Cover Story

Great and classic comic book covers
February 23, 2009
Great and classic comic book covers

We have all heard that old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, sometimes that's true, some other times not so much. In this article I'll talk about some comic book covers, sometimes they have something to do with the story inside sometimes they have nothing to do with it but each and every one of those covers do indeed speak volumes. I'll do my best to keep these pictures in chronological order but when I get into the '80s it will be harder to do so by month or even year since nearly half of the covers on the list are from that decade, still I'll try my best none the less.

Action Comics #1

The granddaddy of the all comics, sure it might not of been the first comic ever made, that distinction goes to 1935's "New Fun Comics #1" but with all due respect to all the comics that came before it this was the first one that would truly matter and the cover more then puts that point across. There he is in his first appearance Superman, lifting a car over his head and and saving all of the terrified predestines around him. Despite all the greatness that this cover exudes though I always thought about the poor guy who was driving the car, then again you can't really see anyone in the drivers seat, but then you have to think why is Superman running around with a car over his head??? Either way this cover has become one of the most re-done covers in history with many other comics putting different characters in Superman's place or show the same scene from a multitude of different angles. Here's fun fact about this cover it nearly never saw the light of day because it seemed to preposterous to show a man lifting a car over his head!

Detective Comics #27

Superman had become wildly popular so it would stand to reason that DC would want another costumed crime fighter to compliment him. What they got was another one of the most iconic heroes to exist, Batman. On the cover to his first appearance its clear that he too much like Superman is one of the good guys and a hero, but at the same time you can tell hes not like Superman at all, hes dark, scary and seems to have a take no prisoners attitude to crime fighting.

Superman #1

By the time this book came out Action Comics and Superman had proven to be so popular that they created a second series for him, the cover was as dramatic as Action Comics #1 but for completely different reasons, now Superman soars above the buildings with the greatest of ease, much like the cover of Action Comics #1 this cover has been re-done several times over with different characters in place of Superman as a homage.

Marvel Comics #1

With DC making a killing with its superhero books it was now time for Timely Comics (later Marvel) to take a stab at it and they did so with Marvel Comics #1. The original Human Torch is seen bursting through a bank vault to stop a criminal from robbing it, the criminal in fear shoots the devilishly grinning Torch but the bullet just bounces off. This cover would grab readers attention and for a time put Marvel on equal footing with DC.

Sensation Comics #1

With superheroes as popular as ever among young boys DC decided to see if they could get comics to catch on with young girls as well and with that there was the creation of comics first lady, Wonder Woman. This comic was her first appearance and showed that she was a force to be reckoned with to any criminal. The bullets from there guns bouncing off of her bracelets showed that she was no damsel in distress which was pretty much all women were allowed to be in comics up to this point. This cover says watch out Superman there's a new hero in town and SHE can save the day as well as you can.

Batman #9

A classic shot of Batman and Robin if there ever was one, the added element of the spotlight on them makes this THE trademark Batman and Robin pose, and rightfully so. Like many popular covers from this time it was often times imitated but it could never be duplicated.

Action Comics #58

Oh racism, its so awful, yet back during World War II when Action Comics #58 hit the stands it was running wild with a very "us vs. them" take to it. Although far from the only comic cover to be like this, this was the one that caught my eye the most Superman himself is turning the crank of the printing press to make sure his message that "You can slap a Jap with War Bonds and Stamps" gets heard. Thankfully today racism like this is all but eradicated.

Crime Suspense Stories #22

This is graphic as hell but its what was popular in the 1950's, EC Comics who published this series and several other series like it such as Tales From The Crypt, was the top publisher at the time outselling both DC and Timely with ease and it was because of shocking covers like this one. Unfortunately covers like this one were what almost single handedly kill the comics industry altogether, thanks to a quack child psychologist named Fredric Wertham who wrote a book called "Seduction of the Innocent." He claimed that comics were innately evil and were responsible for juvenile delinquency, homosexuality and communism. Not long after this cover appeared on newsstands EC Comics was crushed by the newly formed Comics Code Authority.

