Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Top 150 DC Covers of All Time: #50-41

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.

And now, the top 50!

50) Doom Patrol #121
October, 1968 -- Joe Orlando

One of the most shocking issues of the Silver Age came packaged with one of its sharpest covers, as the ghostly figures of the Doom Patrol rising from their own graves is appropriately creepy. It's also set off by the presence of the blindingly yellow masthead, which bleeds in a lightning bolt down to the surprising "You Decide!" blurb. The only nit-pick I have with the cover really is that the masthead seems just slightly empty -- not that I want it cluttered like some of the other DC covers we've seen, but maybe they could have filled a little bit of that empty space with a bigger logo. But overall, a great cover.

49) Showcase #57
August, 1965 -- Joe Kubert

Enemy Ace was one of the more unique concepts in War comics and Kubert arguably turned in his best artwork on the title, which, considering Kubert, is really saying something. This cover, for the character's first solo appearance, is excellent but it's also a prototype of sorts; the concept of the sketch of Enemy Ace on a black background with the dogfight in the foreground would prove to be so successful here that Kubert would return to it again once Enemy Ace had his own series, and to even better results.

48) Kamandi #1
November, 1972 -- Jack Kirby and Mike Royer

Yes, this series is obviously a Planet of the Apes ripoff, but it's also done by Jack Kirby, so one thing is certain: the covers are going to be big, bold and usually interesting. This is one of the best he turned out during his years at DC -- one look at it and you get the whole concept whether you've seen Apes or not. And, I might add, the composition is excellent.

47) Flash #174
November, 1967 -- Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson

I always love it when the design people play around with the logo and this is one of the greatest examples ever. The Rogues Gallery looking down on the conquered Flash is cool, but it's obviously the amazingly gigantic logo for the issue that really sets this cover apart. Infantino and friends were really ahead of the curve with some of their innovations on Flash.

46) Adventure Comics #73
April, 1942 -- Jack Kirby and Joe Simon

And here's some Golden Age Kirby to go with his Bronze Age work. The symbolic giant has been a staple of comics imagery right from the start, but rarely has it been done as impressively as here; there's something almost 3-D about the way Kirby has Manhunter (in his first appearance) striding into the city. Plus, I love the guy at the bottom running so hard he's completely left his feet in a complete panic. How could you not buy this comic if you saw it on the stands?

45) The Killing Joke
1988 -- Brian Bolland

We've had some discussions over the course of the countdown about the effectiveness of word and thought balloons on covers. Enter exhibit A in the defense of word balloons. Not only is the one word "Smile" probably the most famous word balloon in the history of comics, for me it really makes the entire cover. yes, it's a cool image of Joker and the significance of him with the camera makes more sense once you've read the story, but that one word gives the cover all of its considerable impact. As a side note, I might add that this is yet another black Joker cover, and not the last by half. Some things were just meant to be.

44) Suicide Squad #1
May, 1987 -- Howard Chaykin

And right up next is another example of the impact good text can have on the cover. I love the layout here, but again, it's really the text -- which the cover is designed around -- that makes this cover. I do with that final exclamation point had been a simple period instead, but otherwise, this is a perfectly executed cover worthy of the best Hollywood advertising.

43) Superman #1
Summer, 1939 -- Joe Shuster

Simple, elegant and classic. I like the pose and the frame and, of course, the yellow background, not to mention that this is the first appearance of the famous Superman logo, which Shuster hand-drew on each cover for several issues before someone told him just to make a template. Note there's no issue number; I guess they didn't need one yet.

42) Young Romance #150
November, 1967 -- Jay Scott Pike

There have been dozens of great "reflections in glasses" type covers over the history of comics, but few have them have been as perfectly effective as this effort from Jay Scott Pike. The whole story is here, from the tears to the hand raised to the lips to the couple kissing in the reflection. Just perfect.

41) New Teen Titans #13
November, 1981 -- George Perez

We started the day with the Doom Patrol's death and we're going to end it there as well. I invite you to blow this one up to really see the detail work that Perez, as always, has put into this darkly evocative cover. The flashlight and the overgrown jungle really give this a creepy, mysterious air that is topped off by the chilling image of Robotman's body left hanging as a warning. Due to Perez's detailed style, it doesn't really shrink down well, so it loses a bit at this size, but at full size, it's a masterpiece.

Tomorrow: #40-31 brings you some true classics courtesy of... Bill Sienkiewicz! Bob Kane! Howard Chaykin! And more!

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Flash #174 is a great choice--as you note, there were some great Flash covers in the Silver Age, most of them by Infantino.

And I've long thought that Adventure #73's superlative cover "inspired" Gil Kane's Atom #32 cover.