Marvel Knights: Captain America #6, 2002, Marvel Comics, Cover by John Cassaday.
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. when Marvel gave Captain America the upscale Marvel Knights treatment.
Marvel had created the Marvel Knights imprint in 1998 to highlight the publisher’s key characters, and give top-line creators a chance at telling “outside the box”, standalone story arcs, with higher production values. Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti were hired to create the line.
John Cassaday was a hot commodity as an artist, co-creating the popular Planetary for DC/Wildstorm. His earnest, square jawed style of drawing men seems a natural for Cap, as well as his strong graphic design style. The cover of issue #6 is my favorite, by a hair.
Captain America himself is already the visual representation of the U.S. flag, but to emphasize it, Cassaday adds the Stars and Stripes to the background. And to sledgehammer the point home, he adds an Art Deco American Eagle behind Cap, strategically placing the wings so they appear to be sprouting from his back, implying further that he is the embodiment of America. The elements all radiate out from the center of the cover to both explode out, but also draw the eye in to Cap’s head. But wait, there’s more to add to the patriotic panorama: he literally puts Cap on a pedestal that has “LIBERTY JUSTICE FOR ALL” chiseled into it. The symbolism may be way over-the-top and heavy-handed, but it’s beautifully done and as patriotic as all get-out, so SALUTE…APPLAUSE, APPLAUSE.
My only complaint about the covers of this series involves the trade dress, specifically the title logo. The curious choice to use a Colonial era, quill pen, cursive font is very unusual in that it doesn’t have very much weight or presence, and is difficult to read against many of the cover backgrounds in the series. While I appreciate the historic, Revolutionary symbolism the font represents, graphically it just didn’t work. Perhaps this choice was made to give the spotlight to the art.
Other than that minor flaw, the covers for the Marvel Knights Captain America series were all visually strong, and picking one for the Retro Cover Of The Week was tough, but there will be more of them featured in the future…they are too good not to share!
Next week: The Retro Cover Of The Week expands its coverage way back to the 1960s!