Marvel Comics has published tens of thousands of issues since it was founded as Timely Comics in 1939. Some of those comics feature iconic cover art, while others’ covers were forgettable. Then there are the covers people remember but for the wrong reasons. With art dating back to the 1930s, it’s no surprise that some covers have aged poorly. More surprising is how many covers from recent decades have joined their regrettable ranks.
Throughout its history, Marvel has tried to be progressive. The company made headlines with its decisions to address issues like alcoholism and domestic violence well before comics regularly dealt with topical issues. Marvel’s titles also feature characters with different genders, ethnicities, and abilities, including some of comics’ first LGBTQ+ heroes. Despite its track record, however, Marvel hasn’t always gotten it right.
10 Captain America Comics #13 (1941) Presents Wartime Propaganda
Captain America appeared with a bang in 1939 when his first Simon & Kirby cover featured Cap punching Hitler in the face. The cover was very on-message for the character, given his role as the pinnacle of American patriotism. Interestingly, Cap was a premature anti-Fascist, entering WW2 months before his country did.
After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1942, it’s no surprise that Cap turned his attention to America’s newest foe in Captain America Comics #13. Unfortunately, Al Avison, who drew the cover for this issue, treated the Japanese people on this cover very differently than the Germans, relying on racial caricatures and giving them inhuman features like long fangs in an effort to dehumanize America’s opponents in the war.
9 She-Hulk Didn’t Want To Be Nude In She-Hulk #40
She-Hulk is arguably one of Earth’s strongest characters in Marvel Comics. That strength is nowhere to be seen, however, in her portrayal on the cover for Sensational She-Hulk #40 drawn by the series’ writer-artist, John Byrne.
Here, She-Hulk cowers and tries to stretch out her title’s Comics Code Authority’s seal of approval to cover her naked body. She is clearly uncomfortable with her nudity, and the caption “Because You Demanded It” further implies a lack of consent on her part. Byrne’s hand coming in from offstage, handing her props and telling her to stop stalling only makes this cover that much creepier.
8 Alf #48 (1991) Assaults A Marine Mammal
Most Marvel fans have probably forgotten that the company once published a comic series based on the 1980s TV show ALF. Marvel might be hoping fans’ collective amnesia will remain intact if this cover is any indication of its content.
The cover for ALF #48, drawn by Dave Manak and Michael Gallagher, makes a play on words involving the “safety seal” on new products by showing ALF holding a seal (the animal). The seal is in obvious distress, and it’s easy to wonder if something unsavory is happening here.
7 Patsy Walker #105 (1963) Loves Fur
It was a different era when “Her First Fur Coat” could be the premise for an entire comic book issue, as it was in Patsy Walker #105. Patsy’s affection for animal-based outerwear has not aged well over time, as attitudes towards fur have changed drastically over the years.
Although artist Al Hartley had no way to know that fur would fall out of fashion, his condescending attitude towards teenage girls has arguably aged even worse than fur, proclaiming that “the most exciting day in the life of any teen-ager” is the day they get their first fur. Patsy herself says she’d rather die than remove her new coat.
6 Heroes For Hire #13 (2006) Goes Hentai
Heroes in a state of peril are common on the covers of comic books. This cover for Heroes for Hire #13, however, takes that concept to a new level. Elektra, The Black Cat, and Colleen Wing are bound on this cover, barely covered by their costumes, while glistening, dripping tentacles hover near their chests.
The cover, created by artist Sana Takeda of Monster fame, was published in 2006. Its overt sexualization and reference to hentai comics, however, have caused it to age poorly in a relatively short amount of time.
5 Invincible Iron Man #1 Variant (2016) Made Its Child Heroine Embarrassingly Adult
Variant covers have allowed many artists to contribute their visions of characters to a broad audience. However, some are more successful than others. When Marvel published a variant cover for Invincible Iron Man #1 featuring Riri Williams, drawn by J. Scott Campbell, it provoked an immediate backlash.
The cover portrayed the 15-year-old Ironheart as an inappropriately sexualized adult in a seductive pose. In response, Marvel pulled the issue from shelves, and Campbell drew a new, more age-appropriate rendition of the hero for the following issue.
4 Marville #6 (2003) Substitutes Pin-ups for Heroes
Marvel was widely panned by critics as being one of the worst comic book series of all time. The juvenile series was launched as a satire of superhero books during a Marvel marketing promotion and involved a convoluted plot concerning time travel. The series also employed incredibly sexualized images of women on many of its covers.
The cover of Marvel #6, created by Greg Horn, portrayed an almost-naked Mary Jane Watson swinging on a rope made from Spider-Man’s webbing, looking uncharacteristically vacant. On the bright side, the sexually charged images failed to draw in readers, and the series was canceled after only 7 issues.
3 Fantastic Four #375 (1993) Is ’90s Comics In A Nutshell
Many comic book covers age poorly due to changing social values. Some, however, simply reflect an aesthetic that has fallen out of favor. This cover for Fantastic Four #375, drawn by Paul Ryan, reflects (literally!) a lot of comic book trends in the early ’90s.
For a time during the ’90s, comic shop shelves were filled with covers using foil or holograms to make them look valuable and collectible. This issue adds enormous shoulder pads, random military jackets, and absurdly large guns that were also the style of the time. The result is an incredibly dated relic of its era.
2 Amazing Spider-Man #601 (2009) Sexualized Mary Jane’s Sadness
Mary Jane Watson has a tough role to play as Peter Parker’s loving partner. Readers can certainly empathize with the concern she feels when Spider-Man heads out to fight crime.
The cover for Amazing Spider-Man #601 by J. Scott Campbell reflects MJ’s concern but many people took issue with the sexualized depiction of the anxious woman. Mary Jane’s position on the sofa is contorted and unnatural, presumably to emphasize the curve of her hip and breasts, which are being pushed forward by her arms.
1 Young Allies #8 (1943) Features All The Stereotypes
The Young Allies comics from the 1940s followed the adventures of some of Marvel’s sidekicks, including Bucky Barnes and the Human Torch’s pal Toro. The young protagonists often faced dangerous situations, and Young Allies #8 is no exception. However, the number of elements from the cover that aged incredibly badly since its publication is exceptional.
The cover artwork, drawn by Alex Schomburg features offensive stereotypes of Japanese people common in propaganda at the time. This cover takes it a step further, though, by portraying a Black hero in an incredibly offensive style as well. Both renditions dehumanized the people they depicted in ways that are fortunately no longer welcome.
NEXT: 10 Comic Book Covers That Are Nothing Like The Actual Story