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Top 75 Most Iconic DC Covers of All-Time #5-1

Here’s #5-1! Here‘s a master list of all the covers on the countdown so far!

Enjoy!

5.

Cover Art by: Frank Miller

4.

Cover Art by: Brian Bolland

3.

Cover Art by: Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson

2.

Cover Art by: George Perez

1.

Cover Art by: Joe Shuster

Hope you had fun with the countdown!

Thanks to everyone for voting!

60 Comments

Yeah, I can see all of these being the top 5.

Well, I was feeling like I did kind of did terribly overall in pics, but I’m pretty sure I voted for 4 out of 5 of these. Unfortunately that superman/supergirl cover is one of my most hated covers…but what the hell…4 out of 5, I’ll take it.

Great list Brian. Can’t imagine how much work it was – especially when combined with the storylines posts. Awesome stuff.

My picks did well, winding up in the following positions:

#1-7, 10, 12, 15

Much better than the Marvel covers one if I recall…

To be fair, I suspect almost everybody had at least 8-9 votes in the top 20; when DC’s covers are iconic, they’re really iconic. In particular, I wouldn’t be shocked if something like 95% of the votes voted for Action 1.

My picks went 1-3, 6-7, 9, 12-14, 17

I’m pretty shocked re: #2. I just wasn’t expecting that to be top 10, let alone second place. Huh.

I’m pretty shocked re: #2. I just wasn’t expecting that to be top 10, let alone second place. Huh.

When I began the poll, someone told me that DC had done a similar poll back in 2000 and that cover was actually #1.

All these covers make me really really happy, especially after just seeing the deaded rat in WE3.

Great stuff!
DFTBA

Wow.

The Miller DKR cover was amazing. The photo-realistic lightening bolt and the Batman silhouette really told where the series was going.

I have never been a fan of the Killing Joke cover, but it does foreshadow a key plot point in a major DC story. That does make it iconic.

Flash #123 pretty much symbolize the entire DC Silver Age.

COIE #7 is a great image, but I do not know that it is all that ICONIC. It tells you very little about the relationship between Superman and Supergirl as it is depicted in the comics. I think that it ranks this high because it is dramatic.

On the other hand, Action Comics #1 tells you most of what you need to know about why Superman is cool. If Superman wasn’t cool, then there would have never been a comic book business to speak of.

Actually, of the two most critically acclaimed ’80s output — the two titles that started earning mature assessments from the mainstream of superhero genre work — I can’t imagine how “Dark Knight Returns” #1 is a more iconic cover than “Watchmen” #1. That’s just wrong.

Meanwhile: Did I miss the JLA vs. JSA cover? I never expected it to crack the top 10 or 15 … but did it place much further down? Or was it one of the 15 that fell by the wayside?

The crazy thing to me is how… I don’t know, “bad,” I guess, the Action Comics cover is. Like, why are these suits out for a drive in the middle of the desert? Why is Superman wrecking their car? That front bumper looks ridiculous and the detached wheel, I don’t think it’s where it should be on the cover. More than any of that though, looking at this cover in 1938, wouldn’t you think Superman was evil? Trying to detach myself from what I know about Superman, I see a herculean being in a cape (which in 1938, may have been most associated with Dracula or a shadier pulp vigilante like the Spider, although I’m just speculating) smashing some apparently blameless American’s car. By the cover alone, there’s not really anything to set this apart from any other unstoppable monster story, is there?

All 5 of these were on my “shortlist” of 24 comics I wanted to vote for and I ended up voting for Action Comics #1 and DKR.

My votes overall took #1,5,8,9,15,20,25,30,36,42

so not too bad.

@ Dean,

I don’t think it’s fair to say there would b no comic book business without Superman. The comics industry was successfully growing before Superman was introduced. He may have brought about a major boom in the market, he certainly did for super-hero books, but the 1950’s stand as proof that the industry can thrive without super-heroes.

Would there be a comic industry as we know it today? Probably not, but there would still be a comic industry. Of that I am sure.

Seems like “The Killing Joke” and COIE #7 went too high. Definitely iconic, but not THAT iconic.

@Cass: are you serious? Those men are all hatless…in the ’30s! Clearly they are unsavory provocateurs.

