Here are a few of my most favorite comics artists. I cropped small thumbanils of art that represent each artist ... clicking on each will reveal a much larger picture. I thought this might preserve some of the sense of discovery and wonder I get when I unexpectedly turn the page of a comic and am blown away by the work. The list here is a little out of date, but this doesn't mean I now dislike any of these artists. It's just that there are a lot more new ones I'd like to get around to adding.
How can art be both gritty and elegant at the same time? This guy draws like Raymond Chandler writes, like his panels are dark with something other than night. It's all gritty and realistic and noir, laced with real beaten-down people that work simultaneously as throwaway characters and grim metaphors. His swirls and scratches in 100 Bullets seep into his dark edgy blacks, creating a hard world populated with life's losers and winners - from the dirty streets of Philly and Miami to the glowing high rises of Manhattan and L.A.
I became familiar with Mack's work on his projects with Brian Michael Bendis, one of my favorite writers. The two worked on a Daredevil story together, and then Mack provided covers for Bendis's great book, Alias, about the adventures of a down-on-her-luck former super-heroine, Jessica, who now runs a private investigation firm. It's like dropping a female Phil Marlowe into the Marvel universe of superheroes, and really cool to read.
Dave McKean is best known for his Sandman covers - he has done every cover for the 75-issue series, along with Death and the Dreaming, for well over 100 pieces of art, each of which is really intricately cool. He does assemblages, using just about anything put together with his photography and drawings. He also did Violent Cases, Signal to Noise, and other books with Neil Gaiman, all of which are definitely worth reading. Cages was his epic work of sequential art, but I haven't read it yet. He has also used computer effects more recently, with great success. He also did the art for a Toad the Wet Sprocket album, including a fold-out poster.
Mike Allred is best known for creating, writing and illustrating Madman Comics. He also drew all of the art in the movie Chasing Amy. The first picture here is from a miniseries, Red Rocket Seven, about aliens and the history of rock and roll. The second pic is from a short Sandman tale he drew. His linework is amazingly crisp, and he draws likenesses really well.
Phil Noto burst on the comics scene as the cover artist for Birds of Prey, a gig he held for a few years. He also created the Beautiful Killer miniseries. More recently, he's been doing Black Widow. I even saw a gallery show of his downtown.
Noto's illustration combines a sketchy, painterly feel with a great emphasis on line, and tosses in a '60s mod design sense of colored squares and miniskirts. He includes lots of stylin' '60s women and spy chicks.
I also can't recommend his web site enough
Bolland is one of the best true illustrators in comics. His most famous work is The Killing Joke, with Alan Moore. He does amazingly detailed linework that combines with realistic modeling and deep shadows to form rich, realistic art, especially in his figures. He also has a history of creating macabre, surreal scenes that incorporate horror elements, made all the more gruesome by his realistic style.
He also did a lot of great covers, both in a simplified Silver Age style for Flash, and a more detailed, painterly style for Gotham Knights. Most of the pictures here are from the Gotham Knights covers, and feature the Batman characters.
Norm Breyfogle is probably my favorite penciller. I've followed his work ever since his Detective Comics back in 1990ish, and his Batman is the standard as far as I am concerned. His layouts are awesome, and his musculature is second to none. He creates dynamic, contorted muscles and poses that move the eye expertly across the page. His painted work is nice too, as seen in the graphic novel, Birth of the Demon. I had the pleasure of meeting him at a comic convention once. Here are a few wallpapers to enjoy, too.
"Jesse - You did a fabulous job with my link, I am sincerely surprised & much flattered! Your site is very cool!"
I heard about Calle in a fantastic Draw! magazine interview. She's an illustrator who focuses on fashion and sports art for magazines and designers. She's done some comics covers, including a miniseries for Marvel about Kitty Pryde.
It was interesting in the Draw! article to see some of her methods. Her sketches are beautiful and free, and she paints onto them directly in Photoshop. Her line is authentic, fast flowing and sharp.
Her web site is really spectacular, and trust me, it helps if you have two huge monitors to view it on. I made the wallpaper montage here for your enjoyment.
