“Never judge a book by its cover.” This little moral often gets told in order for a person to not judge according to first impressions. While it is a good idea to do so for the sake of finding diamonds in the rough, reality does not always coincide that way. The biggest reason is that people do not always have all the time in the world to read all the comics to determine what is worth the read. Instead, they base both their choice on whether or not to read the comic and what kind of influence the cover has on interpreting the comic on the cover. Cover art is still one of the biggest marketing strategies employed to this day, as all the comics compete for the reader’s eye in stores and online.
First off, one of the easiest ways to nab attention is through the adage “sex sells”. For the most part, having a female character show off T & A is a guaranteed method to get at least some readers, as well as reinforcing the pervert nerd comic reader stereotype. There are way too many examples to list off, but I’ll just focus on one here. This picture shows off interest in several levels. The lowest common denominator will see two girls in rather appealing outfit duking it out. The story focused will wonder what scenario is occurring that these two heroines are fighting each other. And the artist in me is cringing because of the pose Supergirl is in just to show off her assets.
As much as I dislike that cover, at least it is depicting a scene within the story. What I find even more irredeemable are the ones that draw the reader in with an interesting cover, but the scenario never occurs within the comic. The first of these however is a shot of a bound and gagged woman that Batman is saving, but this never happens in the story. Instead the reader is drawn to it just because of the figure of the lady and the lingerie that is shown. These are probably the worst.
Now I have to admit, there are some variations of these that I actually find acceptable, only based on the comedic value within. The latter that I spoke of walks a fine line to the condition I set in the previous paragraph. There are some covers that show of a scenario that intrigues the reader, and the later explains why it happened or puts a twist to it. The most commonly known examples of this are the Silver Age Superman comics. During that age, Superman apparently put his companions into ridiculous scenarios without any justification, leading to the term “Superdickery” being coined. Now as opposed to the previous cover, this one is more entertaining because it manipulates an established character who is known to be one of the two boy scouts of DC into looking like a dick. This one particular cover is amusing because of the fact that the victim is Jimmy Olsen.
Now another standard comic cover that you see all the time is when an action hero team posing. This commonly shows of the character designs and abilities, as well as showing off how awesome the team is, if properly executed. Obviously the characters look silly if you think about it: why would they be posing like that out of the blue? Unless integrated with an action scene, it’s meant completely for the readers in the story sense. This one shows off the DC big name superheroes. Batman and Supes here don’t need much action because they are already well known enough and Cyborg shows off his hardware. Wonder Woman uses her signature rope, the Flash sparks to show lightning that is typically associated with speed. The Green Lantern show an application of his abilities, while poor Aquaman is relegated to the back in a rather mundane pose. The lines in the background show.
Now I really want to show off two artists who do covers. First in line is Rob Liefeld. A pioneer of the anti-hero phase during the 90’s, saying his artwork is exaggerated is putting it lightly. Men are usually beefy and extremely muscular to the point where they resemble the Hulk, and females are almost always posed to show off T & A. Oddly strapped together weapons are wielded by characters and pouches are as abundant on characters as belts from Tetsuya Nomura or zippers in Kingdom Hearts. Because of his connections he influenced a generation of artists who copied his style, some actually doing better than him, taking his characters and giving them actual personality aside from the nitty-gritty antihero moodiness, such as Deadpool. As evident in the paragraph, I kinda don’t like this guy.
The other artist I want to showcase is Alex Ross. Known for his work on Marvels and Kingdom Come, he has done work on several projects working under both DC and Marvel. His art style renders characters in a much more realistic fashion, with a lot of detail is a major appeal for me, as females can still look attractive while remaining in pose that people can imitate without spinal injury. The group shots seem vibrant and give the sense that the characters are about to do something worthy of an epic. Now while I keep gushing on his works, he is not without flaws. His characters, while awesome, are often posed looking off in the distance, with enough occurrences to merit parody in a MAD magazine.
Now for all of these, effort and thought has been put into what the characters are doing, how they look, and where they’re posing. All of this is meant to make sales, but some seem more for the artwork than just simply making a buck.