Showcase #4

After the debacle that caused EC Comics to close its doors, there was a opening for Superheroes to make a comeback and DC grabbed the ball and ran with it creating Barry Allen, the second man to become The Flash and the Hero who would kick off what is now known as The Silver Age of comics. The cover spoke volumes as it should, this wasn't The Flash that you were used to. This Flash had an all new costume and was running off the cover and straight into your face.

Fantastic Four #1

After DC started making a killing in superhero comics again Marvel, who admittedly always followed the trends on what was popular in comics weather it be westerns, romance or whatever, were once again going to give superheroes another try. With that The Fantastic Four were created. Just by gazing at the cover you can tell that they weren't your everyday superheroes, first you can tell that they are a family of superheroes and they are different one of them is made of orange rocks, you can tell these heroes unlike any at DC have real life problems, after this book hit the stands Marvel, and DC as well, would never be the same.

Amazing Fantasy #15

Once again Marvel hit the fans with a punch in the gut. Once again you see a super hero that's not the norm. A hero that's has the powers of spider? And he says that hes a teenager under that mask? But that can't be teenagers can only be sidekicks right? Plus just look at that costume its, well amazing! With a cover like this it had to be picked up and with this one Marvel became the top company in the comic industry. They and DC have been trading that title back and forth ever since.

Amazing Spider-Man #50

By the time this book came out Spider-Man was a bona-fide hit and arguably the most popular hero of the day, so when this book came out people couldn't believe it "Spider-Man no more!"? No it can't be! After seeing this you had to pick it up to see what could of happened to make Peter Parker quit being Spider-Man?

Zap Comix #0

In 1967 every comic was a superhero comic and every comic came from either Marvel or DC. Zap Comix was neither it was counter-culture at the time and kicked off the independent comic scene that is so popular today. Also look at that price! 35 Cents!? That's an insane price for a comic in 1967 when every comic that Marvel and DC were publishing was 12 cents. Still despite the high cover price this book changed comics forever.

Silver Surfer #4

After only four issues it was shown that The Silver Surfer was incredibly powerful meanwhile since his introduction into Marvel a few years ago it had been established that Thor was easily one of Marvel's most powerful heroes, even so much as being on par with DC's Superman. So when you look at the cover of this issue you see The Silver Surfer flying at Thor at top speed while Thor rears back with his hammer ready to strike the Surfer at the same time, basically you KNEW it was about to hit the fan!

Green Lantern #76

What the hell?! Might be the first thing that you think of when you see this one. These guys are supposed to be friends and partners so what in the world could The Green Lantern of done to make Green Arrow decide to send one of his arrows through the Lantern and not allow Hal Jordan to be the Green Lantern anymore?

Green Lantern #85

This is easily one of the most popular and controversial covers to ever grace a comic. DC was taking the drug problems with America's teens and shoving it right into everyone's face there was no turning back now. That said though I personally find this to be one of the funniest covers ever, sure its a very serious subject matter but when you get past that you think well is it really surprising the dudes name IS "Speedy" after all but more importantly you see The Green Lantern shoving Speedy's problem into Green Arrow's face in a almost mocking tone, "You always have the answers for everything Green Arrow, whats your answer to that!?" says the greatest friend of all time. What a ass!!! Green Lantern could easily be nominated for being comics biggest jerk on this cover alone, then again maybe this is sweet justice for Green Arrow destroying his Lantern only nine issues earlier.

Amazing Spider-Man #129

The Punisher may not have any of his own comics in this article but he appears on a few covers in this article after this one but this, his first appearance, sets the tone for the rest of them. The Punisher has Spider-Man in the sights of his gun all it takes is for him to squeeze the trigger to end the webslingers superheroing career altogether. Also since this was The Punisher's first appearance anyone looking at the cover would think that Frank Castle was the latest in a long line of Spider-Man villains, despite not having some animal theme....

