Comic Book Artist: Terry Dodson

I first saw Terry Dodson’s art on two early Warren Ellis mini-series for Marvel – Storm, and Pryde and Wisdom. His soft, curvy and beautiful characters have an instant appeal, and he can also tell a story. His art has a similarity to Adam Hughes – the gorgeous female characters are a hallmark – but there is more of the traditional superhero comic book art to Dodson’s work. He does draw beautiful women but he also draws beautiful men, svelte and muscular in tight-fitting spandex; his work is detailed – he draws proper backgrounds as well as the main focus of the images – but without losing focus or clarity. It’s dynamic, exciting and a visual treat, with the aid of his wife, Rachel, on inks to provide excellent superhero art.

His career has been a steady progression – after early work on Mantra at Malibu and Ghost and a Star Wars mini-series at Dark Horse, there was the Marvel work with Ellis, followed by a long stint on Generation X. He then hopped over to DC to illustrate Harley Quinn (written by Karl Kesel) for a year. He returned to Marvel to draw the ill-fated Spider-Man/Black Cat mini-series written by Kevin Smith – started in 2002, it went on hiatus until 2005 when Smith got round to actually finishing writing the book; it’s a good thing that Dodson’s art, so perfect for drawing Black Cat, was worth the wait (even if the story wasn’t).

While waiting for Smith, Dodson drew the five-issue mini-series Trouble – written by Mark Millar – which was supposed to be aimed at teenage audiences but photographs of young girls in bikinis on the cover might have got a different audience … He maintained his connection with Millar by drawing his year-long Marvel Knights: Spider-Man – Dodson drew a great Spider-Man, and he got to draw a large proportion of his villains as well.

Apart from Adam Hughes, there was no other choice for the recent relaunch of Wonder Woman – Dodson drew a beautiful but powerful Wonder Woman. This is the important distinction – his women are beautiful and sexy but it’s not cheesecake or pure titillation; it is his style but it also serves the story (as I mentioned in my review [LINK]). Currently, Dodson is back at Marvel on an exclusive contract, tag-teaming on The Uncanny X-Men, making up for the Greg Land art on the other stories by showing how to draw larger-than-life characters in dynamic mutant action. As an X-Men fan of old, it’s a delight to see his art on Marvel’s muties.

For more Terry Dodson art, you can see a lot of it at the Comic Art Community gallery [LINK]. CBR has a lot of previews of interior art by Dodson [LINK]. He doesn’t have his own site, but there is a group dedicated to appreciating his art [LINK] and you can see a list of his comic book work at the Comic Book Database [LINK].

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Comic Book Artists: Chris Bachalo

This is the second instalment in what I hope will be a fortnightly feature where I highlight some of the artists I like. There is no preference to the order – just what I feel like at the time – and I’ll post some art and try to talk about why I like the art. I could go through my old comics and scan images to assist my discussion, but then I’d never get round to posting anything …

I first saw Chris Bachalo’s art in the pages of Shade, The Changing Man, the updating of an old Steve Ditko character by Peter Milligan at what would become the Vertigo imprint. Bachalo had a clean and cartoony style – I loved the lines he drew on noses for some reason – which was very different to the majority of artists working in the mature DC comic book arena at the time. He also had a great design sense – the elaborate borders around the panels were a Bachalo trademark (until Mark Buckingham started using it on Fables).

Along with 50 issues on Shade, Bachalo hit the big time drawing Neil Gaiman’s Death: The High Cost of Living, the hugely successful spin-off from Sandman. He also went on to co-create Generation X at Marvel– a very strange choice but the next stage in his evolution. His art became funkier, if that’s the correct term, a cartoony dynamism that was a fresh look for Marvel, and he had fun with the superhero comic and what could be done with the design and how the characters could look. I can’t say I enjoyed the stories but the unusual art style was always enjoyable.

A variety of other work at Marvel, including a year on The Uncanny X-Men, saw Bachalo move into the creator-owned world with Steampunk, co-created with Joe Kelly and published at DC’s Cliffhanger imprint. Bachalo’s art evolved again, becoming even more rendered and densely packed with detail, but the decisions of how to tell the story were strange, making the book difficult to read. It was over-designed and overdrawn and made every page an eyestrain and patience tester. The script from Kelly seemed deliberately obtuse and hard to enjoy and care for any of the characters. This combination caused its early cancellation (it was supposed to last 25 issues, but only managed 12).

