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Judging (DC’s January) Books By Their Covers

DC’s January solicits are up (they’ve been up so long that February is out tonight!), so let’s make some prejudgments based just on the covers (as we all love to make prejudgments, don’t we?).

Let’s begin!

Okay, so this January, DC is doing a theme month, and the majority of their DC Universe comics are going to have similar covers – an all black background with the sole figure of a villain (typically a villain connected to the title in question) on the cover.

Since I really can’t give any of these covers points for creativity, I’ve decided instead to just show them all, ranked in order of my least favorite cover using the theme until my favorite cover using the theme.

Then the covers shall continue as regularly scheduled!
I normally always enjoy Brian Stelfreeze’s covers, but here, two of his entries I think are the two worst covers…

First off, here’s a weird new re-design of Anarky (not Stelfreeze’s fault, I presume) for Robin…

Then a weird looking Ra’s for this Nightwing cover…

This Hush Detective Comics cover is here more of my bias against Hush than Andrew Robinson’s fault.

Tony Daniel MIGHT be going for lecherous with his Jericho look here on this Titans cover – but I don’t think so.

Kobra is normally pretty silly, but he looks REALLY silly on this Andrew Robinson cover for the Kobra one-shot.

Although at least Robinson’s cover isn’t taking itself quite as seriously as Mauro Cascioli’s cover for this Prometheus one-shot.

So maybe I should have Kobra first – it’s slightly goofier looking, but it’s done in a more cartoonish style…hmmm…I dunno.
The normally solid Stephane Roux has a bit of a mis-step with this Birds of Prey cover…

It doesn’t look ominous, it looks silly.
Shane Davis is also working with what they gave him, and I can’t say red vomit is all that imposing on this Green Lantern cover.

Davis seems to be vibing Ed Benes a bit on this Grundy one-shot cover.

That’s not a good thing.
The following covers by Robinson, Benes, Eddy Barrows then Robinson again are all pretty straightforward covers.

Nothing much to say about them, except to note that Benes’ Starbreaker cover for JLA is not bad (the books covered here are, by the way, Secret Six, JLA, Teen Titans and Vigilante – it’s kinda odd that two of the books have, for their “evil” covers, the main characters from the book itself – that sort of seems to defeat the purpose of this event, but whatever).
Aaron Lopresti’s Wonder Woman cover has a little more flair to it…

And Brian Stelfreeze Dan Jurgens definitely tries out something unique for this Booster Gold cover…

The result is the best cover of his three.
I like the energy in this Pat Gleason Green Lantern Corps cover…

Ladrönn TIME!!!

How’s the archery on this Green Arrow/Black Canary cover?

It looks pretty good.

His Deathstroke cover for the one-shot is suitably ominous…

And the Bizarro cover for Action Comics is interesting…

Joshua Middleton is a good cover artist, and he does a fine job on this Supergirl cover introducing Superwoman.

Finally, when you come up with the idea of doing covers with black backgrounds and a single character posing ominously, then darnit, that’s practically the definition of Alex Ross’ wheelhouse, so unsurprisingly, he rocks this category, with covers for Superman, JSA and Batman, respectively.

That’s an awesome looking Catwoman by Ross.

Okay, on to the rest of the covers!!

I like the design of this Phil Noto cover, but the finished artwork looks a bit flat.


Decent Stephane Roux cover for Batman Confidential, but certainly lacking some of the oomph of previous Roux efforts.


I think this is one of Kelley Jones’ best covers yet for this Batman: Gotham After Midnight series.

It is vintage Jones right here.

This Adam Kubert cover for the Batman and the Outsiders one-shot has a really cool design to it, and I even appreciate some of the character work (Kubert’s Creeper is very cool looking).

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The best part of the cover?

It APPEARS as though it is lacking Grace.

I bet this Bernie Wrightson Superman/Batman Annual cover will look cool when its finished.

I wonder what is the smallest amount of visual evidence a comic company has used for a cover solicit?

Those are some darn smooth figures on this Doug Braithwaite Brave and the Bold cover.

A bit too smooth, but still!

Interesting cover by Rafael Albuquerque for Blue Beetle.

