Issue #30 of 35   INDEX

Joel Grineau
by: Joel V. Grineau
Misleading Comic Book Covers

I have a problem with comic book covers.

They lie.

Any long time fan can tell you that he/she has seen their fair share of comic books that have dramatic cover blurbs, such as . . .
"This Issue Someone Dies!" . . .
"Who Will Die to Stop [insert Villain's name]!" . . .
"Die [insert superhero's name] Die!"

This practice is annoying as hell, to say the least. If "someone dies" it's usually a minor character, or a major character - who will come back to life in a few issues. Quite possibly the death was faked. My personal favourite, is when someone dies, goes to hell, defeats death, and returns to New York, where everyone hugs, cries and laughs about how they cheated death. Happened to me once.

There is of course a reason for this tactic: $Sales$. Comic book collectors always seek out the first and last (or origin and death) issues in which a character appears. Consequently, they tend to be worth a lot more money than other comic books.

For example, issues #16 - 54 and #56 - 100 of Iron Man (vol.1) are all worth about the same ($5-$20). Yet issue #55, sitting all alone in the middle of the run, is worth a whopping $75 dollars. Why? It's the first appearance of super bad guy from the stars - Thanos. Similarly, issue #8 of Crisis on Infinite Earths is worth more than any of the other issues in the series, as, here we have the death of the first Silver Age DC comic book character, the Flash (Barry Allan).

Therefore, in order to "help" the collector notice such key first and last issues, the comic book companies place the blurbs on the covers. Some are so audacious they say "Collector's Item" right on them! The nerve.

Admittedly, such blurb comic book covers were much more prevalent in the 1960's and 1970's than they are today; but you still see them now and then. For example, the abovementioned issue of Crisis (from 1986) contains the cover blurb "The Final Fate of the Flash".

However, comic covers often lie in another way, and again, it relates to $Sales$. In an attempt to create a striking image that will make a prospective buyer take notice, we again have covers that lie. I call them the non-happeners.

For example, the most recent issue of The Batman Chronicles (#13, on sale last week), has Batman dumping some thug on a Gotham City Police cruiser, startling the doughnuts and coffee from the hands of the two cops inside the car.

Great image... Gets my attention...

Guess what? Said scene never occurs in the comic book! Not only did this scene not occur, it goes against the very premise of this comic! How? Of the three stories in the issue, Batman only appears in one of them; Batman is only on one page of the issue! This comic book focuses on how the members of the GCPD do their jobs when Batman isn't around. The cover of the issue is a complete antithesis of the content: Gotham cops don't sit in their patrol cars and wait for criminals to fall out of the sky!

Not every comic book is guilty of these sales gimics. In Incredible Hulk #466, depicts a sorrowful Hulk, with an immense shadow, holding a dead(?) Betty Banner (his non-superpowered wife). The cover has no blurbs, no villains, not even a dynamic image. It just has the sorrowful Hulk, his immense shadow and a dead(?) Betty. All the same, it's a powerful cover illustration. And yes, in this issue, Betty dies. And because Betty dies, and she appears dead(?) on the cover, it's also not a non-happener.

So the next time you see a comic with a cover that attracts your attention, be forewarned. It could be a true indication of the story inside. But it could easily be a blurb, or a non-happener cover - Caveat emptor.

[For proof of concept, visit]

Joel Grineau is a former Writer/Contributing Editor for "Chaos" Magazine. "Iron Man" 146 (purchased in the spring of 1981) was his first comic book, and time has not worn down his enjoyment of them. Joel holds a BA from the University of Guelph and an MA from the University of Saskatchewan. He is currently an officer with the Canadian Forces.

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Text © Joel V. Grineau, 1997,1998.
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