Listening to: Diana Krall. Live in Paris.
I spent the evening with a very large book, Marvel Comics: 75 Years of Cover Art, by Alan Cowsill. After reading the Forward by Adi Granov, my favorite Marvel cover artist (if I had to pick one, but don’t make me), and the Introduction by Cowsill, I found myself calling for “more intro.”
But two pages of opening text is all you get. Because, as Cowsill writes, “the art comes first.”
And the art is amazing. But so are the words. Cowsill’s cover descriptions do a great job of capturing what makes each piece special and the unique contributions of the artists. You’ll want to read every word he’s written.
Before opening the book, I thought I knew what my favorite cover of all time was: Iron Man #76, from March 2004, by Granov. But as I flipped through the pages, making a list of the covers I liked best, I began to suspect that I have many favorites. And those favorites change, depending on the day I’m doing the choosing.
Here’s today’s list of favorites:
Granov’s Iron Man. Of course.
Captain America #1 by Jack Kirby (March 1941) — Captain America punches out Hitler (when Marvel was called “Timely”).
Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. #4 by Jim Steranko (September 1968) — Very mod, with a psychedelic thing going on. The bright blue of Fury is set against a black-and-white graphics background. (I also like #6, with the bright colors of Fury’s space suit set against the stark background of space and the exploding Earth.)
Amazing Spider-Man #50 by John Romito Sr. (July 1967) — I’m not a Spider-Man fan. But. This “Spider-Man No More!” cover with Peter Parker turning his back on the superhero life is one of the best. An unusual style for the time, it looks ahead to the designs that emerge in the late ’80s.
Anything by Boris Vallejo, who worked in the ’70s, drawing zombies and vampires
Machine Man #1-4 by Barry Windsor-Smith (of Conan fame). 1984-85
David Finch‘s work with The New Avengers (2005), especially his approach to Captain America. (Generally, I’m drawn to the later covers, when the art gets darker.) And, yeah, Finch does Batman.
The New Avengers #27 by Leinil Francis Yu (April 2007) — Ronin takes on a hoard of ninja assassins led by Elektra.
All the Hawkeye covers by David Aja (2012-2013) — Especially #8 with the character Cherry centered on a red background.
Thor #601 by Marko Djurdjevic (June 2009) — Shows Thor’s home, Asgard, and is just downright gorgeous.
Fantastic Four 1234 #1 by Jae Lee (October 2001) — Ben Grimm on Yancy Street.
Guardians of the Galaxy #7 by Sara Pichelli (November 2013) — Woman artists are rare in this world. But I highlight Pichelli not because she’s a “she,” but because I love what she did with the Guardians.
Marvel Zombies #1 by Arthur Suydam (2006) — All Suydam’s zombie covers are great, but the #1 homage to Amazing Fantasy #15 is a standout (February 2006).
Chris Bachalo‘s Amazing Spider-Man “punch” covers #575 and 576 (2008-2009) — featuring Hammerhead.
I’d be interested to hear what other people pick as faves.