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CSBG Archive

I Can’t Cover What I Am – Marvel’s 25th Anniversary Covers

In this feature, I spotlight comic book covers that follow a specific theme. Here is an archive of all the cover themes we’ve spotlighted so far.

Today I will spotlight ALL of the covers for Marvel Comics cover dated November 1986, the 25th Anniversary of the Marvel Universe.



It is hard to tell, but on the Marvel Age cover that has the back shown, Howard the Duck is there trying to get his way into the front but is being blocked by the UPC code box.


So much awesomeness. And also Ewoks!

Obviously Cyclops was overcome with emotion at the thought of Marvel’s anniversary.

Either that or he just plucked a nose hair.

It’s pretty cool that a couple of those artists are still working on a couple of the Marvel NOW books.

“Hello, ladies!” Clint Barton, everyone!

I like theme covers . . . such as DC’s version about a decade or so back. You can see the personalities, like Cap’s corniness, the many faces of Spidey, and Heathcliff dealing with lack of thumbs while putting on a bow tie. BTW, are Care Bears gonna be the Next Thing after My Little Pony?

I always have a soft spot for this month, as it came out right when I was really getting into comics. Some excellent portraits here, but as much as I love the Hawkeye one in particular, Simonson’s Thor blows the rest out of the water.

This probably isn’t a theme in the way you mean it, but I’d love to see a gallery of all the DC Salutes the Bicentennial covers. They all had a special banner that month across the top, which was numbered for no reason I know of, but I’m not sure if the actual art has any kind of bicentennial theme or not. I don’t think so.

These comics came out about 6 months into me collecting on a monthly basis, so I have a soft spot for all of these. Cool to see them all in one place.

Time for another round of “Things I was told at conventions as a kid”:

Yes, many of the covers are awesome, but the border is atrocious (It looks like Romita Sr. sketched something in for another penciller to finish, but instead somebody just inked the sketch in quickly and sloppily? I don’t know for sure.)

I asked a Marvel editor about this at the time (can’t remember who) and was told that the whole bullpen was really embarrassed about it, and Stan Lee was furious about the quality of both the border and that Fantastic Four anniversary issue (which they scrambled to put together after firing Byrne), and both things had a lot to do with Shooter getting fired. (In addition to, of course, the New Universe)

Just 26-year old half-remembered hearsay, granted, but still believable enough to me.

Awesome, thanks for compiling this! I’ve never seen all of these together. GI JOE #53 was one of the first Marvel comics I ever owned. I remember being confused about why Spider-Man, Avengers, FF, etc were featured on the cover of a book that obviously wouldn’t be in the inside pages! Hehe.

That New Mutants one… One of the best mutant stories ever written. No fancy fights. No costumes. No big soapy drama. Just an excellent story of persecution and prejudice. If you love “God loves. Man kills.” Do yourself a favor and read this one off. This is mutant storytelling done right.

As for those covers… Great stuff. I remember when marvel tried to mimic them a few years back, with their theme being the women of marvel. Not as good as these.

I loved how these looked as a kid.

I guess that amazing thing that hits me over the head looking at these is that was *all* the books that Marvel was publishing at the moment.

wow! this is just after I started buying comics and I tried to collect all these covers as a way to test the book and see what I liked. I skipped the GI JOE, Transformers, and kiddie comics (probably would’ve gotten Spider-Ham but that didn’t make it to my small Alaska town. The New Mutants story is one of the all time best mutant stories. That Avengers issues starts my favorite storyline. Thor and Uncanny X-Men…such amazing stuff, but I’m sure my age at the time influences my love for these comics. is Puck the guy under the UPC? because it barely looks like him….

Alpha Centurian

December 8, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Wow! Thanks for posting these. I actually bought the “Transformers” comic when it came out. Yeah, these came from the long lost days when comics were actually good and readable. Plus, ’80s Marvel was awesome.

” That New Mutants one… One of the best mutant stories ever written. No fancy fights. No costumes. No big soapy drama. Just an excellent story of persecution and prejudice. If you love “God loves. Man kills.” Do yourself a favor and read this one off. This is mutant storytelling done right. ”

Not only was it a beautiful comic, it was also a scathing critique of the X-Factor series’ set-up. I still can’t believe they published a series with the original X-Men being such blatant race traitors.

This was probably a highpoint in my early days of collecting of comics. It was such an understated way to celebrate their 25th anniversary but also very distinct: comics were even more about the battles and action in the 1980s so it was pretty rare to have a cover that just had a character’s head. While we have such high production values today, these artists did a splendid job of capturing the personalities and tone of their respective comics.

I had high hopes for the Women in Marvel covers a few years back to capture that same diversity of personalities as this one but it wasn’t quite as successful. Just like we were taught in art school, when you choose to frame the entire body, like they did for the Women in Marvel, instead of the face, the viewer pays less attention to the subjective personality and more to the form. DC’s Dec 1997 covers, also with close headshots as a theme, was successful in that regard.

