Top Comic Book Artists 3-1

The countdown concludes with the last three artists that you voted as your favorites of all-time (out of roughly 1,023 ballots cast, with 10 points for first place votes, 9 points for second place votes, etc.).

3. John Byrne – 3049 points (62 first place votes)

After beginning his career at Charlton Comics, John Byrne quickly made the move to Marvel and soon was working for Marvel on a variety of comics, including notable stints on iron fist and Marvel Team-Up (both with writer Chris Claremont) as well as other titles. His skills as an artist got him bigger and higher profile assignments, including avengers and the Fantastic Four. Looking back, though, his stint on the X-Men is probably his best remembered run, art-wise. Byrne took over from Dave Cockrum as the series artist and stayed on for over 30 issues, eventually becoming a plotter of the series with writer Chris Claremont.

Byrne’s skills as an artist were many, as his best attribute was his storytelling ability (which eventually translated into him just outright plotting the stories himself) but even while being able to tell a story so well, his art was able to be both dynamic AND stand out from a design standpoint. Take the legendary final page from X-Men #132, which blows the reader’s mind on all three of those levels (great storytelling, extremely dynamic and a bold, powerful page design)…

After leaving the X-MenByrne began writing AND drawing the Fantastic Fourwhere he experimented with storytelling techniques, like an issue that was told entirely in landscape format!

He also launched Alpha Flight for Marvel (characters Byrne had created for an issue of X-Men). During the mid-80s, Byrne left Marvel to reboot the Superman line of comics for DC.

After a number of issues of Superman (Byrne was writing and drawing two Superman titles for quite a while), Byrne left the series and returned to Marvel. Since then, Byrne has worked on various projects for both companies. He also worked on independent comics, such as the Next Men.

His last regular comic book was doing a number of projects for IDW, including a lot of star trek art, a return of the Next Men and a number of just one-off miniseries (IDW basically gave Byrne freedom to try out new ideas, like a star trek series where Byrne told new stories using screen caps of the original series).

From one of those series, a 2011 miniseries about a spy during the cold war (called, appropriately enough, Cold War), here’s a great wordless sequence from the first issue (I like to use this one to point out that Byrne’s storytelling continued to be great long after he stopped working for DC and Marvel)…

That’s some damn fine storytelling right there. It’s like a master class in sequential art. Most recently, outside of commissions, Byrne had been doing an unofficial series continuing his original X-Men series called X-Men: Elsewhen.

RELATED: Top Comic Book Writers 6-4

2. Jack Kirby – 3663 points (126 first place votes)

Jack Kirby (born Jacob Kurtzberg) broke into comic books in the very early days of the medium. He worked in a variety of places, even taking a shot at being an animator (he haaated doing animation. He compared it to working in a factory like his father did before him) before he finally got a shot at working for a comic book packaging studio run by Will Eisner and Jerry Iger. Comic book packaging studios would create comic book stories and sell completed comic books to publishers who would then simply print the final product. It was traditional at this time for the artists who drew the most pages (like Eisner himself) to use different names for their different works, as it would allow them to appear as if they had more artists working for them than they really did. This was when the “Jack Kirby” name was born. Kirby eventually began to work directly for one of the comic book companies where Eisner and Iger had supplied artwork. While working at that small company, he first worked with an editor there named Joe Simon. Simon loved Kirby’s work and when Simon was named Editor-in-Chief of another new comic book company, Timely Comics (owner Martin Goodman had Simon hired away from a different packaging studio that Simon also worked for), he brought Kirby to Timely.

Kirby and Joe Simon formed a partnership that lasted for well over a decade. They created the classic character Captain America for Timely Comics. Here’s some Kirby penciled pages from the third issue of the series…

Kirby and Simon were one of the few “superstar” creative teams of the era, and after Timely failed to take care of them by reneging on a profit-sharing agreement that Goodman had made with them, they signed a lucrative deal with DC Comics, producing a number of popular comics for them, including the Boy Commandos, which quickly became one of DC Comics’ most popular books of the era (for a while there, it was Superman, Batman and Boy Commandos in that order).

World War II interrupted their early success, and after Kirby returned from the War, he and Simon moved on from superhero comics (which were a bit on the wane) and began working on comics in many different genres. Together, they basically created the romance comic book.

They also did horror comics, crime comics, western comics, pretty much everything for a number of different comic book companies. They formed their own studio, with other artists also working for them. They even tried to make their own comic book company, but it happened to come out when comic books were hitting a dry spell due to the anti-comics propaganda of Fredric Wertham (who claimed that comic books caused juvenile delinquency).

Eventually, after their company folded and Simon and Kirby’s other work began to dry up a bit, the pair decided to split up to pursue work on their own. Kirby worked for DC Comics for a bit, including introducing the Challengers of the Unknown, but ultimately ended up back at Timely Comics, now known as Atlas, and soon to be known as Marvel.

