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CSBG Archive

Top 50 Comic Book Artists #25-21

Here are the next five artists that you voted as your favorites of all-time based on over one thousand ballots cast! Click here to see the writers #25-21 on the countdown. Click here to see a master list of all artists listed so far.

NOTE: I’m featuring five notable works per creator.

25 David Mazzucchelli – 438 points (5 first place votes)

David Mazzucchelli’s first major comic book assignment was as the regular artist on Daredevil throughout most of Denny O’Neil’s stint on the book. Mazzucchelli was a good artist at the time, but he grew and grew the longer he stayed on the book. This development was furthered when Frank Miller returned to the title as part of the epic “Born Again” storyline…

Mazzucchelli then went to DC to draw the acclaimed Batman Year One storyline with Miller…

Now pretty much at the top of the superhero field, Mazzucchelli chose to do independent work from here on out, experimenting in his style on his own self-published comic…

as well as a brilliant adaptation of Paul Auster’s City of Glass (co-written/adapted with Paul Karasik)…

He spent a number of years working on a epic graphic novel. It was released last year, titled Asterios Polyp, and it was perhaps the most acclaimed comic of 2009.

He’s currently hard at work on his follow-up to Asterios Polyp.

Here is a sample page by Mazzucchelli…

24 Walter Simonson – 449 points (7 first place votes)

Walter Simonson’s first major comic book assignment was the Manhunter back-up series in the back of Detective Comics, with writer Archie Goodwin (here is a collection of those strips)…

Simonson soon began working on a number of different comic projects. His next most notable assignment was a stint as the regular artist on Thor (note how his work is still very much in the Kirby-style)…

After working on a variety of projects over the next few years, Simonson’s career dramatically changed when he took over Thor as writer/artist…

His acclaimed and popular time on Thor solidified him as one of the top writer/artists in the industry. He followed that up with a run on Fantastic Four as writer/artist…

as well as an acclaimed Orion series…

Now more than 30 years into his career, Simonson remains an extremely popular and “in demand” comic book artist.

Here is a sample page by Simonson…

23 Jim Steranko – 467 points (5 first place votes)

Looking back, it is intriguing how quickly Jim Steranko was not only drawing the Nick Fury serial in Strange Tales, but was also writing it!!

His acclaimed run on the character eventually led to Fury getting his own title…

Sadly, Steranko was not able to handle the increased output (going from a half-comic serial to a full comic feature was too much for him), so his run on Fury is short (but brilliant).

That highlights most of Steranko’s work, including a short stint on X-Men (where he created their iconic logo)…

and a stand-out “run” on Captain America (just three issues, but wow, what a three issues!!)

Steranko later returned during the 1970s to provide a number of outstanding covers for Marvel…

Here is a sample page by Steranko…

22 Brian Bolland – 489 points (9 first place votes)

Brian Bolland first came to fame working on 2000 A.D. on the Judge Dredd series (here’s Bolland on the Judge Dredd reprint series)…

He was soon hired to work for DC Comics. He collaborated with Mike Barr on the acclaimed maxi-series, Camelot 3000…

After that series finished, Bolland did a few different short stories here and there for DC Comics and then produced what is most likely his most famous work, the prestige format Batman story, The Killing Joke, written by Alan Moore…

Since the Killing Joke, Bolland has not really done any extensive interior projects, choosing instead to use his wonderful artwork as a regular cover artist for different titles, including long stints on Animal Man…

and Wonder Woman…

Here is a sample page by Bolland…

21 Bill Sienkiewicz – 493 points (10 first place votes)

When Bill Sienkiewicz nailed the gig as the regular Fantastic Four artist, he drew very much in the tradiitional Neal Adams-y superhero style…

It was not until he began working on the Moon Knight series with writer Doug Moench that Sienkiewicz began to really experiment with his style…

By the time he began an acclaimed stint on New Mutants with writer Chris Claremont, Sienkiewicz had established a new expressionistic style where he would dabble in all sorts of mixed media.

