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R.I.P. Paul Ryan

The comic industry lost a great artist yesterday with the passing of Paul Ryan at the age of 66.

There is a certain sort of egocentrism that comes from when we first encounter a comic book artist. We tend to believe that their career began there. So Paul Ryan getting into comic books in the mid-1980s led many people, myself included, to think of him as being a young artist at that time. However, Ryan actually worked for Metcalf & Eddy Engineering for over a decade before ever becoming a professional comic book artist, working for Charlton Comics before getting his big break at Marvel in the mid-80s, where he did standout work finishing Mark Gruenwald’s Squadron Supreme maxi-series and then co-creating DP-7 with Gruenwald….

dp7

Amusingly enough, Ryan drew the wedding of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson…

wedding

and then years later worked on the wedding of Clark Kent and Lois Lane, as well (even odder still, he wasn’t even the only creator to do both, as writer David Michelinie also worked on both).

He had a stint on Avengers working with John Byrne…

avengersposter

He then became one of the rare artists in the 1990s to maintain TWO monthly books, as he launched Quasar with Mark Gruenwald while still drawing Avengers.

When Byrne left Avengers West Coast, Smith moved from Quasar to Avengers West Coast, making him perhaps the only artist ever to draw both Avengers titles at the same time. He worked with Larry Hama on Avengers and Roy and Dann Thomas on Avengers West Coast.

After ending his Avengers West Coast stint, he drew the end of Byrne’s run on Iron Man.

While still working on Iron Man, he also began work on what is perhaps his best-known run, drawing Fantastic Four with writer Tom DeFalco for five years, one of the longest runs on the title in the history of the Fantastic Four. Here is a pin-up he did from the Fantastic Four’s 30th anniversary…

marvelb

He launched Ravage 2099 with Stan Lee while doing Fantastic Four, as well.

After his Fantastic Four run finished, he drew Superman for DC Comics on a number of titles and also drew the Flash during the end of Mark Waid’s initial run and the start of Grant Morrison and Mark Millar’s run on the book.

He did a short stint on Fantastic Five as part of Marvel’s MC2 line of books.

Most notably, he had been the artist on the Phantom comic strip for over a decade.

Phantom.gif

He will be greatly missed.

44 Comments

Paul Ryan and Norm Breyfogle were two of my earliest heroes.

Michael Heide

March 7, 2016 at 7:27 am

I loved his Flash issues with Waid and Augustyn.

He will be missed.

I never liked the Tom de Falco run on the Fantastic Four, but my problem was all with the writing. Paul Ryan’s artwork was always great. He had the sort of art that I love in superhero comics: clean, straightforward, and extremely devoted to telling the story; in other words, the opposite of the Image guys that I so hated.

Great loss to the industry. I fondly remember his artwork on the Fantastic Four. RIP

And so we lose another of the great story-teller artists. Nice clean lines, great details on characters and was really good at those team books with so many different characters. His work on the Phantom comics was perfect for the character.

He’s one of those artists I knew from all of the handbooks that Marvel has printed. I do own some comics that he properly worked on, such as Quasar 11, Avengers 319 and X-Factor 94. Such a legendary talent!

A guy whose work was perfect every time. Proper backgrounds, proper use of anatomy, simply classic. I am sad to know about it.

A truly under-rated talent. Flew under the radar when compared to many other bigger names working at the time.
I really loved his work on FF and I think he had a run on Iron Man too.

I always thought of Ryan as a latter day Curt Swan. Nice simple, clean work, yet distinctive enough to be immediately recogniziable. I enjoyed his work a lot.

Terribly sad news. I can’t think of very many artists who improved the comics they worked on more. One of the best storytelling artists I’ve ever read.

Patrick Wynne

March 7, 2016 at 9:46 am

I will always remember him for his work on Gruenwald’s Squadron Supreme and DP7. Loved his work.

