Nothing says mid-20th century graphic-design kitsch like the late, lamented floating head.
Floating heads used to be everywhere — TV commercials and movie posters, magazine ads and baseball cards. You name it, there was a floating head to put on it.
Including comic book covers. Definitely comic book covers. And now, they’re back — at least for a one-off Justice League cover out this week by David Yardin:
In the ’60s and ’70s, Marvel and DC each embraced the floating head in its own inimitable way, typically using them for team books as a shorthand signal to let readers know just who was going to pop up in an issue besides the heroes shown in a cover’s central image.
With The Avengers, for example, Marvel tended to use the heads either in their corner boxes — which have made a comeback with Marvel Legacy (though they’ve already started to disappear) — or as a sort of disembodied Greek chorus reacting to the action on the cover.
DC, unsurprisingly, took a more formal approach with Justice League of America, using heads in the margins as a roll call — a design concept made more effective whenever the League was visited by the Justice Society or some other extradimensional team.
Naturally, they showed up on non-team books, too — Spider-Man made particularly excellent use of them — but no matter what, floating heads ROCKED. And that’s why I got so excited when I saw Yardin’s cover. I just wish they were back full time.
Anyway, this august occasion just cried out for a 13 COVERS salute to that wondrous technique that was an indelible mark of the Silver and Bronze Ages.
Here are some all-time faves, highlighting JLA and The Avengers:
Cover images and credits from the nifty Grand Comics Database. Additional credit speculation my own. Feel free to weigh in below if you know something I don’t.