Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Spider-Man Cover Experiment

Warning: If you don't know (or care) a lot about Spider-Man comics you can probably tune out now and come back another time.

Recently on the Comic Book Resources website a poll was conducted to find the 50 Greatest Spider-Man Covers Of All-Time. The list threw up few surprises to long-term Spider-Man fans, which led to the following interesting remark from "T.":

You know what I think would be very interesting? I remember the last time we have a top Amazing Spider-Man cover contest a lot of people just automatically picked the Romita cover when there was a batch, or they picked a cover based on whether it was a landmark issue rather than based on the objective quality of the cover.

Since as fans we all bring nostalgia, artist preferences and knowledge of the stories to the table, I think it would be interesting to do cover contests like this with voting strictly from people who aren’t Spider-Man fans, or even comic fans at all. Just a bunch of regular people with no attachment to Spider-Man comics and have them just vote without knowing any context or background. I’d love to see such a list side-by-side with one by fans.

I would love to see that list as well, but in lieu of surveying a bunch of regular people I decided to survey one specific non-comics fan instead; namely Ms Wheatley. What I did was pick 30 Spider-Man covers, consisting of three groups:

1) The Top 10 vote-winners from the aforementioned poll. These were: Amazing Spider-Man (ASM) #50, ASM #39, Amazing Fantasy #15, ASM #33, Web of Spider-Man (WSM) #32, ASM #122, WSM #1, ASM #238, Spectacular Spider-Man #101, ASM #300.

2) 10 other comics from within the Top 50: No. 14, No. 18, No. 22, and so on down to No. 50. These were: Spider-Man #1, ASM Annual #21, ASM #230, ASM #97, ASM #101, ASM #655, ASM #229, ASM #24, ASM Annual #1 and ASM #90.

3) 10 issues of 'Amazing Spider-Man' that did not make the Top 50 list: ASM #35, ASM #105, ASM #175, ASM #245, ASM #315, ASM #385, ASM Vol. 2 #14 (#455), ASM #525, ASM #595, and ASM #665.

I then mixed up the cover images of all of these comics and asked Ms Wheatley to pick her favourite ten.

These two covers (ASM #300 and SSM #101) got quite a lot of support from Ms Wheatley. I very much agree with her second choice, which is my all-time favourite Spider-Man cover. These were #9 and #10 in the Top 50 survey.

Two other top tenners (WSM #32 and ASM #50) made her list. ASM #50 (see below) came in at #1 in the Top 50 survey, and often polls well in surveys of comics' greatest covers.

Three other covers from the Top 50 made her list (ASM #33, SM #1, and ASM #655). Todd McFarlane's spaghetti-laden Spider-Man #1 cover was the first one that caught her eye.

But here's the interesting bit: three covers that were not in the Top 50 at all made her list. These were ASM #35, ASM #525 and ASM #665.

I suspect that #665 is a favourite among comic fans and would have been a strong contender to make the Top 50 list, but the other two came as surprises to me. When quizzed Ms Wheatley said she liked their sense of design.

In contrast other more feted covers got the thumbs down, including ASM #122 and one of my personal favourites ASM #39. Ms Wheatley said these covers had too much going on, and they looked too much like your "typical childish comic book".

And she really didn't like this one:

Maybe that one did make the list through nostalgia.

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