ime Magazine, January 2, 1939: Hitler as Man of the Year
This cover featured an elaborate illustration of Hitler playing “his hymn of hate in a desecrated cathedral while victims dangle on a St. Catherine’s wheel while the Nazi hierarchy looks on.” Baron Rudolph Charles von Ripper was a Catholic that fled Hitler’s Germany, and the artist of this disturbing piece. By 1938, Hitler had firmly seized power in Germany, taken over Austria and Czechoslovakia, and had been given a free hand in Eastern Europe by the English prime minister of the time, Neville Chamberlain. Time has had to defend this choice throughout history, and at the time defended it by stating that the “Man of the Year” was a title bestowed on the person who had most influenced events of the previous year.
Life, November 26, 1965: War In Vietnam
Paul Schutzers captured this arresting image of a VietCong prisoner being taken prisoner by American forces during the Vietnam War. Photography and news coverage like this helped to turn the American public against the Vietnam war. While Schutzers was one of LIFE’s best photographers, he was killed on assignment during the Six-Day War of 1967 between Israel and its neighbouring states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.
Esquire, April 1968: The Passion of Ali
This smart rendition of Muhammad Ali was created to illustrate his martyrdom to his cause after he refused to join the US military due to his religious beliefs and was subsequently stripped of his heavyweight boxing title. The piece was done after the same manner as “The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian”, a popular theme through medieval art but most recognizable in the painting by Andrea Mantegna.
Playboy, October 1971: First Playboy African-American Woman
This cover was the first Playboy cover to feature an African-American woman. The model is Darine Stern and the photographer was Richard Fegley.
National Lampoon, January 1973: If You Don’t Buy This Magazine…
While this cover didn’t do much more than make people laugh when it came out despite its violent overtones, Ronald G. Harris’ famous cover shot definitely raised a few eyebrows in pre-Photoshop days
Rolling Stone, January 22, 1981: John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Annie Leibovitz took this shot just hours before John Lennon was shot outside of his apartment building, the Dakota, in New York City on December 8, 1980. Leibovitz originally wanted to take the shot of Lennon alone but he insisted that his wife be in the pictures. This cover was named the most popular magazine cover of the past 40 years by the American Society of Magazine Publishers.
Vanity Fair, August 1991: Demi Moore, Pregnant and Nude
This cover was shot by celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz and was decried as shameful and disgusting when it was released. Some stores sent back the issue, or only sold it with a brown paper covering the “offensive” image. It has spawned countless celebrity nude pregnancy shots done in the same fashion, and helped to launch Demi Moore’s career into the stratosphere.
The Economist, September 10, 1994: The Camel-Humping Issue
Obvious Black Eyed Peas references aside, this cover drew some fire for the UK-based magazine. The cover was printed for the North American market only.
Wired, June 1997: 101 Ways to Save Apple
When this magazine went to press, Steve Jobs had just rejoined Apple through Apple’s acquisition of his NeXT Software Inc. While the cover was a bit more pessimistic than the story it was meant to illustrate, it remains one of the top magazine covers of all time. We don’t think anyone would try to give Jobs advice today, but back then Mac fans would have done anything they could to help the ailing corporation.
Time, Dec 21, 1998: Devil Horns on Clinton
This was one of several magazine covers that featured Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. In 1995, Lewinsky was an intern at the White House during Clinton’s presidency, and they had an intimate affair. The scandal broke when Lewinsky confided in a colleague in January of 1998. The scandal eventually resulted in Clinton’s impeachment. The top of the letter “M” in the Time masthead appear to be resting on the top of Clinton’s head as horns. The devil horns were written off by Time as an accident of masthead placement rather than a deliberate act.
The New Yorker, Sept. 24, 2001: Twin Towers in Silhouette
This cover was a graphical as well as an editorial success. The magazine succeeded in creating a fitting and classic memorial to the victims of the tragedy and the buildings themselves in true upscale New Yorker fashion. Covers editor Franoise Mouly created a testament to the Twin Towers that drew on the inspiration of Ad Reinhardt’s black-on-black paintings.
Baby Talk, August 2006
While this image seems benign to most people who have been involved with a baby in one fashion or another, the cover was decried as obscene. Even though moms made up the target demographic, a survey of 4000 of them turned up the fact that 25% had a negative response. One mother actually shredded the magazine so that her 13-year old son couldn’t see it. Not that he likely noticed; he was probably on the computer downloading porn watching tips from Kanye.
The New Yorker, July 21, 2008: The Obama Couple Satire
This cover by famous New Yorker cartoonist Barry Blitt was heavily criticized by both the McCain and Obama camps during the 2008 US election. While the piece was meant to be a satire of allegations lobbed at the couple by their detractors, its inopportune appearance during a campaign didn’t have Obama’s supporters laughing as hard as the magazine intended.
OK Magazine, June 2009: Michael Jackson Death Photo
Fans were upset over the magazine’s decision to publish this photo. Sarah Ivens, editorial director, said that the cover decision was made since they wanted to stand out from all of the tribute covers that were dominating the stands that week. Jackson died on June 25, 2009 after being given a cocktail of drugs by his physician.