First, we gushed out our favorite writers but no comic is complete or even half complete without the work of the artist. These illustrators can pack a story into one panel. Clarify relationships with one raised eyebrow. Transport readers to another world with color, light, and a carefully placed line. These are the artists that we would hire to design our tattoos.
picked by Gail
I love his use of whimsy, colour, shape, facial expressions, the way his illustrations tell stories of wonder and danger without having to even be in context. My favourite work — Book of Ballads — but I could list an entire catalog of work here.
picked by Allen
Templesmith’s artwork are nightmares come to life. If you were to give a possessed individual a pen and paper, chances are it will have the same level of nightmarish surrealism that Templesmith uses in all his work. He uses a lot of frantic lines and scribbles that come together to form familiar shapes and objects, but he is at his most unnerving when he puts in realistic-looking faces. This style was much more pronounced in Silent Hill: Dying Inside. He is also the only artist who made Star Wars scary with the short story, “Dark Journey” (available in Star Wars Tales Volume 5).
picked by Brazos and Jack
It has to be Frank Quitely. He has distinctive faces and figures but also really excels at panel construction. His most striking work for my money is We3 with his frequent collaborator Grant Morrison. He stretched the boundaries of comic panel construction in that one!
He does draw very human and expressive faces, but I think what I love about his work is that his characters are all obviously cartoons with strange proportions and totally unreasonable bulk, but he really pays attention to the way they take up space, filling in all these little wrinkled and details that they have a definite weight and substance. It’s a neat trick, one that makes me think of Moebius more than anyone else. My vote for definitive Quitely work is All-Star Superman, also with Mr. Morrison. It’s a classic Superman story in the absolute best sense of the word.
picked by Robin
I firmly believe that Urasawa is just hands down one of the top manga creators working right now. His pacing, editing, and narrative style are very manga, but his art shifts somewhere in between what people expect from manga and what they see as a Western art style. Urasawa veers toward realism, with characters who look Japanese and feel weight and human rather than idealized, but he also excels at faces that are delightful, expressive caricatures. His work relies on a fine-lined, almost sketchy style that nonetheless has amazing narrative weight when it needs to. He knows when to deploy a double-page spread, and when to allow the panels and silence to convey emotion and detail. In Pluto, he also uses color in short bursts, rare for manga, and to great effect.
picked by Sheli
I find his cartooning second to none. He details his characters with just the right curve of line so that it’s expressive, but not overburdened. It’s a stand out style in a superhero field littered with house styles. In execution as well as in interviews, hes always expressed the constant need to improve. And while that is not uncommon in artists, it’s always fulfilling when you see the artist constantly improve.
picked by Russ
His work is deceptive! At first you think it’s just kind of all right, if a little on the cartoony side. But then you begin to notice the original way he frames his panels, or the fact that each and every ‘cartoony’ figure from every walk of life is absolutely,100% believable. Also his backgrounds are somehow spare and detailed at the same time, and he uses them as both another framing device and to ground all the characters in their gritty world. Every time I re-read something of his, like 100 Bullets, I notice another little subtle detail that adds to the storytelling.
picked by Jennifer
She uses really simple lines but she captures so many emotions and she can be funny, sad, weird, uplifting, and horrorific all at once. I would say Digger is her definitive work (although I also think she does the best job ever at a blended text/comic book in her Dragonbreath series).
Phil and Kaja Foglio
picked by Michael
Their Girl Genius characters always look stunning and fill panel space very well. The outfits those characters wear are generally drool worthy and make me wish I lived in the 1800s or alternatively had crazy mad scientist powers. They have a stunning level of attention to detail. Nothing is overlooked, no panel ever looks empty and there are often some hilarious gags in the background. If I can tell the basic mood of a character simply by the shape of their speech bubble than that artist (or in this case those artists) deserve my respect. While the style and use bright colors can occasionally come off as cartoonish, the comic is easily able to carry itself in more serious moments as well, without seeming to change. And while the colors are amazing, the comic was almost as pretty in it’s early days of black and white. So while their colorist, Cheyenne Wright, does a superb job these two top my list for superlative art.
picked by Jenny
His use of infinitely varied panel perspective (bug’s- / bird’s-‘ / fish-eye views and more, all somehow without disorienting the reader) leads me to suspect he has a photographic memory and can astral project at will. Also, I think he must time travel, so believable are his Samura-fied depictions of period architecture, fashion, and culture. His figures seem to occupy three dimensions both at ease and in motion, have generally realistic proportions (though I will be the first to admit the ears occasionally get away from him and take on a life of their own–hee), and convey complex emotions. He understands light and shadow and subtly uses simple screentones to provide shade beneath an overhang or substance to a cast iron kettle, but otherwise relies on his ridiculously detailed yet never busy or muddied linework to provide depth, contrast, and texture. I love realism that still looks like conscious yet effortless art rather than a photograph. His is some beautiful stuff and I could look at it all day, especially Blade of the Immortal, and never be bored.
picked by Matthew
She’s one of the most underrated artists to work at DC Comics in recent years, I’ve overjoyed that she’s back on a monthly book again with Earth 2.
picked by Emma
I adore the art in The Return of the Dapper Men. The book includes an explanation of how she works in the back. The pictures are just so lush and full of depth! I can’t wait for the sequel!
picked by Snow
Raina’s art is comforting. It’s familiar, it’s friendly, and, even when dealing with difficult situations, it’s innately cheerful. She uses a deceptively simple and cartoonish style to breath real life into her stories and she uses the medium of comics in a highly skilled manner. My favorite example is page 91 of Smile, where the addition of a heart and a slight blush of the cheeks are the only changes between the bottom two panels, but they tell you everything you need to know about the power of first crushes. It is a sign of true skill to be able to easily and in a non-condescending way speak clearly and comfortably about the life of a tween and young teen.
picked by Abby
The drawings in Habibi are gorgeous and pulled me in even more than the story. He has a real talent for intertwining letters and images, and adds incredible detail to each page.
picked by Bonnie
picked by Andrew
I like her work because it’s so clean and slick and, well, awesome.
Who would you pick?