(Sorry I've been AWOL recently. I'm working on a big time-consuming project and frankly, even I get burnt-out writing about comics every now and then.)
Comic book covers are designed with one primary purpose in mind: to sell comic books. A cover can be a beautifully drawn masterpiece with holographic effects and 5 naked ladies - if it doesn't get somebody to stop, pick it up, and open the damn thing, the cover has not done its job.
Sometimes we forget this. After all, if you religously buy every issue of Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose **cough Chris Sims cough** then you're going to pick it up regardless of whether the cover blows or not. And when we get Tarot home and have mastur-- um, read it, we're just interested in whether the cover is pretty or not because we bought the damn thing already. But back in The Day, when comics were on spinner racks at 7-11, every cover was designed with commercial, not artistic demands in mind. It's why so many of those old Spider-Man comics from the 70s and 80s show Spider-Man getting his ass kicked or in some jeopardy. The kid browsing the racks would be all, "Holy shit! How's Spidey going to get out of this one? MUST BUY THIS!"
Which brings me to the point of this post. As I often do, I was digging through my back issues and I came across a couple of books with less than compelling covers. It was the cover to Aquaman #53 that did it for me. What about the cover to that comic would compel a casual browser to stop and pick it up? I still don't have an answer.
Take a look:
Pretty much the only thing commercially interesting about this cover is that it promises a guest appearance by Superman. Other than that... The cover asks the burning question: "Who's busier? Aquaman or Superman?" The answer: "Who gives a shit?"
Seriously, aside from the special guest star, why would anyone aside from an Aquaman completist pick this up? "Who is busier?" is not exactly what I would consider a raw, primal conflict. Let's see, Superman wakes up at 5:20, showers and shaves, grabs a bagel and catches the 6:15 train for downtown, arrives at work at 6:40, gets an Americano from the Starbucks in the Daily Planet lobby, has to wait for the damn elevator, gets to his desk at 6:50, checks his email for ten minutes before a 7:00 AM staff meeting, which he's 5 minutes late to because he has to save a drifting oil tanker off the Virginia coast... Let's see, Aquaman's tide clock wakes him at 6:30 SDT (surface dweller time), he hits snooze, wakes up at 7:00, has a breakfast of mussels and caviar while he checks the sports scores in the Tritonis Times, considers going back to bed or shaving... Yeah, Superman's busier. There, now you don't have to get that comic.
Here's a Gen13 cover that absolutely screams: "BUY THIS COMIC (and find out who wins the illegal iguana race)!" While the cover may accurately reflect the story inside, I ask you: is this a comic that demands your attention?
Again, iguana racing is not what I consider high drama. Let's ignore the fact that I actually purchased the comic, shall we?
Here's a Marvel UK comic, Death's Head II, that coasts on the old trick of just adding Wolverine or Spider-Man to a cover. Like most Marvel UK comics, Death's Head II sucked ass, so perhaps this lame cover is truth in advertising. But couldn't they have had Wolvie and 'Head actually doing something? Anything? Drinking tea? Bowling? Flying a kite together? Throw us a frickin' bone, Marvel UK - give us a reason to actually want to buy the book.
Finally, here's a continuity cocktail courtesy of crazy Roy Thomas - What If? vol 2 #36 - which poses the question that has been on fans' lips for decades: What if the Cosmic Avenger battled the Guardians of the Galaxy? Look, it's part 2 of 5. The question was so vast that it could not be contained in one, or two, or even four comics!
I gotta call bullshit on this one. The purpose of the What If? books was to explore paths not taken in familiar storylines. Some of the issues were kind of lame, sure, but at least they stuck to the central concept of the series. Asking what if the Cosmic Avenger battled the Guardians of the Galaxy is just cheating. Nobody aside from writer Roy Thomas knows or even cares who the Cosmic Avengers are. I can't imagine this thing was flying off the shelves.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
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This was really compelling.
I am not sure if it was due to your hiatus and I am starving for all things Dave; or...
