As promised we’re going to keep this “Top Ten Covers” thing going. This installment will look at Matthew Horvath’s favorites. I met Matthew in college back in 1994 where he stood out as a brilliant writer. I’ve often told him that he has more imagination in his pinky finger than the rest of us have in our entire bodies. We’re talking about starting a serial here on Wednesday’s Heroes. Stay tuned…it’ll be a crazy ride!
I noticed on his TOP 10 LIST, Mike Pascale stated that “Captain Marvel” (AKA) Shazam and Plastic-Man were his 2 favorite characters of the Golden Age, which is funny … because they’re mine as well! Alan Moore stated, in an introduction to a Mr. Monster tale, that it was because they “knew their place.” They know the world they inhabit and what their job as “superhero” entitles them to do. Leave all other social messages and pretensions at the door because, unless one slips in by accident, they don’t really belong there. It’s all about imagination, zany humor, and fun! And Mr. Monster is definitely of that “brood” … although with a greater self-awareness, because it’s like 50-70 years later. Michael T. Gilbert created a truly off-the-wall character and the amazing Dave “Rocketeer” Stevens does Mr. Monster absolute justice on this cover. It just oozes nostalgia. Well played, good sir!
This is one of them trippy cosmic Acid-dreams that Mighty Marvel was churning out by the truckloads, around the time I was born in the mid-70’s … y’know, the halcyon days of talking ducks and giant-sized man-things. Adam Warlock beats out Silver Surfer and Green Lantern as my favorite COSMIC character of all time, probably just because of the absolute weirdness-levels of his stories. Jim Starlin is one of the rare creators who can write AND draw EQUALLY well at all times. This comic is pretty new to my collection and its cover stays with me. I feel like I’m one of the participants in the picture. You can probably imagine how bad all the alien scum that surrounds Warlock must smell. It sort of reminds me of Jabba the Hutt’s menagerie of weirdos from RETURN OF THE JEDI or some of the Spaceman Spiff stories from CALVIN AND HOBBES.
Despite all the ballyhoo that surrounded Todd McFarlane’s work on Spidey and Spawn, I always found myself liking his earlier stuff a lot more. He’s overly cartoony with lots of scratchy stuff on his characters (I mean that in a very good way) and that just seems to fit the Hulk like a glove. This cover is total cake!!! I love having the “Strongest One There Is” breaking down the brick lettering of his own logo. Whenever I look at McFarlane’s Hulk I can totally hear his voice in all its gravelly, grumbly glory speaking to me. He seems to bring his characters to life in comics by actually making them LESS realistic … which is sort of inspiring to me, because reality is my own greatest foe …
“Oh, what Hell hath Britney Spears wrought?” Wow, doesn’t she look wickedly slutty?!!? Supergirl was always the sexiest super-chick in my book, beating out The Scarlet Witch and Zatanna by a narrow margin, which is the reason this cover is one of the top-contenders! Actually, what REALLY happens in this issue is Superman’s darling little cousin is mind-controlled by frequent Flash-foe (say that 3 times fast) Gorilla Grodd and does bad stuff … nothing pornographic though. Nevertheless, if you want someone to draw sleek and sexy super folk … then there’s only ONE man … and that man is Gary Frank!!! Accept no substitutes. (Trivia: Gary Frank draws his Superman to look exactly like Christopher Reeve … which is both fanboyishly fantastic and depressingly morbid at the same time!!!)
When I was around 10 or 11, this comic cover screamed (a most unholy shriek of the damned) at me from off the magazineshelves of the otherwise bucolic Tommie’s Ice Cream Parlor in my hometown of Palmerton. You got every sorcerous/ghostly character in the DC Universe that you can shake a magic wand at, and most of ’em are astride giant DEMON-STEEDS!!! That, and the fact that it’s drawn by that infernal duo of unimaginable terror and gnarliness, Steve Bissette and John Totleben, make for a very fun “child’s first descent into Hell!”
