Comic book covers serve one major purpose – sell the comic! Throughout the decades, selling the comic with a cover meant showing the characters in dire straits and facing extreme peril. Would Superman survive? Maybe, maybe not! Gotta read the issue and find out! Ultimately, most of these covers were intentionally used to make readers expect one thing, but then subvert their expectations by taking a big turn during the issue. You thought Superman was going to die, but guess what? He lives! Hooray!
Well, that’s what’s supposed to happen with comic book covers. Sometimes, though, the cover of the comic gives away everything that happens in the issue. Instead of showing Superman on the edge of defeat, DC would just show a tattered cape in rubble, and proudly proclaim that this issue contains “The Death of Superman!” Sometimes they would try to be more subtle, but anyone with half a brain can put two and two together to figure out what’s going to happen. In a couple special cases, subtlety is thrown out the window in favor of just flat-out giving away exactly what’s going to happen. Let’s span the decades and take a look at 15 of the worst examples of comic book covers that contain major spoilers! Needless to say, spoiler alert!
15 FINAL CRISIS HARDCOVER
Final Crisis isn’t the best comic book event of all time, to put it mildly. Now, almost a decade later, most readers would be hard-pressed to list off any major plot points of the series. Well, that is, except for one – Batman dies. Really, the only memorable part of the series is the image of Superman holding a dead, withered-away corpse of Bruce Wayne, aka Batman.
That image is pretty incredible, however it gives away the only huge spoiler of the series. So, why oh why would DC put that on the cover of the Final Crisis hardcover collected edition? Did the publisher honestly think that the only people buying the hardcover would be those who read the series? We would bet money that there were some shocked fans who looked at the cover and were amazed to find out that the series’ most emotional moment is spoiled right there on the cover. It’s akin to Fox putting the image of X-23 crying over a dead Wolverine on the cover of the Blu-ray for Logan.
14 ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST OMNIBUS
In the late-'00s, Marvel was going through a bit of a cosmic renaissance. Their oft-forgotten cosmic characters, led by Nova and the Guardians of the Galaxy, were in the middle of massive universe-shattering events under the Annihilation banner. One such event is collected inside the Annihilation: Conquest Omnibus, with a particularly spoilerific cover.
Conquest tells the story of the cosmic heroes fighting against the Phalanx, led by an unknown villain. Throughout the early part of the story, the heroes are trying to figure out who’s pulling the strings. Ultimately, it’s revealed to be longtime Avengers villain Ultron. However, the mystery is completely ruined if you buy the Omnibus, which sports a cover featuring none other than Ultron sitting atop a throne. From the minute you glance at the cover and begin reading, you’ll be anticipating the villains arrival.
13 BATMAN #24
Second printings of issues serve a couple purposes for publishers. First and foremost, they give readers a chance to pick up an issue of something that originally sold out. Also, these issues routinely feature new covers that are deemed must-buys by completionist collectors. Even though they’re normally shipped weeks after the initial release of the first printing, that’s no excuse for those comics to feature a spoiler.
In the recent Batman #24, Batman proposes to Catwoman. When the original issue hit, it featured a cover with Batman embracing Catwoman, but no context or hint of a proposal. The issue quickly sold out, as you would imagine, and DC went back to the printers with a new cover for the second printing. Unfortunately for readers who stayed away from the reveal until they could buy the second printing, the new cover featured the EXACT SAME IMAGE as the first printing, but with a little word balloon saying, “Marry me.” Ugh.
12 ANIMAL MAN #19
Grant Morrison’s Animal Man run is one of the most ground-breaking of the 1980s. Well before Morrison became a household name for turning superhero tropes on their heads, he took over a failing comic series and decided to test out all of his insane ideas, leading to one of the coolest reveals in comic history. However, the reveal is almost completely spoiled by the cover.
After 18 issues of Animal Man trying to figure out his place in the universe, and why these strange events keep taking place, issue 19 gives him a drug-induced spirit quest where he breaks the fourth wall, understanding he’s a character in a story and telling the reader that he can see you. It’s something so outrageous and weird that it should have really made heads explode. Unfortunately, the cover, while not explicit, shows Animal Man interacting with a comic book page, clearly showing that this issue will deal with fourth wall breaking.
