Comic books are a passion that, once you get hooked on, you just keep wanting more, regardless of how much you read. One thing that gets the readers hooked, though, is the covers. From colorful to dark, from funny to gritty, the cover tells us a lot about the tone of the comic and the overall storyline.
Throughout the years, we’ve seen so many spectacular comic book covers that it’s hard to even think of every single one. Still, I will do my best to list the 30 best and most iconic comic book covers of all time and rank them accordingly. Enjoy!
30. Elektra #9 (2015)
Elektra is an awesome and well-known Marvel character, but this particular cover for Elektra #9 in 2015 blew me away. Michael Del Mundo was the cover artist, and he did a masterful job of playing with vibrant colors.
Elektra is in the middle of the cover while being surrounded by circular groups of enemies – she is the bullseye of a target. The artwork is trippy, has deep meaning, and visually just looks stunning. It might not be an iconic cover, but it’s surely one of the most visually captivating.
29. Green Lantern #49 (1994)
This particular cover of Green Lantern works on so many levels, especially for readers that are already well acquainted with the titular hero. In this particular storyline, Green Lantern goes crazy and falls off the deep end, turning evil.
He kills other Lanterns and takes their rings, which eventually makes for a spectacular cover. There’s just something so sinister about such a beloved character going dark that makes you stare at the cover for a while before you actually dive into the story.
28. The Unstoppable Wasp #7 (2019)
Honestly, I don’t think that Stacey Lee gets enough credit for her spectacular artwork that’s always borderline sarcastic and satyrical – or at least, it seems that way. This particular cover for The Unstoppable Wasp #7 in 2019 depicts the Wasp and Bucky Barnes engaging in a hard duel.
The vibrant red-and-grey coloring looks so menacing and serious until you realize what’s actually going on in the image. Bucky Barnes, in all his glory, is just about to get hit in the face with a cake. The Wasp might not give him a proper beating, but she can at least try giving him… diabetes? I’m just joking – overall, the cover just looks too awesome.
27. Superman #28 (2017)
There are numerous Superman covers that are much more iconic than 2017’s Superman #28, but this one is one of my favorites. Jorge Jimenez did the artwork and nailed what Supes is all about and what he means to readers for almost a century now – he is hope, joy, and happiness – for everybody.
On the cover, we see Superman’s shadow flying over a crowd of people of all shapes, sizes, ages, and genders, all looking up at him, cheering, and gushing with joy. Not only does the cover look amazing, but it just radiates positivity and optimism – and that’s what Superman is all about.
26. Ms. Marvel #1 (2014)
Ms. Marvel is soon getting an introduction to the MCU, but that’s not the reason why Ms. Marvel #1 from 2014 is on this list. This cover is here because it shows that you don’t have to complicate the artwork to create an awesome cover. This is the first time that we see Kamala Khan take the famous Ms. Marvel moniker.
The cover depicts her, in her own stylish outfit, with the iconic Ms. Marvel logo across the chest. It’s powerful, simple, effective, and brings a breath of fresh air to Marvel Comics. Hopefully, the show will do the same for the MCU.
25. Strange Tales #156 (1967)
This one had to be here for all the readers who enjoy the more horror-esque side of Marvel Comics. And, again, we have an artwork creator that doesn’t get as much respect as some other artists but should, due to spectacular artwork like this.
Marie Severin killed it with this epic cover, with Doctor Strange taking center stage, along with the introduction of Zom. The cover is not bloody or gory, and it doesn’t need to be – it’s epic and shows Severin’s glorious art!
24. The Kitchen #3 (2015)
Speaking of bloody and gory, The Kitchen #3 from 2015 is not really bloody on the covers, but the storyline isn’t really cream and butter. Still, I absolutely love the cover and the vivid, bold red tones. The story follows Kath and Raven throughout their bloody life in Hell’s Kitchen.
Now, the cover doesn’t really have much blood on it – it’s simple, but the image is just chilling and nightmare-inducing. I absolutely loved it, and had it been more significant in the grand scheme of DC Comics, I’d probably rank this cover higher on the list.
23. Thor #337 (1983)
What I loved about the cover for Thor #337 is the awesome, not-so-subtle depiction of what’s about to happen. Thor, the God of Thunder, the invincible Asgardian warrior – isn’t so invincible. Beta-Ray Bill proves to be worthy of his powers and defeats Thor, wielding Mjolnir in the process.
