The Art of the Cover:

Paolo Rivera’s Daredevil Covers

The covers to most comics are a mixed bag. There are some that look so atrocious they would make Warren Ellis puke up his Red Bulls and shepherd’s pies. The cover, after all, is just the teaser. It always has been. After all, don’t you want to know why Cable is blowing some dude’s arm off, or why Daredevil is swinging over a line up of automatic rifles?

Of course we do. It is sensational. But, it seems rare when someone like Paolo Rivera comes along and blows the competition out of the water.

While this is an incomplete version of the cover for Daredevil #2, it beautifully portrays what is at stake in the issue while hinting at events. This is not revolutionary, but it doesn’t need to be. It is a beautiful work of art in its own right. The simple fact is that Rivera put some genuine thought and effort into this cover. There was something more he was trying to unravel about this story through his art. This is not just cool guns and flips. This is Rivera doing something he does better than most: creating an atmosphere.

The action itself is not what draws the viewer in, it is a simply flip that Rivera does between Daredevil and Captain America. Each hero is wielding the others weapon in pretty unique ways. Daredevil is obviously trying to protect himself while Captain America is clearly on the attach. It is such a subtle turn, but enough to make anyone wonder what is happening behind this gorgeous cover.

But there is more to Rivera’s covers than just: look, ain’t it neat! Of course it is pretty, but there is something more happening in his cover art than is seen at first glance.

You may not notice it at first, but Daredevil is smiling right there. This is one of the reasons the cover to Daredevil #7 stands out as the most fun of the covers. Not just based on Daredevil’s look of joy, but the overall spirit of the cover that comes through. Once again, an atmosphere is being created that really conveys the themes and overall spirit of that issue. I know this may sound like child’s play, but take a look through the covers to comics right now.

The snowy day obviously isolates Daredevil, but this is the type of isolation that means something good and fun and not angst and violence.  Rivera in just one cover is giving shades of depth to the character. It is true that this is a risky move on Rivera and Marvel’s part, but these covers go a long way in telling us Marvel still has some room to be rather artful with their covers.

The cover to Daredevil #10 alone could, and should be, reprinted and framed on walls.

The Mole Man is hardly a nefarious or frightening villain. He is a hybrid of human and mole and that just sounds all kinds of hokey. But, one look at the cover for Daredevil #10 and you can tell this can’t be true.  While not physically imposing, it is obvious by this cover the Mole Man might have been underestimated. In fact, for maybe the first time, an artist is taking the Mole Man seriously.

But, this is not why one would stare at the cover.  It is the detail and aesthetic to the cover that is a slight throw back to the Renaissance paintings most have seen in school. There is an extreme level of detail in this cover that most cannot touch.  Everything about the cover is there to draw your eye to the Red costume of Daredevil and his dilemma.  As a whole all seems to be drawing not just the reader, but the cover itself, into the sinking hole that Daredevil is caught in. There is a danger here. A beautiful, intricate danger.

Rivera’s profile is far lower than his talent should grant him. After all, check out his variant cover of X-Men #7. This is not just throwing things on a page pell-mell. This is the design work of a master.

So, while it is true that covers are a work of advertisement, this is not a death sentence. This is simply the role they have played throughout most of comics history. What we can learn from an artist like Rivera is that design and aesthetics can go together to create some of the most beautiful, haunting covers around.

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Kevin Thurman is a writer based in Chicago. He blogs about comics, life, and music at

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Also by Kevin Thurman:

Warren Ellis: The Captured Ghosts Interviews


Voyage in Noise: Warren Ellis and the Demise of Western Civilization


Shot in the Face: A Savage Journey to the Heart of Transmetropolitan


The Devil is in the Details: Examining Matt Murdock and Daredevil


a feature-length documentary film on celebrated comics writer Warren Ellis

creative consultant

Keeping the World Strange: A Planetary Guide


1 Comment

  1. Miguel Rosa says:

    The cover for Daredevil #10 brings to mind the engravings of Albrecht Dürer or Gustave Doré. I love it when comicbook artists emulate classic styles; it shows they’re not just looking backwards but at the whole world of art around them.

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