Tag Archives: Epic Covers

Epic Covers: Gotham Knights by Brian Bolland

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

When you hear the name Brian Bolland, especially in the context of Batman’s world, you think of The Killing Joke. That’s understandable. Nearly 30 years later, DC still goes to great lengths to make sure none of us forget it.

But Bolland has revisited the Dark Knight at various points since, usually via cover work. Such was the case in late 1999/2000, when DC called on him to do the covers for their new Batman series, Gotham Knights. Between April of 2000 and January of 2004, almost every issue of Gotham Knights was adorned with a Brian Bolland cover. Thus, Bolland got to cover a lot of ground he likely wouldn’t have otherwise been able to. We saw him draw characters like Nightwing, Huntress, Spoiler, and even Cassandra Cain as Batgirl. While Gotham Knights was essentially a third string series, during that timeframe is boasted some of the best covers in all of comics.

While great many of them would most certainly fit into the “epic” category, I’ve picked my five favorites for this space today.

Issue #18 – Aquaman and the Giant Penny.

Brian Bolland is widely known as the man who drew Barbara Gordon getting shot and paralyzed by the Joker. So when one thinks of his art, the word “funny” doesn’t often come to mind. And yet, here we are.

Gotham Knights #18 is about Batman summoning Aquaman for help retrieving some Batcave artifacts that went underwater after the big earthquake in Cataclysm. Bolland uses this premise to to get a little cutesy with iconic Batcave set piece. Aquaman is a character that gets played for laughs a lot. But what I appreciate about this piece is that it’s not necessarily making fun of Arthur, or using the whole “he talks to fish” bit. Arthur is in on the joke. Bolland doesn’t draw him in a cartoony way, but the combination of the shrug and the expression on his face almost evokes a Looney Tunes vibe. It’s difficult not to smile when you see this thing.

Issue #25 – Batman in Handcuffs.

Most people associated those bladed gauntlets with Batman, and that iconography is what makes this image work.

Gotham Knights #25 tied in with the Bruce Wayne, Murderer? storyline going on at the time, which saw Bruce go to prison. Bolland captured the spirit of that story perfectly by placing Batman in handcuffs. And don’t discount the iconic symbolism of those either. For better or worse, handcuffs are a symbol of American justice. With this relatively tight image, Bolland tells us that Batman is now entrapped within the system he’s supposed to be serving.

Issue #32 – The Grandfather Clock

I wouldn’t call this a famous image. But it’s gotten a decent amount of additional exposure over the years. It’s easy to see why.

While issue #25 took place as the Murderer? storyline was beginning, Gotham Knights #32 was part of the wrap up. It showed us 24 hours in the life of Bruce Wayne/Batman. So it’s fitting that Bolland’s cover show is the grandfather clock, the entrance to the Batcave. The unofficial threshold between billionaire playboy and caped crusader. And you have the great juxtaposition of both identities standing back to back. An awesome cover for an awesome issue.

Issue #43 – Batgirl Debuts

Another piece that got a good amount of play after the fact. Bolland delivers an epic tip-of-the-hat to the classic Carmine Infantino cover for Detective Comics #359 from 1967, Batgirl/Barbara Gordon’s “million dollar debut!” The classic never dies, kids.

There’s a sentimental aspect to this one, of course. Bolland wasn’t very nice to Barbara Gordon in The Killing Joke. So for him to render here like this, in her crowning moment, is pretty cool. It’s almost a sense of justice for the character. Though ironically, the issue was more about Jason Todd than Barbara herself.

Issue #45 – Man-Bat’s Close Up

Oddly enough, I remember not liking this one when it came out. It’s so damn gruesome and detailed. Look at the nose. The ears. The fangs.

But of course, that’s the point, isn’t it? There aren’t a lot of epic Man-Bat covers. But this one definitely fits the bill.

This one also has a great Universal monster movie vibe to it. Between the lighting from below, the positioning of the head and neck and the wide-eyed expression, it brings to mind the promotional art for the original Wolfman or Mummy movies.

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

 

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Epic Covers: Saga #53 by Fiona Staples

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

ARTIST: Fiona Staples

THE ISSUE: The Will confronts Prince Robot IV to avenge the Stalk’s murder.

WHY IT’S EPIC: I went back and forth on whether I liked Saga #53 for this spotlight. Not because it isn’t gorgeous, of course. Fiona Staples has done no shortage of spectacular art for Saga. But unless you’re following the book on a monthly basis, read this cover doesn’t necessarily draw your curiosity. You might not even be sure what exactly you’re seeing.

