5 Artists Who ARE For Me

A couple of weeks ago, I went over some artists who just weren’t for me. But I’m not a negative guy, so it’s only fair that I follow up with 5 artists working today, who just do it for me.

A lot of these guys aren’t really fan favorites, but they’re guys who pro writers flock to, because they make the writer’s work that much better. They’ve all got that certain mix of storytelling ability, and that stylistic factor you can’t place objectively. You know it when you see it.

1) Sean Phillips

Phillips has been a favorite of mine since his work with Joe Casey on Wildcats. I’d never seen it before then, and I’d also never read Wildcats, so it didn’t occur to me how much off the path both Casey and Phillips were straying. Phillips has a style that’s both new and old. The work has shades of Kirby blockiness, and lots of black moodiness. At times, it doesn’t look at all realistic, but then I noticed a weight to it that grounds the art a bit more in reality than it appears at first. Following his departure from Wildcats, as it moved to Volume 3, Phillips found a perfect fit with the Ed Brubaker penned Sleeper, which actually played off the same Wildstorm Universe. Simply put, this is one of the best series I’ve ever read. Phillips captured the grim despair of the main character, living in a world between the lines, where he just could not win. After Sleeper, Phillips found a completely different direction, and the one he’s most known for, working with Robert Kirkman onMarvel Zombies. I would never have thought to make him a choice for that book, but did it work or what? It had to be scary and funny, and taking someone with a cleaner more traditional style just wouldn’t have worked as well. It was another side of Phillips that I hadn’t seen before, and it really impressed me. Finally, Phillips is back with Brubaker today doing Criminal, which is very likely the finest ongoing series we have at the moment. While I don’t want to see him go anywhere, he brings something to comics that no one else can. I’ll be following as long as he’s drawing.

2) Michael Lark

Like a scratchy old photograph you uncovered from the attic, Michael Lark’s work looks so real that you’ll double take. But a closer look reveals what is absolutely a drawing, and not really photorealistic at all. He’s just that good. I first found Lark on Gotham Central, where I instantly fell in love. He drew Gotham City exactly as I’d imagined it. There was nothing fantastic going on, there was only grit and dirt. The detectives of the MCU had no costumes other than the trench coats and ties required of a GCPD detective, and when a superhero actually did show up, they stood out in contrast where the outfits were just a bit silly, but real in a way we didn’t see every often. That reality was further evidenced in WWII flashback sequences in Brubaker’s Captain America series. Here, they actually looked like the photos of old, but there, in the middle of all that was Captain America and Bucky, as believable as they’d ever been rendered. Now, of course, Lark is set up in Hell’s Kitchen, drawing Daredevil with Ed Brubaker (who apparently has similar taste in art as I do). I didn’t realize before Daredevil what a great grasp on anatomy and shape he had. The best thing about the Daredevil work are the pages featuring Matt bouncing and flipping around, capturing the incredible gymnastic beauty of his abilities.  Alex Ross does photorealistic, but Michael Lark does realistic, and to me, there’s no contest.

3) Jae Lee

It’s just pretty. It’s ethereal. It’s moody and otherworldly. It’s awesome. And even though Jae Lee is partially responsible for the reviled Bob Jenkins, I can’t hold it against him. Just two letters away from an entirely different comic book artist, Jim Lee and Jae Lee have very little else in common. I first experienced Lee’s work on Paul Jenkins’ 12 issue series for Marvel Knights, The Inhumans. That series created a love of the Inhumans, as well as Lee’s work. It even made me a fan of Paul Jenkins, where I bought his books for years before realizing I didn’t like most of them. When I read their follow up, the aforementioned Sentry, I tried my best to convince myself I liked it, because I wanted to like it so much. I think part of the problem was, it just wasn’t right for Lee, which I think is why we haven’t seen more work in the legendary status from him. He’s done good work, but his style is so different from the tone of most mainstream comics, that it often just doesn’t seem right. He did Fantastic Four 1234 with Grant Morrison, a book I should have loved, but it too was a bit weird, and ultimately not for me. Then I didn’t hear from Lee for a while, resurfacing on the mega project, Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. Again, I’m not really all that interested in that story, but damn it doesn’t look fantastic. I’d also say that it is a good fit for Lee’s unique style, as it’s just a bit askew from our world. I bought every issue of The Dark Tower, and while I usually didn’t know what was going on, this was the rare case where I’ll forgive that, because I just love looking at the art. Inky blacks wrap around the pages, and make you feel like you’re just somewhere else, which is where The Dark Tower certainly takes place. I might not like every story Lee does, but I’ll always take a look at the very least. There’s no one like him out there.

