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August 30, 2004

Iconic Covers (and Why They Are Bad for Comics)

Written by: Randy Jackson

There’s been a trend of late for the monthly comics to begin using what are called “iconic covers”, or to further explain, covers that basically consist of a pin-up of the main characters. Something quite suitable for a poster, in all honesty.

Well, that’s all well and good, but does it really serve the sales of the comic at all? Does the pin-up of the titular character attract the eye the way it should? Will this cover sway my desire to purchase this particular issue?

Once upon a time, covers were designed to attract the attention of the comics buyer, most particularly the “casual reader”, those readers who are just looking for something fun and cool to read. Usually, a tense scene from within the comic would be used for the cover as some sort of representation of the story within. These days, all we seem to get are pin-ups.

Here’s a glaring example. This is the cover from Green Lantern #179:


Here’s an image from within the comic that I think should have been the cover:


Which would you be more likely to buy? The cover showing Kyle charging his ring, or the cover showing Kyle fighting with John (I’m making a bit of an assumption here that you readers know exactly who I’m talking about, so just for a little bit of background, Kyle is the current primary Green Lantern, while John Stewart is an alternate that’s been filling his spot in the Justice League for a while during the time that Kyle was in space attempting to deal with the Black Circle)? Personally, I know which one I’d be more likely to pick up if I were looking for a casual buy.

Given the current state of the comics industry, particularly in terms of sales of single issues (not that they’re bad, but they could be one heck of a lot better) I would think that the main companies would be making every effort possible to sell as many single issues as they can, but I can’t imagine that this type of cover really helps sales in any way. Yes, it looks nice, but it also looks, well, dull. There’s little indication that anything of real interest is going on in this comic, and therefore I think one would be less inclined to pick it up. However, the other image I suggested would be (in my estimation) much more likely to elicit interest in the casual Green Lantern fan.

Here’s another recent example of a cover that really doesn’t work, verses what should have been used--She-Hulk #6:


I think this would have been more interesting:


While the cover image is striking, it certainly would not grab the same interest as the one I’m proposing, which does give some idea as to what’s happening in the story within the comic.

I suppose that the powers that be at DC and Marvel and their counterparts feel that they are going the right way with things, but it really seems to me as if they would better serve themselves to save the iconic covers for trade paperbacks.

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