Here we are now in the third decade of comic covers (actually the 4th decade but for my purposes of the top 10 covers, it is the third) and what a chore it has been making these lists. If I knew it would be this hard I never would have started. But as my old grandad used to say, “if it can’t finish it, don’t start it”. He never actually said that but it is a good saying and I plan to adhere to it.
Marvel really changed the face of comics in the 1960’s. Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and later John Buscema, John Romita, Gene Colan and Jim Steranko really redefined and re-popularized the super-hero. So many great and iconic heroes and stories came out of this decade and a lot of what we now consider great and classic covers. Don’t be alarmed when you see the absence of Neal Adams on this list. His best cover work was in the very early 70’s which, of course, is my next list.
As usual let me give a quick shout out to the runner’s up of note. Amazing Spider-Man #39 and #33, Fantastic Four #1 and 51, Nick Fury #4, Thor #127, Avengers #4, Daredevil #38 and #53, Tales of Suspense #20, 58 and 95, Strange Adventures #207 and #208 and The Spectre #1 and a couple of Nick Cardy greats, Teen Titans #14 and Aquaman #42. How could I possibly leave any of these off the list? You try and pick 10 out of this decade!
Enough kibitzing, let’s now take a gander at my top 10 from 1960-69.
This is so obvious, do I really need to even list it? Of course I do! Amazingly (pardon the pun) Jack Kirby really nailed this considering Stan chose Ditko to do the story and the subsequent on going series because Jack drew Spidey to bulky (so the story goes). Strong and heroic central figure. Simple but great composition. A top notch first appearance cover for an iconic superhero. Amazing Fantasy #15.
Jim Steranko had a huge Kirby influence in his early work but later he grew into his own spectacular self . This is just plain cool. Steranko’s main strength was his masterful and often ingenious story-telling but he also did several outstanding covers. This is not necessarily considered one of his “classic” Nick Fury covers but I think it is his best. Nick Fury, Agent of Shield #6.
Unfortunately you are not going to see many DC covers during this era because, let’s face it, Marvel buried them in the cool factor. While DC heroes were growing large heads and having strange weight gaining problems, the Marvel characters were duking it out with villains and saving the universe from destruction. This cover, however, by the masterful Joe Kubert really stands out. It is dramatic, powerful and a little bit scary. In other words, it has everything you would want to sell a book. Atom and Hawkman #40.
Talk about a powerful image! Gene Colan knocked this out of the park. Another great example of how to do a cover to a first issue. It is over-flowing with dynamic energy. How could anyone walk by this on a newsstand and not buy it? Iron Man #1.
Is this the greatest cover of all time? Some would say, “yes”. I might say “yes” and you wouldn’t have to put a gun to my head either. It is without a doubt one of the best of this decade if not the best. John Buscema gives us all of the dynamics of Kirby but with better drawing skills. You can’t wait to see these two titans collide! Silver Surfer #4.
What? More Steranko? You had better believe it. He did several covers with a large central image surrounded by a collage of smaller supporting images. Nick Fury, Agent of Shield #4 comes to mind but this is his best. Great Captain America figure and sensational design. I paid homage to this cover (and a combination of others) with my cover to Deadpool #-1. The only thing that might be cooler than this cover is the art inside the book. Classic! Captain America #111.
Time for Kirby again and back to back Captain America selections. Kirby did three covers in the 60’s that were very similar: Captain America #100, Sgt. Fury #13 and this one. Since this was the first and easily the most important of the three, it gets the nod. Although Kirby’s Marvel style was still developing, this cover showed the first real breakthrough in what would become known as Kirby dynamics. Yet another great example of how to introduce (or in this case re-introduce) an important character. Avengers #4.
I told you Marvel was dominating this list. How can you not include this gem by John Buscema? Another great example of how to introduce a character. Bold, dramatic and so well drawn. The stark red coloring doesn’t hurt either. There is nothing like great figure work to win me over. Avengers #57.
It looks like red must be the ticket to get on this list. I so badly wanted to put Amazing Spider-man #39 on this list but I couldn’t squeeze it in. This, however, was a no-brainer. What a big powerful image by another really strong artist, John Romita Sr. This cover just oozes drama. To see an image of Peter Parker walking away from Spider-man made this a must buy. The image on the last page of Parker walking away from his Spider suit hanging out of a trash can ain’t bad either. Amazing Spider-man #50.
There has to be another Kirby cover in here, doesn’t there? Why, yes there does. But which one? I couldn’t find one Fantastic Four cover that really knocked my socks off. #’s 1, 16, 25 and 51 came close but for my money I always liked Kirby on Thor. There is a ton of really good covers to choose from in that run as well. But this one to me really defines the essence of Kirby. Two powerful beings clashing with such force you are afraid if you get too close you will get squished. Thor #126.
Wow, is that 10 already? I could easily do 10 more. What a rockin’ decade for comics. I wasn’t old enough to start reading comics unitl the mid 70’s but oh how I wish I could have gotten into these right off the spinner rack. This may technically be the Sliver Age but it was definitely the Golden Age for Marvel.