Top 50 Comic Book Artists of All-Time Part 2 - Mania.com



Top 50 Comic Book Artists of All-Time

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Top 50 Comic Book Artists of All-Time Part 2

A look numbers 40 to 31 on the list

By Tim Janson     April 23, 2013
Source: Mania.com

 

 

Who are the 50 greatest comic book artists of all-time?  We could argue about it all day but we’re going to take a stab at it anyway.  Let’s first talk about comic book art in general.  Comic book art has changed tremendously over the past 20 – 25 years.  Advances in paper and printing technologies have been a boon to modern comic artists for many reasons.  Today, artists are able to take advantages of higher quality paper, high-tech printing processes, not to mention the advent of software programs like Photoshop and Corel Draw.  


In part two of our countdown of the 50 greatest comic book artists of all-time we look at numbers 40 to 31.

 

 

40. Wally Wood

Wally Wood is the third member of the vaunted EC Comics stable to make our Top 50 list.  Wood’s first work for EC was in 1950 and he would go on to work on just about every EC title although he would be best known for his work on Weird Science and Weird Fantasy.  Wood’s elaborately detailed pencils and imagination made him one of EC’s most popular creators.  Wood also did interior and cover art for Galaxy Science Fiction Magazine in the 50s and 60s.

 

Wood worked for Marvel in the 1960s and designed the now famous all red costume for Daredevil in issue #7.  He also worked on the Dr. Doom feature in Astonishing Tales.  Wood co-created T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents for Tower Comics in the 1960s doing both interior and cover art of 19 of the 20 issue run.  He worked for both Marvel and DC in the 1970s, primarily as an inker.  He published his own independent magazine called Witzend.  With his health and career in decline, Wood committed suicide in 1981 at the age of 54.

 

Notable Works: Weird Science, Wird Fantasy, Daredevil, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents

 

39. Dave Stevens

The late Dave Stevens was a throwback to the great pin-up artists of the 1940s and 1950s like Gil Elvgren, Earl Moran and Archie Dickens.  His nostalgic, playful style of illustration made him a fan favorite instantly.  Stevens got his start inking for Russ Manning on the Tarzan newspaper strip and later he did storyboard work for the Hanna-Barbera animation studio.  In 1982, Stevens created the Rocketeer, a 1930’s pulp-style hero in the manner of Doc Savage for defunct Pacific Comics.  The adventures of the Rocketeer would move onto several different publishers including Eclipse comics, Comico, and Dark Horse.  The character would also be featured in a theatrical film from Disney in 1991.

 

Stevens would go on to do a voluminous amount of cover art work not only for comic books but for book publishers, gaming companies, trading cards, and advertising firms.  His “good girl” glamour pin-up art, particularly of Bettie Page, have become the stuff of legends.  Stevens died in 2008 of leukemia.  

 

Notable Works: The Rocketeer, Bettie Page illustrations

 

38. Bernie Wrightson

In the 1970s Bernie Wrightson shared “The Studio” with three other up and coming artists: Mike Kaluta, Jeffrey Jones, and Barry Windsor-Smith.  Wrightson is perhaps the most direct descendent of the great EC Comics horror artists of the 1950s, particularly Graham Ingels and Johnny Craig.  Wrightson’s first comic work was for DC’s House of Mystery in 1969.  Two years later Wrightson and writer Len Wein co-created Swamp Thing in House of Secrets #92.  Wrightson’s macabre brand of art was perfectly suited for Swamp Thing and other horror titles like The Unexpected, House of Mystery, The Witching Hour, and Chamber of Darkness.

