The POP Retro Cover of the Week: the biggest debut of the early Bronze Age: "Giant-Size X-Men #1"

Giant-Size X-Men #1, May 1975, Marvel Comics, Cover by Gil Kane and Dave Cockrum.

"Giant-Size X-Men #1" cover by Gil Kane and Dave Cockrum

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 beginning of the Bronze Age of Comic Books, the Seventies. A decade when comics were still printed on pulpy paper and sold on squeaky spinner racks at pharmacies and convenience stores, and a stack of comics could be bought with a couple of dollars of allowance money.

The Uncanny X-Men had been in reprint limbo for years, until May 1975 when Len Wein and Dave Cockrum created a new team centered around the original leader of the X-Men, Cyclops. However, the first new X-Men story in years did not appear in the pages of their own title, but in a new one, Giant-Size X-Men #1. I cannot recall before or since, a publisher launching a new direction of a title in a Giant-Size or Annual edition; it was and still is a very curious decision. Of course, it was an immediate hit, and the new team took over from the reprints as of The Uncanny X-Men #94.

I was lucky enough to spot Giant-Size X-Men #1 on the spinner rack at the 7-11, realized it was a big deal, and grabbed it, even though I knew very little about the X-Men, except for their occasional guest appearances in other Marvel titles. However, I was a HUGE fan of Dave Cockrum’s art on Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, so the fact that he was doing the interior art was reason enough for me. I did recognize the guy with the claws from his recent appearances in The Incredible Hulk, and wondered how and why he was with these new X-Men. My other memory of this cover: I was attracted to what I considered was a very patriotic color scheme; the ramp-up to the Bicentennial in the following year was on everyone’s mind, and I liked the abundance of red, white, and blue.

The cover of this Bronze Age issue is so iconic and significant, it has been homaged many times by many different publishers, especially to hype the debut of some new team or a new direction. Marvel’s go-to cover artist in the mid-seventies was still Gil Kane, who could always be counted on to deliver a dynamic and eye-catching composition. His cover concept and illustration was very simple and direct: the new team of X-Men bursting through the paper of the blank white page, and appearing to leap off the cover itself. To emphasize the transition from old X-Men to new, Cockrum added a ghostly depiction of the original team, reacting with shock and amazement at the new team. Kane expertly rendered Cockrum’s new costume designs, no doubt aided by Cockrum’s inks.

Next week: A Rad Cover from the 1980s!

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