Category Archives: All-time Favorite comic covers

This category is to talk about the best selling feature of the comic book. The cover!

Santa Claus Conquers The Martians – Favorite Comic Book Cover

It’s that time of year when we should look to the season for an all-time favorite comic book cover. At the same time, what were they thinking?

On November 14th 1964, after spending a budget of approximately $200,000, Embassy Pictures Corporation released one of the worst movies of all-time “Santa Claus Conquers The Martians“. The film has achieved cult status in the category “It’s so bad, it’s good”.

To add a further seasonal faux-pas, Western Publishing in March of 1966 released a comic book adaptation under the Dell Comics imprint as part of their “Movie Classics” line of comics. I guess they assumed that any adaptation other than the movie might be an improvement. What were they thinking?

So, in the spirit of Christmas everywhere and in celebrating one of the worst films of all-time, I present a Christmas version of favorite all-time comic book covers!

Santa Claus Conquers The Martians

March 1966 Santa Claus Conquers the Martians from Western Publishing (Dell)

Conan The Barbarian #1 by Barry Windsor-Smith: artistic genius

There is general consensus that the Bronze Age of comic books arrived in 1970. The arrival of Conan the Barbarian in comic book form was one of those events that defined the beginning of the Bronze Age.

Conan was not typical of your comic book hero of the day and previous to this you could find Conan stories in many books by Robert E Howard, often with some amazing covers by Frank Frazetta. Conan, was originally created by Howard, in a series of fantasy stories published in Weird Tales “Pulp” Magazine in 1932. So you see, Conan was not a character created by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1982 movie “Conan The Barbarian”. But rest assured, the popularity of Conan in comic book form was influential in the green light to film the breakthrough movie for Schwarzenegger.

Roy Thomas adapted Robert E Howard’s fantasy world to comics and artist extraordinaire Barry Windsor-Smith would pencil the cover and inside artwork. Just one look and you can see what the barbarian is up against on a regular day at the Cimmerian office. There is no peace for Conan in the Hyborian Age.

The cover is complex, loaded with influences from Jack Kirby and Jim Steranko. You rarely see multiple characters used to this extent, even in most covers. Complex and detailed scenes became a Windsor-Smith trademark and in just a few issues, the true style of Barry Windsor Smith was there for all to see. See Conan The Barbarian #24.

This first Conan series of comics lasted 275 issues, so the rich world adapted and expanded on by Thomas and Smith ensured a long future, not a run we are likely to see again in this relaunch obsessed comic decade. This comic makes the list of all-time favorite covers both for it’s historical significance (beginning of the bronze age) and the fact that it is also a gorgeous piece of artwork.

Conan The Barbarian #1

Conan The Barbarian #1 from 1970 and the skilled hand of Barry Windsor-Smith.

Atom & Hawkman #40 by Joe Kubert – all-time favorite comic covers

Joe Kubert was well known for many things. He headed a school of art which many credit for their careers in comics. He fathered two sons, both excellent artists in their own right and have been penciling comic books for many years. He is also well known for his war comics and he would have said, “anti-war comics”. He was even known to pencil a Tarzan issue or two….

But, the genius of Joe Kubert has often found it’s way to the pages of super-hero comic books. In today’s edition of all-time favorite comic book covers, Mr Joe Kubert provides the artwork for a stunning superhero cover, 1969’s Atom & Hawkman #40:

Atom and Hawkman #40

Joe Kubert’s haunting rendition of death and decisions!

The eyes and facial expression are measuring a decision to be made, while a storm rages both outward and inward. The raw emotion and boiling energy in this cover always speaks volumes to me.

U.S. Marines #2 by Creig Fessel – al time favorite comic covers

by Hal Hickey

Let’s go back a few years, how’bout 60 or so years ago. Remember when there was no television? You got your information from radio, newspapers, posters, books, and if you could afford it, the movie theater (yes movie theaters showed newsreels). What you believed was what your parents told you or what you heard on the radio. What? I’ve lost most of you?

Ok, let’s go back a shorter time, let’s say before the internet and the creation of the World Wide Web. Back then you got your information from TV, newspapers, radio and books. Movie theaters had moved to exclusively entertainment, although some may argue that’s exactly where they gleamed useful information…yikes! What you believed was largely influenced by what you saw on TV, who said it, and to a lesser extent what you heard on the radio or newspaper. Have I got all of you now?