I wonder where Rafael Albuquerque will end up after Beetle? He’s quite good.

An all right El Diablo cover by Phil Hester.


I was pleased to see Jim Shooter, in his exit interview, basically say the same stuff about Manapul’s covers that I was saying. The guy is a really talented artist, yet his covers were strangely undynamic.

This last issue cover, though, has energy in spades.

Good job.

Pretty good final cover of Manhunter by Brad Walker.


Yet another Justiniano Reign of Hell cover that is way too busy.

I love his energy, though.

This Sgt. Rock cover by Billy Tucci is way too bright.

Less bright and I think this would look cool.

Another neat Scott Hampton cover for Simon Dark.


An okay entry by Paul Rivoche.

It seems like a lot of Spirit covers have used the fire escape angle – I wonder why.

Very nice Ivan Reis cover for the Tangent comic book.

I love how stylized he draws the characters.

I like Joe Bennett’s work, but man, this Terror Titans cover is not a proper return for one of the coolest characters from the 1990s.


So, the whole “all covers will be done by Jim Lee, Andy Kubert and Carlos Pacheco” thing lasted about halfway through the year, if we listen to the solicits (who say Shane Davis is doing two covers)

That’s actually not that bad.

This Andy Kubert triptych is cool looking.

It’s extremely difficult for an artist like Middleton to get across the feeling of floating, and I don’t think he pulled it off on this Vixen cover.


Fine throwback cover by Ladrönn for the War that Time Forgot.


Fun first cover of Batman: The Brave and the Bold by James Tucker.


Smart to spotlight Ben 10 on the cover of Cartoon Network Action Pack.

Fine Min S. Ku cover.

Also good that they’re letting Stephanie Gladden just do a full cover on one of the three features in Cartoon Network Block Party.


Is this a new Walter Carzon cover for Looney Tunes?


Good Eric Jones cover for the second issue of the new Supergirl comic.

Nicely foreboding.

Another cute Art Baltazar Tiny Titans cover.


I guess if this Authority cover was just going for gross, then Simon Coleby did a fine job.

I sorta figured you’d be trying for something more than just “gross,” though, ya know?

Trippy Jonathan Wayshak cover for Ferryman.

Quite haunting.

Since I’ve been told this is what the Gears of War people actually look like in the game, then Brandon Badeaux is doing the best with what he has to work with.


Cool Stelfreeze cover – this is the sort of thing I expect from a Stelfreeze cover, not a weird looking dude in a diaper!


Cool looking Mario Alberti for Push.


Cute Tom Fowler cover for Jeff Parker’s new Mysterius comic.


Strong CP Smith cover for the Resistance comic.


Actually a bid of an oddly boring cover by Leandro Fernandez.

The characters are all drawn well, though!

Good Gene Ha Top Ten cover.


I like the design of this Jon Buran Worlds of Warcraft cover.


Oooh…good return to comic book-y artwork for this X-Files cover by Jim Daly & Tim Bradstreet.


I ponder…is this Neil Googe Wildcats cover SUPPOSED to look unbelievably goofy?

Or is it supposed to be taken seriously?

A good Dave Johnson 100 Bullets cover, although it’s a bit of a retread, concept-wise.


Decent M.K. Perker cover for Air.

Another homage, I presume.

Another fun Rick Veitch cover for Army@Love.


I can’t get over how easily John Paul Leon slipped into cover duties – he picks up where Brian Wood left off without skipping a beat.

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Good work.

Interesting Greatest Hits cover by Glenn Fabry.

I always like it when he mixes things up on his covers.

Strong Lee Bermejo cover for Peter Milligan’s first issue of Hellblazer.


Another different looking Fabry cover, this time for House of Mystery.


Good drawing on this cover of Haunted Tank #2, although I dunno how well it works as a cover piece (it reminds me of a similar looking piece on a recent Secret Six cover which I thought didn’t work as a cover).

Still, great drawing.

Is that Paul Pope?

Very cool Yuko Shimizu cover for this Sandman: Dream Hunters cover.


Another fun Young Liars cover by David Lapham!



Pretty straightforward Bill Sienkiewicz cover, but he’s so good that even a typical cover of his deserves some honorable mention…


Awesome! Dan Hipp!

