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Month of Avengers/X-Men Top Fives – Top Five Artists Who Have Penciled the Most Issues of Avengers

All month-long we’ll be featuring top five lists about either the Avengers or the X-Men. Here is an archive of all the past top five lists!

Today we’ll look at the top five artists who have penciled the most issues of Avengers (for this list, I’m accepting pencilers who only did layouts and/or breakdowns).



Just missing the top five are Dave Ross, Sal Buscema, John Byrne, Paul Ryan and the last penciler to just miss the list (although he has the chance to make the list in the future, since he’s still drawing comics), Steve Epting.

5. Don Heck

Heck drew the book from when Jack Kirby left the title to when John Buscema took over, roughly 30 issues or so. He then picked up another dozen or so in fill-ins and annuals and giant-size comics.

4. Al Milgrom

Milgrom had a long run on Avengers between Bob Hall and John Buscema during the 1980s and then a really long run on West Coast Avengers, drawing pretty much the first 40 issues or so (along with Joe Sinnott finishes).

3. George Perez


Perez had a pretty long run on the title in the 1970s and then later returned for a long run in the late 1990s with Al Vey often doing finishes. Perez also penciled JLA/Avengers #1-4.

2. Mike Deodato

Mike Deodato drew Avengers for a year or so in the mid-1990s and has since returned to a number of stints on various Avengers books, from New Avengers to Dark Avengers to Secret Avengers to New Avengers to his current work on both of the main Avengers titles. It seems likely that Deodato WILL end up passing the #1 artist on the list sometime somewhat soon.

1. John Buscema

Had a roughly 30-issue run during the mid to late 1960s and then a 50 or so issue run in the 1980s. Plus some Annuals and Giant-Size issues.


Buscema’s run in the 80’s with Tom Palmer is some of my favorite Avengers of all-time.

Deodato is roughly 35 issues behind big John

I wouldnt say its a certainty, but its possible. Unless he chooses other books/projects

Gotta agree with Josh. Buscema’s eighties run started about a year after I started buying Avengers, and his work with Tom Palmer is still my personal gold standard that I compare everything else to. And that’s saying quite a lot considering George Perez is my second favorite artist of all time (behind John Romita Jr.)…

I would have thought Epting was higher than that. He seemed like he was on the title for a long time.

How many Avengers issues has Palmer inked? Isn’t it over 100?

Epting’s run really felt eternal, but it has more to do with the generally lame (not bad per se, just lame) writing

I would have thought Epting was higher than that. He seemed like he was on the title for a long time.

He started with #335 and left with #375, but he also skipped a chunk after #350 and then he was a bit sporadic those last few issues before he left (as #375 was double-sized). Add in the New Avengers issues he did and he’s about seven issues shy of Heck.

Say, funny you should choose that Don Heck cover, because according to the Marvel Masterworks edition it appears in, Stan Lee didn’t like Don’s depiction of Captain America so he superimposed a Jack Kirby image of Cap on. You can see it in how Cap is kind of pasted on and his position makes no sense.

“Heck drew the book from when Jack Kirby left the title to when John Buscema took over”

I wouldn’t envy anyone in that position. Regardless of how good your run was, it would invariably suffer when you’re sandwiched between those two legends.

I’ve never been that fond of the Buscema/Palmer art from the 80’s. It’s certainly very competent and all, I just really prefer the ’60’s Buscema. His earlier art seemed much more energetic.

Milgrom’s run seemed so very, very long.

But “he’s about seven issues shy of Heck” is going to be my standard catch-all phrase (or battle cry) from now on.


You just made a list of some of my favorite artists. What a coincidence that they had long runs on Avengers…

How many Avengers issues has Palmer inked? Isn’t it over 100?

A quick check of the Unofficial Handbook of Marvel Comics Creators site tells me that Palmer inked issues #74-84 and #93-97. He, then, returned in issue #255 (the first issue of Big John’s 80’s run) and stayed on as the book’s regular inker until the end of volume 1 (#402). Subtracting the sporadic fill-ins, his issue count tops out at around 130. Not too shabby (I haven’t checked to see if he had any post-Heroes Reborn credits on the series). Say what you will about Tom Palmer. He, definitely, gave the series a consistent “feel” throughout his tenure, regardless of which penciler he was paired with.

