In celebration of everyone’s favorite web-head, July is Spectacular Spider-Month at AiPT!. We have a series of amazing articles in store for the month. Movies, television, gaming, and of course comics will all be covered with great responsibility as we honor one of comics’ greatest heroes.
Most comic book fans have a pretty good idea what they’re going to buy every week when they visit their local comic shop. With that said, there’s still a lot of fun to be had just glancing at the week’s new releases and taking a chance on a book that looks promising. That’s where covers come in-a fantastic image can make the difference between trying something new or saying, “Nah, not this week.”
To celebrate Spectacular Spider-Month, we’re publishing a special edition of Judging by the Cover. Read on to discover which Spidey covers make us say “Thwip!”
I’ll start us off with what I think is the best Spider-Man cover of all time, Mike Del Mundo’s variant for Superior Spider-Man #33. This is a Spider-Verse tie-in, so the mound of masks is warranted in at least one regard, but it succeeds in so many more. The silhouette is immediately recognizable, and given that its not depicting Otto, Peter, or anyone else in particular, it works as a suggestion of a character rather than an explicit depiction. That’s important, as all of the masks included in the long cast shadow indicate Noir, Bag-Man, Captain Universe, Hornet and so, so many more. It works entirely on the tried and true iconography of Spider-Man, and on the principal that anyone can be beneath the mask. That, across time, across universes, even across mediums, Spidey is a bastion of singular purpose and effect.
Paolo Rivera’s cover for the One Moment In Time trade is the only thing I like about One Moment In Time (obviously). Trade covers are tough, walking the line of capturing an entire story or arc included within is no easy task, especially when it’s as far-reaching and momentous as the events in this particular story. The success here, then, is that instead of focusing on one particular scene or moment (in time), Rivera captures a tone — a metaphor-laden image that speaks to everything OMIT is about. Peter is quite literally fading away from MJ, from this reality, from their love — they’re holding tight, but he’s getting lost to the bigger picture, to the plot and to the noise all around their lives (as good a message about the book as any) That it’s evocative of Blue, another story about love lost, is not lost on me, and conveys so much about the story and message that I can’t help but love it.
Marcos Martin’s cover for Dan Slott’s final issue of Spider-Man is a fantastic one. Rather than cast a shadow on his own legacy, impact, and medium like Del Mundo’s cover above does so well, Martin goes in the opposite direction. The idea of Spider-Man isn’t just Peter Parker, it’s all the people that his life and message touches, all the small interactions which lead them to carrying his good message and efforts out into the world in their own way. His impact is monumental, yes, but its made up of small people and moments. This gets that.
First up for me is Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #1, with art by Takeshi Miyazawa and Christina Strain. Miyazawa is one of my favorite comic artists in general so it’s no surprise that he’d end up on my list, and this cover delivers something that I think is really unique as far as Spidey covers go. The image is just so bubbly and youthful, with the art style and bright colors conveying nothing but fun even as MJ is hurtling through the sky on nothing but literal threads. Both characters are really expressive, even Peter with his mask on.
Aw yeah!! The cover to Spider-Man 2099 #1 by Rick Leonardi and Al Williamson is one of the most memorable from any version of the wall-crawler as far as I’m concerned. I first saw it as a kid and I totally thought it was every bit as cool as it aims to be, and I still do. All that dark red and technological line-work in the border instantly conveys the future setting, as of course do the people firing lasers off flying vehicles in the background. Let’s talk about the protagonist’s costume, though. Appearing on spinner racks, this would have been readers’ first exposure to that dramatic design, and we’re still seeing it in new comics and videogames over twenty years later.
This creative team’s tenure on Amazing Spider-Man from the early 2000s is my favorite run in the character’s history, so I knew I had to represent it in my picks. John Romita Jr., Scott Hanna, and Dan Kemp’s work is on display here, and it’s dramatic. The use of widescreen style bars is a unique touch, and it works because it actually tonally matches the composition instead of just being a line-wide banner (ala the Ultimate line, where it didn’t always necessarily look bad, but was seldom this cool). The white of the webbing stands out dramatically against the rest of the piece, and Peter’s pose is like an actual spider who’s caught his prey. Very neat.
I still remember looking through new issues at my LCS a while back and seeing this, and feeling instantly excited and impressed. Emilio Lopez did the art for this one (Spidey #7) and the sense of energy is fantastic from Peter’s Spider-Sense to T’Challa’s leap in midair. This is just a really fun cover that captures a youthful version of the ol’ web-head.
Roger Stern and John Romita Jr.’s ‘Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut’ is a classic tale. Romita’s cover for the second issue of the story in The Amazing Spider-Man #230 is a perfectly abstract representation of the impossible odds Spidey faced in a showdown against Cain Marko. It’s also all types of gorgeous, from the contrast on color to black & white to the reflection off Juggernaut’s helmet.
A little ways down the article, David captures the greatness of John Byrne’s cover to Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #101 much better than I can. Still, I’d be remiss not to include it in a list of of my all-time favorites. Simply stunning.
