Friday, August 20, 2010

The Top 150 DC Covers of All Time: #30-21

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.

We're getting close to the top now!

30) The Shadow #1
November, 1973 -- Michael Kaluta

Pretty much every one of Kaluta's gorgeously rendered covers for this short-lived Shadow series could have ended up on the countdown. The fact that this series didn't succeed says to me that the character is played out, because the presentation was just unbeatable. Of the lot, though, this first issue re-introduction is my favorite. if this couldn't sell comics, then it might be time to pack it in.

29) Flash #163
August, 1966 -- Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella

Over the last few days we've talked quite a bit about effective word balloons, as well as to a lesser extent text in general on a cover. But this one, which combines word balloons with graphic design to create an unforgettable combination, takes the cake. Quick question: can anyone think of cover dialogue from a Marvel book that is as memorable as the DC balloons from the last few days? I can come up with one or two examples maybe, but that's about it.

28) New Gods #1
March, 1971 -- Jack Kirby and Don Heck

Kirby's DC stuff may not have ever really caught on with the fans, and his writing is debatable, but he still knew how to knock his first issue covers out of the park. Everything about this cover seems to come from a different time period from anything else on the stands in 1971. From the font to just the sheer size of the logo, the way the blurbs are laid out along the top, the photo style background -- this was just beyond modern and even now looks like it comes, not from our past, but from some alternate comics publishing world that was never quite realized. One of the best examples of how DC was pushing the envelope design-wise during that time.

27) House of Mystery #174
June, 1968 -- Nick Cardy

In 1968, DC decided to suddenly revive -- or create out of thin air -- their entire line of horror comics. I'm not entirely sure what this was in response to -- perhaps a loosening of the comics code restrictions? -- but as a result, they relaunched both House of Secrets and House of Mystery as horror books. This cover from Nick Cardy marks the first issue of this new horror era, complete with a great new logo and the memorable tag line above the logo. I usually love half-frame covers like this, though this is one instance where we debatably lose something by not seeing the top of the door. Maybe that's just me. But, anyway, top of door or not, this is an awesomely evocative image that provides the perfect graphic representation of the way DC was inviting kids to try their new horror books starting with this issue. Perfect concept, perfectly executed.

26) Showcase #79
December, 1968 -- Jay Scott Pike

Less, as they say, is more, and this almost minimalist effort from Jay Scott Pike is a perfect example. This is just an artist beautifully drawing a figure and letting that speak for itself; the little frogmen on the bottom half and the bubbles in the top help balance things a bit, but even the editor's realized this is all about Dolphin and as a result they ever came up with a cool, simple, small logo to accompany the picture. They didn't want anything to detract from Dolphin and, on the contrary, everything compliments her form perfectly. Sublime.

25) Bat Lash #2
January, 1969 -- Nick Cardy

Nick Cardy is back once again, this time with perhaps his greatest creation, the pseudo-pacifist, ladies-man gunslinger Bat Lash. Each of his Bat Lash covers is worth tracking down, but of them, this is undoubtedly his masterpiece, with the white frame perfectly blending in with the white of the snow; the sharp logo; the frame again helping emphasize the native American by allowing his head to break up through it into the logo space; and most of all, the crouching figure of Lash cradling the little girl as they crouch. The tension of the figures is only matched by the snowy beauty of the scene they are stuck in. And again, another great example of a cover telling a whole story in one image.

24) Green Lantern #49
February, 1994 -- Darryl Banks and Romeo Tanghal

One of the most memorable covers of the decade, even if you aren't a fan of the story. And despite the fact that the events of this issue have since been overturned, the image still packs a visceral whallop. I mean, Hall Jordan just looks legitimately deranged on this cover, and the way he holds of the trophies from his slain brethren is disturbing at best. A cover to stack up against anything the Joker has to offer.

23) House of Secrets #92
July, 1971 -- Berni Wrightson

This wonderfully rendered Wrightson cover is notable for a few reasons. Firstly, just on an artistic level, the composition is interesting, as we get a large, central image of the girl at the mirror, with the monster relatively small in the back of the scene. It's a bit unusual, but strangely effective. Of course, this is also the first appearance of Swamp Thing, which has given this cover added significance over the years. And then there's the story behind the story, which is that the girl in this famous image was one Louise Jones. At the time, she was the wife of painter Jeff Jones (who is about to reappear on the list in just two spots); Wrightson, to hear him tell the story, had a crush on her despite her marriage to his friend, hence his decision to draw her on this cover. of course, this didn't work out well in the end for either Jeff Jones or Berni Wrightson, because Louise ended up later becoming married to third comic book artist -- Walt Simonson. Yep, that's good ol' Weezy Simonson herself on the cover. And that... is the rest of the story.

22) Detective Comics #69
November, 1942 -- Jerry Robinson

Arguably the iconic image of the Golden Age Joker, this great cover from Robinson doesn't really need a lot said about it. Like most of the others on this list, it's black; and like many Joker covers, he's more symbolic than literal. As an aside, this genie-in-a-bottle design is very suggestive of a number of Spectre covers during Jim Aparo's acclaimed revival in Adventure Comics during the 1970's. It's no surprise other artists were inspired by this cover -- it's just damn cool.

21) Wonder Woman #199
April, 1972 -- Jeff Jones

And we're back with the second of the gothic horror themed bondage covers Jeff Jones painted for Wonder Woman. Or should I say the first, as this one appeared before the cover we spotlighted earlier on the list. I'm not sure whether or not I like the choice of background colors, but the image of that hooded executioner looming over Diana's chained figure is chilling and compelling. And, as I've said before, this is my favorite Wonder Woman logo during my favorite design era, so those are bonus points as well (though again, it's maybe just a slight bit crowded up there). As for the artist, we've already hard about some of his private life in our story about entry 24 on the list; the rest of the rest of the story is that he has since had a sex change operation and is now a woman. You hear that, Frank Miller? You're next, buddy!

Tomorrow: The top 20! Be there!

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