By Krakoa 6 Comments
The Bronze Age was a period of transition when comics were bringing in money. During this glorious and underrated period, many classic masters were winding down and many budding new talents were coming in. These covers are in no particular order so don't freak out and think they are somehow ranked. Let me know which ones you love, have never seen before, own, etc.
I love the painted look on covers (as you'll soon find out), and this one has a quiet elegance despite depicting some sort of space battle, it conveys nicely the dynamics of combat with the silence of space's endless vacuum.
Alien Worlds #1, cover by Jim Chiodo. pub. 1982 by Pacific.
This is definitely a nod to the Frazetta covers of yesteryear, and it definitely has a timelessness about it. Had I not already mentioned it came out in '82, it's publication year would probably be anyone's guess.
Aquaman #62, cover by Jim Aparo (thanks to "Oldmancomicfan"). pub. 1978 by DC.
This is a very tragic cover, and although Aquaman gets a lot of crap from naysayers, this is cover is rife with pathos, and one cannot help but feel sad for the Atlantean king who has just lost his son. His body language speaks volumes.
Aztec Ace #3, cover by Dan Day and/or Nestor Redondo?, pub. 1984 by Eclipse.
The shadows here are beautifully done, and the artist(s) harken back to the days of serials and swashbuckling Indiana Jones types. We almost except something to leap out of the sarcophagus or from off screen to attack.
Aztec Ace #5, cover by Dan Day, pub. 1984 by Eclipse
This Aztec Ace cover is a surrealist work that reminds one of Salvador Dali in its use of the timepieces. It almost feels as if it could grace the cover of an early Vertigo title.
Batman #232, cover by Neal Adams, pub. 1971 by DC
Usually first appearance comics have memorable covers, but aren't always as artistic as they are famous. Here Adams shows us we can have our cake and eat it to, in the first appearance of Ra's Al Ghul. Al Ghul cuts a sinister figure in the background, and Batman's arched body is dynamic as if he has just turned in a split second to see Robin get a belly full of lead.
Battlestar Galactica #4, cover by Walt Simonson, pub. 1979 by Marvel
Walt Simonson, renowned for his work on Thor, gives us a cover that at first glance is a run of the mill sci-fi art piece, but upon closer inspection we see That Simonson's chase sequence is made pretty damn cool by the little things, like the sunlike orbs depicting thrusters and the sharp curves (sounds oxymoronic) of the ships.
Bizarre Adventures #27, cover by Paul Gulacy, pub. 1981 by Marvel
Three X-men, Iceman, Phoenix, and Nightcrawler stand as the epitomes of badassery. Iceman is nicely depicted with the small touch of his translucency showing Jean's leg through his thigh. Phoenix has an almost sensual look of "try me" as she stands wielding the phoenix force. Kurt on the other hand has a similar quiet determination. We don't often see painted X-men covers, and this is proof that that's a damn shame.
Bizarre Adventures #28, cover by Bob Larkin, pub. 1981 by Marvel
The very next issue of Bizarre Adventures made my list because it's a neat way of portraying an old trick. You the comic purchaser sees this, and probably is curious as to what it is they're looking at. Frankly, I don't care, but I just love the silly exaggerated expressions. If any artist depicted my Elektra breaking her killer's composure it would probably look bad, but Larkin does it well.
Captain America #256, cover by Marie Severin, pub. 1981 by Marvel
Unfortunately, though I'm a big Cap fan, not too many of his covers between the 60's and Steve Epting's recent work really catch my eye, but I love Severin's depicting of a frenzied Cap in the doorway of the gothic Greymoor Castle. It reminds me of the many great DC horror covers from this time period.
The Champions #17, cover by Ernie Chan, pub. 1978 by Marvel
This Champions cover makes up in dynamics what it lacks in distinctive style. The sentinels emerging from the greenish fog is just plain cool simple as that, and the impact is heightened by the look of desperation on the Champions' faces.
Conan Annual #1, cover by Barry Windsor-Smith, pub. 1975 by Marvel
Barry Windsor-Smith is one of the undisputed and sadly underrated gods of the Bronze Age. He does most things better than anyone else. And while this issue just contains reprints from older Conan's the cover is amazing and makes an otherwise unremarkable comic stand out. The detail here is something ahead of its time, and the lines and contours on the barbarians body are expertly done.
