Our editor-in-chief reaches a personal milestone with issue 233 and celebrates by choosing his favourite SFX covers
The latest edition of SFX (opens in new tab) , on sale now with Doctor Who and Iron Man 3 on the front, is issue 233. In itself not a milestone, but since I took over as editor on issue 133 it marks a personal achievement.
100 issues is the longest I've worked on any one publication in my career - and who could blame me for sticking around, with sci-fi being so much fun? In that time we've grown, expanded, launched this website, branched out into live events and digital magazines and more besides.
It's common to become reflective on big occasions like this and so I've taken the opportunity to look back on the last eight years of SFX and choose my top ten favourite covers. And below you'll discover some insight into how these 10 covers came about and why I feel such an attachment to them. No doubt you'll have your own favourite SFX covers so let me know in the comments.
SFX issue 133 (2005)(opens in new tab)
Although I love the way The Thing punches the bottom of the SFX logo away, the Fantastic Four movie isn't anyone's top superhero movie and few readers probably remember this cover. The reason it's on my list of favourites is simply because it was my first as a member of the SFX team. My words were on the intro page for the first time and there's a snazzy picture inside of previous editor Dave Golder (now the online editor) morphing into me.
SFX issue 144 (2006)(opens in new tab)
Superman Returns ! The reason I love this cover is because it represents one of those rare occasions when a plan comes together perfectly. I literally drew on the back of an envelope in a hotel bar what I wanted for our Brandon Routh cover - the new Supes holding up our logo as if it were a metal building sign, him standing in the famous car-lifting pose. I never expected it would come off. Thankfully the publicity crew at Warner Bros understood it, loved it, and arranged it. SFX 's own art editor Jon Coates put the finishing touches together, as always.
SFX issue 157 (2007)(opens in new tab)
Remember when Heroes was the biggest phenomenon on TV? SFX was at the heart of it. This cover is confident, sexy and - wow - busy as hell. There's about 100 words on this, from quite worthy book references to classic Knight Rider . The third Spider-Man film somehow gets three hits, one at the top, one at the bottom and a mention on the right. Yet miraculously it all holds together, thanks to the focal point of Hayden Panettiere at the height of her fame and confidence. This cover even won an award.
SFX issue 171 (2008)(opens in new tab)
In contrast to the Heroes cover, this one is simplicity itself with the only hit of any size going to the upcoming second X-Files movie (at that point we had no reason to think it might be terrible). What you can't see here is the massive hidden X that's on the front in a fine varnish, so that it glints when the light catches it. The lead feature was also a rare one written by me - a fan of The X-Files TV show from the beginning - following a personal visit to the movie set in Vancouver so I have particular fondness for this one.
SFX issue 172 (2008)(opens in new tab)
What you can't see from this image on your screen are the textures on this cover celebrating The Dark Knight . Our intention was to create the cover that the Joker would have made if he'd been editor, cutting out pictures of Batman with scissors, adding a background with sticky tape, using ransom-notice lettering and scrawling his own coverlines across the finished composition. Our art editor Jon completely embraced it: the cover is actually a scan taken from a real cardboard-backed collage he made with craft materials (the SFX logo is cut from a previous edition). As a finishing touch, the letters were glossed with varnish so that the cover feels like it has a range of sensations to the touch. And can you spot the bloody fingerprints in the corners? If you have a copy of this, dig it out and run your hands over them...
SFX issue 187 (2009)(opens in new tab)
There's a simple reason why I love this cover - the line "Lock up your gerbils!" Suggested by Nick Setchfield during one of our cover sessions, it's irreverent and funny and a great in-joke for people who knew the original V . I've got a soft spot for the Tom Baker pun "Scarf ace!" on the lower left, too. This was definitely a period in the mag's history when we were having a bit of fun with the rhetoric on the cover.
SFX issue 194 (2010)(opens in new tab)
Steven Moffat takes over Doctor Who and we celebrate with our first ever 3D lenticular cover. Remember this one? Those are exclusive photos we took with the cast - a veritable coup, but only stage one. The different elements are on different layers and the 3D movement required the use of lenses built by an external company. It took months to arrange and cost a fortune. The result has gone done in SFX history and still looks impressive today. If you don't have one of these, I'm afraid eBay will have to be your friend.
SFX Issue 200 (2010)(opens in new tab)
Over 200 pages of SFX y goodness this month to celebrate the magazine's bicentenary. A far-too-early cover for Star Trek 2 holds centre stage (that Starfleet symbol is actually a cut out shape, with Spock peeping through from the page beneath) but the meat of this milestone mag is the "200 secrets" feature which took Nick Setchfield a whole year to compile. Avengers ? Buffy ? Stan Lee? Joss Whedon? Every name on this simple, white cover is a treat.
SFX issue 221 (2012)(opens in new tab)
As I've said before in the pages of the magazine, Spider-Man remains my favourite superhero, and I'm a big advocate for Marc Webb's recent reboot. This striking picture of ol' Webhead is given an extra lift by the blue foil on which it was printed. You can't really appreciate it on a web page but this whole thing glints like sapphire-tinted metal. The picture itself was also an exclusive gift from Sony at the time; it subsequently ended up on one of the main theatrical posters. We're all proud of this cover - just don't mention the fact we appear to have interviewed Rihanna and Tony Blackburn inside (see the list of the names on the bottom left).
SFX issue 233 (2013)(opens in new tab)
My final choice is this month 's cover. It's a little bit of a cop out to have it in this list, but it acknowledges a simple truth: a team's favourite cover is usually the last one it worked on. We worked flat out all last month to deliver a fresh look at Doctor Who as its new series approaches. These pictures are exclusives (if you get your subs copy a day or two later than you expect it's because we had to work to a BBC embargo) and it's held together by interviews with producer Caro Skinner and the intriguing newcomer Jenna-Louise Coleman who talks about the movies that will influence her character's relationship with the Doctor, amongst other things. And, of course, it's my 100th issue - it features a picture of me carrying a stack of 100 magazines (no easy feat) and if you get the digital edition for iPad or Kindle Fire you'll find an exclusive video inside starring me and the two previous SFX editors Matt Bielby and Dave Golder talking about how the sci-fi market has evolved over the years. Enjoy!
So there you go, 10 striking covers from the 100 I've worked on. It's tough to choose the favourites from among one's children and if you asked me a different day no doubt the list would change. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. In the meantime, why not check out my guest blog over on publisher Gollancz's website all about how the SF market has changed during my time at the helm? And here's a piece about the Ed Zone photos which appear in the magazine too.
Thanks for sticking with us and for continuing to support the magazine. See you next month! Dave B