This was particularly evident in his work with Frank Miller, including Elektra: Assassin…

and Sienkiewicz’s independent work, Stray Toasters (as well as his short-lived Big Numbers series with Alan Moore)…

Since the 1990s, Sienkiewicz has continued to work in comics (either on covers or occasionally inking various artists, including artists as disparate as Sal Buscema, Tom Derenick and Mike Norton), but he has also done a wide variety of design work outside the world of comics (album covers, DVD covers, etc.).

Here is a sample page by Sienkiewicz…

Reader Mike Loughlin explained why he voted for Sienkiewicz:

The realism of Neal Adams and messy psychedelica of Ralph Steadman have almost nothing in common. How Bill Sienkiewicz was able to take from each and come up with a startling, unmistakable art style I’ll never know. After doing solid, grounded work on Moon Knight, it seems Sienkiewicz decided he was done with regular comic book art. He started pushing. His ink lines became more jagged. His figures grew distorted. He incorporated collage, photographs, and other non-standardized techniques (crayon drawings, no less!) into super-hero narrative. His painted covers grew delightfully abstract, and I can’t imagine any reader not being disappointed to find someone’s else’s art inside.
One character, Warlock from New Mutants, didn’t have a coherent form. Sienkiewicz painted the most impossibly massive Kingpin to date, but made him look small when pining for his wife. He co-created comics’ most legendary unfinished work, and drowned out Frank Miller in his own comic. RZA, Roger Waters, Bruce Cockburn, and EPMD have utilized his services, and he was the perfect artist to draw the life of Jimi Hendrix. Innovative and influential, Sienkiewicz brought expressionism to American comics, and is among the greatest abstract artist to grace the medium.

Reader Sandy explained why he voted for Sienkiewicz:

It takes a great artist to be so good at his craft that I appreciate a style that I normally dislike. Sienkwicz has a scratchy, sketchy style that few artists are able to pull off. He’s able to portray emotion, and creates incredible mood and tension. His frenetic style is perfect for really psychological stories. His panel layout is also always amazing. He ends up at number three on my list because I find his style limited to certain types of stories.

56 Comments

All favorites! All great!

Great list so far!!!

This showed up in my reader with the familiar repeated-panel glitch, so that everybody’s “sample page” was the “Batman Year One” page. I think that was my favorite instance of this glitch– as if all these disparate great artists all converged in that one example of awesomeness.

I’m always surprised that Sienkiewicz’s work hasn’t been more influential. Everyone I talk to who remembers his New Mutants run seems to agree that it was one of the visually coolest things we’d ever seen in superhero comics at the time– but it doesn’t seem to have had any legacy.

Ooh, kicking myself for forgetting some of these on my own list.

I’m always surprised that Sienkiewicz’s work hasn’t been more influential. Everyone I talk to who remembers his New Mutants run seems to agree that it was one of the visually coolest things we’d ever seen in superhero comics at the time– but it doesn’t seem to have had any legacy.

I was impressed by what Dennis Calero did as the LSH artist on issues #31-36; his stuff reminded me of Sienkiewicz’s in some ways. Don’t know if the rest of his work is the same.

You know, I love Sienkiewicz and think he’s brilliant, but his work is *so* 80’s. Maybe it’s just me, but whenever I see a Sienkiewicz New Mutants or Elektra page or cover, all I think of is Duran Duran album covers and Max Hedroom…

Jacob — I think part of it is that it’s such a daunting style to try and emulate! Unless you already drew similarly it’s hard to try and make such a radical shift and make it work, too. Aside from Ashley Wood and Ben Templesmith, I can’t really think of anyone who seems to have directly followed in Sienkiewicz’s footsteps…

Greg- I would say that Dave McKean started out in the shadow of Sienkiewicz for sure. Black Orchid and VIolent Cases were definitely in that style, and very expertly done I might add. He sure did blossom on Cages though.

Greg: Well, you can certainly see the influence in some of Kyle Baker’s early stuff (which I love), but he definitely went his own way with it.

This is a great batch of artists, no question.

Brian, you have a typo on the Jim Steranko one: “… Jim Steranko was not only writing the Nick Fury serial in Strange Tales, but was also writing it!!” (I think you want the first “writing” to be “drawing” or it could be the second one).

