“Pick two”, they said, “it’ll be easy”, they said.
And I fell for it. Anyway, here we are.
I started by trying to apply criteria to this (design versus story telling/ traditional versus digital/ simplicity versus chaos etc etc), but the goalposts kept moving so much that I’ve abandoned any sense of them and just picked the ones that I liked the most. (Oh, such quality control being displayed already)
One thing I kept coming back to is when you get a lovely meeting of interior artist doing the cover and they dream up something that makes you stop and go “Whoa… what’s that?” it’s normally helping towards an instant sale for me.
On to the list – did I tell you I was also ignoring the basic request for this? Ssshh, don’t tell them, apparently they just copy and paste these posts, so they might not notice.
Let’s start here, as I’m still trying to figure out how to navigate my way through the UK bit.
We have to get this first one out of the way quickly. It’s been flogged to death, with a bazillion reprints, repackages, re-everything-s and rip-offs. My point is this: That cover still sits there and says “Go on then – come up with a better one”
Many have tried, most have fallen short. Simple, to the point, you’re left wanting to read the rest.
But enough with the cop-out answer, let’s all agree that one doesn’t count, right? It’s like saying Jimi Hendrix was the best guitar player in the history of everything – you’ll get counter-arguments but they’re never convincingly made, and people would much rather argue about the order in which you place the rest.
I’ve spent too long some time going through other covers from US comics, but this cover takes some beating. Geoff Darrow, that bastion of artistic simplicity, did this for Transmetropolitan issue 22 in 1999 and it went on to be the cover of the first collection. I’d love to have seen the faces of the editorial staff as this was sent in.
(Cheery editor voice) “Oh hey, look, Geoff’s cover is here, wonder what he’s done for us this time…”
*Staff stare into the abyss*
*The abyss stares back*
…Pity the poor, poor colourist who was tasked with that one.
With that, we’re on to the UK covers bit, which is where the fun has been had. I made up a short list of my instant favourites. And there were too many, so here’s the top few.
Also, I’ve really struggled with the thing of recent covers versus classic covers – is a ‘classic’ cover automatically better than something that came out in the last two or three years? Bit dismissive or not? If you’re debating this yourself, I’d love to know your thoughts.
So we have two winners here. First up, Jim Murray’s cover of Drowntown (Jonathan Cape, 2013) is stunning. I have endless admiration for artists that can produce this level of painted work in comics. This cover is like the wrapping on a present from when you were a kid at Christmas and the gift inside was exactly what you wanted. For those unaware, yes, the rest of the book looks like that. There’s also a rat with a chainsaw and a hoodlum panda. Now go buy it. It’s Christmas, treat yourself.
Second winner is the cover of Beast Wagon issue by John Pearson (Changeling Studios 2016).
Well, that makes it difficult. But at the same time it’s a great piece of design and captures the insane story of Beast Wagon – an animal world hanging on to order by its fingernails. Again, highly recommended.
With a nod to the Tarantino universe, I present to you Tim Bradstreet’s cover of Gangland issue 1 from June of 1998. Because more lunacy in detail, and the wrap-around means it goes up to 11. This scan is taken from a Vertigo hardback collection I found forever ago, so I’ve no idea about the story. But could you honestly ignore a cover like this?
And I guess that’s kinda the whole point.
Further reading: Some more awesome covers
2000AD, Prog 2012, Greg Staples, (Rebellion, 2011)
Empty Zone, Vol. 1, Jason Shawn Alexander (Image, 2015)
Heretics, Issue 0, Martin Simmonds (44 Flood, 2016)
Into The Woods, collection, Andy Bloor (Aye Saw Comics, 2012)
Limbo, Issue 1, Caspar Wijngaard (Image, 2015)
Silent Hill: Past Life, collection, Menton J. Matthews III (IDW, 2010)
Unfollow, Issue 3, Matt Taylor, (Vertigo, 2016)
Welcome to Hoxford, collection, Ben Templesmith (IDW, 2008)
Cheers to Conor for doing this. Conor is the artist of, amongst other things, the recent Hookjaw revival from Titan Comics and one of my all time favourite indie comics Sentient Zombie Space Pigs. He’s one half of the small press publishing label Disconnected Press and was the artist on the only two Zarjaz issues ever to feature a solo creative team. And I’d be remiss in not pointing out that he’s also wrong about Hendrix due to the following three magical words… Stevie Ray Vaughan.
You can keep up with what he’s doing via his Twitter, https://twitter.com/pencil_monkey
Some of you may have noticed this is the second version of this post. The first one’s spider pic was apparently too much…..but well worth a google “beast wagon 3”