Issue #7: Isn’t that a little Derivative?

My 2 Cents on Unsung Non-Key / Non-Variant Covers


Greetings again from Music City, fellow CBSI’ers!!! Yep, derivative of Deadpool 2 (don’t worry, NO SPOILERS, here). Sorry DC fans, you kind of get the shaft this week.

The next time your camp releases a film worth discussing, I’ll gladly tackle that one, too. You may not admit it, but you’re gonna’ go see Deadpool 2, too.

You just might not tell your Marvel friends that you enjoyed the hell out of it.

This was a very busy past weekend for me as I attended Motor City Comic Con (more on that in my ConRecon article, forthcoming, this week) and witnessed all that is Deadpool 2.

Inasmuch, as I began to choose the covers for this week, I quickly realized that the first three were Deadpool-related and I just kept going with that theme. It must have been a Freudian thing. Thus, this week’s issue is all at least loosely to do with Deadpool-2-ish covers.

Additionally, while at Motor City Comic Con, I was able to have a nice long conversation with Jae Lee and an even LONGER one with Brian Stelfreeze. Both gentlemen were extremely cordial and generous with their time.

Jae Lee sketched me an awesome Wolverine head sketch commission and Brian Stelfreeze and I chatted about art, technique, funny stories about Bill Sienkiewicz and too many other topics to recall.

As such, I feature both of these guys in this week’s issue, below (because they both deserve it), but I will also talk further about those experiences in my ConRecon article coming up, soon. So, stay tuned for that.


It’s interesting; we comic book lovers can all consider ourselves bonafide art critics. Congratulations. However, what pleases the eye of one critic may not please that of another.

A vast cacophony of visual stimuli make up our own pleasing visual aesthetic. This includes color, clarity, realism (or lack of), line, layout, subject matter, perspective and innumerable other variables.

I feel very lucky to have this wonderful community with which to discuss the merits and demerits of covers and stories, artists and authors, values and spec, and shops and cons.

Lively and constructive discussion is healthy and I hope you will take a sec to sound off in the comment sections of my articles as well as others on this site. I look forward to chatting with you as I’m sure many of you will have something to say about at least one of this week’s selections.

Let’s get to the covers, shall we? This week, because I couldn’t stop myself from going down the proverbial rabbit hole, you get a couple of bonus covers!  


1. Domino #1 (2003 Series)
PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – June, 2003
ARTIST: Brian Stelfreeze


As I mentioned in my intro, Brian Stelfreeze was an extreme pleasure to talk with at Motor City Comic Con. He devoted at least a half hour to chatting with me about a variety of topics. However, the best part of it all was that which pertained to style, technique and media.

Brian uses acrylic and in a very specific way which I won’t spoil here. I was able to watch him at work with both pen & ink on a Punisher commission as well as with paint on a Wonder Woman piece.

Both were outstanding pieces, but the Wonder Woman, which I understandably thought was completed, really struck me. When I told him as much, he said, “Oh, that’s nothing. Don’t say that yet. Wait until I’m done.”  

I wish I could have seen the finished piece, but that’s beside the point. It got us talking about his being a perfectionist; that every stroke is deliberate and one could plainly witness that as they saw him work. I had always admired his work, before, but now, I had a brand new appreciation for it as I saw it in action.

With that said, Brian’s earlier work feels very much like a victim of the times. Those covers feel very 90’s. Back then, it worked. Many of them wouldn’t, now. These days, however, Stelfreeze has taken his work to new places and has very much made it modern.

This can be acutely seen in his recent Black Panther covers, the first of which already feels like a classic to me.  What I specifically love about this Domino cover is that is bridges both worlds of Stelfreeze’s style. The right-hand side is very much his former, while the left is very much his latter.

Both mesh together beautifully in this cover. There is still the slightly angular nature of the earlier work, but there are also the soft hues and fluidity of his modern stuff. It almost functions as an artist’s retrospective in-and-of itself and it can clearly be seen that every stroke is, in fact, deliberate.

There is a fair amount going on at once, here, but somehow, it really doesn’t feel cluttered. It feels clean and effective. I particularly love how the figural leg of Domino on the right creates the jawline of the facial Domino on the left. The integration is subtle, but genius.

This one can be easily found for a buck or two and with so few great domino covers out there, this one shines even brighter. (Of course, do note my love affair with Land’s covers for both Domino #1 and #2 from the current 2018 series).