Thanks, Enrique!

I am surprised to see Mazzucchelli so far from the top, but it is hard to argue against the magnificent artists in front of him today. All of them are fantastic.

Mazzucchelli was my top choice, I love his work on Daredevil and Batman, but I specially love his art in Asterios Polyp, that book was amazing and made him be my favorite artist.

No complaints here. The list keeps getting stronger and stronger. Great selection.

I assume that under Steranko, you mean that he was not only drawing it, but writing it.

Surprised Mazzuchelli ranked so high. He deserves it, but it was a surprise. That’s why the list is cool.

Sienk. just missed my artist list, somehow, but he definitely belongs up high. I think he’s influential, but it’s hard to pull off that style in regular monthly superhero books.

2 quick Sienk. stories. From the Fell backmatter, apparently Sienk and (I think) Dave McKean were in “battle”, trying to one up each other with covers for 2000 AD, until Sienk. finally turned in “something” with flashing lights and wires and stuff all over.

And while I’d heard it elsewhere, I heard this one from Jim Shooter himself. Sienk. was asked to do a New Mutants poster. He’d done, very small in one corner, the team, and did for what was probably 90% of the big poster, Warlock all twisty and weird. The bullpen thought it was cool, but thought it was going to not sell. To Marvel’s credit, they apparently did release the poster, to low sales.

I have two in this batch. My #5 was Bolland and my #7 was Sienkiewicz.

Surprised Mazzuchelli ranked so high. He deserves it, but it was a surprise. That’s why the list is cool.

Being collaborator on two classic storylines, one for each of the big 2, was major, but I think his recent coup with Asterios Polyp just this year also has him fresh in the minds of voters, plus gives him indie cred. While Asterois Polyp didn’t get him on the list, I think it definitely helped him place higher than he otherwise would have.

Sienkiewicz continuously floors me and unconsciously affects my drawing. That “The Question” one-shot last year where he inked Denys Cowan’s pencils (in a book co-written by Denny O’Neil and Rucka) was like my version of heaven.

Not only was this a great group of artists, but this has been far and away the best group of “sample pages” we’ve seen so far! 5 for 5 classic stuff. Great picks!

Makes me that much keener to see the top 20!

i can’t believe Batman whizzed himself in that scene ;)

Great list this outing. Bolland’s covers on Jack of Fables are always great. It’s a shame he doesn’t do many interiors anymore. I recently read Simonson’s Thor for the first time and found it to be very powerful. I haven’t seen much Steranko, but that is some pretty awesome stuff.

All deserves to be on the list, but It seems to me that Simonson should be a little bit higher than 24. Maybe 10-15.

Alright, Sienkiewicz! I think I forgot to vote for him, but glad he’s up here.

Now if only Alan Davis shows up, I’ll be good.

I got 2 of my votes so high! David Mazzucchelli and Jim Steranko. I’m really surprised. I didn’t think modern readers connected to these guys anymore. when I voted, I didn’t put the best artists (I didn’t put Kirby or Eisner), I just went from the gut and listed people that had the biggest effected on me in my 25 years of reading comics. Having started reading in the 80’s, most of my pics were of guys I discovered then.

Even though Mazzucchelli hasn’t had a huge output as an artist, his work, particularly Batman, is still some of my favorite superhero art of all time. Although I have to say that I discovered his work on his DD run. As a young artist I was so impressed with his work that I found myself copying his stuff into my notebooks. At the time I don’t remember hearing anything about him in the comic news media. He was just my little secret. I even got the 1st Rubber Blanket. I wrote to him telling him how much I liked it and received a letter back from him. I’m glad he is finally getting the much deserved praise for his work.

I discovered Bill Sienkiewicz on his New Mutants run. I was in love with that title when it first came out but as it wore on I got disillusioned. Claremont’s stories were continually left unfinished, while Bill Sienkiewicz art being more avant-garde. What I liked about his style initially was the combination of realism and the avant-garde. When he drew the characters of the New Mutants, he would draw almost photo realistic faces inside these wild frames of hair and things. When he gave up his realism he kind of lost the references that I need to connect with his work. Just as the jazz musicians need the initial melody to improvise from, similarly I need a solid reference to connect to his wildness, other wise it just looked like a mess.