Contest of Champions #1, cover by John Romita Jr. and Bob Layton, pub. 1982 by Marvel
OK, this is a guilty pleasure. This comic is purely here for sentimental value. This is one of the earliest comics I ever remember owning (years after it was published) and being a little kid and enthralled by all the superheroes on the cover looking up either pissed or shocked left a huge impression on me.
Daredevil #184, cover by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson, pub. 1982 by Marvel
Daredevil does his best Dirty Harry impression on this startling, but minimalist cover. To describe it to someone would bore them, DD holds a gun with a plain yellow background behind, but to see it is to be dazzled by how bold it is in its simplicity. Even the cheesy NO MORE MISTER NICE GUY seems apropos to the badassery here.
Daredevil #193, cover by Klaus Janson, pub. 1983 by Marvel
When you're a contemporary of Frank Miller on his DD run, you can't help, but be slightly overshadowed, but here Janson shines on this striking cover that could come straight from an 80's slasher film. It seems ironically enough, that some of DD's coolest covers depict him not behaving like his usual self and holding weapons.
DC 100 Page Super Spectacular #4, cover by Berni Wrightson, pub. 1971 by DC
This spotlight issue on Weird Mystery Tales has a gloriously creepy cover done by another Bronze Age master. Magic has clearly gone awry, and the neon hues of the demon work well with the crushing blackness that frames the comic.
DC Comics Presents #54, cover by Dick Giordano (and Newton), pub. 1983 by DC
Bright flashes of light are juxtaposed with the black background for some nice results here as Ollie and Supes go into action side by side.
DC Comics Presents #85, cover by Rick Veitch, pub. 1985 by DC
It's funny, while Alan Moore is arguably (in my opinion undisputed, not arguably) greatest comics writer of all time, not too many covers of his work stand out in my mind with the exception of the iconic Watchmen smiley face. This is a good exception to that rule. Rick Veitch, does a dynamic job showing pretty strikingly what a Superman gone mad would look like and the sense of desperation for Swamp Thing as he faces this powerhouse.
Marvel Graphic Novel #1 (The Death of Captain Marvel), cover by Jim Starlin, pub. 1982 by Marvel
What I love most about this iconic cover, is the sense of separation between Captain Marvel cradled by Death and the rest of the Marvel heroes that almost seem painted behind. Starlin almost seems to know that Captain Marvel plays second fiddle to just about everyone else on the cover so he does a really great job of making him standout in this tragic scene.
Defenders #128, cover by Kevin Nowlan, pub. 1984 by Marvel
Normally when I think of a cover with heavily pencilled look, I'm reminded of much of the cringe worthy disposable artwork of the 90's right around the time crass commercialism set in, but here the effect is absolutely stunning. The expressions are so human it's amazing. Take into consideration that this deep humanity is depicted on the faced of a demonic looking dude, a viking chick, a furry blue monster, and a winged playboy, and that just makes this cover all the more impressive.
Detective Comics #537, cover by Gene Colan and Dick Giordano, pub. 1984 by DC
When a heavy hitter like Gene Colan does Batman, you know you're in for a treat, and here's why on a cover like this: Some spooky looking chap is coming out of a sewer no doubt up to no good and his hands jaundiced by the street lights along with the deep shadows make for a creepy effect, more suspenseful than that is the Bat poised to leap in the background, and you the viewer just tense up and wait for the impact of Batman crashing down on this guy.
Detective Comics #556, cover by Gene Colan and Dick Giordano, pub. 1985 by DC
Colan and Giordano are back with a second entry on the top 100 with this tender soap opera cover that is a beautiful gothic romance cover. The rain is a nice touch, especially with the stark red background.
Dr. Strange (vol. 2) #3, cover by Frank Brunner, pub. 1974 by Marvel
Brunner is another name that is/should be synonymous with Bronze Age excellence. This is a really epic cover with elegant shadows playing upon Doc Strange juxtaposed with the bright flashing light of this pitched battle between two supernatural giants. Dr. Strange had a lot of great covers during the 70's and picking just a handful for this countdown was especially tough.