2. Wolverine #1 (2010 Series)
PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – November, 2010




3. *** BONUS ***
Deadpool Pulp #3 (2010 Series)
PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – January, 2011


Okay, so I rarely do this, but you are seeing correctly. I am featuring two covers from the same artist. Not because I couldn’t choose, but because I just didn’t want to or feel the need to. They both deserve spotlight.

Much like Stelfreeze, Jae Lee is the product of two timeframes and his work demonstrates that. His early work was very much a product of his environment in the 90’s and doesn’t really stand out as his own.

There is never anything bad about it, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t punch me in the gut. HOWEVER… In the early 2000’s, Lee finds something in the soul and becomes a Juggernaut. His style is discernibly his and it is breathtaking.

There begins to be an aggression in the work as if he’s pumping his fist in the air at a rock anthem. It just screams, “LOOK AT ME!!!” Some of his characters have a fragile look to them and are less multidimensional (often when depicting women… see his Wonder Woman or his Harley Quinn) while others have a strength and depth to them (often when depicting men… see the two covers, above).  

When I met Lee, this past weekend, I didn’t really get a chance to discuss style with him, but I did commission a Wolverine head sketch from him. I am very picky about which artists I commission because it can get expensive quite quickly, but Lee was a no-brainer.

Very few artists make long-standing, well-established characters their own, but Lee is one of the few; especially with Wolverine and Deadpool. I’d know his versions anywhere. The lighting and layout on these two covers is exquisite and the sense of foreboding is massive in both.

Both characters are ready to rage and I can feel that tension through the use of depth, color, light and perspective. To me, Lee is one of the greats working today. These two covers are superb representations of that fact.

I slightly prefer the Wolverine over the Deadpool Pulp and that’s because it feels like a classic high ratio variant. To be sure, the Wolverine is on many people’s radar, yet for some reason, one can still snag one for pocket change. It could be because it has been reused on a couple of other covers.

Either way, it is masterful work. The Deadpool, by the same token, is really cheap and one of the most uniquely rendered covers I have seen for the character. It simply crushes, too.


4. Cable and Deadpool #41 (2004 Series)
PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – August, 2007
ARTIST: Scottie Young


Remember when Scottie Young wasn’t drawing baby pictures? Me either. This little run of Cable and Deadpool covers is really masterful and I hope Young is planning on going back to this Sienkiewicz-ish style, soon.

Perhaps in his upcoming Deadpool series he will do much more of this style (we shall see on June 6th). I am an unabashed nose-turner-upper on the baby variant thing. Frankly, I just don’t get it. However, those covers definitely have their legion of fans. This abstract style, though, from Young is mind-blowing.

The good news is that I want so much more of it. The bad news is that there isn’t very much of it. Luckily, it’s here on Cable and Deadpool. It is a loose and powerful style and coveys pure emotion.

Honestly, I didn’t remember he had this in him and am pleasantly reminded. There is a frantic nature to this whole run of covers which really works well for the title characters. It’s certainly weird and cool and cerebral and one could see how, when Young cleaned up his work, it became what it is today.

That doesn’t make me a fan of his current work, but it’s at least an explanation.  The fact that this story arc is called “Fractured” is very fitting as that is precisely how I would describe Young’s style, here. This is a little hard to find since it toward the tail end of the series, but it’s certainly not expensive.

It should only set you back cover. Check out the other books in this Young run from #37-#50. The #38 and the #50 will set you back as they are minor keys, though, so beware of that.


5. X-Force #17 (2008 Series)
PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – September, 2009
ARTIST: Mike Choi


Why, oh why is this cover not worth anything?!?! One of my favorite covers of all time. Granted, I am a sucker for all things X-23, but this one is bang on! White background equals zero clutter; just room for the tough-yet-sexy menacing violence of Laura Kinney to pop.

The layout is perfect. The perspective is perfect. The expression is perfect. The cover is just perfect. This cover sums up the X-Force version of X-23 to perfection.

It is reminiscent of the Vampire variant of X-23 #2, but this one costs less than a twentieth of that one. I threw this one in because it’s X-Force even though X-23 has nothing to do with the Deadpool movie.

I just love the cover and the character. Sue me. If this had been an incentive variant, it would be worth a ton. Luckily, for the budget conscious out there, it can be had for cover price or less.  

It is usually missing from runs, though, as X-23 fans love this cover and buy it up pretty quickly. I can’t say enough about this one as I think Choi crushed it. I think it is a masterful cover and I’ll just shut up and let it do the talking for itself.


