I was pricing through a long box of older comics the other day, and I came across the cover for Flash #206. It’s a Neal Adams cover, featuring a woman plummeting face first into the ground from a plane while the Flash looks on in horror. This kind of over the top and ridiculous cover was super common during the silver and bronze-age of comics to try and get people to pick them off the rack. You can find covers like this from any age of comic if you look hard enough, but this era of comics is the sweet spot. I like to call these covers the “original click-bait”, because what happens on the cover almost never happens in the book. If it does happen, it only happens for a brief moment or out of context. So I decided to pick out some of my favorite, most ridiculous, most click-baity covers I could find, for your viewing pleasure.
One of the biggest, if not the most egregious, culprits of comic book click-bait, was Superman. It didn’t matter what book it was, Superman, Superboy, Action Comics, Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, or Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane, so many of these covers are just so ridiculous. The Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen titles were particularly bad (good?). Just look at the cover by Curt Swan for Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #98. It has Jimmy marrying a gorilla with Superman officiating (as a local witch doctor no less). I didn’t have this issue to look at myself, but this does in fact happen in the actual book to at least some degree (I looked it up).
Here’s another Curt Swan cover, this time on Superman #125, with Superman’s NEW power! To shoot rainbows from his hands? Nope! What actually happens in the story is that Superman gets exposed to “alien radiation” and loses his powers, but gains the ability to make a mini version of himself. Again, a cover designed for you to pick it up, but the story inside is equally ridiculous (even though it doesn’t 100% line up with the cover). Reeling you in with the promise of rainbow-shooting-Superman only for it to give you miniature-duplicating-Superman instead. 100% click-bait.
DC weren’t the only ones that used click-bait covers to sell their books off the stands. Archie comics have some very famous covers like this one. Most covers have outdated lingo or unintentional innuendo that make modern collectors giggle, but this one is clearly intentional and aimed at the audience of the time. Archie #48 (with a cover by Bob Montana) that has nothing to do with the interior. You could argue that the cover is a standalone story by itself, but I still call it click-bait.
I could go on all day listing cover after cover, but I guess I’ll end it with this Sheldon Moldoff and Ira Schnapp cover for Detective Comics #241, featuring the dark knight sporting some not so dark attire. But why, WHY MUST BATMAN WEAR A DIFFERENT COLOR COSTUME EACH NIGHT!?! Again, a cover designed to get you to pick up the book, only to realize that it’s because of a flimsy b-plot. Long story short, Robin hurts his arm as Dick Grayson, so logically, Batman wears a different color costume each night to draw attention from Robin so people don’t realize he has a hurt arm and figure out Robin is Dick Grayson. The cover makes this seem like the single most important thing in the story, which is why I think these covers are all click-bait. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I love these silly covers! Creators had to get creative (and sometimes over the top) to sell their books. This still happens today, though to a considerably lesser degree. But, they just don’t make cheesy comic covers like they used to. So go forth and search for yourself, to try and find the most click-baity comic covers you can!