13 Top Artists Pick Their Favorite ACTION COMICS Covers

SUPERMAN WEEK: Some of the industry’s best pick the best…

It’s SUPERMAN WEEK! We’re celebrating Action Comics #1000 — and the 80th anniversary of the Man of Steel. For the complete index of features and tributes — many by some of the top creators in comics — click here.

Man, this is fun.

Action Comics #1000 is out now — marking the 80th anniversary of Superman — and we’ve got an extra-Super 13 COVERS salute for you.

For starters, outgoing Action Comics writer/artist Dan Jurgens has ranked the 13 Best ACTION COMICS Covers — and by all means you should click here to check it out. You’ll be glad you did.

But we also wanted to widen our celebration to some of the other top artists in the game, so here are 13 of comics’ best with their single favorite Action Comics covers.

(And that’s not all, either. These 13 folks also picked their favorite general Superman covers, too. Click here.)

So, let’s get to it faster than a speeding bullet…

Mike Allred (Madman, Batman ’66)

Action Comics #338

Curt Swan pencils, George Klein inks

The first comic book I remember seeing from the earliest clear memory in my life. I woke up from a concussion in the hospital after my big bro, Lee, knocked me off the table I was dancing on. I woke up to find that my guilt-ridden brother had talked Mom and Dad into buying a bunch of comics for me and they were spread out on my hospital bed. Action #338 was one of them. So, the cover itself is cool enough, but it takes the prize out of sheer nostalgic love.

Art Baltazar (Aw Yeah Comics, Superman Family Adventures)

Action Comics #846

Adam Kubert

This issue got me most excited to read Superman! It was the sequel to the classic movies! It brought back Zod and the evil Kryptonians! It’s what Superman III woulda/shoulda have been! Imagine that! Plus Johns and Donner writing! Instant awesome!

Dave Gibbons (Watchmen, 2000 AD)

Action Comics #259

Swan and Kaye

The first US comic I ever bought. I still have this and it will always be special!

Mick Gray (Superman, Batman and Robin)

Action Comics #52

One of my all-time favorite covers, by Fred Ray. There’re a lot of things I love about it! The graphic black with yellow circle design REALLY grabs me! And all the other characters are WAY cool also, Mr. America, Vigilante, Zatara and Congo Bill! But, man, how Fred captured the running, smiling Superman was just FANTASTIC! THIS is ACTION!

Gabriel Hardman (Green Lantern: Earth One, Kinski)

Action Comics #552

This was a cover that spoke to me from the newsstand. This ’80s period is Gil Kane at the height of his powers in my opinion, inking his own pencils with a style and confidence no other inker could match. But the other reason this intrigued me as a kid who didn’t always pick up Superman books: “The Heroes of DC Past.” Even as a 9-year-old I was always drawn to older stuff — obscure stuff. A roster of “Forgotten Heroes” sounded interesting. But it’s clear as an adult and an artist that it was Kane’s dynamic triangular composition and illustrative line work that really drew me in. He was a master.

Fred Hembeck (Bah, Hembeck!)

Action Comics #309

There have been a lot of wonderfully drawn Action Comics covers, both before and after my formative comics-reading era, but if I have to pick out a favorite, I’ll draw from that cherished period. My choice is a Curt Swan/Sheldon Moldoff gem, #309, which features the entire Superman Family lined up to congratulate the Man of Steel for some reason or another — including none other than Clark Kent! How can this be? It can’t be Batman or a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes in disguise, as they’re clearly standing in line as well (and the story inside dispenses with the usual fall-back robot replacement explanation). So, who is it? Who’s standing in for Clark? Why, it’s none other than John F. Kennedy! Because, as Supes declares in the story’s final panels, if you can’t trust the President of the United States with your secret identity, who CAN you trust?? Especially since, in a rather unfortunate coincidence, this issue hit the stands just days after JFK’s ill-fated trip to Dallas. Well, that’s one way of keeping things on the QT. (Of course, nowadays, you couldn’t do a story like this without worrying that POTUS would spill the beans to Sergey Kislyak, toot-sweet!…).

David Mack (Kabuki, Jessica Jones)

Action Comics #500

I love the meta-style design of this Action Comics cover. The cover that is an infinity continuum of itself.

