Fanboy Rage: Gav’s Top Ten Comic Book Artists And FUCK YOU If You Don’t Agree
It’s been a year since Comic Book Resources published their 125 best comic book artists, as voted for by the readers of the site. After chatting with my friend Gav about our respective selections I realized that we had voted for quite different artists, both from each other and from the eventual winners of the vote. I’ve given you my top ten writers and artists, and Gav — in two guest posts — will also provide his lists, just so that we can be all fanboy-ish and rage at the idiocy of what the other nerd has chosen.
First off, here is CBR’s top ten:
10 Alex Ross
9 John Romita Jr
8 Frank Miller
7 John Byrne
6 Jim Lee
5 Neal Adams
4 George Perez
3 J H Williams III
2 Frank Quitely
1 Jack Kirby
Okay Gav, over to you:
10 P. Craig Russell
I’ve enjoyed every comic I’ve read drawn by P Craig Russell, but even if I’d only read ‘Ramadan’ in issue #50 of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, he’d still make my top 10. The story is a lusciously-illustrated Arabian Nights fantasy, hosted by series-star Morpheus and showcasing Gaiman, Russell and letterer Todd Klein at the very top of their respective games. At Russell’s request, Gaiman wrote the story as prose rather than a traditionally comic script, letting the artist have free reign.
09 Darwyn Cooke
Cooke combines great storytelling with a clean, cartoonish style that is perfect for the superhero genre. His square-jawed depictions of heroes are reminiscent of the 1940s Fleischer Superman cartoons and the excellent Batman: The Animated Series, so it’s no surprise to discover he worked as a storyboard artist on the latter. He can write, too: his New Frontier juxtaposes the classic silver-age DC superheroes with the real world events they debuted against.
08 John Romita Sr
Jazzy John is THE Spider-Man artist. Ditko may have created the original look (with an assist from Kirby), but Romita made it his own. His background in romance comics made him perfect for the soap opera exploits of Peter Parker, an element just as important to the webslinger’s success as the super-heroics. To this day, whenever Marvel tries to take Spidey back-to-basics, it’s the John Romita era they’re channelling.
7 Frank Miller
Specifically the ’80s Frank Miller, mind. Sometime after The Dark Knight Returns, Miller started to believe his own hype, and he’s grown steadily more self-indulgent ever since. These days, both Miller’s art and writing is a ridiculous parody of past glories. That doesn’t change how glorious those past glories were, of course. Miller pretty much invented the film noir as comic book style, and the influence of his Daredevil run casts a long shadow over the recent work of Bendis and Brubaker. Considering the boundaries of sex and violence in mainstream comics he broke down, it’s ironic that Miller did his best work in a monthly comics-code approved superhero book for Marvel.
6 Mike Mignola
Any comic drawn by Mike Mignola is worth a look. If the story’s good too, it’s a bonus. Mignola’s distinctive style with its expressionistic use of light and shadows make him a perfect fit for – yep, you guessed it – Batman. But he’s also lent his fantastic visuals on everything from Rocket Racoon to Aliens. It’s easy to see what Guillermo del Toro saw in Mignola’s creator-owned Hellboy.
5 David Mazzucchelli
With Mazzucchelli it’s all about quality over quantity. His two collaborations with Frank Miller on Daredevil: Born Again and Batman: Year One are a quarter of a century old, and yet they’re arguably the still the fan favourite stories of both characters. In both stories, he brings gritty, noir-influenced visuals to the world’s best street-level vigilantes. Although he hasn’t worked for the big two in a long time, his influence is still evident in the work of Michael Lark, Alex Maleev, Sean Phillips and pretty much everyone who’s worked on a crime comic since.
4 Tim Sale
How good is Tim Sale? Answer: when he draws a Jeph Loeb book, nobody notices how bad the writing is. (Okay, some of Loeb’s stuff honestly isn’t that bad, but with Sale drawing it really doesn’t matter).
3 Norm Breyfogle
Another Batman great (you may be noticing a pattern). Breyfogle, together with Alan Grant, introduced a slew of brand new villains for the hero who already had the best rogue’s gallery in fiction. Very few artists have been able to match Breyfogle’s the sheer badass physicality of Breyfogle’s Batman in combat.
2 Neal Adams
How can you begin to describe the awesomeness that is Neal Adams? If comic-book art is traditionally torn between ‘realism’ (a la Alex Ross) and Kirby-style expressionism, Neal Adams manages to combine the best of both worlds. Adams worked on X-Men before Wolverine was a twinkle in Len Wein’s eye. In the four decades since, nobody has made the mutants look more modern or dynamic.
1 Marshall Rogers
For me, the definitive Batman (in an extremely crowded field) is Marshall Rogers’s Batman. The best representations of the Dark Knight have certain elements in common: shadows, angles, darkness, kinetic movement. Marshall Rogers did the full package better than anyone. His 70s collaboration with Steve Englehart in the pages of Detective Comics remains a high water mark to this day. Reading it now, you wonder if the success of this run lies in the fact it’s a very different take on Batman: with its ongoing subplots, epic showdowns and strong emotional undercurrent, it’s basically Batman written Marvel-style.