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Month of Art Stars: Artist’s Choice – Graham Nolan

Every day this month I’m going to feature the work of a great artist, only instead of me picking the artist to feature, they will be picked by their peers, fellow professional comic book artists who are picking out artists (from the past and present) who they think deserve special attention. Do note that most artists I asked about this gave me multiple answers and I picked out one choice out of a number of suggestions, so these are not definitive answers, like “Artist X likes Artist Y and he thinks all other Artists are terrible!” Here is an archive of the artists featured so far!

Today, we have the pick of Mike Collins, the longtime British artist who has done a lot of work for 2000 AD and DC Comics over the years (he just recently did some work on Marvel’s Captain Britain series). Here‘s his website.

Mike’s pick is Graham Nolan!

Graham Nolan began working in comics for Eclipse in the mid-80s, but it was when he began working for DC Comics in the late 1980s that he really began to make a name for himself.

First, he was the regular penciler on The Power of the Atom…

Then he was the regular penciler on the ongoing Hawkworld comic…

Then he got his biggest gig, drawing Detective Comics for about five/six years, working with Chuck Dixon on the title…

Nolan’s style has always had a very classic comic strip feel to it, a sort of throwback to the storytellers of the 1930s. His work is clear, clean and always tells the story of the comic beautifully – so beautifully that it appears almost effortless.

Here are some of Nolan’s pages from Detective Comics #700 (a bit of a unfair pick, as that issue was filled with more action than most comics, but I chose this one because I thought he just did such a great job with the bold action of the book)…

In the mid-to-late 90s, Nolan more or less left comic books, choosing to pursue a career in comic strips.

He is the regular artist on Rex Morgan M.D. (and was the artist for the Phantom Sunday strips for six years)…

For more recent Nolan work, here are some pages from a recent issue of Marvel Adventures: Fantastic Four that he drew…

Finally, here is a bit of a return to his roots, as he did the origin of Bane (Nolan drew Bane’s first appearance) in Countdown to Final Crisis…

Nolan drew one of DC’s biggest characters for years, so he obviously can handle top level books. I’d like to see him get the chance again!

Thanks to Mike for the nifty pick!

16 Comments

Nolan da batman!

That Dixon/Nolan run was the only time I really followed Batman regularly. Thanks for reminding me of those looooong-ago days!

pedro de pacas

June 7, 2009 at 7:21 am

i also read a bunch of dixon/nolan ‘tec stories, they were great.. while maybe his work isn’t as flashy or stylish as others, he could really tell a story and he alwasy stood out in my mind as a good, solid artist. and i really like his “new” style… (those marvel adventures really seem like some good books, i gotta get my hands on em)

The first thing I think of when I think of Nolan was his wonderful work on the always-great Skywolf back-up in Airboy. I love his Phantom Sundays too.

Another bulletproof choice.

Nolan’s style is classic and fantastic.

Graham Nolan has a clean line and has always been a good story-teller. Back when he was working up the ladder at DC, those were not the what the fanmen were clamoring for. It was the height of the popularity of the “Image Style”, so he was easy to over-look.

However, seeing those pages from the Fantastic Four reminds how perfect his style is for Silver Age-style “science heroes”. It would be nice to see him on Iron Man or Green Lantern.

That run on Detective was just superbly illustrated, and quite often fun to read.

No mention of The Devil’s Advocate, the graphic novel he and Dixon and Scott Hanna did together? I always thought that his art on that was the height of his Batman work. Plus, it had that great story where Batman has to prove the Joker’s innocence for a crime and no one wants him to.

Nolan, especially with Hanna on inks, has to be one of the best, but most under-appreciated Batman artists of all time.

The Dixon/Nolan stories were by far the best part of the “Knight” crossovers. I think Nolan’s work shined brightest in the old coloring style. His was the only Azbat which looked moderately not-ridiculous.

I was a Marvel reader mostly in the 90s so my first exposure to Nolan’s artwork was in a fill-in issue of Spider-Man (where he was saddled with poor coloring and probably the single worst Spider-Man story of the last decade), but that Fantastic Four issue looks really nice. I’d like to see Nolan on a book like Agents of Atlas — he’d be a good fit there.

Have a good day.
John Cage

I liked all of those pages except for the actual figures of Batman and, I am guessing, Nightwing? Ra’s, the extras, the background, the action, all of it looked good but I actually laughed out loud when I saw Batman’s chest.

Dear Aunt Petunia?!! LOL, genious idea for a a story framework. And this guys art is awsome.

Man do I love Graham Nolan, great choice! Although I disagree that Dixon/Nolan were the best part of the “Knight” crossovers. During Knightfall, Moench/Aparo and the Breyfogle issues were pretty good as well. Once it turned to Knightsquest and Knightsend though I agree that Nolan was probably the best artist, although Eduardo Barretto was also kicking ass.

Some things to note:

* Morrison keeps getting credit for recently.bringing back the “hairy chest love god Batman,” but it looks like Dixon/Nolan actually beat him to it a good decade before. Oops.
* Wow, Nightwing was able to beat up nameless, faceless henchmen but immediately lost the moment he faced a “name” fighter. What a shocker. Couldn’t see that coming.
* Man was that ponytail heinous.

“* Wow, Nightwing was able to beat up nameless, faceless henchmen but immediately lost the moment he faced a “name” fighter. What a shocker. Couldn’t see that coming.”

Nightwing has to play the Gorilla Monsoon to Batman’s Bruno (or Hillbilly Jim to Batman’s Hogan, for a less classical model). Plus, Nolan’s shot of him beaten up establishes that he knows he has no chance against Ra’s to begin with, but takes him on anyway.

Nolan’s no-frills style was such a nice match for Dixon’s plotting style. Even moreso than McDaniel (or any other longtime Dixon artists – the guy tends to keep them on his books a LONG time).

"O" the Humanatee!

June 8, 2009 at 10:41 am

Nolan’s the real deal. He’s what I like to call an “honest” artist (which is not meant to imply that other artists are dishonest): no gimmicks, no blatant stylistic hallmarks, just good drawing and good storytelling, with each panel and pose drawn fresh rather than repeating devices he’s used before. Novice comics readers tend to be underwhelmed by such artists – other modern examples include Lee Weeks and Steve Lieber – but more experienced readers can appreciate the long-term creativity and dedication they bring to their craft. (Interestingly, Scott McDaniel, praised just above, is for me the opposite kind of artist, whose flashy gimmicks – the fisheye-lens shot, the sequence of poses within an action panel, the dramatic but not particularly coherent shading – obscure his weaknesses.)

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