From Top to Bottom #17: Gimmick Covers

by Matt

Welcome to the 17th edition of the long running and Grammy winning "From Top to Bottom" column! Every week I will look at something within the comics industry and give you my opinion on what I think is the best and what I think ranks amongst the bottom-feeders.

Last week, in celebration of Star Wars week, I looked at the Top and Bottom of Marvel's Star Wars comics. This week, after reading Brandon's fantastic Casualties of the 90's columns I decided it would be fun to look back at a trend that was so prevalent of the 90's. I do admit that I got sucked into the madness of gimmick covers. There was a time where I picked up almost every gimmick cover there was. In the 90's EVERY comic had a gimmick cover at some point, even Quasar. I brought out my longboxes and dug through them to unearth my Top and the Bottom Gimmick covers that I admit I picked up because of the covers.

I am a little embarrassed to find that I own a lot of gimmick covers. Well, kinda embarrassed. Some gimmick covers I thought were pretty cool and I guess they did make me try new books. I absolutely loved the Avengers series of gimmick covers that celebrates their anniversary and it also made some sense as well. They had foil-embossed covers of bronze, silver, gold and platinum. The glow-in-the-dark Ghost Rider cover (Ghost Rider #15) was also cool. My son and I tested it and it still glows in the dark. Some gimmick covers were not as imaginative and were quite boring. All of these books I owned because of the covers, Darkhawk #25, Dr. Strange #25, Secret Defenders #1 and the list goes on and on. It seemed for a time in the 90's that stories were made just so they can plaster a gimmick cover on them. We'll see an example of a cool gimmick cover that came out with no importance at all, it was just an excuse to slap a gimmick cover on it. And yes, I bought it anyway even though I don't collect the series.

3) X-O Manowar #0
Sometimes a good gimmick cover will make me pick up a book. I was never into the Valiant universe and this was my first book into that universe. Joe Quesada's art really helped and the gimmick enhanced the art. The vibrant colors of the foil really made this book stand out. Luckily for me, the story inside was pretty good as well.

2) Silver Surfer #50 and #75
These gimmicks made sense and were cool looking. The foil-embossed gimmick is one of my favorite gimmicks and seeing the Silver Surfer all shiny and silver was cool. I also liked that it was only the Silver Surfer that was enhanced and not the whole cover. It made it stand out a little more. I prefer Silver Surfer #50 but I couldn't find a good scan of it.

1) Uncanny X-Men #304
When Marvel first tried the hologram gimmick covers with Spider-Man I was not impressed. The hologram was weak and grainy but I liked the idea. When the X-Men Fatal Attractions crossover came out celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the X-Men, they tried the holograms out again but this time they were successful. The holograms were smaller and much more detailed. All of the holograms were cool, but I especially liked the Magneto hologram on this issue.

MIDDLE PICK: Fantastic Four #317 In the 90's, any excuse was good enough to get a comic to have a gimmick cover and Marvel's Fantastic Four was one of the worst offenders. Fantastic Four #371 is a perfect example. It was a cool gimmick cover but it was not an anniversary issue and it was not an important issue or anything. The Human Torch accidentally burns down Empire Start University and that's it. The gimmick cover was so popular that they had a 2nd printing complete with the same gimmick cover, only is was all red instead of all white. While the gimmick cover was neat, the reasoning was not. But I bought it anyway. And they had another gimmick cover (shown below) just a few issues later.

3) Punisher War Zone #1
Die-cut covers can be cool if they are used right. Wolverine #50 was kinda neat with the claw marks which made sense and it was a special issue as it revealed a little of his origin. This Punisher die-cut cover made little sense. The bullet holes I get and it would have been cool if that is all they did but they had this large piece cut out to show the skull in the background. They didn't need that, the logo had a skull and the Punisher himself had a skull. They only needed bullet holes and the Punisher with guns blazing. Again, I was lucky that the insides were so good.

2) Fantastic Four #375
The Fantastic Four had a ton of ugly gimmick covers. They have a name for these covers, prism-something I think but I just don't see the appeal. The gimmick does not enhance the art, it does the opposite. It makes the art muddled and ugly.

1) Guardians of the Galaxy #25
I love Valentino's run on Guardians of the Galaxy, probably one of my favorite runs of all-time. But this cover was hideous. I cannot tell what Marvel was trying to get with this cover. The people looked flat and pasted on and the Galactus was too dark and grainy. The gimmick looks dirty and not as clean and crisp as the other gimmick covers. I think I have seen this gimmick only on this cover.

Do gimmick covers still have a place in our industry? I still like gimmick covers but feel they should be used sparingly and only for real special occasions. I also liked the option that Marvel had where you had a choice of getting the gimmick cover or just the regular cover. I am glad that they are not all over like they were in the 90's but I wouldn't mind seeing one or two pop up on occasion.


Chris Ware said...

I LOVE that X-O Manowar cover!!!

Then there was the cover of The Protectors #5 (Malibu). It had a bullet hole through it where a character was shot in the chest...and it went through the entire comic, not just the cover!

Dan said...

I didn't mind the occasional gimmick cover, but, like you said, it got way out of control. The Superman shield die-cut covers for each series introducing the four new Supermen were cool.

The embossed chrome one introducing(?) a random metallic enemy in Action #695 was definitely not cool.

The General said...

As loath as I am to admit to liking any gimmick cover, I will admit that I actually like how the foil covers like the X-O Manowar looked. They used them on the comics that bookended Age of Apocolypse too, and I loved the way those comics looked.

Beyond that, I remember not even liking gimiick covers when they came out, because it always meant an extra $1 added to the cover price.

Mister said...

Fantastic Four 375 was one of the first gimmick covers I bought, and that was from my local newsagents, the fact that it was all shiny attracted me to it. I never bothered with another FF comic till the Waid/Weringo run almost a 120 issues later.

The Fatal Attraction holograms where very cool, though I did manage to damage one of mine, by trying to take it off the cover.

KACH! said...

I still own that X-O Manowar issue! Signed by Quesada & Palmiotti, too.
Like the general said, those full-foil covers that Valiant did so many of were actually pretty nice.
I have a soft spot in my heart for the Eclipso comic with the plastic diamond on the cover. =)
I didn't mind gimmick covers that much-- it was just annoying that they bumped the price of each gimmick-covered isssue by a dollar or so.

Brandon said...

I would hate to see gimmick covers come back. I even hate the fact variant versions are still around. I just think they are useless and hearken back to a glutenous age in comic books. That era of foolishness needs to be forgotten.