Time to play the Best Cover EVER? game once more. Each week we line up another talented soul willing to come out and tell us what they reckon is the Best Cover EVER? And for a week we let them think it is, until some cruel soul comes along next week and deposes their choice. In truth there really is no best cover ever, but it’s such fun to play along.
This week it’s the very interesting choice of Cy Dethan, the writer behind the much lauded Cancertown series, two volumes of which have been published through Markosia. Other titles from Dethan include Starship Troopers, Slaughterman’s Creed, The Indifference Engine and White Knuckle. He’s working on the Unseen Shadows transmedia project right now, but in past lives he’s been a copywriter, editor, and most pertinantly to his best cover choice, a professional magician…
Best Cover EVER? – Spyman #1 Harvey Comics 1966
Cover art by George Tuska and inset by Jim Steranko
My selection for entry into this ongoing discussion would be the cover of Harvey Comics’ Spyman #1, from 1966 – and I’m picking it for literally ALL the wrong reasons.
Is it possessed of breathtaking beauty? Not exactly.
Is it a visual poem, saturated with poignant symbolism? Hardly.
Does it present a key moment in the history of a fascinating and historically pivotal character? Well, no… and then again, yes.
The character I’m referring to, of course, is comics legend Jim Steranko – and he didn’t even draw this cover.
To call Steranko an influence or inspiration of mine would simultaneously be entirely accurate and unforgivably misleading. As a creator of comics, I’d rank him in the very top tier – but it was as a magician that I first encountered him. Straddling both those worlds, it’s pretty difficult to find effective role models, but Steranko is as close to a rock star as you can get in comics or magic. As an amateur magician, he contributed the Lateral Palm sleight to the literature of card work. As a comics creator, he gave us Spyman and Magicmaster – not to mention the surrealism and (at the time) ultra-modern sensibilities of his own narrative art.
Even the Spyman cover itself is misdirection. The main image is by the great George Tuska of Captain Marvel fame, but check out the inset panel, depicting the “Fantastic Electro-Robot Hand” of the title character. That right there is the first published comic art of Jim Steranko – and that, I would submit, is what justifies its inclusion into the debate. Spyman never makes it onto anyone’s “best-of” list, and there’s still no sign of a big-budget movie adaptation, but my copy of Spyman #1 is still probably the most treasured single issue of my collection…
…for all the wrong reasons.
Bonus time…. Steranko’s artwork from issue 1 in full below…
And Steranko roughs for the character….