And sometimes, ideas can be thrust upon an unfortunate artist (or writer) by an over-enthusiastic editor. Goodness knows, I've found myself on both sides of that particular fence.
Sometimes an editor would recycle an idea over and over - for example, a hero behind bars, and sometimes an artist would re-use something that had been especially effective for them in the past, like a "camera" angle or a particular layout.
Here, then, is a quick dash through several examples of ideas that have cropped up on more than one comic cover over the last 40 or 50 years ...
Cover tropes and other clichesBack in the late 1950s and early 1960s, king-of-the-hill DC Comics used to use a system whereby their editors would dream up a cover idea and have their chosen artist render it. Then, they'd have a story conference with their writer and end up with a story based on the (hopefully) dynamic and intriguing idea depicted in the cover. Sometimes this worked, sometimes it didn't. And nowhere was this more evident than in the Superman line of titles edited by the infamous Mort Weisinger.
Over the 20 or so years that Weisinger ruled over the empire of Superman, he would often commission covers then have a story written to fit. It's probably this process that contributed mightily to the recurring themes and ideas that cropped up time and again in the Superman family of titles.
By today's standards and sensitivities, some of the ideas behind the covers and stories might seem a tad ... inappropriate today.
|In DC's world, it seemed perfectly acceptable to make obesity a laughing matter. The 1958 Lois Lane |
was the earliest I could find, The Flash cover is 1960 and the JLA one is 1961.
|In fact the weight card must have been pretty successful for DC because they played it over and over |
again. Jimmy Olsen and Adventure Comics from 1962, and Superman from 1969 (yep, 1969).
|Getting old is something we all worry about, but I wonder if it wasn't more of a concern to the DC editors than it was to their ten-year old readers. Action Comics from 1959 and Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane both from 1963.|
|Heroes being rejected by the citizens they're trying to help was a common cover trope in 1960s DCs.|
Pelting with rubbish seems to be a common way of expressing dissatisfaction back then.
These covers from 1964, 1969 and 1970.
|There are numerous other examples of Superman/Superboy being rejected by those around him,|
but these three are most in keeping with the other examples here. The cover layouts are all quite
similar, too. Cover dates 1967, 1969, and 1970.
In the mouth of madnessThere's no doubt that dinosaurs fire the imagination of every kid. So it's no surprise that comics editors have never been shy about putting dinosaurs on comic covers since the genre began. But putting the hero, literally, in the mouth of the dinosaur is a pretty common cover design. Here's a few I've come across on my travels ...
|During the 1960s, DC Comics and Dell would return often to dinosaurs in the series and on their covers.|
|But in the 1970s, it was Marvel who dominated the dinosaur stakes.|
|In the 1980s, the hero-in-the-dinosaur's-mouth situation could happen in the distant past or in the far-flung future.|
|In the 1990s, there were Equal Opportunities for heroines and heroes to be devoured.|
|And by the time we reached the 21st Century, it was open season on comic characters.|
Next: The Mighty Marvel cover corner box