If You Love It, You Can Rank It

Right on the cusp of the Great San Diego Newsalanche, the Onion A.V. Club (which I don’t think of as having anything whatever to do with comics; shows what I know) has posted the quintessential comic blogosphere article, “Reinventing the pencil: 21 artists who changed mainstream comics (for better or worse).”

It’s an interesting list that could provide message board debate fodder for days at a time, although I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the way good artists and “controversial” artists are tossed in together all pell-mell. Kirby! Ditko! Greg Land! Wheee!

Plus: has George Tuska not suffered enough? It’s one thing to go after a Rob Liefeld, who for whatever opinions he has engendered has enjoyed a long and lucrative career, but I don’t have much patience for plucking a man out of relative obscurity just to say how much he deserved to be in obscurity in the first place.

On the other hand, their assessment of Todd McFarlane is as succinct a summary of my own feelings on the artist as I’ve ever seen.

What do you think of this list? Did they miss anyone, or add anyone unnecessarily? Why even have an internet if you’re not going to use it to argue about this stuff?


  1. Remember this is the Onion, they lampoon everything and this may be a article written to cause fan outrage on the net. I havent read the list yet but i will now.

  2. This looks pretty legit. Usually you can tell pretty quick if it’s a joke.

  3. Well yeah The Onion is definitely not a professional source by any means nine out of ten times. But this is a pretty legit list if you ask me.

    Although Greg Land next to names like Perez, Ross, Kirby(!!!), and Ditko(!?); I dont care who you are…That’s just insulting. I know the list is ‘for better OR WORSE’ but come on. Land should be no where near this list. Liefield I’m fine with, cause he helped the industry out even if it’s kinda laughable in today’s standards. But Land? Get the hell away.

  4. Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    Actually, the AV Club is actually pretty straight-up in their reviews of things.  The Onion is like a sister-site or something.  They’re the lampooners.  The AV Club actually has a bi-weekly comics reviews round-up series which is an interesting read at times.  And I’m not sure that this list is an actual rank in the mode of "this person is better than this person" as they seem to be going by era for the most part.  Sort of.

    I do like that they kept a wide range on here.  Carl Banks and Dan DeCarlo next to Jim Lee and McFarlene is nice.

  5. Ah ok, i looked at the site and it seemed legit for the most part. thanks.

  6. The AV Club is a separate thing from the satirical side of The Onion.  Its articles and information are actually presented as legitimate, leaving the bullshit for the main Onion page.

    Land does seem more than a tad out of place on this list, even with the "for better or worse" phrasing in the headline.  Yes, he kind of changed things by extensive photoreferencing and blatant use of relatively well-known images.  I’m not referring to the porn thing, but rather the upside down Deep Space Nine station he used as an invading Skrull ship in Ultimate Fantastic Four.  My jaw dropped when I saw that.

  7. Okay – maybe I should finish the article, but I’m 9 artists in and they don’t have anything nice to say about anyone.  Hell, how do you cast Jim Lee or Alex Ross in a bad light …. *sigh*  Guess I’ll keep reading.


  8. It does say for better or for worse, and the artists selected all fall in one of those categories.  I thought they were pretty fair in their assessment, but at the same time throwing in some of the usual Onion humor.  For me to say I disagree with the selections would only suggest I know better myself who was more influential, and that’s just not true. 

  9. I can’t believe Greg Land can be considered by anyone to be in the same league as Will Eisner, Carl Barks or Jack Kirby.


    Also, they posted Amazing Fantasy #15 cover as an example of Steve Ditkko’s art. The cover was drawn by Kirby. 

  10. The only omission I thought warrented comment was Robert Crumb.  Sure, he’s not mainstream, but the entire list wasn’t mainstream either.

  11. Eisner should be either right above or right below Kirby (or in my opinion a tie). He was so influential on medium. But actually neither of them should be on the list. Why? It’s called reinventing the pencil, 21 artists who changed mainstream comics. Eisner and Kirby were pioneers. I think it should have been more of a modern list, rather than throwing every well known creator ever on it. Greg Land and Harvey Kurtzman should not be on the same list EVER. 

