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Off My Mind: Are Homage Covers Inspired Art or Just a Cheap Gimmick?

Homage covers are easily recognizable and fun to see but sometimes feel like cheap gimmicks to sell a comic.

How many times have have you seen a comic book and had a sense that you had seen it before? A homage covers is one that is inspired by an often iconic comic book cover. There are some covers have that have numerous nods and reproductions over the years.

There is no rules or limits in doing an homage to an existing piece of work. Common courtesy dictates that some sort of credit is giving to the original source of inspiration. While homage covers can be fun to discover and look at, they are not always an indicator that the content inside will be on par with the content of the original comic.

With that being said, are homage covers always a good thing? Are they a good source of inspiration or are they gimmicks relying on the fondness or memory of the original cover?

== TEASER ==

I can appreciate a good homage cover like I can a good cover song. Often it is about the interpretation. Homage covers are something that should be used sparingly. No one wants to see one done week after week or for every issue in a series.

There are some covers that have been reproduced several times over the years. What is it about these particular covers that have drawn the inspiration? Let's look at some of the covers that have received several homages.

Action Comics #1

There's no surprise that this cover has been the source of inspiration for many. We're talking about the first appearance of Superman, who for all intents and purposes, was the first true comic book superhero.

Looking back at the cover today, you have to wonder how much thought went into the concept. The iconic cover clearly shows Superman's strength and how easily he can take on any villains. The fact that it is a little more on the violent side shows how much Superman has evolved, even from the time the cover was conceptualized to the first stories.

Superman isn't one to go about needless violence. If Superman were after a car full of crooks, he could stop them without having to smash a car. He could swoop in at superspeed and pull them all out of the moving car. Or to make things easier, he could just fly in and turn off the ignition.

Action Comics #1 showed we had a new breed of hero. He wasn't someone to take lightly. Most of the homages over the years haven't been fully necessary but have been more on the fun side.

Amazing Fantasy #15

Another first appearance for what became one of comic book's most iconic characters. No one really knew how huge Spider-Man's success would be. This was a truly simple cover, a man dressed in costume and carrying off a villains.

What is interesting is a lot of the homages feature Spider-Man himself. How many times has the wall crawler carried people this way. It does make sense since not all characters have a tendency to swing from a line while carrying a villain to the police station.

Amazing Spider-Man #50

While we're on the subject of Spider-Man, the next example comes more from an iconic image in the pages of a comic rather than the cover itself (even though the cover itself has been given an homage several times as well). Young Spider-Man had so many personal issues and made several sacrifices in the name of being a superhero and saving others. It finally came to the point that the decision of throwing it all away came up. This is something that several heroes have gone through.

Realistically, no true superhero could actually throw it all away. It's usually the case that being a hero is something inside them and not just the costume or superpowers they have. Also, they would be extremely foolish to simply throw away their costume in the trash where anyone could grab it and use it to commit crimes or tarnish the hero's identity.

It's also the case that the hero ready to give it all up has a change of heart. Whether it's a sense of duty or an addiction to the thrill of being a hero, it's not something that can easily be tossed away. Let's just hope they do a really good job washing their costumes after retrieving it from the trash.

Uncanny X-Men #136/Crisis on Infinite Earths/Death of "___"

Someone is going to die! Death is a gimmick in itself but sometimes publishers are a little more open with who is on target for death. Often it is left as a surprise to be seen in the pages inside but several times have we seen one character holding the lifeless remains of their fallen comrade.

The original source for this one is a little harder to track down than the others. The ones that immediately come to mind are Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 (death of Supergirl) and Uncanny X-Men #136 (the almost death of Phoenix). There are clearly covers the pre-date both of these issues.

Looking around, it seems this image was inspired by The Pietà, which is often seen in Christian art of the Virgin Mary cradling Jesus' dead body.

Death happens way too often in comic book these days. Some of the death stories are really well written but others are not worthy of having an homage cover of this nature.

And that is the question I put forth. Homage covers can be really cool but lose their appeal when done too often. The Marvel Zombies covers by Arthur Suydam are always amazing but because of the over abundance of Marvel Zombies mini-series, it's almost hard to get excited over them these days. If an average issue has a homage cover, it does feel like they are trying to cash in on the fact that many readers will recognize the image and might be inclined to purchase the comic based on the cover alone.

Homage covers need to be used sparingly. We can't have anyone police over who gets to do one and who doesn't. Check out the image galleries on our Homage Covers concept page. Some covers have been done so many times that those few really stellar ones start to lose their charm with each new rendition.

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Posted by Burnstar1230

Well, the cover is the first thing you take notice of when you're browsing around for comics, but it's the content is what makes you want to buy it or just put it back on the shelf. Homage covers are pretty much made for those who know their comic book history anyway.

