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"So we get Captain America, Superman and Batman all fighting Hitler at various points, even if only on the covers."

  • Variant covers are often rife with this, as they usually have even less of an obligation to actually reflect what's going on in the books.
    • As mentioned below, Marvel and DC have gotten into the habit releasing variant covers for their comics to promote their films. For example, around the time of the movie, many comics started getting variant covers with The Mighty Thor or his supporting cast doing something completely unrelated to the issue. Made funnier (and more obvious) with any covers involving Loki, since he was about 10-13 years old physically (it's Depending on the Artist) during the time the initial movies were coming out. You saw a grown-up Tom Hiddleston Loki on the cover? It had nothing to do with the story.
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    • Marvel and DC often do themed variant months now, which usually encompass a large number of their titles. Sometimes that means having a popular character like Deadpool or Harley Quinn on the cover of a book they don't actually appear in, other times it means things like homaging iconic hip-hop album art or movie posters that have nothing to do with the story, and sometimes it means a complete Art Shift, such as characters being drawn in a "manga" style or as LEGO figures.
    • A particularly notable case was when Marvel did a month of covers that each showed Gwen Stacy dressed as different Marvel heroes and villains. The cover showing Gwen as Deadpool proved so popular that it actually motivated Marvel to make that design into an actual character: Gwenpool.
    • Oftentimes, artists doing variant covers will just draw characters that they happen to like or think look cool, even when they have nothing to do with the story inside. For instance, one cover for the first issue of All-New, All-Different Avengers showed Black Panther as part of the team despite him not being part of that line-up, while the Alex Ross variant for Star Wars: Princess Leia #1 didn't even show Leia herself, and instead featured a striking image of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. This is doubly true for cheesecake-driven Fanservice covers, which will often feature the female heroes in skimpy costumes or sexually-charged scenes that aren't actually part of the story.
  • Often happens for collections of stories featuring characters who have been adapted into movies or TV shows:
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    • The cover of the trade paperback edition of Operation S.I.N. is a publicity photo of Hayley Atwell from Agent Carter, implying that the comic is set in the MCU. In reality, Operation S.I.N. is set in the mainstream Marvel Universe, and was actually a tie-in to the Original Sin Crisis Crossover.
    • Likewise, the 2017 collected edition of Black Lightning: Year One uses a photo from the TV series for the cover, despite not being a tie-in.
    • The 2018 rerelease of the Throne of Atlantis trade paperback has an illustration of Jason Momoa as Aquaman, even though the comic is not a tie-in to the live-action film. Even worse, Aquaman sports his classic appearance in the comic, meaning that he doesn't even remotely resemble the shirtless, bearded and longhaired guy on the cover.
    • Similarly, the cover for the 2019 collected edition of Geoff Johns's New 52 Shazam stories is a promotional image of Zachary Levi from the movie.
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    • Similarly, DC did a series of trade paperback reprints as a tie-in to the Birds of Prey (2020) movie, with each of the covers featuring illustrations of the actresses from the movie.
  • Fans of comic book bondage refer to these as "'gotcha' covers" because they display a woman Bound and Gagged or in some other type of peril that doesn't appear in the comic itself.
  • A common trick in superhero comics is for the cover to feature the villain(s) standing on top of the hero's dead or unconscious body. This rarely happens within the book itself, or if it does, the hero recovers and beats the villain down anyway.
  • Most modern comic books have different artists for the cover and for the comic book itself. The cover may not lie about the content, but about the style. You may buy a comic book with a magnificent cover and find that the interior art is drawn by a different artist, with a completely different style.

DC Comics:

  • Batman:
    • The tie-in comic for The Batman, The Batman Strikes, saw the cover for Solomon Grundy's debut in the series use a more comic-accurate design for Grundy. The comic itself and subsequent appearances used the same design Grundy's appearance in the show had—despite "Grundy" really being Clayface. Granted, the ending implied Grundy was real after all, but there was no proof in the episode itself that Ethan's "Grundy" form was even remotely accurate.
    • Dave Dorman's cover for the comic adaptation of Tim Burton's Batman Returns shows Batman running toward the viewer as the Batmobile explodes in flames behind him; the Batmobile does not explode in either this adaptation or the movie itself. (Then again, Dorman is fond of painting fire and explosions and always tries to work them into all of his comic-book covers.) Also, the Batman on the cover looks about ten years younger than Michael Keaton.
    • The covers to Batman and Robin 23-25 all show Jason Todd in the Red Hood costume he wore during Grant Morrison's run. The problem however is that Jason never wears it, in fact he dons a new costume at the end of the second issue. Which makes the third cover seem like a Take That! in hindsight.
    • The 19th issue of Batman spinoff Batwing features the titular hero crawling on the ground, badly wounded and desperately trying to get away from a sinister looking Batman. The cover headline even read "A HERO FALLS..." This seemed like a big deal, since DC had already announced that David Zavimbe would be replaced in that issue by a new hero who would inherit the name of Batwing. The implication on the cover was that David would die, and that Batman was somehow responsible. In the issue itself, David simply decides to retire, and Batman is nothing but supportive.
    • Sometimes covers for "big" story lines tend to exaggerate just how many people are involved. An example is the first cover for Batman: Battle for the Cowl, which showed Batwoman despite her only appearing in a single panel as part of a montage.
    • Following the Adam West movie and TV series, the Batmobile slowly started to resemble the Futura more and more (Detective #371 and #375, though later issues change it to look like a Jaguar E-Type). The cover of Detective #375 has Robin driving the Fututra Batmobile and Batman waving to a crowd. The Batmobile that appears in the story is the old version with the giant bat-head on the front.
    • One cover for The Return of Bruce Wayne shows Batman in pirate garb over his costume with a massive beard and on a ship. In the actual issue, Bruce Wayne without his costume is sent to a beach in the 1700's, where he gets accosted by pirates. After they force him to lead them through a booby-trapped cave in search of treasure, he turns the tables and defeats them, then is sent forward through time. Not once does he set foot on a ship, and the experience only lasts a few hours, not long enough for Bruce to grow facial hair.
    • On the cover of Batgirl #12, Batgirl is shown locked in a fight with Batwoman and seems to have the advantage, choking her with one hand and getting ready to sock her in the face with the other. In the actual issue, the "fight" between the two is a mix of Let's You and Him Fight and Working the Same Case, and Batwoman curbstomps Babs in just a few panels, without taking a single hit.
    • The infamous and divisive variant cover to Batgirl #41 features Babs looking terrified and crying as Joker (wearing the Hawaiian getup he shot Barbara in during The Killing Joke) putting one arm around her holding a pistol and tracing a bloody smile on her face with his finger all in I Have You Now, My Pretty fashion. Putting aside how arguably the cover is in poor taste in regards to victimizing Babs, Joker doesn’t actually appear in the comic itself, which is pretty light-hearted in tone meaning it stirred up controversy rather pointlessly.
    • In Death of the Family, one cover shows Harley Quinn and Joker going back to their abusive relationship. However, it turns out that there is nothing romantic between them, and Joker tries to kill her off as well as revealing that she's just part of a long chain of Harley Quinns that he has killed off at one or another. She escapes him and lets herself be put into prison. The cover of Batgirl #16 during the event has a white skinned Barbra smiling in Laughing Mad fashion suggesting she gets poisoned by Joker gas. This doesn’t happen in the story and was just an artistic choice for the cover.
