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The Most Controversial Magazine Covers of All Time

Design, Resources, Web Design | Sep 22, 2009

We’ve put together a collection of magazine covers that have stirred up controversy through the years.

These covers can serve as object lessons for what to do and what not to do both with design and editorial.

While some controversial covers have worked and sold more magazines, or won awards for the editors who made the decision to go to press with them, others were embarrassments that the publication had to either apologize for, or fire an editor over.

Here are some of the most controversial magazine covers of all time. Feel free to suggest other covers that you think should be part of this collection.

Time 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.


Time Magazine, April 8, 1966: Is God Dead?

This cover has been called the most controversial of all time. The related article concerned the “death of god movement” that had sprung up in the 1960′s. The cover and article enraged readers.


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.


Esquire, May 1969: The Drowning of Andy Warhol

Another triumph of Esquire’s former visionary Art Director, George Lois, this picture combined two separate shots of a soup can and Warhol. In the first ten years of his employment at Esquire, circulation was boosted from 500,000 to 2 million, a figure for which his covers were partially responsible. This shot references Warhol’s famous “soup can” exhibits that symbolized the American avant-garde art movement.


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.


The New Yorker, March 29, 1976: Steinberg Map of New York

This portrayal of a New Yorker’s idea of what the rest of the United States looks like was drawn by Saul Steinberg. The artist sued Columbia Pictures over their movie poster for “Moscow on the Hudson”, which does seem to be derived from Steinberg’s cover down to the placement of the title. Steinberg won the case.


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.


Vanity Fair, August 1993: K.D. Lang and Cindy Crawford

The cover was meant to be as controversial as the country star’s career. According to the cover story, Lang got more grief from the country music industry over her decision to join PETA than her decision to come out as a lesbian.


Time Magazine, June 27, 1994: OJ Mug Shot Controversy

In 1994, OJ Simpson was accused of murdering his wife, Nicole. In 1995, he was acquitted after a long and highly publicized trial. The photo used on the cover of Time Magazine was manipulated to make OJ look darker in skin tone and more menacing. For comparison, see the Newsweek cover which uses the original shot without any alteration.


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.


Time, April 14 1997: Ellen’s Coming-Out Issue

Time’s cover and exclusive story left no doubt in the minds of all Americans that Ellen was, in fact, gay. Even in 1997, coming out could be perilous for a star’s career. While it may now seem like a mere bump in the road due to Ellen’s stunning success, at the time TV outlets in rural America pulled her show.


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.


Esquire Magazine, December 2000: The Crotch Shot

This shot of Clinton was said to be inspired by the Lincoln Memorial, but was interpreted as an obvious reference to the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Like the Obama couple satire in the New Yorker seen further down, this cover drew fire from both sides of the political fence.


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.


Entertainment Weekly, May 2 2003: Dixie Chicks

The Dixie Chicks set off a firestorm when they criticized then-president George W. Bush for invading Iraq on the grounds that Iraq was manufacturing weapons of mass destruction. The Dixie Chicks used their weapons of mass distraction on this provocative cover.


Seventeen, May 2003: Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Zombie Arm

This horrendously manipulated stock photo of Sarah Michelle Gellar made the mag send an expensive purse by way of apology. Gellar returned the purse since she didn’t wear leather. While the practice of using stock photos for covers is common, flagrant abuse of Photoshop is something that the art department and editor usually catch before print time.


Rolling Stone, January 2006: The Passion of Kanye West

Rolling Stone tipped a thorny hat to Esquire’s portrayal of Ali with this 2006 cover. It isn’t known if the cover was meant to be a joke about the singer’s ego, but most people found it very funny. Religious fans of the magazine didn’t find it as hilarious, and the odd cover story that went with it in which the singer admits to a porn addiction just made the whole thing awkward. The tone of the cover feels current in light of the singer’s recent mike-grabbing moment at the 2009 VMA’s.


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.


Texas Monthly, January 2007: Dick Cheney Cover Issue

Building on the famous 1973 Lampoon cover, Texas Monthly took a jab at the Vice-President’s hunting accident where he shot a colleague in the face. This cover won the 2007 Best Cover Line of the Year Award from the Magazine Publishers of America.


Time, August 29, 2007: Devil Horns on Billy Graham

The blogosphere was rife with rumours about this cover. This was probably not intentional. Time Magazine has claimed that all of its “Devil Horn” covers through the ages are mere coincidences. For a defense of the Time Magazine position, this blog post has a list of Time Magazine covers that have devil horns but no potential hidden meaning. Accident of their masthead design, or subtle editorial statement? You decide…


Golfweek, January 19, 2008: The Noose that Hung an Editor

This cover was born out of the comments of a golf anchorman, Kelly Tlighman, that fellow players should “lynch (Tiger Woods) in a back alley” and the subsequent feature story that was published in that edition of Golfweek. PGA Tour director Tim Finchem had this to say about it: “Clearly, what Kelly said was inappropriate and unfortunate, and she obviously regrets her choice of words, but we consider Golfweek’s imagery of a swinging noose on its cover to be outrageous and irresponsible”. A day after the cover was published, the editor was let go.


