MIKE GOLD: My All-Time Favorite Comic Book Cover
They don’t draw comic book covers like this any more. And, well, that might be a good thing.
These days, we’re in a phase where covers are particularly boring. When it comes to the great American staple, the heroic fantasy comic, most are over art directed and too posh for their own good. Few actually have anything to do with the story inside; they are simply generic poster shots. When I stare at the big Wall-O-Comics at most shops, my eyes quickly glaze over. They generate little enthusiasm and manage to completely ignore the sense of wonder that makes comics magic. At best, I walk away from the Wall thinking “gee, that Captain America cover sure would make a swell statue.”
Yes, I still use the word “swell.” I’m trying to bring it back.
Look at a few of the really great covers. If you’re at all interested in the genre, how can you pass ‘em up? They are exciting, intriguing and most of all, they appeal to the sense of wonder.
Yeah, they’re all ancient. But don’t try to tell me they’re childish. Putting on a mask and fighting crime and/or evil as the result of some event that wouldn’t even cut it in Greek tragedy is childish. We’re simply negotiating the price.
However, some covers were simply wonderfully absurd. They are so far over the top you’ve just got to check them out. In fact, there are so many of them that there’s an entire website devoted to the topic, run by cartoonist Scott Shaw!. It’s called Oddball Comics and you’ve got to check it out. He’s got about a trillion such covers there. But I don’t know if he’s got my all-time favorite comic book cover.
At first sight, you would swear this cover was ghosted by Rube Goldberg. It’s the cover to Harvey Comics’ Dick Tracy #50, April 1952. Not only is it so weird the editor didn’t mind the fact that it gives away the ending (which, admittedly, was no big surprise in any Dick Tracy story), but the scene actually exists in the story. If you think I’m kidding, just wait a few years until IDW reprints it.
Yeah, ol’ Chet Gould was beginning to teeter. But, damn, Harvey redrew the scene to make it a big ol’ cover for sale in every drug store, every toy store, every mom’n’pop store in America. And I checked – several foreign publishers used it as well.
It’s hard to come up with a modern-day equivalent to this sort of thing. Actually, you could do so with any of the ultra-humongous crossover continuity-shattering event mini-series titles, as each and every one is a Rube Goldberg story.
But, sadly, you’d be giving away the ending.
Mike Gold is editor-in-chief of ComicMix.com
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