Even if you have never read one of his many comic books, it’s likely your life has been influenced in some way by Frank Miller’s work. If you have ever seen “300” or “Sin City,” you have an appreciation for his unique style. When he puts pencil to paper, his work can become iconic and he has helped to shape and influence some of the greatest comic book characters of all time.
Miller’s work on “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” helped inspire several shots in many modern superhero movies, including the recent film, “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” While the film may have under-performed at the box office, the man’s influence in comics has spread far and wide. We wanted to honor some of his earlier work, which is why we came up with the following 15 greatest Frank Miller comic book covers of all time.
15. NEXT MEN #17
John Byrne’s “Next Men” series explored a group of teenagers who had been raised in a virtual environment where they were taught to fight and survive. They knew nothing of the real world when they were freed. It didn’t take long for each of them to realize they were different and they began to manifest superpowers unlike anyone else in the world. Bethany, Nathan, Danny, Jack and Jazz must learn to cope with their powers and uncover the truth of their origin and purpose in the world.
It wasn’t unusual for Byrne to invite a guest artist to take care of the covers, which gave the reader a unique experience with each issue. Miller’s work on “Next Men” #17, penciled and written by Byrne, is indicative of his unique style of separating contrast. He drew the image in only black and white to help illustrate the group’s persecution at the hands of the shadowed figures (and their guns pointed right at them). The art was so well done, the book reprinted it on the back cover without any logos covering it up, which is saying something since they barely cover them as it is.
14. MOON KNIGHT #15
Moon Knight is something of an underrated hero in the Marvel Universe, so there hasn’t been as much attention lately given the love that’s gone towards the Defenders on Netflix. This issue isn’t particularly special on its own, but “Moon Knight” #15 features a beautiful cover by Miller, whose talents are on display with the titular hero taking up most of the cover via his cape in the shape of a crescent moon. Miller threw the moon in there as well while Moon Knight is throwing his crescent-shaped weapon towards the bottom.
The story inside is called “Moon Knight – Assassin?” and it deals with the morality of Moon Knight’s alter ego, Marc Spector, particularly when set against the introduction of his new enemy, Xenos. Spector questions his own actions due to a string of headaches he thinks might be a rogue personality acting without his knowledge. While the issue itself isn’t the greatest Moon Knight story ever told, the beautiful cover work makes up for it and definitely earns itself a place on this list.
13. DARK HORSE PRESENTS 100 #1
“Dark Horse Presents 100” was an excellent platform for creators to feature short stories with their own characters. DHP is where Miller first introduced the world to “Sin City” and he also wrote and penciled a story within this issue called “Lance Blastoff.” Many artists contributed to the book, but Miller was chosen for the cover and he created a stunning image of his character flying via jetpack to the open jaws of a very large dinosaur just to let it know, “You’re lunch, pal!”
Lance Blastoff has only ever appeared in four comics; this was the first, and it tells the story of Blastoff, a fella’ with no superpowers, but a hell of a lot of guts and gadgets. He travels to Dinosaur Planet to save a woman from a T-Rex and then sleeps with her. It may sound like a perfect story for the pages of “Heavy Metal” magazine, but it made it into DHP 100 #1, and as an inaugural issue, it did a hell of a job.
12. X-O MANOWAR #7
If you aren’t familiar with X-O Manowar, think of him as a cross between Iron Man, The Guyver and Captain America: a Visigoth warrior stolen from his home by aliens, imbued with an incredibly powerful suit of armor and returned to earth centuries later, into the modern age. The series was launched as a part of the Valiant Universe back in the early ’90s under the leadership of Jim Shooter. “X-O Manowar” #7, written by Bob Layton and penciled by Miller and Mike Leeke, has one of the better covers of the series and it has a lot to do with Miller’s work.
You can see the main character busting through a wall, which is not unusual for the series — issues 6, 7, 9, and 11 all featured him busting out of one wall or another — but Miller’s illustration just captured the action better than any others. Valiant’s line of comics featured a lot of cover art by Miller who was chosen to illustrate a number of titles as well. We decided to settle on only two examples for this list of his best covers, but you should also check out his work on “Archer & Armstrong” #1, as well as “Eternal Warrior” #1, both published in August 1992.
11. RAI #6
“Rai” #6, written by David Michelinie and penciled by Miller, was another book published by Valiant in 1992 as part of the Unity event. Rai is a biogenetic hero who was engineered to be the protector of New Japan in the year 4000 CE. In this issue, Rai must join with the Eternal Warrior to help save New Japan as well as time itself in the ongoing conflict that is Unity. Rai recruits Magnus (the robot fighter) to aid him in his battle with Mothergod in the Lost Land. Mothergod threatens to drive New Japan back to Earth, destroying it if Rai doesn’t leave and after he refuses, he must watch as the nation he was created to protect falls.
