Readers can’t judge a book by its cover, even if it’s a comic. A comic book cover’s job is to tease the art and story inside as best it can. Since shock and awe is often the name of the game, the bold and eye-catching cover can depict a scene that has little or no relation to the story itself.
Comic book covers have used tricks such as teasing a guest star, death, or a fight that plays out differently. A single number in a larger arc can herald a significant moment on the cover, even if that moment occurs on the last page and continues through the next number. Covers will mislead or outright lie, for the sole purpose of attracting an audience.
ten Excalibur #54 turns Captain Britain into a clown
The popularity of the X-Men exploded in the 1990s, and the title launched spin-offs of affiliated mutant teams. Most X titles have opted for the tough, gritty look to establish their identity, but Excalibur, the British team led by Captain Britain, went in a different direction.
Excalibur featured reality warping, parallel worlds, and strange villains. The cover of Excalibur #54 depicts Captain Britain sporting a goofy nose, but neither he nor anyone else dressed as a clown during the actual events. The story itself turned out to be an Alice in Wonderland version.
9 The Sensational She-Hulk #37 Features Guest Stars Who Don’t Show Up
John Byrne’s Race She-Hulk included tons of 4th wall breaking and meta-awareness, where She-Hulk was constantly talking about writers and editors. Matching his intelligent mind, comic book covers were often playful.
The coverage for She-Hulk #37 shows Wolverine, Spider-Man, and the Punisher – three hugely popular Marvel heroes – announcing that they’re starring in the issue. At the bottom of the cover, She-Hulk clarifies and says they’re not in trouble. The story involves She-Hulk battling a villain called the Living Eraser and does not include the heroes advertised.
8 Avengers #201 Promises Jarvis Trouble
Whereas avengers #200 was a double-sized epic, the next issue was a break. The cover featured Avengers butler Edwin Jarvis telling the team to take a step back. The cover makes it look like Jarvis is tackling something the Avengers can’t handle, but the comic focuses on Avengers downtime.
Iron Man and Thor leave on other business, Hank and Janet spend time together, and Beast joins Wonder Man on set. Jarvis only appears on one panel, and the villain mentioned turns out to be a Wasp robot who fights for two pages.
seven Green Lantern #9 pits Green Lantern against Batman
Hal Jordan returned as Green Lantern in Green Lantern: Rebirth, causing tension with him and the other heroes, which led to Green Lantern punching Batman. In Green Lantern #9Batman punched Green Lantern, making things even.
The cover involves a bigger fight between Batman and Green Lantern, but it’s just a punch. They spend the rest of the issue eliminating the tattooed man. There is an alternate cover of the issue which featured Batman with a Green Lantern ring in a GL-like costume. This happened briefly in history.
6 Batman and Red Robin #19 puts Carrie Kelley in the Robin costume
Batman has been through many Robins. Although Carrie Kelley was introduced in the 1980s in the alternate future of Return of the Dark Knightshe never joined the main continuity until the New 52 reboot.
After Damian Wayne’s death, Batman enlisted Frankenstein’s help in bringing his son back, a story told in Batman and Red Robin #19. Bruce paid a brief visit to Carrie Kelley, a friend of Damian. She dressed up as Robin for a party, but she never encountered or fought alongside Batman.
5 Peter Parker Spider-Man #6 Shows Kingpin Heartbreaking Spider-Man
Spider-Man is at constant war with organized crime, and Kingpin sits at the top of the food chain. Spider-Man taking on Kingpin is going to be more impressive than him fighting any other mob boss, but despite the cover, they don’t fight.
Kingpin only appears on the first two pages, telling Bullseye that he is going to rebuild his empire. Spider-Man ends up fighting Bullseye to protect a senator, and while Spider-Man questions the villain about the Kingpin, Spider-Man does not pursue Kingpin, nor does Kingpin specifically target Spider-Man.
4 Robin #64 places Robin and the Flash in an inescapable death trap
Tim Drake starred in the robin series during the No Man’s Land event that ran through the Batman titles. With Gotham City isolated from the rest of the United States, Tim’s father moved them to Keystone City, home of The Flash.
The Riddler also ended up in Keystone City and teamed up with the villainous Flash Captain Boomerang. The cover showed Flash and Robin suspended above a vat of acid. As mentioned on the cover, this scene did not take place. Instead, Robin and Flash defeated Riddler and Captain Boomerang without being captured.
A smiling Joker wearing Wonder Woman’s tiara and deflecting bullets with his bracelets appears on the cover of Wonder Woman #205 with the caption “Who’s laughing now?” and “HAHA” written all over the background. However, the Joker does not appear in the comics at all.
Wonder Woman confronts her mental villain, Dr. Psycho, at Cale-Anderson Pharmaceutical. When she pursues him, Dr. Psycho tricks the building guards into believing that Wonder Woman is the Joker, and they open fire on her. Once Wonder Woman uses her truth lasso on them, she dispels the illusion.
2 World’s Finest #202 Guarantees a Real Deathmatch Between Superman and Batman
Superman was no stranger to deceptive comic book covers, as the Silver Age featured several covers of Superman and his supporting cast in impossible situations. The thing happened so often that the cover of The best in the world #202 had to promise that the fight between Superman and Batman was not imaginary.
What actually happened barely lined up. One of Superman’s robots has gone haywire and fallen into the wrong hands. The robot defeated Batman without killing him, and Superman arrived to help Batman fight Malis, the real villain on the cover.
1 Steve Rogers Captain America #1 Pairs Him With Heroes Who Never Appear
After Steve Rogers was depowered and aged, he passed the mantle of Captain America to Sam Wilson. Later, Steve reverted to his youth and became Captain America again for a new comic book series.
The cover of the first issue depicts him in a new costume with a team of Sam as Captain America, Sharon Carter, and the Winter Soldier. In the comics, Cap works with Sharon Carter, but his team includes Rick Jones, Jack Flag, and Free Spirit. There is no scene of the two Captain Americas together.
NEXT:10 Best Spider-Man Comic Book Covers From The 80s