After this, Bachalo hasn’t quite been as annoying with his art, although he has evolved as an artist, experimenting but remembering that he is still supposed to be telling a story (such as the New X-Men issues with Grant Morrison or the Ultimate War mini-series). His sense of design has gotten better – his covers are always eye-catching and play with the notion of what the comic book cover should be. His interior art is always interesting and his camera work is never less than unusual and engaging. I even read The Witching Hour for his art, even though I hated the story [link]. I’ll always enjoy Bachalo’s art and I hope he does something creator-owned again soon.

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Comic Book Artists: Travis Charest

On this blog, I have a tendency to talk more about the writing and the story of the comic books I love. This is partially because a lot of what draws me to comic books is the writing, but also because I feel inadequate in explaining and discussing appreciation of the art styles. However, the art is still important to me. To this end, I thought I’d try to start a regular feature by posting the work of an artist I enjoy, including some links, and a few words about them. I do something similar on my Tumblelog [LINK] but that has a broader remit in my posting of daily images rather than annotation, and it feels more appropriate on this blog.

The first artist, in no particular order, is Travis Charest [(official site at is supposed to be coming soon)] [Unofficial Official Travis Charest Art Gallery].

In 2000, after seven years at Wildstorm, Charest moved to France to work on a graphic novel in the Metabarons series with writer Alexandro Jodorowsky. But the publishers, Humanoids Associes, decided to use someone else to finish it because he was taking too long. So he returned to the US, doing covers, but there has been nothing much since that news (in 2007).

But it was what he did before the Metabarons that created the love of his work. Arriving on the scene in the late 1980s on a Flash Annual, Charest was an artist of the time and more like a flashy Jim Lee clone. He continued at DC with interiors on such books as Darkstars and Green Lantern Corps before settling home at Wildstorm and his run on WildCATS with James Robinson and then Alan Moore (even though he couldn’t do it every month). His style progressed from a Lee clone into something more distinct, more detailed, but still quite beautiful.

After the series ended, he drew the WildCATS/X-Men: The Golden Age in a newer style, even more detailed and exquisite; and then returned for six issues of the new Wildcats series, providing exquisitely detailed renditions of characters and tanks and buildings that couldn’t possibly survive the monthly grind. His perfectionism was taking too long, a problem that would hinder him on the Metabarons job. It is the Catch-22 situation – allow a talented artist the time necessary to produce his best work, or remind him that he needs to actually produce the work in the first place. He might have to survive by creating covers and the occasional projected completed on his own time (like the Spacegirls series that he has had published, which was originally seen on the MSN page), much like Brian Bolland.

Whatever happens to Charest in the future, his art is a joy to behold – detailed and carefully crafted, with a precision and a design that uses white backgrounds, not because he is lazy like some artists, but because he is using negative space to emphasise the focus of the image. If only he could produce this beautiful work on a regular basis.

You can see a complete collection of Charest’s covers at the CBDB, even watch him drawing at a Comic Con on YouTube, and see the full collection of his work at the Comic Art Community gallery, where I got the images you see.

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Comic Book Cameos

You can call it cameos. You can call it Easter Eggs. You can call it in-jokes. Whatever your name of preference, it is one thing that comic book art can do better and easier than just about any form of entertainment I can think of. The artist can tell the story but put in little references to other things, if you look at it close enough.

Take Excalibur #14 by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis. This is the first page.

Can you spot all the people hidden in the crowd shots? I can see Dr Strange at the top, the Black Knight, Thor, what looks like Dani Moonstar, even Grandma from the Giles cartoons in The Daily Express. What other medium could get away with that? Throwaway jokes but fun for fan of the art.

Alan Davis always had a sense of humour in his art, which was allowed free reign with Excalibur. This can be seen in the back cover of Excalibur #14, with alternate world versions of nearly superheroes.

The in-jokes come thick and fast in this issue. Claremont mocks all the versions of Wolverine that exist, with Davis aping the art styles of Logan’s first appearance, Patch, the Wolvie of Havok/Wolverine: Meltdown, John Buscema’s Logan in Madripoor, and his own version when he started drawing the X-Men.

There is even time to include a Dalek in the issue – the first Doctor Who crossover?

My favourite bit is the self-mocking of Claremont and Byrne, sitting at computers surrounded by Hellfire vixens and She-Hulk respectively, gently chiding the slight troubles that developed between the two creators after their time together on the X-Men.