People Magazine, March 2008: Brangelina Twins

This cover and photo shoot sacrificed People’s editorial soul for a first shot at the Brangelina twins. Instead of their usual journalistic even-handed approach, they seemingly acquiesced to the couple’s need for nothing but positive coverage in order to get a scoop on the rest of the world with the first baby pictures. While People magazine denied these charges as “categorically false”, the coverage was nevertheless very rosy-cheeked in tone.


Vogue, April 2008: King Kong Cover

This cover of model Gisele Bundchen and sports star Lebron James was considered to be a racist portrayal of “King Kong”. Images that portray black males as threatening “reinforce the criminalization of black men,” said Damion Thomas, assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at University of Maryland. The cover was supposed to showcase two stars with excellent bodies, in keeping with the “Shape” theme of the issue.


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.



Compiled and written exclusively for WDD by Angela West.

Got a controversial magazine cover that rocked your world? Post a link below or send it to us and we’ll add it to this post.



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  • http://www.goofywildcat.com goofydg1

    nice collection.

  • http://www.parenttalktoday.com Kathy Sena at Parent Talk Today

    Wow! This collection brought back memories and introduced me to some great ones that I missed, like the Twin Towers in black on black. Very well-done.

  • http://spotmeon.blogspot.com Gaurav M

    ***** excellent post

  • http://www.twitter.com/paul0v2 Paulo Canabarro

    Awsome job Angela! What a great post, very classic covers.

  • Ari

    nice job here, maybe skewes more to recent mags other than some famous ones. Also Ali was Esquire not RS, but overall nice and good to reminisce over. The Obama Time mag always kills me.

  • http://tr.im/mewC Rahul – Web Guru

    Controversial they have to be… the cover pages shows it all…

  • http://www.twitter.com/ytlilblkboy Dominique

    Great post. The only cover missing is Britney Spears’ classic Rolling Stone cover from 1999.

  • http://bleedingprobe.blogspot.com BP

    It’s amazing they missed the Lebron and Gisele issue. Nobody could miss that

    • http://fark.com Jebuz

      Alrite, if you would like to try this exercise, I’d suggest first, opening your eyes, then RTFA, then STFU. sound good?

  • http://www.aspirecreate.com Jason

    Some great covers. The only one that I thought was bad was the The New Yorker, July 21, 2008: The Obama Couple Satire cover

    • Tom

      You may think it’s bad and it’s turning out to be not far from reality!

  • bmesc

    It’s hard to find a good image online, but the November 1990 cover of Omni Magazine caused quite a stir (2 editors quit) because it incorporated advertising on the cover (what was seen through a die cut hole on the cover was actually part of a Motorola ad on the inside page). Of course, ads on the cover, or part of the cover, are not so controversial now.

    http://usedmagazines.com/cgi-bin/otherjpg.cgi?full/OMNI199011.JPG

  • http://www.designyourway.net/blog Bogdan Sandu

    I have to admit, a great post.

  • http://harmonlegal.net Arizona bankruptcy lawyer

    Great collection, still love the Texas Monthly Cover.

  • http://www.mikestechblog.com Mike

    Interesting collection. Although honestly, some of them I fail to see the controversy. Like for example the Rolling Stone / Kayne West one. I go to church pretty much every Sunday, and yes, I even read my bible several times a week. Yet, to seems ok to me. ( I say that b/c I suppose that would be considered “religious”, but as I read the scriptures, Jesus was not too fond of “religious” people)

    Also, the so called “devil horns” on Billy Graham. I see no issue.

    Even the Dick Cheney, “If you don’t buy this magazine, I’ll shoot you in the face”, I find funny, even though I voted for him. BTW, I think the footnote below this quote is also hilaroous.

    I’m sorry, but people need to lighten up and not get in such a tizzy. I dunno, maybe their underwear just fits too tight.

  • Joe

    With all the nonsense about the horns, doesn’t it look like LeBron has horns?! Take a close look!

    • Me!

      You’re absolutely right! His look more like horns than any of the Time covers!

  • MeMe

    re: #16 Devil Horns on Clinton….Clinton was NOT impeached. Please don’t rewrite history.

    • http://twitter.com/flashydreams Jason

      Actually, Clinton was impeached, but later acquitted. The act of impeachment still occurred, and unfortunately the acquittal does not negate that.

    • http://cloop.wordpress.com Dave

      Clinton WAS impeached.

      “Impeachment is the first of two stages in a specific process for a legislative body to consider whether or not to forcibly remove a government official from office. The impeachment itself brings the charges against the official.

      Impeachment does not necessarily result in removal from office; it is only a legal statement of charges, parallel to an indictment in criminal law.”
      -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impeachment

    • Luce

      Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives on December 19, 1998. He is the second president to have been impeached. Andrew Johnson being the first.

      Impeachment only allows formal charges to be brought against a government official for crimes committed while in office, similar to a grand jury approving charges in a criminal case. At the actual trial, which was conducted by the Senate, Clinton was found not guilty of all charges.

    • Chevy Monster

      I was gonna say that…

    • lark

      wah wah he should have been!