Kirby was one of a small crew of artists working at the company, and editor-in-chief and main writer Stan Lee gave Kirby a lot of responsibility for how the stories were told at Atlas (Lee would go over a basic plot with Kirby, Kirby would then draw the story and Lee would add dialogue to the finished story – eventually, Kirby didn’t even need a plot from Lee. Honestly, even as soon as he got to Marvel, Kirby was occasionally just doing stories on his own) .

In the early 1960s, after DC was starting to see a lot of success from their superhero revivals, Marvel got back into superheroes, and Kirby and Lee created almost all of them, most notable being the first major Marvel superhero comic, the Fantastic Four.

While there, Kirby drew some of the greatest moments in comic book history, from the time that the Fantastic Four first saw Galactus…

to the formation of the Avengers…

to Doctor Doom stealing the Power Cosmic…

Kirby was all over it during the 1960s.

He particularly enjoyed working on Thorand here are two of his very best Thor pages Thor #130…

WOW, the power in those pages is jaw-dropping!

By the end of the decade, though, Kirby was unhappy with Marvel. At least part of the reason for his unhappiness was that he felt as though he was not getting enough credit for the work he was doing (on Fantastic Four, for instance, Kirby was literally plotting the book himself, only Lee would change stuff while he was scripting the issues, forcing Kirby to re-do future issues – one notable example was the creation of the being who would later be known as Adam Warlock . Kirby had the scientists who created the being then known as “Him” be objectivists, who were shocked to see that their “perfect man” found THEM lacking. Lee just decided to make them generic evil scientists). Another reason was that Kirby did not like the fact that he did not get financial incentives for the various star characters that he had created for Marvel. By the late 1960s, the characters had already been adapted into a number of animated television program and Kirby didn’t get a penny from those sales.

Whatever the precise reason for his leaving, Kirby split from Marvel and signed a deal with DC Comics (the deal sadly was not even that much more lucrative than his Marvel deal), where he created a number of major characters for them, including the Fourth World line of comics. Here are some stunning examples of his art from the Fourth World, as well (one of the pages is included almost solely because it has literal Kirby krackle in it!)…

Ultimately, Kirby soured on DC, as well (again, all of the same problems that he had with Marvel were mostly present at DC, as well), and actually went back to Marvel for the rest of the 1970s, although he was given the freedom to basically do what he wanted with the titles he was given (Captain America, Black Panther and his own creations, the Eternals and Devil Dinosaur, etc.). He wrote as well as drew these titles.

He left comics for a time in the early 1980s to work in animation (animation was finally a field that truly respected Kirby’s great talents). Also in the 1980s, he would do some creator-owned work for Pacific Comics and other places (which was a big deal at the time), He also did some more work for DC in the mid-80s on his Fourth World characters (DC really tried to make up for his earlier treatment of Kirby by going out of their way to give him new financial incentives this time around, as Paul Levitz and Dick Giordano were all about helping the past greats).

His last major comics were published by Topps Comics in the early 1990s as well as Phantom Force (which Image Comics ended up putting out), before Kirby passed away in 1994.

RELATED: Top Comic Book Artists 6-4

1. George Pérez – 3684 points (133 first place votes)

George Pérez first began working at Marvel Comics in the mid-70s on a few different, lower rung titles. Eventually his skills got his promoted to major titles such as Fantastic Four and the avengers. Right off the bat, Pérez’ storytelling skills were excellent, but style-wise, he seemed to be trying a bit too hard to draw like a sort of Marvel “House Style.”

Check out these Pérez pages from avengers #143 (inked by Sam Grainger)…

They’re definitely good pages, but it’s almost difficult to see the Pérez in them. This likely had a lot to do with Pérez trying to hit deadlines, as well.

Fast-forward less than twenty issues later, and you now see the Pérez we’ve all come to know and love, with the detailed lines and the intricate panels…

In 1980, while still drawing the avengersPérez began to work for DC drawing Justice League of Americabecoming the first artist ever to draw the avengers and the Justice League!

While Justice League was the carrot that initially drew Pérez to DC, it turned out that his legacy was going to be relaunching the Teen Titans comic book with Marv Wolfman. Tea New Teen Titans quickly became DC’s hottest book, and Pérez’s art was clearly a huge part of that success. His work on their private lives instantly humanized them…

Of course, he could also draw action if need be.

Pérez talents ended up leading him off of the New Teen Titansas first he drew the massive DC crossover Crisis on Infinite Earths and was soon convinced to relaunch wonder woman. He drew it as well as plotted it (and for a while scripted it, as well). Perez also wrote and drew Action Comics for a spell.

In the late 1990s, Pérez proved that you CAN go home again when he returned to the avengers for an acclaimed run with Kurt Busiek..

Pérez did a number of series for CrossGen, as well, while doing a JLA/Avengers crossover with Busiek.

His last series was Sirens for BOOM! Studios in 2014. He then retired from comics in 2019 due to health issues. He tragically passed away earlier this year.