My favorite work by Bill Sienkiewicz has been, first Dune. This has all the best aspects of his style with photo realistic references with wild but beautiful design work, and then those early New Mutants. I also loved the New Mutant poster. I had it hanging on my wall and remember staring at it often.

Don’t have much experience of Steranko, but love the other four. Have very fond memories of Simonson’s Star Wars run in the early 80s.

Man, I totally screwed up my votes. I thought this was for “current” artists and writers. Oh well.

Only Walt made my list, but all of these guys are awesome. I wish Bolland drew more interiors.

No complaints here. The list keeps getting stronger and stronger. Great selection.

Being collaborator on two classic storylines, one for each of the big 2, was major, but I think his recent coup with Asterios Polyp just this year also has him fresh in the minds of voters, plus gives him indie cred. While Asterois Polyp didn’t get him on the list, I think it definitely helped him place higher than he otherwise would have.

I totally agree. T. is on point today.

I wonder if Mazzuchelli will ever do another super-hero comic?

Four of my votes in the same batch! (Plus Sienkiewicz, who I probably should have voted for). I think this list is more unpredictable and intriguing than the writer one.

Giants, every single one of the.

Steranko and Simonson are also damned good writers, IMO.

It’s nice to know the fans can pick a better list than Marvel did for their anniversary list.

Wow, some heavy hitters today. Only one guy that I voted for (Sienkiewicz–my #2), but all five could have conceivably made my list.

To answer an earlier poster about Sienkiewicz’s influence… I think there are two answers to that question. First, there are the guys that were very directly influenced by Sienkiewicz–Dave McKean, David Mack, Jae Lee, Ashley Wood, Kent WIlliams, Ben Templesmith. Each of these guys is very clearly working some of the same ground, and might never have been the same artist without Bill.

But the second answer is that essentially any artist who doesn’t have a very traditional super-hero style is both influenced by, and heavily indebted to Sienkiewicz. Sienkiewicz was probably the first big two artist to adopt a noticeably non-mainstream style, and challenge the very notion of what sort of art could be used on a super-hero comic. So guys like Mike Mignola, Sam Keith, J.H. Williams III, Tim Sale, Humberto Ramos, etc… It might seem like none of these guys are directly influenced by Sienkiewicz, but they’ve all found work and fame with the luxury of being extremely stylized and not-conforming to any conventions of mainstream comic art. In that, they are heavily indebted to Billy the Sink (I used to frequent a comic shop in Indianapolis that artist Stuart Sayger was working at, and that’s what he called Sienkiewicz–Billy the Sink).

A small request Brian- Could you change the Bolland Animal Man cover to #5? While #1 is a good cover, I don’t think it fully illustrates Bolland’s genius, while #5 is one of the greatest covers ever.

And a general observation… I noticed the interior page samples for Bolland, Steranko, Mazzuchelli, and Simonson are each arguably the most famous/recognizable/iconic interior page those artists ever did. While this is a great way to show their work, it makes the fairly pedestrian examples of some earlier artists (Bachalo, Windsor-Smith, Kane, etc.) feel a bit unfair by comparison.

Yay! Seinkweicz made my list, and Steranko would have if I hadn’t forgotten about him. I gave Neal Adams credit for popularizing a more realistic style, so I put him at #7. I forgot that Steranko had done a similar style at the same time but with an incredible stylistic flourish. He should have been at #7, if not higher. D’oh!

The best 5-in-a-row so far. Bolland was my #5, loved him since his Dredd rocked my very young world, so I read a lot of his interior stuff before he sadly concentrated on covers. My 9-year-old self couldn’t believe I met him and Moore at a 2000AD annual signing at Forbidden Planet – although my abiding memories of the pair were BEARDS!
All the others were close to the list, especially Steranko. Apart from Yr One and the odd D.D. I haven’t read much Mazzucchelli; while I think 1 Moon Knight is the only full Sienk I’ve read (I know, terrible….)
Loved Walt’s Manhunter & Thor.

