Comic books have been a medium of story telling for the better part of the last century. Audiences have been captivated by the rich stories of heroism and valor, but the story is only half of what makes a comic book great because the art is the vessel that carries the tale to us. What is so unique about comics is that an author and artist can tell a story by showing a specific image, and our minds is what makes the story flow off the page. Surely the dialogue and story telling sets the stage but amazing artists are the ones that populate it. So without further ado, lets talk about some of the the industries greatest artists.
Jack Kirby is a legendary artist whose art is usually how people visualize comics of the golden age. Jacob Kurtzberg, was born August 28th, 1917. He lived in a poor neighborhood in New York before taking the pen name of Jack Kirby and creating one of the greatest icons in comic book history: Captain America. Later in the ’60s he would usher in the Marvel age of comics by creating heroes such as the Fantastic Four, The Hulk, Black Panther and more. Nicknamed “The King” by Stan Lee, Kirby’s work is the stuff of legends and became an example for many artists in the years to come. His dynamic and imaginative style is exactly what the world needed. In an age today where hyper-realistic art is the norm, it’s fun and exciting to read a Jack Kirby original and think of the golden age of comics.
Jumping forward in time we have self taught illustrator Greg Capullo. Capullo was born on March 30th, 1962 in Schenectady, NY. From a very young age knew he wanted to be an illustrator. His first drawing was Batman at the age of 4, and today he is one of the leading illustrators on the scene for DC’s Batman comics (with greats like the New 52 run on Batman and Dark Nights: METAL). He draws his inspiration from the Frank Miller comic The Dark Knight Returns. He has worked on a multitude of projects ranging from Spawn to World of Warcraft to cover art for Korn. His style consists of realistic yet simplistic characters, as well as edgy horror that can sink into your brain. He’s truly an amazing artist that continues to produce amazing content.
Another comic book icon is the late Steve Ditko. This man did amazing things for Marvel comics and comic books themselves. Stephen J. Ditko was born November 2nd, 1927 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He studied under Batman artist Jerry Robinson and when he broke into the business worked in the studio of Jack Kirby as an inker. Ditko would be best known for co-creating Marvel characters Spider-Man and Doctor Strange with Stan Lee. It was Ditko’s imagination and art style that immortalized these iconic superheroes and created the image that our minds conjure when we think of them today. He went on to create Charlton Comics whose characters like Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, and the Question would become integrated into the DC universe and inspire the heroes of Alan Moore’s Watchmen. The comic book world would be very different without the likes of this man and all comic book fans should pay homage to this legend.
One of the artists working on the forefront today is Ivan Reis. Ivan was born June 11, 1976 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Former DC chairman and author Geoff Johns worked with Reis extensively on multiple projects during the DC’s New 52 reboot. Johns defines Reis’ art as resembling a mix between Alan Davis and Neal Adams. Reis has worked on a myriad of projects including Aquaman, Flash, Superman and Green Lantern. He started out doing art for the Dark Horse comic Ghost. From there he rose through the ranks working with illustrious writers such as Grant Morrison and Brian Michael Bendis. Many modern hits like Green Lantern: Blackest Night, Aquaman: The Trench, and Justice League: Trinity War, can be attributed to him. Ivan Reis is always one to put out stellar work that really compels the reader. He is a trusted artist by many and one can always expect amazing art from him.
Tim Sale was born in Ithaca, NY on May 1, 1956. If you’ve read a book illustrated by Tim Sale you know how wonderfully unique his art style is. Sale started out doing art for MythAdventures, and some other short term projects before beginning the work he was known for which came in large part from his partnership with Jeph Loeb. Loeb and Sale’s comics are renowned for their engagingly gritty story telling, ink wash art and nostalgic atmosphere. Comics like Batman: The Long Halloween, Spider-Man: Blue, and Daredevil: Yellow, are found on the shelves of any comic store, and have inspired many film and animated adaptations of the characters we see today. Sale has created a timeless and unique art style that will not be forgotten in the world of comics.