Once you’ve been reading comics from Marvel or DC for a few years, it becomes an incredibly rare occurrence to ever worry for the main hero’s safety. Even if they “die,” you know they’ll return sooner rather than later. Amazing Spider-Man #313 might have just been one chapter in a halfway decent crossover story, but Todd McFarlane’s cover featuring the Lizard about to take a chunk out of Spidey truly makes you fear for the wall crawler’s life. Lizard’s grotesque visage and the blood running down Peter Parker’s mouth are enhanced by a horrifically claustrophobic perspective. You can almost feel Spider-Man struggling to push back out of the page from certain death.
Yes, it might be a harsh reminder of ’90s excess now (and that “Legend of the Arachknight” still elicits a well-deserved eye roll), but that doesn’t negate the awesomeness of Todd McFarlane’s cover for Spider-Man #1. Spider-Man’s dynamic pose is perfectly complimented by a backdrop of intricate webs and spiders. This was McFarlane at his best.
I doubt Mark Bagley’s cover to Amazing Spider-Man #352 will make most folks’ lists, but this one’s special to me. Back when I was twelve years old, this cover caught my eye in the grocery store that my dad and I visited every Sunday. It didn’t matter that I’d never bought a Marvel comic before…or that I had no idea who Nova was…or that it was the second chapter of a two-part story. Something about that cover made me pick up the book. I’ve been hooked ever since.
This John Romita cover is everything a classic comic book cover should be. Published around a year after the Green Goblin killed Gwen Stacy and then was killed himself in a fight with Spider-Man, his return is a big deal. But he’s not back from the dead, it’s Peter’s increasingly unstable best friend taking up his father’s mantle. Romita shows us the conflict between heroes in the background and then puts the emotional subtext in the foreground. All in red, Peter and Harry scream at other with pained expressions, visually representing the inner turmoil of these two friends who’ve become enemies due to circumstance.
There’s a lot to love about this cover by Takeshi Miyazawa, not least of which is the beautiful colors by Christina Strain. Mary Jane looks adorable here and Spider-Man really pops. But if you look for more than a second, you’ll see this is maybe the most clever callback to Amazing Fantasy #15’s cover that’s ever been done. That cover is referenced constantly, but changing the angle and pulling the “camera” in really shows the joy on Mary Jane’s face, while at the same time saying “Yeah, this is a Spider-Man book, but Mary Jane is taking the lead here” by having her be the one holding the web with Spidey clinging to her.
I loved the Ultimate Comics line, especially in the early days, but the covers were by and large bland and unimpressive, mostly relying on generic pin-ups with the unifying side bars that identified the line. This is a big exception because this Mark Bagley cover tells you everything you need to know about the issue. Peter holding his Spider-Man mask with Mary Jane’s shocked expression reflected in the eyes is the perfect preview for what might be the best comic Brian Michael Bendis has ever written.
Amazing Spider-Man #31, from Volume 2 and with cover art by J. Scott Campbell, is my all-time favorite Spider-Man cover. The story inside isn’t too bad as it’s written by J. Michael Straczynski (JMS) with interior art by John Romita Jr. (JRJr) continuing their “Coming Home” story-arc which I highly recommend checking out. With comics the cover always has to be appealing as this is what we see first…so here is Peter Parker teaching a class, wow; but to me though that cover was “WOW!!”
At the time I was a freshman in community college and I had decided to have a math major and I was leaning towards teaching as a possible job in the future. This cover made me feel a bit better about going into teaching…I mean if Spidey thinks it is worthwhile then why not? So this helped me continue on with my higher education and I am now about to begin my twelfth year as a math teacher in my local community…Peter taught me to be a “Friendly Neighborhood Math Teacher.”
Another pick for my favorite covers is Web of Spider-Man #118 which has the cover debut of the Scarlet Spider. Steven Butler did a great job here showcasing this amazing new character that would be very polarizing for the ’90s. This was one of my early issues of Spider-Man that I got as a kid and holds a found place in my heart. The issue is pretty good too…kicking off “The Exile Returns” story-arc which is a great foundation for Ben Reilly and his adventures.
This is an easy article for me since I literally have Spider-Man cover art on my walls. First up is one of my favorite tangles between Ben Reilly and Peter Parker with Amazing Spider-Man #404. Yes, it was part of the Clone Saga mess, but Mark Bagley does an exceptional job making two identical in body Spider-Man characters fight.
Next up is a cover I have CGC-graded and framed on the wall. It’s the iconic John Byrne cover for Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #101. A cover that is done in white and black only, but utilizing the light of the skyscrapers and the light of Spider-Man’s symbiote suit accents is stunning. The contrast with white is a real work of art and I can’t stop looking at this cover.
My last pick is Amazing Spider-Man #33 which is possibly the most famous moment in Spider-Man history (okay, save for Gwen Stacy being thrown from the bridge). In this cover, we get the penultimate moment where Spider-Man must lift a giant machine or else drown. It’s an incredible moment of self-motivation and it’s incredibly ironic. Just looking at it reminds you of Spider-Man’s intense ability to fight through anything.
Thank you for joining AiPT! during Spectacular Spider-Month! Be sure to check back in every day for more Spider-Man content including interviews, features, opinions, and more!