  12. Articles like this one remind me of just how ignorant of this medium’s history I truely am. I don’t feel I am even remotely knowledgable enough to critique anything on this list. That said, I am always glad to see the work of Carl Banks getting the recognition I feel it deserves.

  13. Neal adams rated below Greg land and Jim Lee.  Just Wrong.  And no Walt Simonson? Equally wrong.

  14. I don’t really understand why Land is on there.  Regardless of whether you like his art or not (and many people do) I just can’t imagine anybody saying, "I want to draw like Greg Land" or "I draw a lot of influence from Greg Land." 

    I was a little surpirsed that Steranko didn’t make the list. 

  15. I think their summary of McFarlane is at best fairly off base and at worst, insulting; he alone didnt prove that creator owned comics could be viable, Im sure Todd doesnt WANT to publish terrible comics (Some would say his comics arent in fact, terrible, but thats another discussion), I fail to see how him spending money on baseballs is a con, and unless Todd McFarlane was an editor at DC and hired Liefeld to work on Hawk & Dove, I fail to see how he helped to launch his career.


    Also, is this even supposed to BE in a ranked order? Or merely just a list of 21 artists who changed comics?

  16. @JayOdjick – I get the distinct sense that it is a list rather than a ranking. I can see Land fitting on a list of influencial artists simply because there are so many artist who photo reference now (Tony Harris is a prominent example). I don’t know if Land did it first, but he has certainly been successful (financially, if not critically).

  17. @stuclach- Yeah I agree; I didnt get a sense there was any ranked order whatsoever either.

  18. @Stuclach – I don’t know why anybody would give Land credit for originating or even popularizing photo referencing.  It’s an ages old technique.  What Land is infamous for is over using photoreferencing and just doing it really badly.  If you want to talk about photo referencing, why not just tack it onto the Alex Ross description – he uses it extensively.  And he does it well, even if I do think his art looks too static.

  19. @PudgyNinja -I don’t know their thought process and don’t mean to put words in their mouths, but I have to wonder if they listed him because he has taken it to the extreme, done it more overtly than most, and he has been extremely successful (again, financially). As I said in my post, I don’t know who did it first, but I think his photoreferencing has been discussed (often in a negative light) more than most other’s.

    I am not necessarily saying he deserves any honors or recognition (he has certainly become infamous enough to be noticed). I am just trying (like you) to figure out why he is on the list.

  20. Not a fan of lists.  I did like the breakdowns on each and confused why no Frank Miller?  Everyone out there now apes his style.

  21. @stuclach – No, I get what you’re saying.  But, the thing is, even though he has taken it to extremes, I don’t see anybody trying to follow in his footsteps.  Liefeld, I understand.  Even though his style is not in vogue right now, he was still hugely influential in his heyday.  But Land?  I don’t see it.

  22. Greg Land is nowhere near that important or influential. In no way shape or form should Land outrank Jim Lee on the one hand (in terms of popularity) or Liefeld on the other (if you’re considering "negative" influence). That’s just not possible. I think the authors of that list just have a huge hate-on for Land (kind of understandable, though I don’t hate the guy), which made them consider him more noteworthy than it actually is.

  23. Even if this is just a list and not a ranking; Greg Land should no where be near this.

    That lazy cheapskate who’s ‘talent’ is tracing over celebrity photos to do characters. There are bad artists and there is a category for that lazy bastard.

  24. c’mon, guys… this was a pretty cool list written by pretty cool people. Jim said that he didn’t think of the onion a.v. club as something that had "anything to do with comics." they do a good ‘comics of note’ every once in a while. just about every comic-adapted movie review they do is written thoughtfully by someone familiar with the source material. if this really well written, really funny newspaper/website wants to have something to something to do with comics, then by all means let’s welcome them to the party. scoffing at them for making bad choices because they’re not absolute experts smells like the android’s dungeon to me.

    on the tuska thing: so some writer used this list to champion an artist s/he’s passionate about and feels doesn’t get enough attention. i’ve certainly put some obscure things on my top 10 lists in order to convince my friends to check them out.

     on the land/liefeld thing: they did say changed comics ‘for better or worse’. 

  25. That was an interesting list. I probably would have liked to have seen John Byrne on their somewhere. When I think of the "definitive" visual version of most of the Marvel universe, and Superman, I think of Byrne’s version. But it was certainly an interesting read. 

