the chromium age: guardians of the galaxy #39 (marvel comics)

I started collecting comic books in the early 1990’s, a boom period for the industry. Comic companies were selling millions of comics to eager readers and were orchestrating bigger and bolder marketing resources to these sales. Multi-part crossovers between comics made massive financial demands on readers’ attentions. Superstar creators were given free reign. Perhaps most interestingly, the use of “gimmick” covers to goose comic sales became the norm.

Gimmick covers were a huge part of my initial time collecting comic books. It’s a trick the book publishing industry often employs to get casual book browsers interested in a cover. I particularly remember how every V.C. Andrews’ book seemed to have some kind of die-cut design, begging to be picked up off the shelves and investigated.

In 1992, I was eleven years old and easily impressed… but even so, my interest in these goofy variants did not last long.

I’m going to take a couple of days out of my thrift store finding to look at these gimmicks. Why were they employed? Did they have anything to do with the story? Do they stand the test of time? To be clear, I won’t be going too in-depth with the actual content of these books. By and large, I’m simply going to be judging these books by their covers. As an English teacher, I’m somewhat loathe to do that… but c’mon. These comics are BEGGING to be prejudged!

Today we’ll be looking at Guardians of the Galaxy #39, written by Michael Gallagher with art from Kevin West.

The comic details and alternative future for the Marvel Universe and often played on elements from the Modern Marvel U for dramatic purposes.

Gimmick: The cover is foil embossed; a section of the cover is raised up and given a shiny, metallic quality. In this particular instance, the part of the comic embossed is the skeletal remains of popular Marvel Comics’ character Wolverine.

In the future, his adamantium skeleton has been reanimated by Doctor Doom and is Doom’s primary weapon in a battle with one of Wolverine’s ancestors, Rancor.

Mark up: An issue of Guardians of the Galaxy would set you back $1.25 back in 1993. This issue went for $2.95, more than double the price of a standard issue!

Does the cover have anything to do with the story? Surprisingly yes. It captures the issue-long fight relatively well. Even small details from the story are present on the cover, like how Wolverine/Doom’s middle right-hand claw is broken.

Was the cover cool? YES. In 1993, this was an AWESOME gimmick cover. First of all… it was based around Wolverine, then the hottest character in the Marvel Comics’ stable. Secondly… the reanimated skeleton of Wolverine looks a LOT like The Terminator. T2: Judgement Day was still very much present in the minds of teenagers everywhere and I would be VERY surprised to hear it if the look of this cover wasn’t influenced by the popularity of that flick. The art from Kevin West and inker Steve Montano is pretty standard mid 1990’s stuff but the hyper-detailing works and I could see something like this flying off the shelves in ’93.

Is it still cool? Yeah, the gimmick has held up well on my copy of the book. It looks good.

Did the gimmick make the comic worth it? It might have been, I suppose. I’m sure Marvel made a bagful of cash off this comic… and Guardians of the Galaxy was hardly an upper-tier seller for the company. I’ll also point out that this issue effectively ends a story and begins a new one; this would have been a great way to get some of the kids who sampled the book for the gimmick cover one month to come back and try the comic the month after the gimmick…

Final judgement: …unfortunately, the comic itself is kind of a mess outside of the title bout. It seems to consist of about 70 hastily-designed characters fighting each other at another location. I couldn’t follow it at all. I do think the cover is solidly constructed enough to hook in teenagers, but I’m not sure they would have liked what they found between the pages.

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