That would be interesting to see, Thok… I wish Brian had put the points for this list. Or at least, “1st place votes”. But I guess since the options were limited…

Amazing! DC did a poll of Most Iconic DC Covers ever about two years ago, and these same five made the top five (but in a different order)

@Cass: are you serious? Those men are all hatless…in the ’30s! Clearly they are unsavory provocateurs.

I don’t know. I think Superman may have knocked the hats off their heads. Look at the guy panicking in the foreground, for instance. He’s holding his head thinking “Oh no! What’s happened to my hat?! Now, everyone will think I’m an unsavory provocateur!” So I’m sticking to my guns regarding the evil Superman on this cover.

Cass: I tend to agree with you about Action #1 in that it’s not the best drawn cover of all time or anything…but since this list is iconic, I think it’s got pretty powerful impact. Also, when I was doing a list of best covers on my blog (but really “favorite” is probably more accurate) I came across a great link that has a super high res scan of Action #1 – and seeing it like that – I don’t know, it was pretty powerful and went a long ways to reminding me what is iconic and important about it. Check it out – as maybe it will have a similar impact on you:

http://xroads.virginia.edu/~UG02/yeung/actioncomics/cover.html

@Rebis – That JLA vs. JSA cover didn’t even make the list, which I thought was very odd. Going back through, I think my picks were 1,3-8,15,18, and 21. But I thought I also voted for that one, so maybe it was one of the last ones I cut. Still, two evenly matched groups seen in profile running at each other from the opposite sides of the cover is one of the instantly recognizable comic book images. I’m surprised it got left out.

Awful picks for 1 and 2.

One FM rules!
One BB outshines!
One GP draws them all!

@Kelly: Thanks for the link. The real thing does inspire a good deal more awe than the marketing copy. But actually, and I should’ve specified, I do think the cover is remarkably iconic. Superman piledriving the car is, I would say, the second image that comes to my mind when someone mentions Superman (the first being ASS #1, which as my desktop wallpaper has a great therapeutic effect when I’m working hard at my computer, but anyway). That said, ignoring the cover’s iconic “force,” and attempting to be objective, one almost has to agree that Action #1 is not a particularly well-composed or well-thought-out cover.

@ Cass:

Frankly, you could not be more wrong.

Joe Shuster was not nearly as refined as the pros working today, but Action Comics #1 is a fantastic cover. The car is angled forward, which gives it a sense of momentum. Most modern comic artists forget details like that. The figures running away give the image a sense of dynamism. Who cares that Superman might be mistaken for bad guy? Characters routinely recoiled from Superman in fear in those first Siegel-Shuster issues, just the same Spidey in the early going. Stan Lee stole that theme from Siegel-Shuster. It worked great in both cases.

I didn’t vote for the graphic novel covers, though they’re certainly iconic, but the other three were in my top 10 for sure. I’m a little surprised that Flash of Two Worlds didn’t come in second, though.

The car is angled forward, which gives it a sense of momentum. Most modern comic artists forget details like that.

Most modern artists forget to have objects facing the direction they’re supposed to be moving?

Characters routinely recoiled from Superman in fear in those first Siegel-Shuster issues, just the same Spidey in the early going. Stan Lee stole that theme from Siegel-Shuster.

Unless you have a quote from Stan Lee to corroborate it, this statement is pretty ridiculous. The feared hero was not invented by Siegel and Shuster. Siegel and Shuster may have pioneered the comic book superhero, but that doesn’t mean every trope they share with other comics was “stolen” from them.

Man, looking at that Crisis cover makes me want to take a shotgun to my dude parts. Even more than I normally want to. That this is considered amazing and nearly worshiped is almost sadder than listening to real people talk about their lives.

Most modern artists forget to have objects facing the direction they’re supposed to be moving?

Many modern artists make cars and other heavy objects appear like they are floating and weightless when they are being lifted by someone with Superman’s strength. Paradoxically, it takes all the dynamism out of super-strength.

Unless you have a quote from Stan Lee to corroborate it, this statement is pretty ridiculous. The feared hero was not invented by Siegel and Shuster. Siegel and Shuster may have pioneered the comic book superhero, but that doesn’t mean every trope they share with other comics was “stolen” from them.

That was not my point. Siegel and Shuster lifted the idea from Wylie’s “Gladiator”.

