The Biased List: My Top 15 Favourite Uncanny X-Men Covers

Let’s talk about some comic book covers from the Uncanny X-Men series.

If it wasn’t obvious from the title of this website, the X-Men have had a pretty monumental impact on my life. I grew up reading the comics, watching the cartoon show, and harshly judging the films. More recently, I’ve even gone as far as to compile a fantasy X-Men team because this boy can dream!

While there’s plenty of X-Men books to talk about: from the Uncanny X-Men, Astonishing X-Men, Amazing X-Men, Generation X, X-Force, and so on, I wanted to sit down and discuss my all-time favourite Uncanny X-Men covers.

While the stories are ultimately what sold me on the X-Men, covers were really the selling point for people to pick up comic books. For example, Batman had to be doing something cool for someone to want to read his stories and not just think of him as some guy in a bat suit. And while there’s tons of X-Men to choose from, having the most popular X-Man, Wolverine, on the cover would be sure to drive up sales. A cover without Captain America fighting the Red Skull would be more awesome to pick up and read than one with him versus Batroc the Leaper, y’know.

Literally judging books by their covers isn’t my plan with this list however. I want to talk about the artwork and what about the cover draws me in. Colours, details, storytelling – what the cover says rather than what it’s selling. So here goes:

Some Honourable Mentions

Uncanny X-Men #525, Aug. 2010 (Cover by Adi Granov)

Six X-Men under siege by robots may seem like a typical X-cover (which we’ll see more of later), but this really gives us a sense of dread. The grey palette contrasting against Armor’s, Psylocke’s, and Cyclops’ reddish-pink weapons give a nice pop to the page. And Namor’s face though.

Uncanny X-Men #213, Jan. 1987 (Cover by Alan Davis & Paul Neary)

I considered adding this cover to my main list, but felt that the impact of this cover is actually more nostalgic feeling. I say that because at this point, nobody knew who Sabretooth was, let alone his history with Wolverine. However, the cover is action-packed and claustrophobic, especially considering how few colours are actually used on the page. It’s as if we’re in hte fight with them. One helluva great inking job too.

Uncanny X-Men #251, Nov. 1989 (Cover by Marc Silvestri & Dan Green)

I love me some Silvestri, which is why it pained me to leave this cover only as an honourable mention. In typical Silvestri style, we have lines, lines, and more lines running down the page, giving this Biblical representation of Wolverine’s crucifixion an incredibly sombre feeling. The green back-lighting against the crucifix is stunning.

Now the list:

15. Uncanny X-Men #476, Sept. 2006 (Cover by Billy Tan, Danny Miki, & Frank D’Armata)

While it’s definitely not the most action-packed cover on the list, this solo cover of Warpath stands powerful for me as it really speaks to his character. Out of the shadows, both literally and figuratively, comes Warpath with his Vibranium Knives and the head of the enemy. Figuratively speaking, he’s the little brother of the fallen X-Man, Thunderbird. Outside of Cable’s X-Force books, Warpath was a thrown away character lost and forgotten about. This cover for me represents his coming-of-age in the Uncanny X-Men – a bigger book than X-Force. With this one cover, without any dialogue, the viewer is given everything they need to know about Warpath.

14. Uncanny X-Men #205, May 1986 (Cover by Barry Windsor-Smith)

I couldn’t have a X-Men cover list without the legendary Barry Windsor-Smith on it, could I? The detail and confusion for the viewer on this cover is shared with Wolverine’s expression. The helplessness of both the viewer and Wolverine trying to figure out what is happening. The lines, wires, and colours all give a threatening feeling. It’s uncomfortable to see, let alone to understand. It’s a beautiful mess. Wolverine’s right hand – his claws extended as if they were forced out of him – add to the feeling of dread. Much like the cover, this issue is messy, violent, and mechanical.

13. X-Men #61, Oct. 1969 (Cover by Neal Adams & Sam Rosen)

The second appearance of the X-enemy Sauron lands in my top 15 list as it really encapsulates the threat of Sauron. An incredible landscape within a busy city adds to the sense that the public isn’t safe. Up in the air, Angel is alone against Sauron as the rest of the X-Men helplessly look on: they can’t fly! How can they save their friend? Sauron’s size engulfs the page and yet surprisingly his monotone green body doesn’t feel boring. What is he to the viewer? The grey city below doesn’t help with colour variety – yet the cover pops out with the bland green and grey as the dominant colours in the cover. How did Adams and Rosen pull this one off?

