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Top Five Mike Zeck G.I. Joe Covers

Top Five Month (check here to see an archive of all the top five lists featured so far) continues with the great Mike Zeck, who did dozens of brilliant covers for G.I. Joe comics. Thanks to reader Keil for the suggestion! This was by far the hardest list so far to narrow it down to five – not so much because they’re all good (which they are), but because so many of them repeat similar themes, so it is often a matter of choosing my pick out of each of the various themes, ya know? In any event…

Here are the top five…

Enjoy!

NOTE: Due to the blog’s server being down last night and this morning, I was unable to get this up until now. My apologies.

No honorable mentions because there are just so many of them – you could pretty much throw a dart at a row of Zeck covers and come away with a worthy cover.

5. G.I. Joe #34

This is the example of Zeck’s “uniquely angled” covers. There are a lot of other good examples of these, such as #24, #28, #37, #44, Special Missions #4, Special Missions #5 and Special Missions #6. This is my favorite of the bunch, but #28 is definitely a strong contender.

4. G.I. Joe Special Missions #1

This is an example of Zeck’s “soldiers with their backs against the wall, blazing guns with sneers on their mouths.” This is used on #41, #47 (sort of) and Special Missions #2

These covers are always really bad ass.

3. G.I. Joe #52

This is an example of “dynamic Storm Shadow covers.” Zeck had four really dynamic Storm Shadow covers. I’m going with this Quick Kick one, but you could easily make an argument for the Destro vs. Storm Shadow cover from #38 for this spot. #42 and 46 were the other Storm Shadow covers.

2. G.I. Joe #40

This is an example of another one of Zeck’s specialties – the close-up cover. Zeck often would zoom in to get some real POWER to the proceedings. He would often mix these in with his “unique cover angle” covers and also the “soldiers with backs against the wall sneering” covers, as you can see with the Roadblock cover above. The previous issue, #39, is a real contender with this one for best close-up cover. #39 has a tense look at Stalker camouflaged in the jungle. I love the tenseness of that cover, but I think in the end, the power of this cover beats the tenseness of that cover. Other great Zeck close-up covers include #45 and #48 (which are also unique cover angle covers) plus #55 and #64 (which was the silly Cobra Commander in armor cover, but still, it was, in fact, a close-up cover).

1. G.I. Joe #61

Another “soldiers with their backs against the wall, blazing guns with sneers on their mouths,” but damned if it isn’t framed about as beautifully as an artist can frame a cover. Zeck had a really great stretch from #61-63, showing the problems of these three members of G.I. Joe.

That’s the top five! Agree? Disagree? Let me know!

23 Comments

These are all pretty cool. I recently read a whole bunch of Joes. I like to read my older stuff when I get new stuff, so I had pulled my Joe stuff when I got the FCBD Joe issue. I also got a bunch of the Joe Classic books out from the library, so I ended up reading almost all the Joe issues from 1-70, plus a few beyond that that I had, and some other Joe stuff. (I had a fair amount, because my ex, she liked Joe. She was a bit odd, but I like that…)

What surprised me was how GOOD the book was. I liked how there were a lot of done in one stories, especially in the first year, and even after that the continuity was interesting and the stories compelling. I probably watched the cartoon as a kid, but I was more into HeMan and Transformers, but GI Joe the comic was pretty damn good. There are times when you go, oh, I guess he had to shoehorn in these toys into the book, but overall Hama handled it rather smoothly. And there were some really good artists, too. (Russ Heath did an issue or two!)

These are some good covers. What’s Zeck doing now?

#1 has that Days of Futures Past feel and vibe to it.

Having never collected GI Joe comics, I’ll have to take your word on this stuff, but these are all really sweet!

While I suppose it may be a problem that no actual Joe character appears on it, I always have loved his “grim reaper with a machine gun, which tells you there’s some deaths inside:
http://yojoe.com/comics/joe/joe43.shtml

I also like these two:
http://yojoe.com/comics/joe/joe45.shtml
http://yojoe.com/comics/joe/joe46.shtml

Thanks for the G.I. Joe feature. Despite it’s iconic 80s nature, some people tend to overlook the comic because they’re toy characters and they’re not superheroes or whatever reason.

Issue 43 was my first G.I.Joe comic. Death firing a gun. It starts off with a guy holding two other guys at gunb point in the rain and it ends with a whole buch of people getting blown up with rockets. It exploded my young mind and I was hooked. I bought as many back issues as I could get my hands on.

Issue 34 is one of my all time favorite comics. The cover was awesome and hooked me.

Issue 52 was also one my favorites. The only problem I had with it as a kid was that there was no blood, so I rectified that by getting a nice red magic marker and drawing cuts and blood all over them both.

I thought sure 46 was going to be up there. That and the Special Missions with the grim reaper holding the scales of justice with the Oktober Guard.

Comics Cube reminded me that 46 is a classic and my first Joe comic.

Yeah, I think Issues #28 and 38 are real contenders for this list. #28 is so dynamic, it really screams at you, and it’s so different… I like it a lot.

Zeck did such an amazing job with all of his Joe covers. #43 was also my first GI Joe comic, and I collected straight through until the #120′s. A couple years ago I went back and re-read all the issues I had (#20 or so to #125 or so) and the stories do hold up amazingly well. Larry Hama did a great job with this series, even when he had to add in some of the sillier stuff from the toy line. I really wish the reprint books would get up to the last 20 or 30 issues of the title. Those are really hard to find and I’d love to be able to read them.

No honorable mentions because there are just so many of them – you could pretty much throw a dart at a row of Zeck covers and come away with a worthy cover.

Ain’t that the truth!