Don’t you just love comics? The sense of fun (which might be missing a little nowadays, but that’s a topic for another post) and the feeling that the artists are putting a little extra into their work, providing more for your money, sharing in-jokes with the (small) community who enjoy it and feel the connection. Perhaps it’s one of the reasons I like Spaced so much, which does a similar thing in sitcom form, I don’t know, but comics does it best. God bless you, comic books.

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David Artists-Just-Outside-My-Favourites (Part 2)

Following from the previous post, this is the second part in my list of artists I dig but who are just outside my Top 5 (in continuing alphabetical order):

Keown HulkDale Keown
Peter David had a great run on the Incredible Hulk; not completely perfect by any means, but pretty damned good, it has to be said. It was made even better with artists who had a little something extra. Keown was such an artist for me, and his run on the Hulk came at the zenith of PAD’s run on the Hulk, leading up to the unification of the three personas. Keown could take it to extremes, but in a cartoony and appropriate manner, but he was also very good at drawing expressions in the talky parts, with an almost Maguire-esque ability with faces in comedy. I used to love the way his characters would have drool between their teeth when shouting; I’m weird like that. Even though he had a basis that could almost qualify as a Byrne clone, he bought an extra edge and freshness to his art that Byrne lost a long time ago. I even bought PITT, his creator-owned series from Image, which goes to show the impact he had. Shame he went off to try and become a rock star.

Lee X-MenJim Lee
When Lee did his first work on the Uncanny X-Men, I was wowed. It was just so cool. And I wanted more. Fortunately, I got more, although not enough as he went to start Image and do his own thing. I didn’t buy WildCATS (although I have a few issues dotted here and there) because I had heard that Claremont had been removed from the X-Men because the editors had wanted the superstar artists in charge, and I felt some loyalty to Claremont over Lee, even though I thought he was an almost perfect superhero artist. His mix of beautiful people, hard bodies, poses and movement were so appropriate for the time and place that I always associate him with the X-Men. I still like his art, even though it won’t buy just because it exists; I did buy his own series, Divine Right, while he was writing it (which was surprisingly good, in my opinion), which goes to show my affiliation for his work.

Maguire Justice LeagueKevin Maguire
I don’t know if Maguire feels stereotyped as the ‘Funny Superheroes’ artist, but his work is the best mix of superhero action and the exquisite detail of facial reactions required for good comedy that I have yet seen. Would the Giffen–DeMatteis run on Justice League been as funny without his art? I don’t think it would, as his fantastic art worked perfectly with the mood. I remember getting the Captain America year one series that he did with Nicieza, just because of his art, because I really don’t get Captain America, and thinking he could do the serious stuff as well. This was born out with the emotional weight of the most recent sequel to the Bwa-Ha-Ha days, in the Guy/Bea/Tora scene. I even bought Strikeback and Trinity Angels, such is my admiration for his art. I’ve yet to get The Defenders, but I can’t wait.

PachecoCarlos Pacheco
The clean, dynamic art of a European who loves superheroes has always been a joy to behold. It was probably Warren Ellis’s Starjammers that first caught my eye, but with art that splendid, it wasn’t difficult. There is a lean, detailed, muscular beauty to his work, with the highlights (for me) of Avengers Forever and Arrowsmith. I’m not a big Jeph Loeb or Geoff Johns fan, so I haven’t got a lot of his recent stuff (and the reason why I stopped buying his run on the Fantastic Four as well), but Pacheco on art is a guarantee of gorgeous work.

Pearson Body BagsJason Pearson
The funky, angular, cartoony stylings of Pearson first caught my attention in the Giffen ‘Five Years Later’ LSH. It could have been just the change after the moody Giffen art, but it was also because it has a fresh energy of its own, fizzling with movement and an edge. The most easily enjoyable work was the John Woo-inspired Savage Dragon story, Blood and Guts, but it’s Body Bags that is the closest to Pearson’s heart and home, with a bleakly funny take on a bounty hunter and his sassy daughter. I was very happy that Jason brought that back to us; it was more comfortable buying that than the Penthouse Comix he did (even though the story he did was incredibly sexy, I must confess).

YuLeinil Yu
Another artist I discovered via a Warren Ellis-written story, this time Wolverine, where Yu’s classic yet modern style just oozed off the pages and smothered my eyes in their gorgeousness. Despite not liking Lobdell, I still bought High Roads because of his sleak, snazzy visuals. His line has a very unique feel to it, with some nice touches and strong storytelling element. His Superman: Birthright was a very modern interpretation of Supes that I enjoyed, and I’m debating whether to get Silent Dragon, based on so-so reviews on the blogosphere. I might even pick up the trade of the Ultimate Hulk/Wolverine thing, just because of his sterling work.

