The cover of a comic book is usually critical to its success. It’s the first thing a potential customer sees, and is often one of the main reasons someone will reach for the comic to buy it. That’s why comic book covers go through a lot of work, sometimes more than the actual story and art inside. Many comic book covers have become more famous than the comic itself, and have become icons of pop culture.
Marvel Comics knows that better than anyone, since it’s been publishing comics for over 75 years. Unfortunately, not every comic cover has ended up a success. In fact, some have been absolutely hated by fans. We’ll be reviewing 16 of those today. Some of these covers have been called badly-drawn. Others are well-drawn, but some fans had problems with the content. Some are misleading, and others are just a weird gimmick. We’ll also point out that all of these covers were sketched, approved and published with the full knowledge of the publisher, and let’s be clear here, with the unabashed love of fans (and rightfully so). After all, as many folks love these covers as are confused by them. That all said, here are 16 Marvel covers that drove fans crazy in one way or another!
16. WOLVERINE: REVOLVER #1
In 2009, Marvel published the one-shot Wolverine: Revolver #1. It was written by Victor Gischler and penciled by Julio Das Pastoras, who also drew the cover. Gischler is known for his gritty crime novels, and brought that approach to the story about Wolverine going to Las Vegas, where he gets involved in a Russian Roulette game with ruthless mobsters. Then things get weird.
The cover is well-drawn with a lot of detail in the imagery. The big problem fans had is with Wolverine himself. Let’s start with the pose, which is supposed to look like he’s running, but some fans thought looked more like he’s about to break out into a tap dance. We’ll focus on the face, though, which some fans felt doesn’t look enough like the classic Wolverine. More than one person has said his beady eyes and bared teeth look more like Gary Busey. As illustrious as that actor’s career may have been, that may not have been what the creative team was going for with this cover.
15. DAREDEVIL #315
One thing 1993’s Daredevil #315 did was to bring back a Spider-Man villain named Mister Fear, who used a gas to instill fear in his enemies. Written by D.G. Chichester and Scott McDaniel, the story actually showed the illegitimate daughter of the old Mister Fear who used residue from the gas to turn herself into a new “Mister Fear,” calling herself Shock.
Once again, context helps in evaluating this cover, which shows a terrifying version of Shock’s face. It’s supposed to be what people see when she uses her powers, but casual fans haven’t seen it that way. Mr. Fear is shown foaming at the mouth, which fans thought was a little over-the-top. Also, the subtitle on the cover says “Mister Fear,” but the figure on the cover clearly has breasts, which some fans found funny, though given the context of the story, we admit may be splitting hairs.
14. INCREDIBLE HULK #325
Incredible Hulk #325 was written in 1986 by Allen Milgrom with interior pencils by Steve Geiger. In the story, Banner struggled to convince himself and S.H.I.E.L.D. that he had been cured of the Hulk, even while people reported attacks by the Hulk nearby. The cover was drawn by Milgrom.
There aren’t a lot of Hulk covers that focus on his face, and there’s a reason for that. We don’t want to get too close to that ugly mug, and this cover proves the point. Not only is Hulk’s face ugly, but some fans felt his expression is a bit off. They couldn’t tell if he was supposed to be roaring with rage or about to sneeze. Instead of “Hulk Smash,” many fans instead said it looks like he’s saying, “duhhh…”
13. ALPHA FLIGHT #122
Alpha Flight #122 by Simon Furman and Pat Broderick is a 1993 tie-in to the “Infinity Crusade” crossover. During the miniseries, Adam Warlock’s essence of goodness becomes a physical being called the Goddess, and begins hypnotizing superheroes into joining her. In the story, Puck, Sasquatch, Windshear, Talisman and Shaman are visited by the Goddess, who shows them a vision and commands them to join her Crusade.
The cover is good in showing the moment, but without context, fans didn’t know why these characters were just staring into space. The other problem fans complained about is the lack of emotion on any of the faces. It’s supposed to look like they’ve been hypnotized or in a forced state of serenity, but we have to say, it does seem like they might as well be watching the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy than any supernatural event.
12. NAMOR #26
Namor #26 was written in 1992 by John Byrne and penciled by Jae Lee, and is captioned “Savage Namor” for a good reason. In this story, Namor has lost his memory, grown his hair long and is living wild in the woods near a Canadian logging community. He’s suspected of murdering other loggers in the area by spiking trees, which totally makes sense for Namor, especially at this time.
What gets this cover on the list is Namor’s head, and not, as you might suspect, his staggering vascularity. It’s supposed to look like his black hair is swinging wildly, but fans thought it looked like a black furball draped around his face. Some also said the black specks looked like his hair is dripping all around him. Like we mentioned, though, his body is also part of the 1990s style, with seemingly every vein on his muscles bulging like he’s about to pop; the height of unkempt masculinity.