DC also had the theme month sometime around 2000 where the logo of each book was incorporated into the cover illustration, ala Will Eisner’s The Spirit. That would be a good theme for this.

As Chuck E noted, it is kinda crazy looking back and seeing how few titles they were publishing, too. Out of the 29 titles, 9 of them are licensed and/or kiddie comics that are out of the main Marvel U, plus 2 more are Marvel Age and Spider-Ham, which are also outside of the main Marvel U. So only 18 “in continuity” titles published that month. I think there’s more X-titles than that published in a month now.

Geeze, I missed the fact that 2 more of the titles, Classic X-Men and Marvel Tales, are just reprint titles. So only 16 in continuity titles that month.

Like a few folk on here, I was a kid just getting into comics when these came out. Impressed the hell out of me at the time, and I still love these covers now. Great stuff!

Alpha Centurian

December 8, 2012 at 3:30 pm

In reality, a lot of the licensed Marvel books (i.e., Transformers, G.I. Joe, Conan, etc.) were better than the “continuity” books. While a lot of Marvel writers and artists were puking out books just to maintain “continuity” the licensed books were more focused on telling something called “stories.”

And at a time when there was no Defenders book, no Doctor Strange, no Power Man/Iron Fist.

And still, two Avengers books, three mutant (non-reprint) books, four Spider books. Marvel sure was at a delicate time of its output back then. Spider-Man alone represented 25% of the new monthly superhero content…

I wonder how Cloak & Dagger sold back then. It is weird seeing them having their own book when Doc did not.

Alpha Centurian – I wasn’t trying to imply that the licensed books weren’t as good as the other books. I’m totally with you on the quality of the licensed books. GI Joe is what got me into comics and I still think it’s one of the best runs out there. What I’ve read of both Conan and Transformers is really good, too. It’s just surprising to see such a high percentage of their output be out of continuity, compared to what gets published today.

It was the lack of titles that made collecting them more fun for me. Every month I could catch up on everything the X-men were doing without having to pick which X-men I was talking about. I quit collecting when it got to the point that I could find 8 titles all featuring Wolverine in one month’s release. It seemed like a lazy money grab.

More titles is good but only when they are actually different stories with different characters.

There were other Marvel Comics that month.

Of all the people to get the Avengers cover, we get The Black Knight?

Wait, something has to be wrong. I only see Wolverine once.

There were a lot of other books published that month in the Epic line and limited series. But this was an awesome set of covers. this was a much simpler time in the history of the Marvel U and I enjoyed that era a lot.

I was 11 when X-factor began and even at 11 I thought the premise was screwy; wouldn’t starting a mutant hunting business complete with tv ads spread anti-mutant feelings? Plus the book wasn’t very good in the beginning, focusing too much on Cyclops and Marvel Girl. I was a New Defenders fan ( there had to be one New Defenders fan!)

Alpha Centurian

December 8, 2012 at 5:05 pm

I wasn’t criticizing you. If you felt that way, I’m sorry — it was not my intent to offend. I’m just saying that continuity sucks. I just want a good story when buying a comic book. Back in the ’80s, when I bought a Transformers or Star Trek comic, I didn’t have to worry about it connecting to comics I didn’t read like X-Men and Batman.

“I was 11 when X-factor began and even at 11 I thought the premise was screwy; wouldn’t starting a mutant hunting business complete with tv ads spread anti-mutant feelings?”

EXACTLY, Josh! Even if they were secretly helping the young teen mutants they took in, the original X-Factor was still communicating the idea that mutants were a problem that needed to be controlled. I don’t know how anyone who wasn’t already a bigot could’ve thought that actually creating an anti-mutant hate group, even a subverted one a la Oskar Schindler’s factories, was a good idea.

The Mutt, I think it’s weird to, but the anniversary happened during Roger Stern’s run on Avengers, and the Black Knight was a big part of the team during that era. I still think he’s one of the more forgettable Avengers. The lineup at the time was Namor, Black Knight, Hercules, Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau), Wasp, and Captain America. I think that the cover should have featured the Wasp or Captain America since they are much more associated with the Avengers, and Wasp was team leader. Although it’s hard to tell who the Wasp is since she has so many costumes so Captain America probably would have been the best choice.

Classic X-Men actually had original backup stories for the first 40 or 50 issues. Sometime after that, around 1990 or so, the book turned reprint only and got retitled X-Men Classic.

That was the first Walter Simonson drawn X-Factor. He helped make the book readable. Before him, Apocalypse was a clownball of a menace.