Still not crazy about Deodato’s art.

It’s a toss up for me between Perez and Buscema for favorite Avengers long term artist.

I’m in two minds about Tom Palmer.

I love his work on John Buscema’s inks here, and Walt Simonson’s in Star Wars. But I’m not 100% convinced his style works with the artists he works with post Buscema on Avengers. Sorry Tom!

JohnB’s Avengers work is superb. I’ve regularly stated my distaste for Al Milgrom’s ink work here but his pencils both on Avengers and West Coast Avengers are good stuff. Not spectacular, but good and solid.

And Sal’s bubbling under. As a kid I never thought much of Sal’s issues of anything but now, again, they’re a mark of good solid quality work

I’m in two minds about Tom Palmer.

I love his work on John Buscema’s inks here, and Walt Simonson’s in Star Wars. But I’m not 100% convinced his style works with the artists he works with post Buscema on Avengers. Sorry Tom!

I’d go even further. He was great early on, but from the late 80s onward I don’t think his style evolved for the better, even with Buscema. He just got too “muddy” if that makes any sense. His inks eventually drove me off Avengers. I love Siege on Avengers Mansion, but his inks are the weakest link to me of the whole thing. Again, I absolutely adore his older stuff.

The Avengers is one of those titles that is “supposed” to look a certain way and that correct look is largely John Buscema. The idea of anyone jumping him in terms of output is sort boggling. Like T., I thought Tom Palmer having as an inker that he blemished the second Buscema run just a little bit. Palmer and Buscema did not really compliment each other, which is a shame. Palmer was Neal Adams second best inker (after the Dick Giordano) and really differentiated the Marvel version of Adams from the Bronze Age DC House Style that he co-created. Sadly, he just muddied up Buscema. It is a shame they didn’t pair Buscema with Al Milgrom.

Mike Deodato is sort of the go to example for sexist figure drawing these days, which is a shame. The guy is a really dynamic artist and well matched to the Marvel U. That makes him a really good fit with The Avengers.

George Perez, by contrast, has never blown me away as an Avengers artist. He is one of the great comic artists (obviously) and he specializes in super teams, but for me his Avengers were always a little … off. In my mind, The Avengers should be sleek and Perez is always cluttered.

Al Milgrom is another odd one. His inks were always better than his pencils for me. He is arguably THE Marvel inker, but his penciled figures were always too stiff and blocky. Still, he was an able visual story-teller and his Avengers work was always readable.

Don Heck had as big a role in shaping the overall look and feel of The Avengers as anyone. Of the core Marvel teams, The Avengers deviated the furthest from Kirby and that is attributable to Heck. His romance comics experience really re-imagined the female Avengers into romantic heroines. They were far more beautiful than Kirby originally conceived them and that interpretation has stuck.

I love Perez earlier stuff in the 150s….. and on the run up to 200. But the art he did for the Busiek run wasn’t nearly as good.

@T I think “muddy” is the perfect term. Palmer’s later day inking isn’t terrible, it’s just a bit heavy handed. His earlier stuff is great though.

I think it doesn’t help that Buscema’s second run just seems a little tired in comparison to his first stellar run. I know he wasn’t that fond of drawing superheroes, maybe he was just burnt out by the late 80’s
Bunt out Buscema is still better than most other artist.

@ Dean, yeah I’d agree with about all of that. I haven’t seen much of Deodato’s work, but his more current work certainly didn’t seem as bad as I expected it to be, based on a lot of the comments I heard about him.

I’ve always thought Milgrom was competent but bland, like you I’ve always liked his inking, but his pencils can be very pedestrian. I gave up on WCA mostly because of his pencils. He even managed to make the Zodiac and Moon Knight look dull.

