Damnnnnnnnn!!! Haven’t had ourselves a graphic novel article in a while, eh? April/May in fact! Well, I would’ve reviewed something by now, but I’m reading a real book! With, like, pages n’ stuff! I’m proud of myself, to be honest.
Still, I knew in my gut that I couldn’t, with a conscience at least, starve my raving fans of some graphic content, novels that is! Sha-zangle! (Note-to-self; possible catchphrase) So, I thought I’d rank my favourite fellas to put pencil to paper and bring some of my favourite stories to life. No strong rules to this one, as long as they’ve drawn a friggin’ comic book. You’ll see the name of the artist coupled with their work that landed them on this list for me, not necessarily their most famous. Oh, and a quick warning, there is a strong possibility that I’mma get right arseholey about artwork here, so watch out for that. Righty, let’s dive right in!
10. Dave Gibbons (Watchmen)
Damn Daniel! *dabs* *whips/n’naes* In my Watchmen review, I actually criticised the artwork to some degree and, while I stand by my points in there (which you’d know IF YOU’D’VE READ IT, DAMN YOU.), there’s no doubt that Dave Gibbons’ throwback art style lends itself to Moore’s masterpiece massively. His colourful work here, along with his lettering, harks back to the Silver/Bronze Age, even if it was coming to close as Watchmen was coming out. This style wonderfully contrasts with the brutal content of the story, and matches a lot of the themes. Apart from this, he’s also lended his talents to Mark Millar’s The Secret Service, which led to the Kingsman series of films, as well as Superman and Judge Dredd.
9. Dave McKean (Arkham Asylum)
In the vein of something completely different, Dave McKean’s photorealistic drawings and multimedia use in novels like Arkham Asylum and Sandman has made him one of the most unique artists ever. Moreover, his use of cluttered pages and dark imagery makes his work perfectly suited to the psychological horror of Arkham. His visuals truly are like very little else of in the world of comics and the only reason he remains so arguably low on the list is that his style is very suited to one specific genre, even if it is completely masterful in every way.
8. Mike Mignola (Hellboy)
Speaking of uniqueness, albeit in a completely different way, Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy, uses a blocky, almost minimalist at points, style with an emphasis on monochrome in a lot of his work. Personally, I’m a big, big, biiiig Hellboy fan so I had to include this guy in here somewhere. There is an surplus on influences here, with elements of fantasy, steampunk and mythology all coming together to create something new overall. His other work includes B.P.R.D and the extended Hellboy universe, Batman’s Gotham By Gaslight (which isn’t inked properly in my opinion by P. Craig Russell), as well as various bits n’ pieces for Marvel and DC.
7. Lee Bermejo (Joker)
Another artist who’s pretty uni— d’ya know what? I’mma save myself the easy segway-intro line and say that literally all these artists are pretty unique, cus’, like, why would I pick them if they weren’t? That’s kinda dumb. Anywhooom, a frequent collaberator with writer Brian Azzarello, Lee Bermejo’s angluar shading and seedy colour choices make Joker one of the downright dirtiest graphic novels in years. And not like, sexy dirty, like a strip club where every seat is warm and sticky-dirty. Nonetheless, there’s an essence of movement to each panel, leading the action to feeling super tight, and a level of painstaking artistic detail throughout his work.
JOKER (2008) – SUB-REVIEW
6. Jamie Hewlett (Tank Girl/Gorillaz)
However, if you’re looking for detail, you can’t get much more detailed than the ass-tonne of in-jokes and tidbits sprinkled over Jamie Hewlett’s stupidly funny Tank Girl series like a vermicelli made of Australian slang and tits. Indeed, before stepping it up a technical notch with Damon Albarn and Gorillaz, Hewlett was known for pissing about in Sussex and sometimes drawing Tank Girl. As well as having a very distinct figure-style, with an emphasis on profile, the artist also includes a huge amount of detail in his books, usually in the form of messages, jokes and witty dialogue snuck in the background. His panels are those you have to look at for ages at a time so you can get all the jokes within.
5. Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira)
Just look at that. That nightmarish vision of absolute destruction, scaring 7 year-old me shitless and giving me a reason to not want to watch Akira ever. Thank God I did, however, so that I could fall in love with the masterful artwork of Katsuhiro Otomo. As well writing the masterpiece, Otomo also lent his drawing talents to the series, with high-octane motorbike action and scenes of desolation commonplace throughout. I have since fallen in love with the post-apocalyptic imagery of Akira, especially the image above, and, as someone who stays in the shallow end of manga/anime, Katsuhiro Otomo remains a role model of mine, over an artist.
4. Simon Bisley (Judge Dredd)
But enough about that shite! Let’s get to stabbing and punching and big MUSCLEY MUSCLESSSSSSSSSSSSSS. While I may joke, Simon Bisley’s uber macho, almost grotesque, style of hyperactive action has graced the pages of many a hero and villain, but it’s his work with Judge Dredd, particularly the Dredd/Batman crossover, Judgement On Gotham, which is the finest thing that has graced this Earth in LONG TIME, that really takes the steroid cake. His bombastic use of colour is thoroughly 90s and, screw it, I have no more fancy words for this, HE IS JUST BADASS, YUYEAH?
And he’s the inspiration for Tim from Spaced, so, y’know, double points.
3. John Romita Jr. (Kick-Ass/World War Hulk)
Son of another famed artist leg-end John Romita Sr., co-creator of The Punisher, John Romita Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps in a beautiful way, becoming renowned as one of Marvel’s top artists, with my favourite Marvel book of his being World War Hulk. Though it could be argued that his style in that book particularly is on the generic side, there is an abundance of action and movement to his contribution. However, his work in Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass is what I love his style for particularly, with his cartoonish but horrificly gory style being some of the most entertaining visuals in any graphic novel I’ve seen in a while and is the main reason why the novel is one of my most re-read. Needless to say, Jr. has definitely lived up to his father’s (and his) name.
2. Jack Kirby (The Incredible Hulk/X-Men)
No “best comic book artists of all time” list would be complete without an appearance from the granddaddy of comic book art himself, the legend Jack Kirby. As well as creating Captain America, who is regarded along with Superman and Batman as one of the first superheroes, his partnership with Stan Lee also spawned timeless characters such as The Fantastic Four, X-Men and The Incredible Hulk (a personal favourite of mine). Artistically, Kirby’s style became the fundamental style for almost all artists that came before him, using a bright colour scheme and revolutionary shading techniques. Comic books literally wouldn’t be the same without him.
This list is drawing to a close (I’m ON FIRE), but before that, we have the honourables:
Steve Ditko (Spider-Man)
John Romita Sr. (The Amazing Spider-Man/The Punisher)
Bryan Lee O Malley (Scott Pilgrim)
Dalibor Talajić (Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe)
Frank Miller (Sin City)
Todd McFarlane (Spawn)
Greg Capullo (Batman)
David Lloyd (V For Vendetta)
Hergé (The Adventures of Tintin)
1. Brian Bolland (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Alright, let’s ignore the fact that The Killing Joke and everything associated with it has become no. 1 in literally ALLLLL the graphic novel top tens I’ve done and just assume, if you haven’t read it (what’s wrong with you), that it is that good, ‘cus it is. Despite this, Brian Bolland is deserving of the title of “THE ACTUAL BEST, YEAH??!” in his own right. While it isn’t, in theory, any different from a lot of the artwork out there in millions of other comic books, especially from the 80s, Bolland possesses some kind of power that gives his stuff an extra umph of uniqueness, making his famed Judge Dredd covers some of the best in the biz. A perfect example of this is The Killing Joke, where his bright colours contrasts with the dark shadows of the scenery, his stark, line-ridden shading style, it all makes the stuff of nightmares and artistic perfection. With a firm foot in the classic fundamentals, but also a completely unique tone, there isn’t a particular word for Bolland’s style other than “timeless”.
Other art articles:
Lots of hugs, kisses and lacerations