Gimmick covers are not a new thing. Over the years, companies have tried many different tactics in order to grab the attention of the average person walking about in a local comic book store. For a short time, photo covers were a trend. Instead of a cover artist, there would be a real life picture of a person dressed like your favorite character. Many times, they came off as a bit out of place, and sometimes, they just felt creepy. From there, more trends popped up now and again like foil covers and the occasional hologram on the corner. Trends and covers go hand in hand; however, there are very few times where the gimmick on the cover makes sense with the content.
All of September featured the villains of the DC Universe taking over a few of DC's series and showing themselves off in three dimensions. This past month featured not one but two gimmicks in one cover: each cover featured a villain, front and center and each cover was in 3D. While the villains being on the cover directly correlates with the content of the issue, the covers are in 3D simply because it looks cool. Let's take a look at some of the good and the bad with this whole month of 3D-goodness!
The best part about this whole gimmick was that the villains being on the cover made sense. Unlike past gimmicks companies have used, the interiors are all about the villains. What really makes the whole month special is that the 3D covers are there, mainly because they look cool but also because it really gives an impact to the month as a whole. We've seen villains hanging out on a cover before, much like a few years back with Faces of Evil, but the 3D covers let you know something different is on the inside of the books: a whole story just about these villains with no heroes in sight.
The best thing about this whole gimmick month was that readers had the option to purchase regular 2D covers instead of the 3D ones. The 3D books went for $1 more than what most of the DC books are priced, during any other time of the year. It was fantastic to see that instead of having these covers forced upon some readers who didn't want them, they could instead buy a normal cover for the price they're used to. This also came in handy for when 3D covers sold out, which happened pretty often, so readers could at least get the stories.
Something I really liked seeing during this past month was different creator's takes on these characters. While certain books kept the same creative team, we also got to see a bit of a shake-up, and sometimes, it was a home run, like in the cases of Ray Fawkes on the Riddler issue and Tony Bedard on Ocean Master, and these are two pretty big villains that currently have larger roles in their books' story lines. Same goes for art as well. It was great seeing artist Patrick Zircher's talents on the Rogues issue.
One of the annoying things about these covers was the fact the heroes were beaten up in the background of every single issue. It makes the reader think that this villain is nothing without the hero they fight, which in a sense is true, but do we need a reminder, on every issue, who these guys fight? It's really weird in situations where the villain hasn't appeared in the series yet, like Eclipso in JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK. There's no connection between Eclipso and JLD yet, so why do they need to be defeated in the background?
While the heroes were in the background of every cover, at least it was new character designs every time, right? Nope. There was a lot of reusing background elements across other issues. Take Green Lantern in the background of his Villain Month books.
It's the same picture, four different times. At least in the last one, the artist added a little yellow to the chains to break up the repetitiveness. At least with the Batman titles, the artist switched it up a bit. If you were just buying these books here and there, you wouldn't notice it, but this was something many comic fans noticed at week two.
Not every book was represented during Villains Month though. Series like CONSTANTINE, BATWOMAN, and even ANIMAL MAN did not have any villains from their rogues gallery featured. While it is understandable why they didn't do this, it's a bit of a bummer not to see villains like The Cold Flame, Weeping Woman (Not the best example, Medusa would be better, but Weeping Woman is really cool), or Brother Blood. Some of DC's "b-list" books are not represented even though a few are just as good as the top sellers, if not better, at the company.
One thing that really stunk about the whole month was that the creative teams were not on the cover, which led to people having to flip through the issue to find out. With a few of these series, I'd rather just know who's involved with the book because I was on the fence about picking up so many of them, but I didn't want to flip through and ruin any part of the issue.
It may seem like we're really picking on Villains Month and that it wasn't worth it, but overall, this was a really cool gimmick that worked. Sure, the actual stories were a bit hit and miss, but the covers themselves were cool and worked out pretty darn well. Sure, we delved a tiny bit into the issue contents, like switching up creative teams and wondering why some series didn't get their own book, but overall, this was a pretty cool month for comic books. Yes, it's a gimmick, but gimmick doesn't always mean "bad." Sometimes, it can just be fun and collectible. If I had to give this a rating, I'd give it 3/5.
Now, here's a few of the Comic Vine's staff's favorite covers of the month.
Here's BATMAN & ROBIN #23.1 by Chris Burnham. What was so cool about the actual 3D version of this issue was the perspective. This was probably the best use of the 3D cover technology, as Dent's two-sided coin flies at you. There was lots of great movement on this cover, but sadly, it was one of the harder issues to get a hold of.
Here we have the cover to BATMAN #23.2 by the always fantastic Guillem March. It's a huge stand-out issue, and while it relies on the whole "It's coming right at you! In 3D!" tactic, like a lot of the covers, but the set-up of Riddler on the page is pretty awesome.
Look at that! It's GREEN ARROW #23.1 by artist Andrea Sorrentino. This cover is dizzying, but that works because it's a part of Count Vertigo's powers. The background to this cover is fantastic, and this is one of the few times where the hero, who has been defeated, makes sense in context. Also, it's nice not to see the hero tied up, for once.
With the cover to BATMAN AND ROBIN #23.2, the 3D wasn't as eye catching as some of the other books; however, the art by Patrick Gleason and Mick Gray is pretty fantastic. The background is super-cool and the repeating "wallpaper effect," throughout adds an element of class and a regal feeling to the cover as well.
Here we have the cover to FLASH #23.3 by Francis Manapul. What is cool about this cover, which doesn't come off in this 2D version is the layout and how the rogues in the background are more and more out of focus as they get farther into the background.
Finally, we have the cover to SWAMP THING #23.1 featuring Arcane on the cover. This last cover was drawn by Jesus Saiz. Visually, it's very striking and a bit creepy. It may not have that same 3D effect that the other covers had, but this really is one of the cooler looking covers.
Check out our video attempt to show you the 3D covers in action.
There you have it! A big old wrap up of a whole month of 3D cover goodness. What did you guys think of the overall gimmick and what did you like or dislike about it?
Mat "Inferiorego" Elfring is a writer, comedian, and doesn't consider the 4th dimension to be time because it's not. Follow him on Twitter and check out his podcast about Internet sub-culture.