 

Wrightson would go on to do extensive work for Warren Magazines Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella as well as an illustrated adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  Wrightson and Jim Starlin were the primary forces behind the production of “Heroes for Hope” the 1985 one-shot comic to benefit famine relief in Africa.  Starlin and Wrightson collaborated on two miniseries in 1988, The Weird and Batman: The Cult, for DC, as well as the Hulk vs. Thing graphic novel for Marvel.  In 2012, Wrightson collaborated with Steve Niles on Frankenstein Alive! Alive! for IDW Publishing

 

Notable Works: Swamp Thing, Batman: The Cult, Bernie Wrightson’s Frankenstein

 

37. J.H. Williams III 

While it might seem as if Williams is one of the young hot guns in comic art he’s actually been around for over 20 years.  He worked for many smaller publishers in the early 1990s. He had various short stints on several DC titles in the mid-1990s but his first work of note was Chase for DC in 1997 – 1998.  He worked on the Son of Superman graphic novel in 1999.  However it was on the Wildstorm title Promethea that made Williams a star.  Working with writer Alan Moore, Williams’s visual style netted him 16 Eisner and Harvey awards and nominations.

 

Williams teamed with Warren Ellis on Desolation Jones, another Wildstorm title and had short but popular stints on Detective Comics.  Since 2011 he has been plying his trade on Batwoman and producing some of the most stunning artwork in the business.  He won two more Eisner Awards in 2010 for his work on Detective Comics.

 

Notable Works: Promethea, Detective Comics, Batwoman

 

36. Harvey Kurtzman

Harvey Kurtzman kicked around the comic book business for years after World War II trying to get his break.  He was hired by Stan Lee at Timely comics to do fill-in work.  He soon got his break at EC Comics where he worked as artist, writer and editor specifically on EC’s two war-themed titles Two-Fisted Tales and Frontine Combat.  Kurtzman brought a sense of dramatic, gritty realism to the titles that had never been seen before.  His realism was a result of hours spent researching history as well as interviewing former soldiers about their wartime experiences.

 

As significant as this contribution was, Kurtzman cements his place on this list with the creation of Mad.  Mad started as a comic book and Kurtzman wrote all of the stories for the first two dozen issues as well as providing the cover art.  In issue #4 Mad presented a parody of Superman resulting in a copyright lawsuit from DC Comics.  Kurtzman successfully fought the suit, forever cementing Mad’s right to parody which remains in place today.  When EC publisher Williams Gaines canceled all of EC’s titles in the wake of the establishment of the Comic Code, Mad was the only survivor, being switched to a magazine and thus outside of the Comic Code Authority’s reach.  Kurtzman would leave Mad in 1956 in a dispute with Gaines and would be hired by Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner to edit Trump, a new humor magazine.  

 

Notable Works: Two-Fisted Tales, Frontline Combat, Mad Magazine

 

35. John Romita, Jr.

John Romita, Jr. is, of course, the son of John Romita, Sr.  Like his father he ended up at Marvel and has enjoyed several notable runs on The Amazing Spider-Man over the course of thirty years, a title his father worked on with Stan Lee in the 1960s.  He Co-created Hobgoblin and Dazzler.  From 1988 – 1990 he enjoyed a popular run on Daredevil with writer Ann Nocenti and inker Al Williamson.  The run included the creation of villain Typhoid Mary.  In 1193 he teamed with Frank Miller for the five issue mini-series Daredevil: Man Without Fear.  Romita has worked on The Uncanny X-Men several times throughout his career including on the pivotal “Mutant Massacre” storyline.  

 

Romita has enjoyed lengthy runs on Iron Man, Peter Parker: Spider-Man, and Thor. He was the artist on World War Hulk and the Sentry limited series.  In 2008 he teamed with Mark Millar for the critically lauded Kick Ass series as well as its sequel Kick Ass 2.  After nearly forty years in the business John Romita, Jr., continues to be a major force in the comic book business.

 

Notable Works: Daredevil, X-Men, The Amazing Spider-Man, Kick Ass, World War Hulk

 

34. Alex Schomburg

Alex Schomburg was the greatest cover artist of the Golden Age…period!  Said Stan Lee, “I've always felt that Alex Schomburg was to comic books what Norman Rockwell was to The Saturday Evening Post. He was totally unique, with an amazing distinctive style. You could never mistake a Schomburg cover for any other artist's.”

