I can’t believe I hadn’t thought to do this post until now, but in the spirit of giving thanks, here goes. I think I focus a lot on character and story and I sometimes forget that artists have to draw this crazy science stuff that gets put in the books. The realization that I needed to do a post about this came from looking at battlesuit armor concept art. I saw one that blew me away and started trying to tease apart how it could function (Hint: I’m not an engineer, so this ended in abject failure), but it also made me think about what makes a person able to draw good science. For purposes of this article science is roughly equivalent to “futuristic technology” because that’s the more technical type of science illustration in my mind. At the same time, some “technology” is so futuristic it doesn’t require much skill at all to draw, like a green lantern ring. So great illustration of these concepts exists somewhere in a nebulous middle ground that is equal parts style, skill and imagination. With that in mind, I present my favorite artists… of SCIENCE!
Hitch draws objects with mass. Technology has an impact that can be felt, the heft of a cell phone, the heat coming off a laptop. The way hitch puts tech on the page you can see yourself flipping those switches and turning those dials. In a world where much technology revolves around weightless beam of energy it’s always great to have Hitch step in and add some sleek clunky-ness to the scene. From the epic in scale to the minute in detail, city-sized starships and nannite blood, Hitch is the man.
Tony Harris is known for photo-reference in his work. He actually casts his roles, sets up the scene and uses the photo obtained to craft his work. It is distinct from pulling the pose from a magazine cover in a very real way. What you might not know is that for complex objects like the jetpack from Ex Machina Harris actually has a 3D model. This allows him to view the machine from any angle and use it to maintain a consistency many couldn’t accomplish. That use of tech to draw tech, coupled with his ability to put believable ray guns into photorealistic pages earns him a spot on my list.
Wasn’t he on the list last week? Yup, he sure was. Hickman deserves to be listed as one of the best science writers AND best science artists. As I also mentioned last week, but worth reiterating: his time machine was a warehouse. The other aspect of his art worth mentioning is that every piece of technology in the real world has a logo: the coffee machine on your counter, every car on the road, every TV in the den. We’re all so used to it, but in most comics they have to pull the gadget apart to see if it’s Doom-tech vs. Stark-tech. Hickman would never allow that, things have labels and logos and adding those to his comics gives it that real-world touch most lack.
This is a bit of sidestep because Chadwick is often drawing alien tech and not future human tech, but I’d argue once one steps into the realm of speculative tech the line between alien and human is pretty damn fuzzy. Chadwick’s take on tech seems to be one of hidden depth and complexity. Chadwick draws alien tech the same way James Cameron renders an alien biosphere; at first it’s an affront to your sensibilities but soon you realize that there’s an underlying logic and inspiration for everything throughout the piece, and it’s worth enjoying on those merits. Chadwick often shows the smooth surface of a finished product but should it get smashed to bits every gear and wire will be right there for the reader to examine.
Who else could fill the top spot but the King? This guy practically defined the way tech is drawn in comics to this day. I’m sure every artist on this list would cite Kirby as a major influence in their own work. The unique design sense coupled with the frenetic and tactile energy jumping off the page, Kirby created a style of technology that could probably never exist in our world, and we’re all poorer for it.
Do you notice things like this while you read? An artist I left off the list that I should be ashamed to have overlooked? Let me hear from ya, folks! Only with input can the cream rise to the top.