@The Mutt and @sandwich eater, I agree that Black Knight was a weird choice for the Avengers cover, especially since Palmer’s inks make him look about 50 years old. And to this day I regret that Al Milgrom got to do the cover for Hulk, especially as it was a milestone-ish issue (325).

Alpha Centurion – No offense taken whatsoever. Although I found the continuity between the various Marvel U titles fascinating as a new reader. But I also feel like back then continuity was acknowledged, but definitely not used as a gimmick to get people to buy 14 different titles every month. Once in a while there were mini-crossovers. But even X-Men, New Mutants and X-Factor stayed pretty separate most of the time.

Choosing Black Knight was a good choice. Captain America was already overused at that time. Not quite so much as he is now, of course, but nevertheless overused.

” That was the first Walter Simonson drawn X-Factor. He helped make the book readable. Before him, Apocalypse was a clownball of a menace. ”

The Simonsons’ ability to turn X-Factor into not only a readable book, but an excellent one, deserves the utmost praise.

I’d just written my grade 8 final exams and did my traditional self-rewarding trip to the comics shop on the way home…and these covers blew me away! What a great haul that day, with “Under Siege”, “Mutant Massacre”…plus, I believe a bunch of annuals had come out (including the Marvel Age Annual which that year was particularly good)…and minis like Squadron Supreme and Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe were on the stands too…

For me this was the last great year of 80s Marvel…then New Universe started, some new creative teams on my favourite books were a bit disappointing, and DC started luring me away as they picked up steam.

(re: licensed books, just wanted to say I thought Conan was having an awesome run back then…I loved what Owsley and John Buscema were doing with ‘Barbarian’…)

Luis: I think Doc Strange did have a comic then, but it was bi- monthly and didn’t ship that month.

I imagine Black Knight got the Avengers cover because Cap had his own book and the rest of the current Avengers line-up was Wasp, Monica Rambeau, and Hercules. Dane was as good a choice as any.

You simply must do “Assistant Editors Month” if you haven’t already.

I’m thinking Black Knight was on the Avengers cover because John Buscema liked drawing him more than the other super-hero costumed Avengers.

Oh, and I agree the border was atrocious. It really did bug me at the time that they ruined the nice portraits with that abomination around the edges.

On the Marvel Age cover, I noticed the “New Universe” was still around. May it rest in peace.

At the time, Alpha Flight was doing a slow descent under Mantlo’s pen. That’s one book that had a lot of bad breaks and missed opportunities.

Yes, that was Dr. Strange’s off-month. Carl Potts edited Doc’s book and Cloak and Dagger, both of which were bi-monthly and alternated months, except for a brief time when they combined into one monthly book (Strange Tales) with 12 pages each. Doc had a regular title through the entirety of the 80s. I was really shocked when I came back to the comics in the ’00s and found that he no longer did.

Speaking of which, where’s Power Pack? Was that bi-monthly as well? This must have been its off-month as well.

Border art like that rarely works well, IMO. Too busy & distracting.

Scott Hartis mentioned the “DC Comics Salutes the Bicentennial” covers from 1976 (which was right around when I started collecting). There were 33 covers, and you had to send in 25 different logos – there was a checklist inside each issue – before July 4, 1976 in order to get a special Superman belt buckle. Here’s what the ad and the buckle looked like: http://aparofan.blogspot.com/2009/08/dc-salutes-bicentennial.html

Oops, “Scott HARRIS”, not “Hartis”. Stupid mobile phone keyboard.

Have always loved that BWS New Mutants cover of Magik.

I agree on an Assistant Editors Month column. Avengers and David Letterman? Those were good times!

Just for the hell of it check out Secret Wars 2 Issue 61 on the attached link.
UK comics touched on the theme but as we didn’t need the bar code back then, we replaced it with….


for the win and stuff.

And can I just add, regarding X-Factors screwy premise, Cameron Hodge was manipulating it the whole time and he was an mutant hater. I;m sure that was the case from the begining but it could have been a retcon .I dont remember.

I vividly recall my seven-year-old self looking over a bunch of these at the grocery store while my mom was groping fruit or some such boring adult thing. I only had a dollar, so that meant just one comic. I usually got a Batman comic, but these drew my eye on that particular day. I wound up getting Masters of the Universe. Even then I thought the Marvel MOTU comics were pretty crappy– the earlier DC ones that I’d dug up were WAY cooler– but I still picked up an issue occasionally in the hopes it would be better. This issue actually was; it took a character I didn’t care for (Hordak) and gave him a little depth.
I wound up getting the GI Joe issue a few months later from one of my friends, trading a toy gun with a broken trigger for it. I’ve never actually read any of the other 25th anniversary” cover comics.

Got 14 of the hero books there.Even after 26 years, I have to say, what a piece of crap ff 286 was! A shame, Byrne couldnt do it, or Barry smith from cover to cover. The only thing worse was ff 300, four months later.UGH!! It took a LONG time for the ff to pick up again after Byrne bailed on marvel.Im sure that pissed marvel off greatly.

