In the past, comic books covers were often a more spectacular version of a particular panel that occurred somewhere in the climax of the story, or even a synopsis of a particular scene. These days, covers are just cheap ploys to get us to buy issues as the images lie to us about the plot or companies put out multiple variant covers for the same issue.
Rant: Comic Book Covers
For example, take a look at one of the more memorable covers from my childhood: Captain America 303, volume 1 from 1985. I picked this issue up way back in the early 1990s, and I always thought it was a thrilling image, but more to the point, this cover summarizes a scene (it might be fair to say two scenes) that actually occur inside this specific issue.
Simple, to the point.
The goal for a comic cover of hinting at the content inside seems not only practical but also the simplest approach possible; why would you want to go another way in the first place? I have no idea.
Returning to present day, let’s cast our gaze upon Ultimate Captain America issue 2, where we see Cap coming out of the water in a bit of an homage to Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now. Does anything even remotely resembling this happen in the book? No.
But lets give Marvel the benefit of the doubt and not limit our judgment to only one issue. Let’s force ourselves to glance at Ultimate Captain America issue 3, where we see Cap fighting Nuke and they both seem to be falling off a cliff at the same time. Yeah, it’s not in the book. They’ve also got Nuke’s character design wrong; he has a shaved head and the flag tattoo on his face extends well past his forehead and onto the top of his skull. I don’t remember Nuke ever looking like this – not back in the day, and certainly not in the pages of Ultimate Captain America.
Why is he bald on the cover and NEVER in any of the issues EVER?!?
The cover of issue 4 is simply comprised of Cap’s shield, a rifle thrust into the ground via the business end with a helmet stuck on the butt, and a puddle of blood featuring a few scraps of Cap’s uniform. Nope – never happens in the book.
It’s not just Ultimate Captain America; this sort of thing seems to happen all of the time. So, now that I’ve completely and thoroughly run Captain America into the ground, lets take a look at Iron Man 2.0. Like Ultimate Captain America, Iron Man 2.0 is a young series that gives us just a few covers to examine, so let’s see how the stack up on the cover vs content meter: ugh. Let’s just give it an ugh.
Here we have a close up of Iron Man holding War Machine’s helmet… nope, doesn’t happen in the book. I don’t want to rush to judgment on Iron Man 2.0 – let’s give them another chance…
That’s what I get for giving them another chance.
In issue 3 of Iron Man 2.0, Tony Stark makes zero appearances in his Iron Man armor, so that throws that cover right out the window. Then, we have issue 4 of Iron Man 2.0, which may be the Coup de grâce for this entire exercise – War Machine does not appear in this issue. Hell, Rhodey doesn’t appear in this issue! Yet, there he is, as big as life, not only pointing his weapons at us, but someone is pointing their weapon back at him. On the cover. And he’s not in the issue. That’s just beautiful.
Why? What’s with the blatant mistakes? And how did an issue of a book go to press with the wrong character design on the cover? I don’t get it. Why this is happening, I don’t know, but it seems to be here to stay. You can’t judge a book by it’s cover – literally.
OK, it’s not all gloom and doom. Real quick before I check out, let’s give DC Comics a chance with one of the few of their books I read, Green Arrow.
I can’t believe it! This exact situation happens on page… OK, the pages don’t seem to be numbered, but it’s there! (Glad to know I’m not the only one who was turning cart wheels to see this fight end.) Now that I’m in a good mood, I feel like giving Marvel a chance to redeem itself.
Cue the Hallelujah Chorus! This cover encapsulates exactly what this issue is about! It’s… it’s… sniff… it’s so beautiful!
I feel I can be at piece now. While there may be no rhyme or reason to it, there are some covers that accurately depict what happens in the book and others that they seem to just pick out of hat. Some questions are better left unanswered – like why is it impossible to kill a comic book character forever? Or why is Ed Brubaker a golden god? Why doesn’t a duck deliver Easter Eggs instead of a rabbit? (I’m just saying… rabbits don’t lay eggs, but ducks do… whatever.)
Don’t stress over comic book covers – let me – or better yet, let John do it.