Nah, this was good and I smell new feature along with "Lame Villains" and "F*CK YEAH!!"
haha...that was pretty cool. I'm trying to think about any covers that I thought were dumb, and I seem to think there was a cover during Secret Wars2 that made me groan.
To make that What If? cover even less compelling, they could have subbed in the Great Lakes Avengers: "The fight no one demanded! Yondu vs. Flatman! That weird pterodactyl-looking chick vs. Charlie-whatever his damn number is--the chunky guy! Big Bertha vs. Hostess Fruit Pies!" Etc., etc.
(And yeah, I do actually know that their names are Dinah Soar and Charlie-27. I just don't give a shit.)
Was it this cover, spacekicker? Because #6 was pretty groan-worthy. Actually, so was the rest of the series.
Here's the real problem with the Aquaman cover: it's fuck-ugly and as dull as arse. What's actually going on there? Aquaman went by without saying hi to Superman? Ummm...
Imagine if the cover showed lots of panels, Silver Age style, of Aquaman: rescuing sailors from a submarine; fighting a shark to save a mermaid; mixing it up with some no-good Lexcorp treasure hunters on the prowl for Atlantean tech... you get the idea. Then to the right of these panels you've got Superman looking at the panels in astonishment and admiration. "Holy shit - Aquaman works *way* harder than I do!" Underneath it says: Who's Busier? Aquaman or Superman?
I'd buy it. And I hate comics.
Fun Post, Mr. Campbell - but I take issue with your assessment of that Gen 13 cover.
I will buy any comic that promises iguana racing - especially illegal iguana racing - and that is a fact. Having a lady iguana-racer who is cleaning up to the extent of stuff money down her cleavage just seals the deal.
OK, you got me there hydrogenguy: I forgot about the huge illegal iguana racing demographic in the States.
I'm with hydrogenguy.
I only bought one single Gen 13 comic in my whole life, and hated the bloody thing. I can't recognize a single character on the cover, I don't really care about John Arcudi's work and I have no idea who the two other people are.
But: iguana racing. FUCK YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm buying that shit.
I have to pile on the pro-Iguana bandwagon here. A good cover is one that asks a question, and invites you to buy the comic to find out the answer. And the question this cover asks is "Why in the hell are they racing iguanas???"
I, also appreciate illegal iguana racing.
Also, the GLA vs. the Guardians of the galaxy would be AWESOME if and only if this is the post-disassembled GLA.
The big problem with Aquaman of that era was Eric Battle. Ick.
Ok, so, who won the freakin' illegal iguana race? I'm dying over here.
Love the SWII cover. 'Cause y'know, even when you're the all-knowing, all-seeing Beyonder, nothin' says "I'm cool as white on rice" as having the collar on your breakdancin' jacket flipped up. Rad, dude.
I remember reading those glorious mid-80's Secret Wars series in junior high and actually having the thought penetrate my barely adolescent skull: this is dumb as shit. Why the hell am I reading this? It's a wonder I didn't stop reading comics right there and then.
You're right about the Aquaman art, Augie, but don't forget that Erik Larsen's stories weren't exactly Eisner Award material either.
That particular volume of Aquaman was best known for the Peter David run that preceded Larsen, but the Dan Jurgens run that followed (#'s 63-75) was an unappreciated gem. Covers by Mike Kaluta -- how's THAT for a step up? Same goes for the interior art by Steve Epting. You should pick up the back issues of that.
I think the name for that Secret Wars II cover should be "Beyond Pimpin'". My favorite part is the bitchin' way his pants are tucked into his boots. It was never revealed during the Secret Wars that the source of the Beyonder's omnipotent power was the fact that he was clearly the Anti-Hasselhoff. I don't know whether that made him good or evil, but damn did they hate him in Germany.
I think they should carry iguana racing on ESPN8--that kind of sport would be perfect for the Ocho. And all that cash just means that I now have three reasons to want to put a hand down her shirt.
I don't care about Gen13, but that cover would make me buy that issue.
Would that make the Beyonder...Bizarrohoff?
