Standard Deviations vol. 11:
Marvel’s Avengers “Art Appreciation” variants

Posted by under *like, Comics |

This installment of Standard Deviations takes a look at April 2012’s set of Avengers “Art Appreciation” variants. Released in anticipation of the of the premiere of Marvel Studios’ shared universe film epic The Avengers on May 4th, these images specifically feature characters that are among the film’s cast as opposed to drawing on the huge number that can be counted among their ranks on the printed page. These covers take a note from 2009’s Wolverine Art Appreciation variants in paying homage to a host of classic artists and styles, and it’s nice to see the theme revisited. With that in mind, this post is part of a Standard Deviations double feature today as we look at both entries in Marvel’s Art Appreciation collection.

In the midst of all the varied media hype surrounding The Avengers, this set of variants was a nice inclusion as it celebrates the source material for the movie. Seeing a well defined set of Avengers appearing together on these covers certainly increased my anticipation, but I may have liked them more if they simply focused on the characters that have had their own feature films, namely Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, and Hulk (and I could have been satisfied with only the “big three” as the Hulk isn’t normally an Avenger). Considering the cast of the big screen Avengers wasn’t reflected in Marvel’s ongoing titles until recently, it was even nicer to see Brian Bendis and Mark Bagley’s new Avengers Assemble series bring these characters together in continuity. I haven’t read the book yet, but it’s clearly a direct effort to bring the Marvel Universe on paper more in line with what people see in theaters. In the current Marvel Universe, it shouldn’t be too outrageous to bring this group together with the possible exception of the Hulk (he’s always the exception). A new title with a recognizable line up by top name creators is just one of the approaches Marvel is pursuing to capitalize on the popularity of the movies as they also introduced a new “Nick Fury” and Agent Coulson to the Marvel Universe proper earlier this week.

As with the set of Art Appreciation covers that coincided with the May 2009 release of Wolverine: Origins, these Avengers inspired images take the approach of paying homage to a classical art style or a particular classical artist’s style. In general, I find these covers are more successful than the Wolverine set since the title character of the books they’re found on also appear in the cover art in many cases. I find it far more appealing to see a Hulk logo next to an image of the Hulk, or Captain America front and center on the cover of Captain America, than seeing Hercules’ name next to an image of Wolverine, no matter great the image is. Unfortunately many of the results this time around are homages that are less readily identifiable to my eyes, and if any of our readers have a take on what some of these images are channeling I’d love to include it here.

Hands down my favorite of the Avengers group is Gerald Parel’s Jackson Pollock-inspired cover to The Mighty Thor #13. I don’t think Iron Man is in there, but I’m going to pretend that he is and I can find him. From a creative standpoint, it’s amazing. I’m also appreciating Greg Horn’s play on using sculptors as inspiration more and more in “Michelangelo’s” Thor, “Rodin’s” Captain America in Thought, and “Brâncuși’s” modern art Iron Man: Bird in Space that grace his cover to Uncanny X-Men #11. Some of these images are truly inspired while others just don’t much for me. Regardless, they certainly push the boundaries of conventional comic book cover art.

The books featuring these covers shipped primarily as 1:25 variants with prices in the $10-15 range. If the Wolverine set is any indicator, some will hold that value and most will decline over time. This is a set that I really enjoy, but so far I’ve passed on all of them as a collector. It’s an instance where Marvel’s renumbering gimmick has helped make my decision in one case. The previous volume of Uncanny X-Men is the heart and soul of my collection and if any of these variants were published as part of that run I would have felt compelled to track them down. As the variant in this set is part of Uncanny X-Men “volume 2,” I’m not feeling as much need to have one. Of course my opinion on whether to seek this book out could change should Marvel employ the typical stunt of returning to the original numbering and folding these issues into the total… I should probably start making some phone calls.

Avengers Art Appreciation variants released in April 2012:

  • Age of Apocalypse #2 by Christian Nauck in the style of Egyptian hieroglyphs
  • Amazing Spider-Man #683 by Mike Del Mundo in the style of Saul Bass
  • Avengers #25 by Gabriele Dell’Otto in the style of Emanuel Luetze
  • Avengers Assemble #3 by Stephanie Hans in the style of Claude Monet
  • Captain America #10 by Richard Isanove in the style of Rembrandt
  • Daredevil #11 by Steffi Shütze in the style of Al Hirschfeld
  • Fantastic Four #605 by Michael Kaluta in the style of Winsor McCay
  • FF #17 by Gerald Parel in the style of Sandro Botticelli
  • Incredible Hulk #7 by Charles Paul Wilson III in the style of E.H. Shepard
  • Invincible Iron Man #515 by Greg Horn in the style of the moai of Easter Island
  • The Mighty Thor #13 by Gerald Parel in the style of Jackson Pollock
  • New Avengers #24 by Mike Del Mundo in the style of stained glass
  • Scarlet Spider #4 by Mike Del Mundo in the style of Milton Avery
  • Secret Avengers #26 by Joe Quinones in the style of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
  • Uncanny X-Force #24 by Julian Totino in the style of Georges Seurat
  • Uncanny X-Men #11 by Greg Horn in the styles of Michelangelo, Rodin and Brâncuși
  • Winter Soldier #4 by John Tyler Christopher in the style of Erté
  • Wolverine and the X-Men #9 by Alex Maleev in the style of Egon Schiele
  • Wolverine #304 by Gurihiru (Naoko Kawano)
  • X-Men #27 by Khoi Pham

Be sure to check out an analogous set of “Wolverine Art Appreciation” variants published throughout April 2009 to coincide with the premiere of Fox’s Wolverine: Origins. I can promise you the variant set was more satisfying than the movie.

UPDATE April 30th, 2012: Identifying the inspiration for some of these variants has proven to be a challenge. I’m certainly not an art historian, and Andrew Wheeler’s Comics Alliance article on April 2012’s best covers was a help with some of them. We’ve also had success reaching out to the artists directly, as well as with our source at the Guggenheim. Expect more updates soon.

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Read more entries from the Standard Deviations series on MyLatestDistraction, and be sure to check out the rest of our Avengers themed installments:

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