Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Top 20 Wonder Woman Covers of the 1980s

It was the best of time, and the worst of times. Wonder Woman had some of her finest covers while the sales (and by some accounts, the stories) were at an all time low. Volume One was finally cancelled, and volume two launched with great fanfare and a beloved artist... who felt the need to write the book, and for far longer than he drew it. I have a complete set of that second volume, but there are chunks of years that I have yet to force myself to read.

Case in point, the cover above to Wonder Woman #3 (April, 1987.) Look, George Pérez is one of the greatest artists in comic book history, and the man earned his pay for a lot of covers. It's just that his frontpieces for Wonder Woman were often milquetoast compared to the rest of his work. This is a perfect example. A woman just flew out of the sky, and a street full of pedestrians barely slow down to rubberneck. Steve's napping, Diana's staring blankly, and even the villains in the color hold seem only mildly interested. Finally, this is occurring in a city park, yet the statue's still standing and the trees are not on fire. In comic book terms, it's positively prosaic.

Honorable Mentions

20) DC Comics Presents #32 (April, 1981)

This is the first major instance of Superman kissing Wonder Woman that I can recall, and while it's cool that they do it in front of their crappy longtime significant others, I still hate like hell when this happens. Thanks to the spoiler presence of Eros and a dull layout, this is the shocking revelation on the cover to The National Enquirer about some D-lister you didn't know was still alive, much less cared about.

19) Wonder Woman #22 (November, 1988)

A nice George Pérez cover of Diana flying at the reader while twirling her lasso. Clouds. Birdies. Interaction with the logo. Nice. Just... nice.

18) Wonder Woman #314 (April, 1984)

Gil Kane provided a batch of swell covers during this period, and here demonstrates how to do a detailed cover without the subject being overwhelmed by background elements. However, Wonder Woman's stance is weak, and the battle seems static where it needs movement.

17) Wonder Woman #18 (July, 1988)

Nothing says "horror" like stripping a hero of their trademark logo. I get that these are scary monsters and there's a young woman to protect. It's got stark down as well. Just... I don't like seeing Wonder Woman cower before a threat, and I could never picture Superman or Batman being put in that position.

16) Wonder Woman #286 (December, 1981)

This one gets the job done. You get the location, the principles, the conflict, and the emotion. Good body language, too. It's just weird to me that Ross Andru + Dick Giordano registers in my brain as Buckler, instead.

15) Wonder Woman #264 (February, 1980)

This one is cool by being uncool. There's a horses ass, rocket-propelled horseshoes, a heinous bandito stereotype, and Wonder Woman being dragged at the ankles by a whip over the streets of Washington. The kinky humiliation fantasy echoes Marston and establishes misogyny as the true adversary of the day. Curiously, Andru + Giordano registers in my brain as Garcia-Lopez this time.

14) Wonder Woman #1 (February, 1987)

The prototype overly rendered George Pérez cover. He always seemed to be overcompensating for the lack of recognizable, conventional characters in this series by drawing casts of dozens amidst multiple "exciting" scenarios. I can't distinguish any of the generic Greco-Roman goddesses from one another. I don't know why Diana's legs are being spread apart by a dubiously functional battleax. What's with the spear and partially painted Captain America shield? Do I need to see the rush of semen building within Heracles as he prepares to feed himself to Hippolyta? There's cavepeople and a cavern of souls and another Hippolyta and three other Dianas and Ares and Ares' house and some wench that twisted up Heracles and dammit Pérez keep the combo platter down to five items or less. Well no, he instead let it spread to a triple gatefold a year later and way to many samey-same regular covers.

13) Wonder Woman #303 (May, 1983)

This Gil Kane piece falls on the opposite side of the spectrum. It's a simple single figure laid over a bust. I really don't need to see the bullets deflected by the bracelets traveling several yards past the logo. We need more here.

12) Wonder Woman #305 (July, 1983)

A really nice convention sketch tarted up with repeating logos. Nice the first time, but the same gimmick was recycled multiple times within a single year, as seen above.

11) Wonder Woman #8 (September, 1987)

Much better. It's still busy, but the images within each letter reflect chapters in the story, and their lack of color prevents them from drowning out Wonder Woman. It's much more fun to see Diana presenting the floating heads of her new super friends than random unimpressive deities in translucent robes.

10) Wonder Woman #308 (October, 1983)

Andru & Giordano looking like *gasp* Ross Andru. What a dynamite, kinetic piece! The Amazing Amazon deflecting bullets from an off-panel Black Canary which chases an Elongated Man around an intricate computer room. This is detail done very right.

9) Wonder Woman #31 (June, 1989)

Positive Pérez pattern progresses. Here we use silhouettes with iconic accents to sell a savage battle ahead.

8) Wonder Woman #307 (September, 1983)

Zeus is the star of this cover, and very nearly too much Zeus for Comic Code Authority approval for sale to minors. However, the scale of Zeus and his easily recognizable lightning bolts illustrates the accomplishment of Wonder Woman to evade them with Steve Trevor in tow. The best of the Gil Kane covers.

7) Wonder Woman #302 (April, 1983)

This one mixes the cool with the drip. Nice central figure, allusion to bullets & bracelets, incorporation of symbol as design element, and fumetti background. Disorganized cockeyed perspective, ugly background color, gratuitous signature, and wonky unaided flight. Good with the bad.

6) Amazing Heroes #106 (November, 1986)

Pérez's Amazing Heroes magazine covers tended to be better than those for the series, as he seemed freer to experiment with style and technique. Also, due to the space required for copy, Pérez kept it simple. An attractive central image of a womanly Diana alongside a full body shot in her new armor with the lasso acting as a design element. Done.

5) Wonder Woman #269 (July, 1980)

Princess Diana pulls a Hal Jordan. She's quit before and been fired even more, but never with such panache.

4) Wonder Woman #9 (October, 1987)

Pérez cracks the top five, once again by not overdoing it. He cleverly incorporates Wonder Woman and her logo in a way that allows Cheetah to demonstrate her hostile intentions in a provocative manner. It's also a nice callback to a Rick Buckler '70s cover with a considerably more intimidating take on the villainess.

3) Wonder Woman #329 (January, 1986)

While Diana looks a tad squat here, and that background coloring is kind of ugh, the image still makes me want to read this story. "48-Page Final Issue!" A Crisis tie-in that likely mattered! Diana leading an army of fantasy warriors while still being Wonder Woman (no armor, no edged weapons, etc.)

2) Wonder Woman #298 (December, 1982)

A rare Frank Miller cover so bold that it dares you to claim you aren't dying to read the story inside. Plus, it set up some sweet Ray Harryhausen action. Hypocritically, this image is also pretty much everything I decry with my #1 choice...

1) Wonder Woman #306 (August, 1983)

José Luis García-López, Dick Giordano, color holds, the Invisible Jet, the Magic Lasso, unabashed patriotic iconography... This cover represents everything that was awesome and fun about the Pre-Crisis Wonder Woman that successive creators keep trying to "fix" with their bull$#!+ "realism."

Their Top Covers of the 1980s

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