This series of posts is about comic book artists whose work I like. The normal pattern is that I talk about the artist’s career and mention when I started enjoying the work and include various images by the artist. However, in this case, the text aspect will be a little lighter than normal because, unfortunately, there isn’t a huge amount of ongoing series or different mini-series to discuss.
I first saw Jason Pearson’s art back in the early 1990s. A chap with good taste had recommended the ‘Five Years Later’ Legion of Super-Heroes run, masterminded by Keith Giffen; I was unaware of the controversy surrounding the book at the time, but I thoroughly enjoyed the approach taken with the book (influenced, to my mind, by Watchmen). There were back-up stories included, and Pearson became the penciller for these stories in the later half of Giffen’s tenure on the book; it was a completely different art style from Giffen’s (although I think it was based on his layouts because it retained the grid system initially) but it was a fresh, cartoony, funky, sharp style, and I liked it.
I would look out for Pearson work from then on. He drew an issue of Starman written by Peter David and Giffen that I sought out; there is an Uncanny X-Men annual from the same time that he drew, which still resides in my collection. The next thing to stand out was a three-issue mini-series he wrote and drew at Image, called The Dragon: Blood And Guts, which was about Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon. It was a fun little action story in which Pearson paid homage to the Hong Kong cinema of John Woo (I recall there was a barman in the series who looked liked Woo), and demonstrated the contrast between his funky cartoony style and the balletic bloodshed content. This contrast was also in some work he did for Penthouse Men’s Adventure Comix – I’d bought it for the non-erotic, straight sci-fi story drawn by Alan Davis, but there was a sexual superhero story from Pearson in there that was very sexy indeed.
This contrast was even more evident in the work for which Pearson is probably best known: Body Bags. The first four-issue storyline appeared in 1996, the first title in the Dark Horse comics Blanc Noir line from Gaijin Studios (an Atlanta-based studio of amazing freelance artists: Adam Hughes, Brian Stelfreeze, Cully Hamner, Dave Johnson, Tony Harris and Jason Pearson, among others). It was about Mack Delgado, a body bagger (or professional killer), and his daughter, Panda, who wants to follow in the family footsteps. It is extremely violent, with lots of blood and killing (Mack aka Clownface uses an enormous knife to do his job), but in an entertaining way and riding the same vibe as the likes of Quentin Tarantino.
The first Body Bags finished in 1997 because Pearson got ill, delaying the end of the book. It is also one of the few runs of a book that Pearson drew. He has worked for many different publishers, drawing Batman at DC, various pieces at Marvel, occasional Hellboy and Grendel comics at Dark Horse, various books at Wildstorm (including an issue of Global Frequency, the series by Warren Ellis). There would be more Body Bags – one-shots in 2005 and 2008 – but he doesn’t have a large run on any particular book that can be used as a showcase for his talents.
There have been a couple of things at Marvel recently: he drew a Punisher annual in 2009 written by Rick Remender, an X-Force annual in 2010 written by Robert Kirkman, a Deadpool mini-series in 2010 and a couple of issues of Astonishing X-Men, but the closest thing to a run on a single title lately has been the covers for Deadpool. He has provided plenty of covers over the years: some covers for Robin, the covers for a villain-themed collection of specials at DC, and various books at Wildstorm over the years, before working almost exclusively at Marvel for the past five years. His covers for the six-issue mini-series The Loners were a highlight for being homages to posters of John Hughes’ films from the 1980s, but his Deadpool covers really evolved into a strong expression of his style and the humour of the character.
Pearson has suffered from some bad luck in his career. Apart from the illness that derailed Body Bags, there was also the series that never was: Redbird was initially solicited in 2005 as a five-issue mini-series at Wildstorm, plotted and drawn by Pearson and scripted by Ed Brubaker, about Nataly Lakota, a former Black Ops member who is trying to live a normal life after a mission gone awry, except for the government sending out a killer after Nataly because she walked away. Based on the creative team, concept and initial images, the book looked like it was going to be good, but it was cancelled without explanation, which was a great shame.
