BRONZE AGE BONANZA completes another year with the best of the best…

Welcome to BRONZE AGE BONANZA — our monthly series that looks at the greatest covers of the Bronze Age — exactly 50 years later. For more info on this feature, click here.

Welcome to our fourth BRONZE AGE BONANZA annual wrap-up — and this year we’re doing something a little bit different. See, since the inception of the monthly feature in January 2020, I’ve almost always made all the picks myself. But this year, for our TOP 13 COVERS OF 1973 — RANKED, I invited 13th Dimension’s regular contributors to cast weighted votes to come up with a consensus list.

Why the change this year? First, I like democracy. Second, I didn’t entirely trust my own judgment in making this year’s best list. We’ll get to that but, in a nutshell, I was having a hard time detangling my head from my heart.

Anyway, here’s how the vote worked: I took the winners of each month and included some wild-card picks, as we do every year. (Gotta have 13, right?) A couple of monthly winners didn’t make the final cut simply because some months were stronger than others. For example, a No. 2 in Month A might be a better pick than a No. 1 in Month B. It’s all subjective but it gives a better survey of the year overall. Here, by the way, are the two No. 1 picks that missed the cut:

Left: January’s No. 1, by Gil Kane. Right: November’s No. 1, by Ken Kelly.

OK, so who voted, besides me? A Murderer’s Row of comics writers, artists, experts and superfans: Paul “The Celebrated Mr. K” Kupperberg; Mighty Jim Beard; Prolific Peter Bosch; Cavortin’ Chris Franklin; Wallopin’ Walt Grogan; Killer Chris Ryall; Pistol Pete Stone; Scrappy Scott Tipton; and Kerry Callen, who doesn’t have a nickname.

Each voter listed their preferences in order, with 13 points going to the top pick, 12 points to the No. 2 pick, and so forth. The max number of points, then, was 130. For each entry, you’ll see the point total, as well as the comments I made in the monthly BRONZE AGE BONANZA columns. (To check out each month, click here.)

Got it? Good. Let’s get to it! Dig THE TOP 13 COVERS OF 1973 — RANKED:

13. Shazam! #2, DC: Winner, February. (40 Points.) A fun cover that just didn’t get much support. I’m not surprised, though. It’s a kick but not a real Best of the Year contender.

C.C. Beck (Jack Adler photo)

Comments From February: Now we’re talking, Jack Adler. A well-conceived, well-executed cover that’s remembered fondly by Captain Marvel fans to this day. The combination of photo and illustration perfectly capture the whimsy DC was going for in bringing back the Big Red Cheese from the exile that the company had forced him into. Also it’s a kinda-sorta infinity cover and that’s always a groove. Great color by Adler, too.

12. Plop! #1, DC: Wild Card, June. (41 Points.) Basil Wolverton’s cover appeared to disgust our voters more than delight them.

Basil Wolverton

Comments From June: I was 6 in 1973 and Plop! was just too darn much for my little brain to handle. On the other hand, Bob Rozakis said the kids who went to the Comicmobile in the summer of 1973 couldn’t get enough of it.

11. House of Mystery #214, DC: Wild Card, March. (42 Points.) Another Wild Card entry — and a great cover. Heavy competition kept this one low.

Bernie Wrightson

Comments From March: One of Bernie Wrightson’s all-time best covers and a strong contender for the top position.

10. Twilight Zone #53, Gold Key: Winner, September. (46 Points.) I’m glad to see George Wilson’s cover make it this high. I thought it might bring up the rear because of a possible anti-Gold Key bias, but I’m happy my fellow voters also appreciated this bananas cover. Wilson is one of the unsung greats and I hope more people recognize that in 2024, when his illustrated bio will be published.

George Wilson

Comments From September: George Wilson, folks! Soon to be the subject of a major illustrated history! And about damn time, too! I keep saying this: If Wilson, of whom very little is known, worked for Marvel or DC, every comics fan would know his name. Brilliant. Doot Doot!

9. Action Comics #426, DC: Winner, May. (51 Points.) I really wasn’t sure where this one was going to wind up, but I think it’s in the right ballpark.

Nick Cardy

Comments From May: The great Nick Cardy wasn’t the best Superman artist ever but this cover is a spectacular rendition of one of the Man of Steel’s most enduring tropes. Terrific execution that requires no further explanation.

8. Vampirella #30, Warren. Wild Card, November. (59 Points.) This one snuck in here; it was actually a No. 3 pick. I’m not sure how that happened other than perhaps I was bewitched by Vampi’s bewitchingness. Sue me.

Enrich Torres

Comments From November: I’ll admit it’d be easy to include any Vampirella cover on this list whenever they pop up, so I have to grade on a curve. This is one of Enrich Torres’ most evocative, so it’s a must-include. I even toyed with making it No. 1.

7. Swamp Thing #7, DC: Winner, August. (62 Points.) The voters pretty much divided the list into two, with a solid consensus about whether a cover was a real contender or not. That’s not a knock on 7 through 13, they’re all really good to great. They just didn’t make it among the elite.


Comments From August: One of Wrightson’s most memorable Swamp Thing covers, with our favorite muck monster making his way around Gotham as Batman approaches from below. Classic cover — and the Len Wein story is even better. It’s basically a noir with Swamp Thing taking on the role as private eye in the city — complete with fedora and trench coat — as the Darknight Detective tries to figure out what the hell is going on with this monster.

6. The Amazing Spider-Man #121, Marvel: Winner, March. (85 Points.) OK, now we’re getting somewhere. This is the cover that prompted me to go the poll route; I was truly torn about whether it should be the No. 1 pick. Ultimately, I had it as a very close second, but I wanted other opinions to ensure the list’s integrity. As it turned out, it finished in a shocking (to me) 6th place. I was certain it would place much higher because of its era-defining qualities. But I do think it suffered from some vote-splitting, as you’ll see; it was the top pick by Peter Bosch and Chris Ryall.

