"Planetary #11," the Retro Cover Of The Week is an homage to a 1969 Steranko S.H.I.E.L.D. classic.

Planetary #11, 2000, Wildstorm Comics (DC), Cover by John Cassady.

The POP Retro Cover Of The Week continues its examination and celebration of iconic comic covers from the 1970s through the 2000s, this week returning to the Aughts, where a very cool and unusual comic series had begun a slow burn since its debut in 1999.

Planetary was Warren Ellis’ running commentary, homage, and occasional satire on various comic book characters and themes, seen through the eyes of his superpowered team of “Archaeologists of the Impossible.” This team would uncover the supernatural or superhuman mysteries of the world, Ellis deconstructing them along the way. Each issue or story arc would feature thinly-veiled stories about Doc Savage, the Fantastic Four, or in the case of issue #11, S.H.I.E.L.D.

The covers for these commentaries were usually homages to the comics or characters they were based on. Series artist John Cassady wisely chose one of the iconic covers from the brief but legendary run of Jim Steranko’s 1969 Nick Fury and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series. Steranko was always pushing the boundaries of what comics could communicate visually, and issue #4 was his effort to introduce PopArt into comics, starting with a masterpiece of a cover.

A stacked montage of black-and-white, story-teasing graphics served as the background for a bold, red comic title logo and full-color head-to-toe portrait of the new series’ hero, former war vet Nick Fury, now a black cat-suited Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Marvel and Steranko re-envisioned Fury as a secret agent and head of a covert government agency, to capitalize on the massive pop culture success of the new James Bond movies.

S.H.I.E.L.D. #4 cover by Jim Steranko

Issue #11 of Planetary follows the same theme, stacking PopArt-y elements in the background, with the only objects in color being the comic title logo and protagonist. The result is this week’s pick for Retro Cover Of The Week, a striking, eye-catching homage to an industry icon and one of his most iconic covers.

Next week: Back to the 1970s!

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