Dr. Strange (vol. 2) #13, cover by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer, pub. 1976 by Marvel
Hooray for more Dr. Strange! Eternity is so well depicted during this time period. I love the face beset in the cosmos look. The Ancient One in throes of pain in the foreground adds nice balance to the cover and there is something decidedly vintage about the way Colan chose to show the good Doctor leaping to the rescue with his cape billowing behind him.
Dr. Strange (vol. 2) #39, cover by Al Milgrom, pub. 1980 by Marvel
Ok, last Dr. Strange cover on this list. I promise. This cover is just plain scary. It could be a Tales from the Crypt cover with this disturbing image of skeletons giving a crash course in vivisection. The light almost blinds you as you look it and you really get a good feeling of the terror this great Milgrom cover tries to evoke.
Dracula Lives #2, cover by Jordin Penlava?, pub. 1973 by Marvel
Dracula Lives is another comic with a lot of great covers to choose from, but something spoke to me about this one. It had *cough nothing to do with the nubile woman on the cover I assure you. Well that's a lie, but the main cool thing is how Dracula is shown materializing out of the shadows and swooping in for the kill.
Dracula Lives #11, cover by Steve Fabian, pub. 1975 by Marvel
The color blue dominates this cover, and while normally such a primary color would diffuse a horror scene's power, it works well here, with the lightning illuminating this macabre scene.
Epic Illustrated #12, cover by Frank Brunner, pub. 1974 by Marvel
Marvel magazines during the 70's had as you can probably tell my now, some absolutely gorgeous artwork and this lovely aquatic scene from Epic is no exception. Perhaps it's a Birth of Venus for the schlocky 70's?
Fantastic Four #244, cover by John Byrne, pub. 1982 by Marvel
80's FF covers while nice, don't normally do much for me, despite my love for John Byrne. This one on the other hand is just stunning. The colors are reminiscent of Kirby, but the pencilling is the signature Byrne look that so dominated the landscape of 80's Marvel Comics.
Frankenstein #2, cover by Mike Ploog, pub. 1973 by Marvel
This comic was really overshadowed by it's more popular cousin in the Marvel roster, Tomb of Dracula. This cover is very cool though, and I can't help but just stare at the subtle detail of the castle villa in the background and the sun in the background. Neither of which take away from the tense scene of Frankenstein's Monster clutching his bride.
Giant Size X-men #1, cover by Gil Kane and Dave Cockrum, pub. 1975 by Marvel
You had to see this one coming, you just had to. The imagery of the then new X-men (and frankly the finest roster of X-men they've ever had), bursting through the old team does not loose any of its impact decades later. No one has worked such wonders in drawing the X-men since, and that's saying a lot considering the A-list of names that have worked with the team, Adams, Steranko, Lee, Byrne, etc.
Green Lantern #87, cover by Neal Adams, pub. 1972 by DC
The first appearance of John Stewart is done beautifully by the master Neal Adams. You take one look at the enraged Stewart clutching Hal Jordan and you feel very compelled to pick this up and read it.
Haunt of Horror #1, cover by Bob Larkin, pub. 1974 by Marvel
Werewolf howls and is ready to savage a beautiful woman in some remote mountains. So what? So what, you ask? Who else but Larkin would put such photorealistic detail into the ominous skull in the foreground.
Haunt of Horror #3, Don't know who did the cover. pub. 1973 by Marvel
It's a testament to either Marvel magazines' quality or my really lowbrow tastes for their significant presence on this top 100. This is pretty standard fare for a painted horror cover, but hey I like it. Deal.
House of Mystery #219, cover by Luis Dominguez, pub. 1971 by DC
Maybe this should have been called the Top 100 Horror Covers of the Bronze Age. The best aspect of this finely drawn cover is the sense of dread the artist creates. Despite the fact that this type of plot has been seen many times in horror media since and before, it still holds up pretty well today.
House of Mystery #235, cover by Tatjana Wood, pub. 1973 by DC
This is almost out of a Twilight Zone episode. Woman running through a creepily deserted gothic village while being chased by giant birds? Wood does amazing work here.
House of Mystery #255, cover by Berni Wrightson, pub. 1977 by DC
Perhaps one of the tougher things to do convincing is to combine gothic horror with science fiction , a la Swamp Thing. Here Wrightson does a great job, especially with the juxtaposition of the flying saucer and the house of mystery itself in the background.