It was only when I was researching these notes that I found out about Pearson’s trouble from the end of last year; he has an official Facebook page, and he posted some thoughts that were about feeling very low (one site has a copy of the text, which was removed from Pearson’s Facebook page). The comics online community gathered round and posted things to cheer him up, so we’ll have to see what happens next for Pearson. I hope that he bounces back and gets back to drawing comic books again, more than just covers, perhaps even writing his own stuff again. I really like his style, which is sharp and clean and vibrant; he is great with facial expressions; it has a sense of humour but handles action really well, which means he’s perfect for today’s comic book industry. [Thanks as always with these posts to the Comic Book Database for the information on Pearson’s bibliography.]
This is one of my semi-regular posts about comic book artists whose work I enjoy, as I look at their work history and post some examples of their work. Today’s post is about a favourite artist who will unfortunately no longer produce any more of his great art.
It was a great shock and loss when Mike Wieringo passed away at the age of 44. He was taken from the world too soon and his delightful art is still missed. Like most people, I first saw his artwork on The Flash in 1993–1994, working with Mark Waid for the first time and very early in his own career. His style was cartoony and perfect for superheroes but like a lot of great art, its simplicity belied great storytelling, excellent facial expressions, dynamic character work and superb craft.
After The Flash, Wieringo drew Robin for a short run and a Rogue mini-series for Marvel (in addition to various other comics, including the Amalgam comic Spider-Boy #1, a combination of Spider-Man and Superboy) before teaming up with Todd Dezago on The Sensational Spider-Man for two years. Even though I haven’t read the issues, I’ve always thought that Wieringo was a particularly appropriate artist for Spider-Man, but then that was the case whenever he drew any title.
The next big project was the delightful Tellos, the fantasy series that he co-created (and co-owned) with Dezago at Image Comics in 1999. His artwork was perfect for the world of magic and pirates and swordplay and talking tigers, and it was a joy to behold. Charming and funny and moving and exciting, it was a great little comic.
After a short run on Adventures of Superman, Wieringo reteamed with Waid for a great run on Fantastic Four. Waid had a great handle on the characters and Wieringo proved again that he was the perfect artist for whatever book he was working on. He got each of the characters perfectly and drew them as if he had always been drawing them. There was an unusual blip during their run: Marvel announced that they were being replaced on the book before fan outcry caused them to reverse the decision, and they announced that Waid and Wieringo would be staying on the book within three days of them being moved off the book. It didn’t stop the quality: this was one of the great runs on Fantastic Four and I thoroughly recommend it.
After the Fantastic Four, Wieringo worked on Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man and Stan Lee Meets The Silver Surfer, as well as Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, a fun four-issue mini-series written by Jeff Parker. However, he passed away in August 2007 before the completion of a What If? story about the replacement Fantastic Four; Marvel donated his art and the script to the Hero Initiative, who completed the book as a tribute to Wieringo with artwork from a host of great artists. There is also a scholarship in his name, which is also a fitting tribute to a man who was by all accounts a decent human being. His personal website is still kept online, which is where he used to write about his life and would post sketches (lots of sketches – he loved to draw everything and anything, such as Harry Potter or Power Pack or whatever took his fancy; you can spend ages just looking through all the entries, and I could keep posting the sketches), and it’s nice to be able to have continuation of his life and his art. Mike Wieringo, RIP.
I haven’t done one of these posts – a collection of images and overviews of comic book artists I enjoy – for a long time now, but they seem to the source of many visits to this blog according to Google Analytics (although it’s mostly to download the images of comic book art; I guess I make it easy to find them with Google Image search, particularly the Chris Bachalo post I did). However, that is not the reason for me returning to this theme – with these posts, I’m still trying to find a way to talk about the comic book art I like from the perspective of someone who connects with stories and writers.
I first saw the art of Filipino comic book artist on the Wolverine story Not Dead Yet (Wolverine #119 – 122), written by Warren Ellis, back in 1998. He’d been working on Wolverine for six months before this, and it seems to be his first major work. What’s amazing is how good he is from the start: he’s a great storyteller with a style that is perfect for the modern age of comics – his art is slick but with a nice rough edge, it has some realism but with a comic book edge, it’s dynamic and, resorting to fanboy status, it’s just plain cool.
