Today I want to talk about covers. After all they are the first image we see of a comic weather it be in previews or upon entering a comic shop. Some might argue covers haven’t really evolved in comics long existence. Some might question the role of a cover. Should it tease a story or just be a kick ass piece of art? Covers cause controversy and covers can be like currency in themselves so there is plenty to discuss.
Lets start with that Riri Williams cover. J. Scott Campbell come on man she’s fifteen! You and everyone who approved that cover need to look at yourselves. It should never have got that far. Sexualization of teenagers is a no go! Always! This does raise the question though, would there have been the same response if Damien Wayne or Mile Morales had been portrayed in similar fashion? When the New 52 launched Teen Titans #1 had a cover by Kenneth Rocafort which also featured a sexualized teen in Wonder Girl. I did some research into the Wolfman and Perez era of Teen Titans. In the hundred plus covers there is not one with sexual connotations. Yes Starfire is always scantily clad, but costume designs are for another blog. In the Wolfman/Perez run of New Teen Titans Slade Wilson is in a romantic relationship with Tara Markov who was fifteen! I don’t think it would be wrong of me for assuming that readers in this era probably would have been less shocked by a cover depicting Donna Troy or Starfire on a cover in the same vain as Riri Williams or Wonder Girl. The internet age, millenials and what not have birthed the trend of social justice. You would think that creators in this era would be more tuned to social media compared to creators in the say seventies and eighties. I don’t remember there being the same amount of out crying when Frank Quietly redesigned Emma Frost and had her adorn the cover of New X-Men #116. So is it just because Emma Frost is not a teen? I think it’s just because social justice is just more prominent. Which brings us to Milo Manaras Spider-Woman cover from 2014. Again the internet spoke out about a beloved character being sexualized on a cover. Again I looked through old comics for my argument. In Spider-Womans original ongoing from 1978-83 there is nothing on the level of Manaras cover, a few gratuitious breast and bum shots. So this points to it being a generational thing right? The internet also argued that Spider-Woman was in an unrealistic pose. Of course she is she has arachnid DNA after all! It is worth pointing out the cover is very reminiscent of Amazing Spider-Man #30 by John Romita Jr. It’s also worth pointing out it was a variant cover! Nobody had to look at it let alone buy it! Rightly or wrongly sex sells. Rightly or wrongly there are comic readers and collectors who gravitate towards some TnA. I don’t think publishers should have to stop making these covers. Maybe just market them more sensibly. Publishers must rub their hands together when a cover becomes controversial, it’s going to sell like hot cakes. Like Rafael Alburquerques cover to Batgirl #41 (also New 52). I personally didn’t have a problem with it. People read way to much into the sexual undertones and victimization. For me it was a homage to a classic story line. Admittedly it didn’t fit with the tone of the Batgirl series. Which is where sensible marketing comes in. But again all readers didn’t have to buy it, it was a variant! Yes the regular cover should fit the tone of the series. Variants bordering on mature content should be poly bagged, simple solution right?
In recent years the comic industry is ever so slightly edging back towards the collector craze of the Nineties. Last week I brought Batman/TMNT Adventures #1. In the back it showcased twenty one variant covers! That’s too much isn’t it? I have one bad story and one good story regarding variant covers. Back when I had a local comic shop one month when I went to collect my books for the month they gave me the variant cover to Wolverine Origins #16 at no extra cost. Talk about brilliant. Then when my comic shop closed down I moved online and once they thought it would be okay to charge me for a £9 variant for Wolverine Weapon X #1. I mean WTF! I’m not really a variant cover collector. Usually if I end up picking one up its because I missed the regular issue and I end up treating myself at a con. I would never go over £10 for a variant. At times you have to question weather a variant is worth more than the paper it is printed on. This summer at a convention in a £1 bin I saw a lot of the All New Wolverine action figure variants. So is there low demand or too high an output? Variant covers are much like the chicken and the egg. What came first? Greedy publishers or fan demand? To be fair the action figure variant idea is a nice gimmick and they don’t run too hight in price. But thats all it is a gimmick. Once its been done on a character that is it, finished. We can look back at the collector craze of the Nineties with fondness and have a little laugh at words like ‘Chromium’ and ‘Lazer Cut’ but like I said things are getting to be that way again in my opinion. Although I believe retailers and collectors are shrewder for it not to catch on like it did then. With the Nineties at least it was largely kept to milestone issues and too a degree it still is today. Maybe it seems like more with the constant reboots. As we are getting my number ones we are getting way too many variants. Two to three variants for a milestone issues is sufficient, Fifty Two is too many! Marvel seems to get an idea for variants and then beat it over the head repeatedly till it dies. Or the fan dies first. Like to hip hop covers, okay not to my liking but it sold well. But move on think of something original for the next round of variants. DC didn’t repeat the Lego covers four months later did they? One thing I can never get my head around is having a completely different character on a variant cover for a comic they are not in just because they are celebrating a milestone. So what.
Lastly I’m looking at a cover role within the industry. When they aren’t being controversial do they do anything? The biggest change nowadays is less wording on a cover. For me that is okay its a clear distinction between generations. There is something vintage to an older cover with all the word balloons which I think would look out of place on todays shelfs. I hate when the words on the front get you reading on false pretences and what the words promised occur on the last page and are actually explored further in the following issue. As long as a cover isn’t ruining the plot, depicting characters not in the story or in any other way being misleading I’m happy for it to go anywhere. Just be a cool piece of art, something you would want a poster of. I don’t envy cover artists at all. Just think about how many comic cover there are… And they have to be original each time. No wonder we get so many homages. Covers like I said are the first thing we see, they live long in the mind. We might not always be able to remember an issue number, but we can always more often than not give a vague description of the cover. Every reader/collector remembers their first comic by remembering the cover. I bet you’ve thought of yours. Mine was Wolverine #159 By Sean Chen it depicts classic blue and yellow Wolverine on fire running towards the camera. Cigar in mouth.
By the way it was totally misleading. He never wore the blue and yellow through Chens entire run on the book. But it remains my favourite run so I’ll let it slide.
About Ian Wells
Ian currently runs the THEBLOGOFCOMICSHOTTOPICS blog. Check him out on Twitter @IanWells87.
About Language of Bromance
Together Richard and Shawn formed the podcast The Language of Bromance and from there it has been nothing but fun. The duo laugh about things they go through, stories in the news and even getting serious discussing net neutrality along with other issues. Every so often their friendship turns to a bitter rivalry with their nerdiest creation the draft episodes. An original take on a best of or a top 10 list. The draft episodes are done like an NFL Draft 7 rounds where Richard and Shawn flip-flop picks on various topics.
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