Sunday, October 14, 2007

Cover Comments

Over at Comics Should be Good, Brian Cronin usually posts commentary regarding the covers shown in each month's Marvel and DC solicitations. Here are links to his comments on DC and Marvel comics solicited for release this coming December.

Personally, I have no idea what he is talking about, but I think he is looking at the covers with an artist's eye, so I'm sure we have different standards regarding a comic book cover and its purpose. Myself, I think the covers of most titles published by the Big 2 are rather pointless. If the cover doesn't actually reflect the contents of the comic to which it is attached--that is, a cover presenting some moment from the comic itself rather than a meaningless picture of the lead character(s) and drawn by a different artist then the one drawing the interior--the point of the cover is rendered moot.

Suffice to say, I have little love for covers as they are currently used. In my opinion, a cover is meant to sell a comic to people who wouldn't necessarily buy that comic and I think most mainstream covers don't serve that purpose. In fact, because the audience for comic books is so insular, bought by people who know what they want long before they walk in the door, I would go so far as to say that having a newly drawn cover each month isn't necessary. I do not think sales would be adversely affected if each month both of the Big 2 had blank covers except for the company logo, title logo, and UPC. To make it easier for the consumer, the covers for a month's worth of comics from each company would be printed in a different color. For instance, for comics published in November, Marvel comics could have green covers and DC comics blue covers. Come December, Marvel's might be yellow and DC's red, January another pair of colors and so on.

At one time I planned on presenting a group of covers from the December solicitations as the ones I found particularly annoying, but some things aren't possible, mainly because I misplaced the flash drive with the covers I'd chosen and I'm too busy to gather them again. However, that doesn't mean I can't offer a few, at least the few I had sense enough to upload before losing the drive.

All Star Superman #10

This cover, at least, doesn't suffer from what I consider one of the primal sins on covers today: presenting the image so close up that the action is lost. Can't have a wider shot than one that shows a giant Superman ready to catch the Earth if it were too fall. However, I have to ask if anyone else thinks Superman looks like Dick Van Dyke?

Countdown Special:  The Atom 80 Pg. Special #1

This is a great example of a bad cover, if that statement is based on what I wrote a few paragraphs back. As part of DC's plan to reprint everything even tangentially related to events in Countdown, DC is reprinting some pretty obscure comics. In truth, the stories that will be in this issue; and the next, it runs for two issues; are probably pretty germane to Ray and Jean Palmers' story that began in Identity Crisis, as the stories show the Atom's search for Jean after she went off the deep-end (again). However, is there anything about this picture that relates that information? The stories reprinted are from Super-Team Family, so not only do the stories feature Atom, but at various time Supergirl, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Aquaman, Captain Atom, and Wonder Woman also appear. Is that information presented by the cover? For everything that image tells me, the cover might just as well be a solid color.

Bat Lash #1

The phrase "continuity porn" is thrown around a lot these days, usually in reference to the mainstream comics from the Big 2, though, I guess, there are people who are actually concerned about continuity in pornography and are "taken out of the story" because of some silly little error. I don't necessarily agree with the reasoning behind the phrase, but the covers offered for the first issue of Bat Lash kind of supports the continuity porn concept.

What do I mean? Let's assume that there is going to be a logo for the comic and all the other particulars common to mainstream covers. Ok, after that, what is there about any of these covers that tells you what or who is a "Bat Lash?" A knowledgeable comic fan might purchase it because of the creators involved or because he knows the name "Bat Lash" from either seeing the character on Justice League Unlimited or recognizing the name from house ads in DC comic books printed in the late sixties, early seventies. An unknowing fan might think it related to the Batman titles in some way. I give both covers, the issue ships with a variant cover, credit for showing action scenes that I'll assume actually occur in the story, but is there anything on those covers that would make a unknowing person want to buy this comic? Western comics, in general don't sell and haven't sold for decades, so the genre isn't the selling point. DC must expect to make sales based upon the name only and since the name is recognizable only to comic-book fans, Bat Lash is a form of continuity porn.

Compare those covers with select examples from the first Bat Lash run:

I think these serve to describe the character much better than the newer covers. They tell a potential buyer the comic is a Western, one that may not take itself too seriously, with a central character who may nor walk the straight and narrow consistently.

Good thing I didn't post more covers.