Tomb Of Dracula #32

Everyone knows what Dracula is all about, epically this poor guy who struggles in an attempt to reach the stake to save his own life. The perfect angle is used to portray the tense moment that doesn't bode well for the crippled old man.

Uncanny X-Men #137

"Phoenix must die!" Those three words tell everything you need to know for this one as lovers Cyclops and Jean struggle and fight for Jean's life alone seemingly against the entire galaxy. Its seems a hopeless situation with everything on the line not just Jean's life but Cyclops' life as well.

Iron Man #128

Iron Man's a drunk!!!! It had been well documented before this issue that Tony Stark enjoyed a drink every now and then before this issue. Then this one came out and you can see this once mighty hero is reduced to a shell of his former self. He hasn't shaved in ages and his clothes are tattered, not quite how the billionaire would usually appear. It seems like after all the villains that he has defeated the bottle would be the one to put an end to him.

Captain America #241

First The Punisher took aim at Spider-Man, now its Captain Americas turn. After that issue of Spider-Man you found out that The Punisher is one of the good guys who was mislead by papers like The Daily Bugle into believing that Spidey was one of the bad guys, that excuse could not be used here. Captain America is a tried and true American hero who stands up for everyone no matter who they are, The Punisher knew that Cap was one of the good guys and one of the best of them at that so why would The Punisher have issue enough with Captain America to pull a gun on him?

Uncanny X-Men #141

This cover is another one that grabs you and throws a bunch of questions your way. Why is Wolverine so old? What has happened to the rest of The X-Men? Could they all really of been slain or apprehended like that poster behind Wolverine suggests? This cover paints a picture of a very dark future and you just want crack it open to see how things got as bad as they did.

Daredevil #169

Few other covers have ever perfectly illustrated a single character. Before Frank Miller, Bullseye was just another crappy villain in Daredevil's rogues gallery but after he started to write the book he made Bulleye one of the most capable villains in the Marvel universe, he also made him an uncontrollable psychopath, this cover perfectly showcases all of that with ease.

Daredevil #183

The Punisher just keeps at it! Sure he had Spider-Man in his sights and had Captain America at point blank range but he never pulled the trigger, Daredevil however can't say that hes as lucky. The Punisher seemingly kills Daredevil right on the cover as you can see the blood shooting out of the exit wounds in Daredevil's back. What did Daredevil do that meant he deserved to die? And he is going to die in this issue right? I mean its right on the friggin cover!!!

Marvel Two In One #91

Comic crossovers had happened before this but were very rare and both companies and there characters were both well represented on the cover. With this you can clearly see Marvel's name and The Thing but no DC and no Batman, but that is Batman's shadow right, who else could it be? It didn't matter that Marvel didn't own Batman, in fact that's the beauty of this cover. Marvel did some excellent work here, after all there are no laws saying you can't show the shadow of another character and who's to even say that it IS Batman at all? With this one Marvel hooked everyone thinking that Batman would appear in the book.

Amazing Spider-Man #238

The Green Goblin had been Spider-Man's greatest enemy and now it looked like he was back, well ok maybe only at first glace... and only to the color blind, but the fact remains there's another villain out there who at least has the same look as The Green Goblin but this guy is ripping Spider-Man's costume in half. One look and you know this new villain means business and will stop at nothing to kill Spider-Man once and for all.

Fantastic Four #258

The armored hand ripping through the cover, with the reflection of the evil visage of one of comics coolest villains Dr. Doom behind it all. You can plainly see the disdain Dr. Doom has for The Fantastic Four, epically that blasted Richards. What make's this cover even cooler is the fact that you can see the actual first page of the comic behind the tears.