Yes, I know it was 296. My eyes aint what they used to be.

I’m enjoying the comments more than the actual covers.

Boy… I collected just about every series up there at one point or another. What strikes me so much about the 80’s was its diversity. Marvel had something for everybody back then, DC as well to a similar degree.

I remember 1986 being my first jumping off year, though. DC was starting to really match Marvel’s quality post-Crisis with guys like Byrne, Perez, and Miller working there. That was a surprise banner year for DC. I returned to comics by late ’87 and stuck around on and off since then, but the 25th Anniversary was Marvel’s peak for me.

The borders here were cheesy, though. I would have gone with something else or just had the portraits. I wouldn’t mind seeing the DC Bicentennial and Assistant Editor’s Month stuff to compare ‘em with these.

Those aren’t all Marvel books that were coming out at the time. Power Pack and Doctor Strange were skipping a month, as mentioned. Defenders and Power Man/Iron Fist just ended. And there was also Web Of Spider-Man #20, which also had an anniversary cover, but for some reason is missing.

@Frank: What do you mean, still around? It was just beginning, because New Universe was created FOR 25th anniversary.

Duh, I’m blind, Web is there. :)

Hard to beat the Hawkeye cover. It represents so much what the character is all about.

I own all of these except for Masters of the Universe, Care Bears and Muppet Babies. Of course, when you go to buy them in back issues, they are usually the ones that you can’t buy.

The original “Hey look — it’s my head.”

New Mutants 45. I was 12 and my parents went out bowling one night and I had my stack of new comics to read through. New Mutants was in the middle of the stack and when I was done with it I was weeping and didn’t even finish the rest of the books that night. I was so affected; it haunted me. It spoke to me. I read it once in a while and each time it transports me to that time when I was 12 and awkward.

Count me in as someone else who loved these covers. Some of them I still own and fondly remember.

Ah, the good ol’ days…

@ MJ, apologies if I’m wrong, but I think Tom Palmer drew that Avengers cover on his own, rather than over John Buscema’s layouts.

Great to see the Marvel 25th covers again, but there is one missing! One of Marvel UK’s Secret Wars II issues that month featured a re-use of Barry Windsor-Smith’s FF 296 cover.

Sorry, I meant to post a link to the missing UK cover : you can see it here http://starlogged.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/secret-wars-ii-uk-part-two.html

Everyone has commented on the number of titles….look at the number of titles with the cover prices. You could have all the titles Marvel published that month for around $22. Nothing like a 500% inflation rate over 25 years.

It’s kind of funny, all these years later, to look at these together. Most of them are great, or at least good, pictures of a main character. And then with Transformers: Menasor! Granted, it’s a well-drawn Menasor, but, still, how cool would it have been to have an iconic image of Optimus Prime or Megatron instead?

I have a Labyrinth from #1 from November 86. I have the other two in the series as well.

Wow. I’d known that the Marvel 25 anniversary issues had all of the heroes around the border, but until i’d seen them all together like this, I never realized that they ALL had a single character’s portrait on them.

Jake, yes, that’s Puck under the UPC logo.
Sorry I didn’t read this three years ago when you still cared. :)

I love that month of comics.

Power Man/Iron Fist ended 2 months prior and Doctor Strange was bi-monthly back then; only reason Cloak & Dagger appear instead, as it was bi-monthly. They canceled titles both a few months later and started Strange Tales with both.

Mutant Massacre, Under Siege and Cap eventually quitting all began that month.

But the best stories were in Conan and GIJoe.

Such an odd choice for the Transformers cover. Nearly every other cover features the titular character, or at least an iconic one. The Transformers issue has… A Stunticon? An inaccurately drawn Menasor? Some generic Decepticon? Prime or Megatron would’ve made more sense.

Omg, i want these as a collection of individual posters to line the walls& ceiling of the hallway going downstairs in my new place…a “descent into tha Man-Cave” type thing :D :P :) ;)

cool to see some of the star comics like motu and ewoks marvel did way back when plus also the original transformers and gijoe ones here too. and love that cloak and dagger one showing cloaks face unmasked at last.

Looking at these covers takes me back. I still have two of them in the house somewhere: FF and Alpha Flight.

My brother and me had a couple of these. I loved the superheroes on the border, dont know why people are hating on it. The border is what makes the anniversary issue! Celebrating 25 years of marvel with all these heroes and the one drawn the in the middle. Looking thru back issues over the years and finding some of the other 25th ann. issues was awesome. More awesome is that you have them all on one page. Thank you for that. I had not seen every cover until now. The art is great. That thor cover, the new mutants one. The west coast avengers one. Thanks. Ps wat happend with the web of spiderman cover, phoned in or wat?

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