11. GAMBIT #1
In 1999, Marvel created a new Gambit series with the first issue by Fabian Nicieza and Steve Skroce. The story centered on Gambit being sent to steal various items around the world. The issue came with several variant covers, and we’ll be focusing on what’s known as the Ten of Diamonds variant.
This one is kind of like Wolverine: Revolver, where it has lots of exceptional detail, so it’s not drawn badly by a long shot! However, the look of the hero isn’t what fits the character many fans were familiar with, causing the instant (some might say unnecessary) revulsion we are now so accustomed to within the comics community. Admittedly, Gambit is known as one of the sexiest and most desirable men in comics, but you wouldn’t know it from this cover. With his scrawny body and gaunt face, some fans thought Gambit looked less like a roguish superhero and more like he’s been hooked on meth. Not even once, guys.
10. FANTASTIC FOUR VS. X-MEN #2
Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men was a miniseries published in 1987 by Chris Claremont and Jon Bogdanove. The series was about the X-Men trying to get Reed Richards to come up with a cure for Kitty Pryde, who was fading out of existence. They eventually got into a fight, hence the title.
The cover art shows Franklin Richards crying over the dead bodies of his parents. Standing sheepishly to one side, Wolverine says his mother’s been avenged, strongly implying that he killed Mister Fantastic after the Invisible Woman was killed by Reed. What upset fans is that nothing even close to the above actually happened in the issue. Wolverine did fight Mister Fantastic briefly, but Sue Storm and Franklin aren’t anywhere near the fight, and Reed isn’t killed by anyone. The cover itself is great… we just wish the story followed up on its promise!
9. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #400
In case you can’t immediately tell, 1995’s Amazing Spider-Man #400 gets onto this list because of its controversial gimmick cover, which riled up fans to no end when it was initially released. Written by J.M. DeMatteis and penciled by Mark Bagley, the story was about the (short-lived) death of Aunt May, and the beginning arc of the Clone Saga. It wasn’t as big a splash as the #300 issue introducing Venom, but it definitely had its moment in the sun… some say for all the wrong reasons.
The idea for the cover was ambitious, making it a die-cut embossed pattern in the shape of a literal tombstone with the pattern of the title and the characters in its surface. If you held it just right, you could see all the detail, which was pretty cool. What fans didn’t like was that, if you didn’t hold the cover JUST right, it just looked like a plain white cover with nothing on it. Many point to this cover as an example where gimmickry went beyond the pale of reason, even in something as inherently gimmicky as comic books!
8. CONAN #9
Behold, 1996’s Conan #9, written by Bob Abnett with pencils by Joe Bennett; and yes, we know what you’re thinking — this may just be the most ’90s thing you’ve seen in, like, five minutes. In the story itself, Conan and his men dared to cut down a tree seen by the native Picts as a god, earning him the nickname “God Killer.” Pretty standard stuff for Conan, really.
What wasn’t standard — at least to a mainstream audience — was Conan’s look on this cover. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was another Liefeld-special, but it’s actually a cover by Joe Bennett, who was doing a good impression of Liefeld. Liefeld is of course known for the muscular and exaggerated bodies that defined a generation, and this is certainly a good example of that. Some fans felt this one went a little too far, though, with the enormous muscles on Conan, not to mention his SUPER ’90s faceplate and urban-armor combo. His biceps alone are bigger than his head, accentuated by those golden Ultimate Warrior arm bands. The ’90s was a weird, weird time… but god, we loved them.
7. THOR #482
Written by Roy Thomas and penciled by M.C. Wyman, Keith Pollard and Stewart Johnson, Thor #482 was published in 1995. In this story, Thor, the High Evolutionary and the powerful team known as the Godpack went into space to face the New Immortals and the New Men. The cover was drawn by Lou Harrison.
Speaking nothing of the truly spectacular, nigh-photorealistic art, fans have been critical of this cover for several reasons. For one thing, some fans felt that the portrayal of Thor didn’t fit with other ways he’s been depicted, particularly at the time (that ridiculous costume choice during this period notwithstanding, of course). His overly muscled body was common in the style of the 1990s, but fans have felt it looks too bulgy today… plus, since when does Thor skip his calf exercises at the gym? Luckily, he more than made up for it by apparently having Captain America’s shield surgically implanted into his lats.
6. CABLE AND DEADPOOL #1
In 2004’s Cable and Deadpool #1, Fabian Nicieza and Mark Brooks brought back the two characters co-created by Liefeld. The issue featured Deadpool hired by the One World Church to steal a virus to turn everyone blue. When Cable showed up to get the same virus, wackiness, as is its wont in Deadpool comics, ensued.
