Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Best DC Comics Cover

So, DC Comics is asking its collective readership to vote for their favorite covers ever published. That's a lot of artwork to consider, but I've narrowed it down to four, and not one of them features a gorilla or the color purple (two features that a DC editor swore up and down was guaranteed to sell a comic-book!) There are tons of others, but these are the ones that popped into my head from various eras--from the very beginning of comics publication to the present day:

1) Action Comics #1 - This first issue of Action introduced the character of Superman and that first cover image is so iconic that it has been copied, snatched, pilfered, and "homaged" ad infinitum...right down to the crook holding his head in a any number of artists who are looking for an image that resonates. It resonates, all right. They even included a live-action version of the scene in "Superman Returns" (though no one appears to be holding their head). This image was drawn by "Supes" co-creator Joe Shuster.

2) Superman #199 - This issue of Superman's book featured what every comic book fan wanted to see--a race between the two super-heroes with super-speed, Superman and The Flash. Endless geek-debates about who was faster would finally be settled. Well, maybe I just wanted to see it, but the sight of this comic's cover filled me with anticipatory glee. This was back in the day when super-heroes rarely played in each others' back-yards, so it seemed like we were getting more for our 12¢ than usual. Something about the cover still irks me--Batman was Superman's pal in "World's Finest "comics and here he is rooting for "The Flash!" Perhaps Bruce Wayne had some complicated off-site betting scheme we weren't privy to. And Hawkman seemed to be more of a friend of Flash. Hmm. I've seen the cover credited to Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella, but the way Hawkman is drawn makes me suspect it was the Hawks' regular artist, Murphy Anderson.

3) Wonder Woman (second series) #195-
Man, look
at that cover! In fact, click on the one at the right without all that logo-stuff getting in the way to really get a good look at it. Wonder Woman is barely even there, except as a very threatening image in that poor pilot's face-mask--and notice, she's diving out of the sun in classic attack strategy. And the look on her face--she'd going to be IN that plane in half a tick. The perspective is awesome with the reverse-image of the pilots' hands reflected as well--you even get the sense that WW is reversed. Look at the shadows on the gloves. And the puffy clouds on the horizon. Right down to the coloring of the sky suggesting they're all on the edge of space. This took a lot of research and imagination. Cover artist is Adam Hughes (his trademark sig "AH!" in the lower-right corner). Hughes had an amazing run as WW cover-artist. Now he's writing a new series for her. Amazing work! In fact, it's AH-some!

But my favorite cover is also one of the most gimmicky covers the wiley DC editors ever devised:
4) The Flash #163 - Editor Julius Schwartz was very fond of coming up with "Zowie" cover ideas to sell the magazine, the stories that accompanied them usually being look-warm affairs that fulfilled the requirements of that powerful cover image...but just barely. This one...I never owned it, but someone told me the story and it was a real stinker. But the cover is a classic. That huge hand pops off the page and the Lichtenstein-striped "STOP!" couldn't help but grab your attention. It's "The Flash's" "Buy this Magazine or We'll Shoot this Puppy" issue, and I love it down to its craven little red-dotted flesh-tone. I also loved the very 3-D look of The Flash's winged ear-piece. Drawn by Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella (for sure). After Julius Schwartz's death, tribute issues using his peerless covers (and new stories to go with them!) were published and the classic Infantino-Giella art was recreated by current hot artist, Alex Ross.

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