Last week, we launched an all-new take (that’s hopefully temporary) on our usual Judging by the Cover series. As you might’ve guessed from the title, Nostalgia Edition is all about celebrating comics past as the industry (and the world at-large) plans ahead for a (very different) post-COVID world.
Here’s another edition in the hopes of remembering the good ol’ days while we await the future.
Cover by Leslie Hung
Leslie Hung’s cover for Snotgirl #1 is a quintessential Judging by the Cover pick because it’s the first comic I bought based on the cover alone! I remember being at a local shop looking for issues of Black Panther when Lottie Person’s chlorine green hair caught my eye. A big part of my decision to purchase was the juxtaposition between how snatched Hung rendered Miss Snottie and the title — not to mention the bit of booger hanging out of her nose. That cloud of iconic, big green hair textured with strokes of ink that convey volume and movement was the first taste of Hung’s consistently stellar work on all kinds of hair that appear in the series. This isn’t Judging by the Back Cover, but it helps that the back of the book was covered in florals with a panel from the issue stamped on for an added teaser of Hung’s dynamic artwork. Hung is now one of my favorite working artists, and Snotgirl is now my all-time favorite western comic book, so this is one cover I’m glad that shop displayed at eye-catching level!
Moon Knight #3 (2013)
Cover by Declan Shalvey
It only lasted 6 issues, but Warren Ellis’ 2013 run on Moon Knight is perhaps my favorite “series” of the last 10-15 years. No one but Ellis captures the core of the character so perfectly, reflecting Marc Spector’s sense duty as shaped by his unique mental health issues and personal history. And that excellent narrative and overarching themes are on top of some really amazing art courtesy of Declan Shalvey (with primo inking by Jordie Bellaire). Sure, you have to get into the book before you see this gorgeous mix of Jack Kirby-esque psychedelia and gritty pulp comics. But I like to think the covers are the perfect tease, a peak behind the curtain of the emotional and aesthetic journey to come. Safe journeys, travelers of the night.
The Terrifics #7
Cover by Dale Eaglesham
I spent an entire Sunday evening recently reading the first dozen or so issues of The Teriffics. Sure, much of that was because Jeff Lemire’s the writer, but also because, of all the wacky comic tropes out there, I think misfit super team is my favorite. Dale Eaglesham’s pencils (aided in a huge way by colors courtesy of Michael Aityeh) do a great job of reflecting the team, with each issue tracking their deliberate move from chaotic mess to unified squadron of justice. By the time we get to #7, then, there’s still some of that uncertainty but also way more glitz and glory as the team (and ally Tom Strong) do battle as a proper unit. Wacky unlikely teams aren’t just fun, but they should also pull right on the old heart-strings.
Cover by Rob Guillory
In the first 12 or so issues of the mostly excellent Chew, there’s some really great covers. And that run, which centers around eating in some way or another, is mostly rare among most comics series, as so often covers shine bright right away or take time to fully develop. But Rob Guillory manages to bound between the cheesy and the gory to the silly and deeply serious to create covers that go beyond teasing to actually standing as individual pieces of art. For this fella’s money, though, one of the best is #9, which blurs the lines between horror and avant garde, with just a dash of ’70s movie poster aesthetics, for something that’s compelling and unsettling. Now chew on that.
Cover by Juan E. Ferreyra
Like so many of my choices on ComiXology, I chose Colder based solely on the cover. Does it help it’s a really inventive and deeply disturbed take on horror? Of course. But that art, though. Juan E. Ferreyra shines brightest on the cover for issue #1, which is among the most unsettling things I’ve seen in all of comics, and yet it’s gorgeous to the point I want to plaster my walls with this awful lesson in human anatomy. If this were the last image I ever saw, I’d be both deeply terrified and sort of generally pleased.
Black Bolt #5 (2017)
Cover by Christian Ward
If you’re gonna tell the story of what’s effectively an intergalactic prison break, you’ve got to get trippy with it. And across the covers (but especially the interiors), Christian Ward creates some deeply compelling visuals, images that (not) literally (but almost) suck the marrow from your very being. So why choose the cover for #5, which is arguably the least impressive of a head trip? It’s the cover that achieves the most synchronicity between Ward and writer Saladin Ahmed. There’s plenty of groovy space weirdness, but at the end of the day, it’s a touching moment between a boy and his dog. And together, that marriage of the otherworldly and the ordinary is what makes this a great series through and through.
Scott Pilgrim (Vol. 6, Finest Hour)
Cover by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Long before the incredible film, video game, and Funko pops fans adore, there was a comic. Said comic helped open the floodgates for independent artists everywhere. Scott Pilgrim is one of my all-time favorites for a number of reasons but mostly for its jaw-dropping simplicity.
The culmination of five previous volumes, Finest Hour comes down to Scott versus Gideon Graves, the book’s big baddie. The design shows massive character growth not just for Scott but all the secondary characters from the first volume till volume 6. It grabs you before you can even turn to the first page. It makes you feel like there are some truly heavy stakes on the line and failure’s just not an option. I also love the effect created that the weight of the world is on the shoulders of our plucky hero. Placing him in the center, right between the love of his life and the antagonist, is just genius storytelling. The covers were also a blast because the rest of the books were in black and white, which give a truly awesome manga feel.
Amazing Spider-Man #252
Cover by Ron Frenz
Fun fact: this is one of my two favorite covers of all-time, which grace my walls at home and are the only CGC graded comics in my collection. Issue #252 features the black suit costume in a cover that serves as a powerful homage to Amazing Fantasy #15. This cover was incredibly important as they marked a new beginning for a darker and edgier Spider-Man. Artist Ron Frenz captures the iconic moment so very well while also reminding us Spidey is as cool as a cucumber.
Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #101
Cover by John Byrne
And my other most beloved cover of all-time? John Byrne’s iconic art for Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #101. The use of white space to detail the buildings and Spidey himself is incredible. The blending of Spider-Man into the background adds a sense of camouflage of the suit and yet also real depth. It’s wildly cool. Also, this was originally done with marker. Just wow.