Posted by cosmo111687

Don't think the Phoenix Endsong one is as much an homage as a tracing....

Posted by tonis

There are times when it's intentional, and others subliminal. Artists want to duplicate their influences whether they admit it or not :)

This is kinda like how they wonder how many possible themes there are to a story, I wonder how many themes can there possibly be as a cover to said story?

Considering we've had hundreds of thousands and thousands of comic covers at this point, how many unique themes do you think you could really count across all of them?

Posted by jubilee042

i love them

Posted by Obi Wan Kenobi!

I'm a big fan of homage covers..love them

Posted by VanAce

I don't mind them. Maybe sometimes they could use them as some kind of variant cover instead of the main cover.

Posted by The_Warlord
@Obi Wan Kenobi! said:
I'm a big fan of homage covers..love them
Posted by primepower53

I agree that they should be used sparlingly!

Posted by budokaz

Also the Incredible Hulk movie poster did an homage to Amazing Spider-man #50 cover 
 

Posted by kfhrfdu_89_76k

I myself think that homage covers are used too much. Yet, when I see one, I most probably like it. Especially the funny ones.

Posted by cattlebattle

I love "The Simpsons" homages, I think that they pay tribute to greatness

Online
Posted by NXH

Gimmick!!

Posted by Dark Cell

 
Depends on the cover and the comic its used for..

Posted by darth_brendroid

They're usually good; Hyperborea's Flash fansite lists most of the Flash cover homages over the years. Some times they make sense (Superman and the car; it's perhaps one of the most well known comic covers of all time - it is going to have homages because it is so iconic) and sometimes it works (Bizarro world, for instance). Other times it's just a gimmick. 
 
Besides, as the article states, covers have taken inspiration from other sources before (Pieta maybe?), so as comics have become an artform it makes sense it will develop certain 'symbols' associated with the medium. In this case, a character striking a particular pose. How many statues have a similar pose, for instance?

Posted by Decept-O

Yes they have been done a bit too much for a long time.  There are plenty of comic book covers that are homages to other artwork and even movie posters done over the years.  Naturally I can't think of any off top of my head but I think there are some Viners who probably know some.   
 
Its OK but a little can go a long way.    
 
That Mighty Mouse cover disturbs me. 

Posted by BlackRoseTessa

marvel zombies did them well and fun ,  i think when spider man or  superman hmage them selves its gimmicy but also resonates with long time fans , it works best if it does have something to do with the issue , 
and endsong was a homage to 136 uncanny  worked well  becuse of the ties in both stories.
Posted by MatKrenz

The homage cover that I love seeing all the time is Justice League #1. Because it shows a team in united and it has a comedic bent to it with the speech bubble. But what I like the most in an homage cover is when they do it based on an album cover. Those are usually fun.  
On the article, if it's something like a Simpsons comic it's usually it's all in good fun but it can gimmicky sometimes.
Posted by Billy Batson

I like them. 

BB

Posted by xerox_kitty

Some of them are gimmicky rubbish (like the cover to Ant #1) but a lot of them are quirky & fun.   
 
I still say the best Homage Covers are the Necrosha X-Force variants, which were all based on vampire-themed movie posters :)
Posted by Out_of_Space
Just a Cheap Gimmick
Posted by Geniusmonkey

Thought the July cover for Batman and Robin #23 by Guillem March showing the the Red Hood standing over a gunned down dynamic duo was a cool tribute to Frank Quietly's iconic cover for Batman and Robin #1.  Weirdly the variant cover (with Jason Todd in  Police custody )reminds me of a similar Adam Hughes Catwoman cover from a few years ago.  A homage cover has got to be pretty inspired to rise above being a novelty or a throwback.

Posted by fesak
@G-Man 
You might be interested to know that the cover for Action Comics #1 is a pretty blatant ripoff of a Hercules painting by Antonio del Pollaiolo.
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Posted by They Killed Cap!

I think if its done well they usually are cool if they are chessythey just become annoying and forgetable.
Posted by SirSparkington

I think it just speaks to the influence and legacy that the homaged art has had on comics & artists who draw comics.

Posted by keith71_98

Great article. To be honest, I've never given them much thought. Since I'm not a big "covers guy" I've missed a lot of them.
Posted by CrimsonInuTears

Do you really have to ask if a deadpool cover is a cheap gimmick?

