What makes a great comic book cover, in this age of virgin variants and gimmick covers, is the same thing that has always made a great cover. When all these flash in the pan virgin covers, are resigned to the 50 cent bin (where most of them belong), the really great covers, will still be… great covers.
They will still have stunning typography, married to great art, with great placement of the various parts, and together the whole, in one moment, both tells a story and sells a product. It is not just this lazy and brainless current fad of a pretty image, but with no context to the story or to the storytelling. Today’s cover artists and editors and art directors, and buyers, confuse a pinup with an effective and affecting cover, and the two are not the same.
Now that is not to say there are not exceptions, where the pinup is so good that you want it for eye candy’s sake alone. That does happen, and is fine, but in my experience it is rare, and is not conducive to books you are actually buying, serialized entertainment you are actually buying,… to read. In that case a pretty picture does not cut it, you need a storyteller as an artist and an art editor, to design a cover that tells a story.
And like i said it is a marriage of many things, some of which are not in the artist’s hands. But when all those disparate elements come together, you have have some of the greatest covers of all time.
There were a lot of people I could have started this new segment with, Neal Adams, Gil Kane, Berni Wrightson, Jack Kirby, but for my money the best cover artist of all time very rarely worked in Superhero Comics, and that is the great Joe Kubert.
Kubert had many magnificent cover runs to choose from but the one that launches this segment is the work of his that made me a Conflict Comics collector. His run on OUR FIGHTING FORCES AT WAR. Not the whole run, because while he did hundreds of covers not all of them have the elements that make an iconic cover. I mentioned a great cover having to do with things sometimes beyond the artists control such as typography and placement of disparate elements on a cover. But Here, for this run of issues, Kubert had complete control over the typography of his covers, and completely integrated that typography into his artwork, in a manner that would have made Eisner impressed. Creating a brilliant image AND telling a story and selling a product.
In the 181 issue run of OUR FIGHTING FORCES AT WAR, all of which had good covers, there are nineteen covers that stand out as masterpieces… only nineteeneighteen. They are not ‘key’ issues, they are seminal issues in the history of comic book cover design. The following scans were the best I could find on short notice, and do not do the books justice. But they give you a taste of the brilliance that make these 19 consecutive issues of OUR FIGHTING FORCES AT WAR a milestone of cover design, and worth owning.
Issue 142 would signal the end of the ground breaking covers, as well as heralding the end of Joe Kubert as editor on the series (his name would officially be removed as editor two issues later). Archie Goodwin would take over for a while as editor, followed by Jack Kirby(with all due respect to Jack Kirby, I am not a fan of his work on this book). And while Kubert would continue to do covers sporadically for the series up till the end, never again would the typography and mast-head be part of the story-telling. 141 would be the last of that wild imaginative experimentation with art and typography, the last of nineteen issues of the best and longest consecutive run of great covers by one creator in the history of comics. Pick them all up today, while they can still be had affordably.
Use the link below to get your issues today:
If you enjoyed this post and would like to see more like it, please subscribe, leave a like and comment. And what are your favorite cover runs, or cover artists/artwork?
Till next time… be well!!