11 SUPERMAN #75
You had to be living under a rock in 1993 if you didn’t know that Superman was going to die at the hands of the villain known as Doomsday. DC Comics was never shy about hyping up “The Death of Superman” story. However, creators went above and beyond to make sure not only that readers would be aware that in Superman #75, Supes bites the big one, but also the exact scene in which it takes place.
The cover for Superman #75 has the title “The Death of Superman,” with Superman’s cape being draped like a flag over rubble in Metropolis. If you weren’t aware that Superman was going to die, the cover makes sure you know what to expect, and exactly where it happens. The cape is seen tattered, in the exact same position, at the end of the issue, as well. For those who bought the limited-edition version, the cover had a bloody “S” logo and a black armband inside. DC really wanted readers to know that Superman was totally going to die.
10 AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #50
As far as monumental spoilers go, the reveal given away on the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #50 isn’t as Earth-shattering as some others. However, the shock of seeing Peter Parker literally throw away the Spider-Man costume should have had a much bigger impact than it did to readers in 1967. Kids across the country should have seen that image of the costume in the trash and gasped. However, the name of the story, and the cover, clearly show that it’s going to happen. This allowed kids to prepare for the moment.
Now, over 50 years later, everyone who is familiar with the history of Spider-Man comics knows the iconic cover and the storyline, so there’s nothing shocking about the reveal. But just imagine how much more impactful the first installment of the story could have been if the big plot point was hidden!
9 CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS #7
Imagine it’s 1985 and you’re deep into reading DC’s massive Crisis on Infinite Earths. The series has so many shocking twists and turns. You eagerly anticipate the next chapter. What’s going to happen in issue 7? You hurry to buy #7 and glance at the cover. You see a crying Superman holding the lifeless body of Supergirl, while the entirety of the DC Universe watches and mourns. Well, dang. It’s an incredible image, but really gives away a key moment, don’t you think?
It’s particularly egregious when you think of the other massive death in the series, which is merely hinted at on the next issue’s cover. They didn’t show Flash’s dead body, instead just saying “The Final Fate of the Flash” on the cover of issue 8. However, for poor Supergirl, they give the entire shocking reveal away on the cover of #7. Nowadays, the spoiler image is synonymous with the series.
8 BATMAN #497
One could argue, in retrospect, that Batman’s back-breaking at the hands of Bane is far from the most important part of the “Knightfall” story. However, the moment is clearly the most memorable from the run, and single-handedly made Bane one of Batman’s most feared villains. The moment depicting Bane breaking Batman’s back, in Batman #497, is so violent and scary that it should have made readers cry. But like so many spoiler-y covers, the image of Bane violently beating Batman is shown in great detail to the fan before they read the first panel.
Not only does a reader see the cover and know that the long-awaited Bane versus Batman fight is going to happen, but also that Bane wins by slamming Batman’s back over his knee. That completely takes away any suspense. In a pre-Internet era, it’s hard to imagine that many fans had any idea this was going to happen until they purchased the issue.
7 GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW #85
If you’re a person of a certain age, you might remember those after-school specials that would tackle such hard-hitting subjects as sex and drug use. There were also “very important episodes” of some of your favorite sitcoms that would shine light on issues as well. Comics were no different. One of the most famous comics to tackle a social issue was Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85. This issue had a story called “Snowbirds Don’t Fly,” which revealed that longtime Green Arrow sidekick Speedy was actually addicted to drugs.
The reveal in the issue was supposed to show that drugs could affect anyone, especially young people. However, to draw more attention to the issue, DC decided to use the cover to show the big reveal, hammering home the whole plot point with dialogue between Green Lantern and Green Arrow, as well as a banner saying “DC attacks youth’s greatest problem… drugs!” Let’s just say, the cover was full-on spoiler-y, with not even a hint of subtlety.
6 ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #13
Ultimate Spider-Man #13 is one of the best issues of the entire series, hands down. In the modern Spider-Man reboot, Peter and Mary Jane are best friends. After his early exploits as Spider-Man, Peter realizes that he has to come clean to MJ. What transpires is one of the best written issues of the series, with Peter unmasking for MJ. And as Spider-Man fans know, Peter unmasking for ANYONE should be huge news.
