Ed Hannigan: Covered
Ed Hannigan was a name and talent I knew as a kid of 12 or 13 reading Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man. His covers for the Cloak & Dagger/Silvermane issues were distinctive and eye-popping in the way he tilted perspective and used the logo as an element in the story being told on the cover, rather than just an overlay that all too often took away from the art.
Still, I didn’t think about him much, because in those years I was naturally more interested in the creators hitting their stride inside the books, like Frank Miller and John Byrne, to a lesser extent John Romita, Jr., Bob Layton, Paul Smith, Walt Simonson. I knew Hannigan was a great cover artist, because I would look closely at good covers and often see his name, but once his name disappeared from Marvel’s covers I didn’t really notice the absence. There’s always some hot young this or that. I imagine he was probably forced out around the time the materials on the cover mattered more than the design, stuff like foil and acetate, and maybe it was a side effect of that direct market boom time that Marvel didn’t need his level of invention as they were printing money with every polybagged #1 issue. I don’t know, I just know that in the past 20, 30 years, if you asked me who Ed Hannigan was, I would have said he was one of Marvel’s better cover artists, ranking with Jack Kirby, Gil Kane and John Byrne.
It goes without saying that it’s unfortunate it took Hannigan’s M.S. to bring about this tribute book, and of course, to paraphrase The Hero Initiative who cosponsored the tribute, there are many other creators “who game [me] my dreams” who remain unheralded. That said, I’m still glad to be able to read this, to learn some more about a talented team player and perfectionist, to see many of the original sketches to so many of those covers I enjoyed, and to see in the tributes from his fellow artists the esteem with which they hold him as an artist and friend.
It so happens that I remember quite clearly the first time I read an issue of Byrne’s Fantastic Four. It was #244, and I was in Dominick’s, the grocery store near my house, and from a good 15, 20 feet away that cover jumped out at me with this huge hand framing this lithe, silvery woman, suffusing her with power. Like all great covers, I had to know what was going on inside, and so I sat down and started reading. I think I also discovered Miller’s Daredevil that day, with an equally powerful cover of DD pointing a gun at the reader, so a good day for me. Those were comics I had to look at, and then buy. I was fairly amazed to discover here that Hannigan designed the FF one, and others in Byrne’s run, as I thought Byrne almost always did his own covers. He brought a lot to the final version, of course, but the potency of the idea was right there in Hannigan’s sketch.
I can’t say the cover of Ed Hannigan: Covered has quite that impact; it’s a little busy and dark with all the covers swirling around the shadowy desk, and yet, it did finally call out to me from the bottom of an end cap at my local comics shop. I understand this came out a while ago, so I’m only sorry I didn’t see and discuss it sooner, but better late than never. And we’re actually just in time for a charity auction of some of Hannigan’s artwork, so check that out if you’re interested, and there’s more information about The Hero Initiative at that link as well.