe a whole arc!). It was the best feeling ever. And despite its flaws I still love this cover…almost above all others.
Batgirl #45. James Jean. WIN! And bonus points to those of you who have been reading this blog long enough to recognize this:
That’s right, before I manned up and did my own header (which is super lame in comparison to this) I borrowed temporarily from Jean to start this blog off and running. It was actually a horrible mistake because I fell so in love with it that changing it to something terrible that I had created myself felt like cutting off an arm. But it was unfair to “borrow” from Jean, so I sacrificed the arm.
Anyway, what is it that is so perfect about Jean’s cover…that makes is so deserving over all the others?
Well for me it’s a combination of so many things, beginning with the look on Batgirl’s face. A look that can basically kill – don’t look too close – seriously. The painstaking attention to his Batgirl figure here juxtaposed with the incredibly graphic and stylized villian she’s making short work of, and mingled with the patterned background…well it all just comes together and makes pure magic. I don’t know. Beyond that I can’t really describe it to you. I mean it has all the things I’ve been going on and on about for days here – the positive and negative space, the dead on color palette, the kinetic action of the figures flying across the page, the white (er, cream) space, the stylized figures, and the almost graphic design quality, it’s all here. Plus, as a bonus, the Batgirl logo (though not Jeans’) is one of the better logos around – with that off-center bat full of movement with her little dark eyes.
Well, I just can’t describe it more than that. I think, though I knew doing this would be challenging and highly personal, I didn’t realize until just now how hard it is to really describe what moves you inside. What makes you want to read a comic, or paint a beautiful illustration, or be a superhero. It’s all very personal and subjective. But for me – this is it.
Thanks for reading everyone! I hope you all enjoyed it, even when you didn’t agree. The hits for these posts went through the roof and I just wanted to thank everyone who stopped by and I hope some of you found something interesting here on 1979 Semi-Finalist and will be back!
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