One of the comic covers that I truly enjoy is Brian Bolland’s cover to Prog 2000 of 2000AD. To me, it was a fresh take on the iconic Iwo Jiwa picture where the flag of the United States was raised to signify the end of the hard fought battle to capture that island as part of the Pacific campaign. I also liked the fact that Brian paid homage to many of the comics that had been and gone before 2000AD had reached the milestone of surviving 23 years.
Without trying too hard, I can spot two issues of Revolver, Crisis, Action, Judge Dredd reprint comics and many more. But when I express my enjoyment of this cover, one of my friends, who is much better versed in US comics than I, pointed out how this image has become a well worn trope in American comics. We can find that it was first used by Speed Comics in July 1945 to promote their comic and must have been one of the last comics to exhort US citizens to buy war bonds.
Not to mention it has been used by Justice League of America, L.E.G.I.O.N, Dark Avenger and Captain America to mention a few other examples. However, of the ones that I have found, a favourite has to be the Blackhawk issue 258 from 1983 drawn by Howard Chaykin.
Now that got me to thinking, what other images have been used so many times that they have become a visual trope? One image that springs to mind is the one that was created by the Beatles for their seminal album Abbey Road.
It has been used by many comics so here is a selection. The one that made me smile the most is the Archie and Jughead one as I just enjoying seeing American culture riffing on British culture. It is nice to see that we still have a modicum of influence on the world.
The goriest take has to be this Deadpool variant cover from the X-Men series.
While not technically the cover of a comic, I did say a few months back that I would reference all things geeky and this mash-up between the Simpsons and the Beatles just had to be added. Plus one of our local ice-cream vans features this on the back of the van so someone is trying to spread a bit of geek culture as they serve up Calippos and 99s.
And this one has recently featured on BBC TV so I could not ignore this one, could I? This is an advert for the British TV show Doctor Who. While most readers of this blog will be well aware of the show, I have to take into account that someone will pick this up and have no idea who or what Doctor Who is.
And the last trope I am going to deal with in this article is the Crosshairs cover. Don’t get me wrong, it is a great idea and when it is done properly, it just looks amazing, but time and time again, someone feels the need to gild the lily on this simple visual. The ones that work brilliantly are normally the ones where you have no additional visual. All you have is the crosshair imposed on the target and it is a powerful image. The ones that are mediocre are the ones where people feel the need to add extra elements. However, there is one exception to that rule and I will add it as the final image to this article.
We can see that this is a fairly effective cover, but a lot is lost with the crosshairs only being in the centre of the front page. As we can see from the next two images, Marvel loved the format of the image so much, it was used not only for the first appearance of The Punisher in 1976, it was also used for the launch of the Dark Reign run in 2008.
Again, I think the effectiveness is diminished by the crosshair pictured being superimposed against another picture. In this case, it is the shooter that is added to the cover. However, for our US selection, DC takes the cup as it features the simple yet effective picture of Supergirl being squarely in the sights of an unknown shooter. Technically, I think the Punisher covers are slightly better drawn, but the composition of this cover more than makes up for that in my eyes.
However, for my money, you just can’t beat the British comics for the impact of a great cover. Here Ian Kennedy is showing his ability to draw anything to its’ full effect. And his playing with the perspective of having the Panther gun stick through the crosshairs is one of the few times when it works to have something more than just the target showing on the cover. This is definitely one of the better examples of a crosshair cover that you are liable to see.
But let’s finish off with the one example of a cover when you can have an element other than the crosshair target on the cover and make it an effective cover and again we are stepping back into the 1970s. And it is by no less an artist than Dave Gibbons. This is one of the few times where I have seen a crosshair picture feature on a cover where it is not the main element. And by having it as a background element of the picture, the effect of having the shooter as part of the cover enhances the cover rather than diminishes it
Images (c) Rebellion, Archie Comics, Marvel, DC, DC Thomsons and BBC.