During Marvel’s early years when it was known as Timely Comics, Schomburg did the art for nearly 200 covers of Marvel Mystery Comics, The Human Torch, Captain America, The Sub-Mariner, Young Allies, All Winners, All Select, and USA comics.  Few artists have ever come close to matching Schomburg’s unique cover dynamics.  There is so much going on in a Schomburg cover that you find a new detail every time you look at one.  He specialized in beautiful women who are about to fall prey to the insidious villain unless the hero arrives in time.  Schomburg would provide covers for several other publishers but it was his work at Timely that resulted in much of the company’s early success.

 

Notable Works: Timely Comics covers

 

33. Howard Chaykin

At 19, a young Howard Chaykin became an assistant to Gil Kane, one of the major influences on his career and later became an apprentice to Neal Adams.  Chaykin’s major break came when Marvel had him draw their adaptation of the first Star Wars film in 1976, the first comic book adaptation of any kind of the film.  In the late 1970s his primary work was for Heavy Metal Magazine and he also did design work on the Heavy Metal film.  In 1983 he launched his creator-owned title American Flagg for First Comics, working as both artist and writer on the satirical Sci-Fi series.

In 1986, Chaykin did a violent re-boot of The Shadow for DC Comics set in modern times rather than the 1930s.  He later revamped another dormant DC title, Blackhawk in a three issue, prestige format series.  Controversy would follow Chaykin on Black Kiss, a 12 issue series for Vortex Comics in 1988 that drew criticism for its extreme violence and sex in its tale about vampires in Hollywood…but damn did it have some gorgeous artwork!  Chaykin turned to working in TV in the 1990s as a consultant for the Flash TV series as well as working on Viper, Earth Final Conflict, and Mutant X.  In recent years he’s returned to comics working primarily for DC on titles like American Century, Challengers of the Unknown, Hawkgirl, and Guy Gardner: Collateral Damage.

 

Notable Works: Star Wars, American Flagg, The Shadow, Black Kiss

 

32. Walt Simonson

 

After working on titles like Detective Comics where he drew Manhunter as a backup feature, and Star Wars (Marvel) Walt Simonson became one of the biggest names in comics in the 1980s with his runs on X-Factor, Thor, and The Fantastic Four.  His run on Thor, beginning in 1983, where he served as both artist and writer ranks with Jack Kirby and Stan Lee as the greatest runs in the character’s history.  During the run Simonson created Beta Ray Bill and saw him turn Thor into a frog…The Frog of Thunder!  Simonson took over as artist and writer on The Fantastic Four in 1989 where he introduced the new team of Wolverine, Spider-Man, Ghost Rider and the Hulk.

 

Simonson has worked on dozens of titles for both Marvel and DC over the past two decades as artist and writer including Orion, The Avengers, and Michael Moorcock’s Multiverse, and cover work for Vigilante.

 

Notable Works: X-Factor, Thor, Fantastic Four

 

31. Carl Barks

Comics are not all about superheroes, horror, and war tales.  There was a time when Disney Comics were as popular as any comic books around and their greatest talent was Carl Barks who is best known for his comic featuring Donald Duck. Bark was hired by Disney as an animator at their studio in Hollywood.  He quit in 1942 intending to start a chicken farm but needed a way to earn a living in the meantime.  Barks went to work for Western Publishing who was putting out the Disney Comics.  He never would start that chicken farm as he would write and draw some 500 stories featuring Donald Duck.


