Wednesday 13 April 2011

John Romita's all-time Top Ten Spider-Man covers.

Everyone knows this blog's drawn to controversy, like a pyromaniac to a bonfire. Why, I remember when I practically tore the whole Internet asunder as I provocatively suggested Apeslayer might be a rip-off of Killraven. I did likewise when I argued that Leap-Frog isn't as good a villain as Galactus.

Well, I'm in controversial mood again - and that means it's time for another Top Ten to stoke the fiery embers of debate and set the Internet tearing at its own  throat.

It goes without saying that Jazzy John Romita's been one of Marvel's top cover artists and that his defining strip was Spider-Man. Therefore it makes sense for me to at some point compile a list of what, for me, are his all-time ten best Spider-Man covers. These of course are entirely my own opinion and are not to be mistaken for the thoughts of someone who knows what he's talking about.

Amazing Spider-Man #75, death of Silvermane, All-time Top Ten John Romita Spider-Man Covers

10. Amazing Spider-Man #75.
A cover with echoes of Amazing Spider-Man #50 shows our hero unable to bear the fate of some unnamed victim. Yet another reminder that in the real world, super-heroing wouldn't be the fun we all think it would. The reflection of Spider-Man as he  leaves just doubles the sense of a life wasted.

Amazing Spider-Man #66, Mysterio, All-time Top Ten John Romita Spider-Man Covers

9. Amazing Spider-Man #66.
I love the elegance of this layout. Thinking about it, Mysterio's the only Spider-Man villain I could see this composition making sense for. Imagine this image done with the Kangaroo, or the Grizzly instead of Mysterio. They'd look a right pair of berks.

Then again, I suppose they looked a right pair of berks however they stood.

Amazing Spider-Man #86, the Black Widow, All-time Top Ten John Romita Spider-Man Covers

8. Amazing Spider-Man #86.
How do you make the Black Widow look like a threat to Spider-Man?

Simple. You show her as a shadow. This allows you make her seem impersonal and huge at the same time.

Somehow, from her imperious stance, you get the feeling she's Spider-Man's superior in every way, even though we all know she isn't.

Amazing Spider-Man #50, Spider-Man quits, All-time Top Ten John Romita Spider-Man Covers

7. Amazing Spider-Man #50.
Spider-Man quits. It's certainly the most iconic Spider-Man cover John Romita ever did, though it's not quite my favourite. Never has super-hero seemed more alone in the world than Peter Parker. Even his alter-ego seems to have turned his back on him - even though it's the other way round once you open the mag.

Amazing Spider-Man #67, Mysterio's giant hands, All-time Top Ten John Romita Spider-Man Covers

6. Amazing Spider-Man #67.
A spider-sized Spider-Man being menaced by giant hands? If that doesn't make you want to buy a comic what will?

Even though we're left in no doubt that Spider-Man's tiny, still we're looking up at him, to heighten the sense of peril from that hand sneaking up on him from behind.

Amazing Spider-Man #68, student protest, All-time Top Ten John Romita Spider-Man Covers

5. Amazing Spider-Man #68.
Inside, Spider-Man's got nothing to do with the student protest. It's just an obstacle to his fight with the Kingpin, but the cover gives the impression that he's leading it. If any cover can be viewed as a deliberate statement that Spider-Man was well and truly a part of 1960s' youth culture, this was it.

Amazing Spider-Man #72, the Shocker, All-time Top Ten John Romita Spider-Man Covers

4. Amazing Spider-Man #72.
None of that humdrum literalism for us as the Shocker blasts a Spider-Symbol to rubble. One look at this pic tells us you don't mess with the Shocker.

Well, not unless you have the means to glue his thumbs together.

Spectacular Spider-Man #2, the Green Goblin, All-time Top Ten John Romita Spider-Man Covers

3. Spectacular Spider-Man #2.
Just how mad, bad and dangerous to know does the Green Goblin look? Spider-Man's anatomy is wildly exaggerated but it all adds to the dynamism.

Amazing Spider-Man #65, Spider-Man in jail, All-time Top Ten John Romita Spider-Man Covers

2. Amazing Spider-Man #65.
Can it be?

Spider-Man on the side of the criminals?

I love the intent and intrigue of this cover, not to mention that Spider-Man pretty much breaks down the fourth wall, seemingly fully aware of our presence as, dwarfing the other figures, he heads straight for us.

Amazing Spider-Man #59, Mary Jane Watson dances, her first ever cover appearance. All-time Top Ten John Romita Spider-Man Covers

1. Amazing Spider-Man #59.
I like this image so much that every time I see this issue for sale on eBay, I find myself bidding for it.

Mary Jane gets her first ever cover as Spidey polishes off the Kingpin's flunkies. How could anyone not love the contrast between the oblivious and happy go-lucky Mary Jane and the business-like violence of Spider-Man mere feet away from her? How great the gap is between their worlds but also how tiny.

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Anonymous said...

I'd also nominate this one, a cover from Creem magazine in 1973 that had a couple of major articles about Marvel... well as the cover of #91...partly because it's the first Spider_Man comic I ever bought, but I just love the design.

B Smith

Kid said...

And doesn't Mary Jane have some rack on that #1 cover? Yowza!

Robert said...

That was fun! I do like the lesser known covers like ASM 67 - very cool looking - and your top pick was good.

Liked the Black Widow cover, but didn't Romita also do a very fun cover with Medusa (ASM 62)? That's one you missed...

Steve W. said...

Hi, Robert. The one I really feel guilty about leaving out is Romita's first Spider-Man cover, with the Green Goblin abducting Peter Parker. How I managed to forget about it, I have no idea.

Dougie said...

I bought the Giant Hands issue and the Shocker issue as a kid, so they obviously worked. My favourite is the JJJ robot tearing the cover apart (issue 58). Bizarre and groovy!

Anonymous said...

meh on that list. you forgot #40. one of the rare showcases of spiderman being triumphant.

Steve W. said...

But that's why I didn't pick it - it gives away the ending.

But I do regret not picking the cover to issue #39, the one with Peter Parker being carried off by the Goblin. It's a wonderful cover.

Steve W. said...

Oops! Apparently, I already said that.

Ted Miller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ted Miller said...

Nice trip down memory lane, but these aren't the top ten Romita Spidey covers. They're the covers of your top ten ASM stories that happen to have been done by John Romita. I know this because ASM 75 was a classic story, far more momentous than 74, but 74 was a better cover. I also know it because these covers all come from a period that spanned only 2 1/4 years, while Romita continued to do Spider-Man covers for years after his run on the book ended. At least a decade to choose from, and you've limited yourself to less than a quarter of it. Ergo, these are actually your most fondly remembered stories, not a best artwork list at all.

I would go with 67, 71, 74, 86, 87, 113, 122 (seriously, how did you miss that one!), 123, 136, and 142.

And that's not counting all of the Kane covers he inked, which is really some of his best work.