    • Mike
  • http://twitter.com/flashydreams Jason

    Great selection here!

  • http://www.your-health-news.net Health blog

    Wow man that takes me back years ! Beautiful and timeless stuff.

  • http://markdulisse.com mark dulisse

    people, my name is mark dulisse, I am an internet marketing guru by choice and have loads of fans. I can`t help but saying that you have it all wrong. Serious. From a pro point of view I got to say you missed a chance here. Such a petty really. So, I better do something about it. My comment here is already an improvement. So, you should really thank me for this I think in my noble but immaculate brain. Mark is the name. Mark Dulisse. There is only one. So, if you want some advise from a REAL marketer like myself, as I stand shoulder to shoulder with Mike filsaime and so, you just need to pop over and sign up. For a small fee of course. Oh, and, Digg is fake. They have only a few members left. All of the others went to my site.

    • Tom Dulane

      Is this post a joke, or is he?

    • Russ

      A marketing guru?

      LOL what are you marketing? If you were that good you would have pitched that within the first few lines surely…

      Oh wait sorry, breastmilk! Thats what your marketing.

    • incredulous

      No, no, no… this is not Mark Dulisse. This is someone who hates Mark Dulisse with a passion so intense it drives them to repeatedly slander him across the internets by posting incoherent chest-thumping rants on websites selected by having rats drag Sharpie markers across a page of Google results. A similar method is used to select sentence fragments for each post, with edits made by chickens dosed with tequila and dropped on a keyboard.

      I’m convinced that these poultry-wielding revenge-trolls, or a loosely-connected network of copycats, are responsible for 7% of all the posts I’ve ever read.

      But wait, I didn’t get mad, I got even! I invented a device that attaches to your monitor and emits special troll-repellent frequencies! Troll-generated entries magically disappear! Order yours now and get a 50% “beta tester” discount! Eat THAT marketing, stupid fake Mark Dulisse!

      And back on point… LOVED this post, and +1 on the hilarious Ricky Wiliams/Mike Ditka ESPN cover. Those expressions were priceless!

    • http://kaptblasto.newsvine.com Kapt Blasto

      Well, Mark, I tell you what…I am in real need of an Internet marketing guru right now. And I am glad I found you. tell you what, go look over at the article on my site, and go look at the channel comments of Defeat the Debt’s You tube page. And tell me how to answer this question…

      Is it better to solve the problem for others, or, is it better to let others think they are solving the problem by making professional sounding prognosii, secretly screwing up and making it worse…and we just make money off of selling them bandages to stop the bleeding from the self-injury they inflict on themselves and all of us?

  • http://epsos.de Moist Shoes

    The Dog Cover is universally brilliant.

  • Dave2

    MeMe, are you insane? Clinton was impeached in December of 1998 for perjury and obstruction of justice. The trial lasted for more than a month. It was one of the biggest news stories of the last 25 years.

  • FrankleeMiDeer

    @MeMe: Bill Clinton actually WAS impeached by the House on December 19, 1998. He was acquitted in his Senate trial, however.

    Before you accuse others of re-writing history, please make sure you understand it yourself.

    Have a nice day!

  • Rapi

    Really great post.

  • Universe of Akron

    The GQ July 2009 Bruno cover caused quite a stir.

  • Rogueface

    @MeMe
    Clinton WAS, in fact, impeached. Impeachment refers to the process of charging a sitting president with a crime and having them tried at a hearing in front of the Senate. He was not, however, impeached AND convicted.

  • Dianne

    That’s it – I’m unsubscribing. I’m sick of women being commercialized as objects and having that forced in my face on this blog.

    There are plenty of other design blogs out there that don’t stoop to this level.

    • man

      wtf are you yammering about? go to the kitchen and make me a sandwich!!

    • Dougbowski

      Dianne, could you explain you’re comment, I’m confussed. I honestly don’t see that, fair enough if it was a design blog that constantly featured tutorials on creating imagery from scantily clad women I could see your point, however the only covers I could see you having a problem with would be the playboy one, Demi Moore, Dixie Chicks, Cindy and kd Lang and maybe, at a push, the breastfeeding baby.

  • hulahula

    I can’t agree with this list. Why isn’t this on there?
    http://www.about-face.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/early-rolling-stone-cover-photo.jpg

    Britney Spears.

  • RJ

    1. I realize it is a blog but how about a LITTLE research. The Dixie Chicks did NOT “set off a firestorm when they criticized then-president George W. Bush for invading Iraq on the grounds that Iraq was manufacturing weapons of mass destruction.” They were criticized for saying that they were embarrassed that George W. Bush was from Texas while they were holding a concert in London. You are trying to rewrite history to make them look more important than they were. They were criticized for pandering to anti-American sentiments in Europe when no one cared about their political beliefs.

    2. The Ellen “Yep I’m Gay” cover story was no big deal when it came out (pardon the pun). Everyone already pretty much knew she was and there were plenty of gay celebrities already out. As a matter of fact I still remember the letter to the editor of Time that pretty much summed up my opinion, “Yep, I don’t care”

    • Tom

      even worse, they were criticized in Texas for not knowing that dubya isn’t from Texas!

