For dedicated comic book fans a memorable cover can take you back to the time when you read the story for the first time—and maybe even to the time you bought that particular issue. I can recall the first time I ‘discovered’ Conan the Barbarian when I was a wee lad and bought Conan #42 (for a whole quarter!) with that gorgeous John Buscema cover of Conan fighting a gargoyle in mid-air. The long-running industry publication The Comic Buyer’s Guide presents this book of comics’ most famous covers.
Obviously this kind of a book is a subjective process. After all, what makes a great comic book cover? Is it because it was done by a great artist? Is it the design? Is it the fact that it was a monumental issue because of a first appearance or a character death? The fact is that it can be all of those and more. The editors at the Comic Buyer’s Guide (canceled just this month after 42 years of publication) decide to take a categorized approach to their decisions. Rather than just saying, “here are the greatest covers”, they present them in a series of categories. Some are pedestrian like “Golden Age Gotchas” or “Silver Age Stunners”. But others are far more exotic like “Gangway” which presents a handful of great covers where a character is literally busting through the front cover and breaking down the Fourth Wall; or “Cheesy Cheesecake” which shows off famous covers of scantily clad female heroes. There are sections devoted to EC Comics, Kid’s Comics, character deaths,
The Golden Age section includes covers you’d expect to see like Action #1, Marvel Comics #1, Detective #27, and Captain America #1. A section called “Waving the Flag” highlights several patriotic covers including Fred Ray’s legendary cover to Superman #16, and Captain Marvel #16 featuring Marvel and Uncle Sam by C.C. Beck.
On one hand it’s hard to argue against the covers included in the book because they have set them within so many unique categories of its own creation. I mean X-Men #142, Hulk # 181, Green Lantern #40, Showcase #4, Giant Size X-Men #1…they are all here just like you would expect. These are some of the most memorable and most important comics of all-time. It’s harder to put more modern comics into the category of greatest of all time because these things are usually work themselves out over many years, sometimes even decades. It’s rare that a new comic can hit that pinnacle.
While I can’t pick against and of their choices, certainly there are those covers that I think should have been included…Notable among these are Avengers #57 with the first appearance of the Vision; Silver Surfer #4 with the brilliant Thor Vs. Silver Surfer cover; Batman: The Killing Joke; and Justice league #1 from the 1980s. I could go on and on but you get the picture. But it’s fun the way the CBG editors have classified the covers and it gives the book more a little more meat.
There are a couple of editorial gaffes In the book where the picture doesn’t match the entry and it’s always a little surprising when things like that make it to press.