I was asked by someone on the Vine, I now consider a good friend, to do a Overrated and Underrated list of artist. I was pondering it for a while and really wanted to do it. The first List got a enough traffic where it was fun to see the approval and disapproval on the list. With comic artist, a list is harder to do because its not as much apples to apples like writing is. A writer is a writer, I judged it by stories, style, depth, creativity, contributions to comic and other factors that I felt were universal to writers. With artist it is different. Styles change, skill sets differ, exposure plays a higher role, since it is more likely to see an Alex Ross painting over a Kent Williams and both men are masters at their craft.
Instead of having a list of random artist and why some are over praised and others not, I think it would be better to break down into more closer groups. In this case, painters.
I will not call Alex Ross overrated because he deserves the acclaim he has been given. It is a shame that he is the most famous because he focuses more on superheroes. If he was not Thee Superhero painter he wouldn't be as much of the God he is. The only negative thing I can say is in early work, especially Marvels, he depended too much on photo references and certain character's faces just don't look natural. Liberty on Comicvine once pointed out he placed a weird X (Cross of some sort) on Captain Marvel's (Shazam) neck on The Power of Hope cover. Everyone has growing pains, Alex Ross is unlucky that his growing pains are on famous acclaimed books.
I do realize that most of the names I will have on this list of overlooked artist are Vertigo alumni. This current blog is part of that love-letter to the artistic side of comics that seems to be dying because money overpowers story in this current comic economic. I do understand painted comics cost more and technology is taking over. This move to technology saddens me because the organic nature of painting is becoming a lost form. More artist are moving away from working in the styles and methods that help make comics what they are today. These old fashion practices are being forgotten, when they can only add to the arsenal of skills an artist can bring to a book. I'll try to keep these names alphabetical so that there is no real rank, just overlooked names.
- Simon Bisley: Most of Simon Bisley's work have been cover work. His current longest run was Grant Morrison's famed Doom Patrol run (28 covers), which is overshadowed because the trade have brand new Brian Bolland covers to take the attention away from the Bisley covers. Hellblazer covers currently sit as his third longest cover run (with 16), with only an issue or two to surpass his Heavy Metal cover run of 17. Interior work is a treat because of the time consuming nature of Bisley's painting style, to do all interiors would not make sense on a monthly scale. A few of he notable rate interior times would be: Batman/Judge Dredd, Slaine: The Horned God, Bodycount, he work with Lobo and now his work on Hellblazer.
- John Bolton: One of the biggest name in comics, but overlooked because he tends to do interior on books outside the mainstream. Many of them Vertigo titles like: Books of Magic and his new book The Green Woman. Besides the occasionally cover or pin up, other work he has done were a short short for Fables, a few Anne Rice adaptations and a Neil Gaiman book called Harlequin Valentine.
- Scott Hampton: Like John Bolton he is known best because of his Books of Magic story. What I admire most about Scott Hampton he breaks the mold when it comes to painters. Yes he is also famous for Lucifer and most painters stick to Horror or fantasy, but Scott Hampton like Alex Ross has done Superhero work: A lot of Batman, Doc Savage, random marvel work, The Spirit and even Gen13. Besides Dark Fantasy and Horror, and alongside superheroes, Hampton is not pigeonholed into one thing, he has done sci-fi with Star Trek: The Next Generation: Forgiveness and Vikings in the Life Eaters.
- Dean Ormston: Mostly known for his Vertigo work ( Lucifer being the longest). His art is not my favorite, I will admit that much. At times in Lucifer I thought it was too flat looking and not enough depth. It does work with the story however. Much like I HATE Steve Dillon's art since everyone looks the same, but his Hellblazer and Preacher art worked for the story. Dean Ormston is a gifted painter The Eaters by Peter Milligan is horrific in how effective it is, while his and Steve Niles' Strange Cargo story in the DC Infinite Halloween Special was one of my favorite stories in that over price comic.
- Esad Ribic: He maybe more of a Marvel man, with most of his comic contributions being from Marvel. Silver Surfer: Requiem and Sub-Mariner: The Depths being two of my favorite graphic novels from Marvel. He also has done Vertigo work as the artist in the V2K release Four Horsemen, may not be the most famous Vertigo story, but he has been around over ten years.
- Kent Williams: Famed more as a cover artist. He has done covers for The Crow, Marvel's Epic Imprint, Hellblazer as well as interiors for graphic Novels such as Havok & Wolverine - Meltdown, Wolverine Killing and the Vertigo adaption of the movie The Fountain.
- Charles Vess: Another Books of Magic artist. Neil Gaiman knew how to pick them. Vess as well is more known for covers and his work with Neil Gaiman, but besides painting with his water-color style he can also illustrate with the traditional pencil and ink method. Cover works include the ongoing Books of Magic and the Nancy Collins Swamp Thing run. Most recent works include Fables 1001 Nights of Snowfall and Starstruck which started in 2009.
"Art" in comics should be Art. Not just pretty panels that could simply pass as a pretty storyboard. With the focus on comics being more cost-effective, the talent that comes in painting a comic is being lost. May of the talents listed above can still find jobs as pencilers or inkers, but that is like telling a chef to go to a chain-food store and cook there. Comics should strive to be better. They should want to maximize the talents available. The major problem with comics today is that the wrong fans control the market. This is true. Instead of demanding the best product, the market buys whatever has branded them. Spider-man is a great example, every month since Brand New Day, I have not heard much positive things about Spider-Man, maybe something like " J. Scott Campbell's cover is so nice" or something as shallow as that. Comic fans at average are caught up in the entertainment of the beast and lose focus on the reason Comics matured. Comics matured because as a medium it is an art-form like no other.
A challenge to those who I may have offended. Instead of picking up a Deadpool or Spider-Man or whatever you pick up because of the love of the character, try something against your comfort zone. Try something out from a guy like Esad Ribic, and really... really look at the art. "Pictures say a thousand words" and yet in comics most people ignore the messages.