Saturday, 12 January 2008

Favourite comic covers

For a while, Wizard was getting big name artists, such as Jim Lee and Frank Cho, to list their seven favourite comic covers with a brief commentary explaining why. I thought this was pretty interesting and mused that it might be fun to pick my own favourite covers. I soon got stuck trying to think of all the covers I've seen and all the covers I own and put it on the back burner. However, Tone recently revived the idea on his blog so I decided to step up and add my own.

My first decision was to only use comics that I own, so no iconic images from ones I don't possess. However, I couldn't be bothered to root through my back issues so have worked from memory and devised a category system to make things easier: it's simpler to pick a cover when a several thousand-issue collection is reduced to a handful of subjects. So, while I am positive in the belief that there areprobably tons of covers out there that I've forgotten about, here is what completes my list:

1. Probably my favourite artist is Adam Hughes, and while I prefer his lush earlier painted covers, his current work sees him at the top of the computer-coloured comics game. His Catwoman covers are great but I've given up buying stuff just for his covers as the interiors were often terrible (with Frankenstein Mobster being one of the worst comics I've ever read: and I bought both X-Force #1 and Youngblood #1, mind you!) so his key run before was Wonder Woman. There were many excellent covers during his run but these two are my favourites: I love the tenderness and bottled sexuality of 141's clinch with Superman (there was a great comedic pseudo-sequel with Superman fed up as WW and Lois Lane natter a few issues later) and there's something mesmerising about 152 (I even used this in the background of The Jock #1).

2. Justice League International. One of my favourite ever comic series, with the first three and half years being practically flawless. The cover from #1 was so iconic that it was reused numerous times throughout the line and has even been used on a number of other comics too. While #1 would be the obvious choice as a favourite, I prefer #24. It establishes the running gag of the same image, Kevin Maguire had improved as an artist (especially as he was no longer smothered by Austin's inks) and if you replaced Wonder Woman and Metamorpho with G'nort and Dr Fate, this would be my ultimate JLI lineup. Classic.

3. Brian Bolland. Another great comic artist, his work just blows me away but sadly he provides covers for comics that don't really appeal to me so I don't have much of his work (outside of the glorious Art of Brian Bolland). You can't go wrong with a sexy lady and his Zatanna cover is beautifully illustrated: a nice balance of open space at the bottom and crowded chaos at the top, with a delicately delineated main figure. Niiiiice. I no longer own Superman #422 but it was the stunning cover alone that made me first pick it up. This was just two isses before the Byrne revamp in 1987, and I hated the fuddyduddy Silver Age incarnation featured in this issue but wow, what a cover.

4. This is breaking my own rules as I don't actually own this specific cover, although I have the stories. Dave Steven's exquisite lush and smooth artwork doesn't appear often enough and his Rocketeer stuff is stunning, especially the collected edition of the first storyline, matching Stevens' gorgeous line art with some lovely watercolour instead of the original bog-standard dot matrix colouring. I have all the individual isues (and one is even signed by the man himself) but the collection of the second storyline is incredibly rare now and so quite expensive (I've been looking online recently), but has a great iconic image. If you've never read the Rocketeer, have a hunt for it, it's quality work not often seen.

5. Cyclops. Before I could even read, I was into comics and loved the Marvel UK weeklies from the 70s. They used to run a full-page ad on the inside front cover of Mighty World Of Marvel for The Superheroes, featuring the Silver Surfer and the original X-Men. I used to gaze at the drawings of Cyclops and Angel, the concept of their uniforms making me think that superheroes need to have a unified design (as with the Fantastic Four, which I was also loving on TV at the time in the Hanna Barbera cartoons---I still remember the tiny size FF running between the feet of giants trying to stab them during the title sequence!). As a result, the prominent shot of Cyclops has always endured as my archetypal idea of a superhero and when I began reading comics properly a few years later, the Cockrum New X-Men stuff was being reprinted in Rampage, a really expensive comic that I longed for for months before finally being able to afford a copy. When I started buying it regularly, Byrne had just taken over and I was hooked. Cyclops has always been the man for me (especially as I relate to his pent up frustration---though I don't have the convenience of a foxy redhead or an alluring blonde to help me, ah, relieve some stress). This Classic X-Men cover is one of my favourite Cyclops images, featuring his classic outfit, his past behind him and lovely art from the criminally underused Steve Lightle.

6. Finally, I like the work of both George Perez and Alex Ross (owning hardcover books devoted to both) and as a young teen first building his collection of comics up after falling away when Byrne left the X-Men, Crisis On Infinite Earths was a big deal for me. I was always more of a Marvel reader, though I'd pick up DCs too, but Crisis generated alot of excitement and positve change, so Perez and Ross' cover to the collected edition has to be included, even if it's just for the amount of characters featured (over 300, apparently).


Tone said...

Well I count 8 covers there, cheating surely. And only 2 Hughesies, you're slipping Nige. His covers can be lovely, even if he is too lazy to actually draw comics. That 2nd Wonder Woman got scary pale eyes though.

That Bolland Zatanna is gorgeous, and you're right that Steve Lightle's underrated. You know I'm no fan of Alex Ross, but aaahh!!! My eyes!! That Perez collaboration is blindingly overworked. Not to mention hideous.

Nige said...

I had trouble choosing which Wonder Woman cover to select, and had similar difficulty with the Bolland category. I decided to use both Hughes pieces and drop one Bolland image but somewhere along the way, I forgot and used both. I didn't even realise there were 8 selections until your post (I blame my dyscalculia).

If I had to drop one cover from the list, it would be the Bolland Superman over the Crisis cover. The Bolland is more immediate, works better graphically and has a clearer image but Crisis wins out on the grounds of variety. Yes, the cover is busy but deliberately so: the series was monumentally epic and remains the largest scale story told in comics (possibly ALL fiction), thus earning the right to such an intricate piece.

Ross has his detractors but rarely disappoint me. Thinking about it, his recent JSA cover featuring Citizen Steel (ok, I heard that laugh from here) blew me away and should have been a contender for the list, probably beating out Crisis. Introduced when I was about 6, the design for Steel was always appealing to me but I could never take to Don Heck's scratchy artwork. Ross's simple, iconic portrait of the character just ramps up the visuals to the Nth degree, stunning work. His Power Girl suffers from the Bart Sears/JLE look rather than the elegant slighter look the character had previously.

Tone said...

Crisis: the greatest story ever told. Wasn't that a movie? Oh wait, that was the Bible.

I'm not disparaging Ross' ability, just that painting models in stiff shiny spandex poses to me does not a comics artist make. He'd be more suited to Athena posters, if they still existed.

The Bart Sears Power Girl look: you mean a knocker enhanced post-op on steroids?

Rol Hirst said...

Nobody draws Zatanna like Bolland.

I like Ross, but he tends to be a bit too shiny at times. That new Captain America costume just doesn't quite work for me.

dmstarz said...

Nice work, Nige. Love the Bolland Zatanna. I am hopefully doing the ultimate favourites list on my favourite Marvel comic covers on my site - feel free to stop by.