My point was that the idea of the superhero as an object of fear has been with the genre from the very beginning. Shuster using the people fleeing Superman is not necessarily a cue that he is a bad guy, but an early use of one of the most standard devices in the superhero genre.

Yeah, the Crisis cover is pretty pathetisad. I almost wish on these polls that we could have a “bottom five” that would allow us to de-rank certain options to ensure that they never rank this high on these kinds of polls.

Yeah, I’m surprised that #2 went to COIE #7.
I really thought Detective Comics #27 had that spot nailed down.

It does make me a little sad, esp. when the very next issue had a much cooler cover “the Final Fate of the Flash”. To me COIE #7 is just way too cluttered of an image to be very effective. But that’s a problem I have with Perez art in general.

Loved the hatless provocateur comments.

Well, the poll didn’t ask us for “Good” covers, it asked us for “Iconic”. I had Crisis 7 on my list but it and at least a couple others wouldn’t have made my “Good” list. Not that I dislike the Crisis 7 cover, but it’s the fame of the image that got it on my list. Which is why I’m so baffled by the Killing Joke cover being #4. It’s an excellent cover but I don’t personally think it remotely qualifies as iconic.

Now I’m trying to define, even for myself, what exactly I mean by iconic. I think parodies and tributes have something to do with it. That’s not everything; but the fact that the art or some other element is referenced and we’re expected as fans to get the reference is an important part of it. And I don’t recall ever seeing a tribute or callback to the cover of Killing Joke. To the story, yes. Frequently. But not that cover. It’s good but not, to my mind, iconic.

Yeah, there’s been some good discussion on these posts about what constitutes “iconic”. I think recognition and references/homages come into it. But for me, it starts with the idea that the picture can be representative of a greater idea, whether that is a character, an event, or a time in comics. I like to think, “If someone were doing an article about this subject, what cover artwork would they choose to go alongside of it?” That picture of the Joker has become so symbolic of the character and his potential for evil, it is almost always placed alongside modern discussions of the character.

I didn’t vote for the COIE #7, although it’s certainly iconic for Crisis, death in comics, and the Super-Family. For me, because it represents a few of these things, it’s not as strongly iconic as some of the others. And I think the icon status suffers a bit for being based on the Pieta which has other connotations.

The more contests that run, the more I’m surprised at how many fans The Flash has. I guess I just never had friends that were THAT into him. I don’t recall running (haha) into that cover very often over the years either while all the other ones in today’s list have been solidly ingrained in the membrane.

This is kinda surprising.. I expected some of these to hit the top 15, maybe 10, but the 5? Intriguing.

Action, of course, was always going to be #1. Surprised the Crisis one hit so high as 2.

How close was Action #1 to ubiquitous?

Re: COIE 8 – we hardly see the main bad guy on the cover (unlike the covers for issues 10 & 12).

How close was Action #1 to ubiquitous?

Roughly 55-60%, I’d say.

Less than I thought. Enough to win, though!

Thanks for the countdown, B!

all good choices for was hoping the dark knight returns would have made the top five along with the crisis cover of superman holding super girls body. though the killing joke figured it would be on the list. and also glad the flash of two worlds made it all the way to the top five

My top ten were #1-3, 5, 9, 11-13, 15, & 37.

The one I was truly surprised to not make it was Action #285 – Superman introduces Supergirl to the world. None of the other “no shows” surprise me, particularly.

Yessss! Six of ten made the top 100!! Thank you!!!

I guess that The Dark Knight cover is iconic, but that split in Batman’s cape always irritated me. I love the art in TDKR, but with the exception of that cover with the old wrinkled batman bent over I don’t think the covers are nearly as good as the interiors.

The same with Killing Joke. I know the cover has become iconic over time, but it’s far from being one of Bolland’s best covers for me.

The other three I can’t argue with – and voted for. Da Fug, it’s probably not particularly Flash fans voting, but that cover was the birth of the multiverse and is considered symbolic of the birth of the Silver Age.

And that Crisis cover is so mega iconic. I can understand not liking it (not a huge Perez fan myself) but it’s a powerful and massively homaged cover – and is also the cover probably most associated with the death of the Multiverse.

Yessss! Six of ten made the top 100!! Thank you!!!

Considering only 15 covers didn’t make the top 75, that’s pretty bad going!

I can see the argument for COIE 7 being iconic. After all, when you think of Superman these days, you think of him crying. And this is the iconic rendition of sobbing Supes.