Barks created supporting characters like Scrooge McDuck, Gladstone Gander, the Beagle Boys, The Junior Woodchucks, Gyro Gearloose, Cornelius Coot, Flintheart Glomgold, John D. Rockerduck and Magica De Spell.  Barks’s stories weren;t just typical funny animal fare but were lively, cinematic adventures done in comic book format.  Long before Indiana Jones Barks had Donald Duck and nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie going off to search for artifacts in “Lost in the Andes” or searching for ancient Viking treasures in “The Golden Helmet” or going on an expedition to find the legendary Philosopher’s Stone in “The Fabulous Philosopher’s Stone”.  In fact, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have acknowledged that the rolling-boulder booby trap in the opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark was inspired by the 1954 Carl Barks Uncle Scrooge adventure "The Seven Cities of Cibola".


Because his work went uncredited in the comics, Barks was a virtual unknown until 1960s when his identity was finally discovered by fans. Barks’s paintings today sell into the thousands of dollars.  Barks passed away in 2000 at the age of 99.


Notable Works: Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories, creation of Scrooge McDuck


Check out Part 1 here on Mania.com.

 

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COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 10 of 16
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fatpantz 4/23/2013 12:51:17 AM

SOme of my favorites include Jim Lee, Jae Lee, Butch (Jackson) Guice, Whilce Portacio, Frank Quitely, Alan Davis, Simon Bisley, Walt Simonson, Mike Ploog, Alex Ross, Dale Keown (because we are family :P), Sam Keith, Mike Mignola, George Perez, Neal Adams, Frank Frazetta, Joe & Andy Kubert, Mike Mignola, Ben Templesmith, Tony Moore (ever since Battle Pope), Todd McFarlane, Humberto Ramos (Revelations mini-series = awesome), Joe Madureira, J. Scott Campbell, Jim Cheung, Gene Ha, Mike Zeck, Kevin O'Neill.

I could probably carry the list forever as I didnt even really get into Silver Age, but loving the article.

jedibanner 4/23/2013 5:30:23 AM

So far this 2nd list is great and makes total sense. If some of you had a chance to look at Howard Chayken's follow-up to Black Kiss, Black Kiss 2....it's one F-uped book I can tell you that.

Roqueja 4/23/2013 6:10:12 AM

Really enjoying this list so far.  The body of work by some of these artists is astounding. 

goldeneyez 4/23/2013 7:10:57 AM

When you get done with this how about a top 10 worst artist list? I don't understand how Rob Leiffeld continues to get work.

tjanson 4/23/2013 8:35:29 AM

Goldeneyez...that's funny because there were some people yesterdaty who felt Leifield definitely deserves to be on the list...LOL.  He does divide people, that is for sure!  You'll have to keep reading to see if he hs or not but I don't think I'd ever want to disparage anyone by making a worst list...I may have one in my head, mind you!

 

WarCry 4/23/2013 8:54:41 AM

 I would have thought JRJ and Walt would have been a little higher. Not complaining or saying it's wrong, just an observation.

monkeyfoot 4/23/2013 9:18:18 AM

Tim, you are doing a fantastic job on this series! Excellent information some I knew and lots I didn't.

Two thumbs up and a Hanso Erect Pipi!

tjanson 4/23/2013 9:26:39 AM

Thanks Monkeyfoot!  WarCry...Well I'll tell you this..the Back 25 was MUCH harder to do than the top 25.  The Back 20 - 25 could have been filled with lots of guys and it was hard to narrow it down. .

Tevii 4/23/2013 10:30:44 AM

Im enjoying the list, but Marc Silvestri should be lower on the list than John Romita, Jr easily.

blankczech 4/23/2013 10:31:22 AM

 This is great.  I plan to save your list.  I'm very familiar with the work of all of these artist except J.H. Williams III (who hit the scene after I stopped reading comics).  I would have a hard time picking one of them over another.

Your little bios are very nostalgic.  You've reminded me of how obsessed I was with Comics, Flash Gordon serials, and classic Horror and Sci-fi flicks as a young boy growing up in 1950's.

That obsession didn't wane until (with a lot of prodding by my father, who forced me to join the little league and put up a basketball hoop in our driveway) I discovered that I was good in sports, but I've remained a loyal fan and a collector.

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