John Romita

Comments From March: The death of Gwen Stacy is not only one of comics’ seminal stories but John Romita’s bold cover is a Bronze Age landmark, as well. There’s no question that this cover is an early contender for best of the year — and an even earlier contender for best of the decade.

5. Swamp Thing #9, DC: Winner, December. (88 Points.) Nobody picked it for the best but it received solid across-the-board support. Great cover.


Comments From December: Probably the most iconic Swamp Thing cover ever. Every single thing about it works. From Bernie Wrightson’s masterful imagery to the way it’s set off against the logo. And the color palette is perfect, from top to bottom. Unclear who the colorist was but the indispensable Grand Comics Database suggests it might have been Wrightson himself. A masterpiece.

4. The Amazing Spider-Man #122, Marvel: Winner, April. (89 Points.) A fabulous cover that was near the top of most lists. It’s more kinetic than Amazing Spider-Man #121 and an incredible showdown cover, but I’m still a bit surprised it finished ahead. It drew a No. 1 vote from Scott Tipton.


Comments From April: It’s not quite as iconic as The Amazing Spider-Man #121 but it’s an extraordinary cover in its own right, with a perfectly crafted tableau of rage, hatred and grief that elevates one of comics’ greatest stories to even loftier heights. A masterpiece of comic-book action by John Romita, the greatest Spider-Man artist of all time.

3. The Amazing Spider-Man #129, Marvel: Winner, October. (90 Points.) The third of three Amazing Spider-Man covers on the list. It was voted No. 1 by Jim Beard, Kerry Callen and Walt Grogan but I do think it benefited from vote-splitting (the totals were 90, 89 and 85 for the three.) Regardless, it’s an outstanding cover and shows you just how dominant Spidey was at the time — this really was his greatest era.

Gil Kane pencils, Romita inks

Comments From October: Easily one of the most memorable and evocative covers in comics history. The Punisher’s debut on the cover, where he pretty much gets the starring role over Spider-Man, is more than backed by a great story inside — and a decades-long career as one of Marvel’s biggest names. Gil Kane and John Romita bring the heat. By the way, I will always pick this Punisher outfit over any other and that’s no lie.

2. The Shadow #1, DC: Winner, July. (100 Points.) My mind is blown. Terrific cover by Mike Kaluta, for sure, but I never would have predicted the No. 2 slot. Nobody voted it for the top but it received such strong support overall that it was one of only two covers to hit the 100-points mark. A great example of why going the democratic route is best. (Though, again, having three tremendous Spidey covers on the list probably gave it a vote-splitting boost.)

Michael Wm. Kaluta

Comments From July: Iconic is an overused word. I rarely indulge. But this is one of those cases where it’s merited. A masterpiece by Mike Kaluta and one of the greatest Shadow images ever.

1. Batman #251, DC: Winner, June. (117 Points.) I love this cover so much and I consider it one of the greatest of all time. But I couldn’t tell for sure how much my personal biases for both Batman and Neal Adams played into it, so I called in the cavalry and, sure enough, it was far and away the top finisher, with 117 out of a possible 130 points. Besides me, Chris Franklin, Paul Kupperberg and Peter Stone (Neal’s son-in-law) picked it for the top slot. I thought it was going to be a nail-biter, but in the end, it wasn’t even close. Adams is also 4 for 4 — he’s finished at the top of the annual list in the feature’s first four years. I expect that streak will be snapped in 1974, but it’s a helluva run. And not the least bit surprising: Neal Adams in 1970-73 was at his superhuman best.

Neal Adams

Comments From June: This is one of those covers that I knew would top the list months in advance because this is one of the greatest Batman covers ever. It’s certainly the Joker’s. I’ve written so much about it, I think it’s best if I just let you read what Neal Adams had to say about it. A masterpiece — and a strong contender for 1973 Cover of the Year.


— BRONZE AGE BONZANA: The 1973 INDEX. Click here.

— BRONZE AGE BONZANA: The 1972 INDEX. Click here.

— BRONZE AGE BONZANA: The 1971 INDEX. Click here.

— BRONZE AGE BONZANA: The 1970 INDEX. Click here.

Comics sources: Mike’s Amazing World of Comics and the Grand Comics Database.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. Wonderful! I remember these! I have a few of them still! The Shazam cover got a lot of comment in the letter column as I recall! Thank you all for voting!

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  2. No. 1 should never have been in doubt. It’s easily one of the best covers of the decade if not the best. A perfect mix of artistry and iconography

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  3. Did you apply loose criteria for inclusion on the list? That Vampirella issue was dated Jan 1974, although it probably was on sale in Nov 1973. A fantastic Enrich cover, anyway.
    That Shazam one, though – ugh.

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    • I only go by sale date, not pub date. It was on sale in November. The idea is what was actually published in a particular month and year.

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    • I agree with your assessment of Captain Marvel’s cover. I was never a fan of the photograph backgrounds. For the same reasons, I don’t care for the overproduced computer aided stuff produced these days.

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      • Agreed – “the overproduced computer aided stuff” is atrocious. Even worse than this Shazam one, actually.

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  4. It was an honor to participate, and needless to say I’m quite happy with the outcome! Intersting that the top two covers have large characters symbolically looming over a city. I think there’ something to be said for figures taking up a large portion of cover space. It immediately grabs the reader, and leaves quite the impression over time.

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  5. The 1973 ASM Cover run by Romita is perhaps the greatest 12 consecutive covers by an artist in history. Unbelievable that you dont have 122 as best.

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  6. The list missed out on the best ASM cover of that year………number 124.

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