Perez is a tricky one for me, I like his stuff overall, but there’s a sense of claustrophobia to his work that is off putting to me. His panels always seem too small and it feels like the characters are desperately trying to break out and get some breathing room. That worked well on Crisis, not so much on the Avengers or the F.F.

Perez is one of those artists that I weirdly associate with one publisher more than the other (despite having done plenty of work for both). When I think of his DC work (Superman, Wonder Woman, especially Teen Titans), it just seems RIGHT to me. His Marvel stuff never clicked for me, though.

Specifically, when I think of Perez’s Avengers, I always think of a few particular drawings I didn’t like (one very ugly Scarlet Witch panel in particular). I really have no idea why I feel this way, other than maybe that Marvel art is more “dynamic” in my head than DC’s, and Perez’s classical style just doesn’t fit.

I have always liked his Medieval Avengers redesigns from “The Morgan Conquest”, though.

Yeah, I think more DC when I think Perez.

Palmer’s inks did get muddier later on, but I still say he’s one of the top inkers in the business.

Heck’s stuff looks better and better as time goes on. I don’t think the poor guy gets enough credit.

On the other hand, I’ll always think of The Avengers when I think of George Perez, not his DC work. Those late-’70s issues by him and Byrne just *are* The Avengers to me, and his run with Busiek is the next best thing, along with Stern’s run. It’s funny, nothing says fun superhero comics to me more than Wonder Man and The Beast paling around–hell, anything with Hank interacting with the Avengers is gold, like his supporting Cap running for president. His lady friends alone can carry New York.
I suppose Buscema’s ’80s stuff with Palmer loses some points visually because of the muddy inks–I know they looked funny to me as a kid, but I still overlook it, because what the hell, I associate that dark look with some of the best written superhero comics of all time—it just is what it is.
Also, reading through The Avengers Omnibus, Don Heck really did draw the hell (haha) out of that book.

I wonder if the reason some people don’t like Buscema’s 80s stuff on Avengers as much as his 60s stuff is because perhaps he was doing only breakdowns on the book and not full pencils and Palmer had to pick up the slack?

Yeah I’d say that’s a strong possibility. The book starts looking a bit like outtakes from “How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way”.

It’s still good stuff, just not as good as the earlier stuff.

wonder if the reason some people don’t like Buscema’s 80s stuff on Avengers as much as his 60s stuff is because perhaps he was doing only breakdowns on the book and not full pencils and Palmer had to pick up the slack?

That may be true, but I still think Palmer has a lot more to do with it than Buscema because I didn’t like how Palmer made anyone look post-Buscema either. And this is coming from someone who is a huge fan of Palmer’s work in the 60s and 70s.

Aren’t we counting Epting lastest issues of New Avengers??

Aren’t we counting Epting lastest issues of New Avengers??

Yes. #335-375 minus at least seven issues is about 33. Plus whatever issues of New Avengers he did and he’s still a bit behind Heck.


Silver Age DC Comics had a different design sense than Silver Age Marvel. The DC characters had less elaborate costumes than the Marvels for the most part. For example, take Ant-Man and The Atom. Ant-Man had a pretty detailed helmet. The Atom was mostly two big blocks of color. Those more detailed costumes were a bad fit for the hyper-cluttered Perez team book art.

I’ve always liked Perez as an Avengers artist. I think he handles super-hero team comics better than anyone. As cluttered as his pages can get, I’ve never had trouble following a story he’s drawing. His main weaknesses are costumes designs and faces, but he can always handle large-scale super-hero action.

I agree that ’80s Buscema/Palmer Avengers isn’t as good looking as ’60s Buscema Avengers, but the book looked much better when he took it over. Milgrom & Co. were sometimes serviceable, but always bland. Rereading Stwrn’s Avengers run, I find myself getting bored after the trial of Hank Pym. It’s not badly written, just lifelessly drawn.

Dean Hacker: To me, THE Marvel inker is Joe Sinnott. Al Milgrom would be in the running though, along with Bob Layton and Terry Austin.

