Tangent Comics: Sea Devils #1, 1997, DC Comics, Cover by Vince Giarrano.
POP continues its examination and celebration of iconic comic covers from the 1960s through the 2000s, this week returning to the Nineties, when the DC Universe —and its comic covers— got re-imagined in a very interesting way, in this edition of Retro Cover Of The Week.
Tangent Comics was a series of 1997 one-shots based on ideas from star artist/writer Dan Jurgens, that re-imagined the DCU as a world that was more heavily influenced by the superheroes that lived in it, and was more affected by their actions. With a new universe to play with and absolutely no limitations, no change was too drastic to make, even with the most established DC heroes. For instance, Sea Devils, the Silver Age series that featured a team of daring scuba divers, was now the adventures of a race of nuclear bomb-mutated merpeople.
Some of the most talented artists in comics were recruited to illustrate these adventures, and the results were intriguing and entertaining enough to merit a followup series of Tangent one-shots in 1998.
As a graphic designer, what caught my eye was the very different and modern-looking cover design treatment the entire Tangent line received.
To tie all the Tangent titles together visually and to distinguish them from the rest of the DC line, each Tangent cover followed a tight design scheme: each featured a white background with an illustration isolated in the center, and with the splashy title logo and creative credits appearing in white and unusually placed in the center of the cover. But that untraditional placement was far from the most unusual part of the Tangent cover design.
The rest of the trade dress was a montage of expertly compartmentalized graphics, all pushed to the edges of the cover, to be as unobtrusive as possible. The entire Tangent line of titles is represented in a row of icons across the bottom of the cover, with the issue at hand highlighted. The dreaded UPC code is even designed to fit into a sidebar with other info, rather than hogging space as an ugly afterthought. The most curious and fun element of all is the inclusion in the lower right corner of specifications of the comic’s size and compatibility with standard mylar bags. It's rotated placement in red gave it the feel of Oriental writing or an artist's signature.
Tangent Comics: Sea Devils #1 is an example that sometimes graphic design alone is enough to qualify a vintage comic as the POP Retro Cover Of The Week!
Next week: A cover from the 2000s!