Routines are nice. Every Sunday, for just a couple hours or so, I get to meander through upcoming comics releases, think about how they made me feel, and then write about them. It’s a silly little thing in the grand scheme of things, but Judging by the Cover was a highlight of my week, the most direct and sincere expression of my love of comics.
But sometimes routines have to change. As the comic industry continues to sort out its next steps in the wake of COVID-19, publishers are foregoing new releases for the near future.
That doesn’t mean, though, that our fandom is put on hold. Routines can change and adapt. With that in mind, and our love of comics burning ever bright, we present a unique version of Judging by the Cover: an exploration of covers that still speak to us, long after they’ve left the shelves. Because nostalgia isn’t just about the past, but the things that make up what we are.
And, as always, we’d love to hear from you. Let’s celebrate comics as loudly as we can. ‘Cause some routines should never really change.
Daredevil #1 (2019)
2nd Printing Cover by Marco Checchetto
For my cover pick, I chose Daredevil #1 (from 2019’s seventh volume) — just not the main cover. Instead, I am going with the second printing cover as it does such a great job showcasing Marco Checchetto’s art within the issue. When the first printing came out back in February 2019, it was an intriguing cover by Julian Tedesco, and with word of mouth about how intense the issue was, Marvel eagerly rushed out a second print. Brilliantly, they happened to pick a page from the interior art, and I was just floored by Checchetto’s massive page. I recall reading this issue and seeing that page and thinking it needs to be a poster, which Marvel has also done, and it perfectly shows DD in motion alongside that wild billy club of his. This is a perfect cover that will catch any eye in a comic shop and immediately make a new fan for Daredevil )which you should be reading right now as Chip Zdarsky and company are creating a historical run).
Transformers The Terminator
Cover by Gavin Fullerton
Talk about a blast of nostalgia from the ’80s. I chose one of multiple covers that IDW commissioned for Transformers The Terminator. The cover art is simply badass and unites two of the most iconic franchises in the history of pop culture on one explosive cover. I love the yin and yang idea of good versus evil, with the left representing the Autobots and the right reserved for the Decepticons/Terminators. Notice the detailed grittiness and battle damage on the right side of the image reflecting a perfect representation of chaos and destruction. This cover lets you know that this story is going to be brutal, unapologetic, and create a lot of casualties. It’s a constant reminder of why we’ve loved both the Transformers and Terminator since 1984.
Little Bird #3
Cover by Ian Bertram
I came to Little Bird fairly late in the game, binge-reading all 5 issues during one lazy Saturday. It’s certainly a series I’ll have to re-read over subsequent long weekends (plenty of those in the near future!), as the series is so rich and densely packed I may have only really scratched the surface. But even if I only saw artwork, or focused on the overall imagery and aesthetics, you can still get something resembling a full story. Ian Bertram’s art is as gorgeous and compelling as it is profoundly unsettling and confrontational. In that maelstrom (akin to Akira in some key ways), he plays with your sensibilities while making you reconsider things like beauty, your culture, and even the nature of reality. It’s art that demands attention, and whether you spend a year or an afternoon with it, it’ll rent out ample room in ye olde brainpan.
Fallen Angel #3
Cover by Ashley Witter
There’s a lot of deep and meaningful stories and narratives winding their way through the X titles right now. But amid stories of nation-building and the rebirth of magic, I’d wager that Fallen Angels is the genuine sleeper hit of this brave and bright new era. The story’s basically an exploration of warriors, and what they do when peace comes to town and how the war (internal or external) is never truly finished. And while the art of Szymon Kudranski is a huge part of its success, Ashley Witter’s covers are arguably my favorite part and the best connection to these themes/motifs. There’s a blur of aesthetics and imagery (like the most glitzy combo of anime and movie posters), and Witter fosters the right air of drama and intensity without forgoing a deeply vulnerable quality. All of that builds on a really solid story, and ekes out a space for Fallen Angels in a truly crowded field.
Variant Cover by Alex Ross
Given his deeply prolific catalog, you could pick almost any Alex Ross cover as a standout for that week, month, year, decade, etc. And this isn’t even his only variant cover for Batman #50, and they’re all really great entries into the larger Bat canon. Still, there’s something especially warm and comforting about this specific cover. The way it expertly captures a timeless quality to the Bat Family, with a blend of ’60s cheesiness and ’90s grit. Or the pure joy on Batman’s face, like the ever-beaming grin of a proud papa. It may even be the slightly more unfocused, slightly chaotic lines, which standout in the best way when compared to Ross’ more detailed efforts. Regardless, this cover is a gem among some truly poignant Bat moments/covers.
Detective Comics #864
Cover by Cliff Chiang
I’m a huge sucker for the autumn season, and this cover does it for me. The claws give Batman the scary, demon-like quality so many covers have imbues, and the scattering leaves give a sense of the chilly atmosphere. Gotham is always best with snow falling and the icy chill of death on the wind. His shadowed face makes me think of Bats as a hunter while the skull moon brings on the dread. Sure, Bruce Wayne is human, but Batman needs to be viewed as a force. A force of fear. This cover does that and then some.
Gotham Academy #1 (2014)
Cover art by Karl Kerschl
Gotham Academy was a very special series. It came along just when I was getting back into collecting comics in a big way and was a perfect synthesis of everything I love in comic book storytelling. It mixed Archie-esque high school soap opera hijinks with Batman-heavy lore and stories about the power of friendship.
Before I read a single issue, though, this cover told me everything I needed to know about the book’s sense of style and beautiful blend of action, adventure, and light-hearted comedy. The look on Maps’ and Olive’s faces are ones of sheer determination in the face of danger. They look totally off-balance, but they’re still hanging in there. The shadow of the Bat looms over Olive in this image in much the same way it does in the series’ narrative. It’s a deceptively simple cover and one I think of fondly when remembering one of my favorite series of the previous decade.
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