Daredevil #200

Bullseye has given Daredevil grief for quite some time now and even killed his girlfriend Elektra. Bullseye had to be stopped and on the cover of this one you can clearly see that Daredevil had done just that. This cover shows that it doesn't matter if your a good guy or not, you can only be pushed so far.

Avengers #239

Marvel has always prided itself on being set in the real world, all of its city's that there heroes protect were real city's like New York, not made up places like Metropolis or Gotham City. So if Marvel is indeed in the real world then it would stand to reason that some of there most popular heroes, in this case The Avengers, would be popular enough to be invited on every talk show out there. With that logic The Avengers became guests on Late Night with David Letterman leaving people scratching there heads at the oddest crossover comics had ever seen.... or at least until The Punisher Meets Archie.

New Teen Titans #39

In tradition of Amazing Spider-Man #50 with Spider-Man walking away we get this cover, and the message just like before was quite clear, Robin and Kid Flash quit. Unlike Spider-Man though they never returned to those roles instead growing up to become Nightwing and The Flash respectively.
What If? #43

Conan is the most beloved Barbarian to ever exist in fiction but whats something you would never see him with? If you said a gun than your right. Just think about that for a second there. Its Conan with a GUN, and hes in the 20th century! If you didn't buy this one you were a fool. Epically when you open the book and see that Conan becomes a pimp with a Tiger, but that's another story for another day.

Secret Wars #1

Secret Wars #1

If you were a comic reader when this book came out you couldn't help but do a double take. The Avengers, Fantastic Four, X-Men, Spider-Man AND The Hulk have to band together to face "the ultimate menace"? I mean sure sometimes Wolverine and The Hulk meet up to tangle and it was far from uncommon from seeing Spider-Man team up with The Human Torch or the rest of The Fantastic Four, but to see all of them teaming up together was huge. Sure big events like this are common place these days happening once or twice a year, but in 1984 when this comic shipped nothing like it had ever happened before and it was huge.

Spectacular Spider-Man #101

This cover beautifully shows Spider-Man's then new black costume in all of its glory, with Spidey swinging through the pitch black New York skyline with the only things lit up being Spider-Man's symbol, eyes and the lights of the buildings. Spider-Man may be your friendly neighborhood super hero but this cover shows that his new black costume is a creature of the night.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1

Just the name on the cover of this book was enough to make people take a second look at this after all what the hell was a "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle"? Then you take a look at the heroes in question and this comic became a over night smash hit with comic readers.

Secret Wars #10

This cover does something that you don't see yourself doing all that often, rooting for the bad guy. Dr. Doom has been called many things Marvel's greatest villain, a tyrant, a murderer and even worse but here you feel for the guy. Then when you look further into it you see that Dr. Doom although down on one knee and having taken a tremendous beating is ever defiant and that the fight is still far from over.

Thor #356

Comedy on the cover of a comic is hard but this one seemingly does it effortlessly. Thor who is usually in a dramatic pose or beating down some villain on the cover of his book is here casually pushed off frame by a smiling Hercules. Its funny as hell and makes you want to pick it up.

Crisis On Infinite Earths #7

This cover has been used before, time and time again I don't even know the first comic cover to use this pose, I do know it was inspired by Michelangelo's (not the ninja turtle) Pieta statue. However despite this being far from the first time this pose was used this cover has become the most popular and possibly greatest of them all. People knew there would be sacrifices in Crisis On Infinite Earths but no one ever imagined that Supergirl would die and on top of that Superman couldn't save her. Even if you weren't reading this series this issue was a must buy due to its cover alone.

Captain America #321

Captain America is often times looked at as a glorified boy scout but this cover reminds everybody just who he is, a soldier. With his machine gun blazing this looked a lot more like it would of been a Punisher cover than a Captain America cover.

Captain America Annual #8

But wait there's more Captain America to be had! This cover puts the perfect soldier up against the perfect killing machine as Captain America squares off against Wolverine, who's claws create sparks as they clash against the star spangled avengers shield.

