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How Marvel’s Stan Lee tribute is transforming its covers

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A few are genuinely poignant

Immortal Hulk #11, Marvel Comics (2018). Alex Ross/Marvel Comics

To honor the passing of Stan Lee, Marvel Comics has dropped its usual title graphics for three weeks — moving the title and issue number to some minimalistic text at the bottom of the cover in favor of adorning the top with a somber black bar reading “Stan Lee — 1922-2018.”

And even though comic book covers have a history of being pretty weird, the vast majority of the tribute covers look pretty normal. Putting a simple, heartfelt acknowledgement of Lee’s death on top of superhero antics has not cheapened or warped that message.

But there are some amusing outliers, and we thought you might like to see them.

For example, Alexander Lozano’s cover for Tony Stark, Iron Man #7 — which features a naked Tony wrapped in a tentacular mass of cables that extend from the inside of a giant Iron Man mask — already raised some amused eyebrows when it was solicited months ago. A Stan Lee tribute bar (hat tip to io9’s Charles Pulliam) only heightens the dissonance of the image.

“Tony Stark, Iron Man” #7, Marvel Comics (2018). Alexander Lozano/Marvel Comics

Alex Ross has been crafting some amazing covers for Al Ewing’s The Immortal Hulk, in which Bruce Banner finds that he cannot be killed and instead merely rises as the Hulk at sunset, and this month’s is no different. The Stan Lee tribute bar can give it an alternate interpretation, however.

The same sort of perspective shift is also at work in Greg Smallwood’s cover of Punisher #5, which now seems to imply that the Punisher murdered Stan Lee in his conquest of Hydra.

Punisher #5, Marvel Comics (2018). Greg Smallwood/Marvel Comics

But to be fair, these three covers are outliers. For the most part, Marvel’s Stan Lee tribute covers look pretty standard. A typical superhero image, a nice tribute note.

Champions #1, Marvel Comics (2018). Marvel Comics
Amazing Spider-Man #12, Marvel Comics (2018). Marvel Comics

For some, the black bar just makes its theme more poignant. Here, it seems like the five young X-Men, co-created by Lee, aren’t just saying good bye to a fallen teammate, but to Lee himself.

And the tribute also graces Esad Ribic’s cover of Fantastic Four #5, in which Lee’s co-creation Ben Grimm finally marries his long-time flame — also co-created by Lee — Alicia Masters.

Fantastic Four #5, Marvel Comics (2018). Esad Ribic/Marvel Comics

While it’s certainly a little harder to immediately suss out what comic you’re looking at with a big splashy title graphic on the cover, there’s one other nice thing that Marvel’s Stan Lee covers tribute is doing. It clears the way for the work of Marvel’s cover artists to shine through all the brighter.