That’s the list of pencil jockeys who float my boat, but don’t qualify for the David Top 5 favourite artists, coming soon.

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David’s Artists-Just-Outside-My-Favourites (Part 1)

I mentioned the fact I would be talking about the artists I enjoy, so here is the first part of the preliminary rounds – the artists I dig but who are just outside the Top 5 list of my all-time favourite artists. In alphabetical order, here are the first six in the category of Cool Artists:

CassadayJohn Cassasday
For his Planetary work alone, Cassaday has earned a place on my list of artists whose work I love. I even bought the X-MenAlpha Flight mini he did with Ben Raab, solely because of his eye-poppingly gorgeous art. An absolute joy to behold, he makes any work he touches even better, his sense of story is immaculate, his design is phenomenal and there is an innate coolness to everything he draws. A serious contender for a future Top 5 artist, once he has got more of a body of work under his belt.

CharestTravis Charest
The beautiful, slick, exquisite penmanship of Charest just sets of my visual pleasure sensors to overload. I even bought the pointless, Lobdell-written Wildcats, just to ogle the delightful art and swim in the sensuous beauty of it. I remember the story about Grant Morrison, sick to the point of hospitalisation, being given a batch of comics by Mark Millar, including the latest WildCATS when Moore was writing it. ‘Is it drawn by Charest?’ he was heard to ask, which goes to show the level of admiration his work can inspire.

ChaykinHoward Chaykin
One of the defining moments in my maturation in comic book taste beyond just superhero was the discovery of a British reprint of Howard Chaykin’s reimagining of The Shadow (‘Blood & Judgement’); it was just astounding, to me, with the mix of sex and violence and the unique and dazzling art style. Everything he drew just looked sexier, cooler and snazzier, and that hasn’t changed in all his work, from his signature piece, American Flagg!, through his porn masterpiece, Black Kiss, and his various superhero work, such as Midnight Men and Power & Glory. I’m very happy he’s coming back to the drawing board again.

DillonSteve Dillon
I first saw Dillon’s expressive art and clean lines in the pages of 2000AD, and he was good then, and he’s only got better. He will always be linked with Garth Ennis, and Preacher and Hellblazer, and his Punisher was hilariously funny, and I was really tempted to get the superhero work he has been doing with Daniel Way, just because it is Dillon. He draws talking heads, action scenes, emotional scenes, funny scenes, everything; and he does it without drawing attention to his superlative work and tells the story perfectly. I hope his increased presence on the scene gets him more money, as he deserves it.

FrankGary Frank
I don’t recall if I had seen Gary’s art prior to his run on the Incredible Hulk with Peter David, but it became an instant favourite, especially coming so soon after Dale Keown’s run, which I think of as the pinnacle of the David run on the character. His classic superhero physiques, solid storytelling, as well as his facial expressions, matched with a strong, slick line, mean his work will always be a draw for me. He has developed a great working relationship with JMS, with Midnight Nation perhaps being the strongest collaboration, and he had a fair crack at writing for himself too, in the rather good Kin.

HitchBryan Hitch
Hitch started out as an Alan Davis clone, but most artists start somewhere and then progress. And, boy, has he progressed. He started well on the second season of Storwatch, then blew the comic book apart with his widescreen magic on The Authority. With The Ultimates, he is now one of the definitive superhero artists currently working in the field, each issue a visual delight. Strong vision matched to pitch-perfect penmanship and storytelling, with an eye for the stunning image, he has it all. Long may it last.

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Work kills, links feed … oh, and something about artists

Wow, work just came out of nowhere and bit me in the arse. Bastard. How am I supposed to blog if I have to earn a living? So, first some linkblogging, then some thoughts on artists.

Scott at Polite Dissent is back. Seems there was a problem with his hosting service, which has been sorted. Good news.

Tom presents a very well-reasoned look at the two-faced nature of Joe Quesada when it comes to Spider-Man [EDIT: post has been removed]. Makes a lot of sense to me, especially as Joey Q will let JMS and Kevin Smith do whatever they want and then turn around and say that Peter Parker being married doesn’t work. There are no bad ideas, just bad writers, Joe.

Comic Book Galaxy are having a giveaway [EDIT: dead link] – you should all be made aware of this.

