Paying homage to past artists or iconic images is a tradition that is probably almost as old as fine art itself. The homage cover, subsequently, is the way comic book artists regularly pay tribute or sometimes even parody previous popular artists and/or iconic covers from established titles.
Since cover art is such an essential part of the comic book collecting and reading experience (as I describe here), paying homage through cover imagery has become a widespread and popular trope in comics.
With so many homage covers existing, it would be futile to try to list them all in a blogpost, instead, in what follows, I have a simpler goal in mind. In this post, I want to try to narrow down the crop of homage covers focusing on some of the most collected and desirable homage cover art.
Desirability, in turn, will be judged by existing graded copies and fair market value of recent sales.
To start, we can narrow down the criteria that can be fixed to establish cover art as having ‘homage’ status. Obviously, the practice of giving homage in art can draw from various mediums. Comics have borrowed from advertising, oil painting, famous sculptures, etc. In this post I will focus only on homage covers that are tributes to older comic book covers. For example, is there a more iconic superhero/monster cover than Marvel’s Incredible Hulk #1?
When we see it for the first time, the image of Bruce Banner standing with the looming shadow of the brute Hulk behind him jumps out at us. For a cover to be a proper homage it must be instantly recognizable as capturing the essential features of the original. In the case of The Incredible Hulk #324 (October 1986), we can see a perfect homage to the very first Hulk comic as the return of the original Grey Hulk is announced.
Incredible Hulk #324 is therefore a desirable homage cover, as its 205 total CGC submissions and fair market value of $100.00 in certified 9.8 condition attest. That said, no one is trading their graded copy of Hulk #181 for it. So what are the most popular homage covers? In order of desirability, here is my list of the top five homage covers ranked from least to most highly sought:
One of the most iconic Marvel Silver Age covers is the very first appearance of Spider-man in Amazing Fantasy #15. Steve Ditko’s heroic introduction of Peter Parker to the world is instantly recognizable. That’s why the number 5 most desirable homage cover on my list is Deadpool #11. “With Great Power Comes Great Coincidence”, and it’s no coincidence that this is one of the more collectible Deadpool covers. With 122 copies on the CGC census and a current FMV of $130.00, Wade Wilson was given the superhero treatment and fan’s approved.
The Introduction of the Mighty Thor in JiM #83 may not be the best Thor cover Jack Kirby ever drew, but it’s one of the most iconic and memorable. The way Kirby makes Mjolnir jump into action spinning wildly, gives the comic an instantly kinetic quality that imprints itself on the viewer’s mind. When Jane Foster first picked up the enchanted mallet in What if issue #10, it was natural that John Buscema paid homage to an artist he already owed such a great debt. What if…? #10 is my number 4 choice for most desirable homage cover. With a total of 277 copies on the CGC census and a fair market value of $240.00 in graded 9.8 condition, speculation on Jane appearing as Thor has driven up prices on this otherwise enjoyable comic.
When it comes to superhero comics, no cover is more iconic than Joe Shuster’s art for Action Comics #1. Todd MacFarlane, who is no stranger to homage covers, arguably achieved his best homage yet with the cover of Spider-man #306, his tribute to the comic that started it all. With a Fair Market value of $130.00 and 797 copies on the CGC census, this is my number 3 pick for most desirable homage cover.
When it comes to the Man of Steel, the cover of Superman #11 conveys his power in a single image. But while the Golden Age Superman was more powerful than a locomotive, we know that as the years went by he started growing in strength, to the point where he was practically invincible. Nothing conveys the immense strength of the modern era Superman better than Neal Adam’s homage to Superman #11 – showing the Man of Tomorrow shattering Kryptonite chains. The beginning of the ‘Sand Superman’ saga is also the high point of Adam’s work on the original Superman series. With 679 copies on the CGC census and a FMV of $7, 900.00 in 9.8, the hard to find in high-grade Superman #233 is my number 2 pick.
At number one it’s Neal Adams again. Another Bronze Age homage cover. Let’s face it the Silver Age was not kind to Batman. He was given a TV show, but the campy flavor of the ABC series from the sixties began to enter the comics and – while camp works with some characters- the original spirit of Batman as a tormented vigilante was completely unsuited to this more freewheeling take. The greatest accomplishment of DC in the Bronze Age was to bring Batman back to his roots. Nothing conveys this better than this Neal Adams’ homage to Tec #31. The Dark Knight is back and with 1, 168 copies on the CGC census and a FMV of $6, 750.00 in 9.8 grade, Batman #227 is my #1 pick for most desirable homage cover.