    • The cover of Batman and Robin #19 shows Carrie Kelley dressed as Robin and leaping into action alongside Batman, with the caption deliberately raising the possibility that she'll become his new sidekick in the wake of Damian Wayne's death. In the actual issue, Carrie only appears at the beginning and very end, and never actually engages in any sort of crime-fighting. She does briefly don her Robin outfit from The Dark Knight Returns at a costume party as a Mythology Gag, but that's really the extent of her contribution to the story. The actual team-up the issue covers is one between Batman and Red Robin.
    • The cover to Scott Snyder’s Batman: Endgame 35# shows Batman fighting the whole Justice League, getting grabbed by Green Lantern’s big green hand construct and punching Cyborg while also being attacked by The Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Superman. Green Lantern and Cyborg don’t actually appear in the comic and Batman isn’t wearing the Justice Buster suit, which was the only thing preventing him getting flattened by his teammates.
    • In Harley's own comic book, the covers of #35-6 of the New 52 and Rebirth-era series, in which she gets turned into a Man-Bat, depicted her Man-Bat-ized self as a Cute Monster Girl pin-up with barely-changed facial features. In the interior art, she was shown with the normal Man-Bat design, including horrific bat head.
    • Batman: Curse of the White Knight #6's cover shows Batman fighting Bane. Bane got decapitated by Azrael at the end of issue #5, meaning that, for obvious reasons, he does not show up here.
  • Brightest Day:
    • The cover of issue #10 shows a bleeding and emaciated Deadman struggling to crawl away from the new Aqualad, Jackson Hyde, who stands menacingly over the fallen hero. This is inaccurate for multiple reasons: Jackson is shown wearing his Aqualad costume despite the fact that wouldn't even get it until issue #16, Jackson never encounters Deadman and certainly doesn't fight him, and, probably most egregiously, Deadman doesn't even show up in that issue at all.
    • Issue #16's cover shows an underwater duel between Jackson and Aquaman, who are respectively armed with a sword and trident, while the caption reads "Aquaman vs. Aqualad." While there is a very brief scuffle between the two after a frustrated Jackson tackles Aquaman through a cave wall, the fight ends as soon as he calms down and never actually moves beneath the surface, and neither combatant actually draws a weapon.
  • Comic Cavalcade:
    • Issues one through twenty-nine have covers depicting Wonder Woman, Green Lantern (Alan) and the Flash (Jay) working together, making the book appear to contain JSA stories since all three were the big names on the team at the time. In the actual book each of these characters' stories are self contained and they never interact and only rarely mention the JSA.
    • The cover of issue 23 depicts Cotton-Top Katie and friends dressed as Wondy, GL and the Flash but the issue does not contain a Cotton-Top Katie story.
  • Earth 2 #7 is titled "Flight to the Death!", showing Green Lantern and Hawkgirl fighting hand-to-hand on the cover. In the story, all they have is an argument over Alan not joining the team.
  • Issue 9 of the post-Rebirth Green Lantern series features Hal Jordan and Batman in the middle of a fight with each other. It's true that Batman does punch Hal in the issue...as a lighthearted revenge for something that happened in an earlier issue. Most of the issue is the exact opposite of the cover, featuring Hal and Batman becoming friends again.
  • The covers to Final Crisis depict Darkseid wearing a modified version of his iconic outfit with an omega symbol emblazoned on the tunic and smaller ones on the back of each glove. He never actually wears this in the comic proper, wearing just his helmet, leg braces, and Dan Turpin's pants and shoes with only a game piece wearing the outfit in the Secret Files tie-in. That said, he does don it in the novelization after Mokkari, Simyan, and Glorious Godfrey die at his feet.
  • Justice League of America:
    • In the issue of the original Justice League where the first Mr. Terrific dies, Batman is pointing at Mr. Terrific's killer, with Red Tornado, Power Girl, Wonder Woman, and Jay Garrick (Flash I) behind him. The murderer is Jay Garrick, though he was possessed at the time and it wasn't really his fault.
    • The cover for the Grant Morrison's JLA story "Crisis Times Five" depicts Superman and Captain Marvel fighting while the Justice League and Justice Society look on in horror. In the story itself, the two heroes' "fight" consists of Marvel knocking out Superman with two punches to prevent him from following Marvel into the 5th dimension, while most of the other JLA and JSA members are busy fighting the villain in a completely different location.
    • The cover for Justice League Task Force #33 shows an enraged J'onn J'onzz holding up Triumph's limp body and preparing to punch him again, while Gypsy begs J'onn to stop before he kills Triumph. This implies that J'onn and Triumph get into some sort of epic brawl, but the actual story just has J'onn slap Triumph across the face a bit to break him out of a state of shock. While Triumph does punch J'onn after snapping out of it, the "fight" immediately ends there and never escalates.
    • The cover for JLA: Year One #5 showed the Justice League fighting the Doom Patrol. The reader assumes it's a typical Let's You and Him Fight situation given that it's early in everyone's history and they might not know the others are heroes. But inside the issue, everyone knows who everyone else is and they immediately team up against the real menace.
    • All three issues of the Justice League (2018) storyline "The Rule". #48 shows the League demanding the aliens kneel before them; they're appointed the aliens' leaders by popular acclaim, much to their own discomfort. #49 shows Wonder Woman leading one faction of aliens against another faction led by her teammates; while Diana and the others disagree about how to handle the situation, the one thing they agree on is that the aliens' factionalism should be discouraged. And #50 shows the aliens sentencing the League to death; they become disillusioned with their new leaders, but nothing resembling this happens.
  • If you've never read Garth Ennis' Preacher, the cover of the first issue can easily fool you into thinking that the hero, Reverend Jesse Custer, is the primary antagonist of the series (or at least a Villain Protagonist) even though he's one of the most sympathetic protagonists that you're likely to find in a DC Vertigo book. How misleading is it? See for yourself: it's currently the page image for Sinister Minister, a trope that Jesse is emphatically not an example of.
  • Issue #3 Geoff Johns' Shazam claimed to feature "the Malevolent Machinations of Mr. Mind!" on the cover, but the villain doesn't actually appear at any point.
  • On the back cover blurb for Star Trek (DC Comics)' "Who Killed Captain Kirk?" storyline seems to suggest that Kirk is attacked early on and the hunt for his attacker hits a ton of roadblocks along the way. In actuality, Kirk is attacked a few pages before the third-to-last issue of the storyline and while those roadblocks are hit, two have nothing to do with the attack directly and the third isn't as bad as it says.
  • Supergirl:
  • Check out Superdickery.com for dozens of examples of dishonest Superman (and other) covers.
    • A late 80s issue of Superman lampshaded this with Mr. Mxyzptlk indicating that the cover, a giant-sized Superman destroying skyscrapers, probably wouldn't actually happen. In fact, Superman doesn't actually appear within the issue at all — the story takes place during Superman's self-imposed exile into space for killing the pocket dimension version of General Zod and his followers, and the issue's plot centers around Mr. Mxyzptlk returning to Metropolis and challenging Lex Luthor to stop his mischief.
    • Played oddly by Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #15. Everything on the cover is completely true - all the shown events happen, the blurbs about how it's not a dream, a hoax, or a case of robot doubles are true, and the story inside is canon... But it never once says that the people on the cover are Superman and Lois Lane.
    • Action Comics #673 prominently featured the villain Hellgrammite on the cover, but he only appears on a single page setting up a future storyline involving him. The issue actually focuses on Superman's final battle with Bruno "Ugly" Mannheim.
    • While Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #135 does feature tiny Supermen and an evil Jimmy, the scene on the cover never happens — the tiny Supermen only briefly appear at the beginning to help establish the real villains running the so-called Evil Factory, and the evil Jimmy that appears is actually a giant, genetically-altered clone of the real Jimmy.
