The Retro Cover Of The Week is a spotlight dance on a 1999 debut: "Batman: Harley Quinn"

Updated: Oct 6, 2019

"Batman: Harley Quinn" (1999) cover by Alex Ross

Batman: Harley Quinn, 1999, DC Comics, Cover by Alex Ross.

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 Nineties.

Created by writer Paul Dini and animator Bruce Timm for Batman: The Animated Series (1992-95), the character of Harley Quinn became so popular, she quickly made her first comic book appearance in 1993 in Batman Adventures #12, the companion series to the tv show.

Six years later, Harley finally joined the mainstream DC comic universe in the standalone graphic novel Batman: Harley Quinn, written by Dini.

Cover artist extraordinaire Alex Ross drew his inspiration for the dark and dynamic cover from one of the great advertising illustrators, J. C. Leyendecker. In the 1920s, Leyendecker’s stylish series of ads and posters for Arrow dress shirts and collars featured a black tuxedo-clad gentleman on a black background, which gave maximum contrast to, as well as emphasis and focus on the bright white products being advertised.

Arrow shirt ads by J.C. Leyendecker (1920s)

The ads usually featured a glamorous woman dancing with or fawning over the “Arrow Man”. Leyendecker used dramatic up- or down-lighting in many of the ads, a technique Ross also often employs (see Kingdom Come covers). Here, Ross’s light source is so hot, the "overexposed" white areas glow, adding an extra POP to the creepy pose that is a cross between a dance and a stern grasp.

The fact that this beautifully simple, uncluttered, and iconic cover design is also an example of a retro graphic design technique, the Fadeaway (click here for our COMICS ART article on Fadeaways), is an added bonus!

Next week: A Cover from the 2000s!

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