Summer of Superman: Top Ten Covers
By: John H, Jordan T. Maxwell, Michael Regan
Editor: Jordan T. Maxwell
70 years ago, in the summer of 1938, two kids from Cleveland, Ohio changed the world forever. From their collaborative imagination sprang a hero who has endured for seven decades, transcending his home in comic books to conquer almost every other medium of art and entertainment and catalyzing the creation of an entire genre. He is more than just a fictional superhero. He is an icon (not a bird). He is an ideal (not a plane). He is...SUPERMAN!
Artist: George Perez
Fierce. Savage. Ruthless. His expression and stance is far from mild-mannered. Truly a powerful image by George Perez. This image contrasts greatly with the cover from the previous JLA/Avengers issue. The cover for JLA/Avengers #3 was an overwhelming kinetic display, with a multitude of characters jumping in every direction. Following on the heels of that image this cover, featuring a focused and centered single iconic character bearing the two iconic objects of other characters, is that much more powerful in its impact and storytelling. Superman, brutally beaten, the last man standing, bearing Captain America’s shield and worthy of wielding the mighty Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir...a combination of great iconic elements representative of both Marvel and DC. Elements of this gritty image such as his stance, the way his torn costume reveals his hyper-muscular physique, the shield...heck, replace the hammer with a sword, and this Superman cover draws a lot of its energy and strength from its affinity to the great Conan art of John Buscema, Ken Kelly, Frank Frazetta, Earl Norem and Boris Vallejo. Fierce. Savage. Ruthless.
Artist: George Perez
Like his mild mannered alter ego, Superman is stoic, slow to anger. Seldom jovial. And rarely repentant, sorrowful or bereft. Yet the weight of those final three emotions are conveyed so flawlessly in this single image. Superman’s facial expression is incredibly heavy and wrought with heartache. The image is often mistakenly called a Pietà image, named after Michelangelo’s “Pietà” (a sculpture of a seated virgin Mary cradling the crucified Christ’s lifeless body). It is more an evolution of the Pietà, where a mournful hero carries a fallen character, usually a female. The image seems to have first appeared as a magazine illustration by N.C. Wyeth, The Lost Vein, in 1916. When next seen in popular culture the image-motif was used for a poster of the 1935 monster film, Bride of Frankenstein by James Whale. The image was later used in monster movie posters of the 1950’s such as Creature From the Black Lagoon and The Forbidden Planet. Around this same time it was adapted to comics with Ace Comics Baffling Mysteries and then with Marvel Comics second issue of The Mighty Thor. However, it is probably most recognizable as the cover to the immensely popular and tragic Uncanny X-Men #136 (1980), the death of Jean Grey. The Crisis cover differs slightly by the magnitude of the heroes gathered in the background around Superman. And the fact that Superman does not have a visor to conceal the anguish in his eyes. A powerful image no matter the origin, and perhaps most resonant here as we stand witness to the vulnerability of an impervious man. His cousin is dead and he is truly alone. The image is so powerful and iconic that, despite all of the similar images to come before, almost every cover done in this style since have been direct homages to this moment of stark loss and heartbreak.