Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Real Top 70 Marvel Covers: #70-61

All week long we're counting down the Real top 70 covers in Marvel history as determined by a panel of experts: me, myself and I. So let's get right to it; there's a lot of classic art to see. P.S. -- Click on the images for larger versions.

And for a shortcut, here's the Real Top 70 Marvel Cover Master List.

70) X-Men #50

It's only fitting that we kick off our countdown with this classic from Jim Steranko, because we're going to be seeing an awful lot of him over the next week. Not only is this a very striking cover thanks both to Steranko's pencils and the mono-green color scheme; it's also the debut of the classic X-Men logo which has adorned the title ever since. The designer of that logo? Jim Steranko, of course.

69) Web of Spider-man #32

The Death of Kraven the Hunter is one of the most acclaimed stories in Spider-man history, and one of the most memorable aspects are the great covers from Mike Zeck, who, like Steranko, will be popping up several more times on this list. Zeck is interesting because I think his cover work is better than his interior work; his strong sense of design can be overwhelmed by his stylization when smaller panels are involved. This, though, is a classic image and a bit of a personal favorite.

68) X-Men #114

John Byrne makes the third artist in three entries who has multiple covers represented on our list. It will be no surprise to anyone, of course, that many of these covers are from his legendary stint drawing X-Men. This cover is a bit unusual for superhero comics, as it emphasizes mood and emotion over action and dynamism. It's also got Beast, who was on the Avengers at the time and was apparently slumming for an issue with the X-people.

67) Captain America Comics #57

It's unfortunate that Golden Age comics are so hard to afford, because many younger readers have never even seen these covers much less read the stories inside. Captain America Comics #57 features one of the best known Golden Age covers from Timely, a great symbolic cover from Vince Alascia, just one of the hundreds of great Golden Age creators who have been all but forgotten.

66) Moon Knight #23

Bill Sienkiewicz brought a new artistic sensibility and sophistication to Marvel that was both ahead of its time and perfectly suited for moody, dark books like Moon Knight. As a kid I wasn't much of a fan of his work, because it was too arty to really allow me to get into the stories. As an adult I can appreciate his work a lot more. But both kid and adult versions of me love his covers, especially this great image from Moon Knight #32, one in a run of great covers he turned in on the title.

65) Thor #127

The pieta style cover has been around in comics basically as long as there have been knowledgeable artists working in the field. One of the earlier and best known examples is this Jack Kirby cover from Thor #127, which also benefits from being the front piece for a well known storyline. While the impact of the cover may have been dulled slightly by more recent takes on this classic pose (one of which appears later on our list), it's still an iconic image from the Silver Age of Marvel.

64) New Mutants #39

Art Adams occupies an interesting spot on Marvel art history. In many ways he can be seen as a vital link between earlier artists like Mike Ploog and Michael Golden --who fused a loose, cartoony sense of design with tight, highly rendered line work -- and later megastars like Todd McFarlane and Jim Lee, who took those developments and ran with them all the way to the bank. For my money, Art Adams was a perfect hybrid of these styles and for a time was the single coolest artist in the business. He later began doing more cartoony stuff that I didn't like quite as much, but one of the pieces he put out during his heyday was this cover to New Mutants #39, which remains one of the most memorable covers in comics to a whole generation of young boys who had the image seared into their brains on first sight.

63) X-Men #1

Speaking of Jim Lee, here he is with his giant gatefold cover to X-Men #1. The very existence of this comic is a tribute to the star power of Lee's art, as he proved so popular they needed to market him in two different X-Men comics at once. This remains perhaps the best selling comic book in the history of the world, even if two-thirds of the copies sold are sitting in forgotten piles in the basements of angry speculators. Everybody who read comics in the 1990's was familiar with this image.

62) Daredevil #1

You have to give it up for this cover: it really is pretty awesome. It's also of special importance to the development of Marvel and the comic book industry as a whole. Drawn by Joe Quesada, the success of this title and the other Marvel Knights books turned over to Quesada and partner Jimmy Palmiotti paved the way for Quesada to eventually become the editor in chief of Marvel, a position which he still holds today. And it was this cover to Daredevil #1 that kicked it all off.

61) Secret Wars #8

Of all the covers on this list -- and maybe in Marvel history -- Secret Wars #8 might have the stupidest cover text. Mike Zeck is back for his second go-round on the list, with the issue that introduced the world to Spider-man's black costume. The costume and the cover are undoubted fan favorites, though I prefer the Web cover that I listed at #69 to this somewhat less exciting pose.

Tomorrow: We count down #60-51. More Jack Kirby! More Golden Age Timely! More pieta covers! And an image that's probably better known among non-comic fans than anything else on the list appears on a cover you may never have seen!

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Scott --

As you've had a few months to chew on this, will there be any revisions to the wonderful and exhaustive list you published on the Avengers Assemble! message boards some time back?

Looking forward to your posts each day,


Ah, "upon further review", I see one change in your first installment. You swapped out ASM #144 for the New Mutants #39, which was an honorable mention on your original list. Any reason why?

Lots of fun!


Hi Doug. Yes, as you mention, I originally had the first appearance of Gwen's clone at #64 on my list and swapped it out for New Mutants #39. The reason was that as cool and memorable as that Gwen cover is, when I really looked at it I had to admit I didn't think it was necessarily a great cover. Because of the perspective chosen to get the effect of just her leg in the shot, almost 1/3 of the cover is dedicated to showing the sidewalk gutter and part of the street. There's just a ton of wasted space. The NM cover is just a much stronger image and since I think it was a tossup for most of the final slots on the list, I went with it on that basis.

Now, I think maybe I should have gone with Heroes for Hope #1 instead, as it is a more famous and iconic Art Adams cover; but I don't think the design of the cover itself (like, the logo, etc.) is nearly as strong. So... not sure if I made the right call or not, but I stuck with NM #39 instead.

Just found this list and making my way through it - but I LOVE it so far!

A few notes:

- The Sienkiewicz Moon Knight cover is #23, not #32.

- I think it's also fair to note that the New Mutants Art Adams cover is inked by Sienkiewicz.

Just thought I'd mention it. Now - off to the next set! :)