Top 10 Shocking Comic Book Covers That Changed Everything


The cover of a comic book can be a powerful
thing; from iconic imagery to illustrations that speak of much larger contexts, comics
have done their fair share over the years when it comes to influencing public perceptions. Some stand out more than others though, having
played a bigger more impactful role in history. So today, we’re breaking down the top 10
shocking comic book covers that changed everything. Get ready for a history lesson, friends! A fun one, of course. It is comics, afterall. 10 Action Comics #1
This is the comic book cover that changed EVERYTHING in the industry of comics; the
first appearance of Superman, lifting a motor vehicle in the air as civilians nearby lose
their sh*t. It’s an iconic image, and there’s been
plenty homages made to it, but it’s not just the image that carries great meaning;
it’s the context behind it. To better understand, let’s break down the
history of comics for a hot second – Superman is often seen as the beginning of comic books,
or at least the North American superhero trend. And while that latter statement is very true,
there was a whole booming art form that existed prior to the man of steel’s debut. Comics first emerged in newspapers in the
late 1800’s, with many historians often giving credit to Richard F Outcault and 1895’s
The Yellow Kid, the first prominent comic strip to appear in newspapers. From then on, especially in the 1920’s,
comics explored new artistic grounds, and often were quite subversive, used witty political
commentary, and were existential AF. But that all changed with the emergence of
Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster’s Superman; this was something readers had never seen
before, and while the early golden age superheroes did pull a lot of inspiration from pulp heroes
from the beginning of the 20th century, it was something startling, innovative, and fascinating,
especially during the Great Depression era. He was a shining beacon of hope, the epitome
of the American dream – the hero we all strived to be more like. 9 The Avengers #1
Published in 1963, the Avengers issue 1, a cover by Jack Kirby, would change the DNA
of Marvel comics forever. While DC already had already established their
Justice League team three years prior (and had superhero teams the likes of the Justice
Society of America back in the 1940s), The Avengers was Marvel’s first superhero team,
and brought together many of the company’s mainstays into one comic. It also is the series responsible for bringing
back the Golden Age hero Captain America (later in issue 4), and it really set the stage for
the kind of storytelling readers could expect under the guidance and leadership of Stan
Lee. 8 Captain America #1
The cover of Captain America issue 1 is pretty darn famous. Not only is it Cap’s debut, but it features
the titular hero punching none other than Hitler, square in the face. But, at the time of its release, this was
an interesting choice, and many see it as a form of political protest from Jack Kirby
and Joe Simon. When it came out in 1941, the U.S had yet
to join the war, and the full extent of the crimes Hitler and the Nazis were committing
had yet to be universally acknowledged. But many felt that the US should have gotten
involved long before Pearl Harbour, and many comic books featured the likes of superheroes
being involved in war time efforts, from fighting nazi criminals to encouraging the sales of
bonds (although the latter was more so after the US’ was officially involved). There was also a lot of harmful racial stereotyping,
especially against the Japanese, but we’ll leave that for another list. 7 Green Lantern/Green Arrow 85
The shocking truth about drugs! That’s the tagline that sat atop this famous
1971 comic book cover, featuring the story Snowbirds Don’t Fly; the infamous social
commentary on the drug problem in the US. It told the tale of Green Arrow’s ward,
Speedy, becoming addicted to heroin, all as a means to articulate that the disease of
addiction does not discriminate; it can happen to anyone. Despite Hal Jordan being a bit of a pr*ck
on the cover, it’s an incredibly effective image, one that still resonates to this day. It’s also worth noting that post Comics
Code Authority, the censorship guidelines that long existed in the industry from the
Silver Age of comics, normally banned this kind of content, but Marvel was making great
strides in using their platform to discuss the danger of narcotics (specifically in the
Amazing Spider-Man story in which Harry Osborn struggles with his drug addictions). So by the time DC jumped on board with this
story, much of the codes regulations had been diluted, with it nearing its end thanks to
PSA-style stories like this one. 6 Lobo #1
Long before DC’s space-faring bounty hunter Lobo hit the scene in 1983, a smaller comics
publisher called Dell Comics released this comic, Lobo issue 1, in 1965. Why was it a big deal? Because it featured a black man on the cover. And one who was in a heroic position; he was
a gunslinger, and the side of the issue read ‘branded for life! An honest man blamed for a crime he did not
commit!” It should go without saying that the US has
a pretty terrible and murky history in terms of the treatment of the african american community,
and the 60s were a critical time period for black rights. So when Dell released this comic, it was considered
controversial. But it was important in terms of pushing away
from horrible racial stereotypes in comics and moving towards better representation. Unfortunately, Lobo’s series would flounder
after only 2 issues thanks to lack of sales. But at least it was a start. 5 Batgirl #41 Variant
This would be majorly important when it came to the perception of how female characters
in comics are depicted, or, at least pertaining to the discussion of it – we’ve come a long
way since the Women in Refrigerators movement, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. That whole issue really blew up and made international
news when DC announced the release of this particular variant cover for Batgirl issue
41. It featured the Joker holding Barbara Gordon,
aka Batgirl, hostage, with tears flooding her eyes. Many felt this was distasteful; it was an
homage to Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, an iconic graphic novel in which the Joker
shot Barbara Gordon (and presumably sexually brutalized her too), inevitably paralyzed
her from the waist down. Many saw this as unnecessary; it was trauma
created to further the plot of Batman and James Gordon in the story. Barbara, rather than being killed off entirely,
was revived as a parapelgic character, fighting crime under the guise of Oracle for years. After the New 52, she was giving her ability
to walk again, and controversy ensued. So, by the time this cover came out, Barbara
Gordon fans had a whole lot to be pissed off about, and this cover became an object of
national discussion, ultimately being recalled. 4 Astonishing X-Men #51
