There are a lot of places on the web that purport to discuss the worst comics covers ever, or the ugliest, or the weirdest. And those are cool themes, don't get me wrong. Who doesn't love themselves a breathtaking little bit of Rob Liefeld or a bit of awesomely awful mid–'90s drek?
But for this week's Top 10 list, I decided to do something a little different, a little bit more subjective. One person's boring cover is another person's interesting piece of art. Some peoples' taste is just different from others. Because as we'll see with my #1 choice, a piece of dull comics art can be a wonderful piece of illustrative art.
Do you agree with my choices? Disagree? Have a few choices of your own? Wander on over to our forum and share your choices. Meanwhile, here are my utterly subjective choices for the 10 most boring covers in comics.
10. Four-Color #878
Let me get the disclaimer out of the way here first: we all love Charlie Brown and Snoopy. I love Charlie Brown and Snoopy. You love Charle Brown and Snoopy. Everyone loves Charlie Brown and Snoopy. You can't be a living, breathing human being between infancy and senility alive on planet Earth and not love Charlie Brown and Snoopy. They're wonderful. They're iconic. I love 'em too.
But I don't really feel the need to read stories about them watching TV.
I suppose many of you might classify this cover as cute, and it definitely is. At least the early '60s model of Snoopy is cute. But Charlie Brown has the most utterly bored look on his face that I can ever remember him having – and that bland, bland background doesn't really draw the eye.
Incidentally, the great comics historian Dr. Michael Vassallo has a terrific article about the history of Peanuts comic books that is well worth checking out.
Dell Comics were good comics, but sometimes they were also dull comics. At least Charlie Brown didn't fall asleep like the protagonist on our next cover…
9. Fantastic Four #301
Is Ben Grimm the worst uncle in the history of being an uncle? Even the pathetic cries of his beloved nephew can't wake Ben up as Franklin is abducted by the Wonderful Wizard. C'mon, Benjy, wake up and smell the coffee, man!
Any cover that our hero sleeps through, has to find a place on this list.
8. Dazzler #21
As we'll see with this and our next entry, Marvel during the Jim Shooter era tried a pathetic, horrible, laughable and stupid string of photo covers bad enough to make any writer want to pull out his thesaurus (umm, preposterous… absurd… uncanny in the wrong way…). This cover is the first half of this dreadful duo.
On it, we get a generic looking woman in a white leotard against a black background with photo-retouched hands that are supposed to glow. What's the point of the hands – are they intended to grab the reader's eye and make me want to shell down a whole dollar to learn "the shameful secret of Dazzler's past"? What about the shameful secret of Dazzler's present, that her editors chose a dreadfully dull image to illustrate her?
I do like her cute little booties, though!
7. Marvel Team-Up #128
At least the chick in the dreadful Dazzler costume had the self-respect to hide in the shadows. The unfortunate models shown on the cover of Marvel Team-Up #128 were stuck standing right out there in the open, floating kind of aimlessly on a rooftop, I guess…
Not only are the costumes pathetically bad-looking – seriously, even the laziest cosplayer without access to a sewing machine can do better – but the incredibly pathetic looking pre-Photoshop photo manipulation on this cover just makes the whole thing look like two bored kids from Long Island making stupid movies in their yard. Of course, those same kinds probably grew up to be investment bankers who hedged bets on subprime mortgages in 2007.
6. Ace #1
Now for the first of three covers on this list by artists whose work I love. I wanna be clear here. I think Eddie Campbell is a brilliant cartoonist. Heck, he may be the greatest cartoonist in the world at the moment. I adore everything he's done, from Bacchus to From Hell to the sublime Alec. And isn't that cover to Alec one of the coolest pieces of comic art you've ever seen?
But Campbell was also responsible for one of the most boring comic covers I've ever seen, a cover that actually helped to inspire this very column. Somehow, for a comic that tells the story of life in the days of the Ace Rock and Roll Club – and that inspired this absolutely not boring cover for a reprint volume – Campbell chose this incredibly unexciting cover. A rather attractive woman in professional clothes staring aimlessly sideways into space. Yes, it's a scene that's reminiscent of the last time you walked into your local bank. Whoo hoo! Nothing says rock and roll like a safety deposit box!