  • lol

    yep, i don’t care about this guys opinions.

  • mjc

    Hitler on Time as Man of the Year 1939

  • DrGordonFreeman

    After that cover shot, you just know that when Gisele is banging that pretty-boy of hers, she’s secretly fantasizing about Lebron taking her, in every way possible!!

  • Charles

    Rogueface, I explain that to people fairly often and no one ever believes me. Welcome to “the club.”

  • TeeK

    Ummm… I think you missed a major one. Hustler magazine with the woman in the meat grinder. I was always under the impression it is the most controversial cover ever.

  • St. Louis Lookin’ Dude
  • http://www.google.com.au/imgres?imgurl=http://farm1.static.flickr.com/31/53650340_b7f365f7f7_o.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.alexstanhope.com/&h=650&w=450&sz=328&tbnid=4jgTshxD0vA-OM:&a Evie

    Haven’t read all the posts here so someone may have already got to it but the one that springs to my mind was the “New Yorkistan” New Yorker cover. I recall reading somewhere at the time of its release (only 3 mths after 9/11) that it marked the first commercial attempt to make some light of the tragic event. I thought it showed good taste, was very funny, and I even bought a shower curtain of the image from the NYer. Sure some saw a cold malicious side to it though.

  • BLG

    I am surprised that the infamous National Enquirer cover with John Lennon’s autopsy photo was not included, along with The Sun’s notorious “GOTCHA!” and “The Truth About the Hillsborough Stadium Disaster” covers.

  • http://ijlalhasnain.com dandy

    MJ RIP.

    great post.

  • Motts

    Get real, I think The Economist ” The Trouble with Mergers” was great and I remember when National Lampoon published the dog picture. Made me buy the magazine. :)
    Peace Love

  • Pat McCrotch

    Clinton wasn’t impeached.

    • Roy

      He most certainly was. He wasn’t removed from office, but he was technically impeached. Many people like you don’t know the difference. Now you do.

    • Paula

      Actually, Clinton WAS impeached. He was not convicted. There’s a difference. Being impeached is like being indicted — sufficient evidence to bring to trial, not necessarily enough to convict.

    • Yvonne

      YEs he was

  • http://rupensharma.blogspot.com Rupen Sharma

    Interesting selection, I liked the Bill Clinton horns bit…I never noticed it.

    Aren’t there any controversial automobile magazine covers?

    Lastly, how about an article on the most controversial print advertisements. For example, Oliviero Toscani’s campaigns usually trigger controversy and sometimes tremendous awe. Here is the link to some his creations for Benetton: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2005-02/25/content_419566.htm.

  • charlie m

    One of my favorites was the Aug 1999 cover of ESPN the Magazine showing New Orleans Saints draft pick Ricky Williams in a wedding dress and Coach Mike Ditka in a tuxedo, denoting how having traded away all their draft picks to select Williams – the fates of the player and the coach were now “joined”.

  • Charlie M

    A favorite of mine that I think fits this category was the Aug 1999 cover of ESPN the Magazine depicting New Orleans Saints draft pick Ricky Williams and Coach Mike Ditka. As the Saints had just traded ALL their draft picks that year in order to select Williams, it was a rather controversial decision. In order to dramatize how their fates were now “joined:, the magazine’s cover showed Ditka in a tuxedo and Williams in a wedding gown.

  • Jean

    I’d add a classic Paris Match cover, a cartoon Mickey Mouse with a single tear rolling down his cheek, and the caption “Walt Disney est mort”

    On the Ellen -”yep- I’m gay” cover- a cute response to what was really no surprise to anyone came from Jay Leno, who showed his audience some concocted magazine covers involving other celebrities confessing their “secrets”- my favourite was “Tiger Woods – Yes, I play golf!”

  • ep

    Lebron has bigger horns on the cover of Vogue than anything shown in Time, and red ones at that, but people get “King Kong” out of it?

    • Dahvintik

      Whoa! You’re right, he’s been made more of a devil than any of the others.

  • http://vijayjoshi.org Vijay

    Awesome. Great collection.

  • http://happenstancemagazine.com Happenstance

    Great collection, very inspiring!

  • http://www.brushthis.com Liora

    Interesting to browse through these. Great post!

  • http://www.freedomstudios.co.za Graham

    Thanks for sharing these.
    You have got to love the contoversial covers and how some people freak out about the trivial ones.

  • http://www.flight2.net/ 机票

    This is just amazing.
    So many great covers.

  • RoaldA

    Nice!

  • Pete Shaw

    Great post.

    I’d say the Chi magazine cover of Lady Diana must be one of the most controversial:

    http://kierenmccarthy.co.uk/pics/diana-chi.jpg
    http://www.matthewhunt.com/blog/2006/07/princess-diana-crash-photograph.html

  • http://reddy2007.blogspot.com hanmi

    very good collection

  • http://www.island-chic.com/ islandchic

    A great compilation! Loved it.

  • http://www.aledesign.it aledesign.it

    Great post…more images are so fantastic for explaine the tragedy or the fact…good!