After a respectable run on Wolverine, Yu moved on to The X-Men – talk about a promotion (I haven’t seen any of the work; I’m going out on a limb and assuming that it was good). He worked on one of the top books in the industry for two years, and he’s barely started his career. Which makes it strange that he moves over to DC to work on a creator-owned series with Scott Lobdell set in World War II, High Roads. The story is unusual, but Yu’s art is still awesome – he draws all the craziness and sexiness involved with aplomb.
The next DC project is bigger; in fact, it’s the biggest yet – the new origin sequence for Superman, Superman: Birthright, written by Mark Waid. This 12-issue series is not only really good, it’s got fantastic art from Yu. He draws a noble Clark, a heroic Superman and a smart and sexy Lois Lane, and he’s one of those good artists who can handle the normal stuff as well as the exciting superhero stuff that is all the less talented artists care about.
Having pencilled DC’s greatest superhero in a definitive story, Yu seemingly decided he didn’t want to be pigeon-holed because his work afterwards jumps around on a couple of different books for different publishers before drawing Andy Diggle’s Silent Dragons, a creator-owned six-issue mini-series set in Tokyo in 2063, with futuristic violence and samurai cool. Yu is nothing if not eclectic.
In 2006, Yu signed an exclusive contract with Marvel, which he admits his more his spiritual home than DC. He starts drawing Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk, written by Lost’s Damon Lindelof, which unfortunately goes way off schedule due to the author’s work schedule (comics will always get relegated when TV or movies come a-calling), although they do finish it eventually (over three years later, in the middle of 2009). Yu is a hot artist, in demand and evolving his style to one with more detail and intensity but still with his vibrant and slightly exotic edge. Since he was on contract, Marvel sensibly decided to use his time on something big: he was eventually put on New Avengers, where he fitted right in, providing some great art (and great covers – I love the Ronin being attacked cover).
If working on one of Marvel’s biggest books wasn’t enough, Yu then pencilled one of the big crossovers: Secret Invasion was an eight-issue mini-series that was a continuation of the Skrull storyline that had been part of the New Avengers for a while, and he excelled again at the big stuff (double-page spreads of heroes versus heroes and heroes versus Skrulls) as well as the intimate stuff that is part of the package of a Bendis book. There’s no stopping Yu now – he’s drawn Ultimate Comics: Avengers with Mark Millar, which led to Yu drawing Millar’s creator-owned Superior (which will be turned into a movie eventually) and he’ll be drawing Millar’s Supercrooks, which is also being turned into a movie. This means that we’re going to get a lot more of his beautiful artwork, which will continue to evolve and get better; you can check out his website on deviantart if you don’t believe me.
I don’t know if it’s just my personal experience, or if it’s due to the fact that I grew up reading the X-Men, but Jim Lee is one of the defining superhero artists in comic books. His style instigated a host of imitators because it was the apotheosis of the slick and muscular mainstream comic book art of the 1990s. I haven’t done one of these in a while, so I thought I would start again with one of my favourite artists.
Although born in South Korea, Jim Lee grew up in America, where he got a degree in psychology with the intention of becoming a medical doctor. However, he decided he wanted to be a comic book artist – an obvious decision – and that is exactly what he became. After working on Alpha Flight and Punisher: War Journal, it was his run on Uncanny X-Men with Chris Claremont that made his name and helped to change the face of comic books.
After having the best-selling comic book of all time with X-Men #1 (it was a shame that things worked out badly with Claremont being ditched in favour of the artist as the main creative force), Lee was one of the original founders of Image Comics in 1992, with WildC.A.T.s, as well as having a hand in Stormwatch, Deathblow and Gen 13. However, he returned to Marvel to work on the Heroes Reborn project, working on Iron Man and Fantastic Four, before taking over from Rob Liefeld on Captain America and The Avengers. He didn’t forget his company, Wildstorms Publication (including the Homage and Cliffhanger imprints, which produced many a great comic book), and even wrote and drew his own series, Divine Right.