It was a huge shocker back in the 80s, and what better way to depict the colossal power shift in Marvel Comics than to have Beta-Ray Bill shatter the Thor title – with Mjolnir? Of course, things changed later, and they both proved worthy. Many consider this comic to be not Thor #337 but rather Beta-Ray Bill #1.
22. Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #8 (1984)
I actually read Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #8 not that long ago – last year, if I remember correctly. By the time I’ve read it, I was already well-acquainted with Marvel history, characters, the timeline, and the main plot points of certain events, even if I hadn’t had the chance to read them personally. So, I knew what was going on on the cover already.
However, if you look at it from a 1984 perspective, you see Spidey wearing an all-new black costume. You think, ‘awesome, Spider-Man just became even cooler!’ And then, boom! It turns out it’ll be one of Peter Parker’s most well-known and longest-tenured enemies, the Symbiote, Venom. I just love how they hid the truth and even announced a “new costume” on the covers.
21. Silver Surfer #4 (1968)
The Silver Surfer is an incredibly powerful being that gained a fraction of Galactus’ Power Cosmic after becoming his Herald. But, in this particular storyline – and the wonderful, colorful covers – we see the Surfer overpower Thor himself – Marvel’s powerhouse superhero!
As it turns out, the Surfer also had Loki’s powers at his disposal, as we see the God of Mischief be, well, mischievous, and convince the Surfer that Thor is the enemy of Asgard, so the Herald of Galactus would attack him. It was rare to see Thor getting overpowered, but not so rare to see Loki with such plots. Luckily for the God of Thunder, the Surfer grew suspicious on time.
20. Avengers #223 (1982)
Like they do today, fans had a lot of things to say about Hawkeye and Ant-Man back in the day. Mocking things, mostly. I mean, a guy with arrows and no superpowers and a guy that turns into an ant? It was just way too bizarre and funny not to be mocked. Well, Marvel used that to their advantage and absolutely killed it with the cover of Avengers #223 in 1982.
We literally see Hawkeye shooting Ant-Man on an arrow. It’s so bizarre that it is actually quite effective. I mean, with Hawkeye’s accuracy, who knows where that little ant might end up in… Overall, it just made me love Hawkeye and Ant-Man even more than I already did.
19. It Rhymes With Lust (1950)
Moving a bit further away from Marvel and DC, It Rhymes With Lust was a graphic novel from 1950, published by Picture Novels. It was not issued in numbers – It Rhymes With Lust Is Widely Considered to be the first graphic novel ever.
Now, I read it two times because I didn’t really like it the first time, and when I read it the second time, I didn’t really like it again. I mean, the artwork is beautiful and all, but I guess it’s just not my cup of tea. Still, one has to acknowledge that It Rhymes With Lust is an iconic piece of comics history, as one of – if not the first – graphic novels in history.
18. JLA/Avengers #3 (2003)
If you are looking for visually epic and challenging covers, look no further than 2003’s JLA/Avengers #3 crossover between DC and Marvel. George Perez and Tom Smith are responsible for the glorious artwork, and honestly, I find this particular issue to have the absolute best crossover cover of all time.
There are so many characters depicted here, but still, every single one of them kind of stands out on their own. You could just take these covers and watch them for hours, and you’d stumble upon a new character or a cool, subtle detail you haven’t seen before every minute you’re looking. I’m not a big fan of crossovers, but this cover more than makes up for lackluster storylines.
17. Giant-Size X-Men #1 (1975)
The X-Men are one of the most popular Marvel franchises ever created, but believe it or not; they weren’t really popular at all when they first appeared in the comics. That all changed with the iconic Giant-Size X-Men #1 in 1975, which introduced a number of new (and old) characters to the team.
In this particular issue (as well as on its covers), we witnessed the first appearances of characters like Storm, Thunderbird, Colossus, and Nightcrawler, which would later become X-Men powerhouses and incredibly popular characters with several big-screen adaptations.
It was also the issue where Wolverine – probably the most iconic X-Men member not named Professor X – joined the time. While the cover is not as visually impressive as some other covers on this list, it is certainly iconic.
16. Justice League #1 (1987)
Believe it or not, despite most of the Justice League members appearing in comics decades earlier, the first Justice League issue came out in 1987. Of course, today, it’s absolutely an iconic comic, and the cover is just so awesome that you can feel the “badass” of these characters.
