Fantastic Four Vol. 1, #252, 1982, Marvel Comics, Cover by John Byrne.
The POP Retro Cover Of The Week continues its celebration and examination of iconic comic covers from the 1970s through the 2000s, this week returning to the Eighties, the Bronze Age of Comics. During this decade, comics got more experimental, including one particular issue during John Byrne’s legendary writer/artist run on Fantastic Four, where everything went sideways...but in a good way!
One of my all-time favorite “gimmick” covers is Fantastic Four #252, with a cover image designed and printed sideways, and labeled as a “Special Collector’s Edition” of “The World’s Most Innovative Comic Magazine!”, a riff on the FF’s usual claim of “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine! The only bit that ruins the overall look of the bold experiment is some of the trade dress is still arranged in the normal “Portrait” format, no doubt at the editor and publisher’s insistence for proper viewability on the spinner racks and newsstands.
John Byrne was at his creative peak, inking his own work, which never looked better than it did during this FF run, IMO. His cover is a beautiful widescreen portrait of Marvel’s “First Family” in all their widescreen glory. The extra touch that really does it for me is overlapping the Human Torch’s arm and hand in front of the corner box and Marvel masthead band, making the Torch appear to fly off the page.
While there have been gimmick covers before, printed in mirror image, or upside down for an eye-catching effect, this issue goes much further by designing and printing the entire story in this horizontal, “landscape” format! I have no knowledge of any other comic doing this before. John Byrne was at the height of his popularity and influence, and still probably had a difficult time selling then-editor-in-chief Jim Shooter on the idea. It was a refreshing and daring experiment that Byrne made look perfectly normal, while being very different.
It’s probably safe to say there will never be another one like this POP Retro Cover Of The Week.
Next week: A cover from the flashy, cross-hatchy Nineties!