And who are the "Cosmic Avengers"? Going off the cover, it looks like a business-as-usual lineup of Cap, She-Hulk, and Iron Man. Wouldn't "Cosmic Avengers" consist of, say, Moondragon, Mantis, Starfox, Quasar, and Jack of Hearts? Just wondering.
If you do an image search for it you may think it actually looks pretty cool, but at the time I purchased DETECTIVE COMICS #811 I felt it had the lamest cover ever printed. Not that 812 or 813 were much better.
Dave, I think the reaction is overwhelming. It's NECESSARY that there be a review of Gen 13: Iguana Racing in the Longbox. Please please please. Or else I might really have to buy the damn book.
Ghostman... I think it was that one. Even I realized at a young age that no one should have a perm and that much cosmic power. That and the all white...Noooooo...because I think SW2 came out past labor day.
Certainly isn't a lack of less than compelling covers out there. You could pretty much cover the entire Ultimate line: "Check it out! It's the hero! He's posing! WOW!"
Those facial close-up covers DC did like 10 years ago also come to mind. I think Deadpool parodied those with a close-up of Deadpool saying "Hey, look! It's my head!"
I agree, certain hairstyles are pretty much incompatible with omnipotence, spacekicker, like the Beyonder's perm and the Magus' original white-guy Afro. And names don't get much lamer than "The Beyonder". Although he can still safely make fun of the In-Betweener.
Looking at that picture, I'm surprised they didn't call that series Secret Wars II: Cosmic Boogaloo.
What gets me is the opposite: Really gorgeous covers for a book filled with bad story and much worse art.
I remember an entire dollar box just filled with that What If issue at my former LCS.
Is Wolverine pissed because Death's Head II is eating his rack of ribs?
"Who's Busier" is an absolute scream and your version is undoubtedly better than what actually lies between the pages. I think I'd have bought the Gen13 just because of the lethal combo of Frank Smith pencils with Cam Smith's inks - the iguanas are a pure gravy!
Isn't he the guy writing Superman at the moment? ;-)
And I have to agree with the previous commenter about the "Cosmic" Avengers. They're not the space-faring members of the Avengers (anything but). So why go to the trouble of adding the "Cosmic".
Or was Cosmic slang for Mighty, back in the day?
Marvel UK was great. Charnel was an excellent villian and the scene with Reed Richards and Death's Head's creator, Dr. Evelyn Necker, is one of my all-time favourite comic panels.
Sexy future doctor with gas mask, huge tits and bare legs busts in fancy resturant.
"Reed Richards? My name is Dr. Evelyn Necker."
"My mother's name was Evelyn..."
"I'm not you mother."
"No, I can see that..."
Ah thank you!
I've been trying to remember the name of a comic I read when I was a child where Wolverine fought some messed up face dome-head dude IN SPACE for ages.
It was Death's Head.
I can now die peacefully.
Wow, considering the hype it got, Gen 13 by Arcudi, Frank, and Smith was one ten ton brick of BORING.
Wow, that first cover is so bad I thought you photoshoped it.
...the scene with Reed Richards and Death's Head's creator, Dr. Evelyn Necker, is one of my all-time favourite comic panels.
Heh. I remember that scene fondly too, along with the later one where they did a little homage to Gone With The Wind. I think there was some chemistry there--Reed would never cheat on Sue, but that doesn't mean he wouldn't notice a hot scantily-clad fellow scientist. And on her part, not only does Reed have the gray-at-the-temples thing going, dude has stretching powers.
For those who care, I found craploads of Death's Head scans here, along with some other UK series like Action Force (their version of our G.I. Joe).
Thank you Ghostman!!! And thanks for the great scans!! :)
"And who are the "Cosmic Avengers"?"
That "TimeQuake" story consisted of sequels to four previous "What If" stories as part of some thing involving Immortus and then a fifth issue to tie everything together. For example, part one was sequel to the first What If? story (What If Spider-Man Joined the Fantastic Four?) from the 70s. I don't remember what the second one tied and I'm too lazy to look it up. Sorry. :-)
The people (IE me) demand Illegal Iguana Race Week!
Dave, why you no post????
I love the Superman/Aquaman cover. What an excellent concept!
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