You Can Judge A Book By Its Cover

Marvel Previews #18

I don't comment on Previews for a few reasons — mostly because I find it completely useless. What can you say about page after mind-numbing page of postage-stamp sized covers and deliberately vague solicitation copy? Not much, so why waste my time writing about comics I've never seen that might be good? Then I was flipping through the latest Marvel Previews and this odd pairing caught my eye...

Marvel Previews #18, p. 6-7

Marvel Previews #18, p. 6-7

That's the cover for Amazing Fantasy #7 up there on the left. It's not a great cover — the composition is a little on the simple side, and the foreground doesn't "pop" off the background (though that wouldn't be a problem if the background were a little less cluttered) — but it's certainly an enticing cover. If I saw that on the racks, I'd certainly consider picking it up.

And then I'd be totally flabbergasted by the interiors, done by Leonard Kirk in a completely different style.

Marvel's editorial policy is to use generic pin-up images for covers — that way, they can be re-used over and over again on promotional posters, t-shirts, etc. That's not necessarily a bad idea — however, after a couple years the covers have been getting repetitive (every third comic seems to have the same cover), and I'd rather have a cover that gives me at least a vague idea of what I'll can find inside.1 No, the real problem lies in the execution of the policy.

Many of the covers are done in a completely different style from the contents. The cover to Amazing Fantasy #7 has a mangaesque feel to it — that's about as far as you can get from Leonard Kirk's style, which is as close to a Marvel house style as one gets these days. Someone who likes the cover is going to be disappointed by Kirk's more traditional style, and someone who likes Leonard Kirk is going to be turned off by the cover. That's just bad marketing. What's the solution? Well, artists could do their own covers — though some artists just don't have the knack for doing covers.2 At the very least, the cover artist and the interior artist should have similar styles.

Of course, in the final analysis, the most important thing is about the cover is that it's on the same wavelength as the rest of the comic — Dave McKean's covers for Sandman obviously weren't done in the same style as the contents, but were perfectly in tune with Neil Gaiman's vision.

Final Note to Marvel: If that's the best page of sample artwork you can find from Amazing Fantasy #7, then the comic is already in serious trouble.

  1. The last few issues of She-Hulk have done a good job of being attractive, re-usable pin-up art while still giving you a good idea of what's going on inside. Both of them feature Titania pounding the snot out of the She-Hulk, and sure enough, that's what the contents feature too.
  2. Kirby, for instance, is a great comic artist, but his covers are usually pretty lackluster. It's not that he couldn't bang out a great cover — in fact, in the mid-'70s he did some great covers for other people's comics. But the covers he did for his own comics were usually afterthoughts, and it shows.

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