Ok, about half…good, that’s a start!

Let’s go back an even shorter time, before the invention of the smart phone or tablet. Back in those days that you got your information from TV, the internet, newspapers and radio. Books, well you had to read them in school… To access the internet, you had to sit down at a desktop or clunky laptop and surf the web. If you were away from home, or someone else in the family was using the computer, you had no access to information other than what you saw on the front page of a newspaper or cover of a news magazine…how did we survive? What you believed was now subject to influence from multiple sources with paradigm shifts in believable facts occurring on an increasingly rapid basis.

But I digress…

This IS about favorite all-time comic book covers. And, all the above will serve to stress the impact of the comic book cover to come!

Back in the 1940’s, the citizens of countries received information from very few sources, often only one, sometimes two. Your opinion was largely influenced by what you heard on the radio, who said it and what you saw in print. You had no other sources of information to enable you to question what you were being told so, you believed it!

When World War II was in full mode with all of the players, propaganda machines were running 24/7, even before the term “24/7” was invented! Every country involved had an office of wartime information. Their job was to convince the public that whatever the government wanted to do during the war, was the right thing to do. Major events, like the bombing of Pearl Harbor and other invasions, while terrifying to citizens, were major boosts to government’s propaganda machines.

This brings us to comic books. Comics were seen as a major source of information during World War II. Published for entertainment, they were seen by offices of wartime information as a vehicle to communicate information to the public, often by subversive means.

Comic book covers hung in newsstands all over North America, viewed by hundreds of thousands in their daily treks to work and the market. Comic book publishers were asked to display their patriotism by portraying images of the enemy in less than flattering terms. In fact, if they could be portrayed as something less than human, even better, as wartime destruction of something less than human, eliminated the potential for sympathies to sway the wrong way. Remember, there was no TV, so images of the faces of the enemy, the Japanese, the Germans, and for a while the Italians, were seldom seen by citizens of North America and often only during propaganda “newsreels” at the movie theater.

Here is a classic example of a wartime comic book cover, seen on newsstands by hundreds of thousands:

U. S. Marines #2 published in 1944, cover penciled by Creig Fessel.

Comic book covers were part of the propaganda machine to ensure there would be no change in sympathy during the destruction of the enemy of the day.

Comic book covers were part of the propaganda machine to ensure there would be no change in sympathy during the destruction of the enemy of the day.

I have this as an all-time favorite comic cover due to its historical role in wartime propaganda and the influence it had at the time. If this was the first time you had ever seen a picture of a Japanese citizen or soldier, what would you think….

Sunny: America’s Sweetheart #11 by Al Feldstein 1947

It was a toss-up for this cover. It is definitely one of my all-time favorites, but it could also fits into the “What Were They Thinking” category. Let’s go back to 1947, before the Comics Code Authority (CCA) was established to censor just about everything interesting in comic books. Horror, sex and violence were more commonplace on comic covers in the late 1940’s than what we see today. Ok, well you got me there, we’ll just say what were considered sexual images back in 1947.

Most North Americans didn’t have a television and had never witnessed a figure skating competition. From newsreel photos I’ve seen of the day, nobody wore skimpy outfits that might show a piece of skin beyond face, neck and hands. Enter Al Feldstein, always one to draw futuristic scenes on comic covers, which he became famous for. Well, Mr Feldstein must also have had an idea about figure skaters 50 years in the future! He gave us this cover:

Sunny America's Sweetheart #11

Check out her male suitor, he is even embarrassed by the…view!

Ok, not to be crude, but just who is propositioning who in this comic book cover? Some pre-code comic book collectors tell us that this comic cover has two points of interest…

Punisher P.O.V. #2 by Bernie Wrightson

In this edition of all time favorite comic book covers is a painted cover by the master of the horror genre, Bernie Wrightson. He was noticed early in his comic career by horror fans when he contributed the last two covers for Marvel Comics series Chamber of Darkness and Tower of Shadows in 1970. A year later he co-created Swamp Thing, a character that has been a continuing second tier force in the DC Universe. It was here that his flowing style really caught my attention. I always saw a  lot of Frank Frazetta influence in those early Swamp Thing days.

