To collect the cover images for the site – next to a couple of my own scans – I used the nice Yahoo Image REST API as well as some eBay screenscraping, searching for e.g. “Amazing Spider-Man 1”, “Amazing Spider-Man 2”, and so on (filtering some very small covers). The results were up to 20 images for each issue, after which I’m making a manual selection, followed by image conversion using the GD library that comes with PHP. I’m assuming that the reproduction of the covers is fair use, and each cover is also linked to the site where it originates from (which also reproduced it under fair use). Every cover is also linked to Google and eBay search results so you can get further info or buy the issue.
To add a search engine to the site, I implemented a little PHP5-based API hack that yields fuzzy but often good matches (e.g. you can search for “john byrne” to get covers which are approximately 80% pencilled by John Byrne, and you can search for superhero “Gambit” to see the X-Men cover with Gambit’s first appearance):
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