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The photo cover is a concept and device used in comic book publishing where the cover of one an issue uses a real life person instead of the traditional artwork created cover.

The photo cover maybe done for several reasons and in several ways:

  • Paid model. A model can be hired for a photo-shoot, usually dressed as the subject of the book. This can be done specifically for the cover or for other promotional reasons (e.g. for a live model at conventions or a famous person portraying the character) and then used again, since a photo cover can be considered as a cheaper alternative to creating a cover from scratch. London Night Studios was known for this practice.
  • Still from television or movie. Stills are used for comics that have been specifically made as a tie-in to an existing property in film, television or other media. They also enjoys the benefits of time and cost savings. In the case of many tie-in comics, photos are blended with traditional comic art to reinforce the comic's link to its original medium.
  • When the subject is based on a real person, their photo can be used. A good example of this is Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. Her comic run had a majority of the covers with poses of hers gracing the cover and, in her case, the vast majority were posed for specifically for the cover of her comics.

The photo cover normally appears on the front but might well wrap round to the back and maybe part of a shoot that will continue inside or form part of a sequence of successive comics. The photo cover typically is either used for every issue in a run or as a variant or one-shot, rather than randomly amongst the run of traditional set of covers.

This should not be confused with covers where a live photograph has been used and then traced as the basis for an artwork. This would normally be done again for time saving and to recreate a famous scene.

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