After running the Worst Cover Ever column for a few months, I thought I'd switch gears, take the higher road and introduce a Best Cover column I'm calling Simply the Best. I'm not doing away with WCE, but the overwhelming number of truly great covers certainly deserves some attention, so consider the cosmic scales balanced!
After attending the Minnesota Fallcon on Saturday, and netting a heaping helping of beautiful Broze Age Marvels, I've decided to kick off Simply the Best with one of my all-time favorite Avengers covers from the swingin' 70's.
Waayyy back in the summer of 1974, when I was first bitten by the radioactive comics bug, I came across a friend's copy of Avengers #122...and I still recall how much it blew me away at the time. Heck, it still blows me away whenever I look at my own copy. Check it out:
Pencilled by the late, great Gil Kane and inked by art god John Romita Sr., this cover literally bursts with power and "go get 'em!" excitement, crowned by Thor's stirring "Avengers Assemble" call to arms.
Some elements that jump out:
• Thor's outstretched left hand was a dramatic flare common to many Marvel covers (most likely introduced by Jack "King" Kirby himself).
• John Romita's elegant inking significantly softened Gil Kane's tendency toward harsher "anatomy lesson" musculature, preserving Kane's dynamic sense of action while giving the characters an even greater sense of "reality". It seems unlikely with such differing styles, but these two actually made a great team in many of their collaborations, especially their long run together on The Amazing Spider-Man a few years earlier. Romita also had a way with rendering Iron Man's armor, being one of the few artists who could actually convey that it was shiny metal Tony Stark was wearing. Decades before fancy computer coloring technology, it was up to the inker to convey convincing surface textures and the overall mood of the scene....something a master like Romita could always deliver.
• The background scene of interior panels was also a great touch. The grey coloring offers a great contrast to the colorful Avengers, lending their burst through the page even more power and impact. As a kid, I enjoyed trying to match the interior panels with the panels reproduced on the cover.
• The Avengers logo itself is one of the best designed logos of any era, with it's large, attention-grabbing "A" nestled right next to the stoic Vision in the upper left hand corner. It was a logo you could see a block away in a display of hundreds of comics. In other words, the ideal logo.
• Finally, lines like "the final battle" and "it's a fight to the finish" were exactly what the artwork needed to send the book over the top into irresistable, undeniable "must read" territory.
Come on. Admit it. You want to know what happens in this story, don't you? Of course you do.
Which is exactly what qualifies a comic book cover for Simply the Best status.