Five Artists Who Make Me Love Comics

August 26th, 2008 by | Tags: , , ,

Esther is a real life friend of mine who I regularly talk comics with. I’ve been bugging her to write something for me, ’cause I think she has a great POV, and I finally have proof that peer pressure and pestering works! She sent over a list of five things she likes about comics. Read on, and hopefully she’ll be back for more.

1. Rafael Albuquerque
The most recent example of Albuquerque’s art is in Superman/Batman #51. It’s an appropriate book for him, because Albuquerque is one of those always-underappreciated artists who can differentiate between Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent without going directly for the glasses and the spit curl. Clark Kent has a sunny expression, a chin that could only work on Superman or John Travolta, and the thick neck of a guy who is always the most muscular person in the room. Bruce Wayne has a scowl that blots out daylight and permanent lines of concentration over his eyes. Albuquerque has a talent for using subtle differences in facial features and musculature to give each character a different face and a different body. Too often, in comics, the reader is unable to tell characters apart until the colorist gets to them. It’s something special to be able to make two of DC’s most similar looking heroes unique.

2. Kevin Maguire
No one can finish a book drawn by Kevin Maguire without checking the cover to find out who the artist is. No one who has read one book drawn by Kevin Maguire can fail to recognize his style if they see it again, even if it were only a doodle on a cocktail napkin. I can’t think of another artist who is that skilled and that willing to be so gloriously silly. Kevin Maguire’s characters have faces made out of putty with the kind of expressions you might see if you hit the pause button during a Jim Carrey movie or an old Warner Brothers cartoon. Take any mildly funny scene and Kevin Maguire’s art will put it over the top. What’s more, instead of limiting Maguire to comedy, this style makes tragic moments even more poignant, because character’s face twist with recognizable pain instead being stuck in a stock pose. A lot of people think Maguire’s style isn’t pretty, and often they’re right, but I’m glad there is an artist who will sacrifice prettiness in order to let the characters express as much emotion as they are supposed to feel.

3. Roger Robinson
Which isn’t to say that I can’t appreciate prettiness. Have you seen Robinson’s work in Gotham Knights? The man draws cheekbones that can cut glass. And I haven’t seen that many moodily lit abdominal muscles since the movie 300. All that, and he doesn’t sacrifice expression or context. His subjects are beautiful, but they are subjects in a story, not objects in a pin-up. That’s impressive.

4. Amanda Connor
The Green Arrow and Black Canary Wedding Special really played to Amanda Conner’s strength, and not because of the subject matter. Playing to Amanda Conner’s strength means giving her a huge panel, the bigger the better, and filling it with people. Conner’s style is clean enough to keep the page from looking cluttered and she plans well enough to place little visual jokes that lead the reader from one part of the page to the next. Every character is looking, talking, or reacting to at least one other character. As a result, huge group scenes stop looking like a flat jumble of bodies and faces and become a number of little action panels, depending on which part of the page the reader is focusing on.

5. J.H. Williams III
A lot of artists have a style. J.H. Williams III has every style, including his own. In Batman #667-669 Williams draws a large group of characters, each of them penciled and shaded differently. And he’s not shy about throwing in pages that show a massive black fist superimposed over an exploding plane, or pages in which the panels form a huge pair of bat wings. Instead of distracting from the story, William’s art makes the arc into something both surreal and self-contained. It’s a beautiful piece of work, and something that should be shown to anyone who doesn’t consider comics ‘art.’

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10 comments to “Five Artists Who Make Me Love Comics”

  1. Great article! Putting Rafael number one really makes me happy. That young man needs more exposure.

    On that note: TOVAR THE LAVA KING!


  2. J.H. Williams III is absolutely sublime. What he brings to the table in Promethea is such a sense of style and storytelling, that catapults the book into one of the most amazing things I’ve ever read.

    His brought that batman arc into something epic. Something which may have seems banal from a lesser artist, becomes a story filled with suspense and mystery.

  3. I’ve always been a fan of J.H. Williams. He takes comic book art to another level. His panels are always a joy to paw through.

  4. Great list! And eduminofrmative!

  5. […] Savage Critic(s), with his 50 Things, broken down thematically. Second, there’s the debut of my very good friend Esther over at 4thletter!, with five artists who make her love comics. Read them both, and […]

  6. There are people who think Kevin Maguire’s art isn’t “pretty”?? I now make a flat statement intended to apply to all such people: you have no taste at all.

  7. I love the Tom Mandrake’s art. LOVE IT. He’d probably top my own fanboy list if I made one. But I would never call it pretty. Same with Guy Davis, Eric Powell, Gary Frank. Not to say Maguire’s art is similar to any of those guys, just that there’re more options than “pretty” and “bad” art. His skill with facial expressions truly is unique.

  8. Maguire is interesting because I think he’s the only superhero comic book artist that draws people with mouths open as they are talking. Everyone else draws closed mouths, tightly gritted teeth and such, but Maguire is one of the few who can capture that moment in the middle of a word.

  9. Oh man, I could write stacks about my favorite artists. It’s a good thing to do, working out exactly *why* you like an artist.

  10. @Jeff: Amen brother! 🙂