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Top Five Most Iconic Hercules Covers

Here are the top five most iconic covers featuring Marvel’s Hercules (with iconic being determined mostly subjectively by what covers are called to mind when one thinks of Marvel’s Hercules, but first being determined with a prominent objective standard of whether a cover is homaged a lot or featured a lot in histories of the character). The notable exception is no covers from a character’s first appearance (which isn’t applicable to all characters, of course, just those who appeared on the cover of the comic they debuted in)! Here‘s a list of all characters featured so far.

Enjoy!

First off, while I’m exempting first appearance covers from the countdown, it’s only fair, I suppose, to share them here before the countdown begins, so here is the first cover appearance of Hercules from his debut story, Journey Into Mystery Annual #1…

Artist: Jack Kirby and Sol Brodsky

Second of all, it’s surprising just how many notable covers Hercules has been involved with.

5. Artists: Gil Kane and Dan Adkins

As generally silly as the Champions were, this Gil Kane cover for their first issue is still a great one, and it is still well remembered today.

4. Artist: Art Adams

It’s the most recent cover I’ve featured on any of these lists, and it’s also an homage to a past cover (Jim Steranko’s classic Hulk Annual #1 cover), but when it comes to Hercules, he’s one of the few characters where his recent series IS iconic for him, as he’s never HAD an ongoing series from Marvel before.

And since this isn’t an homage to a Hercules cover, I figure it’s fair game (like the Jimmy Olsen Turtle Boy cover, which was also an homage to an unrelated work).

3. Artists: Bob Layton and Jackson Guice

For years, Bob Layton’s Hercules was THE definitive Hercules, and while he was mostly known for his great series of Hercules mini-series (and one graphic novel), I think Layton’s most famous Hercules COVER was for this fill-in issue of Thor.

2. Artist: Gil Kane

Hercules’ introduction into the Avengers is a very iconic cover, but in a contest of iconic Hercules covers…

1. Artists: Jack Kirby and Vince Colletta

Thor #126 has it hands down.

Heck, it’s one of THOR’s most iconic covers, let alone Hercules’!!!

TOUGH OMISSIONS FROM THE LIST: Hercules has a LOT of notable covers. The last three covers cut from the list were Kirby’s Thor #129 cover (“The Verdict of Zeus”), Kirby’s Tales to Astonish #79 (“The Titans and the Torment”) and the John Buscema Avengers: Under Siege cover where Hercules is getting his ass kicked. Others tough omissions include Hercules’ first Journey Into Mystery cover appearance (by Kirby – #124, I believe) and three early Avengers covers (two by Don Heck, #39 and 40 and one by John Buscema, #50). Incredible Hercules has had a number of good covers, as well and, naturally, all of Kirby’s Thor covers with Hercules were great, too.

58 Comments

It may not be iconic, but my favorite Hercules cover was a Champions cover, where Herc is pulling Manhattan island back into place..but he’s putting it back backwards.

I never realized how many cool covers Hercules had. Good call on #1 and #2

I think you mean Bob Layton was the definitive Hercules artist, not the definitive Thor artist (since he drew the two ’80s Hercules mini-series but rarely drew Thor).

nice list interesting that almost all the covers had Hercules fighting or standing by Thor and the champions was a team that deserved more

I think you mean Bob Layton was the definitive Hercules artist, not the definitive Thor artist (since he drew the two ’80s Hercules mini-series but rarely drew Thor).

Thanks, Matthew!

That was a weird typo on my part (is typo even the term for that? When you mean to write one thing but you write something else entirely?). It’s fixed now!

beta ray steve: unless I’m mistaken, that wasn’t a Champions cover, it was a panel from Marvel Two-in-One.

Personally, I would’ve been tempted to go with something from one of Layton’s mini-series (still favorites of mine), although I’m not sure any of them would qualify as “iconic”. Ah, well.

I was tempted, too, OTL, but I figure that featuring the more notable Thor cover was a way of acknowledging the mini-series. And yeah, the mini-series covers, while good, really were not all that memorable (it was the interiors and the story that were so good).

oh come on! that Gil Kane cover is terrible!

I hate floating heads. (That’s not why I think it’s terrible, tho. Kane has done much much better than that.)

The Layton one is awesome, it should be #2. Besides being very well drawn, it’s very funny.