Watchmen #1

You might be looking at a smiley face here but there's something wrong, its floating in blood. That little drip of blood on the smiley face has become a bit of a pop culture icon itself epically now with the Watchmen movie finally gearing up to debut.

Batman #404

Everyone knows the origin story of Batman and hows his parents were killing before his eyes. This cover illustrates that beautifully it really hits you hard where it hurts to see a young Bruce Wayne on his knees in front of his dead parent's this cover shows more than any picture before it when Batman was born.

Detective Comics #574

First his parents now Robin, poor Batman just can't catch a break at all. This cover wonderfully shows one of the darkest nights in Batman's crime fighting career. With Batman silhouetted and a dead Robin in full light it was a simple yet very powerful cover that left a lasting impression.

Justice League #1

Now here's a team you don't want to mess with, sure this incarnation of the Justice League didn't have heavy hitters Superman and Wonder Woman but you can see that they mean business. Every single character on this cover looks pissed, really really pissed, like you just beat a puppy in front of them or something. This cover has become one of the most imitated covers since it showed up in 1987.

The Incredible Hulk #340

Wolverine and The Hulk have fought before, in fact they have fought several times before and now they were going to fight again. You know this won't end well for The Hulk who's reflection is in Wolverines claws as he is about to strike.

Batman: The Killing Joke

I think that quite possibly the cover to The Killing Joke has a very unique distinction. Sure its probably the most iconic image of The Joker ever as he holds the camera steady telling the audience to smile as though he was going to take a picture of you though the cover of the comic but the unique distinction I'm talking about is that I believe that this cover may just be the most often used picture on Retro Junk. I have seen this picture in many a fellow Junker's article before and I myself am guilty of it as well at least one time if not more. That in itself says more about this cover than I ever could.

Wolverine #1

Stop me if you have heard this before but Wolverine is the best there is at what he does, and what he does isn't very nice. Never before has that saying been so well illustrated than on the cover of this this book in Wolverine's first ongoing series as Wolverine stands atop a mountain of dead bodies that had crossed him.

Amazing Spider-Man #316

Venom wasn't your standard Spider-Man villain and his hulking figure standing over Spider-Man's beaten or maybe even *gasp* dead body quickly grabs your attention. Even if you didn't know who Venom was this cover grabs you by the throat and dares you to ignore it, which is just what it did to me at the age of seven I had already owned a bunch of comic books but after seeing this cover it was the first one that I actively asked for practically even begged for. This cover is pretty much what made me a huge comic book fan and I have no doubt that if it wasn't for this cover you wouldn't be reading this article now.

Spider-Man #1

This cover just looks awesome. With Peter Parker its always easy to see the man in Spider-Man but this cover shows you the spider aspect. This cover also sets the tone for the better part of the 90's, when for a while the artwork seemed to become far more important than the writing where every comic would have a splash page every five or six pages.

Action Comics #662

This cover was over fifty years in the making and its absolutely epic. Finally after all this time Clark Kent reveals to Lois Lane that he and Superman are in fact one in the same. The shocked look on Lois' face speaks volumes as she takes off Clark's glasses and you can see the refection of his open shirt revealing the Superman costume underneath.

Ghost Rider

Lets face it Ghost Rider has one of the best looks in comics bar none, I mean c'mon a flaming skull is pretty hard to beat. On this cover the flames actually glow in the dark giving it a very distinct feeling. The sales of this issue skyrocketed for Ghost Rider and it set the tone for every comic company out there to make as many crappy gimmick covers as possible, embossed covers? You better believe it. Cutting the comics in the shape of a characters head on the cover? Hell yeah!

Superman #75

This one has to be one of the most powerful comic covers ever. Superman's trademark cape ripped to shreds while being caught on a stick and blowing in the wind. You knew what was going to go down in this one, you don't even need the text at the bottom of the page that says "The Death of Superman.