In 1998, he sold Wildstorm to DC so he could concentrate on drawing again, where he would draw year-long runs on Batman (the Hush storyline) and Superman (with Brian Azzarello), and is ‘currently’ drawing All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, although this might be tough now he is Co-Publisher (with Dan DiDio) of DC Comics. He is also an in-demand cover artist, providing variant covers and for trades. His highly rendered, strong-jawed, beautiful people look exactly how heroes should look – his dynamic interiors are exciting and well designed, and his ability to create new designs for characters is perfect for the mainstream comic book – and his covers show an excellent illustrator’s eye. New Jim Lee art is always a good thing.
Jim posts sketches and finished art on the gelatometti blog and is a regular on Twitter. There are various places to see more of his art, such as the Comic Art Community and deviantART, but I hope there will be more Jim Lee art to come.
I meant to do two of these a month, back when I was hoping to keep up a regular schedule. I’ve never done an art appreciation course, so I don’t have the critical facilities to objectively judge comic book art, which is why I wanted to try a series of posts looking at what I like and hopefully why.
Today, I’ll be talking about Gary Frank, an artist on my list of favourites just outside my top 5. Like a lot of people, I discovered Frank’s art when he did a two-year run on Peter David’s Incredible Hulk (between #401 and 425) back in 1993. It wasn’t his first work (he started out doing work for Marvel UK on Motormouth & Killpower and Dark Angel) but he seemed to be fully formed as an artist straight off. That’s not to say he hasn’t got better as an artist in the intervening years, just that he seemed confident and strong in his style and storytelling in his first major work on a US superhero book. Especially as he was following fan-favourite Dale Keown on the run that made him ‘hot’.
Over the next few years, he did various books (including a run on Gen13 with John Arcudi) before becoming the artist on Peter David’s revamp of Supergirl (is that series even part of continuity any more?). They already had the dynamic of a writer and artist in sync with each other, and Frank had proved he could do emotions and humour with the Hulk, so it was a good match, and Frank was able to draw a teenage girl that was actually recognisable as a teenager.
Although he still did work for DC after this run, his next contribution was to the world of creator-owned properties, when he wrote and drew Kin, a six-issue limited series about a secret government agency discovering the existence of Neanderthals in Alaska that wants to steal their technology (because Neanderthals have larger brains than Homo sapiens and are stronger as well). I enjoyed it, and would have liked to have seen more from Frank, who proved he could write as well as draw.
The connection with Top Cow (who published the trade paperback) seems to have led to the step that started Frank on the path to his current superstar status, when he was paired with J Michael Straczynski on Midnight Nation, a 12-issue limited series about a police officer who has to go on a quest to find his soul when he becomes a ‘Walker’. This led to Frank being the artist for when JMS revamped the Squadron Supreme in the MAX series Supreme Power, which had an adult take on the concept of the superhero and the scope to deal with that in the adults-only book. This first series lasted for 18 issues before it was decided, after two mini-series that Frank didn’t draw, to restart the series as a non-MAX book and call it Squadron Supreme. However, this series only lasted for seven issues before JMS left, and the team wasn’t brought back until the Ultimate Power crossover.
With the abrupt and bizarre end to Squadron Supreme, Frank needed something to keep him busy on his Marvel exclusive contract – he did cover and even worked on the Incredible Hulk again – but he decided to take up a DC exclusive contract when the Marvel one ended in 2007 and he became the defining Superman artist of the moment when he joined Geoff Johns for the Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes story in Action Comics and the Braniac story after that. There is also the World of Krypton storyline and he will be the artist on the supposedly definitive Superman Origin story, again with Johns, and he seems to be going from strength to strength. This is great news for someone who has enjoyed his art since the early days, and not just because he is a British chap.
Frank has a clean and strong style, in the tradition of the classic modern superhero artists (going back to Neal Adams). He draws superheroes as they should be drawn (or as I believe they should be portrayed) – noble, beautiful, aesthetically pleasing, clear, unfussy. He serves the story well, not needing to insert unnecessary pin-up shots to sell later. Not that he’s not capable – he’s become quite the sought-after cover artist due to his strong compositions and iconic feel to his work. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have his own site (how very old-fashioned), so you can find out the full list of his work here [LINK] and more of his art at the Comic Art Community [LINK].
