Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Evolution of Comic Covers - Marvel Edition

Last week, commenter Kirk asked for a Marvel version of my analysis, so here it is. I took one of his suggested titles, The Amazing Spider-Man, but I decided to do it a little differently. Since Marvel hasn't been around as long as DC (regardless of the 75 years hype), I chose to start with Amazing Spider-Man #1 and then go with every 60th issue beyond that (61, 121, 181, etc) to give a nice 5 year span. Let's see what we can learn from this.

We start out, as I said, with Amazing Spider-Man #1. As was the style of the time, we have a picture representing one of the two stories in the book. The Comics Code stamp is easy to see, as are the price, issue number, and the fact that there are two stories in the book, the first of which deals with Marvel's highest selling book. Spidey has a speech balloon, but that probably should be a thought balloon. While the book's title isn't in the position it would take up later, is it is the same style we would come to know. Also note the little "MC" in a box, the only indication that this is a Marvel comic.

Five years later we have a more dynamic picture and the corner box has appeared. We have the title of the story on the front, but no speech balloons. The Comics Code stamp is slightly smaller than before and off on it's own, still. We also have "MCG" in it's own box, even though "Marvel Comics Group" is in the corner box.

Now in the 70's, we see the appearance of the "Marvel Comics Group" banner across the top of the cover. This links the corner box with the Comics Code Stamp, which looks to be the same size as five years earlier. We have a lot of text on this cover, both in Spidey's word balloons and Gerry Conway's description of what the consumer can find within. Note how the Spider-Man in the corner is not actually in the corner box, but just next to it on the cover. The image on the cover, though, isn't a scene in the story, just a representation of what's probably going on.

60 issues later and the banner/corner box set-up remains largely unchanged. The only exception here is that the corner Spider-Man is now in a separately colored box as part of it. Much less text here, just the story title, but the Amazing Spider-Man title is larger, now going over to the arm of the Spidey in the corner box. Not being familiar with this story, I'm not sure if what is shown here actually happens inside, but it looks like it could.

We're now in the 80's and, except for the image in the corner box, most is the standard stuff is unchanged. The series title seems to have shrunk back down to where it was, though. No text on this one, just John Romita, Jr's art letting you know what to expect. With the eyes floating over the Vulture, I'm going to say that this is a poster image and not a scene from inside.

This is certainly a poster image and not showing what's going on in the book. We do have some text telling us what to expect, if not the story title. We now see a corner box more like what evolved over at DC, where the issue number, price, date, publisher logo, and Comics Code stamp are all in one place, along with an image of the hero.

Ah, the 90's. While the art is heading the way that most Marvel did in that decade, the corner box is the same, other than the new Marvel logo. We now have the "Part One" box, indicating the larger story going on. This is also the first time we've seen some non-banner text above the series title. Again, I don't remember this story but I'm pretty sure that something like this image could have occurred inside the book.

Later in the 90's, the corner box has been paired down somewhat. The Comics Code stamp, now about half the size that it was, is off on the right side of the cover again. The image of Spider-Man has been replaced by his logo only. We're back to a poster style image, but we do have what appears to be the story title.

In the early 2000's the corner box, and the Comics Code stamp, is gone. We do now have the creator names added to the cover for the first time. The image seems to be something from the interior of the issue, but we have no text telling us what's going on.

Later in the decade and we have our first change to the series title, with the creator names above it. There is also a banner down the left-hand side with the story title and it seems to be coming from a modified corner box. The main part of the cover is a painted poster of Spidey "Back In Black", which has to be at least the 3rd time he's been in a version of that costume by this point.

Five years on and we certainly have a stunt poster image, since J. Scott Campbell did not do the interiors, but I'm pretty sure it boosted sales. We have the creator names for not only the main story but also for the back-up, but no indication of what's going on in either of them.

The last cover we're going to look at dates from 2011 and, in many ways, is a throw-back to much earlier. We still don't have a corner box and the creator names are there, but not only do we two descriptions of what's going on inside, but we also have word balloons! We haven't seen those since issue 121! We also have a scene that is representative of what's inside the pages and not a poster.

From looking at these covers, it seems that Marvel was on a steady progression with regard to design. That was probably due to the "house style" being part of the entire comic production and not only in the character designs. It started to loosen up towards the more recent years, but even into the late 90's it was a pretty consistent style across the whole line.

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  1. Would it have killed Marvel to start putting the freaking YEAR on its covers, especially after 2000 when they started rebooting things every other month with a new #1? Just a thought.

    1. You mean so that OCD people like us could accurately file the issues? Now why would they want that? ;)

  2. Thanks, Gene. Wouldn't mind a similar look at the FF either...

    1. I'll keep that in mind for the future, but I think I'll be switching it up next week. Thanks for the suggestions!