12. Uncanny X-Men #395, Aug. 2001 (Cover by Barry Windsor-Smith)

Fifteen years after our last entry with him, Barry Windsor-Smith still dominates the X-books with another favourite of mine as both a cover and an X-Man. Jumping over from the Generation X books, Chamber dominates with his literal explosive power taking over the cover, despite there being very little action at all on the page. His eyes scream attitude, almost as a “screw you” for his Gen. X series being cancelled. With his head slightly tilted, it’s almost as if he’s asking, “Are you talking to me?” as he makes his mark. The cover is bright, bombastic, and the lettering compliments – if not helps – the impact of the cover. A great premise behind the cover’s simplicity.

11. Uncanny X-Men #268, Sept. 1990 (Cover by Jim Lee, Scott Williams, & Tom Orzechowski)

The only Jim Lee cover on my list. It’s my favourite for a few reasons: firstly, it’s an iconic cover. Three big names in the Marvel Universe together on one cover and “together again for the first time.” Secondly, their stance and dominance on the page make the viewer forget the trio really aren’t anywhere. There’s a city in behind, a bridge, and. . . steps? The trio seem to be looking off at something – are they above it or at eye-level? It really doesn’t matter because we focal point of the cover draws us away from the background’s strangeness. The viewer is forced into seeing Captain America’s chest and shield, then Wolverine, then Black Widow. The distinct colours and inks wonderfully make your eyes circle along with the figures – only to circle back around from Black Widow’s head into Captain America’s chest and shield again. Repeat. It’s truly a great cover, if not a bit clever, cover.

10. Uncanny X-Men #290, July 1992 (Cover by Whilce Portacio)

Making a graceful cover even more wonderful is Whilce Portacio’s Uncanny X-Men #290. Here, Storm stands literally and figuratively in her element(s) as few colours are used to define the image. Heavy on the inking to define the white space and rain, the viewer is left uncertain on whether there are tears running down Storm’s face or the rain. The cover is a simple idea which is manifested into something much more grand with Storm’s body language suggesting either relief or joy. She stands in front of the X-Men logo, making sure she is the focal point for the cover. Everything else is secondary.

9. X-Men #137, Sept. 1980 (Cover by John Byrne, Terry Austin, & Jim Novak)

Blunt and to the point: Phoenix must die! With their backs against the wall on an alien planet (notice Earth in the background!), the X-Men are in for the fight of their lives to save Jean Grey. Cyclops and Jean holding on to one another while fighting off the enemy (or in this case, the Shi’ar could be considered good guys?), in a battle to the death. Words do a lot to sell this issue. “Special Double Sized” and “MUST DIE” really stand out as a selling point – to a lesser extent earning $2500 sounds great as well, but that’s besides the point. However, there’s a bit of a throwback in this cover. We have Jean back in her earlier costume, giving bright composition to the dreary background. She’s front and centre on the cover, both her and Cyclops launching weapons at an unseen foe. Lots of mystery and intrigue is given on this cover (and what happens inside the book is a doozy!)

8. Uncanny X-Men #207, July 1986 (Cover by John Romita Jr. & Dan Green)

A simple cover still reeling with incredible action. Wolverine ripping the cover he’s contained in? Talk about breaking the fourth wall. This cover is so basic, but feels like there’s a lot going on. Straggly vertical lines; little details on Wolverine’s otherwise boring costume colours; the pose. I like this cover because, to paraphrase physicist Lawrence Krauss, it makes something from nothing. What could be a ho-hum cover by Romita Jr., ends up being one of the most iconic covers featuring Wolverine.

7. X-Men #101, Oct. 1976 (Cover by Dave Cockrum & Danny Crespi)

Speaking of iconic covers: the first appearance of the Phoenix certainly is one! Cyclops drowning, Nightcrawler struggling to swim – Storm seems as if her cape is weighing her down, yet still looks over to help see Cyclops in danger – the fear the cover strikes is enormous. Given it was only a few issues earlier where X-Man Thunderbird died, there’s still a chance for any of the main members to go as well. Cockrum was so far ahead here, one can even see the fear in Cyclops’ eyes through his visor. Much like issue #137, we have another bright green Phoenix cover, contrasting against Jean’s red hair and the blue sky – lots of colour composition is happening here and the characters seem purposefully chosen to make the colours work. And not to mention the impact of Jean’s explosion out of the water. It’s just one big “wow.”