Phil Jimenez is the modern day George Perez. And I think he’s better than Perez. There, I said it. You may accuse me of heresy if you wish, but I would much rather read a Jimenez-drawn book than a Perez book. They both excel at drawing pages and panels that are filled with characters and detail, with excellent anatomy and an ability to draw beautiful women that are not highly sexualised, which is something rare and special in the modern superhero industry.
Another Perez–Jimenez connection is Wonder Woman – both have written and drawn the character, although the Perez run is perhaps more lauded. Their starts were in opposite camps: Perez made his name at Marvel, whereas Jimenez started out at DC, which is where I immediately think of when I think about his work. Even though Jimenez is now on an exclusive contract at Marvel, and drawing their flagship character as part of the new approach to Spider-man (and he famously drew the infamous Barack Obama cover to Amazing Spider-man), he did work on some Marvel books beforehand – he drew an X-Men mini-series as well as drawing some issues of New X-Men with Grant Morrison.
There is another connection to Morrison – he drew the second ‘season’ of The Invisibles, Morrison’s creator-owned book; this was rather unusual at the time because Jimenez was a superhero artist, working on the likes of the New/Team Titans and Tempest (which he also wrote), but it showed his desire to break out of the mould and try new things. Although he would continue working on superheroes (JLA/Titans, Planetary/Authority, his Wonder Woman run), he also created, wrote and drew Otherworld, a 7-issue mini-series for Vertigo.
The final connection to Perez is when Jimenez was the main penciller on Infinite Crisis, to complement Perez’s art on the original Crisis on Infinite Earths – if you want a superstar artist who can actually draw millions of characters in interesting ways, make them look cool and make you care about a huge company-wide crossover, Jimenez is the man to call. Although I didn’t enjoy the story, I did like Jimenez’s art, which was his usual high quality.
A discussion of Jimenez has to mention his sexuality – as one of the most well-known openly gay comic book creators in the mainstream, Jimenez is a role model for any young gay men wanting to work in comic books, and it’s great to see one of the superstar artists in a medium not exactly known for its open-mindedness is allowed to be gay.
For an artist I admire, I don’t own a lot of Jimenez-drawn books; I have The Invisibles, the JLA/Titans series, the Planetary/Authority one-shot and the New X-Men issues. I think it stems from not being a great fan of the stuff he’s done for the most part – his superhero work at DC has been on properties that don’t really interest me. Which is a shame, because I’ve missed out on a body of work that has superheroes drawn the way they should be: lithe, well proportioned, noble, exquisitely rendered, heroic and pure. His attention to detail in anatomy, design and backgrounds displays craft and love. His men and women are beautiful but not titillating – he’s one of the few artists who can draw a sexy woman in a mini-skirt and not make you feel dirty for looking at it. Now, if he can only work on books I want to buy …
Get a full list of his work at Comic Book Database [LINK] and see some of his art at Comic Art Community gallery [LINK]. There is an out-of-date fan site [LINK] or you can see him in person on YouTube [Part 1/Part 2].
Chris Sprouse isn’t one of the flashy artists who work on a professional basis in comics but his solid, clear, crisp linework with his statuesque anatomies are the epitome of excellent comic book storytelling. The first work I saw by him was in 1993: Legionnaires, the spin-off of the teen version of the Legion of Super Heroes (part of the Keith Giffen ‘Five Years Later’ revamp), where his buoyant and bright art was the perfect choice. Previously, he had worked for DC on various things, including Hammerlocke, and he worked on various one-shots for various publishers after that.
His work at Awesome Comics on New Men led to him working with Alan Moore on his excellent Supreme series (a vast improvement on some of the more Imagey artists who had been working on the series). This, in turn, led to his working with Moore on his new ABC line, with his delightful run on Tom Strong – Sprouse’s work set the tone for the pulp throwback, with the way he drew elongated bodies and the fabulous architecture of Millennium City.
Since then, he worked on Ocean, the sci-fi action mini-series with Warren Ellis (which is turned into a film), started the Midnighter solo series with Garth Ennis, two of the Ex Machina Specials by Brian K Vaughan, the 8-part series Number of the Beast with Scott Beatty at Wildstorm, among various other issues for the big two. You don’t get to work with Moore, Ellis and Ennis without being able to bring the goods.
