The POP Retro Cover Of The Week is a Super-Creepy Portrait: Byrne's "Superman #9" (1987)

Superman Vol. 2 #9, 1987, DC Comics, Cover by John Byrne.

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 Eighties, the Bronze Age of Comics, when storylines became more grown-up and grounded, and Superman got rebooted for a new generation.

John Byrne had been a Marvel artist since the late 1970s, becoming a superstar for his work on the Uncanny X-Men, and then Fantastic Four. By the mid-1980s he was itching to take on Superman for DC, who was looking for a fresh start for the Man of Steel following the Crisis On Infinite Earths series.

Byrne drastically changed many aspects of the Superman mythos, starting with Superman’s appearance. Instead of that lone, contrived curl hanging down onto his forehead, his hair was now wavier, and that curl was now a more natural offshoot from the hair that fell onto his forehead. This hairstyle change alone gave him a more modern, less retro look. Superman’s cape now seemed lighter in weight, its folds standing up off his shoulders, and it made more flamboyant shapes and flowing ripples as he flew.

But the most significant physical change was the size of the S-symbol on the front of his uniform. Byrne made it much larger, Super-sizing it so it filled his chest. The bottom half cover of Superman #9 is dominated by this massive S-symbol. The top half, a super-creepy depiction of a Joker-faced Superman. The simplicity and cover-filling close-up portrait is iconic in itself, but what puts this cover design over-the-top for Retro Cover Of The Week is the background: an edge-to-edge, almost-chaotic wallpaper of HA HA HA HA HA HAs that adds tremendously to the disturbing, maniacal portrait and tone of the cover.

The trade dress doesn’t intrude on the art, but the headline “Guess Who’s In Metropolis?” really wasn’t needed or necessary, as the image tells the story all by itself.

As a huge John Byrne fan, I am surprised that with all the iconic covers he produced in the 1980s (and beyond), that his work hasn’t been featured here yet, but rest assured, we haven’t seen that last of his work being chosen for POP Retro Cover Of The Week.

Next week: A cover from the 1990s!

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