While there’s still no Superman on this particular cover team, we see Green Lantern, Captain Marvel (Shazam), Batman, Wonder Woman, and other iconic Justice League members that would later grow into one of the most popular superhero teams in comics history.
15. Batman #608 (2002)
It’s hard to even choose which Batman cover is the most iconic, but Batman #608 certainly deserves a mention. When I say, “picture Batman overlooking Gotham City in the night,” you’re probably visualizing the guy sitting atop some building on a Gargoyle.
That image of Batman appeared throughout DC Comics countless times, but the cover of Batman #608 might be the best such image to date. The artwork is simple but beautiful, and I just love the sheer awesomeness of Batman with his Gargoyle buddy.
14. The Uncanny X-Men #135 (1963)
Jean Grey was – and, again is – one of the most beloved X-Men characters ever. She had a rough life but was a big sweetheart – empathic, powerful, and awesome. However, when she turned into the Dark Phoenix, it was one of the scariest moments in Marvel history, and Jean became one of the most powerful X-Men villains of all time.
The horrifying look on her face on The Uncanny X-Men #135 cover is nightmare-inducing, coupled with the fallen X-Men around her that were her teammates and family just yesterday. She shows her might by crushing the X-Men title with her bare hands. It was truly an iconic cover that is hard to forget once you’ve seen it.
13. Incredible Hulk #340 (1988)
The Hulk is an incredibly well-known Marvel character, even for those who don’t really enjoy comics. The Big Green guy fought many villains throughout his comic book history – but he also fought many heroes. One of Hulk’s most notable superhero rivals is none other than Wolverine.
Incredible Hulk #340 depicted only one of their many comic book fights, but the cover is just as brilliant as any other you can find. Not only does the art look amazing – seeing Hulk’s reflection in Wolverine’s claws – but we also learn later that adamantium is one of the very few materials that can actually pierce through the Hulk’s impenetrable skin.
12. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #1 (1986)
Batman was always a bit of a darker superhero than the rest of them, simply because he mostly operated overnight in a City full of darkness and crime. However, it wasn’t until this particular issue that the character took a turn to be The Dark Knight we know today.
Batman went from the comedic, friendly character to a much darker, grittier, more harrowing hero/vigilante we all love so much. It all began with Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #1 and this absolutely epic cover.
11. Batman #404 (1987)
You can argue with me if you want, but I find this particular cover to be the best Batman cover ever – well, apart from the one near the top of this list, but we’ll get to that later. Batman #404 is nightmarish, to say the least, and gives us a better picture of who Bruce Wayne actually is.
Dave Mazzucchelli portrayed Batman’s origins right on the covers, with young Bruce sitting in a poorly-lit alley – next to the lifeless bodies of his parents. It was dark, sad, and horrifying at the same time, but finally explained why a billionaire would expose himself to such danger every single night and be Batman instead of just chilling in his mansion, eating caviar.
10. Crisis On Infinite Earths #7 (1985)
What better way to break the top ten on this list than to show how comics took a swing in a new direction in the 80s. By then, we’ve had characters that were considered almost indestructible, but when this particular cover came out, it showed us that nobody is indestructible – not even the Supes family.
On the cover, we see Superman holding Supergirl’s body in his arms, sobbing, devastated by the loss of his cousin. It was an epic, iconic moment in DC’s history, and the cover just makes you want to devour the comic in minutes – and the awesome storyline certainly helps.
9. The Amazing Spider-Man #50 (1967)
There’s virtually no character in comics that doesn’t go through an identity crisis at least once. That happened to Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man #50, intelligently sub-titled “Spider-Man, no more!” Yes, that is exactly what happened: Spidey felt underappreciated, so he decided to give up on being Spidey completely.
That is shown on the covers as Peter turns his back on Spider-Man. It was a huge shocker for fans at the moment, but luckily, it didn’t last very long. Spidey came back, and it was a good call from Marvel, as he is now one of the most popular characters in comics history.
8. Green Lantern #85 (1971)
I find this particular story – and cover – to be one of the most iconic points in comics history. Without any introduction or any previous “heads-up” – right on the covers, we see Green Lantern revealing to Green Arrow that his ward, Red Arrow, aka Speedy – is a junkie. Even Green Arrow can’t believe it and says, “My ward is a JUNKIE!” Thanks, Captain Obvious.
We see Speedy sitting in front of an injection and a substance which I believe to be heroin. So, why is this blatant comic book cover so important? Well, it was the first time that comics went down such a dark story and tackled such grounded problems that reach down to the roots of our society. It way bye-bye stories for children and hello stories for adults.
