Monday, June 3, 2013

Not the Best First Impression

Hi! Dave-El here and welcome to another installment of I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You.

While poking around the Grand Comics Database in my never-ending quest to not actually finish the work on the off-delayed Legion of Super Heroes post, I came across this cover. It is from Jonah Hex#1 and it is drawn by the awesomely talented Jose Luis Garcia Lopez.

Now there is a lot going on in this cover demonstrating the incredible talents of Mr. Garcia Lopez. Jonah's splayed on his back in a very bad way.  He's being dragged across the floor like so much rubbish towards a wooden coffin. Jonah is either dead or is going to be buried alive. A candle and a lantern are being employed so this is an evil deed being done under cover of darkness. If it's the middle of the night, the chances of someone coming to Jonah's aid are quite slim.
There's a lot being conveyed in this one image and it certainly shows the storytelling talents of Jose Luis Garcia Lopez to convey so much in one image. But I do have one problem with this cover.
It's for Jonah Hex#1.  That's right, the debut issue of Jonah's own title (after spending a few years under the banner of Weird Western Tales) and Jonah is, to put it mildly, not making a great first impression. If you were a reader inclined to sample a book based on that most enticing of enticements, an issue #1, would the fact that Jonah is on the wrong end of things be a discouragement? Or would all the storytelling elements brought forth in this cover...What happened? How will Jonah get out of this?...would that trump Jonah's otherwise distressing position?
Of course, Jonah Hex went on to be published for just under 100 issues in a comic book marketplace dominated by super heroes so who am I to judge the effectiveness of this cover? It's just that, for an issue #1, the main character should be making a case for why you should invest your money and time following then. Suffering from a beat down on the cover of issue # 1 seems an odd way to do that.
And this is not the only example.  Take a look at this cover from Superman Vol. II #1.
So DC gets super star John Byrne, the dynamic writer/artist powerhouse behind Marvel's Fantastic Four and the half of the duo that propelled X-Men into the stratosphere, to take over their flagship character, Superman. Superman, left behind in a quagmire of moribund storytelling, needed a shot in the arm, to move the Man of Steel to a state where his adventures would be exciting to the comic readership of the  1980's. So on the cover of this new Superman#1, our Last Son of Krypton is....being beaten down by a killer robot dude spewing Kryptonite radiation. Again, not a good first impression.
I don't think the star of a new comic book should not be challenged on the cover of issue #1. Challenge builds excitement. Superman walloping the tar out of killer robot dude is actually not going to be that interesting. But Superman in a struggle with the killer robot dude....Superman may be more powerful but the killer robot dude has Kryptonite!  Instead, Byrne opted to go with Superman looking really bad off with no real sense that Superman is a strong enough presence to warrant our time and attention.
And check out this cover from Justice League of America#1.

Like the Jose Luis Garcia Lopez cover for Jonah Hex#1, Murphy Anderson's JLA#1 cover conveys a lot of information. The Justice League has been captured by a being who is clearly an alien. The JLA, powerless, are forced to rely on one member, the Flash, to save the day in a game of strategy that appears to be taking out Green Lantern. Who is the alien? What is his ultimate goal? How the JLA get like this? How are they going to get out of this jam?
Storywise, there's a lot to admire about Anderson's cover. But it's the cover to Justice League of America#1 and not only is the JLA defeated but they're just sitting there.  What kind of first impression is this? Again, the story elements of the cover may trump this consideration but it is not very inspiring. 
I'm not necessarily saying this is a wrong approach. It's just interesting to me that these three covers have the same thing going on: the star or stars of the book, on the very first issue, are not at their best and are the wrong end of the villain's machinations.
One other thing these covers do have in common is that these are first issues after prior appearances of the feature: Jonah in Weird Western, JLA in Brave & the Bold and Superman from nearly 50 years of publishing history in the long term and Byrne's Man of Steel mini-series that set up this relaunch. Maybe the thinking was these characters are already known to a certain degree. Perhaps then it makes sense to show them at a low point for the idea of "This looks bad...and we're just getting started."
Now I'm intrigued by this concept. What other examples may I find where the star is not off to a great start on the cover of #1?  All three of these were DC. Did Marvel ever have any issue#1 covers with the hero or heroes defeated?
That's a mission..for later.*
*Specifically if I need another excuse to put off that Legion post.
Thanks to the Grand Comics Database at
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