Wow. How about this for raising the bar on the Best Cover EVER? feature. If you haven’t already worked it out from the image above…. this week we have Douglas Noble, whose work I’ve previously described in many ways, but my favourite is still that “his work usually impresses, intrigues, frustrates, confuses, fascinates, and generally leaves me wondering what I’ve missed whilst still making me really enjoy it”.
Titles such as Dark Matters (with Sean Azzopardi containing three magnificent tales) and his multi-volume Strip For Me series which features more styles and themes than anything else out there (such as What It Is & What It Was, Complex, Live Static) give you an impression of just how wide a range Noble is capable of. I invariably look forward to each new release with major anticipation and minor trepidation, wondering what delights he’ll be delivering next, and whether or not I’ll get it this time? But I wouldn’t have it any other way to be honest.
His entry for the Best Cover Ever? is typically Noble, as is the explaination to accompany it…
Lois Lane Issue 105, DC Comics, 1970
Art by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson
It took 105 tries at bat before the collective geniuses behind Lois Lane, Superman’s Girlfriend came up with the greatest cover that had ever graced a comic, and they were never able to hit that amazing high again. For one glorious moment though, something like perfection flowered in the draughty halls of DC Comics.
The cover is a scene of mystery, dense with the dripping tension of an unseen narrative. “We’re married now, Lois” screams the sideburned Johnny Cash impersonator at the bride in his arms, despite the fact that she presumably knows all about the ceremony that she has just attended. She weeps with happiness, not only at the fact her new husband is around two or three feet taller than she is, but also because she’s a big fan of high numbers, and his shirt reveals that he is too. Lois, like any modern woman, looks forward to long winter evenings of counting with her new husband. She stares with loving eyes up at her beau, who must realise that she can’t see where he’s taking her. “I’m about to carry you over the threshold” he bellows helpfully, directly into Lois’ face.
But wait! Who is that holding the door like the polite boy he was raised to be? Why it’s Superman, his face downcast after losing his lady love to this beltless beatnik in grey. Maybe it’s because he holds doors open for a living now, instead of solving super crimes, but Superman’s heart is heavy as he stares down, looking at nothing in particular as he chants out, in a high pitched, keening voice “In five minutes you’ll leave alone…” Superman is speaking to the desolation in his soul, lost and abandoned, now that his one wedding task has turned out horribly wrong. Superman should have bought that beatnik a belt as a wedding gift, but the Man of Steel made a rash decision that he now regrets. As a gesture of good faith, he’d offered to book the honeymoon for the couple, but he’s made a terrible mistake and the truth screams out in his heart. He knows that when Lois leaves, she’s leaving “AS HIS WIDOW!”
Superman has booked the couple a regrettable Death House Honeymoon.
Maybe it was a moment of weakness – a flash of jealousy, burning green like kryptonite, his other great weakness. But Superman, or possibly Clark Kent, picked up the telephone and booked Lois a one way trip into a torture chamber of outright terror. If she or her giant new husband were looking where they were going, instead of lopsidedly staring at each other, they would see the danger ahead, as Patrick McGoohan (for it is he who operates this death house) and his book loving friend (that book? Valley of the Dolls, fact fans!) stand solemnly behind a terrifying monolith of oak and steel, lit only by one lone solitary single disco ball.
The terror that Superman sees, as he watches the couple march toward their doom down the corridor in stunning high definition, is that he knows what is coming next. He knows that wherever he hides his Judas powers mean that he’ll hear every hiss and pop of scorching skin, as massive quantities of electricity are pumped through the unsuspecting dude’s body. He can fly to the other side of the world, but he’ll still smell the burnt hair and blistering fingers, and know it’s his fault. Does superman feel guilty? Superman feels SUPERguilty. It’s one of his special powers. Superman looks so happy up in the corner, strutting along in happier days. Those days are gone now. How can we ever get them back?
This cover poses these questions and more. Rose and the Thorn, for example. Is she good? Evil? Or both?
And that’s why this is the greatest cover ever committed to paper. Tell everyone.