The comic book cover is the first thing most potential buyers see, so there’s a lot of effort behind them. The best covers will have great artwork, show something related to the story, and grab the attention of anyone who sees them. It’s not an easy task, and the company has a lot riding on them. Some covers are so successful that they become more popular and well-known than the comic’s contents. However, for every successful and memorable cover, there are a few dozen that became famous for the wrong reasons.
Especially with the internet, where images are shared on forums and social media, some comic book covers have become infamous among fans. In some cases, the artwork has struck fans as a little strange. In other covers (especially from the Silver or Golden Age), the artwork is fine but the content is either suggestive or downright offensive. Other covers have odd choices in terms of the layout or the characters involved, but all of them are loved in their own special way. With new and amazing covers coming out every month, CBR wants to run down the 15 DC comic covers that drove fans crazy and still do to this day.
15. CATWOMAN #0
In 2012, a DC cover caused a controversy that went beyond just the fans. Catwoman #0 was drawn by Adriana Melo and written by Ann Nocenti with art by Adriana Melo. With a cover drawn by Guillem March, the image was one of many produced for the New 52 line with the character bursting out of the page towards the viewer.
While the artwork is great and March clearly knows his stuff, many of the fans and mainstream media criticized the cover as being unrealistic. They pointed to the extremely high angle, and the way Catwoman’s back arched seemed to be in an unrealistic style to show off her chest and prominent posterior. The controversy was so strong that DC pulled the cover and replaced it with a version showing a more realistic angle.
14. NEW TEEN TITANS #1
In 2014, Kenneth Rocafort and Will Pfeifer launched a new Teen Titans #1 that brought the team into the New 52 universe. The cover, also drawn by Rocafort, caused quite a stir among the fans who saw it. The cover shows the Teen Titans gathered and facing the viewer, and while critics agreed the artwork is great with nice detail on the face and costumes, many also found something offensive.
While some fans criticized a supposed lack of perspective in the positions of Raven and Red Robin, the art on Wonder Girl drew the brunt of the complaints. Wonder Girl is supposed to be a teenage girl in this issue, but has large breasts that look more like implants. She’s also wearing a strapless top which is a little more sexual than some people were comfortable with on a high school student. The issue sold well.
13. ACTION COMICS #58
In 1943, a notorious cover appeared in Action Comics #58 by Jack Burnley with Superman. Superman only appeared in one of the stories, written by Jerry Siegel with pencils by Sam Citron. The story itself was fine, but the cover was unrelated to it. The cover showed Superman turning a printing press that’s making a poster reading, “Superman Says: You Can Slap a Jap With War Bonds and Stamps.” As if that wasn’t clear enough, the poster had a hand slapping a stereotypical Japanese face.
Of course, this was deep in World War II when the United States was at war with Japan. DC was trying to contribute to the war effort with imagery that would be considered way too racist today. It’s an uncomfortable reminder of a different time.
12. WONDER WOMAN #205
Wonder Woman has always had a troubled history as a feminist icon. On the one hand, her costume is one of the most iconic in comics. On the other hand, it’s basically a bikini. On the one hand, she’s strong without relying on a man to validate her. On the other hand, her creator William Moulton Marston’s love of bondage meant she was tied up in practically every issue.
Even in 1973, the tradition continued. In Wonder Woman #205, Robert Kanigher and Don Heck wrote “Target Wonder Woman” about the terrorist Dr. Domino trying to get secret information by tying Wonder Woman to a missile and launching it at the city. The cover by Nick Cardy shows what many fans have seen as a suggestive image of the superhero on her back with a phallic missile between her legs.
11. WONDER WOMAN #159
Wonder Woman #159 (1966, Robert Kanigher and Ross Andru) was about the Golden Age “secret origin” of Wonder Woman, telling the backstory of how the Amazons were created by Aphrodite and Diana was formed from clay. A conflict between Aphrodite and Mars left the Amazons enslaved, with Diana leaving the island to become Wonder Woman.