But the Kirby is one everyone knows. (“Everyone” meaning a generic/stereotyped “typical comics fanboy” of course)

This Avengers issue is the one I always think of when I think of Hercules. Not because he is getting beat up, but because of the sheer number and power of those he is fighting. Five of the seven guys on there are people who can give Thor, Thing, or even Hulk a run for his money. But, it is clearly taking all seven to put Herc down.

http://www.comics.org/coverview.lasso?id=42171&zoom=4

Theno

This Avengers issue is the one I always think of when I think of Hercules.

It was on the very earliest draft of the list until I remembered a couple more notable covers. It’s really amazing how many notable covers Hercules has had.

The Hercules/Manhattan debacle is from Marvel Team-Up #28. The cover is not all that memorable. The most prominent figure on it is a crying kid.

Not only is that Avengers #38 cover horrible, I can think of several Layton ones that are more iconic off the top of my head. Were you just trying to limit yourself to one Layton perhaps? Otherwise I agree with your choices.

Also, are you sure that’s Kane on Avengers #38. Just doesn’t seem like him, especially on the floating heads, unless he was deliberately trying to ape Don Heck or John Buscema there.

I just looked it up and it seems the inker is unknown for Avengers #38. Have a feeling the inker is what is making that cover look so unlike typical Gil Kane.

Actually the more I look at it, the more I realize how wrong I am. The position of that front leg and how the thigh connects to the pelvis, the leg muscles, that’s pure Gil Kane. My bad.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

September 11, 2009 at 7:29 am

Kane’s style does come through on the thinness of the lines used to define Hercules’s facial features on that cover; the inker’s insistence on thickening the lines in the “floating heads” is what throws the cover off.

But I admit, it’s a Hercules cover that springs to my mind.

Not bad. I had 3 out of the 5 in my head, and considered another of ‘em. The Champions #1 slipped my mind.

But no way on the Steranko swipe. That’s a classic HULK. Why not HERCULES: PRINCE OF POWER #1?

Omar, you’re totally right. I was letting myself get distracted by the floating heads.

Can we all agree that Thor #356 was the single greatest fill-in issue ever?

First one I thought of was that Thor fill-in. What an awesome cover.

I agree with all the choices except #2. Personally I’d put Avengers #274 in that spot, but I can see why AVengers #38 would be considered iconic. Not a very good cover, though. #1 and #3 instantly popped into my head when I saw the post. Who’d have thought Hercules would have so many great covers?

Yeah, I’m not saying that I think Kane’s cover is great or anything, just that it’s iconic.

On just my preference, there’s a pile of great Kirby covers I could use. That Kane Avengers cover, though, is definitely a majorly iconic part of Hercules’ history at Marvel.

The first thing that popped into my mind was Layton’s mini-series:

http://image2.milehighcomics.com/istore/images/fullsize/39942055120.1.GIF

True, I couldn’t remember exactly what the covers were like, which suggests they’re not iconic. But I couldn’t exactly remember any of the covers Brian chose, either. I could’ve told you there was a THOR cover with Thor wrestling Herc, and a CHAMPIONS cover with Herc prominent , but I couldn’t have sketched their layouts.

Interesting question on INCREDIBLE HERCULES #112. If the cover is “iconic” because it duplicates another iconic cover, is it really iconic? I’m sure HULK ANNUAL #1 would make the list of iconic Hulk covers, but does any cover that swipes it become iconic too?

P.S. These covers reveal an important fashion question. Is the iconic Hercules outfit green with orange trim or orange with green trim? Inquiring minds want to know.

If the cover is “iconic” because it duplicates another iconic cover, is it really iconic?

I’d say no (in fact, as we’ve seen by now, I’ve specifically eliminated from contention covers for various characters that are just homages to the character’s original appearance, like X-Men #104 for Magneto and Iron Man #126 for Iron Man).

But the cover is there not because of the design of the cover, but rather as a representative of the current (and for the first time in his history) ongoing Hercules series that is already a major part of Hercules’ history, and presumably will only take on a larger role the longer it lasts. And as far as representative covers of the current Hercules series goes, I don’t think you get much better than that first Art Adams cover.

Amazing….. a thread with a Kirby piece inked by Vince Colletta and no outcry of butchery?!! :-) I always liked his work with Kirby on Thor. I am even buying the recolored “Tales of Asgard” that Marvel has been putting out this year. Complete agreement that this should be the #1 Hercules cover. Heck, it’s one of Kirby’s best, period.

