There have been many brilliant iterations of the Caped Crusader since his creation, though perhaps none capture the original gothic intentions of the character better than creator Bob Kane's cover for one of Batman's earliest adventures. The figure of Batman looming menacingly over a fog-laden mountain castle as villain The Monk kidnaps Julie Madison captures the mysterious nature of the crimefighter perfectly.
Not only was Jack Kirby one of the most prolific comic book artists of all-time, he also probably created or co-created more famous heroes than anyone else in the biz. Fantastic Four #1 ushered in the Marvel Age of storytelling via Kirby's distinct style that made superhero tales fresh again.
The Silver Age Flash was a bold new era for the character, taking him deeper into the sci-fi realm and outfitting him with his iconic all-red duds. Carmine Infantino (along with Joe Giella) drew this cover that reminds us of the one-on-one relationship these books had with their readership, and still do to this day.
Jim Steranko brought elements of psychedelia and Cold War-era paranoia to his early covers to Marvel's post "Fighting Commandoes" Nick Fury solo title. The interiors of this issue were drawn by Frank Springer, and recount the origin of S.H.I.E.L.D. and how Fury came to lead it.
Neal Adams became one of the most sought-after comic book artists of the 1970's by imbuing previously cartoonish superheroes with an anatomical realism. Adams was also a master of foreshortening, creating scenes of dynamic action that drew the readers eye immediately.
The father of the modern graphic novel, Will Eisner began his career with his masked crimefighting vigilante The Spirit, which ran in newspapers between 1940 and 1952. In the '70s, Warren Publications began reprinting them with new covers and interior stories by Eisner, with this cover being a particularly awesome example of his handle on form, depth, design and action.
Bernie Wrightson is arguably the most skilled pen and ink man to emerge from the '70s, his skill at rendering powerful, even frightening creatures unmatched. His creation of Swamp Thing defined the character, and this cover is perhaps his most iconic depiction of Holland emerging from the muck.
Bob Layton's famous cover shows Tony Stark hitting rock bottom as his reliance on the bottle leads to torn friendships and catastrophic mistakes. While the movies have slowly shied away from depicting Stark's alcoholism, the "Demon in a Bottle" story approached it head-on without pulling any punches.
This cover showing Kitty Pryde and Logan attempting to evade the gaze of a sentinel is part of the classic Chris Claremont/John Byrne story "Days of Future Past," most recently loosely adapted into a smash hit movie. Byrne and Terry Austin's cover is justifiably beloved for its power in depicting a desperate moment in an alternate future timeline where mutants are hunted to near-extinction.
Alan Moore's "The Killing Joke" was one of the primary influences on Tim Burton's 1989 Batman movie, and Brian Bolland's nightmarishly lifelike depiction of The Joker on the one-shot's cover has become perhaps the defining drawing of the villain. Even a forthcoming direct-to-home video animated film of this story will utilize the art for its cover.
Believe it or not, the first issue of Todd McFarlane's Spider-Man solo book sold over 2 million copies in June of 1990 alone. Nowadays the top-selling comic book in a given month barely breaks 100,000 copies. That was the power of McFarlane, THE star comic artist of the '90s, who helped usher in the era of the variant cover with the multiple editions of this issue that started a speculation bubble that lasted several years. This cover art sold for a whopping $358,500 in 2012.
After proving he could cram as many heroes as possible into any single image for DC's "Crisis on Infinite Earths," George Perez jumped ship for Marvel where he worked with writer Jim Starlin on the six-part "Crisis"-esque "Infinity Gauntlet" which pitted the company's entire roster of heroes against the mad titan Thanos, although he would sadly leave the series mid-way through.
Before there was a Marvel Cinematic Universe, writer Kurt Busiek and gifted painter Alex Ross were the first to really visualize what the company's superheroes looked and felt like from a real-world perspective in this four-issue series. Ross's vivid street-level depictions are gorgeous and illustrate the impact these heroes would have on the common man.
Like Alex Ross, J.H. Williams III brings an incredibly vivid, painterly feel to his work, although his covers and interior art for titles like Batwoman tend to have a more abstract/stylized feel to them. He utilizes a combination of illustrated/painted look for very bold compositions like this one.
Part of the new breed of artists taking modern comic artistry to the next level is Frank Cho, a former syndicated comic strip artist ("Liberty Meadows") who in recent years has begun lending his exquisite technique to superhero titles. His inaugural six-issue run on Savage Wolverine combined all his favorite elements (Frazetta-style men, gorgeous jungle girls and dinosaurs) all in one breathlessly indulgent package! Look at the combination of watercolor, crosshatching and traditional inks on this magnificently-designed cover.