They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but what comic book fan hasn’t been drawn to an amazing piece of art and gone for a risky purchase? Each decade of comic book history has seen incredible examples of art that stand the test of time, but generally they go unrecognized outside the fan community.
That said, there are some covers that are recognized around the world and could be reported just as easily by non-fans as by collectors. Some are the first numbers of now iconic characters, others are landmark moments in a character’s story that have caught the attention of the general public.
ten Jim Lee redefined the X-Men for a new decade
Maybe this one is kind of a cheat as it’s actually multiple covers coming together, but regardless, Jim Lee’s covers for X-Men # 1 in 1991 might be the most picturesque images. best-known mutant heroes to date. This relaunch, with the 90s X Men animated series, catapulted Team Marvel into the A-list.
The incredible full picture features the then current lineup going into battle against Magneto himself, and every member of the team looks fantastic. The series has become the best-selling comic book of all time, so it’s no wonder that so many people immediately imagine this scene when the X-Men spring to mind.
9 Spider-Man was no longer a shocking image
Spider-Man is generally considered to be one of the lightest heroes, generally making a joke and keeping an upbeat tone even in the toughest battles. This approach makes him one of the most popular and well-known heroes of all time.
However, just like the rest of us, the pressure can get too much at times, and even Peter Parker has called him every now and then to quit his superhero career. The Amazing Spider-Man # 50 features an image many never imagined seeing, that of Peter Parker throwing off Spider-Man’s mantle and stepping away from responsibility… for a while. John Romita Sr, Stan Goldberg and Sam Rosen worked on this stellar piece.
8 Spawn sums up the 90s perfectly
In 1992, the comic book industry was turned upside down when a top-tier creative team left Marvel Comics to form Image Comics, something that was to become a real competitor to Marvel and DC. The Risk was a hit, and the first new comic book to come out of this venture was Spawn.
Spawn # 1 became an instant icon thanks in part to the controversy surrounding Image, but mainly due to the startling work of creator Todd McFarlane. The all-new daring hero hit comic book fans of the time right in their wallets and is still the Spawn image many think of.
7 Superman’s death grabbed the headlines
The early ’90s wasn’t just a big time for Image, as DC was making records with huge comedic events such as Knight’s Fall and the headlines Superman’s death bow. The latter introduced the fan-favorite monster, Doomsday, who managed to do the impossible on his first outing… he killed Superman.
The cover of Superman # 75 featured the unforgettable image of Superman’s ragged cape hanging from a wooden pole among the rubble and shocked onlookers. The legendary hero, nor the new villain, were not visible on this cover, drawn by Dan Jurgens and Brett Breeding.
6 The Avengers have reunited for the first time
Jack Kirby is one of the most iconic names in comic book history, and along with Dick Ayers, he gave the world a first glimpse of the titanic team of superheroes, the Avengers. Bringing together various Marvel solo heroes of the time to fight the evil god Loki, this issue was the start of something very special.
Perhaps the inspiration for Jim Lee’s X-Men # 1 cover, the image shows the new team of heroes taking on their villain as he taunts them. Thanks to the immense popularity of the MCU and Avengers films, this cover experienced a whole new life in the public consciousness.
5 Marvel’s first family started it all
Jack Kirby has delivered more than his fair share of renowned comic book cover art, and his work on The Fantastic Four # 1 was no exception. This issue put Marvel on the map and features everything that made the Heroic Family such a beloved part of the comedic fandom.
A huge beast emerges from under the city streets as a diverse group of heroes try to stop it before it’s too late, and it’s easy to imagine how this daring scene would have caught the attention of the children around the world in 1961. Often honored and parodied but never equaled, this blanket is easily one of the most beautiful ever put on paper.
4 Batman’s first appearance gave birth to an icon
Detective Comics # 27 was released in 1939, and the comic book world has never been the same again. Artist Bob Kane drew the unforgettable image of a daring hero in a bat costume swinging through the air with a criminal in his hand. That hero was none other than Batman, one of the most recognizable and beloved comic book heroes of all time.
The cover promised the reader “64 pages of action!” which has turned into more than 80 years of unique and fascinating stories. Batman saw plenty of covers and memorable moments in the pages themselves, but there’s certainly something about that very first appearance that made him stand the test of time.
3 Here is Spider-Man!
1962 saw the release of Amazing Fantasy # 15, the last issue in a failed series that gave Stan Lee the chance to try out a risky new hero. This hero was an unlucky nerdy teenager, his powers were based on an animal that scares many people. However, this hero was arguably the most beloved of all time, and his name was Spider-Man.
This cover, by Jack Kirby and with inks by Steve Ditko, has it all. Eye-catching heroic pose, vivid colors and vivid dialogue to introduce new readers to a new hero. The image, similar to the first issue of the Fantastic Four, has been reproduced countless times in the comic book world due to its utterly legendary status.
2 Captain America hits Hitler, ‘Nuff Said
The early 1940s were a difficult time in history, to put it mildly, and younger people needed to escape their daily struggles. Comics became very popular during this time, especially superhero books, and it was around this time that Captain America made his well-deserved debut.
What a start it was too. The famous cover features the star-studded man with a shot landing a right hook on Adolf Hitler’s jaw, an image which saw a humorous tribute in Captain America: The First Avenger and again, has been widely parodied with affection. Joe Simon and Jack Kirby delivered the goods here.
1 The man of steel inaugurates a new genre
What else to say about this image? The June 1938 cover of Action Comics # 1, drawn by Joe Shuster, is possibly the greatest superhero image that exists, and likely ever will exist. Constantly adapted to Superman’s new media and, you guessed it, referenced and parodied to the death in the genre, this is the image that introduced the world to the most famous superhero of all time.
Anyone and everyone on Earth could probably name this blanket in an instant, and with good reason. An original copy of this issue can make millions on sale, which tells you everything you need to know about its impact and importance. From now on, it was only high, high and far.
NEXT: ’90s Covers That Destroyed The Comics
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