  • Who Took the Super out of Superman?: Superman #299 features Superman surrounded by various members of his Rogues Gallery while being completely invisible except for his super suit, as the text asks, "Which of his 9 deadliest foes did this'' to Superman?" This issue is the conclusion of a story arc where Superman discovers that he mysteriously loses his powers as Clark Kent and experiments with living as one of those identities full time, with the transformation depicted on the cover being completely incidental (and, for the record, Mr. Mxyzptlk is responsible).
  • The cover of the post-apocalyptic story "Superman: Distant Fires" shows Superman apparently leading Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel and Martian Manhunter into battle. In the actual story, Captain Marvel has done a Face–Heel Turn and fights against the other heroes.
  • Superwoman covers have a recurring theme of not reflecting the interior. Let's see some examples:
    • In the first edition, it shows that Lois Lane was the protagonist, but she died in the same story.
    • In issue 5, it suggests a fight between the real Lana against an impostor, but this impostor never existed.
    • In issue 11, it suggests a fight between Lana Lang and Steel, but the fight never happened.
    • In three covers suggest the death of Lana Lang, but in all stories, Lana has always been alive and fine and in one of them suggests the return of Lois Lane, that in fact was a dream.
  • With the Swamp Thing ongoing series beginning in 2011, the first four covers depict the titular Swamp Thing. The only problem is that, for the first several issues of that run, Alec Holland wasn't even the Swamp Thing. It's only later that he actually changes into the Swamp Thing. The covers depict events that, while vaguely related to the contents of the issue, are horribly inaccurate.
  • The cover of one of the Blackest Night issues of Teen Titans features an army of zombified Titans rushing towards the reader. The hands of Wonder Girl, Blue Beetle and Static can also clearly be seen, preparing to fight said undead heroes. None of the characters on the cover appear, and the entire issue is instead about Deathstroke's relationship with his children.
  • Teen Titans: Earth One:
    • The cover shows Victor Stone with most of his body converted to metal, making him resemble his mainstream counterpart. His condition never gets that far along in the book.
    • Starfire, as always, is depicted with the usual red-hair in the book, but is shown bald on the cover. She also never wears the purple shawl that is on the cover.
  • The cover to Titans Hunt #1 shows the Justice League and the modern Teen Titans standing solemnly at the grave of the "Forgotten Titan" (who is revealed to be the original Dove in the final issue). The scene on the cover never occurs, and neither of those teams appear in the series at all.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942): The cover of issue #25 shows Diana looking at Wanted Posters of King Tassel, Sinestra, the Purple Priestess, and Nina Close the Mask while the three villains sneak up together behind her. Nina does not appear in the issue, Tassel and Sinestra's stories are not connected in any way, and no villains in the tale get away long enough for there to be a bounty or wanted poster issued for them as they're all caught in the act. For the record the villain in the third tale not represented on the cover is Tirza.
    • Issue #71 of Wonder Woman (1987) shows Diana and "Julia" fighting surrounded by cheering revolutionaries, making it look like an exhibition fight. The two do fight in the comic, but it's much more serious, the only other member of the crew present is a terrified Nol Lapp, and Diana is trying to stop Julia from killing one of the men who tortured and blinded her after a peace agreement has been reached in which the revolutionaries achieved their goals.
    • The blurb for the third volume of the late-2010s Golden Age Wonder Woman collections claims that Diana fights Baroness von Gunther and the Cheetah in it. In fact, the contents come from after Baroness von Gunther's Heel–Face Turn, and the one story that features her has her as a Fake Defector. The Cheetah only makes a glorified cameo appearance in another story, and it's an impersonator. The blurb doesn't mention any of the ongoing villains who did make their first appearance in the issues it collects, of which the best-known is Giganta.
    • Wonder Woman: Warbringer: The cover shows an adult Diana dressed as Wonder Woman. The story follows a teenaged Diana on an adventure before she ever becomes Wonder Woman, and the closest thing to seeing Wonder Woman in the whole series is a one-panel vision of the future with lots of other things going on.

Marvel Comics

  • The cover of 2099 Alpha, which was also used as the cover of the Spider-Man: 2099 Companion collection, is a group shot of Doom looming over various characters from the previous 2099 universe (the X-Men, Spider-Man, Ravage, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, the Punisher, Daredevil and Deadpool). Of these, only Miguel and Gallows appear in the actual story and only Miguel puts on a costume ... at the end of 2099 Omega. Most of the one-shots also have variant covers showing the "classic" 2099 versions of the characters, who never appear.
  • This trope is so well known among readers that when an Avengers Spotlight cover showed Hawkeye being shot, Marvel felt the need to put a caption on the cover saying that it was not a hoax or an impostor wearing Hawkeye's costume.
  • The solicited cover for The Avengers (vol. 4) #19 showed The Vision from Young Avengers as part of the new team that was being assembled in the wake of Fear Itself. When the actual issue itself dropped, the cover had been changed to show the original Vision in place of his successor. The ruse was meant to both hide the fact that Brian Bendis was resurrecting the original Vision in that issue, and that the teen Vision was slated to be killed off in the finale of The Children's Crusade.
  • The cover to Avengers Assemble #7 shows Thanos wearing the Infinity Gauntlet and sporting an evil smirk. Not only does this never happen, but the Infinity Gems and Gauntlet never even appear in the storyline (though the Gems are at least mentioned). The actual MacGuffin Thanos is after is the Cosmic Cube.
  • One issue of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! has a cover with Iron Man, Captain America, The Mighty Thor, Giant-Man, and The Wasp lying unconscious at the feet of the Masters of Evil. The actual plot of that comic involves the Avengers fighting a giant robot, resorting at one point to teaming up with the Masters of Evil. Another issue's cover displays Giant-Man, despite him not appearing within. Yet another issue gave Black Widow the same treatment.
  • The cover of Avengers Academy #31 (published during the "A vs. X" event) featured several of the younger X-Men, like Dust and Surge, being delivered handcuffed and collared into an area surrounded by a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. In the issue itself, they're dropped off at Avengers Academy by Wolverine, who's seeking to keep them safe from the fight between the X-Men and the Avengers. None of the kids are particularly happy about it, but they're never put in restraints.
  • The cover of New Avengers (vol. 2) #23 shows the team grappling with Skaar, one of Norman Osborn's Dark Avengers. In actuality, Skaar turns out to be a Double Agent who infiltrated the Dark Avengers at Captain America's behest, and he never fights the heroes. In fact, Skaar's true allegiance had already been revealed at the end of issue #22, making #23's cover especially odd.
  • Captain America:
    • An old issue of promises that Cap's partner the Falcon, all of S.H.I.E.L.D., and some random newbie heroes turn on him, all at once. He does fight S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, and later the random newbie heroes, but it is neither all at once nor does The Falcon join in.
    • The very first issue of Captain America Comics shows CA punching out Adolf Hitler. Hitler doesn't appear in the comic, and the actual villain is the Red Skull (though not the classic one, but an earlier version with a different identity).
    • The cover of Captain America #184 has Falcon holding back Steve Rogers/Nomad so a new Captain America can fight the Serpent Squad. Nothing remotely like this happens in the comic; Nomad defeats the Serpent Squad without any involvement from the others, and Falcon spends the issue trying to dissuade the new Captain America (Roscoe) from taking on the role.
    • One of Cap’s most recent and famous comics Steve Rogers Captain America #1 does this, probably on purpose as it shows Cap heroically running towards the viewer with his new shield and his allies Sharon, Sam Wilson and Bucky following him the background. The actual comic most true believers will remember has Cap tossing his ally Jack Harrison out of a Quinjet before turning to a tied up Erik Selvig and saying “Hail Hydra”.