6. X-Men #133, May. 1980 (Cover by John Byrne, Terry Austin, & Gaspar Saldino)

So about those iconic Wolverine covers. . . often considered to be one of the best Uncanny X-Men covers, Wolverine taking on the Hellfire club soldiers helped define his character. Clearly out-manned, alone, and forced into melee combat against armed combatants, Wolverine simply kicks some serious ass. Keeping mostly primary colours: red, green, blue – and yellow, the individual characterization of each person on the cover really shine. The fearless shooter from a distance; the annoyed soldier behind Wolverine, the three goons getting knocked away and whose pain the viewer can actually feel because the bodies aren’t in unusual positions – this cover, “delivered” by John Byrne and Terry Austin, not only defined the X-Man, but helped define the series.

5. X-Men #98, April 1976 (Cover by Dave Cockrum & Gaspar Saldino)

One could say that battling giant robots could be considered the X-Men’s forté. The giant Sentinels literally tower over the X-Men, leaving the dynamics to this cover to be in the hands of the legend, Mr. Cockrum. We only really get an idea of the scale of the Sentinels by Wolverine and Cyclops, making the fall of Colossus from the building that much more dramatic. Lots of action sprawls over the cover with every X-Man doing something relevant on the cover (which is a thing older X-books had a problem with – see my #3). The purple of the Sentinels compliments the strangely green-lit background featuring a Kirby Krackle sky. In my eyes, if there’s one cover that screams “The X-Men,” this would be it.

4. X-Men #141, Jan. 1981 (Cover by John Byrne & Terry Austin)

Everyone’s dead! In a dystopian future, we have an older Wolverine and Kitty Pryde up against a wall with their friends – and all of the characters we’ve read about – all apprehended or dead. It’s a dark, dreary cover for the X-Men which actually reflects the storyline contained within. It’s gritty and reeks of fear and anticipation. Who’s after Wolverine? Who has killed them all? How will anyone survive? Looking at this cover to this day, I still imagine what happened to the X-Men who were captured or killed. The cover gives more questions than answers and begs the reader to pick up the book.

3. X-Men #12, July 1965 (Cover by Jack Kirby, Frank Giacoia, & Sam Rosen)

I bet some of you were asking yourselves when the Kirby representation was going to appear. X-Men #12 takes the cake for me as his best X-Men cover as we witness the first appearance of the mighty Juggernaut. His explosive entrance to the cover (and the series) knock back the X-Men – save for Jean Grey which Kirby never seemed to know what to do with on his covers. But what works well for this cover is a few things: the mystery behind the Juggernaut. We see his back, a gigantic fist, huge shoulders – what sort of creature is he? The cover is bright and red; instilling fear and drama on the cover. It makes the X-Men’s yellow costumes pop out, which in-turn also adds to the dramatic feel to the cover. There’s nothing happy happening here. It’s dark, obstructing, and moody, not only making it a really strange cover for its time, but one of my favourites to go back and look at.

2. Uncanny X-Men #210, Oct. 1986 (Cover by John Romita Jr., Bob Wiacek, & Danny Crespi)

Alright, alright. I’m sure you folks are wondering why this cover is so far up on the list. The real reason is that this cover totally hits the mark of the “definitive X-Men lineup” for me. While the catch phrase on the cover is cheesy as all hell, it’s the body language the X-Men give off that really strikes me. If you were to gauge the X-Men on their covers, to this point, save for issue #141 (and its next issue), it would’ve felt like regular comics for all ages. This cover was the turning point in the books for me, featuring the Marauders and a lot of dead Morlocks. The following covers feature blood, violence, fear, and action – but all originate from the storyline in this book – based off of the attitude from these characters. I wouldn’t want to mess with any of the X-Men based on this cover. They’re fearful, they’re menacing, and most importantly, they’re the best mutants for the job. Much like issue #207, Romita keeps it simple with a plain background and some horizontal lines to give this cover the edginess it needs to really hit home.

1. Uncanny X-Men #142, Feb. 1981 (Cover by Terry Austin & Danny Crespi)

Like I said before, save for issue #141 and its next issue, the X-books felt like comics for all ages. Then comes along Uncanny X-Men #142 by Terry Austin and all hell breaks loose. A giant Sentinel obliterates Wolverine on the cover as an impaled and broken Storm looks on. In this issue, EVERYBODY DIES. It’s a gut-wrenching cover for anyone to gaze upon. The action – and Wolverine’s death – demands your attention. Eyes focus on the colourful composition of his face. Just based on colours alone, everything compliments one another – green goes with purple which goes with yellow and orange. It’s inked beautifully to mask the real gore behind Wolverine’s death. It’s like the old horror movie trope: it’s better to have the murder done off-screen to leave the gruesome details to the imagination. And Wolverine’s death being caused by a soulless, faceless machine makes the hit so much stronger. As far as Uncanny X-Men covers go, this one delivers.