4) Tony Moore

I love Tony Moore. I love it when Tony Moore draws a comic book. I can’t believe he’s not a bigger name, but I’m not ruling out the possibility in the future. Originally brought to me attention long ago in Robert Kirkman’s debut, the self-published Battle Pope, even then I knew there was something cool going on, and he’s gotten a lot better since then. Of course, it was Kirkman again who sent Moore’s notoriety upwards with their collaboration on the indie phenomenon The Walking Dead. Where the world of Battle Pope was crazy and often infantile, the world of The Walking Dead was as real and gruesome as you could get. It was horror in the truest sense. But it also gave him the chance to work his “disgusting” muscles, something he excels at, perhaps better than anyone out there. From there, Moore kept kicking around at the edges of mainstream comics, where he still lives today. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time, and knows which properties to get with on the ground floor. So, after The Walking Dead, Moore hitched wagons with Rick Remender, and applied his style to F.E.A.R. Agent, and went with classic space pulp adventure. This book was just crazy fun, as it still is today, with bubble space helmets and actual rocket ships, plus all the crazy, squishy aliens and ray guns they can think of. Then, over at Vertigo, Moore drew The Exterminators written by Simon Oliver. He amped up the creepy level to create a book that, to this day, makes me crawly all over, while at the same time, capturing the feel of south Los Angeles, in a world not too far off from our own. Sure it’s possible that most of his main, male characters are remarkably similar brown haired tough guys, but I don’t even care. He makes great comics, and they don’t look like anyone else’s.

5) Ryan Ottley

Ryan Ottley is a guy who I don’t believe has peaked yet. He’s a star now, but there’s a good chance that this guy could be a superstar. Of course, for him to do that, he’d probably have to leave Invincible, and I don’t want him to do that any more than anyone else does. This guy has a blend of classic, gorgeous clean superhero style, but something light and modern at the same time. Take a look at any of Ottley’s sketches or unfinished pages, and you see how much is going on there, right under your nose, where at first it just seems so clean and simple. While it looks almost cartoony at first, there’s a weight there, and a basis in strong artistic fundamentals. He does a big superhero in space splash page as well as anyone out there. Invincible is a great book, and Kirkman is rightfully given a lot of credit for that, but Ottley makes the magic happen. He puts the characters emotions on the page. He draws and creates he huge spaceships and gives scale to Mark Grayson’s world. He’s a guy who could be a household name if he took over on Ultimate Spider-Man or The Flash, but he’s sticking with his baby, and it’s clear he’s still having fun drawing Invincible. It’s right there on the page. He also does a mustache like nobody’s business.


  1. Nice choices, Josh!

     My list would be:

    1. Mike Mignola

    2. Sean Phillips

    3. Corey Walker (the original Invincible artist; he does some random books – and upcoming Destroyer)

    4. Darwyn Cooke

    5. Marcos Martin

    I’d buy any books that those guys listed draw.  And I know I’m gonna get thrown out for saying this, but I also do buy Chris Bachalo stuff — not as definite as the 5 artists above though. 

  2. Here is my 5:

    1.  Jae Lee

    2.  Tony Harris

    3.  Jock

    4.  Jim Cheung

    5.  Kevin Maguire

    Absolute must buys for me when ever they are on a book.  I especially love Tony Harris.  That dude can make a book about a politician interesting to look at.  Special shout out to R. M. Guera.  That guy almost made my list and probably will soon.

  3. It looks like we fall into the same category – ‘sketchier’ artists as opposed to clean line ‘cartoony’ kind of guys like Bagley or Cooke (not that there’s anything at all wrong with either of them). Jae Lee is one of the small handful of artists who’ll get me to pick up a book no matter who was writing it, and his Dark Tower stuff is just mindblowing.