Representation for the LGBTQ+ community is pretty darn lacking in comics. Yes, it’s getting better, and there are
more queer characters in the panels of maninstream comics, but it’s still a fairly small percentage. Instead of looking at the negative though,
this number looks at the positive – this comic, Astonishing X-Men issue 51 – marks a major
moment in striving towards more representation in the future. It featured the first gay wedding in comics,
with the wedding itself appearing on the comic’s cover, along with a large population of the
Marvel universe watching on, in attendance. The 2012 story followed the events of the
wedding between Jean Paul Beaubier (aka Northstar) and Kyle Jinadu. Northstar was Marvel’s first openly gay
character, and the two had been dating since 2009. In 2011, gay marriage became legal in New
York, and the following year, the two were married. Naturally, a lot of critics (a ton of which
weren’t even comic readers) let their Fredric Wertham hang out and responded to this issue
with bigoted remarks, but that didn’t stop it from happening, and it made history. 3 The Death of Supeman
Without getting into the whole ‘Death of Superman made death irrelevant in comic books’
argument that I generally dive into when the mere mention of this story arc comes up, (long
story short, it was a terrible money grab with greater industry implications), we’re
going to talk about why this cover stirred up so much attention from DC readers and Superman
fans worldwide. Prior to the Death of Superman story arc,
DC was looking for a way to tie in an event happening in another one of their spinoff
properties; the television series Lois & Clark: The Adventures of Superman, starring Dean
Cain and Terri Hatcher. The two titular characters were getting married
in the show, and as a tie in promo in the comics, so were their panel counterparts. But in order to prevent the wedding from happening
(because apparently superheroes can’t get married, a ‘still running faux pas’, at
least according to DC), something that to happen. And that was Doomsday, an alien that looks
like a hulk rip off with spikes, who would engage the man of steel in a deathmatch where
they punched each other to their graves. Or so it seemed. In the long run, neither of them really died. Instead, Doomsday was later proven to still
be alive and Superman had simply slipped into a Kryptonian Coma, a new invention that basically
allowed him to look dead and show no vital signs, but was really him re-energizing, as
if he were a butterfly in a cocoon. Despite all this, the image of Superman’s
cape draped over a stick surrounded by rubble was a jarring one, along with the multiple
variants DC pumped out for the event, including one that resembled a tombstone, and one that
had his insignia made out of blood. Remember, at the time, readers believed Superman
had actually been killed off, which was a bold move, but one that would be shortly reversed
and cause major outrage. And, of course, killing off superman but bringing
him back would change everything in terms of the plot device of killing off and reviving
superheroes like it’s no big deal; Death of Superman took that from an uncommon occurrence
to one that EVERYBODY in the industry started doing willy nilly. 2 Flash of Two Worlds
What’s more shocking than Superman’s death? Well, not much, except this cover, which,
at the time of its release, was a REALLY big deal, and essentially is the reason why the
concept of multiverses in comics exists today. In 1961, Carmine Infantino drew the cover
for a The Flash issue 123. On it, for the very first time ever, we saw
The Flash, Barry Allen, running side by side with Jay Garrick, the Flash of the Golden
Age, who had been retired and loosely retconned out of the DC continuity, along with a handful
of other heroes from that era. As the story goes, apparently Infantino and
DC editor Julius Schwartz had this running challenge where Infantino would try to draw
the most absurd or unimaginable covers, and Schwartz and the writers would have to come
up with stories to match them. In this case, Schwartz came up with the multiverse. The success of this story led to DC reviving
many of its Golden Age characters, introducing the concept of two earths, which would be
further expanded by the time Crisis on Infinite Earths hit the scene in 1985. All in all, this is the cover responsible
for introducing the idea of the multiverse not only to DC comics, but to mainstream audiences
in the industry, too. 1 Crime Suspenstories #22
By today’s standards, this cover of EC’s Crime Suspenstories is by no means controversial. Hell, there have been a slew of homages made
to it over the years from all kinds of comic book publishers. But at the time of its publication, back in
1954, the comic industry was about to enter one of its darkest periods – or rather, a
dark period that was sugar coated by a bunch of PG silly and camp stories that made our
beloved golden age heroes ‘acceptable’ for young readers. Let’s backtrack a sec. In that same year, a psychiatrist named Fredric
Wertham would publish a book called The Seduction of the Innocent. It claimed that comics were ruining and manipulating
the children of America, and while he had no scientific evidence backing his claims
up, people really bought into his ideas. He not only took shots against DC’s staple
trinity of characters, but horror comics, and many of the genres outside of superhero
works. Now prior to that, a Senate hearing that investigated
censorship in comics had begun. One of the comics the Senate hearing focused
on was a recently released and highly notorious issue of Crime Suspenstories that featured
a decapitated woman on its cover. William Gaines, the owner of EC Comics who
had single handedly revolutionized horror, sci fi and crime genres in the medium up until
that point, was questioned, and this issue became the focal point of that questioning. He was asked if he thought the image was in
good taste. He responded with “yes I do, for the cover
of a horror comic” along with his reasoning. But the senators were relentless, and eventually,
the Comics Magazine Association was formed along with the Comics Code Authority, a means
in which publishers self-regulated their titles to avoid government censorship. Horror and crime comics took a big hit; they
either had to censor their work, or be blacklisted from all major distribution and sales agencies. This pretty much destroyed EC comics, who
would only be survived by a single publication of theirs: MAD Magazine. So all in all, this is the cover that acted
as a catalyst and took center stage during the senate hearings that would eventually
establish the Comics Code Authority, which would largely shape the histories of some
of the most iconic characters, including Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. And it set the stage for two eras that would
abide by censorship rules, largely enforcing the ‘low art’ or ‘immature’ misconceptions
about comics for years to come. There we have it!

