Monday, September 14, 2009

The Real Top 70 Marvel Covers: Epilogue

After a week of counting down the top 70 covers in Marvel history, no doubt many of you have some questions, such as: dude, what the hell were you thinking? Well, I thought it would only be fair for me to explain a little further some of my thought process and also give you guys the chance to weigh in with your own opinions. Which covers that I left out should have made it? Which covers that were on the list didn't deserve to be? Let's go to the tape (and for a reminder of that tape, here's the Real Top 70 Marvel Cover Master List).

Journey Into Mystery #83

Probably the most glaring omission from my list was the decision not to include Journey Into Mystery #83, the first appearance of Thor. This was a tricky one for me, especially considering I did include a couple other first issues (specifically Fantastic Four and X-Men #1) primarily due to their historic significance, which would also be the main reason to include JiM #83. And to be honest, I think Thor's first issue actually has a more dramatic cover than either Fantastic Four or X-Men. So why did I leave it off?

Essentially, it's because of Journey Into Mystery #89. That cover, which I had at number seven on my countdown, appeared a scant six months after Thor's first appearances and in many ways served the same purpose as the cover to #83, only it did it better. As I mentioned in my explanation for #89, one of the main reasons those covers are iconic is because, aside from the fact they are first issues or first appearances, they also are among the few covers of the period that are essentially pin-up images. Covers such as Daredevil #1 and Tales of Suspense #39, for example, are basically introductory shots of the characters that end up contrasting sharply with the more action oriented covers that followed. Journey Into Mystery #83, then, suffers by comparison to those covers (which also didn't make the list) because within a half a year, Marvel decided to re-establish Thor in the title by publishing another pin-up cover which is in most ways more memorable and visually superior to the cover of #83. It's basically the image of Thor from early Marvel, and as such, I felt that for the purposes of this list #83 was just a inferior duplicate.

Of course, I might be wrong. People who are less familiar with Thor or early Marvel in general are going to be much more aware of the cover of JiM #83, as it has been homaged multiple times. On the other side of the argument, there are also several covers that might be said to be superior to Fantastic Four or X-Men #1. Fantastic Four #3, #4 and #5 are all iconic covers that I think are significantly better from an artistic standpoint than #1 and you could argue that any of them would have been a better choice. In the end, though, I decided that FF #1 and X-Men #1 were too important and recognizable to leave off, while JiM wasn't quite there on either count; while JiM #89 was so iconic and powerful that it merited inclusion and FF #3, 4 and 5 did not (though each was very, very close to making the final draft anyway, regardless of whether #1 was on the list or not).

So, what do you think? Did I get it right? Should I have included Journey Into Mystery #83? Or maybe I shouldn't have included Fantastic Four #1 or X-Men #1? I'm curious to hear what people think.

Amazing Spider-man #301

Another cover that nearly made my list but just missed was Amazing Spider-man #301. In many ways, my reasoning for not including this on the list are similar to Journey Into Mystery #83. Specifically, I thought that the (nearly identical) cover to ASM #300 was far more famous (though also hideously ugly), while the cover to Spider-man #1 was also more famous and graphically superior (though I do like #301 a lot) and had essentially usurped #301 in the minds of fans. When you think of McFarlane's Spider-man, once upon a time you thought of ASM #301, but now you think of Spider-man #1, so it's just been overshadowed.

One of my insightful readers (and pro comic artist in his own right) Rob Lettrick made a valid point regarding the lack of Image creators on my list. It's indisputable that the wave of artists that would go on to found Image after their stint on Marvel were hugely influential, attracting a vast new reader base with their new visual style. Though I did include a couple covers from McFarlane and one from Jim Lee, it could be argued that I sold that era a bit short and gave the Silver Age correspondingly too much weight. One cover that nearly made the list but ended up on the cutting room floor was X-Men #234 by Marc Silvestri, which could easily have been a valid choice to represent that era. What do you guys think? Do either of these covers (or any others from that time period) deserve to be on the list? Or should we instead dress in sackcloth and blacken our faces in ashes for being forced to remember the hell that eventually ensued from Image's artist-based movement? Full discolsure: I personally still consider Rob Liefeld's cover to New Mutants #87 to be both an iconic image and moment in comic history, but I managed to keep it off the list anyway. Good decision or bad decision?

Savage Sword of Conan #2

Lastly, there's a whole 'nother category of cover that I considered that is probably best represented by this gorgeous cover from Savage Sword of Conan #2. Essentially, when I was compiling my list I determined that there were only about 40-50 real shoo-ins. Since I was dealing with the arbitrary number of 70, though, this meant I had to fill in the rest from what I am ungraciously calling the second tier. This is no slight on these covers, though, because they are almost all universally fantastic. What they aren't, though, are necessarily iconic or important covers but rather just covers that are well known because they are, well, fantastic and gorgeous looking.

In general, I was trying to select covers that are both important and beautiful; when a cover was only one (Journey Into Mystery #83) or the other (Savage Sword of Conan #2) it got pushed to the second tier. And that group had maybe a couple hundred covers to pick from that were all pretty much equally debatable. Thus I added covers like Web of Spider-man #32 (which is #69 on my list) and New Mutants #39 (currently at #64 on my list) over other, equally solid choices such as, say, Thor #333 or Bizarre Adventures #32. They were all close calls, though, and it's certainly possible I missed some great covers or made some wrong choices due basically to the inherent subjectivity of judging artwork. So: what covers did I leave off that I should have included and which covers were bombs? I've already heard from a few people that Secret Wars #8 is a stinker while #4 should have been included, so let me hear your other complaints and suggestions.


Prior to posting this list to me website, I sent drafts to some comic websites and communities that I frequent in order for it to undergo an unscientific peer review. As a result I added some covers that I had accidentally omitted, and took out some others. That process is still ongoing, so let me hear your feedback. If you can convince me that I done wrong, I'll make changes to the list and issue some official Marvel Correction Stamps for you to paste onto your computer screens to reflect these changes. So don't hesitate to post a reply -- after all, we've only got five years to fiigure this out before the next edition has to go to press.

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Sound arguments, though I probably would have tended toward including FF #3 over JiM #83.

Another good couple of Jim Lee covers are Uncanny X-Men #268 and #270. Not necessarily top 70 material, but some more of the Image artists' most iconic Marvel work.

And no honorable mention for Mike Zeck's amazing G.I. Joe #52 cover?

No Jim Starlin? One of his Iron Man, Warlock, or Captain Marvel covers should have been somewhere on this list.

Starlin's Death of Captain Marvel is certainly one of the most famous images in Marvel history. In the end, though, I thought it was a little too cluttered -- I didn't think it was a shoo-in so I ended up leaving it off when I made the second tier cuts. There were a couple other covers of his that I considered as well, and that would have been reasonable choices, but that just missed my final list. But certainly some good stuff.

Lots of Steranko, and I LOVE THAT!!! I don't agree with the Hulk book you put in the top 10, but I'm behind you 100% on your choice of THOR #89.

Overall I think you did a great job. I'd have maybe swapped a few books out here and there, but that's my opinion. For instance, I love the covers to Thor #158 and PPSSM #76.

Oh - I also LOVE the framed covers era (like the MP#5, 1st Ghost Rider). And while I love a good yellow cover, nothing compares to a RED one!!! Look at a copy in hand, not on line, of DD #2 or ASM #2. It just shines like none other!

Thanks man! - Jamie