Monday, July 20, 2009

21 Most Influential Mainstream Comics Artists?

Here's an interesting article at The Onion's AV Club website:

Reinventing the pencil: 21 artists who changed mainstream comics (for better or worse)

I imagine in the hours and maybe days to come, this'll spread around the comics blogosphere, with everyone debating who should or should not be included, so I figure I'd get in on the ground floor of this and add my two cents (I did miss the initial wave of Wednesday Comics chatter, after all) (P.S.--Wednesday Comics is awesome).

I think it's a pretty solid list overall. The "(for better or worse)" is welcomed; anybody can just slap Kirby and Eisner on a list and go "Yeah, everybody agrees these guys are the bomb-diggity," but it takes a little more discipline to say "God, I really hate Greg Land, but I can't deny the influence he's having in the comics landscape." Note that I don't think these are meant to be rankings -- or at least if they are, they're so arbitrary as to be meaningless -- merely a list of names that have numbers attached just so's you can keep track of 'em.

I do have some quibbles, though:


Todd McFarlane: Do we really need three Image founders? Yeah, Spawn was King of the 90s, but it's essentially a dead property today. I don't see a lot of McFarlane influence in the industry in 2009 -- not in art, certainly, and nobody else has quite managed to duplicate the media empire he was able to build -- and this list is all about influence.

George Tuska: I feel like there ought to be a better example of a competent journeyman out there, though I'll admit none springs to mind.

Steve Rude: Awesome without a doubt (and: Madison, Wisconsin represent!), but influential? The article itself calls his kind of art "has rarely been seen since, save from the Dude himself."

Chris Ware: I don't have a strong objection to this, but it does require some debate as to what we're defining as "mainstream" -- or at least, "mainstream" as it applies to the comics industry.


Joe Madureira:
The first artist to really make a thing out of fusing manga with traditional superheroics. He was the guy who made it okay to be cartoony in '90s superhero comics, and you still see that influence (though a couple times removed) to the point where I'd say he definitely ought to be on this list, whether you like or dislike him

Frank Miller: I feel like one of the Marvel superstar writer-artists of the '80s should be on the list; Simonson is covered by Kirby, and Byrne is covered by Neal Adams ... so does that leave Miller as the most innovative?

Alex Toth: If you're a comics artist and you don't list Alex Toth as an influence, don't they kick you out of the building or something? I think you're supposed to namecheck him whether you know his work or not...

Jim Steranko: Everybody wants to be Steranko, but nobody seems to want to commit.

Barry Windsor-Smith: Seems like he should be on the list, but maybe not influential enough?

Anyone else out there got any thoughts on this list? Or at least can point me in the right direction of some good discussion going on?

Also, I might like to try at divising a similar list of 21 influential (for better or for worse) mainstream comics writers, although I worry my '70s knowledge isn't strong enough to really come up with anything definitive. Still, I'll have a whack at it; come back Friday to see what comes of it.


Justin said...

Okay, I've actually found a forum where they're talking about this article, but the debate has of course turned real ugly real fast.

So I wish to stress that my comments above are not toothgnashing condemnations of the writer of this article ("He didn't have Toth on this list? I reject this list and this writer as idiotic!"), but rather my own opinions and responses.

Sparking conversation and lively debate really ought to be the point of any such list, but it needn't be so emotionally charged.

Justin said...

Also: Looking at the article again, it doesn't even say "the 21 *most* influential artists," it just says "21 influential artists" (although I can see where the "most" is sort of implied).

Basically, this is not meant to be a definitive statment by comics historians; it is, in fact, an article probably written on a week's deadline by some guys who had a lot of other assignments to do as well, so let's just have some fun with it.

I'm looking at YOU, internet.