  • http://www.blackmanvision.com Campbellx

    Great post. :-)

    What a coincidence, I recently blogged about the Vanity Fair cover of kd lang and Cindy Crawford as a great example where a totally queer image was used to sell a straight magazine. The blog was about a talk I gave.
    http://www.blackmanvision.com/butch/gay-icons-event-national-portrait-gallery-stealing-beauty/

  • http://www.stanatwork.com Woody

    MeMe and others:

    Clinton was impeached, but the impeachment wasn’t successful. Impeachment is just investigation into an official’s ability to do their job, it’s not the action of removing them from office.

    Jeez, I’m British and I know the American system better than they do.

    Pedantic note number 2:

    If someone is killed by the noose, then they are hanged, not hung. A coat is hung. A criminal is hanged.

  • carmicheals

    Let us not forget the more subtle, yet still controversial:

    http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,20040920,00.html

  • Ben

    This should probably read “The Most Controversial … to Middle America”. No city dweller, let alone a European, will lose any sleep over any of these covers …

  • http://www.jamieriddell.com Jamie Riddell

    Thank you for putting this list together. Many of these are US covers so I hadn’t seen them before. The New Yorker cover Steinberg Map of New York was copied this year by the Economist – I liked the cover but didn’t know about the New Yorker until now. Thanks.
    http://www.jamieriddell.net/2009/09/how-china-sees-the-world/

  • Bob

    I’d submit to your collection the cover of The Progressive magazine November 1979, where they give away the secret on how to build an H-bomb, what could be more controversial than that. The U.S. government tried to prevent the issue from being published, but lost.
    Here’s a link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._The_Progressive

  • http://www.martiandesign.com David Platt

    National Lampoon had a baby in a blender on the cover of their mag and that ended that magazine. (the catholic church went insane!)

    The Marilyn Monroe Playboy cover was also quite controversial at the time.

  • Justin

    Good list. I just wanted to point out, that 5 years after the “Is God Dead” Cover, this one hit the newstands:
    http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19710621,00.html

  • radu

    great post

    only thing i gotta say is that Lebron has to be menacing. its part of the sport. you have to be intimidating otherwise you will get intimidated. I guarantee if it was a white basketball player they facial and body expressions would have been exactly the same.

  • http://www.screenwm.co.uk jhswm

    US bias here means you’ve missed out on some cracking covers from Private Eye magazine – especially their hugely controversial issue immediately after Princess Di’s death which led to it being banned from major UK retailer’s shelves
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media-private-eye-readers-outflank-diana-threat-1241042.html

  • Michael Curtis

    Really nice collection. The Obama page was really funny! :)

  • The Truth.

    But L.James IS King Kong….a big scary black man that if he couldn’t dunk a basketball would be selling crack. Fact.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/kombizz/sets/ kombizz

    What a great collection.

  • http://www.lalaurette.com.ar/blog Sebastián Lalaurette

    Too bad I can’t see anyone of the covers while using Opera.

    • Dave

      Ad instead of trying another browser so you can actually see the images, you cry about it?

  • Greg

    I would add the Jan Stephenson SPORT Magazine cover from 1977. My mom saw it in my room and immediately disposed of it! http://www.thesportgallery.com/products/covers/1977may.html

  • sittininlab

    You missed the Hustler meat grinder cover.

  • The Shrike

    Why the heck is an “Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology” being quoted on the Lebron James King Kong cover? How does this qualify the person to be quoted? WTF? That’s like having George Stephanopoulos and Martha Stewart do commentary for Formula 1.

  • http://ascolidesigns.com Josh

    Thanks for the great collection! I also agree with post #70…

  • http://www.julesj.nl/blog/ julesj

    What about the Elliot Spitzer cover from New York Mag?
    http://www.foliomag.com/files/images/newyork_spitzer.jpg

  • vsync

    Awesome post! read it all with joy!

  • http://behance.net/clifwith1f Clifwith1f

    Unfortunately placed cover art for “Parents” magazine…
    http://www.panopticist.com/2005/03/coverup_at_parents_magazine.php

    • WILSON47

      if you took the time to read that page you would notice the admission on the bottom that the cover isnt real…

  • Moe

    I don’t know why you chose not to credit Art Spiegelman for the Twin Towers New Yorker cover. It’s famously his illustration. Incidentally, in the same bit, you misspelled Francoise Mouly’s name.

    Another Spiegelman New Yorker cover that I was surprised to not see on this list is his hasidic jew kissing black woman illustration c.1992 or 1993. The publication of that cover drew a huge amount of press and criticism and was “inspired” by the serious race issues in Crown Heights, Brooklyn at the time. I believe Ms. Mouly was cover editor when that one appeared as well.

    Otherwise, some interesting selections.

  • http://www.vagrantradio.com Jason

    And now I know where the line is drawn on design and editorial… *shrug*

  • http://ascii.textfiles.com Jason Scott

    Minor trivia: The dog on the national lampoon cover looked too pathetic when looking straight at the camera, so they tried to get it to look in other directions and nothing worked, until someone came up with pulling the trigger. The dog looked at the source of the sound and that’s how they got the shot.