@Dean Hacker

That’s an interesting observation. I greatly prefer Silver-Age Marvel to Silver-Age DC, but I have always admired the sleek design of the Silver-Age Flash, Green Lantern and Atom. I have a real soft spot for The Challengers and F.F.’s utilitarian jumpsuits as well.

It’s funny that Perez usually designs such convoluted costumes. He’s probably only second to Kirby when it comes to making a complicated and confusing costume. I think the big difference between the two is that Kirby’s almost always seem to work for the world he’s created. Perez did well with that design sense for Wonder Woman, but it’s usually out of place in most books. The Wonder Man example in the newer post is a good example of that.

I’m excluding all those crappy 90’s costumes from the Image guys, I don’t even like to think of those if at all possible.

I’m glad that Tom Palmer was mentioned in the comments. He may not have been a regular penciler on Avengers, but as an inker/finisher he must have worked on more issues of the series than any other artist.

In regards to Palmer’s long run on the book in the 1980s and early 90s, yeah, Buscema was turning in some very loose pencil breakdowns, so it’s no surprise that there’s more of Tom than Big John in the finished artwork. For those artists who followed after, yeah, I think perhaps Palmer was a little overwhelming. I have a page of original art from one of the Avengers issues that Paul Ryan worked on, and looking it over, he appears to have drawn it in blue pencil, so maybe that was also more along the lines of layouts than complete pencils. I should ask Paul about it. In his Modern Masters profile volume, Steve Epting has said that despite his admiration for Palmer he did feel the inking was kind of subsuming his own style.

All that said, I do think that Palmer showed some real professionalism, working with a variety of different artists during his time on Avengers, not to mention keeping deadlines when it seemed nearly every other artist back in the early 1990s was blowing them left & right. And he is super-talented!

The comments about Palmer reminded me that I don’t think I’ve seen (bar, say, a brief glance once or twice in a shop) ANY of Palmer’s ink/finishes in a comic after his 80s run with Buscema. It’d be interesting to compare the work.

Otherwise on reflection I’d rate him overall the top Big Two inker of the Bronze and late Silver Ages (i.e. when he started inking Adams on X-Men/Avengers, through the Colan Dr Strange/Dracula stuff, and ending on Avengers with Big John).
Definitely Gene Colan’s best collaborator. He seemed one of the few people to really ‘get’ Gene’s moody, shadowy style.

Count me as another one who loved the Buscema/Palmer 80’s era of AVENGERS. Its still my favorite, w the Busiek/Perez one coming in a close second…

I too thought Palmer worked really well with Buscema but tended to drown out any other artist he worked with. He did give that era of Avengers a distinctive look, but it didn’t always serve the story. Once Stern was gone, Palmer should have moved on as well — Paul Ryan’s figures were to light to shine beneath the grit of Palmer’s 1980s/1990s work, and Eptiing brought an expansiveness that felt choked. That said, I love those Stern/Buscema/Palmer issues.

Conversely, I don’t understand how anyone could look at Al Milgrom’s pencils and find anything to appreciate. I suppose he got the costumes right all the time, but his pencils were the definition of pedestrian — uninventive layouts and interchangeable characterization (Iron Man flying around looked like Wonder Man flying around; women stood in the same pose). Milgrom’s pencils were competent in the sense that they were presentable and turned in on time, but that’s the most that could be said of them. It actually makes me sad that he was so high on this list, because that means so many Avengers issues look so mediocre.

Perez’s work in the later 1980s and 1990s is much better than his earlier work. The level of detail in each panel, the effort to draw individual characters as individuals. He is my favorite Avengers artist, solely based on his Busiek-era run.

I think Brian is right that Heck wins, but by my count it’s extremely close.

I think Heck did 40 issues of Avengers, 2 annuals, and a backup feature in Avengers Spotlight. 43 in total

I think Epting did 31 issues of Avengers, 2 issues of the new series with Busiek, 6 issues of New New Avengers, 1 issue of Secret Avengers, and he contributed to Avengers Finale and New Avengers #50. Those last two probably don’t count, so that’s 41. But if you did count Avengers Finale and New Avengers #50, they would be tied.

Pretty durn close.

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