5. Uncanny X-Men #419
If our last cover showed a woman waiting in line at the bank, our next shows a woman waiting outside a bar for her ride home, after what looks vaguely like a bummer of an evening. Most everything about this mutant girl seems designed to be pretty generic, from her somewhat fashionable hair style, to her flat stomach to her cute little mini-skirt. If it wasn't for the top of her head being invisible, it would be easy to imagine this girl as the bored daughter of the investment bankers who dressed like Captain America and Spider-Man in the early '80s, escaping her boring Suffolk County mansion for a night of Lady Gaga and bad cocaine at a boring club in The City.
There's no menace in this image, nothing about her surroundings that brings this girl's story to life. She seems boring against a boring background. Admit it: if you saw this girl at a club, would you look twice at her?
4. Incredible Hulk #226
"Hulk smash puny college professor!"
This is actually a well-rendered cover by Ernie Chan, but come on, it has to be promising the most one-sided battle since, well, the last time a professor fought
an eight-foot giant brute. I think my favorite part of the cover is that the entire campus is deserted of students except for the professor. Somehow Chan found the time and inclination to draw a whole campus full of ornate buildings, but not one single student on the campus?
3. Amazing Spider-Man #10
Even the great Steve Ditko could have an off-day, and this cover proves it. Spider-Man looks lazily drawn, as if Ditko had five minutes left and only had time to dash off a quick figure, while the supposedly threatening Enforcers just kind of stand around and seem to mumble blandishments to each other. "Hey Fancy Dan," the Ox seems to be mumbling, "after we're done fighting Spider-Man, I really need to stop off at the post office and mail my mom a Mother's Day card." And dig that bland lime green background! Nothing says dull like a bland lime green background.
If this cover looks lazily thrown-off, it's probably because it was; Stan probably hated this very cool original version and quickly threw together this monstrosity in-house at the last minute.
2. Thor #601 (variant)
Look, I get that this cover is kind of cute. And it's well-drawn. The fact remains that it features a Norse God, the God of Thunder, the man who speaks in pseudo-Shakespearean English just for fun, just chillin' and listening to his iPod. I have no problem with the guy sitting next to me on the bus listening to his iPod, but it's just a bit too weird and dull for the Son of Odin for me.
Plus, is his helmet an amazing conductor of sound or something? Because for us mortal humans, we have to put our headphones into our ears to actually hear "Ride of the Valkyries."
1. Love & Rockets #29
Let me say right here and now that I adore this comic book. It's one of the greatest comic books in my collection, and it contains what literally is one of the 10 greatest single comic book stories ever presented in the history of comics, with Jaime's breathtakingly incredible "Flies on the Ceiling." Seriously, if you've never read this story, you owe it to yourself to do so because it is so freaking amazing it will take your breath away.
The Beto Hernandez story in this issue, part one of "Poison River", is also one of Gilbert's best comic stories. To my mind, this is the best era of L&R that the Bros gave to us.
But the cover!
Imagine: you're at your local comic shop, browsing the stands, and you see this comic sticking out on the stands. This was 1989, so, crazy as it seems these days, most comic shops carried almost all comics. So you're wandering around the shop, an extra couple of bucks burning in your pocket waiting to be spent. There in the corner with all the weird comics is this book that you've heard all those good things about. That comic about life in LA with the punk rock girls who sometimes get naked – and comics with naked girls have to be pretty good, right?
But then you look closer, and… wtf? A rooster? How exciting could that comic really be? You put your 2 bucks back into your pocket and go buy a McDLT instead.
We had a bit of a debate about this cover among the Comics Bulletin staff, with some of the writers thinking that this cover was a great piece of artwork – a really well drawn representation of what readers would find inside the comic. And yeah that is true, but I keep coming back to the same point: It's a damn rooster on the cover of a comic book. What about that cover does anything but bore the reader and push him away from the comic?