1991’s X-Men #1 remains one of the best-selling comic book issues of all time, thanks in large part to Jim Lee’s now-iconic cover art. It spreads over four interlocking covers to show the entire, expansive X-Men team of the era, facing off with their arch-enemy Magneto in an updated version of Jack Kirby’s original 1963 X-Men #1 cover.
In case you need a reminder, here it is:
And that cover remains an unmistakable and beloved part of comic book culture, to the point that it has become one of the most referenced, most influential covers of all time, with publishers paying homage to it with their own recreations to this day. Case in point, artist Dan Mora’s four interlocking covers for DCeased: War of the Dead Gods #1, which copies the layout of Jim Lee’s X-Men #1 cover to show the Justice League and the zombified characters of the world of DCeased.
At the same time, DC is the second publisher to get in on the trend in recent memory, with Image Comics publishing a similar X-Men #1 variant cover homage for Todd McFarlane’s Spawn-centric title Scorched #3 through #6, showing a variety of Hellspawn subbed in for the characters of the X-Men. But the homage cover trend doesn’t stop there. DC also recently paid homage to McFarlane himself, evoking McFarlane’s Spider-Man #1 cover (another all-time best-seller) for a recent Batman variant.
Here’s a look at McFarlane’s take on his old Image buddy’s image:
The trend of comic artists paying homage to the work of other creators is nothing new in the industry. And as we pointed out, even Jim Lee’s X-Men #1 cover itself is a reference in its own way to the original X-Men #1 from way back in 1963. Though Lee’s cover itself doesn’t fully copy the pose of the original, as many of the homages to his cover do, it conceptually copies the idea of the X-Men team launching into battle against Magneto as he shields himself with his powers.
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Why does Jim Lee’s cover remain so stuck in the consciousness of the comic book community? The answer to that is as subjective as artistic taste in general, but the cover’s kinetic layout and focus on featuring the entire roster of characters make the concept perfect for showing off a superhero team. Plus, the cover sold an estimated 8,186,500 copies, which means that it has been living in the minds of literally millions of fans for decades.
So who wore it better, Spawn or the Justice League? And what’s your personal favorite homage to Jim Lee’s X-Men #1 cover? Sound off on Facebook (opens in new tab) and Twitter (opens in new tab) with your picks.
Check out the best X-Men stories of all time.