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Off My Mind: Are Homage Covers Inspired Art or Just a Cheap Gimmick?

Homage covers are easily recognizable and fun to see but sometimes feel like cheap gimmicks to sell a comic.

How many times have have you seen a comic book and had a sense that you had seen it before? A homage covers is one that is inspired by an often iconic comic book cover. There are some covers have that have numerous nods and reproductions over the years.

There is no rules or limits in doing an homage to an existing piece of work. Common courtesy dictates that some sort of credit is giving to the original source of inspiration. While homage covers can be fun to discover and look at, they are not always an indicator that the content inside will be on par with the content of the original comic.

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With that being said, are homage covers always a good thing? Are they a good source of inspiration or are they gimmicks relying on the fondness or memory of the original cover?

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I can appreciate a good homage cover like I can a good cover song. Often it is about the interpretation. Homage covers are something that should be used sparingly. No one wants to see one done week after week or for every issue in a series.

There are some covers that have been reproduced several times over the years. What is it about these particular covers that have drawn the inspiration? Let's look at some of the covers that have received several homages.

Action Comics #1

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There's no surprise that this cover has been the source of inspiration for many. We're talking about the first appearance of Superman, who for all intents and purposes, was the first true comic book superhero.

Looking back at the cover today, you have to wonder how much thought went into the concept. The iconic cover clearly shows Superman's strength and how easily he can take on any villains. The fact that it is a little more on the violent side shows how much Superman has evolved, even from the time the cover was conceptualized to the first stories.

Superman isn't one to go about needless violence. If Superman were after a car full of crooks, he could stop them without having to smash a car. He could swoop in at superspeed and pull them all out of the moving car. Or to make things easier, he could just fly in and turn off the ignition.

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Action Comics #1 showed we had a new breed of hero. He wasn't someone to take lightly. Most of the homages over the years haven't been fully necessary but have been more on the fun side.

Amazing Fantasy #15

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Another first appearance for what became one of comic book's most iconic characters. No one really knew how huge Spider-Man's success would be. This was a truly simple cover, a man dressed in costume and carrying off a villains.

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What is interesting is a lot of the homages feature Spider-Man himself. How many times has the wall crawler carried people this way. It does make sense since not all characters have a tendency to swing from a line while carrying a villain to the police station.

Amazing Spider-Man #50

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While we're on the subject of Spider-Man, the next example comes more from an iconic image in the pages of a comic rather than the cover itself (even though the cover itself has been given an homage several times as well). Young Spider-Man had so many personal issues and made several sacrifices in the name of being a superhero and saving others. It finally came to the point that the decision of throwing it all away came up. This is something that several heroes have gone through.

Realistically, no true superhero could actually throw it all away. It's usually the case that being a hero is something inside them and not just the costume or superpowers they have. Also, they would be extremely foolish to simply throw away their costume in the trash where anyone could grab it and use it to commit crimes or tarnish the hero's identity.

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It's also the case that the hero ready to give it all up has a change of heart. Whether it's a sense of duty or an addiction to the thrill of being a hero, it's not something that can easily be tossed away. Let's just hope they do a really good job washing their costumes after retrieving it from the trash.

Uncanny X-Men #136/Crisis on Infinite Earths/Death of "___"

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Someone is going to die! Death is a gimmick in itself but sometimes publishers are a little more open with who is on target for death. Often it is left as a surprise to be seen in the pages inside but several times have we seen one character holding the lifeless remains of their fallen comrade.

The original source for this one is a little harder to track down than the others. The ones that immediately come to mind are Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 (death of Supergirl) and Uncanny X-Men #136 (the almost death of Phoenix). There are clearly covers the pre-date both of these issues.

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Looking around, it seems this image was inspired by The Pietà, which is often seen in Christian art of the Virgin Mary cradling Jesus' dead body.

Death happens way too often in comic book these days. Some of the death stories are really well written but others are not worthy of having an homage cover of this nature.

And that is the question I put forth. Homage covers can be really cool but lose their appeal when done too often. The Marvel Zombies covers by Arthur Suydam are always amazing but because of the over abundance of Marvel Zombies mini-series, it's almost hard to get excited over them these days. If an average issue has a homage cover, it does feel like they are trying to cash in on the fact that many readers will recognize the image and might be inclined to purchase the comic based on the cover alone.

Homage covers need to be used sparingly. We can't have anyone police over who gets to do one and who doesn't. Check out the image galleries on our Homage Covers concept page. Some covers have been done so many times that those few really stellar ones start to lose their charm with each new rendition.