The issue featured a cover that’s not badly drawn or badly formatted, but which fans have had some problems with. The cover by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito doesn’t show much of Wonder Woman except for part of her shoulder, chest and her face, but what we do see is on point. The thing fans complained about is that the cover is mostly filled up with captions about what we’re about to read. As a marketing tactic, it certainly makes you want to read the book, even if it’s not much to look at. The hand wrapping around her mouth from behind has also been derided in more modern years as a negative image.
10. SUPERMAN: MAN OF STEEL #29
Superman: Man of Steel #29, written by Louise Simonson with artwork by Jon Bogdanove, was the final issue of a 1994 story arc where Superman fought a monstrous villain named Bloodthirst who lived for thousands of years just to cause death and chaos. Bloodthirst used two other villains to cause a massacre in Metropolis.
The cover is one that is better when you know the context, though it’s an issue not all fans have read. TO the uninformed, the cover looks like a guy in leather bondage gear holding up Superman’s cape. Even if you know who Bloodthirst is, it’s still kind of funny because he’s a typical ’90s villain with huge, bulging muscles and “blood” in his name. It’s actually a great cover, especially for the time.
9. GREEN LANTERN #22
In 1946, Green Lantern #22 (Henry Kuttner, Martin Nodell) featured a Paul Reinman-drawn cover, which showed the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, watching as a tree with arms and legs spanks a cartoonishly corpulent gentleman. The cover has become notorious, especially online, where most haven’t read the actual comic. The issue had a story where Alan Scott was miniaturized to end up in a world where microscopic people fought against an army of walking plants. While there wasn’t much spanking involved, that at least explains the tree creature.
As for the other gent, that was Scott’s little-known sidekick, Dolby Dickles. He was a tough guy who had a thick New York accent and served as comedy relief. Back then, the comic was meant to appeal to kids who would love the slapstick of the cover. Of course, today, the idea of a grown man being spanked has a different meaning.
8. WONDER WOMAN #178
Wonder Woman is the most famous female superhero in comics and has been a feminist icon since her first appearance in 1941’s All Star Comics #8 (William Moulton Marston, Harry G. Peter). Yet, in the ’60s, she faced a period of losing popularity, so DC decided to change things up.
The cover of Wonder Woman #178 (Denny O’Neil, Mike Sekowsky and Dick Giordano) became a symbol of everything that went wrong for her in the ’70s. It shows Diana Prince in a mod outfit painting a big X on a picture of her Wonder Woman costume. In Wonder Woman #179, she was called back to the island of Themyscira, stripped of her magic powers and superhero identity, and returned to the modern world as a spy. Even though the big change came in #179, the shocking cover from #178 is often used to illustrate the time.
7. SHAZAM #6
In 1973, DC was one of several comic companies experimenting with using photographs on its covers or combining photos with hand-drawn artwork. Shazam #6 (Dennis O’Neil, Mike Sekowsky) is a classic example where pictures of real children sitting around a rocking chair were combined with an illustration of Captain Marvel. One child is sitting in his lap as he reads a copy of his own comic to them.
At the time, the cover was fun and unique, but modern audiences might find it a little odd. The artwork of Captain Marvel is traditional and the children have sort of a pop art feel, but some fans have found it creepy-looking instead of entertaining. It’s a very different take, though, and one that’s stirred a lot of debate since.
6. ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #600
In 2002, Adventures of Superman #600 by Joe Casey and Mike Wieringo featured a striking cover by Daniel Adel. The story followed Superman having to track down President Lex Luthor who was infected with a mind-controlling nanite. The issue was a milestone and got a lot of attention, but the cover attracted some negative publicity.