My #1 was Sienkiewicz and my #9 was Mazzucchelli. The other 3 are great too. I think this will be the best batch of the whole list.

I’m going to withhold my usual sourpuss comments and just say that all of them are good and David Mazzucchelli is awesome.

Bolland is the only one who made my list. I love his covers and his work on Dredd. Simonson was one of many who were in contention for my #10 spot, but he didn’t make the cut. I’ve never been a fan of Sienkiewicz, his stuff is more abstract than I prefer, but I can see why people like him. And actually looking at that page from Elektra I like it more than I would have thought. I might need to give his stuff another chance.

Brian, there’s an HTML error in the head of the article, it’s not linking to the list so far as it should be.

Ooops, sorry, it’s the link above tht to the article itself.

A great selection of artists. And thanks to the voters for recognizing Steranko that high.

Simonson should have been on my list. Bolland is one of the best cover artists around. Mazzuchelli went from a Frank Miller- influenced style to drawing like he was working for The New Yorker in the ’50s, and made it all look fantastic.

If you ever get a chance to meet Steranko at a convention, take it. The guy’s a true raconteur, and I wish I could have spent more time listening to him.

That Sienkiewicz guy’s okay, too, I guess.

I’m surprised no one complained that the sample page of Bolland’s work from the Killing Joke is with the new coloring, rather than the original.

Woops, I guess I just kinda did.

Yeah, a great bunch here. Not ones I voted (or did I vote Sienkiewicz? At least I considered him) but all worthy.
About the influence of Sienkiewicz, indeed there doesn’t seem to be anyone doing exactly the same thing but hard to say if e.g. Dave McKean, Sam Kieth, Kent Williams or Jon Muth would have been able to do what they did without him…

Mazzucchelli was #6 on my list. Bolland and Seinkiewicz were shortlisted in my 20. I think my last pick (10th), Seth Fisher, may have just pushed one of those two out.

I was really happy that the sample page of Bolland’s work from the Killing Joke was with the new coloring, rather than the original. I much prefer the stylish and restrained revised version.

The Crazed Spruce

December 14, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Finally cracked my artists list! Wooh!

David Macuzzelli is a solid artist, but his style never really struck my fancy. (His old style, anyway. Haven’t read any of his newer stuff.)

Walt Simonson was #9 on my list. He’s like a stylized Jack Kirby, and I’ve always enjoyed his work.

While I enjoy Steranko’s work, I’ve never actually read an actual comic book he’s drawn. I’ve seen lots of his work on sites like this one, but I didn’t really think it was fair to judge him based on that. Had to leave him off of my list.

I had Brian Bolland at #3. When Dave Gibbons came up, I was afraid I might have gotten the two mixed up, but I definitely made the right choice.

Never really got into Bill Sienkiewicz’s work. It’s a bit too harsh for my tastes. I’ve always favoured the more realistic style of artwork.

Mazzucchelli had some standout work early in his career, but doesn’t belong in the same list as the other four guys listed here. Simonson, Steranko, Bolland, Sienk are all legends. Not sure DM fits that bill. Still, a solid list as always and someone must have liked him enough for him to rank so high. Can’t wait to see the top 20.

Five great artists. Mazzuchelli and Simonson were on my list (Simonson was both my artist and writer lists) and Sienkiewicz would have been if I could spell it (Kidding!). Simonson also did the great X-Men/Teen Titans cross over. Sienkiewicz, Bolland and Sternako were all stronger at covers than interior art. Bolland and Steranko both suffered from an inability to produce for a regular monthly book and Steranko’s interiors seemed to alternate between stunning splash pages and pedestrian panels. I thought Sienkiewicz was about the coolest thing going when I was a teenager and would show off his New Mutants covers to my parents to prove that comic book artists were “real” artists. I had that poster and I also loved the Rom covers he painted. Ultimately, though, some of his interiors – particularly in Elektra – could be a chore to plow through, and it now it all seems sort of dated. Still, he was close to making my Top 10, if only for that awesome Demon Bear.

Wish you would have picked a better Animal Man cover, he did some amazing beauties.