I loved his work on DP-7

That is too bad. Paul Ryan was a great talent. DP7 is still one of my favorite series, as much due to Gru’s excellent stories and characters as to Ryan’s artwork. Same goes for Squadron Supreme. Paul Ryan was one of those artists who was consistent, had an incredible amount of detail, distinct characters, clean linework, and was- to the best of my knowledge- able to turn in his work on time and on schedule. He was a great storyteller, and will be missed.

Holy Cow! I can’t believe it. He was a solid penciler and storyteller. I couldn’t tell how many of his Marvel books that collected and enjoyed over the years. What a great loss…

He was an amazing artist. I had a chance to meet and talk with him numerous times, but it wasn’t until last year that was able to have a really lengthy conversation about comics. really bummed that I won’t be able to continue our convo on engineering and comics :(

Was a master of visual story telling. I fell in love with DP7 and was emotionally attached to the characters because of his artistic ability,

David Spofforth

March 7, 2016 at 10:16 am

Terribly sad (and 66 is no age at all, these days). I’m in the middle of a reread of his Fantastic Four era (I’m one af the few who loved it) right now and it always strikes me how much of a breath of fresh air Ryan was in that Image era. Nothing flashy, just clear straightforward storytelling. He is missed.

Jeff Nettleton

March 7, 2016 at 10:32 am

Paul Ryan was one of those guys who kind of slipped under the radar, did good, solid work, then caught fan attention. Squadron Supreme was more of a cult success, somewhat marred by the shaky printing. Ryan wasn’t showy on the book; just darn good. Same with DP7. Then, when he was on FF, he became a big name and people were picking up the book for his art, more than DeFalco’s story.

His Phantom is right there with Sy Barry, Jim Aparo, and Don newton, among my favorite Phantom artists.

66 is way too young.

Oh, this is such a shame. He was a really under-appreciated talent. Like everyone else is saying here, his storytelling was great but he packed every panel with details and his characters had such expressive acting. We’re lucky to have had him and he’ll be missed.

I always enjoyed his work since I first encountered him in Squadron Supreme and DP7. A very sad loss…

Man, such sad news. Paul Ryan, in my opinion, was one of the most underrated and overlooked comic book artists of all time, often working in the shadow of bigger names (not necessarily better, but bigger). So many titles were enhanced immensely by his clear, dynamic work. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.

LouReedRichards

March 7, 2016 at 12:19 pm

I loved his art on Squadron Supreme, he became an early favorite of mine.

I still don’t care for his FF work – it’s just not my cup of tea. I blame that more on Danny Bulanadi than Ryan but I understand many others thought highly of it.

Add me to chorus of people who were happy to have an artist in the early 90’s that was more interested in meeting their deadlines and telling the story than doing “badass XTREME” pin-up style artwork.

So long Mr. Ryan, thanks for everything.

Too young. Too much good work still to do. Wish half the stuff on the stands looked as good as his work. He will be missed.

Very sad news. Condolences to his family and loved ones.

That’s a nice piece. It’s weird to think that he was fairly young while drawing all the books I read through my teen years.

Now he gets to draw the Eternals (J.C., Moses, Mary,etc.).

Derek Handley

March 7, 2016 at 1:52 pm

That is sad news. And I agree thoroughly with the other commenters. His work was so clean, expressive and consistent: he was a exemplary storyteller.

Condolences to his loved ones.

He will indeed be missed.

I always liked his art and his feel for storytelling. I wish he’d had some stronger stories to tell (his art on Avengers was great, but the writing was nothing to talk about. And I hated most of DeFalco’s FF). Gruenwald was definitely his best partner there (sad to think they’re both gone now) and the work they did on Quasar was the best Green Lantern book being published at the time and it wasn’t close.

seriously, though. Paul Ryan was a heck of an artist.

Jack is waiting at the pearly gates to shake his hand — “Ya did good, kid.”