  • The cover for Captain America and the Campbell Kids suggests that the Campbell Kids are involved in Captain America's battle against the Energy Drainers. In truth, they're just narrators with no effect on the story.
  • Captain Marvel:
    • Speaking of which, Captain Marvel #25 shows Mar-Vell being attacked by a group of his past enemies, including Ronan, Namor and the Incredible Hulk. In the actual story, Mar-Vell only ever fights them one at a time, and it's later revealed that they were all just the Super-Skrull impersonating people from Mar-Vell's past.
    • Captain Marvel #28 shows the Avengers defeated, with Thanos boasting that his new found power allowed him to easily destroy the heroes. The actual story has the Avengers beaten in a sneak attack by the Controller, a villain working for Thanos. Thanos himself never crosses paths with the heroes during the course of the issue, as he's actually engaged in a fight with Drax in a completely different part of the country.
    • Captain Marvel (Vol 4.) #7's cover shows Monica Rambeau flying at Carol, whose expression and body language indicate a brawl is about to ensue. Aside from a tense but brief exchange where Monica lambasts Carol for taking the Captain Marvel name without asking her, the two heroines actually get along fine in the issue, and even team up against the villain of the arc. At no point do they physically fight one another.
    • Captain Marvel #126 features a cover showing Carol Danvers fighting an alternate version of Black Widow (who seems to be wearing some kind of powered bracers) while a bunch of guys in the background have guns pointed at them. While the alternate Widow does appear in the issue, no such scene occurs.
  • The cover of The Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu #29 shows Shang-Chi and Iron Fist fighting each other while Colleen Wing is tied up and dangling from the ceiling. Colleen never shows up in the actual story, as it's revealed that the villain only lied about kidnapping her in order to lure Iron Fist into a trap. The actual hostage who is used to force the two heroes to battle one another is a Scotland Yard bomb specialist.
  • The Defenders #62 was the start of the famous "Defenders for a Day" storyline, which saw a ton of heroes from across the Marvel Universe temporarily joining the team. Strangely, the cover featured Iron Man, Angel, Luke Cage, the Human Torch and Spider-Woman as some of the new recruits, even though none of them appeared in the issue. Iron Man did pop up in the following issue, but only in a brief two-page cameo where he told the Defenders that some bad guys were using their name, and then left without joining.
  • The Fantastic Four vs. The X-Men limited series is a perfect example. Though the first issue's cover matches a dream sequence, issue 2's cover shows Mister Fantastic murdered by Wolverine (not in the story), issue 3's cover shows X-Men attacking the FF while wearing Doom's masks (never happens) and issue 4's cover shows the X-Men impaled corpses, the FF rising like zombies and Dr. Doom cowering in fear of Franklin Richards (as you might have guessed, nothing even remotely close happens in this issue). Wanna know the most baffling part? The covers were drawn by the same people who did the interior art!
  • Covers for The Frankenstein Monster would often depict women in peril, when none in the story is not in peril at all. However, the most misleading cover goes to issue 15, which depicts several Night/Clone-Creatures surrounding the Monster, while the one and only is featured in the story.
  • The cover of the first Impossible Man Summer Vacation Spectacular (from 1990) shows Impy sunning himself on the beach with almost every major hero in Marvel buried to the neck in the sand around him, with Doctor Doom looming over him. Impy quips, "Like I told these other bozos, quit blocking my sun!" implying he had beaten up the other heroes. It was done for laughs, of course, but there was nothing similar inside the comic. (Which was many different stories about him playing pranks on various Marvel characters.)
  • Love Romances #99 shows a truck driver who's fallen for a redhead Uptown Girl wearing a white fur coat, while her father has caught them in the act. In the actual comic, she does not wear a fur in that scene... she instead wears the fur coat when they first meet.
  • On the cover for Marvel Comics's Our Love Story #24 depicting the story "Joe Howard's Chick", protagonist Connie Smith doesn't appear to notice the boy approaching her and being stopped by another boy. Her noticing this is the turning point of the story. Compare the cover to the actual scene.
  • Some of the covers for the Madballs comic book published by defunct Marvel Comics subsidiary Star Comics depicted inconsistencies regarding what happened in the stories and what Madballs were present in the story.
    • The cover of the seventh issue, which served as a tie-in for the Madballs Head-Popping Action Figures, depicted Horn Head even though he was absent from the story and the only Madballs that were shown getting bodies were Skull Face, Dust Brain, Slobulus, Snake Bait, Lock Lips, and Wolf Breath.
    • The eighth issue's cover showed Dr. Frankenbeans' assistant Snivelitch turning into a baby alongside the Madballs Wolf Breath, Touchdown Terror, and Horn Head, when only the Madballs became babies in the actual story and the ending had Frankenbeans and Snivelitch turned into children rather than infants.
    • Slobulus appears on the cover of the tenth and final issue refusing to enter Dr. Frankenbeans until he's rinsed. In the actual story, Touchdown Terror, Fist Face, and Bash Brain were the only Madballs present.
  • Some of the covers for the one-shot that kicked off Marvel Legacy feature the classic Thor using Mjölnir and wearing either his Kirby-designed outfit or the JMS-era one. Not only was Thor (2014) still going on when Legacy started, thanks to a couple of events, including the end of Jane's time as Thor, Thor himself wouldn't use his name again until Marvel: A Fresh Start and wouldn't be able to use Mjölnir again until War of the Realms. Further more, as of Donny Cates’ Thor, while the rest of Jason Aaron's physical changes to Thor were reverse (Thor regaining his lost arm and eye and his hair growing back out), he's still yet to return to either of the aforementioned outfits.
  • The cover of Marvel Team-Up #4 shows the X-Men brutally attacking Spider-Man, with Cyclops rather flippantly quipping "Scratch one Spider-Man!!" while Iceman says that Spidey had it coming since he pushed them too far. While the X-Men do fight Spider-Man in the story, it's only so they can bring him back to Professor X, and they never actually attempt to kill him, nor do they display the vicious attitudes implied by the cover. In fact, they actually end up saving Spidey's life by the end of the story.
  • Done so blatantly that it almost looks like a parody in Marville miniseries. Since the 2nd issue every cover featured an all-but-naked girl who never appeared in story itself. #1 also had a Mecha cover.
  • The cover of The Unworthy Thor #5 shows Thor holding Ultimate Mjolnir while Thanos tries to wrestle it away from him. In the actual issue, Thor never lifts Mjolnir and Thanos never confronts him, since he's on the other side of the universe while this is all happening (instead, it's his enforcers who fight Thor).
  • The solicited cover for The Mighty Thor #20 shows the new Ultimate Thor with a gray beard, even though it isn't actually that color in the story or on the finalized cover. This was to hide the twist that the new Ultimate Thor was Volstagg.
  • Ms. Marvel #15 depicts Kamala "Ms. Marvel" Khan and her crush Kamran chatting in high school halls while Kamala's brother Aamir looks on disapprovingly and Kamala tries to hide her Ms. Marvel domino mask in her pocket... but she was found out by Kamran two issues ago, one issue ago instead of taking her to school he outright kidnaps her, and #15 consists of Kamala's escape from captivity while Kamran goes full supervillain lackey, all with Aamir nowhere in sight all issue.
  • From the Old Man Logan tie-in for Secret Wars (2015), there's issue 2. The cover depicts Old Man Logan in a fight with a version of the mainstream Wolverine. Not only is the fight not in the issue, but said mainstream Wolverine himself isn't in the issue, he's merely mentioned in passing.
  • Quasar #29. The cover depicted Quasar as pregnant, parodying the famous Demi Moore Vanity Fair cover. In the comic, while the character named Her does begin the process that will eventually make Quasar (and several other male superheroes as well) incubate a child, Quaze is able to talk her into cancelling it before any reproduction even occurs, much less the full-term that the cover showed.