This is an extremely recent FAVORITE from DC Comics’ “New 52” line. This storyline features a young Superman who doesn’t even have an “action-suit” yet. He leaps (an 1/8th of a mile) around Metropolis, clad in a T-shirt (that he somehow had his Kryptonian “S”-crest forged onto), patched-up jeans, his baby-blanket cape, and a pair of shit-kicker boots. Supes is taking on bank robbers and the corrupt “uppa crust” with equal enthusiasm … until an Alien Task Force, led by Lex Luthor and Lois Lane’s army general dad, K.O. the poor soon-to-be superhero BY THROWING A TRAIN AT HIM!!! (Ow.) Anyway, this cover depicts Luthor and Company’s interrogation of Superman, as only Rags Morales could draw it! I just like the extreme attitude that radiates from this pic. A really neat version of Superman. Well done, Rags!!!
So we got this barbarian-looking fella in some flashy red outer space-speedos fighting winged beasties of the EVIL DEAD II/ARMY OF DARKNESS-caliber. What did Frank Frazetta have for breakfast before he started this pic? Did he sleep well the night before? Or after? Does this barbarian dude really have glowing white eyes … or is it artistic license? Does this really constitute “CREEPY” … or just severely #$@%-in’ COOL?!!? Once again, memorable logo and exquisite placement of objects. And those beautiful earth-toned colors … fighting for dominance of the page with the color red … just as much as that poor dude is fighting for his life against those “ptera-terrors”
Here’s some interstellar Buck Rogers mayhem courtesy of a very young Frank Frazetta. Every quadrant of this cover has something amazing to look at. Frazetta always knew EXACTLY where to place an object on paper for maximum dramatic effect. Just like his later epic paintings, this illustration can tell you an entire story (and then some …) just by looking at it. Beautiful colors also. This was an early indicator as to why Frazetta was king…with apologies to Jack Kirby (yes, he too is king).
Wally Wood’s cover art for some of these EC science fiction comics brilliantly conveys (just like Steranko’s did for the ’60s) the pre-occupations of THIS entire era. I mean, doesn’t this just scream out “1950’s AMERICA” ?!!? I think it’s way cool that Wood drew these bug-eyed space creeps being watched by those little rascals with the scrappy dog … who, no doubt, is gonna bark and give away their hiding place in about another 2 seconds. It adds that whole Boy’s Adventure-type quality that, I’m sure, made this comic irresistible to the entire kiddie-market at the time. And just like the S.H.I.E.L.D. comics from above, who the hell would forget that spiffy logo?!!? A freakin’ classic!
I’m showcasing an entire dad-blamed cover gallery for the #1 spot … BECAUSE JUST LOOK AT ‘EM, FOR CRYIN’ OUT LOUD!!! Steranko, far and away, created some of the greatest comic imagery of all time. Apparently, there was this “Bond” fellow in the 1960’s who was quite famous … the kind of “famous” that creates imitations … LOTS of imitations!!! This was Marvel’s answer to the whole affair … and a smashing good one at that! There’s 60’s psychedelia, homages to Dali, an eye-catching logo-design, and James Bond-ian situations that would cost BILLIONS to reproduce on a movie screen (if they could be reproduced at all!!!) In a nutshell, Steranko knew how to play to the strengths of the comic form, and just as Nick Fury was a Bond imitation, Steranko’s S.H.I.E.L.D. covers have been imitated, but (let’s tread lightly into cliche) NEVER EQUALED!!!
So, there you have it! My top 10 (or so) Comic Covers and what I have to say about them (and in turn, they about me.) I think Craig and Wednesday’s Heroes should next have a Top 10 BATMAN covers list exclusively … because the pointy-eared one’s got a corner on the market, when it comes to memorable comic book covers. I already had 5 or 6 on standby, when I was originally gonna make this my top 25 Comic Covers!