5 Not-So-Mainstream Artists Every Comic Book Fan Should Check Out
Since Action Comics #1 was released back in 1938, rushing the world into the era of comic books and graphic novels, the industry has gone a long way. After almost 80 years of seemingly unstoppable blooming, comic books have become an integral part of modern art and literature. However, the industry still seems so young with its ups and downs and new writers and artists taking it to the next level each decade.
While three eras of comics – Golden Age, Silver Age and Bronze Age – were almost indisputably dominated by Jack “The King” Kirby, in terms of interior art, new talents that have grown on his works, as well as the works of other notable artists, emerged in the Modern Age of comics. Some of them have already left a deep mark in the industry and have even become teachers to newer generations of artists. Let’s take a look at several of them that we, at Overtime Auction, believe to be the most notable and influential, while not always mainstream.
David “Year One” Mazzucchelli
When a comic book fan hears the name “Mazzucchelli” the first thing that comes to their mind is “Batman. Year One” written by Frank Miller. Yes, David Mazzucchelli has also worked with Miller on “Daredevil. Born Again,” which is considered by many the best Daredevil story arc so far. But, nothing defines Mazzucchelli, like “Year One.” The art of this classic Batman plot corresponded to the story so well, that the graphic novel was soon proclaimed by both critics and fans one of the best Batman stories ever produced.
As a result, David Mazzucchelli’s contribution to this graphic novel has become a sort of a paradigm that was and is to this day looked up to by many modern artists. When you take a look at the works of David Aja and Francesco Francavilla, to name a few, you can clearly see Mazzucchelli in there.
Brian “The Killing Joke” Bolland
Coming from the classic British anthology comic series “2000 AD,” Brian Bolland sky rocketed to fame with the release of another critically and fan acclaimed Batman story, “Batman: The Killing Joke,” written by legendary Alan Moore. Every Batman fan knows and loves this book. We can write pages about how great this story is and end with publishing a dissertation on the psychology behind this amazing comic book. But, we’re talking about the interior art here, although it’s hard to consider its visual part separately from the written part. Anyway, Brian Bolland’s art in “The Killing Joke” is impeccable. All the emotions, atmosphere, headshots, landscapes, lighting, and the rest parts of this state-of-the-art work – all of this not only make a great comic book, but as well an incredible source of inspiration for every artist, whether new or not.
Today, Brian Bolland is creating covers for comic books, because he doesn’t want to draw stories that were written by other people, as he stated. And what do you know? His covers are still as good as his art was in 1986. Now, this is a constancy to learn from.
Mike “Hellboy” Mignola
Now, let’s take a step back from the mainstream guys and take a little dive into creator-owned comics. Dark Horse, Image Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, Boom! Studios, and a few other release a whole lot of independent comic books, but none of them have ever had such an influential and strategic artist, as Mike Mignola. Yes, this Mike created the one and only Hellboy, the red buff guy with a tail and sawed-off horns. If you are a mainstream comic book fan and think that only DC and Marvel have their own continuities, well, you’re wrong. Mike Mignola has created and developed his own continuity, a Hellboy Universe, that was branded by fans as Mignolaverse. He developed countless characters in terms of this continuity and has been writing and drawing Mignolaverse comic books since 1994. And is still doing it! So, 23 years into Hellboy and counting.
Alright, all the wows aside, Mike Mignola is a great artist. Once you open a comic book he’s drawn, you can clearly tell – it’s Mignola. He contributed to the mainstream comics as well and “Gotham by Gaslight” is perhaps the most known of them – a steampunk Batman story (WOW! definitely check it out, if you haven’t yet).
But, why is he such a great artist and why is he so influential? Well, first of all, there’s Jack Kirby all over Mignola’s art – you can see it on basically each page and panel he draws. The true student of The King has gone much further, than comic books – he’s been involved in concept design, production design, character design, etc. for “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” Disney’s “Atlantis: The Lost Empire,” “Batman: The Animated Series” (yes, yes, the one developed by the legendary Bruce Timm), “Blade II,” Pixar’s “The Brave,” and the two Hellboy film adaptations. Quite a list, huh?
Mike Mignola’s art has struck thousands imaginations and warmed millions of hearts. Even though his art is some kind of modern tribute to Jack Kirby, he’s been an inspiration to artists all over the world. One of the recent and clearly surprising findings in the industry was Artyom Trakhanov from Russia, whose “Undertow” written by Steve Orlando and released by Image Comics, has been a huge hit with the first issue reprinted several times in a row (make sure to check it out too!). How about that???
Frank “Mentallo” Quitely
If you love DC comics, you know who Grant Morrison is. If you fell in love with “New X-Men,” released from 2001 to 2003, you know who Grant Morrison is. If you know who Grant Morrison is, then you MUST know who Frank Quitely is and you love him.
Vincent Deighan, known under his pen name as Frank Quitely, is one-of-a-kind Scottish artist that started off in a Scottish underground comics “Electric Soup” and then moved on to the “Judge Dredd Magazine” just like so many other British comic book writers and artists. Perhaps, his meeting with Grant Morrison was a determining event, because they became a perfect duo, a creative team to dream for. Each comic that was written and drawn by them has become a modern classic. Take “All-Star Superman,” “We3,” “New X-Men,” “Flex Mentallo,” “JLA: Earth 2,” and even their latest work in “The Multiversity” miniseries, “Pax Americana: In Which We Burn” – all of them are quoted by critics and fans as profound and highly sophisticated works both in terms of plot and art.
We can go on and on, like this forever, naming countless panels and extremely sophisticated page constructions. Quitely’s work speaks for him. Some of the newer artists, including Ramon Villalobos and Chris Burnham, have been strongly influenced and inspired by Frank Quitely’s art, and you can see it in all of their latest works, although they still stay true to their own style. However, these two artists have written and drawn a sort of comic book tribute to Quitely’s and Morrison’s classic “New X-Men” arc named “E Is for Extinction” that was included in Marvel’s 2015 global event, “Secret Wars.”
One last thing about Frank Quitely – this is a story of a modest hat and clothing designer that became a world-famous artist.
Steve “Preacher” Dillon
Sadly, unlike all the other artists included in this list, Steve Dillon passed away on October 22, 2016. But, his spectacular career has left him as one of the most spoken of artists in the comic book industry.
Just like so many British artists, in his early years as a comic book artist, Dillon frequently contributed to the “Judge Dredd Magazine” and “2000 AD” anthology, among other publications. But, his career started off, when he was 16 years old, when he drew the title story for the first “Hulk Weekly” issue. Later on, after meeting writer Garth Ennis in 1989, he started working with DC. Just like Morrison and Quitely, Ennis and Dillon have become a duo to dream about – each of their work has been critically acclaimed and loved by fans.
The two majorly successful titles in Dillon’s career are obviously “Punisher” and “Preacher.” The latter has become a sensation in the latter 90’s, bringing provocative topics in front of the reader and not just entertaining them, but also make them think about things comic book creators usually don’t care about bringing up. Sure, it was tons of laughs, but “Preacher” has set up the bar so high for comic books to come, so it still remains one of the most referenced non-mainstream comic books even today, almost 17 years after the release of its last monthly issue.
His latest works were DC’s “Sixpack & Dogwelder” with Garth Ennis and Marvel’s “Punisher” with Becky Cloonan, so make sure to check them out.
So, You’re a Comic Book Fan…
If you say that you love comics and you don’t know these artists, this is the time to change it, because who knows, where the industry would be today, if not for the contribution of these five men. And make sure to come back to Overtime Auction for more great posts about amazing comic books, writers, artists, and more!