Thursday, December 10, 2009

My Top Ten Nova Covers

When Kiel posted that gorgeous image by the great Niko Henrichon set to adorn the front of Marvel Adventures Super Heroes #18 (on sale now) the other day, it got me thinking how I've never compiled a list of my very favorite Nova covers and foisted it upon the world. This got me thinking why I had never done that. And that got me thinking I should do it.

So I did.

Here, in no particular order (other than that it goes from my tenth favorite to my favorite) are my ten favorite Nova covers plus one.

HONORABLE MENTION: Nova #1 (1999) by Erik Larsen
The figure of Nova on this cover is fine, nothing particularly special, but I more wanted to include it because Erik Larsen's short-lived late 90's series had my favorite Nova logo of them all and this was the best cover of the bunch.

10-Nova #13 (2008) by Alex Maleev
Doesn't score that high because Nova's not actually that big a part of the cover, but the overall composition of it is just so gorgeous I couldn't not include it. Setting this intense battle with Galactus' eye as the backdrop really conveys the power and majest of that character, and I love that Nova can convincingly go toe-to-toe with the Silver Surfer here.

9-Annihilation Conquest Prologue by Gabrielle Dell'Otto
Another cover where Nova isn't the star, but one of the coolest hype pieces ever. Dell'Otto's 80's movie poster approach to sci-fi in this case was a perfect choice as you'd have to be without a soul not to get amped for Annihilation after seeing this. And of course while there are some more recognizable figures surrounding him (and that fantastic ominous Thanos lurking in the background), Nova is front and center, wonderfully conveying his importance.

8-New Warriors #39 by Darick Robertson
A complete change of pace, this cover is just pure fun, and extremely memorable to boot. It certainly left an impression on my 11-year old mind, as I was both in awe of and totally envious of Nova (Namorita was so hot). Robertson always goes the extra two miles in telling a story on his covers, and this is certainly no exception. Gotta love the other characters doing the voyuer thing in the corner boxes (Night Thrasher looks like such a perv) and that great psuedo-CD cover warning label on the top. They just don't make 'em like this anymore.

7-Nova #1 (2007) by Adi Granov
Not necessarily the most dynamic even of Granov's run of covers for my money, but certainly the most iconic, and easily the most memorable. For folks who have just jumped on the Nova bandwagon in the last two years, this is most likely the image they picture when the character is named. Even though he's not really doing anything other than standing there, Nova looks totally badass, extremely slick, and ready to win over a new generation of fans with a look that says he's a rad 21st century hero. For me at the time, the idea that the guy who drew Iron Man was doing Nova covers conveyed to me that Marvel was really taking the character seriously, and that was a great feeling.

6-Nova #25 (1979) by Keith Pollard
If Nova has one quintessential cover pose, it's the "arms outstretched as I blast into space," and I don't think anybody has ever done it better than underrated 70's/80's journeyman Pollar did here. The anatomy is textbook, the shading is powerful, and even the groovy planet-laden background rocks something fierce. Whether it was the Fantastic Four or Vigilante, Pollard knew how to make his characters crackle with energy, and that talent is certainly on display here. Even from the limited exposed facial features, you can see that Nova means business, and the intense motion lines signifying his ascent back it up. "Make way, world--Nova's smashing thru!" is also a tremendous catchphrase.

5-Nova #12 (2008) by Alex Maleev
Alex Maleev's brief stint as Nova cover artist was a total mindblower for me, as I thought he was consistently churning out some of the best stuff of his already uber-impressive career while also showing me a whole new side of Nova I had never imagined after nearly two decades as a fan. This is another great "everything comes together" piece as he links all the elements at his disposal to truly create a total greater than the sum of its parts (or whatever). I love the very un-Nova pose that Nova is in, the fact that his helmet starburst is incorporated into what he's standing on, and Warlock melded into the background. Great creepy unique image.

