Monday, August 25, 2014

Between Books - Marvel Comics: 75 Years of Cover Art

Writer Alan Cowsill should add curator to his resume.  Marvel Comics: 75 Years of Comic Art is more than a book, it is a mobile art museum.  Between the book's two covers is a treasure chest of art developed by some of Marvel's finest artists from the Golden to the Modern age.

Marvel Comics: 75 Years of Comic Art by Alan Cowsill collects Marvel's finest covers in an over-sized 300 plus page book.  The text puts on displays hundreds of Marvel covers, with typically one or two covers being highlighted on a page.  Occasionally, 3 or more covers will share a page when linked by a theme or story arc.  Covers are organized by title and theme, so Avengers covers reside next to other Avengers covers.  Cowsill provides a brief caption highlighting the historical or artistic attributes of the cover.  The captions help explain historical trends such as the growth of variant and special covers.  On a few occasions, Cowsill offers a description of significant cover artists like Jack Kirby and John Byrne.  The book also explains how covers are developed using Nova #1 and Black Panther #1 as examples. The title is broken into four sections; The Golden Age, The Silver Age, The Bronze Age, and The Modern Age.  Despite being an art book with brief captions, readers will find they cannot rush through the pages but instead will spend hours enjoying the visuals.     

The book is designed to show off the included covers and the covers are the star.  The pages are large, giving the maximum space to display the art.  The captions are helpful but not overly wordy to only highlight not steal the focus from the covers.  The text comes with a sturdy slipcover to protect the book, though honestly, the book's front cover with a partial print of Marvel Comics #1 and the back cover with the fan chosen The Infinity Gauntlet #1 are eye-catching in their own right.  Every aspect of this book shows that the artists' reign in this large book, with writers as secondary contributors.  And as a bonus the publisher has included prints of Amazing Fantasy #15 and Iron Man #1 from the 2005 run that could be framed and displayed.  No one needs to worry about cutting up a copy to have prints for display.      

The text has really helped me to appreciate and find covers I had not been exposed to yet.  For example, I have enjoyed Jim Steranko's covers from Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., and loved that issue #6 which I own is included. But I am now in love with his March 1969 Captain America 111 cover.  And I was thrilled that Cowsill included Dikto's original and unedited Amazing Fantasy #15.  I did question the inclusion of seven David Aja Hawkeye covers, but the Aja art is spectacular.  And this choice shows that Cowsill wanted to display strong and interesting art.     

I honestly can only provide two criticisms of Marvel Comics: 75 Years of Cover Art.  First, the book gives over half of its pages to The Modern Age, and personally I would like to have seen more covers from The Golden to Bronze Ages.  But I cannot argue with the choices of the curator as there have been many more covers produced in The Modern Age based solely on the number of titles, artists and variations printed. Second, I would love a short conclusion where Cowsill would have provided a concluding word on this large book for his readers.       

Marvel fans will love this book.  Disney fans who want a concise visual history of Marvel comics will appreciate the text and find the art to be enjoyable.  Marvel Comics: 75 Years of Cover Art by Alan Cowsill is a large, in-depth and artful text.  The biggest problem is the size of one's comic wish list after finishing the last page.  

Review Copy Provided by Publisher 

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