This is all somehow Nicéphore Niépce’s fault.

§ May 19th, 2021 § Filed under publishing § 15 Comments

So in the comments section for my Gen 13 post, folks started talking about photo covers on comics. I don’t have anything in particular to say about photo covers, though I suppose I could note how of all the too-many variants for Dynamite Entertainment’s Vampirella, Bettie Page, and Red Sonja, it’s the “cosplay” photo covers that move the most for me. (And no, not just for prurient reasons, I promise.)

I can’t think of a whole lot of other photo covers of late, but I have the memory of a goldfish who has pretty bad memory even for a goldfish, so don’t depend on me. I can think of some of Marvel’s movie tie-ins and variants with movie stills.

Oh, wait, I forgot about IDW, which uses photo covers all the time, especially for Doctor Who and Star Trek. Why, way back in 2007 I complained about making the photo cover the ratio variant instead of the regular cover. Why use a drawing of Young William Shatner when you can slap that handsome mug on all your covers and make a mint. Ah well, What Can You Do? In later years a lot of those photo covers from IDW have been freely orderable, some nice, some, um, a little awkward:

Now there’s no way I’m going to do a comprehensive history of photo covers just off the cuff right this moment…I mean, Turan says this is (maybe) the first superhero photo cover:


…and sure, I don’t doubt it. Looks like they did a good job on the costume. But I was trying to picture DC doing photo covers from, like, the Batman movie serial and how amazing that would’ve been.

But there were plenty of photo covers to be had in the 1940s and 1950s,especially when celebrities were involved:


I think my favorites, though, and I don’t see enough of them passing through my store, are the romance comics with photo covers:


I would love (appropriately enough) to be able to put together a collection of these for myself. Especially Young Brides…there’s Jack Kirby in them there hills, friends!

I’m sure the photo covers (particularly for the romance comics) were there to make the comics look like their slightly more respectable magazine cousins. And the ones with celebrity photos would of course attract fans. Plus there’s the simple matter of photo covers just standing out on the rack…when you’re looking at that beautiful gory layout and see line drawing after line drawing, the sudden appearance of an actual picture of a real human is going to grab your eye. Photo covers were the foil/foldout/hologram gimmick variants of the mid-20th century. Why, if Death’s Head II & The Origin of Die-Cut came out in 1951, I’m sure the cover would featured models in some elaborate costuming!

Anyway, I should note the one cover that seems to come up a lot, one that seems to be fairly common and that even some of you cited at me: 1985’s Amazing Spider-Man #262:


I always thought the cover design was funny, in that it’s got that “SPECIAL ISSUE” blurb across the top, and literally the only thing “special” about this comic was the cover itself. Not slamming the comic or anything (I mean, it’s Bob Layton, it’s fine), but as I recall (and yes, I bought this off the stands at the time because of that cover) it was just a typical Spider-Man story. Not like Aunt May joined with the Venom symbiote, or that Mary Jane pulled off her red wig and revealed she was Gwen Stacy. That cover did its job…it got you to pick up that comic. It sounds like it worked on a lot of you out there as well. Marvel did several photo covers in the ’70s and ’80s (the Dazzler and Spider-Woman are stand-outs, but I have a personal favorite).

Let me wrap this up with possibly the greatest photo cover of all time:


Just your reminder that DC’s Vertigo imprint at least partially owes its existence to Wes Craven and that movie. Far as I’m concerned, that’s a celebrity photo cover for all us Dick Durock fans.

So let me ask you…what are your favorite photo covers?

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