I have been reading about everybody’s favourite Band of Mutants for over twenty years. That should tell you that I’m a fan, and also indicate that I’m in my 30s. Whilst ploughing through the hundreds of potential covers for my list, it re-invigorated my love for these characters. Let’s face it: the X-Men, when on their game, absolutely rock. The following is my by-no-means-definitive list of favourite X-covers, in no particular order.
Uncanny X-Men #138
Cover art: John Byrne
The first of several Byrne covers and, like the others, one of the most iconic covers in comics full stop. Why do I like this cover so much? I guess a lot of it comes from nostalgia (and indeed that can and does apply to the rest of the list). A lot of it also comes from the fact that, along with Walt Simonson, I think Byrne drew the definitive Cyclops - (this is definitely in the past tense – Byrne’s current ‘output’ is rubbish, and that’s me being polite!) – and this cover is a good example of that. I guess all this rambling is just another way of saying I like this cover. I like it a lot.
X-Men #58 (pre-Uncanny)
Cover art: Neal Adams
No I didn’t read this first time round, and actually I didn’t read the Claremont/Byrne issues until the excellent Classic X-Men series, but how cool is this cover? Neal Adams is a comic great and this cover shows why. A lot of people will take this sort of stuff for granted but what Adams was doing then (along with Steranko) was pioneering. I love the composition of the cover and the technique. It doesn’t hurt either that Havok’s original costume remains a personal favourite.
Giant-Size X-Men #1
Cover art: Dave Cockrum
If we are speaking of iconic, then apart from Marvel’s output in the ‘60s and DC’s in the late ‘30s, you aren’t going to get much more iconic than this. I remember buying Classic X-Men #1 (which featured a nifty cover by Art Adams and narrowly missed out on making this list) and when I saw the cover for this (I think it was on the inside front cover) I was blown away by it all. It showed that everything had changed and that this was not mere hyperbole. ‘All New, All Different’ was for once absolutely spot on. It can be argued that I’ve chosen this cover more for its iconic status than its technical merit, and there certainly is a case for that, but again, although this kind of cover is commonplace nowadays, it was wonderfully inventive back then, and the fact that it still has an impact to this day speaks wonders.
Uncanny X-Men #251
Cover art: Marc Silvestri
This was when I was avidly collecting X-Men. Although it coincided with the beginning of Claremont’s decline (I won’t take the blame for that!) there were still a few gems in this period. This issue was one of those, albeit I haven’t re-read it for over ten years so I may be wrong. The cover itself is wonderfully simple but very striking. It is an obvious riff on the crucifixion but to my mind it works. Furthermore, this was when Silvestri was a craftsman rather than a Jim Lee wannabe.
There. I said it.
Uncanny X-Men #141
Cover art: John Byrne
Another Byrne cover, another iconic cover (there’s more to come). How many times has this cover been copied? How many times have artists paid ‘homage’ to this endearing classic? No, seriously, how many times? I don’t know! This story is rightly considered a classic, but it’s also to blame for the deluge of futuristic X-book storylines leading to the convoluted mess it has now become. Back then though this was like a sharp jolt. The cover for the following issue and the next part in this story is another classic, but I opted for this one. It’s clear that something’s not right here; the cover does what is all so rare nowadays – it makes you pick up the issue because you want to know what it all means.
Uncanny X-Men #207
Cover art: John Romita, Jr.
What an awesome cover.
There really isn’t much more to say except I always preferred Wolvie’s Brown and Tan costume.
Marvel Comics Presents #77
Cover art: Barry Windsor Smith
Why didn’t they stop after this regarding Wolverine’s origin? To my mind this was all we needed to know about his tragic past. Oh well. BWS drew a fantastic Wolverine. My only (slight) gripe was that he drew Wolvie a bit too tall but hey, if it works for Hugh Jackman…
This cover really does capture the feral and bestial nature of my second favourite X-man (Cyke is my favourite). It also captures the loner nature of the character. Great cover.
New X-Men #114
Cover art: Frank Quitely
I know Quitely is not everybody’s cup of tea, but I thought he was a wonderful breath of fresh air. It’s also quite telling that this is the one and only selection from the 21st century. This is not a reflection on the quality of the stories, as I feel they have improved of late, but rather it’s a reflection on the dearth of good comic covers, a malaise not only afflicting the X books but comics as a whole (particularly Marvel). This cover promised something new with its flashy new costumes and its swirling background suggesting a new genesis. The cover definitely delivered. Morrison for all his talents, however, simply revisited Claremont’s stories.
Cover art: Walt Simonson
I think I’m the only guy who would select this, but I remember finding this in my local Newsagents and just loving Simonson’s Phoenix. Everything about this cover ticks all the boxes for me: Cyke, the various images of Jean, the X-Factor logo (still one of my favourites), the Phoenix bird ever ominous…Walt Simonson is one of my favourite artists ever and it’s a rare thing when you find a cover of his that isn’t dynamic. This cover is not the exception (cue everybody disagreeing with me – bring it)!!!!!
Uncanny X-Men #135
Cover art: John Byrne
Byrne. Again. At his peak he was the pre-Image poster boy. Admittedly this cover was a homage to Neal Adams’ X-Men cover with the Living Monolith (Did Byrne acknowledge Adams? I can’t see any nod to him on the cover – tsk tsk). To be honest I could have chosen any cover from this issue up to the death of Phoenix issue. I went for this one because this really showed how much the shit had hit the fan.
So there you have it. This was a lot of fun. It brought back a lot of happy childhood memories and it reminded me just why I love the X-men so much.