I didn’t vote for Action #1 because it seems to get recognition as ‘the first’ rather than as an image. It says nothing about the character we know and so cannot be iconic

What is iconic about the Dark Knight cover? What does the cover symbolize? That Batman can fly and strike ninja poses? Well he can’t fly, and ninja poses are not integral to the character. It’s a pretty cover, but it isn’t iconic because it doesn’t tell you anything about Batman. It’s not symbolic, it’s not iconic.

What is iconic about the Killing Joke cover? What does that cover symbolize? It doesn’t tell you anything about the Joker. It doesn’t tell you that he’s a homicidal maniac. For a Joker cover to be “iconic”, it would necessarily tell you that he’s a homicidal maniac. But this cover only suggests that photography is an important part of the Joker’s schtick, which is not true. So this cover is not the least bit iconic. It’s just a pretty cover.

The Flash cover is truly iconic, because it tells you that the Flash is a speedster (it shows him running) and it is iconic (symbolic) of the Two Worlds concept and the science-fictiony, idea-focused nature of Flash’s stories. This is an extremely iconic cover. One of the most iconic covers ever.

The Crisis cover is not iconic at all. It’s a beautiful cover, yes, but what does it tell you about the DC heroes? That Superman is a powerless cry-baby? That all the DC heroes are helpless and that they all stand around and do nothing?

The Action #1 cover is extremely iconic, because this was the first appearance of a creature with super-powers. The three frantic men are quite symbolic of the awe and horror we would feel in a first contact with an ultra-powered alien strong enough to throw cars around. This cover tells us quite a lot about the hero and the milieu in which he lives, so it is quite iconic.

You guys who think every beautiful cover is “iconic” — do you also look at a beautiful woman walking past, and think, “Wow! She sure is iconic!” ?

It is amazing to me that no matter what the outcome, there will always be some people who are not happy. I mean, people are upset and/or suprised that Action #1, arguable the most famous covers in the history of comics, comes in as #1 most iconic DC cover, because it isn’t a ‘good’ cover by today’s standards, or doesn’t tell enough about the character (besides the fact that he is Super Strong, you know, like a Superman!).

It makes my head spin. What the hell should have won then, the cover to All-Star Superman because it is super-great? Hell….

[…] Should Be Good has completed their list of the Top 75 Most Iconic DC Covers as voted on by the site’s readers, and the […]

@ Truth:

While I did not vote for either of them, I consider two of the covers that you attacked defensible:

What is iconic about the Dark Knight cover? What does the cover symbolize? That Batman can fly and strike ninja poses? Well he can’t fly, and ninja poses are not integral to the character. It’s a pretty cover, but it isn’t iconic because it doesn’t tell you anything about Batman. It’s not symbolic, it’s not iconic.

There is symbolic content in Frank Miller’s image. The silhouette of Batman in front of the photo-realistic lightening bolt is supposed to create the point-of-view of a real person seeing Batman. It tells the reader that DKR is a “street level” Batman story, which was an innovation at the time. Batman striking ninja poses was also brand new, since the Eastern aspect of his training had not been introduced. The image says “new” and “realistic”.

So, it is a highly iconic take on the aspect of Batman that interested Miller in the ’80s and the direction comics were heading afterwards.

The Crisis cover is not iconic at all. It’s a beautiful cover, yes, but what does it tell you about the DC heroes? That Superman is a powerless cry-baby? That all the DC heroes are helpless and that they all stand around and do nothing?

With regard to COIE, it has symbolic meaning almost exclusively in a meta-textual sense. This is the moment in which Silver Age DC heroes started dying. Given how blood-thirsty the intervening years have been, this was a pretty major development. I do not happen to like that this is an effective symbol of the DC Universe, but it is.

Moreover, it really does define Supergirl. If you we going to write the story of Kara Zor-El, then it would be hard not include the debut from the space-ship, the flight down the canyon of heroes and this.

I don’t like the cover of COIE #7, but it sure as hell is iconic.
I was just surprised that it came in at #2.

I’m totally at a loss for why someone would think Action Comics #1 shouldn’t be #1 on this list.
Has there ever been a more important/iconic cover? Try as I might I can’t think of one.

I’ll be danged if I can remember what I voted for.