Marvel vs. DC #3

Now this was the one that everybody was waiting for. Sure the first two covers of this series had multiple characters from both companies on it but this cover finally delivered what the title of the book was and finally gave us the versus that we were waiting for. Superman vs The Hulk! Batman vs. Captain America! Wonder Woman vs. Storm! Wolverine vs. Lobo! Spider-Man vs..... Superboy? Sure why not! This cover had fan boys practically wetting themselves.

Astro City #18

This one is really interesting, your up close and personal with a old, beaten down, silver, reflective man and in the reflection of the face you can see some cops with guns out taking aim at him. What could this sad looking old man of done to deserve this!? Its another one of those I gotta buy it to see what happens next covers.

Daredevil #1

A instant classic. The angle and coloring of this cover sold it instantly and set the tone for Daredevil to finally come back to prominence for the first time since Frank Miller wrote the book in the 80's. It also perfectly demonstrates that Daredevil is indeed the man without fear, who else would jump out of a high rise window like that with reckless abandon. This cover set the tone for the entire Marvel Knights imprint which in turn played a major part in changing The Marvel Universe into what it is now.

Star Wars Tales #1

Darth Vader. What more do you really need to say about this cover. Vader is easily one of the most popular characters to ever exist and seeing him here with his lightsaber drawn providing the only light for the cover was utterly beautiful.

Star Wars Tales #9

Well we ended the 90's with Star Wars so lets start the 2000's with Star Wars as well. This cover would instantly make Star Wars geeks drop there jaw. Darth Vader vs. Darth Maul? One of the coolest villains ever vs. the villain who was easily one of the coolest things to ever come out of the prequel trilogy? Oh hell yeah it was a must buy upon first sight.

Ultimate X-Men #1

With the Ultimate line Marvel took there most popular characters and started from scratch to hook new readers. It worked and this cover is part of the reason Ultimate X-Men did so well. The message on the cover of this book is loud and clear, this ain't your daddy's Wolverine. This was something new altogether.

Origin #1

Finally after all these years Wolverine's origin would be revealed. This cover did a beautiful job with Marvel misleading the readers to believe the man standing on the hill is the Wolverine that we have all come to know and love. Well not so much.

Amazing Spider-Man #45

Just when you thought that you had seen Spider-Man at every possible angle that you could see him at, this cover showed that Marvel wasn't done yet. The only part of Spider-Man you actually see on this cover is his foot, but you can see his reflection in the window at the same time you see a bunch of stunned onlookers in the window getting a good look at everyone's favorite webhead.

Superman: Red Son #1

This article started with Superman I think its only fitting that it end with Superman, only this time there's something that's not quite right. Superman is an American Icon, who stands for truth justice and the American way, but here on this cover hes far from that. What if Superman's ship landed in Russia and he was raised as one of those dirty commies? His trademark symbol has been traded in for a hammer and sickle, this Superman just screams Soviet Union, and since its Superman how in the world can he be stopped?

THERE! That does it for the covers but before ending this one I thought it would be fun to break down these covers into number to see some fun little stats. Hope you enjoyed the article.

Number of covers showcased: 60
Number of covers from Marvel: 35 including Marvel vs. DC
Number of covers from DC: 20 including Marvel vs. DC
Number of covers from other companies: 6
Number of covers with Spider-Man: 10
Number of covers with Batman: 8
Number of covers with Superman: 8
Number of covers with Wolverine: 8
Number of covers with Captain America: 5
Number of covers with Daredevil: 4
Number of covers from the 1930's: 4
Number of covers from the 1940's: 3
Number of covers from the 1950's: 2
Number of covers from the 1960's: 5
Number of covers from the 1970's: 6
Number of covers from the 1980's: 27
Number of covers from the 1990's: 8
Number of covers from the 2000's: 5
Number of covers from 1984: 5
Number of covers I have in my comic collection: 4
Number of covers that shows The Green Lantern being a complete asshole: 1
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