  • The covers for both issues of Ruins are contradictory to how events actually transpire in the comic.
    • The first issue's cover depicts Philip Sheldon looking on as Captain America, the Scarlet Witch, Jean Grey, Iron Man, Spider-Man, and the Hulk lie on the ground dying and reaching out to him. Captain America, Scarlet Witch, and Iron Man are the only heroes shown in their regular costumes and as super-powered beings, Jean Grey appears as a prostitute wearing a completely different costume, Bruce Banner is shown to have been transformed into a mass of tumors rather than the Hulk, and Spider-Man not only gets a web-shaped terminal rash all over his body, but he doesn't appear until the second issue.
    • The second issue's cover depicts Magneto wearing his iconic costume, when he wears normal clothing in-story.
  • One issue of Joss Whedon's run on Runaways had a variant cover featuring zombified versions of Gert Yorkes and Alex Wilder. Only Gert appears at any point in the arc, and only as a hologram.
  • She-Hulk:
    • The current page image for Fanservice is a lampshaded example — the cover promises a naked jump-rope show; the interior art first hides all the naughty bits behind motion-blur lines and then reveals that she was dressed just sufficiently to satisfy editorial requirements.
    • Sensational She-Hulk made light of cover images that do not refer to the story. Issue number 4 of the same series lampshaded the practice with the comment "Warning the surgeon general has determined that this scene does not occur in the story." The scene showed She-Hulk in a fun house mirror setting asking when her "Golden Age guest star would arrive." The Blonde Phantom is seen in a mirror pointing a gun at her. The use of fun house mirrors was intended to reference to the character now looking fat (she had not been a regular character in a comic book for years and had been ageing like a normal person). The character does not appear in costume except in flashbacks, so there was no She Hulk meets the Blonde Phantom moment in the story, and the cover dramatized the event. Readers at the time must have realized that She Hulk covers did not show scenes from the story, after reading a few issues.
  • Speaking of Thanos, the "Rebirth of Thanos" arc from Silver Surfer (the prelude to The Infinity Gauntlet) had several examples. The cover to Silver Surfer #36 promised "special appearances" by Adam Warlock and Captain Marvel, even though in the actual story, they only appear in Flashbacks or archival footage. In fact, at the time, Mar-Vell and Warlock had already been dead for a few years. The cover for issue #38 then showed the Surfer facing down Thanos, with the cover promising that only one of them would survive their final battle. Neither one dies in the actual issue, and the only real death is that of a disposable Mook who had been surgically altered to look like Thanos.
  • Spider-Man:
    • The cover of Amazing Spider-Man #75 is "Death Without Warning" and shows Spider-Man mourning over a dead body. Nothing like that happens in the comic. What's more nobody in the story dies at all. Although to be fair, one villain does get de-aged seemingly into nothingness, so it did appear that he was dead.
    • Sal Buscema was fond of this when he was the artist for Spectacular Spider-Man. One issue had the Rhino squeezing the life out of Spider-Man on the cover with a blurb indicating that Peter was gonna receive a Fate Worse than Death. In the issue, Spider-Man is infuriated due to the machinations of Harry Osborn, the second Green Goblin and ends up giving Rhino a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown that leaves the villain crying for mercy. Another issue a couple years later show the Green Goblin gloating over the bodies of Spider-Man and the X-Men. While the X-Men did appear in that issue (it was the final chapter of a three-part storyarc about something different), they never fight the Green Goblin. Instead, Harry Osborn simply returns toward the end of the issue, setting the stage for the next arc.
    • One Spider-Man cover seemed to pull a subversion on itself. The cover had Hydro-Man declaring victory over Spider-Man, but with Venom's face in the corner, grinning, and saying, "Yeah, right!" making it look like the cover was a joke (and that Venom was actually the focus of the story). The truth is, there was a fight with Hydro-Man in the story, Venom did escape from the Vault, but both had little to do with the actual plot, which was a poignant story of character development for Aunt May's beau Nathan Lubensky, who's gambling addiction had gotten him in trouble with some loan sharks. (This addiction turned out to be a Foreshadowing of what would eventually lead to his death at the hands of the Vulture, sadly.)
    • In the six-part Spider-Man story "The Assassin Nation Plot", one issue had a cover showing Spidey confronting Sabretooth. Sabretooth did appear in the story, but he and Spidey never met; Captain America and Silver Sable fought the villain, while Spidey was hundreds of miles away fighting terrorists. (Word of God claims that Todd McFarlane penciled the cover before the script was finalized, and while he knew Sabretooth would appear, he didn't know in what regard. The cover was kept because the editors liked it so much.)
    • Similar to the above example with Sabretooth: Web of Spider-Man Annual #4 showed Spidey about to throw down with the huge, looming, menacing form of the Miami drug czar called the Slug. First of all, the Slug was at most a background figure in the story, appearing in only two brief scenes; Spidey never crossed paths with him, and while he did tangle with a few Mooks who worked for him, the true threat in the story were the minions of the High Evolutionary (the story being a tie-in to The Evolutionary War crossover). And the Slug could hardly have been a threat to any superhero in a physical confrontation anyway (he’s so obese, he can’t even move, needing a mechanical wheelchair to do so).
    • The last chapter of Spider-Man: Quality of Life, featured the snake-like assassin Yith grinning evilly as she strangled Spidey with her tail. This was almost contradictory to the actual story, as Yith had never expressed a desire or need to kill or even oppose the hero during the entire storyline (she wasn't the main antagonist at all, having been hired by a Corrupt Corporate Executive to kill Curt Connors) and had been a reluctant ally for the most part. In this specific issue, she turned against her employer, killing him and sparing Connors after falling in love with him. (Probably.)
    • Amazing Spider-Man #8 (vol. 2) features Spider-Man being killed, with the blurb promising the reader "won't believe who kills Spider-Man in this issue!," as numerous headshots of various Spider-Man characters appear in the background. Spidey doesn't even come close to dying in the story, which involves him and his supporting cast trapped in Mysterio's Lotus-Eater Machine, and there's not even a "you die in the dream world to wake up in the real world" angle.
    • The cover of Amazing Spider-Man issue #793 shows Spider-Man yelling at J. Jonah Jameson, who doesn't even appear in that issue at all!
    • Spider-Man 694 features the end of a story arc involving 'Alpha' a teenager imbued with potentially the strongest powers in the Marvel Universe thanks to an experiment by Peter gone awry. As well as these powers, he's also become a selfish jackass, causing Peter to try and remove his powers before something bad happens. The cover of course features Spidey and Alpha high in the air, ready to beat the other into a pulp, with the words 'Battle Of The Half Century' hovering over them. The actual book? Well, they and the Avengers fight Terminus, but not a single punch is thrown between Alpha and Spidey; there isn't even a shouting match for them to exaggerate. Partially justified in that the cover in question was an homage to the classic Marvel/DC crossover Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man.
    • One of the Spider-Man graphic novels, the one collecting the Ends of the Earth storyline, does this in a relatively minor way. It should be obvious that Ock isn't actually going to fight Spidey in open space above the Earth and that that's just a cool cover, but Spidey is seen on the cover in his classic garb, when he spends 90% of the book in his new Spidey-armor, and only wears his classic outfit in the first book in the collection (and it's not used to fight Ock).
    • In the Spider-Island storyline, one cover shows Bucky in his Captain America outfit among the heroes who join Spidey in the story, but he never appears in any capacity within the comic. Another shows all the heroes in variant Spidey costumes, which never happens. It would be just about acceptable as a symbolic representation of them all gaining spider-powers, except the spider virus doesn't affect anyone who already has a superpower.
