Greetings from the Odinson,
In the pages of How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, Stan Lee said, “…the cover is probably the single most important page in any comic book. If it catches your eye and intrigues you, there’s a chance you may buy the magazine.” The Odinson could not agree more. The cover is the first thing a reader sees when they are perusing the racks, shelves, and websites, looking for a comic to buy, and an exciting eye-catching cover can mean the difference between a sale or them moving on to the next issue.
A cover should capture the attention, excite the senses, and tantalize the thoughts of the target audience. The greatest covers of All-Time can even tell a story. With one piece of artwork, the reader can know exactly what the action is and, if the piece is really good, the reader will want to know more. What happens next? That is the mark of truly great comic book cover. When it leaves the potential buyer wanting to know what happens next.
The Odinson’s Favorite Eye-Catching Covers of the Modern Era
Superman #329 – Art by Ross Andru. The World’s Greatest Super Hero gone in a flash?! There was no way I could pass this issue up and not learn the Man of Steel’s fate. This is a perfect example of telling a compelling story and leaving the fan wanting more.
Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #11 – Art by Kerry Gammill. Gammill really did a wonderful job, using perspective to give a sense of vertigo. As a child of the 80s, of course I was a fan of Indiana Jones. So, you can imagine my anxiety when I saw my hero hanging on for dear life by his fingernails as a hulking brute looms large over him threatening to end his adventurous career with one mighty blow. I clearly remember thinking to myself – how in the world is Indy going to get out of this one?
Convergence: Wonder Woman #2 – Art by Joshua Middleton. Already a dangerous adversary, the Clown Prince of Crime has never looked more menacing then he does in this piece. There are a lot of things at work in this piece. Our hero, the ultimate female protagonist, is seemingly at the mercy of not just the villain, but a monster, a vampire. As Wonder Woman swoons, prone in the clawed grip of evil, the reader is left with a sliver of doubt that the Amazing Amazon just might not make it out of this one alive. The artist truly captures the alluring and seductive power of the vampire mythos while using familiar modern DC icons.
Mighty Thor #3 – Art by Olivier Coipel. At the precipice on the gates of Asgard, the mighty Thor has drawn a line in the sand. The air is charged with electricity as the Son of Odin declares that he is an immovable object and none shall pass. However, looming in the distance is an ominous and foreboding shadow announcing the arrival of the Devourer of Worlds. This is a cataclysmic confrontation that must be seen.
ROM Spaceknight #10 – Art by Michael Golden. This series has so many great covers. This one always captured my imagination. I love the use of colors. They reflect the sad tragedy unfolding as ROM is forced to defend himself against the very people he has come to save.
Fantastic Four #348 – Art by Arthur Adams. For artist that makes a living delivering eye-catching covers, this one always stood out for me. In one image, Adams captures a super cool Ghost Rider, a monstrous Hulk, a definitive Wolverine, and a perfect Spider-Man.
Amazing Spider-Man #300 – Art by Todd McFarlane. Along with McFarlane’s signature webbing designs (which have influenced the way artists do Spidey’s webs to this day) and the fact that the series is celebrating its 300th issue, this is probably one of the most iconic Spider-Man covers of All-Time and he isn’t even wearing his classic costume.
Captain America #332 – Art by Mike Zeck and Klaus Janson. This image captures one of the most pivotal moments in Cap’s history. Disenfranchised by his government, Steve Roger is stripped of his role as the Sentinel of Liberty. The slumping of Cap’s mighty shoulders, the tattered flag whose colors begin to slowly bleed away truly captures the feeling of the lowest point in Cap’s history. And, it’s all juxtapose brilliantly by the visage of the greatest President in the History of the United States.
Batman: Bloodstorm – Art by Kelley Jones. This is truly an ominous piece. Kelley Jones has always been one of my favorite Bat-Artists, but here he captures the terrifying awe of the Dark Knight’s descent into true darkness and his birth as a true creature of the night.
Batman #350 – Art by Gene Colan. Speaking of creatures of the night, here’s another piece involving similar elements, but this time it is the Caped Crusader that is threatened by the vampire. Colan adds classic horror element like rain and lightning, and the fact that the monster is a monk, a character usually associated with peace, makes the cover even more unsettling.
Detective Comics #509 – Art by Jim Aparo. Aparo captures a classic motif beautifully. Seeing this cover, a very young Odinson had to learn not only how the sinister Catman got the upper hand on Batman, but how the Caped Crusader was going to get out of this one alive.