The cover shows Superman holding an American flag and has an amazing amount of detail with some beautiful coloring that gives it an iconic look. The problem is that Dan Adel is more known for his caricatures than traditional comic book art, so some fans had a problem with what seems to be an enormously cartoonish jaw on Superman. He also seems to look more bored than determined, but it’s still a great cover.
5. SUPERMAN #188
Superman #188 was written in 2003 by Chuck Austen with art by Tom Derenick. In the story, Superman suddenly became brutally violent towards low-level criminals and cruel to ordinary citizens. Lois Lane tried to find out why, and found a painful truth.
The cover by Tom Raney raised some eyebrows. It’s very well-drawn with a distinct and cartoonish style, but some of the poses struck some fans as odd. For instance, the size of Superman’s outstretched fist seems to dominate the image. It’s also not too clear if it’s his fist or his heat vision that’s breaking the wall, or both. Then there’s Lois Lane, who seems amused by the idea of being carried butt-first through a wall, leaving dust and plaster all over herself. Maybe by this point, she’s like, “Been there, done that.”
4. JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #25
In 1964, Justice League of America #25 was written by Gardner Fox with art by Mike Sekowsky and featured a classic Silver Age story about aliens who come to Earth seeking help. The aliens are being manipulated by an evil warlord who destroys any world they teleport from. The story is remembered because of the ending where the Justice League have all their limbs switched around, leaving Superman with Flash’s legs, etc.
Mike Sekowsky was also the cover artist and produced a very memorable if confusing front to the book. It seems to show the Flash being attacked by the Justice League, but not quite. Superman is swinging the Flash by his arm while Green Lantern makes a ring for the speedster to hold as Wonder Woman throws her lasso at him. It’s not really clear what’s happening, although it does fit the weird story.
3. DARK KNIGHT III: MASTER RACE #4
In 1986, Frank Miller changed the comic book industry with the miniseries The Dark Knight Returns. It was a darker, much more brutal portrayal of Batman than we’d seen before and has become a classic of the genre. Miller followed up in 2001 with The Dark Knight Strikes Again to markedly less acclaim. In 2015, Frank Miller co-wrote another sequel in The Dark Knight III: The Master Race with Brian Azzarello. We’ll be focusing on Frank Miller’s Wonder Woman variant cover for Book Four.
Frank Miller has a unique and gritty style that fits his writing, and borders on the abstract. However, some fans complained that this portrayal of Wonder Woman looks more like a gorilla than any woman at all. Still, it’s a brilliant new vision of the classic heroine and gets your attention, which is what covers are for. Some of his other concepts for covers of this series, though, are equally derided.
2. WORLD’S FINEST #54
In 1951, World’s Finest #54 was an anthology title that usually focused on the team-up between Batman and Superman, and this issue was no exception. That said, the cover has gotten a lot of attention over the years. It shows Superman, Batman and Robin all riding on a tandem bike. It’s a well-drawn cover, just like all Win Mortimer’s covers, but the theme is a head-scratcher.
Besides the oddity of the three superheroes deciding to ride on a bicycle instead of the Batmobile, Robin doing all the pedaling while the other two are sitting cross-legged behind him seems like a jerk move. It’s important to see this cover in the context of the time, when comics were written for children over adults. It’s more of a funny cartoon than an actual cover, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the content.
1. SUPERMAN #38
In 2015, Superman #38 (Geoff Johns, John Romita Jr.) was a game-changer for the superhero as he gained a new superpower in a fight with his former partner, Ulysses. As much as the superflare (which unleashes his solar power in an explosive blast) got a lot of attention, the cover seemed to get even more.
On the cover drawn by John Romita Jr., we see Superman and Ulysses locked in battle on an asteroid with a lot of Kirby Krackle going on in the background. Romita Jr. is a great artist who has produced some of the best artwork in the industry, and the amount of detail on this cover is awesome. However, some fans felt this cover’s faces and composition were off with the two-page spread giving us just a leg and floating heads on the back page.
What did you think of these DC covers? Let us know in the comments!
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