Good list here. Hard to be critical, as you’ve nailed it!

But the cover is there not because of the design of the cover, but rather as a representative of the current (and for the first time in his history) ongoing Hercules series that is already a major part of Hercules’ history, and presumably will only take on a larger role the longer it lasts. And as far as representative covers of the current Hercules series goes, I don’t think you get much better than that first Art Adams cover.

It’s also a clever homage, and sometimes, reproductions can become iconic. Iconic SuperGirl and Iconic Jean Grey covers can be on both lists, even if their “death” issues are basically the same.

I’d argue the first issues of both of Layton’s miniseries should have been on this list. I think both are more iconic than Layton’s Thor cover.

Interesting how Kane drew Herc’s face looking very much like Steve Reeves (star of several Hercules films in the 50′s/60′s); kind of a precursor to a lot of the photo-referencing in comics today, maybe?

Interesting how Kane drew Herc’s face looking very much like Steve Reeves (star of several Hercules films in the 50′s/60′s); kind of a precursor to a lot of the photo-referencing in comics today, maybe?

Definitely, Matt.

Yes, Kane’s Avengers #38 is a little wonky, but look how GREAT Champions #1 is! He truly developed as an artist in that decade gap. Nobody beats Gil Kane’s covers in the 70′s, as far as I’m concerned…

Hercules is one of my favorites, and I endorse this list. Great choices!

Vince Colletta…butchery!

I tend to agree with those who say #2 is the weakest choice in the bunch. I’d go with HERCULES: PRINCE OF POWER #1 over it.

P.S. On another fashion note, I bet those thigh-high leg thingies are impossible to put on and take off.

Thor 356 one of the greatest issues ever. Doesnt Herc or Thor throw a TRAIN at the other one? and the editors note is something like there is no sound effect that would suit this? or is that a hulk thor fight? Also the herc mini series were wicked awesome. The graphic novel that followed it up with Hercs son was great too.

Pretty solid choices, Brian – kudos! Would’ve gone for Avengers #274 instead of #38 (this is the first time I’ve seen it), esp. since it represents Herc’s finest moment as an Avenger. The Layton covers are trickier – the cover to the Prince of Power LS saw some heavy-duty action as a house-ad IIRC, so it springs to mind easily, but the Thor one is definitely more unique & striking, really showing off Herc’s boisterous personality.

Also, my vote is green outfit with orange trim – works better with the equally orange headgear.

Colletta lovers beware! Someone just asked me a question whose answer will likely be in next week’s Comic Book Legends column. Soooo…you might want to skip that one. ;)

I’m not a big fan of the cover of Avengers #38 either, but I think it’s a good choice. Mainly, though, I wanted to say that I LOVE floating heads. The lack of floating heads is killing comics these days! I think we should start a “Bring Back Floating Heads” online movement. Who’s with me?!

Brian, can we get a “Five Most Iconic Floating Heads Covers” list? That would be awesome.

I’ve never seen any of these before. The only Hercules cover that sticks in my mind is the one from the Avengers when the Masters of Evil all ganged up on him. I guess that’s the one that other people have been suggesting here, but I haven’t clicked on their links to know for sure.
I’ve always found Hercules to be pretty boring, so maybe that’s why I don’t know any of these.

I do love that Layton cover now that I see it. I’ve never seen a cover so proudly proclaim to being a fill-in before.

The Thor cover is the one that sprung to mind when I saw the the title. Can’t speak for anyone else, but it would’ve been my top pick. Really sums up the character in a single image.

Have a good day.
John Cage

Like others, Avengers 38 always springs to mind, even though I was never wild about the posture and face of Herc by Kane. I will defend the floating faces, which were almost a requirement in that era of Thomas & Buscema (and earlier, I admit).

http://www.comics.org/coverview.lasso?id=21210&zoom=4
http://www.comics.org/coverview.lasso?id=22166&zoom=4

Scott, I think the second link above should be in a “Five Most Iconic Floating Heads Covers.”

Finally, it wasn’t just Kane who was inspired by Steve Reeves: compare many of the panels of Hercules as done by Kirby in his early appearances in Thor to stills of Reeves as the muscleman. I think the homage is there and deliberate.

The current Herc team should homage Layton’s THOR 356, subbing in Hulk for the thunder god…

I love floating heads, but if we ever had a top 5 covers at least 3would probably would end up being by Romita, Sr, the undisputed floating head king.