Very cool cover for Gen 13.

And very cool of DC to think of Dan Hipp to do an issue of Gen 13!

What a bold cover by Igor Kordey for Unknown Soldier.

Really stands out.

Wow, a Joe Staton cover art sighting!

I really like the feel of this Scooby Doo cover.

It is engaging and action-filled.

Rafa Garres is a great fit on Jonah Hex.

This is a nicely designed, forceful cover. Good work.

Did someone say that James Jean was leaving Fables’ covers?!?!


I hope I only hallucinated that, as James Jean’s covers are routinely great.

Brian Bolland looks like he’s having a blast with these Jack of Fables cover.

Nice to see.

I really like this Cully Hamner cover for Black Lightning Year One, so I’m sorry that it JUST missed the top five.

It’s hard to feel bad, though, when you see the talent lined up for the Top 5.

5. First, the great J.H. Williams III delivers this striking design for the last Superman Beyond issue.


4. Next, the similarly great Massimo Carnevale shows up with another one of his forcefully designed covers with beautiful uses of negative space.


3. Next, the great Jock follows with another great negative space cover, as well, only his cover has a slightly cooler cover design than the Northlanders one, I think.


2. The great J. Bone is next with this amazing Super Friends cover.

What an awesome idea for a cover, and he nails it, as usual.

1. Finally, the great JG Jones shows how lone character covers can be extremely effective – they work well when their appearance on the cover has some meaning to the story, and this shot of Superman flying to (hopefully) save the day is absolutely gorgeous.


Okay, that’s it! Feel free to share your top fives or your prejudices!!


The Booster Gold cover with Enemy Ace is Brian Stelfreeze (or at least so the solicits claim.) As you’ve observed, it’s clearly the best of the three he did.

The most striking thing about that Alex Ross Catwoman cover is that she’s wearing her modern costume. Did someone threaten his family?

Thanks for the heads up, thok!

Well, Conor, DC devoted a whole month to Alex Ross-style covers, so he must have been so honored as to not mind! :)

I could see that Dream Hunters one on my wall.

That number one cover is really boring.

They really should release all the JG Jones covers for Final Crisis as posters. I would buy all 7 of them in a Barry Allen (lame pun, I know).

Yeah, that J.G. Jones Superman cover is TOTALLY AWESOME.

Oh, and the archery’s fine, for a superhero comic. I mean, there’s no arrow rest, so the shot’s likely to fly way off-target, and you have to be VERY skilled to make a shot while holding the bow at that angle, anyway, but those seem like artistic flairs, rather than poor representation abilities.

Yes, that’s Paul Pope!

Is it just me or did Ross base his Black Adam there on my disgraced former governor, Elliot Spitzer? It’s an uncanny resemblance.

What exactly is ‘fun’ about the Army@Love cover?

And the problem with the Nightwing & Robin covers is what?

Deathstroke’s pose with the sword and the gun seems like a Jack Kirby pastiche, which is almost prima facie a good thing but I wish I knew what the artist is referencing.

Well, Andrew, Ladrönn’s style basically IS “Kirby pastiche,” so that’s makes sense!

“And the problem with the Nightwing & Robin covers is what?”

Ugly redesign of Anarky for the Robin cover means you can’t do much, the Nightwing one is just… weird. Plus, it’s hard to believe that DC passed up a chance to put Talia on a cover in favour of a diaper-clad Ra’s.

Also: Told ya you’d have an easy month of it, Brian. :)

I don’t get the “Enemy Ace” cover, the book is marketed as the face of evil, each cover features a villain, maybe Von Hammer wasn’t on the right side but I really felt this was a Noble character, he had a job to do, there was a lot of emotion attached to the Ace, was he really a villain? Sorry to get off the subject back to covers Jonah Hex looks awesome I don’t even read the title, love the Young Liars cover I read the last issue, what the hells going on there. That Simon Dark cover’ s creepy, makes me want to get to church. later!

Well, Alvin, if you notice, two of the covers feature characters who star in the book in question, so I don’t think they’re really holding TOO steady to “evil” for a lot of these guys (notice Catwoman is on one of the covers, too, as is Anarky).