  • hfkahfjd

    great post!

  • http://www.demsoc.org Anthony Zacharzewski

    Private Eye, a UK satirical magazine, has had a couple of controversial covers.

    From 1971, on the visit of Emperor Hirohito of Japan to the UK: http://www.private-eye.co.uk/covers.php?showme=256

    And on the death of Princess Diana: http://www.private-eye.co.uk/covers.php?showme=932

  • TomC

    How about Csonka and Kiick’s SI cover.

    Note Csonka’s hand:

    http://i.a.cnn.net/si/multimedia/photo_gallery/2005/10/12/gallery.rushingtandems/csonkakiick.jpg

  • AMonami

    The most controversial cover in Mad Magazine’s publication history:

    http://www.coverbrowser.com/image/mad/166-3.jpg

  • http://www.PjDesignsAndConcepts.com Cheap Web Designs

    HAHAHA,

    I really like the collection. Crazy but out of the box. Think like a professional…..

    I got a couple of these on my blog as well.

  • frogstar_robot

    The only one I thought of that I didn’t see was the Mad Magazine cover from April 1974 with the middle finger.

    http://www.collectmad.com/madcoversite/index-quiz_50.html

  • Jack

    I still find the Esquire cover featuring Lt. William Calley (of the My Lai massacre) smiling with a group of vietnamese children to be particularly ghastly:
    http://www.antiqbook.com/boox/readin/12966.shtml

  • SnitchFace

    Francois Mouly didn’t design that New Yorker cover, Art Spiegelman did.

    Just sayin’…

    Interesting stuff, though.

  • Ledasha Jones

    I’d much rather see magazine covers present life as it is than to show a whitewashed, censored, cleaned up version of it. For the media to show a realistic picture of life as it actually is would be very nice.

    Maybe I grew up in a different age, but I don’t find any of the covers above particularly offensive.

  • http://tutsnips.com TutSnips

    I like the Entertainment Weekly, May 2 2003: Dixie Chicks. The girls are sizzling hot! Great share here. Thanks!

  • http://www.bebop-ad.com BebopDesigner

    Wow! What a great post! I remember those covers from the 90′s because they were lying around in the house.

    Thanks for sharing

  • Reden

    Very nice collections…..

  • TG

    This is a really really lame list.
    No one has ever heard of most of these so to call them “controversial” is irreleavent.
    Whover made up this list is really really reaching. Especially all the way back to the ’30s just to try to add something that doesn’t matter anymore.

  • http://www.dzinepress.com Dzinepress

    yes i agree with your post title, there is very much Controversial Magazine Covers…

  • http://livemalluvideos.blogspot.com Mallu Videos

    A real great collaboration of controversial front covers… its interesting !!

  • http://www.bioinfiz.com bs kishore

    another gem of a post……..cheers

  • http://www.smartadmin.in Sathyavrathan PK

    Interesting collections…great to see all of this together…saw one or two before…but this collection is great…!!

  • http://www.cypherbox.net cypherbox

    Nice post. Some are funny and some are cool. =)

  • http://www.crearedesign.co.uk Luci

    Interesting post, thanks for collecting these together. I’m sure there’s a few missed out (Diana’s death led to a few in the UK, I’m fairly sure). Time Magazine’s horns… hmm. Once is a masthead mistake. Twice is unfortunate… any thing more than that and well, somebody needs to check their covers better! Or admit it!

  • Michael

    Maybe it’s because i’m dutch and i’m we are pretty liberal but most of those covers are not controversial at all…

  • http://www.blog.exxcorpio.com Luis Lopez

    I was never seen an article with such retweet numbers or diggs than today. But is true the article is just awesome, excellent recompilation….. as always

  • http://www.w2point.com Web 2.0

    Awesome list… great work, thanks.

  • http://www.jamesmaybe.com/blog/ James Maybe

    Missing the classing Rolling Stone cover of Janet Jackson with hands over her breasts:

    http://static.gigwise.com/gallery/4979252_janet-rolling.jpg

  • http://www.lucasaroundtheworld.com Sarah

    Excellent post, as always!

  • DE

    I don’t know if this generated a lot of controversy, but the “What My Lai?” cover is one of my favorite National Lampoon covers.

    http://www.collectmad.com/collectibles/nlamp.htm

  • http://nullwert.de nullwert

    Great collection, some of these covers I hadn’t known yet – which is probably because they were American magazine issues. That again is exactly my issue with this article: I was hoping for a more international choice given its universal title.

  • Bryan

    JANET JACKSON ON THE COVER OF ROLLING STONE

    JANET JACKSON ON THE COVER OF ROLLING STONE

    the one where the guy is holding her boobies.

    Where the hell is that one?

    JANET JACKSON ON THE COVER OF ROLLING STONE.

  • http://www.redesignblog.wordpress.com Kim Tackett

    Great collection. Thanks for pulling these together. Some powerful stuff. I wish publishers were still this courageous.