House of Secrets #90, cover by Neal Adams, pub. 1971 by DC
This is one of my absolute favorite Neal Adams covers. The walkway and castle aloft in space while the women runs into the waiting arms of the monster are all just executed so well. This cover has an excellent sense of depth and the lines are deftly drawn.
Howard the Duck Magazine #7, cover by John Pound, pub. 1980 by Marvel
Not a hoax! Not an imaginary tale! I actually included a humorous Howard the Duck cover on this list. It's silly, true, and the characters are almost done in a demented Disney fashion, but John Pound is such an amazing painter, that he truly brings this scene to life and makes it stand out.
Incredible Hulk #181, cover by Herb Trimpe, pub. 1974 by Marvel
Here's a comic whose reputation precedes it. Yes, this is the first appearance of Wolverine as you are no doubt well aware, but there's more to this comic than that. Herb Trimpe is my favorite Hulk artist, and the way he shows wolverine shattering chains against a blood red sky is just dazzling.
Iron Fist #15, cover by Dave Cockrum, pub. 1977 by Marvel
Who better to draw an issue of Iron Fist featuring the X-men than Dave Cockrum? The use of light on this cover is masterfully done and you get such a sense of impact from the way Dave draws Iron Fist lashing out at Colossus.
Iron Man #131, cover by Bob Layton, pub. 1980 by Marvel
The only Iron Man cover to grace this list isn't one fans of ol' Shellhead will probably like. Iron Man moments before the Hulk presumably lands a punishing blow on him. What makes this cover so special is the shadows on Iron Man, and how Layton (an amazing Iron Man artist), goes against convention and makes the Hulk the center of attention on the cover without detracting from Tony's importance.
Adventures of Kool-Aid Man #1, Don't know who's the cover artist. Pub. 1983 by Marvel
While this is in fact a real cover, it's placement on this list is merely for humor purposes, so without further ado, OH YEAAAAAAAH!
Kull #1, cover by Ross Andru, Sal Buscema, and Marie Severin, pub. 1971 by Marvel
Kull is sadly often seen as a mere Conan knock-off, but to be fair he is fairly different. If anything from casual observance of the cover, maybe He-Man is a Kull knock-off. I like this cover because of Kull's dynamic stance and the classic fantasy elements of a fallen enemy and a scantily clad woman adding to the majesty.
Kull #11, cover by Mike Ploog, pub. 1974 by Marvel
Here is a truly amazing fantasy cover. Kull is drawn marvelously by Ploog and the fire swordsman is a really imposing presence on this cover. There's even a skull thrown in for good measure.
Machine Man (mini series) #1, cover by Barry Windsor-Smith, pub. 1984 by Marvel
The intricacy of this cover is just awe-inspiring, I definitely recommend checking out the art of this mini series, because it's just gorgeous. The cool twist is, as the series goes on, the covers gradually depict Machine Man being constructed.
Marvel Feature #11, cover by Jim Starlin, pub. 1973 by Marvel
The Thing vs. the Hulk is a classic Marvel match-up and their encounters usually make for impressive covers. This early work from Starlin nicely exemplifies this, and Jim is quite adept at showing the sheer force of these two titans' collision.
Marvel Preview #10, cover by Ken Barr, pub. 1977 by Marvel
Again, I'm a sucker for painted covers, and to see Thor depicted as a classic fantasy hero is just drool-worthy. It was a toss up between this and the last issue of the first What If? series, but this one is just slightly better in my eyes.
Moon Knight #25, cover by Bill Sienkiewicz, pub. 1982 by Marvel
Bill is my favorite comic book artist of all time, so I could pretty much kick back and type a few pages as to why I like a cover like this. I'll save you the pain of that, and let you just gaze at this a while.
New Gods #1, cover by Jack Kirby, pub. 1971 by DC
Kirby fans, don't sweat it, if you think he's been sorely lacking from this list. The upcoming sequel Top 100 of the Silver Age is so Kirby-filled that you'll get sick of him (as if that were possible). This cover deserves classic status because of the stark contrast between the black and white cosmos and the multi-colored Orion zipping through space with his Astro Harness.