So that’s it! That’s my list of my favourite Uncanny X-Men covers! I’m sure a lot of you could agree with my choices, but I’m certain a lot of you would disagree with what I’ve said or my selection.

What have you? Did I overlook a cover? Let me know below! Or you can let me know on Twitter and Instagram!

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

Comic Book News Update!

I’m pretty busy with so-called “real life” work this week. Since I won’t be able to get out reviews or other fun things, I figure I’d fill you all in with some extra-special stuff.

Jim Shooter’s Storytelling Lecture

Iconic writer, editor and all things in-between, Jim Shooter, has recently been posting transcripts from a 1994 seminar he did about art telling stories through Jack Kirby’s art. They’re absolutely astounding and breathtaking to read and witness. Most importantly, it is still relevant today! (And unfortunately goes ignored). Please check out what he has posted so far, and keep checking back regularly for more updates!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Comic Sales & Highlights

Two classics were recently sold over ComicConnet.com and Ebay, making milestones for Showcase #4 and Journey Into Mystery #83.

“Mark Zaid of EsquireComics.com and ComicConnect.com are reporting the sale of a CGC-certified NM- 9.2 copy of Showcase #4 featuring the first appearance of Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash for $100,000.” – ComicsPriceGuide.com

Showcase Flash

Meanwhile, the first appearance of Thor. . .

“. . . is autographed by Stan Lee and part of the CGC Signature Series. Graded at 6.5 by CGC, this copy of Journey Into Mystery #83 recently sold for $7,500.00 on eBay.” – ComicsPriceGuide.com

CGC Stan Lee Thor

Comics Sales Slump

In more depressing news, comic sales are continuously slipping. As ICv2 reports,

“Sales of the Top 300 graphic novels through Diamond Comic Distributors in March were down a substantial 18.6%, while sales of the Top 300 periodical comics fell 4.28%. Combined sales of the Top 300 Graphic Novels and Comics in March were off by 7.58%.”

Despite the drop, the 15 comics from March 2011 keep us hopeful with quantities sold being the last set of numbers in the list below. If you’d like to see the top 300, just click here.

1. FF#1 – $3.99 – Marvel – 114,472
2. Green Lantern #64 – $2.99 – DC – 76,898
3. Green Lantern #63 – $2.99 – DC – 75,632
4. Batman: The Dark Knight – $2.99 – DC – 71,108
5. Brightest Day #21 – $2.99 – DC – 70,204
6. Brightest Day #22 – $2.99 – DC – 69,824
7. Batman Incorporated #3 – $2.99 – DC – 66,772
8. Avengers #11 – $3.99 – Marvel – 66,618
9. Batman Incorporated #4 – $2.99 – DC – 65,315
10. Fear Itself: Book of the Skull #1 – $3.99 – Marvel – 62,714
11. Kick-Ass 2 #2 – $2.99 – Marvel – 62,235
12. Green Lantern Corps #58 – $2.99 – DC – 60,100
13. New Avengers #10 – $3.99 – Marvel – 59,929
14. Batman and Robin #21 – $2.99 – DC – 59,818
15. Amazing Spider-Man #656 – $3.99 – Marvel – 59,626

And to think that in the 90’s comics were selling by the millions. These numbers reflect North America, by the by. *Sigh*

***UPDATE 5/13***

Here’s the official sales numbers for Marvel over at ComicsBeat.

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!

Signed by Stan Lee

Today, I finally received my X-Men #15 signed by Stan Lee in the mail from CGC. I will definitely do a post about how CGC works and how the process works in the later weeks.

Until then, the glory of my comic:

X-Men #15, signed by Stan Lee

And what it says on the top:

CGC Signature Series
X-Men #15, Marvel Comics, 12/65
Signed by Stan Lee on 08/27/10
Off-white to white pages.

Stan Lee story, Kirby and Ayers cover.
Dick Ayers and Werner Roth art.
Jack Kirby layouts.

1st appearance of Master Mold.
2nd appearance of the Sentinels.
Origin of the Beast.

—–

Keep on Space Truckin’!

