Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Top 150 DC Covers of All Time: #60-51

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.

So let's take a look at the covers, shall we?

60) Detective Comics #71
January, 1943 -- Jerry Robinson

Black background: check. Symbolically huge Joker: check. Classic Detective Comics logo and Golden Age design: check: Batman and Robin being overwhelmed by calendar pages: double checkmate, mofo! Actually, the design for this issue is a little unusual, as Joker stretches right up to block some of the logo; plus, the black background bleeds up into the logo box as well. Both, I might add, excellent decisions. Add in art from Jerry Robinson in his prime and you have an all-time winner.

59) House of Secrets #125
November, 1974 -- Luis Dominguez

You know, I think I've been to this house.

58) Heart Throbs #92
November, 1964

Now this is a cover you really need to blow up to full size in order to fully appreciate. The use of color, not just in sketching the outlines of the background but also in the bold yellow of the dress, really turn this basic layout into a spectacular work of art. It has a very 50's/60's minimalist Mary Blair vibe to me which, unusually, I actually like. A sharp and striking piece.

57) Superman #252
June, 1972 -- Neal Adams

Neal Adams strikes again with another wraparound cover featuring a who's who of DC heroes. This all-flying hero issue is fondly remembered by fans and it's not hard to see why; while most online sites seem to usually only reproduce the front cover, once you see the entire thing laid out it really is a pretty uplifting cover. Very nice work.

56) Strange Adventures #205
October, 1967 -- Carmine Infantino and George Roussos

Though Adams would later take over this series and put his own stamp on the covers, it was actually Infantino who drew this first Deadman appearance. I'm a big fan of this logo and I also like the somewhat unusual layout for this cover, which has the central figure aligned horizontally at the top, leaving a big patch of basically empty space in the middle of the cover. You're not going to see many covers laid out like this one, but here it somehow works.

55) Superman #233
January, 1971 -- Neal Adams

Yesterday we saw the Superman Annual #1, with Curt Swan's rendition of Superman breaking some chains. Today we see the Adams version, which fittingly comes on the cover of the first revamped and re-imagined Superman story. Starting with this issue, Kryptonite is gone (well, mostly) and Clark Kent gets a new job as a TV anchorman. Superman smashing his chains is symbolic of DC freeing him from the years of stagnation he had been trapped in and this excellent image (which you'll note echoes the earlier cover for the Wonder Woman reboot in Wonder Woman #179)

54) Kingdom Come #4
August, 1966 -- Alex Ross

Our second Alex Ross cover in as many days is an elegantly simple, haunting image of the Golden Age Superman at the end of Kingdom Come. The covers for Kingdom Come #1 and 2 are equally -- or perhaps more -- famous than this one, but as reader Rob Lettrick noted, they were both essentially homages to a Neal Adams cover from the early 1970's. And besides, this one is, in my opinion, superior in terms of composition and emotion. Just a cool, moody and evocative cover.

53) Wonder Woman #200
June, 1972 -- Jeff Jones

We'll have more on Jeff Jones later in the countdown, but this is one of two covers that Jones drew during the brief Wonder Woman revamp in the early 1970's. Fittingly, Jones incorporated Wonder Woman's bondage themes into this cover that is striking both for the way Wonder Woman's white-draped figure contrasts with the black background as well as for the horror elements, personified by the sinister killer silhouetted in the doorway. I'm a big fan of this design period, though I admit that in this case the masthead is a little cluttered; but I still think this is Wonder Woman's best logo, especially when paired with non-superhero art like this. (Also, note the use of the same gothic romance paperback font for the title that they were using on other romance/horror hybrid titles at the time.)

52) Flash #133
December, 1962 -- Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson

This cover recently appeared on the Comics Should Be Good countdown of the most iconic covers in DC history and, surprisingly, some people didn't seem to get why this cover is cool. Those people need to be examined by doctors, because this is one of the all-time goofiest covers in comic history. And no, I don't believe that it was unintentional, either; the Silver Age may not have winked at itself much but, seriously, "I've got the strangest feeling I'm being turned into a puppet" is one of the most self-aware joke blurbs in DC history. It's also probably one of the five most famous thought or word balloons in comics, as this cover has come to symbolize the DC Silver Age aesthetic for generations of fans -- whether they like that aesthetic or not. Either way, and intentionally or not, this remains one of the funniest covers in history.

51) Batman #156
June, 1963 -- Sheldon Moldoff and Charles Paris

Sheldon Moldoff is back, this time with a Pieta-themed cover. As reader Pat Barry pointed out, Moldoff was well known in his day as being a master of panel swiping, as he kept a file on hand of cool images to copy. However, he was actually a fine artist in his own right, which eventually led to his developing the ability to copy other artist's styles without actually referencing specific panels or drawings. This came in very handy at the time he drew this classic cover for "Robin Dies at Dawn" because as far as DC knew, this cover was actually drawn by Bob Kane. In fact, Moldoff ghost-drew all of Kane's work on the Batman titles for several years in the late 50's and early 60's, copying Kane's style and signing Kane's name to the pieces as part of a deal the two had worked out behind the scenes. It's fitting, then, that the motif for this issue is itself sort of a meta-swipe of Michaelangelo's Pieta. Unlike Flash Gordon's Alex Raymond, however, Michaelangelo wasn't around to complain about Moldoff swiping his work.

Tomorrow: The top 50 begins! Be there!

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