Batman, Vol. 1, #366, 1983, DC Comics, Cover by Walt Simonson.
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, when storylines became more grown-up and grounded.
One of these darker storylines started with Batman #366, a story that would lead to one of the darkest events of the ‘80s: the by-popular-demand death of Jason Todd.
Cover artist Walt Simonson depicted a preview of the battle between Batman and the Joker that would be fought atop an ancient Guatemalan pyramid. I have always felt that Simonson was paying homage to Will Eisner’s cover and splash page designs for The Spirit, where Eisner's characters, buildings, and typography became one.
In an all-too-rare moment of editorial restraint, missing from the cover composition was the major surprise revealed in the story: the first costumed appearance of Jason Todd as Robin. The story featured brilliant art by the legendary and gone-too-soon Don Newton and some prophetic dialogue by Doug Moench that served as a creepy, first bookend to their relationship; some of the Joker's first words to this new Robin were: “I’ll kill you!”
The cover design was unusual in that the Batman logo does not appear in the top third of the cover, or at all, but only as white graffiti painted on the side of the pyramid, also a very Eisner thing to do. Instead, the Joker’s logo appears at the cover’s top, as part of a headline that literally gives him top billing over Batman. The Joker’s hat overlaps the DC logo, for a great 3D touch.
There is nothing extra to intrude on this silent, powerful scene…no word balloons, no sound effects, no additional typography…except that blasted UPC code box violating this beautifully simple and iconic POP Retro Cover Of The Week.
Next week: A cover from the flashy 1990s!