  • Beach Sand

    I don’t think you completely understand the meaning of the word “controversial”

  • Mike

    “Jim Morrison – he’s hot, he’s sexy and he’s dead,” Rolling Stone, 1981

  • http://wgavinrobb.com Gavin

    Seconded to Moe, #75

    The twin towers illustration is by Art Spiegelman, and it is also used on the cover of his 2004 book “In the Shadow of No Towers”

  • Giulianna

    I’m not sure where people are getting “devil horns” from. They look more like cat ears to me.

  • http://www.schoenfeldt.com/san-francisco-photographers.html San Francisco Photographers

    There was that recent Miley Cyrus photo by Leibovitz on the cover of Vanity Fair. I thought the only big deal was that it made Miss Cyrus look ugly, but It did cause a stir.

  • arturo

    nice ideas innovation at last… but if i love magazines its more easy for me to fly with you dont you think?

  • http://huahaha.com john

    nice

  • Kokolada

    Where is Miley Cyrus on the cover of Vanity Fair?

  • http://www.absoluteweddings.com Wedding Planner Dubai

    Just Great. Never seen such a interesting collection before.

  • Dave

    Hi. This is a decent start, but “of all time” should include covers from, well, the entire time magazines have been printed, and should also include magazines from outside the USA. This list is very limited in its scope.

  • Auca

    This bs should be renamed to
    the-most-controversial-AMERICAN-magazine-covers-of-all-time

    • http://ivapelcova.com/ Ivy

      Truth!

  • ruby

    nice job. i was expecting to see the vanity fair/miley cyrus cover though.

  • http://www.wordpool.org words

    my favorite is the one with the dixies :)
    May 2 2003: Dixie Chicks

  • http://pricelesswriters.com Yona

    GREAT Covers! I never even noticed the Lebron devil horns…but someone earlier said that the Janet Jackson “boob” cover was missing and I agree – that was a shocker.

  • Van – Bloomington

    Without reading all the other comments what about Mad Magazine’s one word (more or less) cover, “SEX” in the early 18960′s?

    • Van – Bloomington

      Make that the 1960′s, of course.

  • http://Www.radardan.com Radardan

    A much more relevant Ellen cover was the Entertainment Weekly one quoting her,”Yep, I’m too gay. ”
    http://www.radardan.com/Personal.html

    But maybe it’s because I was told so often that I suffer the same affliction.

  • http://www.neeshu.com nanu from india i loved your post it is awesome

    amazing post you made there pal it must have taken a lot of time and effort

  • http://rchelicopterswarehouse.com/ RC Helicopter

    The Sarah zombie-arm is so ridiculous, how did they not catch that?

  • http://www.csswithcolour.com Liv

    As you take a look at them you might found that the most effective – that stands out – magazine covers are the ones very simple (in generally, magazine’s title, picture plus headline).

    A post about the most well designed magazine covers and not controversial? Overall, some interesting covers.

  • http://www.strongaccounts.com wow accounts

    Never seen such a interesting collection before

  • pau no cu dos troxas

    Grande bosta esta porra de post!!!

  • http://ivapelcova.com/ Ivy

    I don’t understand, why people think the BabyTalk cover is any controversial or obscene?!
    Seems like some Americans are pretty strange :/
    Is breastfeeding anyhow shocking in USA?

  • diana

    thanks!! Very cool post!

  • http://www.netvibes.com/pharmacy-store Online Pharmacy Store

    they are great especially with lennon

  • http://www.chotrul.com/ Mark Carter

    Extraordinary collection .. most of which I’d never seen. The New Yorker 9/11 cover really hit the mark.

    As others have noted, hard to see how some of the covers could have caused the slightest of stirs … how things change!

  • http://modelnvs.tumblr.com/ Nvs

    I love Magazine covers and some of these are very interesting…good post…

  • http://mediaserbia.blogspot.com/ Media Mix

    For me, Time magazine’s cover: Person of the Year for 2006 – ‘You’ (http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,20061225,00.html) is one of the very best. And most important

  • http://www.moinid.com Most Interesting Ideas

    Nice collection

  • http://www.1274745858.com John Smith

    Very nice post. I would add, if nobody has already mentioned it, New York Magazine’s Eliot Spitzer “Brain” cover: http://diegograglia.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/new-yorkbcover.jpg

    And this other New Yorker Obama cover was pretty sweet:

    http://www.bagnewsnotes.com/2008/11/the-new-yorkers-44-cover-obamas-election-to-higher-office.html

  • Me!

    What was wrong with Sarah Michelle Gellar?

    And what’s with the Time horns thing? Horns don’t go in a mohawk row down the middle of the head, like in these pics. LeBron is the one who seems to have a horn reference.

    And why was the noose editor fired? That’s absurd. What happened to the racist idiot who made the comment on which the cover was based? Oh, wait, there she is on post # 65.

  • http://www.bendesign.eu Bendesign

    Great Covers. very inspiring. i like that time cover. thank you for sharing…

  • http://www.rajputbrotherhood.com Rajput

    What I can say is it’s just an amazing collection of the most controversial marketing strategies. Hope in future you come up with the most controversial movie list …

  • jcm

    if you think the king kong/beast intepretation of the lebron-gisele cover is a stretch, consider this:

    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:%27Destroy_this_mad_brute%27_WWI_propaganda_poster_(US_version).jpg

  • http://www.rumneyexclusive.com canvas art

    Cool post, love it!