NOTE FOR VARIANT HUNTERS: There is a “bloody variant” for this one which is incredible, too. Super-fierce. It won’t run you much, either. $20, tops. Again, though, it is a tough one to find since it is so good and since there are so many X-23 collectors hunting for it.  


6. New Mutants #12 [Second Coming] (2009 Series)
PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – June, 2010
ARTIST: Adi Granov

Colossus seems to be the red-headed step child of X-Men when it comes to covers. I’m not certain why that is, but there just are not very many good ones.

Even in the Cockrum/Byrne days, there were only a handful and they all pale in comparison to other covers in those classic runs (although I do like X-Men #116).

I like-but-don’t-love the covers in the Colossus: Bloodlines mini-series and I almost chose one of those, but they just didn’t measure up to this one.

Here, Granov is at it again with his underrated and superbly clean painting style. There is a fabulous palette going on here and a real sense of plot without clutter.

Piotr just shines on this one (wink, wink). The pose is menacing and strong and just exquisitely done.

The background does not take away from pushing Colossus into the foreground and the washed quality of the secondary characters creates a blended-in feel that also does not distract from the subject matter.

The perspective created by the figure in the lower left gives an amazing depth to the cover and the tones of the backdrop give it an old film feel.

The whole cover looks like a stereoscopic photo (a Victorian version of the View-Master). Bravo, (as usual) Adi.   

Let’s create more Colossus covers, dear artists (covers that have him being bad-@$$ rather than him getting married). He’s earned them. Until then, this one should satiate your appetite.


And… … … …

Drumroll … … … … (clumsily drops sticks) … … …


7. *** BONUS #2 ***
Wolverine #155 (1988 Series)
PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – October, 2000
ARTIST: Rob Liefeld


Yeah, that’s right, he’s on here. He has to be. I couldn’t very well do a Deadpool-themed issue and NOT include Liefeld, could I? (Some of you are saying, “I really wish you would have, Mike”).

Liefeld has become the brunt of humor for 90’s comic art and, go ahead, make all the feet jokes you can about him. He deserves it. Albeit, the joke is old and to be frank, this dude CAN actually draw stuff.

He may not be your favorite and you may not really love any of his work, but he helped to define an era and I’ll bet all of you owned (or currently own) at least a book with one of his covers on it.

Love or hate him, he did create some of the most renowned modern-age characters, ever. Ya gotta’ at least give’ him that. Is he my favorite artist?

Nope, of course not, but he’s kind of like Brittany Spears to me. I’d never admit to it, but I sing her songs from time to time. Liefeld is the same way. I just can’t help but feel a warm nostalgia when I see his work.

It reminds me of taking my bike to the comic shop with a pocket full of change. Or maybe, he’s like 1980’s Voltron; you remember it being amazing when you were a kid, but then you re-watch it ten years later and realize it’s not exactly what you remembered it being.

BUT THEN, you re-re-watch it twenty years later and can all of a sudden see the things you liked about it when you were 8-years-old.  I think it has become taboo to like anything Liefeld because it’s not a “cool” thing to do.

Well, you all know by now that I could care less what the cool thing is. Let’s face it, we’re all going to make similar jokes about J. Scott Campbell in 20 years (or maybe we already do).

Thus, I will keep this one short and sweet for fear of getting a war started, but I have to be honest when I say that I think this Wolverine cover freakin’ rocks. I actually do.

It is mean and visceral and grizzly and downright well laid out. It’s homage-ish to Hulk #340 and I probably chose this one because there’s no feet or pouches or elongated bodies which are further bonuses (Well, actually, I rather like pouches.

Where else can one keep their tape, bags and boards, poster rolls and gemini mailers at cons?). … But I digress.

The line work, here, is actually pretty amazing, the emotion palpable and the layout superb. Again, this feels very much like the plethora of Liefeld Variants that have hit the market, as of late.

Many of those go for some pretty decent money, so he definitely has his fans out there (C’mon, speak up for your boy, will ya?). Luckily, though, it’s a regular “A” cover and won’t cost you what those variants do.

This one will set you back a bit more than cover, but it’s easily attainable for a ten dollar bill. It is a bit tougher to find, though, since Deadpool is on the cover.    

… (picks drumsticks back up, sheepishly) … … …

Well, that’s certainly enough out of me for this week, dear CBSI Family. I hope you enjoyed this one and that you enjoy Deadpool 2 as much as I did.

Until next time, look out for those hidden gems, thanks for reading and, as always, may the dollar bins hold your retirement and happy hunting.

Mike Morello


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