Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Top 150 DC Covers of All Time: #40-31

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.

Here we go.

40) Green Lantern / Green Arrow #86
September, 1971 -- Neal Adams

Over the last couple of days we've discussed some of the more effective word and thought balloons on covers; this cover, like those, probably has one of the most famous lines of dialogue on a cover ever in green Arrow's shocked "My ward is a Junkie!" This cover as a whole is still one of the most shocking covers in mainstream comics and, as usual, it was expertly drawn by Neal Adams.

39) Blackhawk #259
June, 1983 -- Howard Chaykin

Okay, it's all been building to this: and by all, I mean to two previous black and yellow war covers. First we looked at a cover that showed lighting inside a plane, where the yellow and black was used to provide dramatic lighting to a person. Then we looked at a cover that showed a low angle, looking up at some planes passing overheaed. Now we have the culmination. It's obvious here that Chaykin was very familiar with the classic covers from his predecessors and he puts it all together, from the angle to the people, with every bit of extraneous coloring removed so that this is reduced to its most elemental form. I also quite like the unusual decision to make the logo transparent. A personal favorite.

38) Detective Comics #31
September, 1939 -- Bob Kane

One of the all-time classic covers from the Golden Age, this cover, which was the third Batman cover, went a long way towards defining the mood of the whole series. It's justly famous but I had quite a hard time figuring out where to rank this because part of the reason it is so iconic is that it was homaged -- and the homage is perhaps better known and better done than the original. So some of the glory for this cover is reflected glory. Which cover, therefore, gets the credit? Both were great so they both got high rankings, but in this case, despite the added historical significance of this early cover, I decided to give the higher spot to the homage. Not sure that was the right call, but there it is.

37) Teen Titans #14
April, 1968 -- Nick Cardy

This cover is pretty much perfect in every respect. I love the angle, I love the shadows casting Robin's face into despair, I love the effect used to create the ghostly look to the other Titans, I love the lettering and I love the black border. This is basically a perfect cover and more proof, as we needed more at this point, that Nick Cardy is a wildly underappreciated comic book genius. The only real question for me was whether or not this cover should have been even higher. What do you think?

36) Batman #251
September, 1973 -- Neal Adams

Another day, another great Joker cover. Unlike the others, though, this one doesn't have a black background, but it does have a symbolically gigantic Joker striding like a behemoth through Gotham with Batman tied to an oversized playing card. The cover that really re-established Joker as a major villain for a new generation.

35) Wonder Woman #25
December, 2008 -- Aaron Lopresti

One of the very few covers from the last decade to make the list, this pick is a partially a personal choice. But this image has also been quickly embraced by much of the Wonder Woman community as well for the same reasons that I think it is one of the best depictions of Wonder Woman ever. The Rockwell-esque spirit of this cover, with the little girls emulating Wonder Woman, cuts right to the heart of the character and why Wonder Woman is an icon to millions in a way that is almost totally unconnected to her actual comic books. Making her into a poster (and I appreciate the logo and issue number being part of the cover as well) just helps emphasize her status as an icon to girls and women around the world in a very literal way. I may be wrong, but I think this is a cover that will have long term staying power for Wonder Woman enthusiasts.

34) Green Lantern #1
Fall, 1941 -- Howard Purcell

This lands in the top 40 for a few reasons, most of which have to do with how little this cover looks like anything else from its time period. It has a sharp black background and, of course, the excellent classic Green Lantern logo. And the big green power battery forms a nice backdrop for the unusually fluid action scene of Green Lantern fighting a guy with a scimitar. Indeed, this looks so little like the other books DC was putting out at the time I'm inclined to think some tomfoolery was at work in its design. But however this came about, it's a striking and bold cover to launch Green Lantern. And, as a bonus, it's also one of the few golden age Green Lantern covers not ruined by the presence of Doiby Dickles.

33) The Question #1
February, 1987 -- Bill Sienkiewicz

This ultra-modern cover from Sienkiewicz is a model of design. It's got a great logo and a great series of frames and mini-frames formed by the white lines. The topper for me, of course is the big smoke ? in the middle of the cover, forming a frame-within-a-frame for the Question's noggin. Some of the fashion on display may be a little outdated now, but the rest of this piece is timeless.

32) G. I. Combat #87
May, 1961 -- Russ Heath and Jack Adler

This was another tricky cover for me to slot correctly. As has been pointed out, war comics haven't really been popular since, well, before the Vietnam War, really. Correspondingly, I did drop most of the war covers back to the bottom half of the list. But once upon a time, back when war covers were popular, this was considered one of the best war covers ever and was singled out in fan voting at the time as being their favorite of the bunch. Because of this, it still has a high profile among fans of war comics but, due to the genre's unpopularity now, not much beyond that. Regardless, it's still a strong image whether you're into war comics or not and so deserves a decent ranking, but I moved this up and down the list several times before finally settling here. I'm still not sure this is quite the right spot, but what are you going to do, right?

31) Detective Comics #38
April, 1940 - Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson

No explanation is probably necessary for this choice, but for those who maybe aren't familiar with it, I'll point out the obvious and the not so obvious: this cover, which marks the first appearance of Robin, was so popular that it became a tradition at DC for many many years to debut big new characters by having them jump through paper hoops.

Tomorrow: #30-21 brings you everything you could ever have imagined in comics... and so much more.

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