  • http://www.clippingimages.com clippingimages

    WoW :) Awesome collection of best cover pages. Great post. Love to add with my bookmark . Thanks for sharing this fabulous post.

  • no-one

    Ummm…. Clinton was never impeached. Just so as you know.

  • ceeski

    I don’t understand what was so controversial about the Sarah Michelle Geller one?

  • photography industry news
  • Kate Warren

    Too bad the WHOLE county didn’t see Obama cover sooner. A picture really is worth a thousand words!!! The only thing missing is the mistress Oprah! Remember free speech before you start blasting back. What’s good for one administration is good for the others! Ha Ha Ha

  • http://savasplace.com Sava

    The one with the 2 camels is absolutely fabulous :)

  • http://www.dp-agentur.de dp

    great selection and sometimes a kind of shocking… ;)

  • http://azizuanaziz.blogspot.com Azizuan Aziz

    freakin’ awesome!

  • http://imokon.com Imokon

    I don’t get the part where you say “These covers can serve as object lessons for what to do and what not to do both with design and editorial”.

    From a marketing perspective I wouldn’t doubt the M devil horns in Times wasn’t intentional, on any occasion, likewise the arrows on Ali, as a matter of fact Esquire pulled that again with Stephen Colbert on White Male Oppression (http://www.esquire.com/features/stephen-colbert-0808).

    Bad photoshopping skills aside (which wasn’t the main point of this article), all the racial, sexist, gruesome, prejudice, “bizarre” acts of human nature are all relative. Unlike designing a website for a broad audience for example, these magazines have a niche and thrive on controversy.

    Shock Factor is now called Transparency, but it all boils down to no censorship = deep opinions = more sales by devoted following/piqued interests.

    How could you miss that?

  • http://imokon.com Imokon

    I meant to say “was intentional”.

  • http://www.dueysdrawings.com/ Realistic Pencil Drawings

    LOL, the Dick Cheney one is priceless :)

  • http://greatdiane.daportfolio.com Diana

    wow, great collection, I think you need to add the Kurt Cobain dead http://s11.bdbphotos.com/images/orig/e/i/eizdh8srwbjyiedb.jpg

    Cheers :)

  • http://www.yahoo.com shell deh bling

    lolly hello guys nice collection :]

  • http://www.conceptopixel.com Luis Lopez Garay

    Those magazines are awesome, I didnt know that a magazine would begin a massive fan made “If you dont [action] we will kill [an object or animal]”

    The cover of obama and the covers of rolling stone are very mindblowing.

  • http://www.baolimotuo.cn 暴力摩托下载

    Shock Factor is now called Transparency, but it all boils down to no censorship = deep opinions = more sales by devoted following/piqued interests.

  • http://www.natsky.com.au Natsky

    Nothing like a bit of controversy to get people thinking, but maybe we all need to lighten up and embrace our differences. Take a dose of tolerance and get over it.

  • http://desaindigital.com jeprie

    great collections

  • http://www.mushroomdigital.co.uk website designers

    Loving the 2 camels, haha

  • http://www.atozsolution.com website design New York City

    Amazing collection…really superb….good work

  • http://www.paralante.net Paralante

    A picture really worth a thousand words! The only thing missing was mistress Oprah! First, note that free calls back to start spraying. What’s good for others, good for a management.
    Excuse me my english is bad… :)

  • anup

    very nice, i had never seen before this type work ! and crazy to see your next! please intimate me!

  • George W. Bush

    Nice collection of mag covers but correction: Bill Clinton was not impeached

    Your write-up:

    ” 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. ”

    Comment:
    Had Clinton been given a harem and two more terms in office we would not be wasting time in Iraq and the U.S. would be remembered for creating the catalyst for the current global financial crisis (GFC).

  • http://www.tomslatin.com/ Thomas

    I don’t find any of these offensive. Am I desensitized?

  • http://www.toddminerlaw.com/about/ Orlando personal injury lawyer

    Pretty crazy covers. Normal covers don’t make history.

  • http://siddatwork.com Sidd

    Great post !

  • Anaysha

    This post is excellent! The Bradgelina Twins are so cute!!!

  • http://www.clippingpathcenter.com/ Al Kamal Md. Razib

    Nice ! Thanks.

  • kapinjal

    amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1wow!

  • http://jwcousins.com jwc

    There’s some incredible design there alright, nice work.

  • Ms J

    So, did anyone notice the “devil horns” over LeBron James’s head? Vogue magazine, like Time, may claim this to be a coincidence, but anyone who does a little research on “Illuminati” will clearly see that this was deliberate.

  • http://www.oxidizzy.com Oxidizzy

    Great collection !!

  • http://mercadder.com mercadder

    Great compilation! Where did you get all the pictures?

  • http://www.apiestudio.co.cc web design

    interesting and nice anthology.