But if you bought the issue and didn’t realize that was going to happen, the cover definitely gave it away. Featuring Peter’s hand holding up the unmistakable Spider-Man mask, the cover indicated that he is showing it to someone. That alone would be a big spoiler, as is. However, artist Mark Bagley goes a step further by showing the reflection of MJ in the mask, indicating that Peter shows the mask to MJ, specifically.
5 CAPTAIN AMERICA #25
Marvel’s original Civil War series was such a massive success that it set into motion the idea of event-series as a common occurrence. The series, which pitted Captain America against Iron Man, has become one of the most popular events ever to take place in the Marvel Universe. The series famously ended with Captain America giving up, and allowing authorities to arrest him, with tears in his eyes. But that wasn’t the real ending.
No, the real ending took place in Captain America #25, where Cap is shown being led by authorities to a court house, where he’s assassinated. Captain America’s death was so shocking, the news was by hundreds of media outlets all over the world. But for those that just went to their comic shop to buy the issue, Cap’s death was immediately spoiled by the cover, showing Cap’s lifeless, bloody hand with the handcuffs undone. The title of the storyline is “Death of the Dream.” Doesn’t take a detective to figure that out.
4 X-MEN #42
There are spoilers on covers, and then there are SPOILERS on covers. Way back in 1968, Stan Lee and artist John Buscema weren’t trying to fool anyone with their cover for X-Men #42. The cover image itself isn’t so bad, as it depicts the individual X-Men shocked at what looks like a silhouette of Professor X falling out of his wheel chair. It’s the text on the issue that really tell readers what to expect.
The cover says, in bigger font than the title of the series itself, “THE DEATH OF PROFESSOR X.” Now, there have been comics with proclamations like that before. Normally, it’s a sensationalized misdirect to get readers to buy the issue. However, this issue goes a step further with even more text below saying, “NOT A HOAX! NOT A DREAM! NOT AN IMAGINARY TALE! THIS IS FOR REAL!” Wow. Spoiler alert: Professor X dies in this issue.
3 BATMAN, INC. #8
When Damian Wayne was introduced by writer Grant Morrison during his famous Batman run, people were split. The idea of the new Robin being this slightly-murderous kid, who happened to be Batman’s lovechild, was a lot for some fans to handle. However, over time, the character became a fan-favorite and embraced by Batman fans worldwide. Just when the Damian love-fest started happening, Morrison decided to kill him.
Of course, such a huge moment in Batman’s life should be a shock for any reader picking up the issue. This is the death of his son! Unfortunately, in an homage to an earlier Batman cover, the Batman, Inc. #8 cover featured Damian Wayne as Robin, floating like a ghost, with “R.I.P” under his body. This pretty much told anyone purchasing the comic that this is the issue where Damian dies. Any other cover idea would have been better than giving away a key plot point like that.
2 ASTONISHING X-MEN #4
There was so much hype surrounding writer Joss Whedon’s run on X-Men. After Grant Morrison spent years shaking up the mutant status quo, Whedon was going to come in and bring some fun, classic X-Men stories back to the Marvel Universe in his Astonishing X-Men series. Early on, Whedon decided to bring back a dead mutant that was a fan-favorite – Colossus. It was supposed to be a huge surprise. That is, until Marvel goes and releases a cover with the characters face on it. Oops.
Granted, it was a variant cover, but still, Astonishing X-Men #4, with the surprise return on Colossus, features a cover with none other than Colossus on it. While it doesn’t give away any of the context, the fact that his unmistakable face is on the cover is a pretty big hint that the character was probably going to return in the issue.
1 LIFE WITH ARCHIE #36
What would be the most shocking thing that could happen in a comic series called Life with Archie? Clearly, that would be killing off Archie Andrews! That’s exactly what they did in Life with Archie #36. The plot featured Archie Andrews taking a bullet for his friend, and Senator, Kevin Keller. Much like the death of Captain America, the major media outlets picked up on this plot well before the issue was released, spoiling it for anyone who watched the news.
However, if you were able to avoid all spoilers, and were just a big fan of Archie, you probably were shocked when you picked up the issue and saw the cover featuring Betty and Veronica kneeling over the dead body of Archie, who is sporting a gunshot wound to his stomach. The only thing that would have made this cover more spoiler-filled is if it said “Archie takes a bullet for Kevin!”