Classic Comic Fridays: Fantastic Four #45

Like every Friday, I will review a classic comic from my personal collection. For this week, I managed to find a decent-quality copy of a comic at my local comic store. I absolutely loved the story and art, so I figured that I should review it.

Fantastic Four #45

The comic, if you haven’t read the title already, is Fantastic Four #45 from December of 1965. It’s a classic, and one which was the first appearance of the Inhumans! Yes, Black Bolt, Crystal, Lockjaw, Triton and Karnak all get their first appearance in this early issue of F4. And you better believe that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were the two on the helm for writing and penciling credits, while Joe Sinnott was on-board for inking. Needless to say, this is a classic comic done by the legendary comic artists which we all revere today, and I’m absolutely excited to have read it and to be reviewing it now.

Titled, “Among Us Hide the Inhumans,” the book opens up with the F4 minus Sue, trapped under rubble. After a battle with Dragon Man, the three were defeated, and Dragon Man kidnapped Sue. Johnny goes after her and confronts Dragon Man. Sue realizes that Dragon Man has child-like mind and tries to get Johnny to stop his attack. However, Johnny uses his Nova Flame power, and knocks out Dragon Man, saving Sue.

After defeat, Sue tames Dragon Man, working with his child-like mind and convincing him that the F4 were just scared and would not actually hurt him. Convinced, the three, Johnny, Sue and Dragon Man, return back to the Baxter Building to meet Reed and Grimm. They all decide to keep Dragon Man in the building for the time being, so they make him a room.

Johnny takes a break and calls his girlfriend, Dorrie Evans. Because of Johnny always putting her second for the Fantastic Four team, she says she already has another date that night and cannot go out. Upset, Johnny goes for a walk and finds some red-haired woman hunkered in an alley. Perturbed by her, Johnny walks in to see what she is doing when all of a sudden a huge gust of wind lifts him up in the air. By the time he drops down, she is gone.

Johnny returns to the Baxter Building to see that the rest of the team are having a tough time trying to get Dragon Man to sleep. Sue ends up sedating him, while Ben reflects hard on himself on how he is a monster, too. Poor Ben.

Air-Jet Cycle

Johnny decides to go back out and hunt for the red-haired woman – which he finds with ease (somehow). However, she tries to escape, stating he wouldn’t understand her world. Johnny then turns on his powers, prompting the woman to realize she may not be alone. Lockjaw appears behind Johnny, somewhat startling him, and takes both him, and the now revealed woman to an underground base under Manhattan.

The woman reveals herself as Crystal, and introduced Johnny to Karnak, followed by Triton and Crystal’s sister, Medusa. Johnny, scared, knowing Medusa was part of the Frightful Four (and meeting in an earlier F4 comic), and Karnak accusing Johnny of tricking Crystal, Johnny panics and escapes, creating a “4” signal in flames in the sky.

The rest of the team join up with Johnny – arriving by the F4’s Air-Jet Cycle (being its first appearance) – and they are attacked by Karnak from behind. Ready to fight, the book ends with Black Bolt literally crashing down onto the scene.

There is definitely a lot going on in this one comic, yet it does not feel rushed. Actually, by the end of the book, I was asking myself, “it’s over already?” Lee’s great dialogue and character development creates a world on its own. Tied in with Kirby’s brilliant art and Sinnott’s inks, the book to me felt ahead of its time. Of course, that was arguably put Marvel ahead of most comic companies. Rich character development mixed with brilliant art.

Black Bolt's First Appearance

The cover of the issue, also done by Kirby and Sinnott, even seems menacing looking. There’s great dread right on the cover. I love Sinnott’s ink on the F4 directly. The Thing’s body is greatly drawn with shading accenting his body. I love it.

Another great thing about this comic – which is outside of the story – is the M.M.M.S., the Merry Marvel Marching Society which Stan Lee invented for Marvel fans. Gone are the times where fans would have pages dedicated to letters, and a box-out for newer members – one even from my home province of Ontario.

Of course, Stan’s Soapbox was placed in the comic as well. In it, he made a prediction too. He said that he knew the Inhumans would take off with a life of their own. He was excited to give the readers their backstories, and was thrilled to continue writing with them.

All-in-all, the book itself was brilliant. Albeit, one moment in the dialogue, Reed snaps at Sue and says to “stop sounding like a wife,” which to me was a shock to see in comics back then. But I mean, that’s how these characters are to develop!

Grade: 10/10

Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!