Here we have Bernie Wrightson’s painted work from 1991 Marvel Comics Punisher P.O.V. #2. You can see the influence of his horror work in the flowing garments of the mystery character about to strike a nasty blow in the general direction of our favorite comic book hunter. Continue reading

Uncle Scrooge #1 by Carl Barks master storyteller

This edition of all time favorite comic book covers features my favorite comic storyteller, Carl Barks. I could write volumes on what Carl Barks brought to comics, but instead I will simply say that Mr Barks brought me great joy in experiencing many of his adventurous and humorous stories weaved through time and history. All in the relatively simple medium of the comic book pages.

One of Carl Barks most endearing creations was Scrooge McDuck, that’s Uncle Scrooge to his nephew Donald Duck. Scrooge first appeared in 1947’s Four Color Comics #178 in a story titled “Christmas on Bear Mountain”. His initial role was merely to be the antagonist to the star, Donald Duck. The Scrooge McDuck character became so popular, eventually he was granted his own title “Uncle Scrooge” in 1952’s Four Color Comics #386.

Uncle Scrooge #1 by Carl Barks

Four Color Comics #386 Uncle Scrooge in “Only A Poor Old Man” by Carl Barks.

This cover is a classic Carl Barks, combining the themes that followed through all of the stories with the Duck family. Uncle Scrooge is completely obsessed with his money, Donald is forced to do all of the grunt work, while Donald’s nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie, are up to mischief. In one image, the first ever Uncle Scrooge cover, Mr Barks has captured over 60 years of the Disney Ducks magical formula.

Amazing Fantasy #15 by Jack Kirby…no Steve Ditko

This particular all time favorite comic book cover actually is two comic covers.

As we know, the introduction of Spider-Man in 1962 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko was a stroke of creative genius. This not only produced many consistent fan favorite comic series over the past 52 years but also a multi-billion dollar movie and TV property! All media version of Spider-Man are going strong today.

Spider-Man was introduced in Amazing Fantasy #15. The issue just prior to #15 was titled “Amazing Adult Fantasy”. In issue #15, an editorial piece by Stan Lee went to great lengths about the name change. After all, what young kids want to be caught reading a comic titled “Amazing Adult Fantasy”? Aha! Didn’t think of that when you first read the title, did you! So they changed the title, apologized for the previous comic title, unknowingly created one of the most entertaining super-heroes in history and then…wait for it…cancelled the Amazing Fantasy title with issue #15 being it’s last!

The cover to previous issue, “Amazing Adult Fantasy #14”, was penciled by Steve Ditko as well as all the art for it’s five short stories. But, despite the fact that Steve Ditko co-created Spider-Man and penciled all the stories as well in issue 15, at the last minute Stan Lee decided that another of Marvel’s prolific creative geniuses should pencil this Spider-Man cover. Jack Kirby, ended up penciling the cover to this historic comic book.

But Steve Ditko did pencil a cover to Amazing Fantasy #15 that Stan Lee decided not to use. The cover was finally used 51 years later, as a 1 out of every 200 chase variant to Amazing Spider-Man #700. Continue reading

Fathom #9 by Michael Turner: All-time favorite comic covers

Michael Turner had a short but spectacular career in comic, cut short by his death in 2008. But from 1995, up until he left us, he was prolific. With his co-creation of Witchblade for Top Cow Comics in 1995, comic fans delighted with Turner’s mastery of the human form and especially his artistry with the female form. His cover art was spectacular and, dozens of his cover images would be no stranger in anyone’s all-time favorite comic book covers. Continue reading

Lone Ranger #51 by Ernest Nordli: All-time favorite comic covers

Back in the late 1940’s, Western Publishing was licensing many movie and later TV properties then creating a comic book version under their Dell Comics imprint. The Lone Ranger was one of those titles. The Lone Ranger began as a successful radio series which broadcast it’s first episode in January of 1933 all the way to the last of the 2,956 radio episodes in September of 1954, Along the way 3 short films were created, followed by a television series in 1949. The earliest episodes of the TV series were also shown as matinee features on the big movie screens for many years as not many people could afford to buy televisions for their homes. The TV series was highly successful and ran from 1949-1957 (only 5 years of first-run episodes) with syndication for many years after. The final season was the only one filmed in color. Those of us who watched the TV series will always remember the music “The March of the Swiss Soldiers” finale, which brought everyone to the edge of their seats as you knew the good-guy was on his way to save the day! When the music played in the theatre, the audience would cheer! Continue reading