  26. @John42 – Not being an ass, I see what you mean and I think there’s some merit to it, but at the same time then, should anyone who disagrees or tables a viewpoint differing from those of the article’s writers then just do so silently?

    I thought the point of this WAS to discuss and debate – maybe I was misled by Jim saying : "What do you think of this list? Did they miss anyone, or add anyone unnecessarily? Why even have an internet if you’re not going to use it to argue about this stuff?"

    (Sorry about my weird font sizes…still new to this site! 😀 )

  27. Edit – and that SHOULD have read "Should anyone who has a viewpoint differing" etc instead of what I typed…Im tired as hell, sorry. LOL

  28. Everyone need to read the title of the article-its most INFLUENTIAL artists. Which Land is. If it said BEST, he would be nowhere near.

  29. I never like lists, that declare "best" or "most influential". You can’t get them all, you also can’t be right since it’s an opinion.

    I’m also not a big fan of being dickish, I haven’t read any McFarlane stuff or Liefeld (that springs to mind at least lately). Why not just talk about what their impact is then be snide about the guys desire to buy baseballs. Also I’m looking at different Liefeld art and can see the body dismorphism, which doesn’t appeal to me when it’s done to that degree but it’s an art style, it’s or was popular and it is skillfully done. 

    I just think the guy should have stayed on point. If he’s doing a piece on most influential, list them talk about their style and say why they’re influential. The jabs are tactless.

  30. You know, that’s really interesting: the Image Revolution was now so long ago that it’s possible to have been a comics fan for years and never have read a Todd McFarlane book. So, I feel even older now.

  31. I honestly don’t see why Greg Land is influential. Maybe the unfortunate product of a certain influence, but influential in his own right.

    @Crucio – I think he said those things in the article because he’s a comic’s fan who was being as fair as possible when making the list, but felt he had to justify himself to those of us who wince at the name Liefeld. I give him credit for saying anything worse than he did. Also, McFarlane’s success and excesses like buying baseballs and hockey teams are totally worth mentioning. The article is about influential artists, not influential art. It’s about the people behind the pencil, not just what they produce.

  32. @ActualButt: True enough. You can talk about a person and be critical in a constructive fashion well talking about other aspects, but calling the mans hobbies "Cons" is a bit snide.

    Pro: Does stuff I like 

    Con: Does stuff I don’t like

    @Jimski: Don’t feel too old, I’m guessing I have a year or 2 on ya. When I was younger and Image started up I was a DC man. When McFarlane was doing "mainstream" stuff I didn’t care about artists and writers just characters. Now, I like my Batman, Green Lantern and Marvel Cosmic stuff. I’m also willing to attach myself to 5 or 6 writers I consider exceptional. That’s when the well runs dry.

    I have seen McFarlanes old Spider-Man art and I do think it’s beautiful. 

  33. @gwiz – Who has Land influenced?  Nobody out there that I’m aware of is claiming Land as a big influence on their work. 

  34. @PudgyNinja – maybe influenced the industry rather than artists. Maybe he showed that all the anger towards photo referencing and unabashed photo pasting (with small photoshop tricks) does sell books and has an audience. Basically showing that laziness or lack of talent is acceptable. I doubt we’ll see another Joe Kubert in the big two.

  35. @chlop – Even if you assume that they’re talking about the industry as a whole and not other artists, for it to have any effect, the industry would have to be hiring artists influenced by Land. 

  36. @JayOdjick- good point. discussion and debate should never be discouraged. i guess i just had a visceral reaction to the negativity of a lot of responses.

  37. I would have liked to see Frank Miller, Sam Kieth, or Darick Robertson on that list.



    Robert Crumb wasn’t mentioned because they didn’t really mention any alternative comics guy, maybe one or two who eventually went mainstream. If that was the case, the Hernandez brothers or Daniel Clowes would have to be mentioned too.

  38. @John42 – yeah like I said, I understand where youre comin from, dude.


    @SirCox – I agree with Frank Miller for sure; I’d think John Buscema deserves an honorable mention, and I’d throw Art Adams’ name into the mix too.