Shawn Martinbrough (Thief of Thieves, Detective Comics)

Action Comics Vol. 1 Hardcover (New 52)

Deceptively simple and bold is how I would describe this striking cover by Rags Morales for the rebooted New 52 line. I love Rags’ design approach to using the iconic cover of Action Comics #1 yet making it his own by zooming in on the classic figure of Superman holding up a massive object but removing all of the extraneous information. Dropping Superman’s features into shadow, thus allowing the viewer to focus on the style of clothing and adding the simple touch of the glowing eye, is just brilliant. In a time where recycling cover images is being explained away as “paying homage,” this is a fine example of taking a classic image and making it one’s own. Bravo, Rags. (Note: The image was first used for the cover of a New 52 sampler, but also as an Action Comics #1 variant, but with a red background. — Dan.)

Kevin Nowlan (Tomorrow Stories; about a million comics covers)

Action Comics #270

Swan and Kaye

Curt Swan pencilled this one and it shows so many of the things I love about his work: subtle expressions and body language and a sincere, earnest approach to every situation, no matter how improbable it might be. But this one is more sad than it is humorous. Superman isn’t drawn comically old and weak; his muscles are a little smaller and his shoulders are narrower but we don’t get to laugh at his diminished physique. Lois is hunched over a bit but obviously aging gracefully. On the other hand, Krypto… holy cow, that’s just heartbreaking! He’s old and weak but trying to smile a little as he looks up at his buddy with sad, tired eyes! And young or old, Swan drew him better than anyone.

Jerry Ordway (The Adventures of Superman, The Power of Shazam!)

Action Comics #662

Trying to narrow down an Action Comics image is hard for me, but I am choosing this great one, where Clark Kent reveals his secret to Lois Lane, moments after asking her to marry him in my own Superman #50 story. The layout is really clever, and the execution by the underrated Superman artists Kerry Gammill and Brett Breeding is great. The color (done by Breeding, according to the Grand Comics Database — Dan) sells the concept well. Mike Carlin, the Superman editor at this time, had a great sense of what made for a good cover. My runner-up cover is Action Comics #1, because it’s just so iconic. Superman is using his powers here, and the drawing is just so powerful. I have no doubt that this image sold the comic, and the concept, to readers in 1938!

Fernando Ruiz (Die Kitty Die, Archie)

Action Comics #500

Not only is this my favorite Action Comics cover, but the book itself is one of my all-time favorite comic books. As a fan of the Silver age Superman, this issue offers what is to me the quintessential origin for the Superman I grew up reading. Everything is in this one… Krypton, Smallville, Superboy. The scene where Superman relives the destruction of Krypton still gets me.

Brent Schoonover (The Astonishing Ant-Man, Batman ’66)

Action Comics #65

Jack Burnley

There are just too many awesome Action Comics covers to choose from. But the ones that really stick out to me tend to usually have these strong, flat yellow backgrounds. Putting that blue and red costume in front of it always works for making an eye-popping cover. Now the cover itself is just a cool image and something we don’t see much of anymore: This ridiculously large cash register emphasizing the greed of the robbers while also showcasing the strength of Superman. Also the flow of the design, leading the reader’s eye from Superman flying in, punching the button, and the register socking the robbers in the jaw, is really simple and effective storytelling. This sort of exaggerated gag was pretty common back in the day on covers and I’d love to see it make a comeback.

Evan “Doc” Shaner (The Terrifics, Adventures of Superman)

Action Comics #421

The introduction of Captain Strong, the not-subtle-at-all Popeye stand-in, which is a crossover I’ve always wanted very badly anyway. I’m a huge fan of Nick Cardy’s covers and this one, with Captain Strong ripping a phone booth right out of the ground with Superman in it, makes me so happy. The story inside is a great Bates/Swan joint, but I’d have bought this based purely on the cover alone.


— 13 Top Artists Pick Their Favorite SUPERMAN Covers. Click here.

— DAN JURGENS Ranks the 13 Greatest ACTION COMICS Covers. Click here.

— For the complete SUPERMAN WEEK index of features and tributes, click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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