It's hard to beat the endless promise of a classic piece of comic book cover art. Whether it's bursting out of the page towards the reader, promising mortal terror for your favourite hero or simply showcasing gorgeous design, comic book covers work harder than virtually any other form of design to draw our attention and draw us in. The publication of Marvel Comics 75 Years Of Cover Art (Dorling Kindersley, out October 1) has given us the chance to draw together some of Marvel's most effective and iconic covers across the decades and see how some classics came about. Read our selection from the book, or suggest your own favourites below.
Released: May 1962
Artist: Jack Kirby
Jack Kirby only illustrated the first five issues of Incredible Hulk, but his cover to the debut issue firmly established the concept of the Bannner-Hulk transformation and created what was to become an iconic image for Marvel. The taglines help pull the reader in, but it is Kirby’s powerful central image of Bruce Banner and the Hulk (grey-skinned in his first appearance) that really makes for a dramatic cover.
Released: September 1971
Artist: Neal Adams
The Kree/Skrull war continued with a twist here as the Avengers turned on their own team members. Neal Adams’s image of Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man disbanding the team makes a striking cover. However, fans didn’t need to mourn for long. All was not as it seemed, and the three Avengers were later revealed to be shape-changing Skrulls.
Released: October 1981
Artist: Marshall Rogers
Artist Marshall Rogers and writer Roger Stern had already worked together for a while before they brought their magic to Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme. Rogers excelled at stylish, otherworldly imagery and this cover shows off his amazing artwork perfectly.
Released: November 1974
Artist: Ron Wilson
Iron Man poses have been the stock in trade of the armoured hero’s title, and it takes real skill to convey one in a fresh and interesting manner. Artist Ron Wilson manages to do justice with his illustrations of Tony Stark, in one of his most popular suits of armour, by bursting out of the cover.
Released: August 1978
Artist: John Buscema
Ragnarok, the Asgardian apocalypse, moved closer this issue when Loki arranged Balder the Brave’s death, and John Buscema’s style was perfect for such an epic tale. A hero holding a friend’s corpse is a much-used pose, but it's one to which Buscema gave real drama. Thor’s words warning of Ragnarok only add to the impact of the scene.
Released: April 1978
Artist: Dave Cockrum
Iron Fist and Luke Cage: Power Man (Luke Cage, Hero for Hire had been renamed) became one title with this issue and one of the best-loved comics of the time. Dave Cockrum’s cool cover montage has echoes of Luke’s first issue and perfectly suits the heroes’ realistic street-level adventures.
Released: December 1972
This atmospheric Neal Adams cover shows an early appearance of the monstrous Man-Thing. The creature had first appeared in Savage Tales issue #1 (May 1971), but soon gained his own full-colour series. The Adams cover reflects how, since the relaxation of the Comics Code, Marvel were able to feature mystical elements such as the pentagram.
Released: January 2005
Artist: Steve Epting
Writer Ed Brubaker and artist Steve Epting created one of the all-time great Captain America sagas, “Out of Time.” Epting’s covers were exceptional montages, resembling high-end movie posters. This cover highlights a change in storytelling style, as Cap’s adventures became more like a top-class spy-thriller than a traditional superhero adventure.
Released: October 2012
Artist: David Aja
Marvel’s cover became increasingly stylized in the 2010s as artists pushed the boundaries of design. Writer Matt Fraction and artist David Aja produced one of the most adventurous Marvel comic in decades with Hawkeye. Each issue had a fabulous slick cover, and this debut issue set the standard for what was to follow. Aja eventually won a prestigious Eisner award for his work on this series.
Released: May 2004
Artist: Adi Granov
Writer Dan Slott created some excellent stories during his time on the title, each one behind a stunning cover. On the debut cover to the hero’s new series, Adi Granov manages to portray both the power and beauty of She-Hulk in this issue. In fact, this became one of the most frequently seen images of the character.
Released: November 1998
Artist: Jae Lee
The cover of the first issue of this 12-part series is a powerful one. It portrays the Inhuman royal family with their king, Black Bolt, in the forefront, flanked by his wife Medusa and his closest allies. Inhumans look both regal and alien, thanks to Lee’s dark and stylish work.
Released: May 2013
Artist: Steve McNiven
Guardians of the Galaxy was re-launched again as part of 2013’s Marvel Now! branding. Artist Steve McNiven used a team shot on the cover to introduce the heroes, featuring Star-Lord front and centre. This new series boosted the groups’ standing in the Marvel Universe to coincide with the release of the Guardians of the Galaxy movie in 2014.
Released: November 1988
Artist: Joe Quesada
When Daredevil was given to Joe Quesada’s Marvel Knights imprint to relaunch, Marvel’s future boss took on the artistic chores himself, illustrating filmmaker Kevin Smith’s challenging story. Quesada created some stunning covers for the series, starting with this acrobatic image. The “Guardian Devil” saga (which began with this issue) won several awards, including an Eagle Award for Best Story.
Released: June 2014
Artist: Humberto Ramos
While it might appear to be just a simple image of Spider-Man swinging through the city, the grin says it all: the real Peter Parker was back as Spider-Man. A whole new era of Spider-Man adventures was about to begin. This was one of the most upbeat Spidey covers in a long time.
For many more examples of Marvel cover art, pick up a copy of Marvel Comics 75 Years Of Cover Art, published by Dorling Kindersley on October 1.