Happy Birthday to Mark, who has gone a bit senile in his old age, because he is giving away presents instead of receiving them. You can find out more here.

For my information, Shane is back blogging again at his exquisitely designed site [EDIT: dead link].

Which reminds me that (a) I need to work out CSS and make this site look nicer and (b) I must update my sidebar of links; it’s a mess.

Dave continues to talk about X-Men, with a look at my favourite story from Grant Morrison’s run on the New X-Men, which was so amazingly perfect in its execution, characterisation, story development, art and all round brilliance that the rest of the run, while wonderful, could never hope to match.

Jake has a well-supported treaty on the redundancy of Sue Storm [EDIT: blog is now for invited readers only] in the beginning of the Fantastic Four (and, therefore, evidence for how awful a writer Stan Lee could be) that goes to show how much good work John Byrne did on his run with the group (yes, there was a time when Byrne did good things).

Oh, and apparently there’s a trailer for some sequel that people seem to be excited about …


The recent discussion about masterpieces got me thinking about artists. I’ve always had a tendency to focus on the writing side, as the story is what really hooks me, but a great story is made even better with great art, so the hard-working artist should not be ignored. I have no training in art appreciation, so my favourite artists can be summed up in the words of the Monty Python sketch: ‘I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.’ My selection is based on the comics I have read and books I have bought and the emotional weight of long runs and a set of aesthetics that even I’m not sure I can fully describe.

With this in mind, you can take whatever I say with a pinch of salt. I’m going to split up my favourite artists into three groups:
1. Artists who I really dig but aren’t on my top list.
2. Artists who are good and have made me go out and buy their stuff, even if I haven’t kept it.
3. My top five favourite artists.

Today, the first group: artists I really dig who aren’t on THE list. Let’s tackle this alphabetically.

Superman by Gene HaGene Ha
His exquisite artwork is so nice to look at, I can barely believe that it has been done with pen and ink. I like the mixing of a modern feel with sense of classical in his work, and the smooth, sleek lines. Apart from the occasional individual comic, such as a Starman or Global Frequency, it has to be his work on Top Ten, particularly The Forty Niners, that is stand out in my collection, even though I’m posting a scan of a Superman cover.

Starman by Tony HarrisTony Harris
He is in for his funky lines and cool styles on Starman. His Ex Machina is good, but the ‘young guy proving his ability’ vibe in the early Starman is just so damn good. When he wasn’t doing Starman, it just didn’t feel right. The other projects he has handled in between these two series haven’t grabbed me in the same way, hence his position on my completely biased list.

Power Girl by Adam HughesAdam Hughes
He draws beautiful cheesecake, even if that isn’t what he wants to necessarily do. It just looks so good. I could fill the blog with the multitude of covers he has done, which start at gorgeous and escalate to amazing, so it’s a shame he doesn’t do as much inside the comics. Of the most recent, the accompanying Power Girl cover just sums him up; lush, powerful, stunning, cheeky, implausible, and art that just strokes the retina and tickles the cornea. My collection has Gen13: Ordinary Heroes, the Bwa-ha-ha Justice League run, and Star Trek: Debt of Honour.

Superman by Frank QuitelyFrank Quitely
This might seem an unusual position for Quitely, as he is one of the most stunning artists working in comics at the moment. However, his attention to detail means that he hasn’t produced a sufficient body of work to make him a main contender. His unique art style, with the elongated anatomy (especially the long legs), big jaws, unusual sexuality and fantastic pop art design mean there is nobody like him, even if he isn’t perfect or a believer in deadlines. Still, my collection is richer for his stylings on Flex Mentallo (probably my favourite), All-Star Superman, New X-Men, JLA: Earth 2 and the wonderful We3.

Fantastic Four by Mike WieringoMike Wieringo
I’ve always liked the cartoony yet muscular style of Ringo. His work on The Flash with Mark Waid just worked so well, especially for one so new to the biz, and the mix of curves, a cartoon-strip relaxedness and the kinetics of superheroics was a style I’ve always looked out for ever since. The runs that help to make my collection include The Flash, his pairing with Waid again on The Fantastic Four, and his co-owned project, Tellos, which was utterly charming and enjoyable, made moreso by his pitch-perfect art for the story, mixing a child-like (not childish) quality with the soaring imagination of fantasy.

Hopefully, work next week will allow me the opportunity to talk about the next group – the artists who make me buy their stuff (but still not my ultimate favourites).

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