In ‘Covers Album’ each Wednesday we ask comics creators, publishers and commentators to pick three of their favourite comic covers …but with a small twist. One must be chosen for aesthetic reasons, one for inspirational reasons and one for pure nostalgia!
Today it’s the turn of Howard Mackie whose 1990 relaunch of Ghost Rider with Javier Saltares at Marvel Comics propelled the Spirit of Vengeance to a whole new level of popularity! Howard was a former Marvel editor and is well-known for his work on the Spider-Man family of books through the 1990s. He was also the writer of the Ravagers series from DC’s New 52 reboot.
Recent collections and reprints of his Marvel comics have included Spirits of Vengeance: Rise of the Midnight Sons, Ghost Rider/Wolverine/Punisher: Hearts of Darkness and his issues in the multi-volume Spider-Man: The Complete Clone Saga Epic.
I’ve worked in the comic book business for a long time— first as an editor and then as a writer— and have had tons of covers pass through my hands. Choosing ONLY three covers seemed like a Herculean task, so I chose covers that had personal meaning to me. Given my FIRST choice… maybe “Herculean” was a misstatement?
Nostalgic Choice: The Mighty Thor #351 (1985) by Walter Simonson (Marvel Comics)
I started in the comic book biz as assistant editor to Mark Gruenwald, and was fortunate enough to have worked on part of Walter Simonson’s The Mighty Thor run. The cover to The Mighty Thor #351 was…well… an experience for a young assistant editor.
The book was pushing up against the deadline pretty hard (as it often did) when Walt delivered the cover. It was perfect. We got it set up (logo, color, etc…) and I was responsible for walking it around to get all signatures required (art director, legal, Editor-in-Chief, etc…) before it could go out to the printer.
Everything was going fine until I brought the cover to the EIC. He looked at the cover, frowned, and shook his head, “Thor is not handsome enough.” I started to explain that in the issue there’s a big battle and Thor takes some serious blows. “He’s a GOD.” The long and the short of it was that the Editor-in-Chief wanted us to have the art director, John Romita, redraw the face on a Walt Simonson cover. I was horrified. Mark was horrified. John was horrified — but did as requested on a photostat of the cover, so that we could cut it out and paste it down over Walter’s original artwork (this was Mark’s idea).
It looked as horrible as we all imagined. John is one of the most talented artists out there, but his and Walter’s style… suffice to say, it looked like one of those “Your Face Here” cutouts you see at state fairs. But it was done. Mark seemed rather non-plussed by the whole thing. He had me bring it to the EIC for his signature, “But make sure you bring it back here before you have manufacturing send it out.”
The EIC approved of John’s “fix”. As instructed, I brought the cover back to Mark. He looked at the cover one more time. “You know the terrible thing about pasting something onto a cover, Howard?” I watched as Mark peeled the Romita patch off of Walter’s original. “Sometimes the glue doesn’t hold.” He cleaned up the remaining glue, handed the cover back to me, and instructed me to send it out.
The kicker to this story… when the comic was printed, the EIC came to our office to tell us how much better it looked “his way”.
Inspirational Choice: The Amazing Spider-Man #33 (1966) by Steve Ditko (Marvel Comics)
I’m a writer. I love when a cover reflects the story inside. This cover by Steve Ditko reflects not only the story inside, but is a metaphor for everything I love about Spider-Man. Right there we see the tremendous burden that Peter Parker/Spider-Man bears— the great responsibility that he carries on his shoulders for having such great power.
Aesthetic Choice: Ghost Rider #21 (1992) by Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti (Marvel Comics)
I remember walking into my editor’s office and seeing the cover for the first time. I’m normally not a big fan of guest cover artists, or symbolic covers, but Joe Quesada’s use of negative space just blew me away. It remains one of my favorite Ghost Rider covers.
Honorable mention to Ghost Rider #15 (1991) by Mark Texiera (Marvel Comics)
We all remember that the 90s was the era of gimmick covers. I think this “Glow in the Dark” cover by Mark Texiera was the single BEST gimmick cover out there. Still is.