Photo: Hulton Archive (Getty).
Much like movie posters, comic books have a tendency to overuse certain layouts when it comes to their covers. Don’t get us wrong, a well-crafted image will look amazing no matter how tired the concept, but that still doesn’t mean the artists can’t get a little more creative with their work. The following list of hackneyed comic book covers are well past the point of cliché, and we think it’s time they were slowly phased out.
The 10 Most Cliché Comic Book Covers
Arbitrarily Headed Into Action
One particularly trite cover that irritates us to no end is the randomly charging forward shot. We understand the need to show off the main characters in action, but can’t that be done in a way that’s a little more involved than rushing towards what we can only assume is something much more interesting than what we are looking at? Most of the time, even the backgrounds of these covers are just a plain color or at most a very basic landscape. As we said, all an artist has to do is get a little more creative, and covers like this will still pop.
Break on Through to the Other Side
Otherwise known as the Kool-Aid Man cover, the only difference between these tired set-ups and our first entry is that we are getting to see the entry point: a wall. Sometimes this wall is actually the cover itself, with the heroes breaking through it, but the effect is still the same. It’s pretty boring, and tells us virtually nothing. At least The Tick cover calls itself out on it.
Side note: To their credit, many artists will use this worn out cover concept to their advantage by making the wall glass instead and using its reflective nature to convey previous plot points or other characters in the story. Still, even this has started to become an overused idea.
Reflecting on the Situation
Hey, we said we wanted to see who are heroes are fighting, and now we can–albeit in the minimum way. Basically, all we get from covers like this one are two shots of characters charging forward (or running away in some cases), but one is being reflected off the other. We’re not sure if that’s exactly progress, but it would still be slightly more interesting if it wasn’t done to death.
A fight between a hero and a villain, two heroes, or especially two teams of heroes should be epic. So when we see that the artist has decided to forgo said epic-ness in favor of two heads angrily gritting their teeth at each other, it’s obviously very disappointing. Unfortunately, this happens more than it should. There is a right way to draw “versus” covers depicting some form of actual action and then there is this total cop-out method. For crying out loud, just turn the picture on its side and you’ve given it loads more tension already.
A Hero Falls
Killing off popular superheroes is nothing new to the comic book industry, especially as of late. That’s why covers depicting a dead hero in the arms of another has gotten played out. We say cut out the middleman and just stop doing storylines where the hero dies at all. You know they’ll just end up coming back anyways. Or hey, just give it that little something extra we talked about. You’d be surprised what even some added legs in the sky will do to spice things up.
Pile of Bodies in Their Wake
The hero or villain standing on a mound of defeated enemies cover may be a cool visual, but it loses its impact when it is beaten over the head by just about every comic that ever existed. Yes, it shows what a force the person is to be reckoned with, but so would showing them in the process of kicking all that ass. That’s what we really want to see.
We’ve Got You Surrounded
You can’t overwhelm a superhero. They are always going to come out on top. That’s kind of the point. What we are trying to say here is that unless the hero ends up getting torn apart by a huge group of bad guys in the issue, you can spare us the uninspired “getting swarmed” cover. A) We’ve seen it a hundred times, and B) we know that comic book covers tend to lie. The likelihood of the title hero fighting his entire rogues gallery on the inside is pretty slim. Do us all a favor and just pick another cover idea entirely (that isn’t on this list, of course).
Caught in the Crosshairs
We feel like we are starting to sound too harsh on comic covers. We don’t mean to be. There are just so many that are done over and over again. All that needs to happen to keep them from becoming stale are the slightest tweaks. For instance, here is a Dexter cover depicting a similar situation. It’s not exactly the coolest we’ve ever seen, but at least it’s not the same photo sans lasers and through a scope. Subtle change-ups can go a long way towards communicating the same situation in a fresh manner.
Does it get any more dull than this? Not only are these covers doing little more than showing us the characters, but they are probably one of the most overused of all. Most superheroes are either swinging or flying through the city, so we know they spend a lot of time on top of buildings. It may be a stretch, but could literally anything be happening while they are up there? As uncreative as these covers may be, there is still one more that has it beat in the lame department.
“Homage” to a Classic
If we catch flack for this, we really don’t care because it is one of the most tired gimmicks in comic books. Whenever a cover rises to the ranks of iconic, it is exploited by numerous other books. We use that term because we feel that simply replicating a famous cover and replacing the hero is little more than a ploy to get people to buy your comic. Parody has its place, but this joke lost its effect long ago.
There are still plenty more comic covers out there that could be deemed cliché, so let us know which ones you think should make the next list.