    Ottley on Flash would be awesome!

    I’d throw Scott Kolins in the mix as well – his Flash was just incredible, and he cranked out a few good issues of Countdown as well. He just never got the right title at Marvel – I would have liked to see him have a long run on the Hulk or, even better, Iron Man. I also dug the Thor mini he did.

  4. @Hoshigaki: good call on Tony Harris.  I can’t wait til I get my Starman Omnibus.

  5. jack kirby. maybe this is too easy but he wouldnt have made my list 3 years ago. the rash of kirby reprints lately along with recent purchaes of silver age ff comics have, made me understand what i only pretended to for many years.

    dave sim/gerhard i treat them as one artists,as they blend seamlessly. politics or mental stat aside, i ahve seen no finer execution of a black & white comic, and no one treats lettering as a part of the art like sim does 

    brian bolland the killing joke hardcover broght it all back. and the man does all those tiny lines with a brush 

    jim cheung.  best artist at marvel today

    john romita jr best storyteller today. the panel layouts are smooth, and he can pick the best moment of action, as if he drew all the frameslike an animation and the picked the exact moment that captures the action.

    shout out to joe sinnott. inkers never get the credit they deserve, but sinnott may be the best inker ever. he was able to ground kirby when necessary and get out of his way when he had to. tight beautiful elegant brush lines,  strong blacks, and a knack for texture, all defined the look of the ff if not marvel comics for 2 decades

  6. Gaaahhhhh!!! Forgot Tony Harris. I love the ink wash he added to his Ex Machina stuff about 2 years or so ago – just amazing to look at.

  7. Michael Lark is an easy #1 for me – just read Batman:Nine Lives after seeing it on the video show, a beautiful book – though the rest of my top 5 would probably lean more towards cleaner and/or cartoon-ier styles: Darwyn Cooke, Jodi Bernet, Scott Chantler, Howard Chaykin. If Eric Wight did more, he’d make it. Marcos Martin is on his way. From the sketchier side, I love what Kieron Dwyer did on XXXombies, and the current artist on Ghost Rider has a little something, too.

  8. My current five:

    Frank Quitely

    John Cassady

    Eric Canete

    David Aja

    Ethan Van Scriver

    My All-Time Five:

    Jim Steranko

    Seth Fisher

    Brian Bolland

    Barry Windsor-Smith

    Bill Graham 

  9. @PV – Roland Boschi!  I really like his work on GHOST RIDER.  It has gotten better with every issue.

  10. Man there are all sorts of ways I could extend this to 10, or even 15.

    Jock!  I can’t believe I left out Jock!  I just wish I could see more of his work.

    Darwyn Cooke is an easy pick, and when it’s right, Frank Quitely is quite nice.

  11. @tork good call on quitely

    My five, in no particualr order:

    Frank Quitly

    Chris Weston

    J.H. Williams III

    Seth Fisher

    Charlie Adlard

     plus everyone that everyone else mentioned.



    Top 20 Artists (in order):

    1.      Michael Lark

    2.      John Cassaday

    3.      Steve Lieber

    4.      Dave Mazzucchelli

    5.      Gary Frank

    6.      JG Jones

    7.      Kevin Maguire

    8.      Sean Phillips

    9.      Frank Miller

    10.  Alex Maleev

    11.  Jock

    12.  David Aja

    13.  Cliff Chiang

    14.  Joe Kubert

    15.  Steve McNiven

    16.  Tony Daniel

    17.  Darwyn Cooke

    18.  Andy Kubert

    19.  Jason S. Alexander

    20.  Ron Garney

  13. Have that ready ahead of time, did you?

  14. did a top seven because i have a bad memory and couldn’t remember everyone.

    1. mike mingola

    2. darwyn cooke

    3. steve griffen

    4. guy davis    

    5. cliff chiang

    6. david aja

    7. and that dude that did the dr. strange mini and is on amazing spiderman right now. (sorry bro, but i’ll know it soon enough)

  15. I have a top 5 "currently" which is a lot different than my "all time."

    Duncan Fegredo

    Frank Quitely

    Gary Frank

    Dale Eaglesham

    Lee Bermejo (just by a hair over Marco Djurdjevic

  16. Maybe

  17. Yeah, these are my "currently" because all time is just too daunting.

  18. VERY VERY surprised that Cliff Chang isn’t on the list

  19. My current top six.

    1. Steve Epting

    2. Alex Maleev ( although, i dont think he is right for mighty avengers)

    3.Leinil Yu.