I was lucky enough to have met him at a convention during the late 80’s. Super nice guy who was extremely gracious to all attendees. His talent was extremely important to the comic book renaissance of the late 80’s.

I had the pleasure of meeting him at a convention last summer. He was extremely friendly and humble. I noticed he had a picture of a cat next to him and asked about it. It turned out he was doing signings to help pay for his cat’s cancer treatment, so we had a long conversation about our cats. I gave him a big stack of Marvels to sign and he had stories to tell me about almost all of them. When he totaled them up he offered me a discounted rate and I told him I’d prefer to pay extra.

Hearing this news today has made me really sad because we’ve lost a genuinely kind artist with an amazing talent. Rest in peace, Mr. Ryan.

One of the best artist out there, His women were second to none like his famous bikini for Susan Storm Richards with the open “4” shaped cleavage window! Susie hadn’t looked that good since her John Byrne days!
loved his Black Widow back when Natasha was still wearing the Frank Miller outfit and next to John Bucsema no one drew a better Nebula! The one in the Guardians movie is SORELY lacking!
Thanks for the great artwork Paul! You will be missed, R.I.P

Adam Lorensene

March 7, 2016 at 11:06 pm

For me, his version of The Thing was the definitive one. As in, when I picture The Thing in my mind, it’s his drawings that appear.

My heart just sank…

Paul Ryan was an early favorite of mine. I’d say I first took notice of his work during his runs on the AVENGERS books and it, really, stood out to me. He wasn’t the flashiest artist in the business, but he didn’t need to be. His work was always solid and well crafted. His FANTASTIC FOUR run with Tom DeFalco might be hit or miss amongst fandom, but you can’t deny that he drew the heck out of that book. He’ll, certainly, be missed. R.I.P.

[…] in the 80s and 90s, with a clean, readable style that put the characters first.Brian Cronin has a longer remembrance of his work here. At one point, Ryan drew two books a month, a workload more reminiscent of a different era; but his […]

Great (underrated) artist.. thought i read somewhere he began has an assistant to Mr Will Eisner (maybe i mis-remember)

Great stories, series, runs… even his fantastic Four (art was always perfect)

He will be greatly missed.

Condolances to his family

Sad news indeed.

Somehow I connect him instantly with my final years of being a Marvel fanboy.
Always a solid artist he had the gift of making comic books look like fun. That’s a very rare quality nowadays.
I guess he was underrated, but sometimes you miss things or people only after they are truly gone.

Does anyone know what Paul Ryan worked on for the 1991 Marvel Illustrated issue (the one with She-Hulk on the cover)? I can’t figure it out.

Also, who did the art for the concert pages?

John Klein – the credits seem to be in the order they appear in the book, so I’d say Paul Ryan did the Wolverine deodorant ad and the tug o’ war,
and
The concert and next two pages were John Bogdanove and Stan Drake.

Thank you, Me Messor! That is some great detective work there!

You’re welcome. :)

[…] Sad news this week – veteran comics creator Paul Ryan passed away on the 6th of March, aged just 66. Paul created an extensive body of work in the comics industry, including for the Big Two, drawing Superman, Batman, the Flash and more for DC and Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and Avengers for Marvel, he also, in a pleasing coincidence, illustrated the marriage of Peter Parker for Marvel and the wedding of Superman for DC. He had a long-running gig on the long-lived The Phantom newspaper strip, taking over in 2005 and I believe still working on the series until his death (via CBR). […]

I remember meeting Mr. Ryan at a convention in Atlanta in 1987, when I was 16. I mistakenly called him Mr. Neary, after Paul Neary, who had been drawing Captain America about that time. I of course apologized, saying I had confused him with another Paul. He was nice about it though. I got his autograph for my collection.

I was definitely a fan of Paul Ryan. I was sorry to hear that he had passed away. I wrote a piece on my blog looking back at his career…

https://benjaminherman.wordpress.com/2016/03/12/paul-ryan/

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