  • The "classic" Sentry comics in The Age of the Sentry carefully recreate this particular disease of the Silver Age. "Oh no, not NOW, when the Sentry has been turned into a child!" says a lady on the title page; no infantilization actually occurs in the story. "Sorry to interrupt your super-wedding, Sentry..." gloats the villain on a later title page... Nope, ain't no weddin' to be found within.
  • Marvel's A New Hope comic adaptation covers are nothing like what happens in the film, including the cantina being a bar brawl, Luke using his lightsaber in combat, and most egregiously, the Death Star attacking the humans and Luke and Vader dueling in space at the end of the movie.
  • Tales of Suspense #67 has Iron Man fight against a group of recreated supervillains, which according to the cover include the Colossus, who had been an opponent of Ant-Man and The Wasp in Tales to Astonish. The actual story instead features a different giant villain, Gargantus, an actual former foe of Iron Man.
  • The cover for the Marvel adaptation of Theodore Sturgeon's It! in the Supernatural Thrillers anthology shows the titular creature being cornered and shot at by an armed posse. Such a confrontation never actually occurs in the story, and the closest thing to it is an offscreen encounter between the monster and an unfortunate hunter that it ends up mutilating. In the end, the monster is ultimately felled by a little girl with a rock, not a group of angry gunmen.
  • The same thing happened with the cover for the adaptation of Theodore Sturgeon's Killdozer! for Marvel's Worlds Unknown title. The cover shows the protagonist firing a gun at the titular Killdozer while helping a beautiful woman to her feet. The woman in question does not appear in the story at all (in fact, the entire cast is male), and at no point does the hero try to shoot the Killdozer, which would have been an utterly futile gesture anyway.
  • The cover of the first issue of the Thors tie-in for Secret Wars (2015) features the female version of Thor on the cover, and in the center of the group no less. Not only is she not in the issue, but the actual plot of the series involves investigating the murder of the Jane Fosters of Battleworld. In fact, every version of Thor depicted on the cover appears, except for that specific Thor.
  • Ultimate Marvel:
    • An issue of Ultimate Spider-Man shows Spidey alongside Captain America, Iron Man and Thor. Several members of The Ultimates do appear, but only for two pages, and Thor is not one of them. There is a major guest star, but it's Doctor Strange, who is not on the cover. Even though, again, it was drawn by the same guy who also penciled the comic itself. The cover was later used for the corresponding Ultimate Collection, without these characters appearing anywhere else in that volume.
    • Spider-Man Vol.2 #9 (the Miles Morales volume) has a pretty egregious one. As seen on this page, a cover may show a hero fighting a villain, only for the issue to only show the villain preparing to fight the hero and setting things up for a future issue, or for the issue to end right as they meet. As such, fans often expect this sort of thing, so if an actual fight doesn't occur in the issue between the hero and villain, they at least suspected it and aren't too disappointed. The cover to this issue? Miles desperately fighting Venom. Not only does Venom not appear in the issue at all (no fight, no setup for a future appearance, not even a single mention of him in the issue), but Spider-Man himself barely appears. It's an issue that focuses mostly on his supporting cast worrying about where he could be.
    • Ultimate Galactus Trilogy: Ultimate Extinction #2 features Wolverine, who isn't in the comic.
    • Ultimate Spider-Man 1 and 2 have Spider-Man swinging in the city, but Parker does not have the suit yet.
    • Ultimate Daredevil & Elektra: All the covers feature Daredevil, in classic costume, and Elektra in the new one. However, Matt never uses the Daredevil costume, or even the name, in this comic. In the comics, they are Not Wearing Tights.
    • Some of the covers and promotional material for Ultimate Comics: X-Men showed Jimmy Hudson wearing a classic-style yellow Wolverine costume, complete with the iconic mask. He never once wears this suit at any point during the series, and while he did gain the costume in his solo mini-series, he still never actually put it on.
  • The covers of Uncanny Tales from the Grave #4-5 have absolutely nothing to do with any of the stories inside. In #4 no one gets turned into a vampire and in #5 no hulking monsters with glowing red eyes burst through any basement walls.
  • The Marvel issue of "What If?..." that dealt with the Fallen Son storyline had a cover of Captain America carrying an apparently dead Iron Man in a dramatically mourning way. The contents of the comic... weren't nearly so touching. (There are two stories in there, and in the one where Iron Man dies, it happens quite a while before the events of Civil War.)
    • Many issues of What If...? have covers that pose more dramatic questions than the ones actually addressed in the issue, and often emphasize fairly minor parts of the story. Take, for instance, vol. 2 #5, "What If The Vision had Destroyed the Avengers?" The Vision's role in the story is rather limited — while he is a murderous bad guy, he only shows up near the end, and fails in his attempt to destroy the Avengers. The issue is really about what would have happened if Wonder Man had survived his first encounter with the team.
    • Vol. 1 #39, "What If Thor battled Conan?" is the question asked on the cover, which depicts Thor and Conan in aggressive stances with weapons raised at each other. Inside, the title page instead asks "What if Thor of Asgard had met Conan the Barbarian?", and the two fight only briefly before becoming the best of friends.
    • The cover of What if: Avengers vs. X-Men #2 features Thor, Vision, Nova, Ms. Marvel, and Black Panther becoming an alternate variation of the Phoenix 5. In the actual comic, the Phoenix force attacks Thor, and only possesses Nova, Ms. Marvel, and Vision for a few seconds before abandoning them to turn Hope Summers into the Dark Phoenix.
  • Most World War II era Marvel Comics have Captain America, Human Torch, and Sub-Mariner having epic battles against the Axis on the cover. The stories themselves though have none of those and are usually about Those Wacky Nazis having their plans for world domination foiled by the heroes.
  • X-Men:
    • One that generated a significant amount of attention was the cover to All-New X-Men #20, which features X-23 leaping into the arms of the time-displaced teenaged Cyclops and giving him a passionate kiss. Scogan shippers had a field day with it, many others were no less amused by the troll of Wolverine's Opposite-Sex Clone hooking up with Cyclops's younger self, while even more were infuriated. Of course, nothing even close happens in the book itself. The most that happens is Scott gives Laura an awkward, though kind of sweet, comforting hug when she's on the verge of breaking down over Murderworld.
    • The Emma Frost series was a cute teen drama about a younger version of the title character pitched at a mostly female demographic. This was undermined because the covers were pieces of absurd fanservice featuring the adult Emma in her New X-Men costume. (Warning, NSFW.) Or even more revealing designs, which those of you who have read New X-Men will know was very hard to achieve.
    • Sabretooth has been a victim of false advertising on all the covers for Greg Pak's current Weapon X run. After the events of AXIS, Sabretooth was inverted into a good guy. During Uncanny X-Men (2015), out of newfound respect for Logan, he wears a black & yellow costume. The series was cancelled due to Resurr Xion and Sabretooth was put in Weapon X. All of the covers for the first 11 chapters have Creed looking like he did in Uncanny -black & yellow costume, with short hair. That is nothing like what we got in the book. His hair is long, and he wears jeans and a muscle-shirt. He's also closer to how he was as a villain, and hates Logan again—making the covers really inaccurate, since the Creed in Weapon X has no respect for Logan like his inverted black & yellow costumed self.
    • The cover of Uncanny X-Men #244 showed Dazzler, Psylocke, Rogue, and Storm cowering in terror from a foe they called "the M-Squad". In the actual story, the M-Squad was a bunch of complete losers who fancied themselves mutant hunters, who the X-Ladies came across trying to apprehend a young mutant while they were shopping at a mall; the heroines pretty much trounced them good. (The cover was likely a joke.) Still, the issue was rather significant due to who the "young mutant" in question was; Jubilee, making her debut in this issue.
    • The cover of Uncanny X-Men #42 (then just called X-Men) became this by way of Retcon: The story advertised in it featured the death of Professor Xavier with a subheading proclaiming: "Not a hoax! Not a dream! Not an imaginary tale!" Nearly two years later, X-Men #65 revealed that Xavier's "death" was indeed a hoaxnote  but only Jean Grey knew the truth behind the whole situation.
    • Something of a running gag among comics fans is how many covers Wolverine has appeared on for comics in which he wasn't even mentioned secondhand.
    • Some trading cards for the event Fatal Attractions features a huge battle between Magneto's forces and the combined might of the X-Men and X-Force with Magneto ripping out Wolverine's adamantium and damaging Cable's cybernetics. In reality, Colossus, who had a Face–Heel Turn, never got involved in the final fight and the rest is a mash-up of different events from the story.
  • X-Statix #24 depicts Mr. Sensitive with his helmet off, about to smash Iron Man over the head with an anvil. This doesn't actually happen in the issue—he briefly fights Tony while fully-armored, and then they both fight without any armor (which turns into a Wimp Fight), and no anvils get used.

Other Publishers and Crossovers

  • The first cover for the Adventure Time / Regular Show crossover comic includes Eileen, Margaret, The Hammer, Bobby Garret Ferguson, Tree Trunks, and The Lich. None of these characters appear at all in the miniseries.
  • The trope was acknowledged in the nostalgic comic-oriented novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, when a character finds the latest issue of The Escapist has a cover in which the eponymous hero is being executed by his own alter ego; the character is mildly intrigued but knows that the event will likely turn out to be a dream or an alternate reality or some other cheap trick, if it in fact appears in the issue at all. That may have been directly inspired by the Silver Age Superman cover that had Superman stand around mocking Clark Kent as Kent got beaten up. As it turned out, this was just a metaphor for the fact that Kent had given up being Superman.
  • Archie Comics usually just displays a single gag panel which has nothing to do with any of the stories within. A glaring example of this trope, however, is one for the Betty and Veronica Double Digest issue 128. On the cover, there is a picture of a phone being held by one of the girls, and you can see an image of Archie and Cheryl Blossom in the same image. There's a subtext on the side of this cover that says "Cheryl's back... look out 4 Trbl!" implying that this is the opening story. Not one single story in that book contains anything regarding Cheryl.
  • Atomic Comics quickly grew guilty of this. While Madman comics had started out having actual, if bizarre superheroic adventures, his latest series, Atomic Comics was much more philosophical than anything else. However, from looking at most of the covers, you would not know this. For example, one cover had two girls, his girlfriend Joe and his friend Luna, who had been fused into the same body in-comic, fighting over him and trying to pull him away from the other, much to his dismay. In the actual comic, the two are complete at peace with each other, only Joe has feelings for Madman, and in fact, the issue isn't even centred around this.
  • The cover of the BIONICLE comic To Trap a Tahnok shows a Tahnok stealing Tahu's Golden Mask and another placing a mind-controlling Krana on his face. No event like this ever happens in the comics or books. One panel does show a Lehvak Va carrying Tahu's mask, but that's more than likely an art mistake, as Lewa's the one whose mask gets taken away by the Va, and when Tahu himself shows up, he has his mask on as if nothing had happened. The writer later explained that Tahu losing and regaining his mask happened between scenes, in the following comic.
    • The 2005 comic Fractures depicts the six Toa Hordika marching into the Coliseum. That does not happen in the comic (although it is set up), and the issue ends on a cliffhanger telling readers to watch the tie-in movie to find out how the story ends. Except this scene doesn't happen in the movie either. In the film, there's only five Toa storming the Coliseum, and the sixth is already inside after betraying his team. The comics of course couldn't spoil this, hence the fictitious scene on the front page.
    • The later graphic novel re-releases of the Bionicle comics by PapercutZ featured mugshots of important characters on their spine. The spine of Volume #6, The Underwater City, strangely showed an image of Balta, a very minor side character from Volume #5.
  • The Chick Tract "Home Alone?" features on the cover a small boy barely more than a toddler shivering in a corner while clutching his teddy bear. The sexual abuse victim introduced in the story is actually a 9th grader who still needs a baby sitter because reasons.
  • The last issue of the old Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers comic book has a cover depicting Chip, Dale, and Monterey Jack fencing with a one-eyed mouse who has apparently taken Gadget hostage, and it is given the caption "His name is Ransom - and he means trouble!" Not only does this scene never happen in the issue itself, but Ransom isn't even a bad guy.
  • The fourth and final issue of Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir features a cover image that includes Darth Maul wielding what appears to be a variation on a double-bladed lightsaber powered by Mother Talzin's spirit ichor (much like Talzin's own single-bladed pseudo-saber from The Clone Wars episode The Disappeared, Part 2), while assisting Talzin in force-lightning-to-force-lightning combat against Darth Sidious. While the lightning-to-lightning battle aspect depicted on the cover occurs, and Maul does indeed assist Talzin in the battle, at no point does he employ said lightsaber to do so (nor does the lightsaber ever make an appearance).
  • The first issue and trade paperback of the Doctor Who (Titan) tie-in with the multimedia event Time Lord Victorious shows Tenth in battered Time Lord robes, flanked by Eighth and Ninth. Also present are a squadron of Daleks including the Dalek Strategist, Brian the Ood, Rose Tyler in a white dress, and a phalanx of what are possibly Gallifreyan bowships. While this is a good illustration of the event as a whole, the only elements that appear in this story are Tenth (in his usual clothes) and the Daleks.
  • The cover to the second issue of the 1987 The Eye Of Mongombo has Adventurer-turned-duck Cliff Carlson surrounded by a group of mimes. The confrontation does NOT take place inside at all.
  • Frank Miller's covers for Frank Miller's RoboCop, the comic adaptation of his original RoboCop 2 script, do not really resemble what's actually in the comic. For example, the cover he did for issue 4 depicts a bald woman in glasses embracing a limbless Murphy. If the woman's supposed to be Margaret Love (the proto-version of Juliette Faxx), it doesn't look like how she's depicted in the comic (a woman with blonde hair who doesn't wear glasses). Then again, Juan Jose Ryp's wasn't better, in in any sense of the word, as it featured a bloodied Lewis with her uniform ripped up to show more skin and posed on a streetlamp as if she were a pole dancer.
  • Halo: Uprising's covers show Master Chief doing things he doesn't do in the comic, like piloting a Brute Chopper or wielding a beam rifle on some alien world. It also doesn't show the actual protagonists of the comic, civilians Ruwan and Myras.
  • Judge Dredd Megazine issue #59 depicted a forbidden bedroom sexual encounter between Judge Dredd and Judge Galen DeMarco on the outside cover. However, in the actual story, while they both feel tempted to break those rules, it never goes any further than a "Shut Up" Kiss in an entirely different setting.
  • One Looney Tunes comic cover depicted Bugs Bunny being beaten up by a kangaroo in a boxing match. Nothing like that happens in the book itself.
  • An interesting subversion occurs on the cover of Love and Capes: What to Expect #5. In the story the Crusader (Mark Spencer) and his pregnant wife Abby switch bodies, but on the cover they don't switch bodies but just the suits (and now Mark has the "baby-belly") in order to convey what happens without words.
  • Malibu Comics used to have a major villain named Rafferty, whose gimmick was that he came with an editorial promise: every time he appeared, a superhero would die! This led to a slew of issues featuring him, many of which showed him threatening a major character on the cover. Too bad those were hardly ever the characters he actually killed. In fact, in most cases he just killed a random walk-on character who had been created just so Rafferty could off him.
  • Transformers:
  • The Muppet Show Comic Book: The Treasure of Peg-Leg Wilson has two. The most egregious since it's used for the cover of the TPB is Peg-Leg Wilson in a ghost-like form laughing maniacally while the cast looks on in shock and horror, seeming to imply the story arc is some sort of ghost haunting. Peg-Leg Wilson appears on one page in that issue, and it's just a visual narration since Gonzo is reading about his history. Another cover has Kermit and Kismet the Toad in a face-to-face confrontation. Turns out Kermit hired Kismet for a closing act intended to feature Kermit lookalikes (most of which never showed up), and has absolutely no reason to be mad at him at any point in the series. The weirdest part of these examples is that the writer/artist of the series also does the cover art.
  • Most of the revealed covers for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (IDW) are sort of just generic "ponies being cute/cool" and very few so far even hint at the return of changelings. Not that we don't expect ponies being cute/cool or anything, but Rainbow Dash doesn't go snowboarding or dressing up as a superhero in Issue #1.
    • By far the worst offender is Friends Forever Issue #14, where the cover depicts an epic battle between Princess Luna and a pair of fierce-looking adult dragons. The actual comic had little to no Luna at all, the only dragons to appear matched the teenagers from Dragon Quest, and rather than fighting the story was a dialogue-heavy and very Anvilicious allegory about racism. Fans were not pleased with thisnote , and one fan actually slapped a disclaimer on the cover to mock the blatant Wolverine Publicity.
  • The fourth trade paperback compilation of Nodwick parodies the trope with its name, Obligatory Dragon On The Cover. Sure enough there's a dragon on the cover that has no relevance whatsoever to the story.
  • Several issues of Police Comics featuring Plastic Man and The Spirit stories have covers which depict them teaming up, something that doesn't happen in the actual books.
  • Issue #36 of The Ren & Stimpy Show Comic-Book Adaptation shows the two in the backseat of a taxi driven by a Log. While this would be plausible for this series, the situation doesn't take place in the comic itself. The story is about the pair owning a cab company and driving humans around.
  • Early 60's covers for Harvey's Richie Rich averted this, as the TOC page was a version of the cover. Later reprints kept the cover, but omitted the TOC page.
  • The cover of a Scooby-Doo comic claimed to have a story where Captain Cutler (the ghost wearing an old timey diver outfit) returned for revenge. While there was a story featuring Captain Cutler, it instead expanded upon the episode in the original series in which he appeared, showing what happened behind the scenes with him and his plans.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) is absolutely awful about this. Just about every cover for the past decade has depicted some scene of coolness and bravado that doesn't happen in the issue at all. Many of the comic covers would also sometimes feature a rather lighthearted or wacky cover, only for the content within to differ dramatically in both genre and artstyle.
      • Issue #175 showed Eggman holding Sonic in chains, even though Sonic is actually one of the few to escape the destruction of Knothole and imprisonment in the egg grapes.
      • Issue #225 features the entire Freedom Fighter group, even though only Sonic and Sally have anything more than a cameo within the issue. Most egregious is Rotor, who is given a prominent position on the cover despite not appearing in the issue at all.
      • Issue #238 depicted Sonic fighting Mecha Sally, Tails whipping Drago, and Amy about to cave Eggman's face in with her hammer. In actuality, Tails is the one who fights Sally (briefly), Drago is beaten into submission by some wolves, and Eggman doesn't even enter the battlefield.
      • Amy is featured solo on Issue #240's cover, yet she only appears on the first page. Wouldn't it have made more sense to feature Rotor and Silver instead, since they actually have major roles here?
      • All three of the Freedom Fighter teams are crammed together for a group shot on Issue #241's cover, implying some kind of massive team-up. Too bad - the issue is actually about Naugus and Geoffrey arguing over politics and morality, while Sonic and Rotor's teams make pointless cameos. (Silver's team doesn't appear at all. Go figure.)
      • The main cover Sonic Universe Issue #56 features Amy Rose, Blaze The Cat, Marine The Raccoon, Cream The Rabbit and Cheese is a boiling hot cauldron being cooked for Captain Metal's pleasure but in the comic itself that does not happen.
      • The main cover of Sonic Universe Issue #57 features Amy Rose, Blaze The Cat, Marine The Raccoon, Cream The Rabbit, Cheese, Bean and Bark fighting over the Red Soul Emerald underwater while a giant squid attacks them. The giant squid attacks the characters towards the end of the issue but the fighting underwater part does not happen inside the book itself at all.
    • Sonic the Comic:
      • One cover prominently featured Sonic's long-lost brother Tonic standing alongside Amy Rose. In the comic, Amy and Tonic barely interact, and "Tonic" is exposed as Metamorphia (again) within a few pages.
      • Another cover shows Knuckles and Shortfuse charging into battle with each other. The actual "fight" consists of two blows and the misunderstanding that led to it is quickly cleared up. (As this was a one-shot, there wasn't much time for anything else.)
      • Both the cover and teaser to Issue #178 proclaim "KNUCKLES VS. CHAOS!!!" With Knuckles and Chaos squaring off. In the actual issue Knuckles jumps to fight Chaos but is instantly crippled by Chaos's fear ability and is left like that for the rest of the issue.
      • Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) does this pretty often, especially the group-picture covers drawn by Jonathan Gray.
      • Cream the Rabbit, Big the Cat, and Marine the Racoon appeared on covers far sooner than they actually debuted. Cream's IDW debut wasn't until Issue #18, and Big's wasn't until Issue #25 (or, chronologically-speaking, the 2020 Annual special issue). Marine, for her part, thus far hasn't appeared at all.
      • The Metal Virus saga saw this trope spammed the crap out of. The 21-issue storyline was/is one of the franchise's darkest ever, but some issues' covers were very lighthearted.
      • Issue #25's main cover, drawn by the great Tyson Hesse himself, features Sonic and all his allies ready for adventure. In actuality, said issue takes place immediately after the heroes have hit rock-bottom. By then, most of the characters on said cover have been turned into Zombots by the Metal Virus, and the exhausted, broken survivors are faring no better.
      • Issue #27's B-cover is yet another of Jon Gray's hilarious group-pics. However, said issue sees Cream get infected with the Metal Virus, presumably succumbing to it off-screen.
      • The 2020 Annual special issue's main cover fits this trope to a T.
      • Issue #30's main cover is nothing but smiles all around, but its story is nowhere near as happy, even though the heroes have finally turned a corner by then. Sonic and Silver have just destroyed the Metal Virus and cured all its victims, but thereafter, Sonic vanishes without a trace, upsetting his friends. What's more, with the world in shambles after the Zombot plague, the heroes have a monumentally huge amount of rebuilding to do; Amy Rose, who as head of the Restoration is poised to oversee reconstruction, is so stressed out about it that Tails and Knuckles urge her to take a break.
  • The cover of one old Star Trek: The Next Generation comic shows Captain Picard floating around in a space suit with half of his face covered in green slime and Counselor Troi looking-on in horror and disgust. Nothing even remotely similar happens at any point in the issue; no space suits, no green slime, and Counselor Troi is barely even featured.
  • The cover of Victorian Undead Sherlock Holmes vs. Zombies depicts Holmes as a zombie smoking his pipe. He is never turned into a zombie at any point in the comic. Also he is shown in his stereotypical deerstalker hat, which he never wears in the story at any point.
  • The cover of Ghostopolis makes it look like it'll be a supernatural western instead of an horror/urban fantasy story.


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