New Mutants #18, cover by Bill Sienkiewicz, pub. 1984 by Marvel
Another challenge in compiling this list was to keep it from becoming a Sienkiewicz fanboy's ravings. In order to prevent that I've made sure only to give a sampling of his creme de la creme. If you like what you see, I urge you to explore him further.
Spectacular Spider-man #51, cover by Frank Miller and John Rubinstein, pub. 1981 by Marvel
When you think Frank Miller, Spider-man isn't one of the first things that comes to mind, but his work on Spectacular Spider-man is really impressive. We're dealing with Mysterio, so I sincerely doubt that's actually space, though I haven't read this. I really get a kick out of how Miller uses light when drawing Spider-man as if here were framed by an unseen yellow orb.
Spectacular Spider-man #60, cover by Frank Miller, pub. 1981 by Marvel
Again, Miller uses light when drawing Spider-man, which is funny because he's so often associated with darkness and shadows. And while, shadows do play an important role in his depictions of Spidey, it's all about the glare here.
Planet of the Apes #11, cover by Gray Morrow, pub. 1975 by Marvel
This is a striking cover. A human lying dead with a bullet in his brain, and a bloodlusted gorilla general proudly bellowing at a stormy sky. This series had numerous great covers and this was another case of having to cull some of the best.
Planet of the Apes #19, cover by Bob Larkin?, pub. 1976 by Marvel
This is a really trippy Planet of the Apes cover that stands out from their other more straight forward combat or action oriented covers. I have no idea what's happening or what a psychedrome is, but frankly, I'm intrigued.
Planet of the Apes #21, cover by Earl Norem, pub. 1976 by Marvel
Earl Norem really captures a sense of savagery with this cover. If you've seen the film Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, you know the revolt this depicts. Norem's painting here is at its peak dynamism.
Rampaging Hulk #1, cover by Ken Barr, pub. 1977 by Marvel
Rampaging Hulk had some truly great covers and the first issue looks like a b-movie from the 50's. The look on the soldier on the left's face is such a great touch.
Rampaging Hulk #3, cover by Earl Norem, pub. 1977 by Marvel
We all know Magneto, but how many of you remember the Metal Master, who made his debut in Incredible Hulk #6? Thought so. What I love about this cover, besides the crazy sci-fi vibe from the Metal Master (who I don't remember ever looking so much like Ultron), is the attention to detail on the straining muscles of the Hulk, you can feel the tension in the brute's body.
Rampaging Hulk #6, cover by Ken Barr, pub. 1977 by Marvel
I already spoke about the aesthetics of Hulk vs. Thing, but how about the less famous Sub-Mariner/ Hulk match-ups. While it's fun to watch two brute beasts beat each other senseless, it's even more fun to watch Namor fight the jolly green giant. The reason being that Namor's athletic physique is dwarfed by hefty Marvel guys like Hulk and Thing, yet his strength is more than a match for them.
Red Sonja #1, cover by Frank Thorne, pub. 1977 by Marvel
Ah, Red Sonja, someone go make a respect thread for her, and keep it wholesome! This cover is just a veritable mess of fantasy stuff. An angry sorcerer, an insect creature, a basilisk thingy, an ugly troll monster, and a feral unicorn, to all this chaos, what does Red have to say? To the Death!
Ronin #6, cover by Frank Miller, pub. 1984 by DC
This is a very minimalist cover that is an amazing work or art, that should/could hang in a museum. A brief history lesson to explain this cover. The gent kneeling is about to commit seppuku. We in the west call it harakiri, but that's a term considered a bit too vulgar. The samurai kneeling will kill himself by cutting his stomach, at the climax of the act, eh man behind him, usually the samurai's closest friend or friend who's the best swordsman will cut and "almost" behead him by leaving only a small bit of flesh connecting the head to the torso. The whole ritual is very grisly, but I felt I should give a description of it. Disclaimer, I haven't gotten around to reading Ronin yet, so if what I've described isn't in the book feel free to correct me.
Swamp Thing #34, pub. 1985 by DC
I absolutely adore this cover. I the issue for a couple of bucks and feel like it ought to be framed. It's so peaceful and beautiful that for some reason I can't help but sigh at the sheer spectacle of it all.
