BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS #1 (1986)
This cover, along with Watchmen #1 (which was released six months later in September of 1986), seemed to denote a sea change in how comics were marketed and sold to the public, and indicated a greater reliance on an older and more sophisticated audience. Now over 15 years old, this cover has been lampooned, parodied, swiped, stolen and reproduced probably more than any other image of the era. It a simple composition, but one with tremendous mood and intrigue. Miller imparts a remarkable amount of information with this minimalist composition, relying on the iconic silhouette of Batman to carry the narrative weight of the cover. Backlit by the coruscating strike of lightning, the figure seems at once leaping out of, and into the light--an apt metaphor for the story within, where a storm breaks over Gotham City as well as in Bruce Wayne's tortured mind. There is something about this cover which seems to indicate a beginning of things: not an easy birth, but a baptism of fire from which no one will return unscathed.