    4.Ryan Ottley

    5. Brandon Peterson (mark my words. he will be big.)

    6. Karl Kerschl 

  20. Matt Wagner
    Tim Sale
    Terry Moore

  21. shit. i forgot cassaday. throw him in there too.

  22. @ milk. your # seven, it’s marcos martin. and i’m expanding your list to eight. you forgot john ramita jr.

  23. I buy/read anything done by Ryan Sook and I agree with the poster regarding Dave Sim..he’s the eptiome of B/W art in my opinion. I’ve recently been reading Cho’s Liberty Meadows and now i’m in love with Brandy as well…and any cover done by Adam Hughes is tops in my book as well…

  24. oooo…oh yes, Cliff Chiang and Amanda Connor…and Nichola Scott….

    *sigh* I hate these kinds of things because it IS just too hard to pick 5…..

  25. Sam Kieth and Tim Sale are the only artists I will pick up based on art alone no matter the character or project. Otherwise, Ben Templesmith, Alex Ross and Darwyn Cooke. I like a little bit of everything.

  26. great call with ryan ottley. that guy’s work is just brilliant upon brilliant, and even as brilliant as it is, i definitely get the feeling that we ain’t seen nothin yet.

  27. All of the artists listed here are definitely great artists.  I’ve really been enjoying Ivan Reis’ work on Green Lantern and I’ve always enjoyed Immomen’s art on both Nextwave and Ultimate Spider-Man.  For the most part, there are only a few artists that I can’t stand while there are tons of artists that scratch my itch.

  28. Here’s my top five today:

    John Cassaday

    JG Jones

    Cliff Chiang

    Olivier Coipel 

    Ryan Sook 


  29. good call on the sook

  30. What no Travis Charest or Dave Johnson

  31. Charest was a little before my time, and left american comics around the time I started reading again.  I don’t really consider him a current artist even.  Does anyone remember the last thing we saw him on?

  32. I remembered Charest from Wildcat vol 2…. that was him, right?

  33. He did the first 8-10 issues before he left.  That was 1999-2000.  It wasn’t very good.  Lobdell was writing.  Charest was gone when Casey took over.

  34. Today its:

    Lenil Yu, Dale Eaglesham, Ivan Reis, Roberto de La Torre, Tom Scioli


  35. At the moment,  my fav 5 are:

    Michael Lark

    Leinil Yu

    Leonard Kirk

    Steve Epting

    Jamie McKelvie 

  36. Ben Templesmith 

    Shaun Tan

    Sonny Liew

    Barbara Canepa (SKY DOLL was perfect)

    Humberto Ramos is occasionally brilliant (Revelations)

    Don Rosa 

    Joshua Middleton (the first 3 issues of NYX)

    Ashley Wood



  37. Chris Bachalo

    Humberto Ramos

    Jim Valentino

    Igor Kordey

    Rob Liefeld

    Stephen Platt

  38. @Josh

    I remember reading somewhere that Lobdell hated working with Charest because he would send him the script and he would get back something radically different.  Plus, he was REALLY slow.

    Supposedly his next project was a Metabarons OGN, but that was at least three years ago.

    Did anyone see his work on that DC series "Darkstars"?  Great character designs and Donna Troy too!

  39. Charest at the moment is just doing covers for Star Wars and the like. Plus his fun web comic ‘Spacegirl’.

    I liked the Wildcats thing he did, mixed up the feel in American Comics, gave it an European feel.
    Like a prelude to books like the fantastic ‘Sleeper’.

  40. I read through the grapevine that Lobdell wouldn’t give Charest a full script, which Charest reportedly pleaded for. Lobdell wanted to do it ‘Marvel style’, and what he got was a giant transforming tank.

    Charest got the boot on the Metabarons thing, because he was too slow even for the French publisher. I read his output was ridiculouls–someting like 27 pages in several years. The OGN will include Charest’s pages, but Humanoids got someone else to finish it.