You can see more of his art at the Comic Art Community [LINK]. As always, there is a list of his books at the Comic Book Database [LINK]. He has a blog with his wife where he occasionally posts pencils, sketches and finished art [LINK], and there is a specific blog dedicated to selling his art, which contains a lot of interior art [LINK].
If there was ever a case where an artist was so strongly associated with one project, and my appreciation of the artist, then it is Tony Harris and his work on Starman. There were over 80 issues of the mid-1990s series about Jack Knight, the youngest son of Ted Knight (the original Starman), but Harris didn’t even draw half of them (although he did stay on as cover artist for most of the series). But, when I think of the Jack Knight Starman, I only see the version drawn by Harris.
Harris had been working in the business since 1989 but it was Starman that made him a pencilling celebrity, and it’s easy to see why – his beautiful and beautifully designed art was a refreshing style in the midst of the Image-influenced guns-and-shoulder-pads that was the norm at the time. He had a very heavy inking line, with little flicks coming off the lines that delineated the jaw that just looked cool. His Opal City was an art deco delight, and his drawings of tattoos on Jack made me want to get tattoos (although I never did).
Harris decided to spread his wings after the success of Starman. He was one of the original members of Gaijin Studio, but left to form his own studio – Jolly Roger Studio – which is still going strong today. He co-wrote (with Dan Jolley and Ray Snyder) various mini-series: Doctor Strange: The Flight of Bones, a 4-issue mini-series at Marvel Knights (with art on the first two issues by Harris); Obergeist (a 7-issue horror series at Top Cow); Lazarus 5, a 5-issue series at Vertigo, with art by Dusty Abell; and JSA: The Liberty Files (Harris on art duties), all around the turn of the millennium.
I feel a little bad for not having seen any of these books after admitting to how much I enjoyed his art but I’ve made up with it since 2004, when Ex Machina burst onto the scenes. Harris’ art has evolved since his Starman days – the stylistic tics of the thick lines and flourishes have been replaced by a cleaner line, with a slightly larger approach to character features, but still maintaining the excellent sense of design in both the interior pages and on the excellent covers.
He has drawn all the issues of the ongoing Ex Machina series (there have been several specials drawn by other artists), and he’s found time to work on other books: he provided art for Spider-Man: With Great Power for David Lapham at Marvel in 2008. There is also War Heroes by Mark Millar at Image, although there have only been two issues so far, the last in September of last year – I laud creator-owned projects, but it would nice to have them come out on some sort of regular schedule. Still, his art will be appreciated when it comes out, as can be seen by the many covers he has provided for various different books.
Tony Harris art on the Comic Art Community [LINK]
Ryan Sook is one of those artists who creates lovely covers and great art but who has yet to work on an extended run on a great book to elevate him to the next level. I first remember seeing his work on part of the Tangent Comics: Tales of the Green Lantern, back in 1998, although his first published work was on Challengers of the Unknown #15 in the same year.
His art style was very influenced by Mike Mignola, something he readily admits to (Mignola personally selected him to be the first artist other than Mignola to draw Hellboy universe work – a BPRD series), and he used this style on Buffy the Vampire Slayer books and a run on The Spectre by JM DeMatteis. Also at DC, he did an Arkham Asylum mini-series and then some interior pencils on Hawkman.
His art had evolved from the Mignola influence towards Adam Hughes, although still distinct. This gorgeous art style can be seen in the Seven Soldiers: Zatanna mini-series and the revival of X-Factor by Peter David; unfortunately, he only remained on interior duties of this for four issues (although he stayed on covers for another eight issues), which was a great loss.
He hasn’t done nearly enough interior work since but he has become something of a stellar cover artist of late, providing eye-grabbing designs drawn in a sumptuous style, all soft anatomy and beautiful faces. I look forward to him getting to grips with something big and defining so that he can have a greater presence in the pantheon of current comic book artists.
The Ryan Sook Official site [LINK] (which has a lot of Sook’s interior and cover art from his entire career)
Ryan Sook gallery on Comic Art Community[LINK]
Ryan Sook on Comic Book Database [LINK]