Born in Calgary, Alberta we have Fiona Staples. She is a pioneer in exclusively digital comic book art. Growing up she would be inspired by books like the Chronicles of Narnia, Redwall, and Dragon of the Lost Sea. Her first work was “Amphibious Nightmare’ published in the “About Comics” anthology. Later she would work with Wildstorm Productions and was the penciller/inker for many more publications including Archie comics. In March 2012 the comic book series Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan, was released which heavily showcased Staples’ art and skyrocketed in fame. Vaughan was impressed by how unique her art looked and how nobody else’s art really compared. She is co-owner of Saga, she is on the forefront of digital comics and will continue to shape the future of comics.
While some view comic book art as “low art”, Alex Ross brings all evidence to the contrary with his beautifully painted panels of superhero action. Born January 22, 1970 in Portland Oregon, Ross learned much from his mother Lynette Ross, who was a commercial artist. He was inspired by heroes such as Spider-Man, and comic book artists like George Perez and Neal Adams. He had a particular interest in Norman Rockwell’s art and hoped to one day see it applied to comics, and after studying the hyper-realistic work of Salvador Dali he set out to do just that. His first work for comics was published in 1994 when he painted for the Marvel miniseries Marvels. From there his popularity grew and he did work for both Marvel and DC (Kingdom Come being another popular book of his). One can search for any superhero, old or new, and find an amazing masterpiece by Alex Ross. It is a sight to see when your favorite hero has been immortalized in all their glory by such an amazing artist.
When Bob Kane and Bill Finger created Batman, it took the likes of Jerry Robinson to help bring Batman to life. Robinson was born January 1, 1922 in Trenton, New Jersey. He studied journalism, but when he met Bob Kane he was hired as an inker and letterer for smaller projects. Batman had been created only shortly before this and Robinson would soon find himself as the primary inker for the Caped Crusader. It was Robinson who was responsible for characters like Robin and the Joker and their subsequent adventures. After his time at Detective Comics he would go on to create Spark Publications, create for many other characters and do freelance work for a textbook publisher. It was his unique style that created the template for the beloved comic book characters that he created. Where would entertainment be without Robin or The Joker?
Jim Lee is largely regarded as one of the great modern artists of the time. He was born on August 11, 1964 in Seoul, South Korea. He grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, where he would draw posters for school plays from a very young age. Yet he went on to become a psychologist, and as he was about to graduate took an art class that reinvigorated his love for art and drawing. While reading comics like The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen, Jim was inspired to leave psychology and become a creator. He started illustrating Marvel comics for Alpha Flight and The Punisher, and started to receive much recognition for his work on Uncanny X-Men which he illustrated and co-wrote with Chris Claremont. In the ’90s, Jim Lee and other artists would form Image Comics, and his studio Wildstorm Productions which helped many artists keep the rights to characters they created. He left the publishing business in ’98 to pursue illustrating and worked for DC. He created art for comics such as Batman: Hush and Superman: For Tomorrow. Jim Lee’s art holds on to the traditional flare and energetic tone that older comics had set, while still revolutionizing comics with well rendered and technically realistic drawing. Jim Lee has left his imprint on the world of comic book art and will be remembered for it.
Will Eisner’s lasting contribution to the world of American Comics is second to none. Eisner was born March 6, 1917 in Brooklyn, NY. He had a very poor background and his family moved around constantly. Eisner consumed pulp magazines and films from a young age and his father, who was an artist, encouraged Will when he discovered an interest in illustrating. Eisner began to pursue art but when the Wall Street Crash of 1929 hit his mother demanded he get a real job. Yet he still pursued art, and at one moment in high school he would be drawing for the school newspaper, then the next he would go to work and support for his family during The Great Depression. At the suggestion of his high school friend Bob Kane (future Batman creator), Eisner went to draw for Wow Magazine; which collected reprinted newspaper comics. Eisner partnered with the editor Jerry Iger and went on to do great things, but it wasn’t until 1939 that Eisner would shake the comic book world. In 1940, The Spirit was published. The subject matter and the art for The Spirit was unlike anything seen before. It set the precedent for comics at the time and many more to come. Eisner would go on to popularize graphic novels with his book A Contract With God. The world of comics would not be the same without Will Eisner. So much so that his impact upon the world has led to the creation of the Will Eisner Comic Awards which is basically the Oscars of comics. Eisner is an epic luminary among all other comic book artists.