76 thoughts on “Top 10 Shocking Comic Book Covers That Changed Everything

  1. Make more cartoons and anime videos
    Make more independent comic books videos
    Make more manga videos
    Give Marvel and DC videos a break

  2. I don't know if it's possible but you could grow this channel by maybe putting out theories to certain running or left out stories, top ten …. for instance trying to decode what Snyder is doing with the JS run right now. Find top ten possibilities. Or top ten explanations for left out stories or stuff like that. IDK just a thought. I do like your content though.

  3. AMAZING VIDEO KELLY! You always make the Top 10 Nerd videos so interesting and fun! And I learn more and more trivia with every video that you guys make.😁😁

  4. I love my variant covers!!! Especially DCs cardstock variants or a mattina cover!! 🤤

    Also FUN FACT: Nowadays on a mainstream floppy (just a single issue) [mainly dc and marvel] the 00111 indicates its the first issue, first cover, first printing
    So . . .
    A 00832 would mean: its the
    8th issue
    3rd cover (cover c)
    2nd printing

    The more you know 🙂

    I'm new to comics so for me this was a game changer, especially for backstock issues

  5. I need that cover of Batgirl 41, because let's be honest, must of us will be crying if the Joker was holding a gun near to us

  6. I agree, we definitely need more LGBT representation. We need to go to a phase where it is no longer uncommon. We also need to realize that femme gay guys, unpassing transwomen, and nonbinary genders are not jokes or insults but instead some people's reality and should be handled as people instead of making them jokes or shunning them as insults.

  7. Astonishing xmen was far from being the first ever comic book gay wedding hell Midnighter and Polli got married way earlier in The Authority comic

  8. Hehe, I can see your belly button

    That's what I usually say when I see a belly button of one of my students too, not shaming you, just being silly

  9. Fact police: The Avengers was not Marvel's first superhero team. It debuted in Sep.63. The Fantastic Four beat that by almost two years, Nov.61.

  10. Interesting video, I like to say that I did my Top 10 as well , but for my covers. I have two which are Top 10 Tombstone Covers and Top 10 Man-Bat Covers on my channel.

  11. I remember finding a stash of old EC comics that my uncles had and read them voraciously- my family and friends think I still turned out well…

  12. I mean, I heard every you said Kelly. But I couldn’t keep my eyes off your hips!!! 😍😍😍

    Which is strange. Considering I have a boyfriend. 🤦‍♂️🤣

  13. The outrage over the Batgirl #41 variant cover was laughable given that another variant cover released at the same time for Batman #37 literally featured the Joker murdering Robin(Jason Todd) with a crowbar. The cover goes as far as showing splatting blood from Robin's head and his bloodied domino mask hanging from the tip of the crowbar.

  14. Action Comics #1 should have been at the top of the list. It was the book that set the standard, for the rest of the books on this list.

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