I agree, #43 is a great image. I also really like #44 a lot. And, though it wasn’t a regular issue, the cover to Yearbook #3 was incredible. I’ve posted links below…

http://www.comics.org/issue/95855/cover/4/?style=default

http://www.comics.org/issue/95970/cover/4/?style=default

Mike Zeck is one of my all time favorite comic book artists. Anyone know what he’s doing nowadays? I cannot believe Marvel and/or DC haven’t given him a book to draw, or at least some covers. The guy is amazing. I really enjoyed this Top Five entry. Thanks for assembling it, Brian.

As a UK reader, we had Action Man, and the rights were bought up by IPC in the mid-80s (who owned 2000AD) so their war/boys adventure weekly comic became Battle Action Force, with the Action Men split into 4 Forces and battled big baddie Baron Ironblood and his Red Shadows troops.
Then Ironblood transformed himself into Cobra Commander and the stories followed the GI Joe world, and I went ‘eh?’ Unfortunately the comic was on its last legs & was noticeably poor, so I dropped it shortly after. I never got the Joe experience USA readers had, and anyway I was into superheroes by then – I’ve no idea if the UK stuff followed any of the US monthly stories/ideas.
Anyone else remember these? Cheers Pete

Thanks for the spotlight on Zeck. IMHO he’s one of the most underrated artist in the business.

These are all great covers, like you said so many good ones to pick from. I won’t argue with your choices because I know it wasn’t easy to pick just 5.

G.I. Joe was what got me into comics, I finally had to drop out around #55, it just got too silly for me by that point. Most of the interior artwork throughout the first 50 issues is substandard (to me at least), but man those Zeck covers are just as awesome today as they were 25 years ago.

G.I.Joe getting some CSBG love! Definitely an overlooked book due to the toy reputation. Ive reread the whole Marvel run a few times recently and it definitely holds up to about issue 80 or so. Its a shame Hama’s IDW continuation of the Marvel series is off to a shaky start.

Zeck is an incredible cover artist. I can’t think of anyone else so adept at rendering faces in his own style yet still making them completely recognizable and true to their known appearance.

Check out his page with many original art scans. Its A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! The pencils on 39, 43, and 45 are stunning. I hate to say, I think 45 was overinked losing Rip Cord’s face detail

http://www.mikezeck.com/pages/checklist/marvel/marvel1/gijoe.html

I gotta vote for

33… http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/2652_4_0033.jpg
39… http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/2652_4_0039.jpg
62… http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/2652_4_0062.jpg
and..
Special Missions 2… http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/3185_4_002.jpg

..oh and slightly OT but no Mike Zeck discussion is complete without this!
http://www.mikezeck.com/images/SketchbookPg/Ice-T.jpg

I avidly collected Battle Action Force in the UK until it merged with Transformers and they dropped the Action Force association altogether.

I think the main stories for these were reprints of GI Joe Issues with occasional stories by Marvel UK.

It took me a while to warm to the new incarnation of Action Force and eventually as I started getting the US comics off the newsstands at my local market instead I collected the back issues (the UK comic was months behind the US counterpart) and then dropped the UK comic.

What most sticks out is when the Joe’s and the Transformers started to cross over their stories. That made my younger self squeal with excitement.

Plus there were the Geoff Senior covers. Awesome!

Great list.

#34 remains one of my all-time fav Joe stories. Brilliant done-in-one story by Hama with a terrific ending.

#23 features a remarkable cover as well which has Roadblock and Clutch guarding a recently captured Cobra Commander. From Clutch’s wary expression to the sneer you can ‘feel’ is there from under Cobra Commander’s hood, a beautifully rendered cover.

nice list . figured it would be hard to narrow it down to five given how interesting the joe comic was. though surprised the silent issue did not make the list. that plus the issue showing the saw viper who killed a bunch of joes. his evil grin.

I’d love to see a hardcover or trade for all of the covers, regular series and Special Missions. Towards the end of the run, they weren’t as spectacular, but most of the beginning of the series were amazing. It was hard to beat a Zeck or Michael Golden cover. As far as what Mike Zeck is doing these days, I believe he is working for the DC Merchandising Art Dept.

My personal favorite is #46 (Snake Eyes/Storm Shadow cover), followed closely by #43, and the above mentioned #23 where they’ve captured Cobra Commander. But really, ALL of Zeck’s covers on this series were incredible! I love these old GI Joes, they got me into comics…

to respond to chad: the silent issue(21) ‘s cover wasnt done by zeck. it was done by someone else- larry hama. also,the saw-viper cover you are referring to is 110,done by ron garney.this is the TOP 5 Mike Zeck G.I Joe covers,not the TOP 5 Joe covers.

Put me down as someone else who loved those Zeck GI Joe covers. Just incredible stuff that got you PUMPED for the contents inside.

Zeck also did some great covers for the beginning of the Deathstroke (DC) solo series in the 90′s, also fun stuff.

HIs last interiors I remember seeing was issue #21 of the Devils Due GI Joe series, commemorating the Silent Issue. I remember the artwork not being all that great. :-(

I agree with GI Joe 34. I think 43, 33 and 55 (Unmaskings) are magnificent too.

The lost art of the comic book cover!!

Mike Zeck (and Michael Golden) drew covers for G.I.Joe that DEMANDED you buy the issue. What a thrill ride.

Mike Zeck was also known for penciling the Marvel Secret Wars mini series in 1984, and several issues of the various Spiderman titles (Spectacular Spiderman, Web of Spiderman and the Amazing Spiderman) during the 80′s. Issue #8 of Secret Wars (which was penciled by him) featured the very first appearance of Spiderman’s black alien symbiote costume, which would later become Venom when linked to Eddie Brock. He also drew some issues of the famous “Death Of Kraven the Hunter” story arc which ran through all the Spiderman titles. His covers really were amazing.

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