Cho is the creator of the Liberty Meadows comics trip, a retooling of his University2 college comic strip. It's perhaps the best inheritor to Watterson's artistic style and amazing line quality from Calvin & Hobbes. But without the true wit or funniness. Some of his jokes are not bad, and he has a good streak of irreverance. But a lot of the gags are predictable, and the dialogue poor.
Luckily, his art is spectacular. He is simply a superb draftsman. Take a look here and you'll see what I mean. You'll also notice his knack (obsession?) for drawing gorgeous pin-up women.
Dillon's hallmark work, Preacher, is a tale of powerful God-children, backstabbing vampires, and true love, as told with Garth Ennis. Dillon's artwork was the only possible way to make Preacher's romance horror western format work, and work superbly. Dillon's linework is sparse and dramatic, and his characters are always dead-on recognizable and have a wide range of expressions. In a book like Preacher, with hundreds of cast members, nothing is more important. Plus, he draws so simply and matter-of-factly, that his terrible gore just seems all the more frank and gruesome.
Dave Gibbon's pivotal work is Watchmen, the epic comic book classic he created with Alan Moore. In it, he designed an entire world with all new superheroes. His art seems simple, but is loaded with intricate tidbits, artistic allusions, deeper metaphors, dynamic lighting and dramatic poses. I just watched him interviewed in a comic book documentary on the Unbreakable DVD, and he came across as very smart and funny, too.
Butch Guice has been drawing a lot of different books for DC for a long time. He drew both The Flash and Action Comics for many years, where I first saw his work. Later, he was the artist on Birds of Prey, and used his beautiful draftsmanship to flesh out very real scenes and situations for Black Canary and Oracle, inking his own work as well. He's done a good job of reigning in the exaggerated musculature he used in Flash and now draws people and settings incredibly realistically.
Bryan Hitch has done mind-boggling work on comics like The Authority and JLA. The most endearing quality of his work is the realism of his people - the correct proportions and expressions. His backgrounds are intricate, detailed and never contrived. He simply must use a lot of reference, because his buildings, cars, and alien warships all look dead-on real (you know, how an alien warship really looks.) His fantasy and science-fiction skills really shine in these two books, with their hordes of aliens, other-dimensional attackers, and horrifying creatures.
Adam Hughes is so amazing that I've got more art of his here than any other artist, far more. Known for his voluptuous women and realistic coloring techniques, Hughes concentrates on covers. He did every Wonder Woman and Catwoman cover for years. I've got a good mix here of his finished work (he colors the pieces himself in PhotoShop), his linework and his informal and preparatory sketches. There are also two wallpapers I made, one of Jean Gray and the White Queen, and the other a collage of Hughes's best pencil work.
Please note: some of the artwork below contains nudity and adult situations. If you are under 18, remember that Santa is always watching.
Oscar Jimenez is a Spanish artist who had a great run on Flash - one of the best. His action sequences are second to none. His characters are tall and lean with exciting poses and proportions. He draws speeding effects better than anyone, and depicts musculature in motion amazingly. In his work, it really looks like the Flash is moving that quickly, as shown here. He also illustrates backgrounds well, with cool settings and details.
I noticed Joelle's work in a short anthology called Sexy Chix. She used an amazing sketchy style that was gorgeous. Then I read that she was working on a graphic novel called 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and I picked that up. Different style: this one was tightly inked, but still beautiful. She specializes in drawing the most incredible women I've ever seen - I think it's the lips. (The girl's boyfriend in the story is a jerk and so the romance plot didn't really make sense to me, though.) I got to meet Joelle at NY ComicCon.
Jim Lee is one of the classics in the comic industry. Of all the original Image artists, his is the only work that keeps improving (although Larson is at least tenacious). He is the creator of Gen13, and then created Divine Right, one of my former roommate's favorite books. He always puts in lots of fun details.
Now that Lee drew Batman, not only has he put his stamp on great characters like Poison Ivy and Catwoman, he also used this cool watercolor style for Bruce Wayne's flashback scenes. And I think his work on Batman is a huge improvement over his earlier, famous work.
