Comic book covers, like the covers of books and magazines, have a singular purpose, to attract your attention, get you to pick up the book and plunk down your hard earned dollars in exchange for the promised wonders within.
Comic book covers are important enough that, though they are sometimes created by the artists who have created the interior art for the story, they are often created by other artists who specialize in creating gripping imagery just for covers.
Comic book covers in particular have come a long way from their roots in the traditions of the lurid pulp magazine covers of the 1930’s and 40’s. Some of that element still remains, of course (and I wouldn’t have it any other way), but the concept of capturing the attention of potential readers has expanded to include the subtle and thought provoking.
The variety of approaches to comics offered today has allowed for a range of cover art that includes some wonderful examples of concept, illustration and design.
You may not agree with all of his choices, of course, but what fun is a “best of” list if you agree with everything, and he certainly hits the mark for me in an number of cases.
Melrose gives thoughtful commentary on the covers and on the artists who created them. At the very least, the article serves as a fascinating cross section of some of the most interesting work being done in the field today.
Be sure to click on the images in his column to see the larger versions; for many of them, the appeal is in the details.
Also of interest is Melrose’s list of The best of the best of the year lists.
J.O. Ladrönn gives us the feeling of the great pulp heroes in his interpretation of a classic comics detective for Will Eisner’s The Spirit #1.
Massimo Carnevale’s cover for Northlanders #35 is both subtle and gripping.
Gabriel Bá plays with the magic realist technique of transitioning between two seemingly unrelated scenes as part of the same image in his cover for Daytripper #2.
Rafael Albuquerque’s dramatically cropped image gives graphic power to his cover for Superboy #1.
Cliff Chiang uses strong graphic design, dark but intense colors and subtle textures to give an evocative image of Batman for Detective Comics #864.
J.H. Williams III gives Batwoman #0 a simultaneously modern and early 20th Century feeling, combining the image of the character and city skyline with dramatic Art Deco elements in the graphic design.
Darwyn Cooke’s wonderfully graphic cover illustration for The Outfit harkens to the stylized paperback covers and illustrations of the 1960’s.
Dave Johnson’s cover for Unknown Soldier #22 uses patterns, negative space and subtle color relationships to great advantage, leading your eye down to details like the skull faces in the center of the daisies.
The cover for The Unwritten #13 is awash with Yuko Shimizu‘s imaginative combination of images and graphic elements that play with scale, style and suggestions of motion.
Sean Phillips’ almost monochromatic composition, with its silhouetted background figures, spreads across both the back and front covers of Criminal: The Sinners #4.