@George

I would argue that in his work since he left DC and Marvel behind Mazzucchelli, though not producing as much as the others save Steranko, has surpassed nearly all of them with the exception of perhaps Steranko or Simonson’s work on Manhunter. Mazzucchelli’s control over his line is like nothing I’ve ever seen. He now draws at size and yet every mark he makes is considered, expressive, and immaculate. There are draftsmen and cartoonists whose style I like more, but Mazzucchelli is an undeniable master of the medium; and for my money he’s done the most to pick up Will Eisner’s ideas and really build with them.

Sienkiewicz’s expressionist style and mixed media can look nice at times, but almost never reads well. I don’t think he really understands how to communicate a narrative visually. Still, he deserves to be on the list just for bringing mixed media and alternative styles into mainstream publishing and the amount of artists he has influenced. I didn’t vote, but Al Columbia would have been a strong contender for my #1 spot, he definitely owes a lot to Sienkiewicz.

I think Mazzucchelli is one of the greatest draftsmen to ever work in this industry, and I think considering that he’s done all of two superhero books and he made it to number 25, it says a lot.

Mazzucchelli deserves to be higher – he was the only artist with two stories in the top 5 countdown last year. He seems to be the only person who can draw Frank Miller stories better than Frank Miller, which is saying something.

Eddie Campbell called him Billy the Sink in an Alec strip in DeeVee (damn, like 12 years ago!).

Mazzucchelli I was surprised for making the list more for what’s a small amount of superhero stuff. Certainly not arguing his skill, and wish I could find Rubber Blanket. I first read about him in an old Comics Interview, that comic book size magazine from the 80s and 90s. It’s either the issue with Batman/Lobo on it (by Sam Kieth and Kelley Jones — did that ever happen, them on a Batman/Lobo book?) or the issue with Ren and Stimpy on the cover and a Dan Slott interview.

I’ll compare Mazzucchelli to the Velvet Underground — only a few major works early on, but absolutely perfect at the time. And Maz and the members of the VU went on in later years to put out material that is equally worthy but less praised by the cognoscenti.

And Richmond Lewis’s colors on Year One can’t be discounted, either.

No Richmond Lewis was part of the whole package that made Year One so special! Now colors like that are becoming more and more common place but at the time he was really revolutionary, cutting edge stuff!

[…] the article here: Top 50 Comic Book Artists #25-21   Posted in: […]

Sienkiewicz would probably have been on my list of worst artists, when I was actively collecting Marvel. He almost led me to stop reading New Mutants, despite that being my favorite X-book, story-wise. I realize now, that part of the problem was his style was so jarringly different from the rest of the books whose characters the New Mutants interacted with regularly.

But, when he got into characters that hardly interacted with other comics, his unique style was more tolerable, though I don’t think I’d have had him in my top 20. His work on MK (that I discovered years later) and Elektra I was able to appreciate more because of not having to deal with the mind-bending required to think “this place is supposed to be the X-mansion, and those blobs that occasionally show up are Prof. X and the X-Men???”

As for Steranko, some of my favorite cover works he’s done outside the Comics field (but still comics-related) are one he’s done for Palladium Books’ Heroes Unlimited RPG main book (especially the 2nd Edition cover, with a Captain America clone). If only he have done a long-running series in the 80s, maybe we wouldn’t have gotten so many of the crappy fan favorites of the 1990s and this past decade.

All of these guys could have been on my list, but only Sienkiewicz was.

I saw him in Toronto last year, and he can hammer out masterworks in no time. He said something like “I am fast, but remember, this drawing didn’t take 15 minutes, it took 30 years and 15 minutes.”

He was really cool.

Sienkiewicz and Steranko were both high on my list, and I also considered Bolland.

All great artists today, and I’m now wondering what the rest of the list will look like.

I recognize all on the list are great but I think Sienkiewicz is the one true genius. The problem he has had is that he hasn’t had the type of scripts that play to his strengths. Also, he is versatile enough that if he wanted to, he could work in any style.

Of all the artists, only Sienkiewicz can provoke this sort of discussion:
http://deathtotheuniverse.blogspot.com/2010/12/your-monday-panel-41.html

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