Posted by Amegashita
@cosmo111687 said:
Don't think the Phoenix Endsong one is as much an homage as a tracing....
 That's pretty much what I'm thinking... 
Posted by MrUnknown

Actually about the Pieta there have been a lot of homages! Too many to count many! But there's actually a huge compiled list for it here
 
And, another homage to Spider-man #50:

Posted by YoungFrey

Like song covers, I like homage comic cover pages best when they are big departures from the original.  Like the large number of Powers covers that were from movie posters (Blade Runner, Clockwork Orange) or album covers.  The more the homage changes the original the more interesting it is.  I think Spiderman homages to Spiderman are really lazy.  But if you have a Frazetta-like style doing a Spiderman homage for a Sweet Tooth issue, that is something I'll get on board with.  I think it works very well for humorous comics.  The promotional comics for the video game Super Meat Boy has an excellent AC#1 parody.    
 
Posted by lucafon18

I like em, I suppose they are a gimmick but they look great in a collection

Posted by bjmorga

Alan Moore's ABC series Promethea did the best job of homages. Instead of direct copies of certain covers, but many of them were tributes to a particular artists' style.

Posted by Roninidas

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight did a bunch.  A couple of my favorites were: 
 




Edited by dorsk188

It's only okay when Deadpool does it.  
 
...Unless Liefeld does the art, in which case it's still not okay.

Posted by CraftyArrow

Every time I look at Amazing Fantasy 15, I always see that as a homage cover inspired by   Detective Comics 27.

Posted by blur1528

The Buffy one is my favorite. I cracked up the first time I ever saw it

Posted by Thunderscream

They can be fun if they're done right, but I do think sometimes artists rely on them too much. They're basically cover templates and if they're utilized over and over, it kinda makes me feel like they've run out of original ideas.

Posted by Michiel76

who cares?
just buy the cover you like, with so many variants these days just pick one.
unless you are a collector and want every single one of them (but why would you, it's just a cover)
 
What i find annoying is variant covers that form a single piece of art when put together.
Jim Lee's X-men number 1 comes to mind.
With these i always feel i'm cheated out of a piece of art, unless you buy every single variant cover, Which i'm just not willing to do (why buy the same comic more than twice? i could buy another comic for that money with a new story)
So i'm stuck with one halfdone cover sometimes with bodyparts from other characters on variant covers.
thats what i find anoying, with homage covers you at least get a choice and a completly done piece of art.

Posted by Larkin1388

I don't think they're a cheap gimmick but I do think they Should be used sparingly.

Posted by sickVisionz

I think any homage can be considered a gimmick since it's applying traits of something old to something new in hopes that it 1) looks cool to people who aren't aware and 2) resonates positively with those who are aware of it.  Whether you consider that to be a good thing or get upset over it is completely up to the individual. 
 
With that being said, are homage covers always a good thing? 
 
My immediate answer anytime I see words like always and never is to say no.  It's a case by case basis, but personally I don't really see how it could be a bad thing.  It's just a cover.  To me comics are just collections of pictures people thought would be cool to draw and stories people thought would be cool to tell.  If someone thinks it's cool to draw an homage cover I don't really see it as any different than any other cover that's a picture someone though would be cool to draw.  Maybe if they just photocopied a cover I would think twice, but if someone took the time to draw it themselves then it's kinda all the same to me.

Posted by Boogiepop
@xerox-kitty said:

Some of them are gimmicky rubbish (like the cover to Ant #1) but a lot of them are quirky & fun.   
 
I still say the best Homage Covers are the Necrosha X-Force variants, which were all based on vampire-themed movie posters :)
I agree with this. "The Lost Boys" X-Force cover was awesome! I think that homage covers are best as variants though.
Posted by goldenkey

I think it's both.  An homage and a cheap gimic.
Posted by Tigerstriper

I tend to like homage covers. When they're used sparingly, like others have mentioned, they can be really cool. The parody ones are almost always good for a laugh. I love the ones used for Deadpool: Merc With A Mouth.
 
Has anybody besides me ever seen this one?
Quantum Quartet

Posted by sofacitysweetheart
 
 
Did you mean like this? :D :D  
Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus

 
 
 
 
  
Forgot about this one haven't you? :)

Posted by 5ive

These covers and issues made such an impact and thats why people pay homage  

Posted by Jordanstine

RE: The Pieta
 
Interesting... I always thought the X-Men cover of Cyclops and Jean Grey was the 1st one to do this; it was drawn by the same artist George Perez before he left for DC and then used that same cover again for  COIE's cover with Superman and Supergirl.
 

Posted by ArtisticNeedham
Posted by Grim

it all depends on the quality of the comic. Out of all of those, the only ones that struck me as cheese were The Super Hero Squad and Deadpool covers. 
 
if someone draws something as a gimic and not because it would be a cool picture... you can usually tell.

Posted by Zaber

homage is always a homage. homage is the best memory ever. 

Edited by fesak
@ArtisticNeedham 
Nice, i don\t think we have all of those in the gallery, you could upload them if you want.
I\ve always been fond of Norman Rockwell homages. Bet that theres lots more that i've haven't fount yet.
 
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