7. Watchmen #1 (1986)
There’s not much to say about the cover for the first Watchmen issue in 1986. It’s so simple but so effective and captivating – depicting the iconic Smiley Face, dripping with blood. The Watchmen was really something new in the superhero comics genre, and the cover really depicted the tone of the franchise perfectly from the get-go.
The Watchmen are dark, violent, but satyrical and oddly funny. If you like dark humor, you’ll love the Watchmen, and obviously, this is where you should start if you haven’t already read any of these comics.
6. Iron Man #128 (1979)
We’ve seen Iron Man battle countless threats, from the government, Earth supervillains, and superheroes, all the way to cosmic beings and creatures like Thanos. However, none of them was Tony Stark’s biggest enemy. The hardest battle Iron Man has ever fought was one with alcoholism.
All the horrible stuff he had seen and done made Tony quite unstable, so he eventually resorted to drinking away his problems. It resulted in severe alcoholism, and the cover for Iron man #128 perfectly depicts just how bad it got at one point. It’s an iconic issue that showed how vulnerable a human being is – even if you’re a big hot-shot superhero.
5. Amazing Fantasy #15 (1962)
I don’t believe anyone thought this would be such an iconic issue and eventually such an iconic cover for Marvel Comics. However, looking back at it from today’s perspective, it might just be the most important issue of Marvel Comics ever – it was the introduction of Spider-Man, a character that is known today as the face of Marvel Comics and their by-far most popular character.
The cover of Amazing Fantasy #15 itself isn’t that groundbreaking – it’s just Spider-Man carrying a thug off the street while web-swinging. However, it was the perfect depiction of what Spidey is and why people love the character so much. He’s your “friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man, always here to help deal with the bad guys, no matter how big or small they are.
4. Superman #75 (1993)
It was a sad day in comics history and one that will remain forever etched in history as the day that changed DC Comics forever. I mean, it was kind of reverted later, but still. All you need to know is that the issue was titled “The Death of Superman.” And that’s exactly what happened in the issue. The invincible, indestructible DC powerhouse was gone.
Al that was left of Supes was his torn cape on a pole, looking like a flag. His death showed that nobody is invulnerable, even the most popular characters, and it made a colossal power shift in DC comics. Sure, superman returned later, but the guy was actually dead for a while.
3. Captain America #1 (1941)
Captain America’s first issue from 1941 was iconic for several things – one, Cap would go on to become one of the most important characters in Marvel Comics’ history. Two, he literally b*tch-slapped Hitler right on the cover of this particular issue. Yes, THAT Hitler. It was an incredibly controversial statement from the writers and artists at the time, but they stood by it.
It proved to be correct, as Hilter was one of the biggest war criminals in history. However, back then, the war wasn’t over yet, and it was a very bold, brave, but controversial statement that only became more iconic as time passed after WWII.
2. Batman: The Killing Joke (1988)
I was at a loss trying to decide whether I wanted Batman: The Killing Joke at number one on the list or not, but the iconic significance of my number one pick was just too strong. Still, if I’m choosing on covers alone, this particular one-shot issue from 1988 would be my top pick for the best comic book cover of all time.
It just shows the Joker holding a camera over one eye, with his iconic, huge, red grin and a single word – SMILE. The image itself is somewhat haunting, but when you read the comic and find out what he was taking photos of, it’s just so disturbing that it freezes the blood in your veins.
We get a bit of an origin story for the Joker, who was a failed comedian before going insane, as no one laughed at his jokes. He has Commissioner Gordon locked up, and he tortures him to try and make him insane.
He gives him some photos – and we learn what the Joker was photographing on the covers – Gordon’s daughter, Batgirl, lying in a pool of blood after being shot in the back and paralyzed forever. He even tells her to smile. It’s just brutal, even for the Joker’s standards, and the backstory makes the cover that much more disturbing.
1. Action Comics #1 (1938)
Finally, the number one spot goes to the first DC Comics issue ever, Action Comics #1, from 1938. One might argue that it was the birth of the superhero genre we all now love and appreciate, making it by far the most iconic comic issue ever. Even the cover is iconic and epic.
We see Superman holding a car over his head, instantly showing that this isn’t just another ordinary guy in a suit. It was the beginning of all superheroes and the comic book cover that will forever be etched in history as the first, most epic, most iconic comic book cover ever created.