Friday, August 13, 2010

The Top 150 DC Covers of All Time: #110-101

Welcome back to the Top 150 DC Covers of All Time countdown. If you have any questions about what criteria was used to select the covers, you can read the ground rules here in the countdown Prologue. For a complete listing of selections, check out the Top 150 DC Covers Master List. And as always, I strongly recommend clicking on the covers to see larger, better and more detailed versions of these classic covers.

Let's see what books round out the first fifty selections.

110) Green Arrow #1
February, 1988 -- Mike Grell

Full disclosure: I love Mike Grell. I could easily do a whole Mike Grell Top 50 Covers list without even breaking a sweat. Between his long runs as cover artist on Warlord and Green Arrow, Grell was probably the most consistently excellent cover artist ever. Unfortunately, I didn't have room to fit in nearly as many of his covers as I would like, but one that did make the cut is this symbolic painting of Green Arrow towering over his new home, Seattle, where he would remain for the rest of Grell's 80 issues on the title. A strong start to a great series.

109) Tomahawk #116
June, 1968 -- Neal Adams and Jack Adler

It's Adams again, this time where you least expect him -- on a western (though, technically, Tomahawk wasn't actually a western either... it's complicated). Aided immeasurably by the inks and color work of Jack Adler, this almost impressionistic image of a Native American bearing down for the kill sets an awesome mood.

108) Girls' Romances #108
April, 1965 -- Gene Colan

This is a solid if typical design from Gene Colan -- weeping woman in foreground, brooding love interest in the background and a nicely placed thought balloon filling some empty space. A fine if unspectacular cover. Except, somebody had the brilliant idea of just coloring the entire thing bright pink. This was perfectly in keeping with the pop art sensibilities of 1965, but wildly innovative for the usually conservative DC romance line. As a result, by being modern, this cover ended up looking well ahead of its time. A striking, memorable cover.

107) G. I. Combat #88
July, 1961 -- Joe Kubert and Jack Adler

This is an interesting example of the effects of text on cover design, which we've been discussing in the comments over the course of this countdown. There's no question that the image is perfectly powerful without any text and would work just fine -- and arguably better -- without the words. However, in this case, the text isn't added to provide information but rather to set a mood. Kubert was very into the ironies of war -- many of his stories were based entirely on this concept -- and while it's unlikely that any soldier would write "Danger Sniper!" on his helmet in giant white letters, the idea that someone with that would then be blasted through the head with what appears to be a 7 million caliber bullet is perfectly in keeping with Kubert's sensibilities. I think because of this, the cover works better with the text, but you could argue it either way.

106) The Witching Hour #1
March, 1969 -- Nick Cardy

Another great cover from the criminally underappreciated Nick Cardy, who still has several more covers to come. I love the mood of this, the composition and the awesome logo; what a great way to launch a new title. However, I did have to drop this significantly down the list for thwo reasons. The first is really just a tiny nitpick; I think they could have colored the figure of the witch on the tower in the foreground just a little more subtly in order to make her pop from the shadows more. The second is a major wtf: if you look to the left edge of the cover, you'll see what appears to be a pillar of buildings going up the side of the cover. I've studied this cover at great length and just have no idea what's going on there, it's completely incongruous with what's happening in the rest of the picture. I mean, M.C. Escher wants to know what's happening here. If I'm missing something obvious, let me know, but this one has me stumped. Luckily, the composition draws your eye away from this and towards the moon, so it's not a fatal flaw, but someone messed something up or else this might be a top 50 cover. As it is, it's still ridiculously cool despite these issues.

105) Supergirl #1
September, 1996 -- Gary Frank and Cam Smith

This cover gets props for a couple reasons, the first and most obvious being that it provides and instant and dramatic introduction to an all-new, modern Supergirl that readers can see at one glance is wildly different from the versions that have come before. it's really a very effective image. From a design perspective, though, it's almost more impressive considering that the logo for the comic, such as it is, appears only as a tiny, half-obscured sticker on Supergirl's skateboard. it's a bold decision, but it only emphasizes how powerful the image is; with just one look at the cover you know exactly who the character is and what the tone of the series will be, making this perhaps one of the strongest first issue covers in DC history.

104) Limited Collectors' Edition C-25
1974 -- Neal Adams

There's not a whole lot to say about this one other than the fact that it's a very simple design -- Batman running across a big red background -- that is executed well enough that this depiction of Batman has become iconic through posters and lunchboxes and whatever. It's just a sharp, cool looking cover.

103) Wonder Woman #1
February, 1987 -- George Perez

You're going to want to blow this one up to really appreciate the intricate Perez detail work on this cover. Plus, most of the time, when this is referenced you only get to the the front panel and not the montage on the back cover as well. This, of course, represented a major overhaul of the entire Wonder Woman mythos, from her history right down to the new logo. One of the best known images of Wonder Woman ever drawn, by one of comics most accomplished artists.

102) Legion of Super-Heroes #294
December, 1982 -- Keith Giffen and Larry Mahlstedt

Fans of the Legion swear by the cover that preceded this one, but for my money, this Giffen image of the Legion bowing in subservience to the giant floating visage of Darkseid is the real classic. This storyline re-introduced Darkseid as a major league villain in the DCU and the swirling vortex of crimson Kirby crackles behind his head really help this cover pop.

101) DC Special #3
June, 1969 -- Neal Adams and Nick Cardy

Here's a great and unusually art pairing: Neal Adams with inking by Nick Cardy, for our second Supergirl cover of the day. The results, as you might expect, are sweet, as DC decides to embrace modernism and feminism and promote its female superheroes for basically the first time ever. The looks on the male superheroes' faces are priceless, as though they can't believe a bunch of skirts are taking over their book, but the real draw is the exuberant Adams Supergirl in the middle. I have to admit that even though I don't like the character or, really, any of her stories, I still have put together a decent collection of bronze age Supergirl comics; there's just something about a well drawn Supergirl cover that works every single time regardless of context or content. A classic as well as a personal choice.

Tomorrow: It's #100-91, featuring Superboy! Norm Breyfogle! And... Muhammad Ali? Buckle in!

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I had forgotten the Hercules/Hippolyta picture on the back cover of WW#1. Powerful image in and of itself.

#106 (Witching Hour)
Doesn't look like a pillar of buildings, but an elevated road heading into the mountains.
Like this, but with buildings on each side of it.

Yeah, there's definitely a road there. But the problem I'm having is that those buildings just seem to be floating in space. The one that vanishes behind the witch's leg I can give a pass to I guess, but the buildings above it just sort of are there. If that's a cliff edge behind the buildings, it's just very square and almost pixelated and the one that vanishes behind the logo must be dangling off into space or something. The way it's colored, it just looks like two entirely different drawings taped together to fill that space on that side of the cover.

I dunno. I suspect the original pencils without the logo might be the only way to really figure out what this cover was supposed to look like. But it just looks wrong to me; I don't know if the perspective is to blame or the colorist, but it's just never going to look right to me in this form.