So often when we see covers of old comics reprinted in books or shown on websites, it’s as a supplemental illustration in support of text about that particular issue’s contents. So the covers we see most often as fans are of the issues in which something significant happened, such as the death of a character or first appearance of a villain, whether or not the cover itself was particularly good.
But what about the everyday comic book cover? Here are what I consider the best Spider-Man covers from the 1970s, regardless of how minor the villain or insignificant the story inside. Though Spider-Man’s flagship title was joined in March 1972 by Marvel Team-Up, in which Spidey was paired with different Marvel character each month, and a second solo title, Peter Park, the Spectacular Spider-Man, the best covers of the decade uniformly appeared on Amazing Spider-Man so the present selection represents not just one character but a single title from 1970 through 1979.
In order of publication then:
1. In terms of composition, the best images of Spidey — inside or outside the issue — take advantage of his wall-crawling abilities to play with perspective, as represented by Amazing Spider-Man #90 (November 1970), by Gil Kane and John Romita:
2. Amazing Spider-Man #98 (July 1971), by Gil Kane:
3. Amazing Spider-Man #142 (March 1975), by John Romita:
4. In terms of pure draftsmanship I think this is one of the best images of Spider-Man in the decade; it’s astonishing how many bad covers of Spidey there are. Amazing Spider-Man #145 (June 1975), by Gil Kane:
5. This is the closest of my picks to an “event” issue, being the first appearance of Spider-Man’s clone, but I think the image of Spidey being confronting by his doppelganger is alone strong enough to make this a good cover, though it’s not the best of this selection. Amazing Spider-Man #149 (October 1975), by Gil Kane:
6. This is probably one of the best-known images of Spidey, and still one of my favorite covers. For some reason he always looks good in and around water! Amazing Spider-Man #151 (December 1975), by John Romita:
7. Another classic Romita image of Spidey vs. Doc Ock. Amazing Spider-Man #157 (June 1976), by John Romita:
8. Using the hospital window as a natural comic book panel, this cover is not only a microcosm of the medium but it also illustrates the essential Peter Parker dilemma, making it an ideal representation of the words “Spider-Man Monthly Comic.” Amazing Spider-Man #178 (March 1978), by Ross Andru:
9. I’m a sucker for stylized depictions of well-known costumes, which in this case makes up for what the cover lacks in other areas. Amazing Spider-Man #188 (January 1979), by Dave Cockrum:
10. I just love the way Spidey frames this image with his body, and the lighting (or is it a shadow?) on his back. Amazing Spider-Man #189 (February 1979), by John Byrne:
Conclusions? If nothing else, 1975 was a great year for covers with four entries from that year alone.
So who was the king of Spidey covers in the seventies? Gil Kane and John Romita are represented by three covers each, with a seventh credited to both artists. Assuming Amazing Spider-Man #90 was penciled by Kane and inked by Romita, I’d say that gives the edge to Kane.
But does the combined virtuosity of #151 and #157 ultimately outstrip the technical mastery of Kane’s #98 and #145?
Next on Spider-Man Week: Top Ten Covers of the Eighties!