Thursday, August 04, 2005

Covers Shouldn't Suck

Was gonna call this "Covers should be good," but don't wanna step on anyone's toes.

Anyway, followed a link from The Beat over to Millarworld for a long and winding talk about mainstream vs. indie (which, by the way, is a pointless question, since by Goddard's Law, they both produce shit in equal measures). Somewhere towards the back. Kurt Busiek said a quick thing on covers:

"Covers that offer a story hook are more likely to interest a casual reader than a pin-up -- the committed reader probably knows already whether he's going to buy the comic before it comes out; the newbie has to be seduced. And let's face it, seeing a cover that shows Superman throwing a truck off a cliff with Lois Lane chained to the front of it is more likely to make a casual reader think, "Why is he doing that?!" than a pinup of Superman flying.

Or such is the testimony of lots of former casual readers -- like me!"

The man's right. A cover sells the comic, which means it sells the story in the comic, which means ideally, it ought to say something about the story. A cover that just has a pinup of someone in the story (or someone NOT in the story, as a few pinup covers I've seen had), isn't going to be as successful. It's a work of art in itself, but it doesn't contribute to the whole. "Hook" covers, like Busiek describes, do.

Now, obviously, take it too far, and structure the story around the cover, and you get, well, But do it right, and you get some of the best covers in history. Fantastic Four 1. Amazing Spider-Man 121. Uncanny X-Men 137. Crisis on Infinite Earths 7. That Brave and the Bold with the guy holding a gun on Jim Aparo, ordering him to draw a cover where Batman dies.

Generally, a pin-up cover is fine for a first issue, as the first issue has to sell the characters and concept more than anything else. Past that, it's time to start getting creative.

All of this is leading to the following: I'm gonna review covers. Starting right now, with last week's books (because I haven't gotten this week's yet).

Runaways 6:

Jo Chen draws great paintings, as I've said, but most of them are pinups, and very few have much to do with the story. This would go great on my wall, but it's not going to get anyone to pick up the comic if they haven't already heard of it. Also, it could just be shading, but I think one of Nico's nipples is showing, and that's just freaking me out. A good cover? Yes and no.

Legion of Super-Heroes 8

Good hook image. Someone looking at this book would expect to see a fight between, at the very least, Colossal Boy and Ultra Boy, even if they didn't know them by those names. And that's just what happens. The completed cover adds the text "Family Fued!" to give it some context for the uninitiated, signifying that this is symbolic of a greater fight between all the Legionnaires. Structurally, it's excellent, with CB's face drawing you in, leading you to UB, with Dream Girl sandwiched in between in a Kirbyish action pose that adds an air of urgency. Good cover? I say yes.

Fantastic Four 529

This is a specimen of an interesting species that's popped up over the last few years: The pinup cover with embedded story hook. In the story, Reed does indeed run from explosions (specifically, US military ordinance). Yet the cover also works as a stand-alone pinup, which for some reason is the Marvel editorial preference these days. The question with this kind of hybrid is, did the artist make it interesting enough for someone to want to know what exactly Reed's running from? I think so, due to the distension of his hands and the severity of the expression on his face. Who is this man? Why is he stretching? What's exploding? What the hell is up with those white sideburns? Most of these questions will be answered. Good cover? You betcha.

Amazing Spider-Man 522

Bleh. Beyond being a meaningless pinup, it's just ugly. Spidey looks like he's jumping straight up instead of web-slinging, his webbing looks like rope, the most iconic part of the costume is covered in black, and the buildings look fake. The whole thing looks fake, actually; really bad computer job. Is this a good cover? Not at all.

Astro City: The Dark Age 2:

Well, it's striking, if a bit pinuppy. Bonus points for the Blue Knight's gun appearing to point straight at the reader. Combined with the title, it does make some kind of thematic point, I guess, since the BK is a symbol for the times and troubles Astro City is going through. But it is a pinup cover, and doesn't say much about the story. A good cover? Kinda.

What do you think, folks? Which of these do you think is the best cover?

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