For floating heads, I always have to give it up for Avengers #60:

http://www.comics.org/coverview.lasso?id=22462&zoom=4

T., you’re right that Romita is the master. In fact, it’s my understanding that when they reprinted Amazing Adventures #12 in Avengers #136, even though the original cover was by Gil Kane they had Romita add the floating heads:

http://www.comics.org/coverview.lasso?id=28719&zoom=4

Though I have to say that the heads on that cover don’t appear particularly interested in what’s going on.

It is strange to me that two of the five are Gil Kane covers. Mentally, I have Kane filed with Neal Adams as a “DC guys, who worked at Marvel for a while” as opposed to Jack Kirby and Ross Andru that are the reverse.

Invincible Iron Man (vol 1) #18 is a pretty iconic floating heads cover… and an iconic Iron Man cover too, now that I think about it.
http://www.coverbrowser.com/image/iron-man/18-1.jpg

Avengers 274 was my first thought, but these are all good choices.

Though I have to say that the heads on that cover don’t appear particularly interested in what’s going on.

I agree. In fact I’d say they look oddly….detached.

(sorry, couldn’t resist)

That Champions #1 cover rocks. (And kudos on elevating such a recent work as Art Adams’ Incredible Herc cover, which is really awesome.)

Vincent Paul Bartilucci

September 11, 2009 at 4:45 pm

Thor #356 is the single greatest Marvel Comic. Ever.

All the heart of “The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man.” None of the schmaltz.

Those Bob Layton Hercules Min-series were really great. Loved the issue where Hercules tried to slip Galactus a mickey to save the brewery world,

I can’t believe I didn’t think of the Thor fill-in cover right away. That cover prompted me to do a quick impulse buy at a time I wasn’t collecting Thor, and I loved the issue!

Champions is another great choice I didn’t think of.

Fun list.

Yep, turns out I was right. Hercules doesn’t have any iconic covers.

Yep, turns out I was right. Hercules doesn’t have any iconic covers.

Now that’s just silly.

Quibble with #2-5 (or any other alternate choices), but #1 is plainly iconic.

True Brian, but # 3 is my favorite. It’s just so awesome.

Another good cover was the issue he guest starred in of “The New Mutants”. I can’t remember the issue #, but it’s him charging into a burning building, with Magma unconscious on the floor. Not iconic, but still pretty cool.

Brian –

I wasn’t actually trying to say that your cover choices weren’t iconic to the character, which they all are, but was attempting to lightheartedly say that I don’t think Hercules is an iconic character. I grant you after rereading what I wrote and your response to it that my intent was in no way clear, but it made total sense in my head at the time.

In my mind the most interesting thing Hercules ever did was get his ass handed to him by the Masters of Evil. I’m told that his new series is excellent (at least once a month in “What I Bought?”), but I just can’t bring myself to purchase a comic about Hercules. There’s certain characters we all have that we just can’t get enthused about and Hercules is one of mine although I do think both Kirby covers are pretty great.

Now, I grant you that I don’t post a lot so taking the time to point out that I don’t really care for Hercules is pointless, especially since nobody cares, but I’m home sick with bronchitis and a little pneumonia in my left lung and I have to entertain myself somehow.

Wrong!

How could you skip the Boy Layton cover to Hercule #1?!!! It’s much better than his comic relief cover to the issue of Thor posted.

Gil Kane’s Champions cover — excellent stuff! Too bad the interiors to that issue were by Don Heck — not a great way to launch a title.

How could you skip the Boy Layton cover to Hercule #1?!!! It’s much better than his comic relief cover to the issue of Thor posted.

I’d agree, Kirk, but I think the Thor cover is just a more iconic image. Layton’s Hercules mini-series was great, though!

“It is strange to me that two of the five are Gil Kane covers. Mentally, I have Kane filed with Neal Adams as a “DC guys, who worked at Marvel for a while” as opposed to Jack Kirby and Ross Andru that are the reverse.”

At the time, I didn’t realize that so many of the great Marvel covers from the 70s were drawn by Gil Kane. Avengers 141 is probably my favorite of his. He did some great Invaders covers as well. In fact, I think his cover work surpassed his interior work. Really should be a coffee table book collecting his Marvel covers… and a similar book for Nick Cardy at DC.

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