But if you’re a Saga fan, this cover is truly awesome. It’s the Saga equivalent of that classic Western shot of a gunslinger reaching for his holster. The shine on the gauntlet draws the eye right to the splatter on the knuckles, which is oddly similar to the cape in terms of color. I also dig the way the cape drapes over the gauntlet. Ah, the things you can do with a cape…

If you’re a Saga reader and you haven’t picked up this issue yet, be warned. The last page is a gut-wrencher.

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

Epic Covers: TMNT #83 by Dave Watcher

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

ARTIST: Dave Watcher

THE ISSUE: In their quest to defeat the Rat King, the Turtles find themselves in Siberia. Once there, they face his brother, the gigantic Manmoth.

WHY IT’S EPIC: Dave Watcher has had the cover duties on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the last few months, and he’s been absolutely killing it. His depictions of the TMNT-style human/animal hybrid characters are striking. The texture that Watcher gives to these creatures makes them feel very familiar, despite their otherworldly nature. For another such instance, check out the cover to TMNT #82, where he gets to draw the Toad Baron.

But TMNT #83 is definitely a highlight of Watcher’s work on the series. What’s interesting about this one is that despite Manmoth leering over our heroes, much of his body is still shrouded in shadow. He’s not in the shadows, per se. We can clearly see the snow on top of him. But the lighting has that effect because he’s almost in a hunched position. I also love that you have to look closely at the cover to see those menacing eyes. The Turtles look great too, of course.

On my first read-through, Manmoth felt very familiar. Not in that I’d seen him before, but because a mutant mammoth seemed like such an obvious course for the TMNT universe, I was convinced Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird had created him at some point.

As it turned out, the character originated over at Archie Comics. First in 1991’s TMNT Meet Archie #1, and later in the pages of TMNT Adventures. To their credit, the crew at IDW really is drawing inspiration from all corners of TMNT history. They made a silly one-off character from the ’90s into something pretty damn cool.

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

Epic Covers: Doomsday Clock #5

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

ARTISTS: Gary Frank, Brad Anderson

THE ISSUE: As Watchmen characters continue to make an impact in the DC Universe, the Joker enters the picture.

WHY IT’S EPIC: So I have this thing that I call the “Alex Ross Theory of the Joker.” I pulled it from a passage in Mythology: The Art of Alex Ross. It’s his take on the Joker’s appearance, and what that famous chemical bath actually did to him physically. It goes like this…

“In my mind it wouldn’t have given him green hair and red lips – the chemical bath would only have turned his skin white. He adds the rest himself to complete the picture. There’s a panel at the end of Batman #1 in which the Joker is stabbed and we see that his chest is white. I never forgot that – The realization that his whole body was white. Eerie.”

You don’t see this idea represented much in the canonical DC Universe. That’s because DC relies so heavily on The Killing Joke, in which the Joker emerges from the chemicals with the green hair and red lips. But the Ross idea makes sense, all things considered. It lines up nicely with the theatricality that’s built in to the Joker character.

That’s why it’s so cool to see Gary Frank and Brad Anderson go that route with this variant for Doomsday Clock #5. Frank doesn’t get to draw Joker very often. But when he does, it’s a treat. Look at the wild insanity we see in those eyes. We see him inside the issue as well. But this right here is the coup de grace.

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

Epic Covers: Darth Vader #14

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

ARTISTS: Giuseppe Camuncoli (Penciller), Elia Bonetti (Painter)

THE ISSUE: Darth Vader leads an attack on the aquatic planet of Mon Cala, home of the future Admiral Ackbar.

WHY IT’S EPIC: Machines and water don’t mix. Darth Vader is famously “more machine now than man.” As we’ve never seen Vader in an underwater scenario (at least not in the movies), this cover is instant intrigue. Apparently Vader’s suit is waterproof, so he doesn’t short out. But how does that work with his breathing?

Regardless, putting Vader in a shot reminiscent of Swamp Thing or Jason Voorhees is an absolutely brilliant move by Giuseppe Camuncoli. It’s the kind of thing you’d never see coming, and yet it works so well. It almost fits. Almost

This cover’s unsung hero is painter Elia Bonetti. Camuncoli gets the top billing, and even the sole credit in some places. But with due respect, Bonetti is the star here. Without her, you’ve got a completely different texture. Look at the water and the accompanying mist. Look at the moonlight, and how it reflects off both the water and Vader himself. Simply put, it’s beautiful work.

The red eyes are what really seal the deal. They pierce, intimidate, and bring life to the whole shot. It’s kind of a cute little nod to the faint red tinge the Darth Vader lenses had in the original film. It wasn’t even that noticeable, and they were gone in Empire and Jedi. But the costumers for Rogue One brought them back to be consistent with A New Hope.

The movie still sucked. But cheer up, guys! They got Darth Vader’s eyes right!

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.