Savage Tales #1, cover by John Buscema, pub. 1971 by Marvel
This is violent by our standards so I can only imagine the impact back in '71 when this was at the newsstand. It's all about the violence, from the bloody sword to the sensational titles. The rough painting style is very appropriate for the tone.
Savage Tales #7, cover by Boris Vallejo, pub. 1974 by Marvel
This ain't the X-men's Ka-Zar! You can almost see the testosterone oozing off the cover of this one. The rippling muscles, the hot jungle girl, the spilt blood! I suppose this along with most of its kind is a guilty pleasure, but I am unapologetic.
Secret Wars #1, cover by Mike Zeck, pub. 1984 by Marvel
Marvel's first epic crossover, is pretty much the only one they executed perfectly sadly. This cover bursts with action as the company's then heaviest hitters seem to leap off the page. This one made the list on its iconic status alone.
Silver Surfer: The Ultimate Cosmic Experience, cover by Earl Norem, pub. 1978 by Marvel via Simon & Schuster
This is historically one of the first ever true graphic novels. Marvel wanted to experiment with the blockbuster book format and for it Lee and Kirby teamed up on a book that is graced with a stunning Norem painting.
Amazing Spider-man #122, cover by John Romita Sr., pub. 1973 by Marvel
Even with the mask on, you know exactly what Peter's face looks like. Clenched with rage and with tears streaming down his face. And while in part it's because the word balloon fills you in on why he's pissed, it's also because Romita the elder is so comfortable with drawing Spidey that he can depict emotion through the mask.
Amazing Spider-man #136, cover by John Romita Sr., pub. 1974 by Marvel
When the Osborns first entered Spidey's life pre-90's storylines and Dark Reign, their feud with Peter was extremely compelling especially Peter's love/hate relationship with Harry. This cover so eloquently captures that feeling.
Amazing Spider-man #151, cover by John Romita Sr., pub. 1975 by Marvel
Again Romita does emotion through the mask, and it makes for a very angry and very determined looking Spider-man. Nobody draws Spidey out for Blood like JRSR.
Spider-Woman #32, cover by Frank Miller, pub. 1980 by Marvel
This is such a weird weird comic cover. You have an angular Spider-Woman fighting Werewolf by Night with classic Universal monsters in the background look on from their posters. The combination of photo and drawn art rarely works out well, but Frank Miller pulls it off.
Star Wars #44, pub. 1981 by Marvel
This cover is all about the leading lines. The viewer's eyes are drawn right to the crossed lightsabers and the effect is almost blinding. The shadows cast on the dueling figures is especially noteworthy.
Star Wars #92, cover by Cynthia Martin and Bill Sienkiewicz, pub. 1985 by Marvel
This is abstract cover has a signature Sienkiewicz flair, but gives a certain storybook feeling to the clash between Luke and Vader. The effect is pure elegance.
Marvel Super Special #5, cover by Bob Larkin, pub. 1978 by Marvel
How could I pass this baby up? A menacing figure clutches the hottest band in the land, while Gene Simmons seems hellbent on scaring this guy off with outstretched arm and tongue. In all serious though, Larkin does a great job balancing fun and fantasy for the group that was both rockers and superheroes.
Marvel Super Special #27, cover by Bill Sienkiewicz, pub. 1983 by Marvel
It wasn't until I started compiling this list that I realized, wow, Bill certainly does some fine Star Wars work!
Superman #254, pub. 1972 by DC
This is such a bizarre scene that one can't help but become insanely curious as to what the contents of this comic are. I know I am. The light and shadows on Superman is classic Bronze Age, the period, in my humble opinion when Superman was depicted best. It's actually quite a tender moment despite the intimidating lightning bolts and I adore the way the artist shows the difference between the frail child and the Man of Steel.
Superman #317, cover by Neal Adams, pub. 1977 by DC
You don't mess with Superman, especially when Neal Adams draws him. Why oh why can't Neal Adams just draw the entire DC universe forever?
Swamp Thing #1, cover by Berni Wrightson, pub. 1972 by DC
Just look at the detail Wrightson puts in to Swamp Thing's emergence from the mire, the lines are bold and the inking perfectly accentuates the action.
Tales of the Zombie #1, cover by Boris Vallejo, pub. 1973 by Marvel
This cover is typical Vallejo horror. Absolutely perfect.