What’s up, Gifted Readers? I’m sure you’ve all been good and faithful comic book readers and have been enjoying a variety of titles. If not, there is a detention room reserved for you where I will gladly confine you to hours of comics reading. Your assignment would be to read the entire 100-issue run of Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s 100 Bullets…backwards. (Actually, that could prove to be a neat experience). Great series, by the way, which makes an appearance on a list or two of mine.
Speaking of lists, that’s the theme of this week’s lecture. Everyone loves lists, right? They tend to be a rather social thing, and sometimes we’re competitive with them. Well, no competition here, this is just one comic book geek's individual perspective of what's worthy of great praise. Mostly this is a nostalgic trip down memory lane. Here we go.
Note: The artists featured are cited for their interior art. Cover art is a whole other category (that I just might, um, cover in a future List). It should also be noted that this list essentially starts at 1987 and does not include older artists as it focuses on artists that were on the current titles at the time. All images are clickable. :-)
Favorite Artists of All-Time(no particular order)
Jim Lee on (adjective-less) X-Men
This one’s easy. For his huge impact on modern comics, current DC Comics co-publisher Jim Lee is, in my opinion, easily the closest thing we have to Jack “The King” Kirby in the modern era as far as talent, scope of work and impact on the entire comic book industry. Kirby was a natural influence on Lee, and so were other greats like Neal Adams, John Byrne and Frank Miller. After his entry-level runs on Marvel’s Alpha Flight and The Punisher: War Journal, he has a had high profile runs on most of the major icons. Usually accompanied by inker extraordnaire Scott Williams, this man has been great on everything he’s drawn from my fave of his, the X-Men and WildC.A.T.s (and his phenomenal WildC.A.T.s/X-Men: The Silver Age work), to his experimental Frank Miller mode on Deathblow #1 & 2, his redux on the Fantastic Four, to his lush work on Batman: Hush. He simply pretty-fies everything his pencils grace. Through his former WildStorm Productions studio in the 90s, he found, taught and unleashed upon the world new pencillers such as Brett Booth, Travis Charest, Jeffrey Scott Campbell, Ryan Benjamin, and inkers Alex Garner & Sal Regla. Now, Lee is currently drawing DC’s icons in Justice League. He hasn’t even hit 50 yet and he’s easily got 20 more great years in him. Stars like this don’t merely fade, they go supernova. P.S. It's my contention that the X-Men still have not looked better since.
Jaime Hernandez on Love and Rockets
An artist/writer (i.e. cartoonist) who is equally as great at illustration as he is at writing (more on this in an upcoming column). In the nearly 30 years of Love and Rockets existence, Jaime’s art has grown exponentially from its rawer, Dennis the Menace-meets-Archie influenced beginnings (with even a touch of Charles Schultz, Alex Toth, and Jack Kirby thrown in the mix), to what is now a slick, picture-perfect style all his own that has gotten him nominated often for industry awards. His one-third cartoony + two-thirds realistic style is instantly recognizable, and has often graced the covers of other comics, magazines and album covers. It’s my very strong opinion that his sense of visual storytelling is unmatched in modern comics, even using nothing fancier than the old school 6-panel grid. I'll address him as a writer in another column.
Travis Charest on WildC.A.T.s
One of Jim Lee’s greatest protégés if you consider that it’s a rare case of the student besting the teacher (although I’d argue that Lee is still the better visual storyteller). Charest’s sense of design and composition alone set him apart from his contemporaries in the field. And that texturing? It’s like the guy is etching his drawings out of stone. Usually inked by Troy Hubbs, Charest started his first run on volume one of the title with writer James Robinson on issue #15. However, later when he was pared with writer Alan Moore on issue #21, it was startling how much he’d grown as an artist in just seven issues (pretty much by abandoning the more Jim Lee-esque aspects of his style). He probably grew to his most ridiculous level of awesomeness with his X-Men/WildC.A.T.s: The Golden Age issue, represented below. Due to a low output, he is still somewhat obscure. It’s tantalizing to imagine what a universally respected superstar he could have become had he put together long runs on multiple titles, and not taken a break away from mainstream comics. Certainly our loss, at the very least. Fortunately he’s still providing covers here and there.
Marc Silvestri on Uncanny X-Men
I’ll keep this one simple. This man, Marc Silvestri (founder & CEO Top Cow Productions) was the first artist to take over regular penciling duties on Uncanny X-Men when I first started reading it in late 1986. Partnered with inker Dan Green, Silvestri's debut came in early 1987 and ended in mid-1990 when, after a brief interruption, he ceded the title for good to some upstart artist named Jim Lee (who was actually a studio mate at the time). The UXM assignment ultimately led to his definitive run on the first ongoing Wolverine series. He is much more than an artist, he is a teacher of art, according to Nelson Blake II, one of his Top Cow Studio charges and artist of The Magdalena. Silvestri’s studio has produced a number of artists still making an impact in the field today: David Finch, Michael Turner (rest in peace), Joe Benitez, Billy Tan and Kenneth Rocafort, ‘Nuff said. [Ed. Note: more from Mr. Blake’s interview in an upcoming PBX issue].
Dan Brereton on The Nocturnals
Before discovering Dan Brereton on his great, great creator-owned comic The Nocturnals in 1994, I don’t really think painted comics were on my radar. After that, it became the way I wanted my own (never produced) comics to look. I will have more on Mr. Brereton and his creation The Nocturnals in another List column.
Other faves include...
Frank Miller on Sin City
Alex Maleev on Daredevil
Terry Moore on Strangers in Paradise
Chris Bachalo on Shade: The Changing Man
John Cassaday on Astonishing X-Men
Eduardo Risso on 100 Bullets
Jae Lee on Fantastic Four: 1234
A lot more to come in forthcoming issues of PBX, including another list (or two), digital comics, The X-Men Regenesis and an interview with Top Cow's The Magdalena artist Nelson Blake II. Until then, X out!
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