In 1986, Miller created a true classic: The Dark Knight Returns, which set the standard not only for Batman but for the entire industry. Written and illustrated by Miller, it is an amazing piece of work. Miller also wrote Year One, my personal favorite Batman story, and has done famous work on Daredevil. Then he created Sin City. Each project of his successfully expands the realms and genres available to comics, such as 300, a beautiful epic of the Polyponesian war. His work is bold, iconographic, and filled with strong, contrasting shapes and lines.
Then he went crazy, and his newer stuff is pretty awful, like Dark Knight Strikes Again.
Howard Porter became well known for his work on JLA, which is awesome. Before that, he drew The Ray and Underworld Unleashed, which are also really good, though he's clearly gotten better recently. He has a sharp, angular style and very creative layouts. He also draws energy very well, such as Green Lantern using his ring and Martian Manhunter shape shifting. And he drew Flash as well!
Joe Quesada first became known to me with his work in Batman: Sword of Azrael. I remember the joy of waiting for the next issues of that miniseries. He designed the Azrael costume as well as the Batman costume for the temporary Azrael/Batman. Since then his work has declined, in my opinion, into a more cartoony style. He draws angular, witty figures with rich shadows and cool poses, with extremely detailed musculature. He also draws flame effects very well. His Daredevil work was great, with really cool layouts. He then went on to do some other stuff, like running all of Marvel.
Alex Ross is spectacular. His work is fully painted, and his level of realistic detail is unparalleled in comic work. His work on Kingdom Come made it one of my favorite comics. It redefines what superhero comic books can accomplish. Ross has also branched out, painting Uncle Sam, a surreal critique of America, and many recent covers.
Nevertheless, his fixation on the Silver Age bugs me, since I like the modern characters better. Silver Age comics are so simplistic and boring.
Russell is an artist who has been producing stunning fantasy work for years. He incorporates fantastic elements into his art such as flowing clouds and plants and drapery, reminiscient of Maxfield Parish and Mucha. His lines are streamlined and graceful. His work on Sandman #50 was amazing.
I just think Russell's draftsmanship is incredible. I've got a whole section of my site with his stuff. Check it out here.
This guy is a classic in the industry, pioneering the whole "fine art" in comics trend that's been germinating for decades. It comes out most often in painters and in cover art, but Sienkiewicz has been doing great interior art for years, too.
His linework is amazing. As an artist, I can appreciate how difficult it is to make your art look that casual, but still fresh. Some of the pictures here are from the Sandman: Endless Nights project with Neil Gaiman.
Jeff Smith is the creator of Bone, one of my favorite comics. His work is very different from most of the artistts here, and is much more the trademark style of an animator rather than a comic book artist. His black and white art is an amazing combination of realistic settings and cartoony figures. His lines and shadows are rich, bold and descriptive. I also really enjoyed RASL, his follow-up to Bone.
Brian Stelfreeze has been one of my favorite painters for a long time. I know him best from his 50-issue run on covers for Shadow of the Bat, as well as his 20-odd covers for Birds of Prey. He also did an awesome Flash poster, and has illustrated several Batman stories.
His art is sharp, striking, and very creative. He uses paint, airbrush and colored pencil to create exciting, vivid and colorful work. His most recent work, sticking to standard inking rather than painting, creates a style that sort of crosses an Adobe Illustrator vectorized look with Chinese brush painting.
Matt Wagner has worked on several of my favorite comics, including Grendel, Batman, and Mage. Grendel and Mage are his own created worlds, and he's a talented writer as well, creating complicated, original plot lines and cool, realistic characters. The storyline of Grendel reached through many miniseries and is set over hundreds of years.
His artwork seems very simple and straightforward, but is truly masterful. His page layout is very original as well - I especially liked some of his designs in Batman/Grendel and the Batman story Faces. His painted covers for Kevin Smith's Green Arrow were pretty nifty too.
This penciller gained great acclaim for his revolutionary work on Alan Moore's Promethea. This book features the most experimental layouts, crazy designs, and broad range of artistic styles found in recent comics. I also just read his Elseworlds graphic novel, Son of Superman, which was good too. And then there's his work on Detective Comics, and Seven Soldiers, and many more.