The cover of this issue is absolutely amazing. There’s a lot going on as you can see and it’s all composed within the center of the cover beautifully. Rai is slicing into an armored enemy through the skull down into the torso while a woman in a kimono watches in either horror or amazement, or both. The action in this scene is classic Miller and it combined well with the other artful covers used in the Unity crossover event, not to mention as a worthy addition to Miller’s personal library.
10. ELEKTRA SAGA #4
The “Elektra Saga” was a four-issue miniseries written, penciled and inked by Miller in 1984. It focuses on the return of Elektra from the land of the dead and features some content from “Daredevil” issues already covered in this list (and others). The series was almost entirely done by Miller, and while each of the four books has an amazing cover, the fourth has, in our opinion, the very best. This is yet another example of Miller’s amazing style and composition.
Featured prominently front and center is Elektra grasping a sword, yet she isn’t looking defiantly at the reader; rather, she is looking down. We see her pain and her struggle in this image and it is palpable. Miller’s work on “Daredevil” and the “Elektra Saga” helped to truly solidify the character as a staple in the Daredevil universe and even though the solo “Elektra” film was absolutely terrible, it was heavily influenced by his work. Perhaps a remake is in order?
9. BATMAN BLACK AND WHITE #2
Multiple creators were tasked to work on the “Batman: Black and White” series in order to bring about short, independent stories of the Dark Knight. Miller became involved with the project with the second issue, wherein he provided pencils for the interior as well as this amazing cover design. Batman is represented in much the same way as Marv was in Miller’s “Sin City: The Hard Goodbye,” where the contrast between light and dark are so well defined. The cover art could have been taken straight out of “Sin City,” but you can still see it as what it truly is: Batman getting ready for some serious business.
Miller has an amazing talent at composition, which is perfectly displayed with this cover. Batman takes up the bottom half while the title and icons are in the top, but the rain streaking through the sky juxtaposed with the red coloration perfectly balances the piece making for an amazing cover. The stories inside were written by Chuck Dixon, Jan Strnad, John Workman, Kent Williams, Walter Simonson, and Neil Gaiman covering five separate stories. The book itself is a great read, but it is made even greater with the amazing cover art.
8. DAREDEVIL #179
Frank Miller’s work on Daredevil in the ’80s was instrumental in creating the character we see today in comics and the hit Netflix series currently awaiting its third season. Miller worked on quite a lot of issues, so it took some time to nail down only a few that we loved. We are covering them here in the order they were published, starting with “Daredevil” #179, written and penciled by Miller. This issue delved into an encounter between Matt and Elektra, which ended with a wall collapsing on our daring hero. Throughout the fight (and much of the issue), the story is told by Ben Urich, who photographed the fight. When he coughs after the wall falls, Elektra turns and throws her Sai right at the intrepid reporter and of course, she doesn’t miss.
The cover Miller designed for the issue tells a tale all its own. Elektra is holding the pierced and tattered remains of Daredevil’s mask while looking upon it triumphantly. The subtitle, “…somebody had to win” does a fair job of telling the reader that Matt Murdock is going to get his ass handed to him in the pages within, making it a truly enticing image.
7. DAREDEVIL #182
“Daredevil” #182, written and penciled by Miller, continues the story after the supposed death of Daredevil’s beloved, Elektra. Matt convinces himself that Elektra isn’t dead and even goes to far as to dig up her grave. The other parts of the issue deal with the Punisher’s time in prison and his escape, whereupon he kills a number of inmates and finally takes out the last man standing, who turns out to be a 14-year-old boy. It’s a compelling issue with an amazing story, but the cover is why we are talking about it here; and as you can see, it’s quite telling all on its own.
Matt is kneeling above Elektra’s grave while holding her tombstone in his arms. What’s so interesting about this is that Matt doesn’t have his mask on, but is clearly wearing the rest of his uniform. You can really see the anguish and desperation in his face as he grieves for his lost love; a credit to Miller’s emotive art. There’s a lot on display in this one, which is why it absolutely had to make the cut for one of the top “Daredevil” covers of all time.
6. DAREDEVIL #184
The story arc “Child’s Play” comes to a conclusion in this amazing issue written and penciled by Miller. After successfully defending a young boy named Billy in the killing of Joey (the partner of a man called Hogman who was responsible for Billy’s sister’s death), Matt then defends Hogman, who he believed innocent of the crime due to his heartbeat. Matt later learns that Hogman has a pacemaker and was lying about killing Joey so Daredevil goes after him, intent on taking him in. Before he closes in, The Punisher (who recently broke out of prison) comes into play and goes after Hogman, also intent on killing him.