4-Nova #22 (2009) by Juan Doe
Speaking of unique, there is nothing else in the history of Nova out there like this beauty by my man Juan Doe. Well-versed in the art of the propaganda piece, Doe turned his considerable talents to appropriate use here, as a Nova Corps recruitment ad is a great idea I can't believe it took somebody until 2009 to think of and he's the perfect dude to draw it. It's spot-on what you'd really expect if such a thing existed, from the corny slogan, to the square-jawed and resolute Nova, to the madness going on in the sinfully busy background. I love seeing Doe's crazy style and blend of stark shapes with smooth lines applied to any character, so what a treat it was to see him do Nova here. I'd sign up (maybe)!

3-Annihilation #6 by Gabrielle Dell'Otto
I'd have to think one of the big points Keith Giffen and Andy Schmidt had on their checklist when crafting Annihilation was "Make Nova a total badass," which they did masterfully over the course of the event, but one could also argue Dell'Otto pulls it off here with a single powerful image. First off, the cover conveys pretty convincingly that Nova is beat to shit, as demonstrated by details like the cracked armor, ominous smoke, and swollen expression of exhaustion and yet defiance. Speaking of defiance, holy crap was having him do the "bring it on" gesture with his left hand a simple choice that worked wonders! Clearly this is a guy who just will. not. quit. no matter how badly you beat him down, which is exactly what he needed to be for this great issue.

2-Nova #11 (2008) by Alex Maleev
The last of the three Alex Maleev masterpieces I want to draw attention to, a little gem I like to call "Nova in Repose." With his bright costume and bombastic powers, obviously the temptation with Nova for most artists is to depict him in high speed, balls-to-the-wall action situations, but Maleev decided to go completely in the other direction here, and the result is one of my very favorite renderings ever of the character. Maleev's Rich Rider is simply stunning, as he takes a shiny sci fi character and grounds him in every sense with a style that borders practically on noir. Rich's hair, the muted tones, the sparse background--it all results in a "heavy is the head that wears the crown" (or in this case the helmet) scene that really speaks to you and packs an emotional wallop. I feel like this is one of the most communicative and relatable depictions of Nova ever created.

1-Nova #1 (1976) by John Buscema
"Big" John did it first, and the end of the day I'd argue he still did it best. First and foremost, the man designed Nova's classic original costume, an outfit I honestly believe contends as one of the best super hero looks of all-time, and he created a perfect showcase for it here in its first ever appearance for public consumption. Buscema created the aformentioned vintage Nova pose that Pollard and others would later co-opt here as it allowed him to show off in full the color and coolness of his hero's awesome attire. However, beyond the bold simplicity of Buscema's approac to the main figure, his method of telling Nova's origin story in the background of the cover is a cool trick I think he deserves a lot of credit for; besides drawing your attention to the comic's interior content, that shot of Rich Rider getting blasted with cosmic energy in particular is just a neat, trippy bit. Throw in some appropriately over-the-top hype bursts in copious quantity and you can see that Mr. Buscema got Nova off to a fabulous start.


ArousedMigrant said...

#2 is way better than #1. You're letting nostalgia get the better of you.

Ben Morse said...

Yeah, that was part of it. Another was then I wanted an easy pick for #1 so I kinda always planned to use that cover (though I do still think it rocks). I suck!

hcduvall said...

Hrm, I like the list in general, but I gotta say I almost out and out dislike #2. I like the idea of quiet moment for Nova, but I don't think Maleev is suited to him here. His style works for me when as snapshots of action, or full poses. #2 teeters between the two for me, too arch to be settled, and not dynamic enough to be exciting. The way the fellow does color always flattens out the image.

Pure personal taste though. A fun list.

Anonymous said...

actually John Romita Sr. designed Nova's costume.

Ben Morse said...

Anonymous, you just blew my mind!

JR Sr. is a genius though, so it makes sense.

Thanks for the clarification!

HardtravelingHero said...

You make me want to buy the modern costume Nova Bowen statue again, something I've resisted and forgotten about until now. Damn you! I'm hoping Collectors Kingdom has a sale next week and still has this statue in stock...

I love the cover of 14 so much that I bought a second one, even though I guess it's more a Silver Surfer cover.

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In my opinion the best one is Nova #1 by Adi Granov, by the simple reason it seems more real and strong. Apart the design is more modern and with a better presentation.
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They know how to make covers. there are some cover that they look amazing. Specially the last one.