And ha, yes, you did, Stephen.

Thanks also for saving me the trouble of repeating myself vis a vis the Nightwing and Robin covers.

Uhh…Cats are evil!

I love the Red Lanterns’ vomiting blood/ sucking in blood effect. There’s not only a decent explanation for it, but it also gets across that these guys are f***ed up on hatred ang gives more of a horror effect.

Furthermore, it causes thoughts of future cosplay at comic conventions to be that much more intriguing! :D LOL “Could you sign this please! I really love your characters of the Red Lanterns! BLEUCHGH!”

[Plus, it gives people an excuse to vomit anything on Dan DiDio as I’m sure there’s going to be even more haters out there considerint the massvie rewrite to Final Crisis, and the potential resignation of Morrison, and the current resignation of Robinson.]

Thanks for these! I love to read judging covers!

Just wondering, any chance you might quantify some of your expressions. Sometimes I’m not sure what you mean. For instance, “dynamic” and “has motion” seem different to you but in my mind those two things mean similar things. Also, not sure what you mean by “mixing things up”.


I thought Kobra died in JSA 51 after Black Adam ripped his heart out of his chest? How did he come back? Or is it a new one?

I dunno, Jason – I couldn’t find any examples of me using the term “motion” in the piece above, so I don’t know what your question is referring to.

As to the “mixing things up” point – that means that an artist is doing something different than what you’d typically expect from a cover. For instance, when every other cover is a full figure posed by themselves, deciding to have a close up of a character in a cockpit of a plane is mixing things up.

I thought Kobra died in JSA 51 after Black Adam ripped his heart out of his chest? How did he come back? Or is it a new one?

I seem to recall him dying a lot.

It’s probably a new one, but it could be a back from the dead original Kobra. Heck, his comeback might be the plot of the issue!

Thank you for answering my question Brian! Thanks for the enlightenment.

You’re right you did not mention motion above. I was thinking of the Phil Noto Superman/Supergirl cover from December where you say: “Generally speaking, I dig this Phil Noto cover for this Superman/Supergirl mini-series, but it’s not exactly a dynamic cover shot is it? And that is not always an issue, but when a cover is specifically depicting movement, when it is not dynamic, well, that’s kinda odd.”

Being a graphic designer I’m very interested in your enlightening insights on cover designs. I read your articles every time as I find them very educational. I am interested in how a dynamic cover can lack motion. What makes a cover have motion as opposed to dynamic and vice versa? This would be very useful for me to know.

Thank you again Brian for taking time out of your busy schedule to do these and answering my question!

I think he meant that the character’s are supposed to be moving but the art looked like they were posing in one of those poses people put themselves in in photographs to pretend to be running sort of thing.

Wow, that was clear as mu, but do you get what I mean?

It’s one of the problems I have with Alex Ross covers as well, becaulse he uses photo-referencing of friends and family members who pose for the photos pretending to be moving.


Why is Vigilante considered evil??

I think the Alex Ross Black Adam should be in the Top 5, or maybe Catwoman…

Who’s that on the Titans cover? It looks kind of like Serpentor from G.I. Joe… even more so than Kobra…

I think the 100 Bullets cover should have been one of the top 5, tho’ it’s definitely something to drool over. ;-)

Just love the Igor Kordey cover for the Unknown Soldier. I miss his interior stuff.

Re: The Wildcats cover- female characters have had to wear those ridiculous half-ass pants for years and now we see them on a male character, I hope we can all finally agree that they are awful…

Matthew Sturges (writer of Jack of Fables) confirmed at Wizardworld Texas that James Jean is indeed leaving “Fables” covers. In fact, Jean told DC right after DC announced the covers collection book (that just came out).

The Lopresti cover was the best of the solo villain covers. It was also more dynamic than any of his Wonder Woman covers so far. Wonder why.

I love JG Jones’ work but don’t much love his Supes cover. We’ve all seen that pose…a thousand times.

The 100 Bullets cover looks like a prelim to me. Not a very good prelim, either. Love me some Jonah Hex, though. That cover rocks!

That Green Lantern Corps Mongul Cover is actually done by Shane Davis. And that Black Adam Cover ROCKS!

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