I DO know that I didn’t vote for COIE #7. Nothing seems to be as popular as tragic, super-hero stories and that makes me sad. I’m not quite sure how the majority of comic fans have ended up in that frame of mind.

…but that’s irrelevant to whether it’s iconic or not. I didn’t vote for it because a DC hero holding a dead friend had been done several times before this cover. At least that’s my justification for it…

“Dead Friend”???

Kara was his closest living RELATIVE – and she sacrificed herself to save him.

Look at crisis 7. It shows a young woman who has been strucken down, cradled by a man who is obviously in deep distress. Its obvious she means the world to him. This isn’t just sad, this is devastation. Now look to the crowd, its not just faces. Find the people who are most expressive of their grief. Wonder Woman who is supported by Batman, Wonder Woman was one of Kara’s best friends. Power Girl, just watched herself die. Kal-L is holding her imagining what it would be like to lose her. Batgirl who obviously the closest in the comic book to Kara and gives that memorable speech. ‘she will not be forgotten’….then she was. Brainiac 5 under Kal-El’s armpit with his face in his hand, her longest running love interest and one she is close to in COIE itself. He takes the loss especially hard longer than anyone. So not only is this a collection of heroes to show how respected the character was its in the detail. We can tell instantly from looking at the page who Kara was closest to and it reflects what happens inside as any good comic cover does.

Compare this to Action #1. Superman doesn’t look like a hero. He’s trashing a car and causing public pandemonium.

Also remember that Kara was the first in an absolute cull of DC’s ‘third generation’. That generation was ripped apart in the coming years.
1985 Kara Zor-El is killed
1988 Jason Todd is murdered
1988 Barbara Gordon is paralysed

Supergirl, Robin and Batgirl all gone in quick succession. It was horrific.People think DC has blood on its hands now. Nothing’s changed. That cover represents the absolute mauling of the DC universe. Yet somehow The Flash is considered the great martyr!

I voted for 1-2, 4-5, 7-8, 10, 12, 16, 18. Doesn’t look like anyone did better than Chad Nevitt.

I thought Comic Book Resources did a story a few years back talking about how the image of Superman holding Supergirl was one of the most borrowed ideas for comic book covers in comics. It goes all the way back to a Sci Fi comic back in the 50’s and has been used several times since even before Crisis #7. Overall, not too surprised. Just happy the Dark Knight Returns made it to the Top 5 like it deserves!

"O" the Humanatee!

December 12, 2009 at 7:03 pm

I very much like Truth’s approach to figuring out if a cover is iconic: A cover shouldn’t be considered iconic unless you can say what it is iconic of. “Iconic” doesn’t mean “great” or “favorite” or “reminds me of when I started buying comics.” (Well, I suppose a cover could be iconic of that last one – but it wouldn’t be a kind of iconicity – if that’s a word – shared with a lot of people.)

However, I think his view of iconicity is a little narrow, focusing on the symbolism of the content of the cover. In addition to some of the things mentioned by Dean, the Dark Knight cover is iconic of the change to a darker and (nominally) more mature approach to superheroes – as is, for that matter, the Killing Joke cover.

"O" the Humanatee!

December 12, 2009 at 7:04 pm

Sorry about not closing the HTML tag! I meant only the word “could” to be italicized.

My thoughts on whether something is iconic is very simple: SUPERMAN…what was the first image to pop into your head? If a large amount of people claim the same image as being among the first to pop into thier heads when someone says SUPERMAN, then the image is icomic of that character. I consider the “Krytonite Nevermore” cover to be iconic because that pose of Superman busting out of chains is one of the first images to come to mind when I think of the character. A cover that homages an earlier can be iconic because it is using an image/pose/lay-out or whatever that large amounts of fans have come to identify with the character.

I consider the Killing Joke cover to be iconic of the Joker. I consider the Dark Knight cover to be iconic of Frank Miller’s Batman. But for me the most iconic Batman cover is the dollar-size special edition Batman book that fell in for #58. That image of Batman running has stuck with for at least 30 years when I saw it as a splash page inside a story. Whether it is truly iconic depends on how many people agree with me but since it is the first image to come to mind when I think of Batman then for me it is iconic of Batman.

I’ve always thought that Batman looked ridiculous in that TDK cover, with his right hand’s corny stance, his squatting position, and that ridiculous cape shaped like a bat’s wings.

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