Action Comics #544 – Art by Gil Kane. In one moment, Gil Kane turned the Man of Steel’s two greatest enemies into even more dangerous adversaries. Luthor’s signature green armor look still makes appearances to this day and provides the villain with roots to his Pre-Crisis mad scientist days. And, this truly sci-fi Brainiac design, to this day, is the most menacing ever put to paper. Why DC ditched it in the Post-Crisis DCU I can’t begin to guess.
Thor #362 – Art by Walt Simonson. In this beautiful piece the artist captures true Asgardian power as a battle-scarred Thor leads the charge out of the gates of Hel. His legendary chariot is being pulled by his monstrous goats – Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjostr. Meanwhile, the ominous foreshadowing of Skurge’s last stand looms large in the background. Walt Simonson was born to draw the mighty Thor.
New Teen Titans Annual #1 – Art by George Perez. On one side are the Teen Titans and the Omega Men, on the other the alien Gordanians and Branx, and stuck in the middle of this epic battle that will decide the fate of the galaxy is Starfire locked in mortal combat with her evil sister, Blackfire. At the fore front is Robin. He has the appearance of being overwhelmed by the situation, but like a true hero, Robin rises to the challenge. It could be argued that this is the adventure, the moment when Dick Grayson ceased being the Boy Wonder and transitioned into the adult chapter of his career. This is the climax of not just one of the greatest Teen Titans adventures, but one of the greatest super hero adventures of All-Time!
Superman vs. Spider-Man – Art by Ross Andru and Dick Giordano. This was truly a seminal moment in comic book history. The cover says it all, it is the Battle of the Century! DC and Marvel’s two biggest icons are about to throw down for the heavyweight championship belt, and I for one want to see how this epic event plays out.
Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 – Art by George Perez. All the cards are on the table. There is no tomorrow. There is no more planning. This is the final battle that will decide the fate of the DCU! And, Perez captures the moment in grand style.
Avengers #223 – Art by Ed Hannigan and Klaus Janson. Before they became movie stars, Scott Lang and Clint Barton were B-List heroes at best. But, this iconic, eye-catching image catapulted them to super stardom, at least for one issue.
Incredible Hulk #240 – Art by Todd McFarlane. This classic McFarlane piece is truly the rock star of comic book covers. Not only is it an iconic and original take on two Marvel Legends, but it also signaled the beginning of the rock star artists era of comic books. This is easily one of the most recognizable, influential, and emulated comic covers in history. Oh yeah, and it’s Hulk vs. Wolverine!
And sometimes a cover can become so epic that it takes two covers to tell the whole tale!
New Teen Titans #37 and Batman and the Outsiders #5 – Art by George Perez and Jim Aparo. This is George Perez doing what George Perez does best, drawing lots of characters doing astonishing things. There are mini epics and subtle storylines taking place in every corner of this two-cover spread. And, if you line up the two covers side-by-side, they make an incredible poster!
Iron Man #215-216 – Art by Mark Bright and Bob Layton. It’s the very first time we see James Rhodes in the classic red and gold Iron Man armor alongside Tony Stark’s new red and silver Centurion armor. This is truly a magnificent piece. Then suddenly, we are served with Stark and Rhodes streaking out of control toward the earth, their armors igniting as they enter the atmosphere. What happened? How did our heroes get into this situation, and more importantly, how are they going to survive it?
The Cover Hall of Fame: Silver Surfer #4 – Art by John Buscema. Hands down, this is the Odinson’s All-Time favorite comic book cover. John Buscema captures the moment right before Marvel’s two most powerful heroes are going to collide in a cosmic collision that will shake the pillars of heaven. And, where else could such a clash of titans take place then surrounded by the swirling cosmos and on the shimmering platform of Bifrost, the fabled Rainbow Bridge that connects the realm of Earth with Asgard, home of the gods.
These are some of my favorite comic book covers of All-time. There are still some great covers out there, but unfortunately, the art of the great eye-catching cover is not nearly as prevalent today as was in previous years. Above are the pieces that made me have to have that issue and learn the fate of my heroes as I turn the page, holding my breath in anticipation. For all you aspiring artists out there remember, a truly great comic book cover is more than a character just striking a pose, it should be eye-catching, tell a story, and most importantly, it should leave the reader wanting more.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell