The 10 Most Controversial Mag Covers (Recently) Published

These images shocked, awed, made you buy and/or made you talk

Sex sells. If it bleeds, it leads. There is value to shock—you don't have to be slinging dirt for TMZ to understand that. Some of the most controversial images ever printed didn't land on Penthouse or Hustler (though who can forget that lady-in-the-meat-grinder illustration?) but instead graced the covers of respected newsweeklies like Time and Newsweek, and magazines like Rolling Stone.

It's hard to believe it's already been four years since Barack Obama—stylized as an al-Qaeda terrorist—fist-bumped a machine-gun-toting, Afro-and-fatigues-adorned first lady Michelle on the cover of The New Yorker. But as can be seen from the recent controversy (and satire) surrounding Time's breastfeeding image, publishers are still actively pushing the proverbial envelope. Take a look at 10 recent news mag cover illustrations that irked, impressed and initiated conversation online and off. 

10. Mitt Romney and Photoshop Get Into a Fight—Guess Who Wins?

This cover never actually met a newsstand, although two weeks after Bloomberg Businessweek decided to kill it in favor of leading with Steve Ballmer's efforts to reboot Microsoft, New York came out with a similar Photoshop effort. That one took a more bipartisan approach, putting a beaten and bloodied Barack next to a similarly mutilated Mitt. The art departments of most mags come up with several possible covers for an issue, but the ones cast aside usually don't get the chance to cause controversy. This one was published to Businessweek's design department's Flickr account

9. Does Steve Jobs Get Inside the Pearly Gates? St. Peter Checks His iPad

Religion—always polarizing. In this case, the hoopla didn’t focus on a single criticism, but on two complaints orbiting a central concept of respect. Of the 50-some-odd comments on the cover on The New Yorker website, some took issue with the religious depiction in general. For example, one reader called it “deeply, deeply disrespectful” while another suggested it was “time for intelligent people to look beyond this…clichéd relationship to the afterlife experience.” Many of the other commenters were ticked that Steve Jobs was depicted as Christian when he had publicly professed to have been shaped by Buddhist philosophy. A few found the humor, with quips like "I think Heaven uses Flash."

8. Michele Bachmann's Crazy Eyes Are Looking Right Through Me

Whether or not you agree with Tea Party tenets, this Minnesota Republican certainly didn't make it all the way to Congress (or the Iowa caucuses) by being clinically insane. But in this photo, it looks like she's not only crazy, but also ready to kill, kill, kill—and the "Rage" coverline doesn't do much to dispel that impression. Newsweek got a lot of flack for this eye-opening cover, which was called politically biased, sexist and just plain unfair. 

7. True Blood Cast Needs a Bath, Clothes, Possibly a Lawyer

Naked and covered in blood—totally OK when you're a newborn, but it becomes less acceptable somewhere between birth and your success as an actor in a top TV series. Rolling Stone's gory, full-color image raises many questions. Are they really trying to make arterial spray sexy? Did the True Blood cast commit some atrocity? If this is a show about vampires, have they just been playing with their food? Rolling Stone obviously wanted to get people talking about this issue, and talk people did. Some freaked out about the magazine's visibility on grocery store newsstands and others simply professed to find the graphic image cheap or distasteful. This put them in direct opposition to a vocal cadre of vampire-loving gore-and-sex enthusiasts—and naked and bloody, a controversy was born.

6. Grandma Done Got Knocked Up