Some folks have noticed the narrow focus of this list of the 50 Best Comic Book Covers of 2009. It doesn’t really bother me, since the awkwardness lies entirely in the list’s name. Throw “Super-heroes” in there, and it’s good to go. And it did get me thinking about the best manga covers of the last year, which turned out to be trickier than I’d expected.

Off the top of my head, I came up with two that struck me as really extraordinary:

But I tossed the question out on Twitter and got a gratifying number of responses. Most intriguing to me was Read About ComicsGreg McElhatton’s suggestion that “most manga in [North America is more suited to great cover design… rather than great cover art,” going on to note that he’d “certainly never say a single [volume] of Pluto had an outstanding cover, but the whole set looks great together, face-out or spine.”

That strikes me as very true. When designing covers for series, it does seem best to design a scheme that’s flexible, identifiable for the individual title, and still attractive, which is a complex task, and a lot of publishers do it well. So while individual installments may not be breathtaking, the cumulative effect of the series in sequence can be tremendous.

Here are some other favorites from the Twitterati:

3 Responses to Coverage

  1. Jay says:

    The difference is largely a result of editorial philosophy, I think. American comic covers are always focused on an action scene or a visual gag, leaving little room for distracting design.

    Tankōbon and manga mag covers rarely (if ever) feature action and instead focus exclusively on character, even for battle manga, and rarely even bother with backgrounds to keep that focus. This allows a lot more room for creative graphic design and typography because you don’t have to worry about making sure the action or gag “reads” or about covering anything up.

  2. lys says:

    Ooh, interesting topic! As far as design, I was also impressed with Viz’s editions of Otomen (Kimi ni Todoke is sweet and simple, and I’m glad Viz broke away from its traditional Shojo Beat template for the spine). I think Tokyopop’s designers did a lovely job with Maid Sama! and VB Rose (the gold foil on early volumes of VBR was especially nice), and I generally like how they design their covers to reflect a bit of each particular series’ personality.

    For the actual cover artwork, I really love what Taeko Watanabe does with Kaze Hikaru, illustrating one of the four seasons for each cover, although my favourite series of seasons, with the distant landscape views, came out mostly in 2008. But I’m always excited to see how she’ll depict the next season with every new book! Kaoru Mori’s cover illustrations for Emma are always a treat to look at, too. They’re consistent in style and format, but still fresh and lovely for each new volume.

  3. […] at the world of manga in digital formats at Manga Xanadu. David Welsh compiles recommendations for the best manga covers of the year at Precocious Curmudgeon. Two global manga make it onto Dave Ferraro’s list of the three […]

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