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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #325

And now– quite possibly the greatest comic artist of the 21st century. (Archive.)

11/21/07

325. J.H. Williams III

JH Williams 1.jpg

Yeah, I’m surprised he hasn’t had his own Reason yet, too. After all, he is, in my opinion, at least, the most proficient artist working in comics. He’s constantly redefining the way in which a reader views a page, and he instills such astonishing craftsmanship into his art that it tells a story all its own. He makes comics become living objects, more than just pop art– but true art.

It also helps that he works with some of the best writers in the business– folks like Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, and Warren Ellis. These are guys who know how to write for their artists, and Williams being excellent at his job, creates a terrific synergy with his co-conspirators.

Williams drew various projects throughout the 90s, but he first popped up on fans’ radar with Chase, a series he co-created, co-plotted, and drew for DC in the late 90s with writer Dan Curtis Johnson. It was about Cameron Chase, agent for the Department of Extranormal Operations. Criminally underrated, it lasted only ten issues, but it served as a showcase for Williams’ fantastic sense of page layout and design. Each issue seemed to bring new visuals with it. And the Mick Gray inks were lovely.

JH Williams 4.JPGJH Williams 3.JPG

His next major work was Promethea, with Alan Moore. With this series– a study in magic by way of some superheroing and whatnot– Williams utilized a new variety of techniques to produce not just pretty, but fascinating images on the comics page as well as creating homages to numerous classic artists on the covers. Heck, he painted a few issues. With Promethea, JH Williams proved there was nothing he couldn’t draw. Take a look at the image at the top of this post from the amazing final issue, or the following painting, and try to refute me. I dares ya!

JH Williams 2.jpg

Since Promethea, Williams has worked on a few different projects, and I’m going to share my favorite with you. First, there’s Desolation Jones with writer Warren Ellis and colorist José Villarrubia. A super-crusty noir tale, Williams makes the reader feel every blow that Jones gives or takes, every sore inflicted on every body. Through a combination of Ellis’ clever script, Villarrubia’s rich colors, Todd Klein‘s magnificent letters, and Williams’ nuanced, gorgeous art, I fell for this book, hard.

JH Williams 10.JPGJH Williams 9.JPG

Then there’s his work with Grant Morrison on the Seven Soldiers bookends and a recent Batman arc, which Selective Selleck said was the best Batman story in 15 years. I can’t disagree with him there. These works prove JH Williams to be a stylistic chameleon. In Seven Soldiers #0, he draws each major character in a different style, reflecting the era of comics they’re meant to evoke. In #1, he shows off a massive range, drawing in at least a dozen different styles, from fantasy painting to Kirbyesque mania. Each main characters’ segment is illustrated in the style of the artist who drew the mini-series, but Williams also tosses in several other styles, some of which are truly his own. It’s a masterpiece, and easily the best art object the comic industry’s put out in ages.

JH Williams 6.JPGJH Williams 5.JPG

With Batman, Williams took the liberty to draw each member of the Club of Heroes in a different artist’s style– Gaucho is Chaykin, the Knight’s McGuinness, etc– once again to place each of them in a distinct era of comics. G-Mozz didn’t indicate this type of experiment in the script; JHW3 just went for it, figuring it would give a new layer to the story. It definitely did. He also included his usual astonishing panel work. And since it’s the best thing Morrison’s written for the title yet, it became the best Bat-story in ages.

JH Williams 7.JPGJH Williams 8.JPG

JH Williams’ art makes comic books bigger and better than they probably have any right to be, but thank God for that. He’s shown us that comics can achieve anything if the creator tries hard enough. He puts a massive effort into seeing just what the form can do, and for that alone, I think he’s the best artist in comics.

Click here to visit his website, and join me in anticipating each new project he undertakes.

17 Comments

Definitely one of the best.

Your teaser description is no exaggeration. His work is incredible and makes me happy to read — nay — LOVE comics.

You left out one of my favorite Williams issues – the first Tangent Green Lantern.

There are a lot of comic artists, heck, artists in general, that I enjoy. But few have just blown my mind and made me go “Wow.” Williams is one of the few who has gotten that reaction from me. I’m hard pressed to think of a more diverse artist. Whether it’s the Promethea ‘homage’ covers or the more straight ahead work in Chase or the mix of styles in Batman, I’m always impressed by how well he always pulls it off. Very nice choice for the “Reasons” list.

You know I loves me some J.H. Williams III!

Truly awesome. It’s about time he’s here.

J H Williams III is a reason to love comics, but that Promethea double-sided poster isn’t. It fails as a poster because it’s about the two worst pictures he’s ever done.

It fails as a comic because the colouring of the comic has nothing to do with it and just messes up the pages.

The fact that I figured you were probably talking about Williams from the intro (as, I’m betting, most people did) says a heck of a lot about the man’s standing, doesn’t it?

100% agree with this choice- its a pity that he’s apparently going to be artist on Batwoman rather than the main Batman or Detective titles. If we had a guaranteed Morrison/Williamss Bats title I’d be reading it regualrly for the first time since the late 80′s.
I think JH williams could probably illustrate a phonebook and make it a masterpiece

Has anyone figured out whose various artstyles he was mimicing for that Batman arc? I spotted Bolland (or maybe Gibbons), Lark, Chaykin, and Rude, but I couldn’t figure a few out.

Bill, you are not lying.

Williams is a master of style–every style.

Can’t wait to see what he does next (Batwoman?).

Damn straight.

Except for those last few pages of the Club of Heroes arc…those were INCREDIBLY RUSHED. Or seemed to be. Sure, it’s not his fault – it’s Morisson’s for not leaving HIMSELF enough space to finish the story properly, but still.

Kudos to you for making a really good choice.
I only hope we get a lot more stuff out of him, and that he continues to push the envelope in the future.
Many comic fans get stuck in their loyalty to certain characters and stories and companies when what they should be is loyal to the amazing creators and minds behind the work we love.
In this day and age it’s folk like JHWIII who are expanding the paradigm of what a comic book is and what it should be and how good it should be.

I’d love to see a list of those artists he aped in the recent Batman arc -the penultimate issue, 668, is one of the finest examples of sequential art ever seen.

Sure, it’s not his fault – it’s Morisson’s for not leaving HIMSELF enough space to finish the story properly, but still.

Uh, still what?

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