September 2017 is SYFY's 25th anniversary, so we’re using it as an excuse to look back and celebrate the last 25 years of ALL science fiction, fantasy, and horror, a time that has seen the genres we love conquer the world of pop culture. For us, that means lists! ALL THE LISTS! We’ll be doing two “25 greatest” lists per day all throughout September, looking back at the moments, people, and characters that shaped the last quarter century. So keep checking back.
Please note: Our lists are not ranked; all items have equal standing in our brains.
What items in our lists were your favorites? Did we miss something? We welcome respectful debate and discussion, so please let us know in the comments!
The comic book cover, itself, is a singularly unique art. Sometimes, it will tell a story all on its own. Sometimes, it acts as the "first panel" to the story inside. Every time, it needs to scream out loud next to every other comic on the stands: "BUY ME!"
There are artists who make a living off just exploring this unique feature where you often are supposed to judge a book by its cover. With so many all-time greats, choosing a definitive 25 best or even favorite list from the last 25 years is nearly impossible. With advancement in experimentation, coloration, and presentation in the last few years, alone, you could probably pull 25 from any given year and make an argument that they're the best yet.
So, we decided to just pull one from each year, 1992-2016, that we feel is both representative of the year and a dang fine cover. With only 25 to choose from, some of your favorite covers and even favorite cover artists (and some of ours, too) won't be in the list below. That isn't meant as a slight, it's just an impossible task unless we bumped this up to at least 100. Still, here are some of the best looking, original, or our just plain favorite covers we've seen in comics in the last 25 years.
Note: For simplicity, we are noting the pencil artist credited with the cover. In several cases, there is also an inker and colorist whose work helps make the cover shine.
1992: Rai #0 by David Lapham
A stark, simple cover before that was really a "thing" in comics, this cover showcases a minimalistic approach has become much more popular in the last few years.
1993: Superman #75 by Dan Jurgens
The Death of Superman was a cultural event that took the world by storm, and this cover showing his cape flowing like a tattered flag helped raise its profile.
1994: Green Lantern #49 by Darryl Banks
Hal Jordan, mad with power, wearing the power rings of his fellow Green Lanterns he'd just murdered? Who wouldn't want to read this comic after seeing that cover?!
1995: Preacher #1 by Glenn Fabry
This is such a sinister image, you may go into the first issue thinking this is a book about a villain. You may also be right, depending on your interpretation.
1996: Kingdom Come #4 by Alex Ross
Alex Ross is considered by many the king of cover art, and we could choose just about anything he's ever painted for this list. This aged Superman who seems to be whisping away is a highlight.
1997: JLA #1 by Howard Porter
Howard Porter's run on JLA with Morrison is legendary, and this cover full of iconic and imposing DC superheroes stands out, Super-mullet and all!
1998: Thor #1 by John Romita, Jr.
John Romita, Jr.'s sense of style and power here make Thor look endlessly resilient in a perfect "you shall not pass" moment.
1999: Daredevil #3 by Joe Quesada
Joe Quesada's run as artist on Daredevil in the Marvel Knights era (which he and inker-at-the-time Jimmy Palmiotti shepherded) was instantly legendary, and this cover is one of the reasons why.
2000: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Kevin O'Neill
Kevin O'Neill made every cover of LXG wholly unique, borrowing art styles that centered on the main character of each issue. This combination of Chinese banner art and pop art is brilliant.
2001: Wolverine #159 by Sean Chen
This cover would go on to be homaged more than once, despite itself only being published a decade and a half ago - it's that good.
2002: Deadman #3 by Mike Mignola
Mignola's brilliant covers for Hellboy and BPRD can't be overlooked, but this Deadman cover is so perfectly eerie and sorrowful it outshines many others.
2003: JLA/Avengers #3 by George Perez
Good golly, that's a lot of DC and Marvel characters, all together on one piece of art. George Perez is, simply, a genius.
2004: Y: The Last Man #21 by Aron Wiesenfeld
In a series in which nearly every cover could be on this list, this one, quite literally highlighting the bad-ass women of Y: The Last Man is our pick for favorite by a narrow margin.
2005: The Walking Dead #19 by Tony Moore
Another series in which nearly any cover could wind up here, this introduction of Michonne with her slave zombies that keep her safe from original series artist Tony Moore is just cool. You see this, and you have to know more about her.
2006: Planetary #25 by John Cassaday
John Cassaday and Laura Martin should draw everything forever together, period.
2007: Captain America #25 by Steve Epting
Character death issues yield some great covers, and this, of Cap cuffed and bleeding, is no different.
2008: Fables #71 by James Jean
Every James Jean cover of Fables is so unique and beautiful, he got his own book out of it.
2009: Arkham Reborn #1 by Frazer Irving
What better way to show Jeremiah Arkham's impact on Gotham City than to piece other villains into his own face in a twisted puzzle? This is another cover that begs you to open it up.
2010: Batwoman #0 by J.H. Williams III
Another artist whose every work could appear on this list, J.H. Williams III has a unique sense of style that flies off every page.
2011: Detective Comics #880 by Jock
Jock has drawn some stark, powerful, and sometimes scary covers in his time, but none so gorgeous as this Joker cover, in which the blacks of the image are made of flying bats.
2012: Hawkeye #3 by David Aja
Choosing your favorite David Aja cover is like choosing your favorite child, so we'll go with the deceptively simple one here. Note the shadows inside the drawn bows, which are made of the figures of the two Hawkeyes.
2013: X-Men Legacy #6 by Mike Del Mundo
Del Mundo's covers for this run of stories about Legion have enough story on them that you get a real sense of the issue from just one page. This run heavily influenced the current Legion TV series.
2014: Amazing Spider-Man #1 by Marcos Martin
Marcos Martin's Spidey covers are all amazing and spectacular, but this one, an upside-down shot of Spider-Man diving towards the city he loves and protects is outstanding.
2015: Bloodshot Reborn #1 by Mico Suayan
Coming nearly full-circle with a stark Valiant cover, Mico Suayan's take on the "hero leaving his identity behind" trope still manages to make it new, with considerably more detail on the main figure and the minimalist art to everything else.
2016: Afterlife with Archie by Francesco Francavilla
Undead. Pussycat. Need we really say more? Hope Riverdale does some fun one-off Afterlife with Archie stories as Halloween specials!
These were OUR choices from the last 25 years. What are yours? Let us know in the comments which covers you’d put on your list! And which year it's from!
And check out the rest of our "25 Greatest" lists here!