Both men take out Hogman and his flunkies, which gives Daredevil ample opportunity to pick up one of the thug’s guns and shoot the Punisher so he could be taken back to prison. The cover for this issue speaks for itself in a number of ways. We see Daredevil holding something you never expected to see in his hands: a gun. The subtitle, “No more mister nice guy” tells the reader that something bad is going to happen — Daredevil is pissed, and he isn’t fooling around.
5. 300 #1
If you saw the film “300,” you are probably already aware that it was based on Miller’s creator-owned masterpiece. “300” was published in May of 1998 in a five-issue miniseries that covered the Battle of Thermopylae as told from the perspective of the Spartan King Leonidas and his trusted comrade, Dilios, who was the only member of the Spartan 300 to survive the battle. The film the book inspired took direct shot-for-shot inspiration from the panels of the book and remained true to both its artwork and inspiration.
To be fair to Miller, every issue featured an amazing cover, each depicting the basis of the story told within. We decided to go with the first book because it alone speaks for the series. Once again, we can see Miller’s unique style of illustration coupled with his long-time collaborator, Lynn Varley’s amazing color work. We see a Phalanx of elite Spartan soldiers clearly in motion towards a common enemy while arrows fly towards them. These men will not back down and their forcefulness is clearly depicted in the drawing. Just looking at the cover tells the reader that an incredible story awaits them within.
4. SIN CITY: THE HARD GOODBYE
“Sin City” was an amazing addition to the genre of crime noir and it was written and beautifully illustrated by Miller. “The Hard Goodbye” is a collection of stories originally published in “Dark Horse Presents” issues 51-62 and it tells the story of Marv, a brutish enforcer who goes on a suicidal rampage against the people who murdered the only girl he ever loved, Goldie. You may recall the plot from the “Sin City” film as it was the main inspiration alongside other storylines from the series.
One of the aspects of Miller’s art in the series that made it stand out was his very limited use of color. In much the same way Stephen Spielberg used limited coloring in his film, “Schindler’s List”, Miller only colored key plot devices throughout the series, which added to the impact of its storytelling. The cover used in the compilation featured here is a great example of Miller’s use of contrasting imagery. Marv is barely more than a silhouette, but it’s clear he’s got a gun, he’s pissed off all to hell and somebody is going to pay.
3. THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS #1
It was difficult to limit ourselves to any of the four covers Miller penciled for his amazing series, “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns,” so we decided to use two for this list. First and foremost, we had to go with the first issue. This cover is iconic and yet, somewhat simplistic in terms of a Batman book. As we all know by now, Miller is able to make a silhouette do more than most artists can with a fully-detailed character sketch and he didn’t shy away from his unique style for this cover. Batman drops down before a night sky while a bolt of lightning streaks behind him, cutting a swatch of bright color and an intimidating silhouette on an otherwise empty cover.
The silhouette is perfect for this image since the night is completely dark with only the light from the bolt of lightning illuminating anything. There is a whitish-blue glow of light surrounding the bolt and it is this flash that allows the reader to see the Dark Knight in the first place. It’s a brilliant way to compose one of the oldest and most iconic superheroes of all time and it truly made for an amazing cover to an incredible book; one that has been paid homage to many times over on other titles within the medium.
2. WOLVERINE #1 (Miniseries)
Wolverine is one of the most well-known badasses in comics. The recent release of “Logan” is certainly a testament to how beloved the character is, but it wasn’t always like that. Wolverine was fairly unknown when Marvel launched his four-issue titular miniseries back in 1982. He had been a feature of the “X-Men” since the new team formed in “Giant-Size X-Men” #1, written by Len Wein and penciled by Dave Cockrum, but this was prior to his own ongoing series, which debuted in 1988.
Miller was given the honor of bringing Wolverine to the masses with his first miniseries and he did it perfectly. We see Logan in all his glory on the cover of the issue with his claws popped just begging you to come over and mess with him. You know this is someone you don’t want to mess with just by looking at the cover. The issue sold well and has become a great addition to any true fan’s collection. In many ways, this cover and the pages inside (also illustrated by Miller) helped to make Wolverine the hero he is today.
1. THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS #4
Our final choice for the greatest Frank Miller cover of all time had to be none other than the fourth book in the “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” series. Many might hit up the comments complaining that we didn’t go with number two, but this book made it to the top of the list due to the symbolism of the cover, the amazing style it showcased and the long-lasting impact it had on the industry. You might have seen a less-than awesome film called “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.”
The two most iconic characters in comic book history (it’s Batman and Superman for crying out loud!) are facing off in a battle between titans. On the high ground, we see the Man of Steel himself, Superman and below with more weapons and armor than a normal man can carry is the Dark Knight, Batman! It’s a beautiful rendition done in Miller’s impressive silhouette style. There really couldn’t have been any other Miller cover we could honor with the top spot on this list.
Which of Frank Miller’s covers is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!