We didn’t want to include too many of Rob Liefeld’s controversial covers because that’s it’s own special list. However, we couldn’t do this list without taking on a couple. In this one, fans didn’t take to the exaggerated bodies of the characters. Cable looks enormous, especially compared to Deadpool. Liefeld is also fond of huge guns, which is objectively awesome in comics, and the gun Cable’s holding is almost as big as he is… not to mention almost impossibly un-gun-like. The quality is up for debate, but there’s no question we’re looking at a Liefeld cover. Let’s be honest, though, whether you love them or hate them, they will always make you feel something, and that alone is kind of great. Just kidding, it’s REALLY great.
5. EMPIRE STRIKES BACK WEEKLY #125
In 1980, Marvel was riding the waves of the success of Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back with a series released in the UK called Empire Strikes Back Weekly. In issue #125, the series reprinted a story from writer Archie Goodwin and penciller Al Williamson. Industry legends Carmine Infantino and Gene Day produced the cover.
The artist of this cover was obviously using Jack Kirby’s style, and it could have worked if the characters weren’t based on existing characters. The faces of the actors like Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford are so well-known that it was striking to fans how little they looked like the ones on this cover. Even Chewbacca doesn’t quite line up with the movie version with his wide and hairier face, looking more like Alpha Flight’s Sasquatch than a Wookiee. Also, C-3PO must have been hittin’ that bench, because his pecs are poppin’!
4. FANTASTIC FOUR #375
Fantastic Four #375 (from the halcyon days of 1993) was an epic battle (created by Tom DeFalco and Paul Ryan), where the Fantastic Four faced a Doctor Doom who gained the cosmic powers of Aron, the renegade Watcher. Uatu the Watcher himself was threatened, as well as the entire universe. Pretty par-for-course stuff for the FF.
This was another gimmick cover which didn’t quite work out, though god bless Marvel for trying. The cover was foil with a prism effect that fans thought made it hard to even look at, let alone see the details on. Sue Storm wore her infamous “four cleavage” costume, which had a cheesecake factor some fans weren’t too happy with, but others loved for the very same reason. Then there’s the fact that some of them carry huge guns, even though the FF all have superpowers, something even Johnny Storm inside the comic made fun of. Then again, he wears a designer jacket that boosts his flame… which almost immediately gets destroyed, so what the hell does he know?
3. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #10
Stan Lee and Steve Ditko wrote and drew Amazing Spider-Man #10 back in 1964, a story about a gang called the Enforcers hired by the crime boss Big Man to kill the Web-Head. The Enforcers battled Spider-Man for control of the city.
Not all the older covers can be called classics, even in such creatively esteemed hands as Lee and Ditko. Fans over the decades have pointed to this cover as being artistically well-drawn, but just plain dull. There’s no background, and Spider-Man is just facing a row of gangsters standing with their arms to their sides or pointing. Spider-Man himself was criticized by some fans for the odd pose. In an age where Marvel prided itself on showing characters in bold and dynamic stances that leapt off the page, this one fell considerably flatter.
2. CAPTAIN AMERICA #2
Captain America #2 in 1996 put Jeph Loeb and Rob Liefeld onto the shelves together for a new series. In the story, Steve Rogers returned home to discover his wife and son were actually Life Model Decoys (extremely realistic androids) and S.H.I.E.L.D. was bringing him in. We know that feel, Steve. We know that feel.
Here’s one of the most famous covers among Liefeld’s ardent and vociferous critics. Much like Alpha Flight #122, it makes more sense in the context of the story, but without knowing the disembodied hand and face are of the wife’s LMD, it just looks like a random face and hand floating in mid-air for no reason. Some fans also thought Captain America was in a pose that looked more like he’s squatting than standing and that his shield was oddly misshapen. Regardless of its problems, though, it remains an unforgettable cover… and that’s got to count for something!
1. MARVEL TEAM-UP #128
Marvel Team-Up is a long-running series pairing superheroes together in different storylines, and issue #128 in 1983 paired up Spider-Man and Captain America. It was written by J.M. DeMatteis with pencils by Kerry Gammill. The story itself isn’t a problem, but the cover definitely is not one loved by modern fans.
The cover is actually made of photographs instead of artwork, showing two men in costumes dressed as Spider-Man and Captain America. Behind the scenes, they were played by staff members at Marvel, letterer John Morelli and artist Joe Jusko. In a time when neither character had many live-action movies or TV shows, this was probably more impressive, but today’s fans have said it looks like a cosplay photo instead of an official Marvel cover. Then again, cosplay variants have become all the rage, so what the hell do they know??
What other Marvel covers have driven you crazy? Are these covers underrated? Let us know in the comments!