Marvel is one of the biggest names in comic books. They are the distributors of comics featuring X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America (and of course the other Avengers), Spiderman and the Fantastic Four. Many of the characters were household names before they had big budget films released during the 2000s. But amongst the general population, few of the artists who created or reinvented them are not household names. Here is a list of the biggest names in the art of comic books.
1. Alan Moore
Famous for V For Vendetta and Watchmen (neither of which were Marvel), it is little known that he did have a brief stint designing art for them. Marvel UK had previously purchased strips for Doctor Who Weekly and formerly offered him a contract to draw for a character called Captain Britain. Though Moore didn’t create the character, he took it from strength to strength and the character was eventually ranked in the top 100 ever greatest comic book characters. Moore worked on the character for several years throughout the 1980s.
2. Frank Miller
Another comic book artist famous for something other than Marvel, Miller is best known for the historical epic 300 and the dystopian noir-ish Sin City. However, he did have a stint with Marvel, penning many publications for the character of Spiderman. He also worked on X-Men (including several publications dedicated to Wolverine), Elektra, Daredevil and John Carter (of which a film version was released in 2012). He published a wide variety of comics for Marvel through the 1970s and 1980s.
3. John Romita Sr.
He is one of the biggest names in Marvel comics having spent most of his time there working on the character Spiderman and specifically on the series The Amazing Spiderman. He is so successful for his work that he was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2002. Before he became one of their best-known artists, he had already dabbled with Marvel having designed several cover images for Paul Kirby’s strips. He eventually became Art Director when Stan Lee became Editor-in-Chief.
4. John Romita Jr.
The son of John Romita Sr. hardly spent his working life in the shadow of his father. He is just as famous and just as accomplished as a comic book artist. Romita Jr. also spent a great deal of time on Spiderman but he has also worked on Avengers as well as a number of the individual characters that make up the series. Outside of Marvel, he is responsible for the comic book version of Kick Ass, which has recently been turned into a successful film.
5. Todd McFarlane
Best known for a range of figurines and toys through which he has made his name, McFarlane began his art career with Marvel, also working extensively on Spiderman publications. He started work with Marvel on Incredible Hulk, while simultaneously working on Batman for DC Comics. It was McFarlane’s artistic style that gave Spiderman far more detail for the webbing on his suit; previously it had been a series of ‘X’ to create the effect but McFarlane added far more detail to individually important strands ‘ something called ‘spaghetti webbing’.
6. Sal Buscema
Buscema has spent most of his working life with Marvel comics, including a much-lauded ten year stint working on The Incredible Hulk. He is the younger brother of equally lauded John Buscema and came onto the team when John complained about one of his inkers, expressing unhappiness with the style of John Sinnott. Eventually, John was able to persuade Stan Lee to bring his brother on board and the two worked well together. Sal eventually moved on to sketch his own projects for Marvel, starting off with The Avengers.
7. Andy Kubert
Another case of art running in the family, his brother Adam and their father Joe are well-known artists in their own right. Andy Kubert started at DC Comics but soon moved to Marvel to work on X-Men covers before becoming a stand-in penciller and then a full time penciller on the series; he became a prolific artist specifically for X-Men, working on no other series in his time with Marvel. Since 2005 he has worked exclusively for DC Comics and will team up with Neil Gaiman on a number of projects.
8. Steve Ditko
Perhaps the most famous artist to have ever worked for Marvel, Ditko co-created Doctor Strange and most importantly their most successful character – Spiderman whom he created with Stan Lee. Ditko worked on the character for many years and is arguably the one person most responsible for making the character as successful as it is. He started with Atlas Comics, the company that would eventually become Marvel and also made important contributions to The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man. His art style, reflecting mood and with clearly detail, remains very popular.
9. Jack Kirby
Kirby is considered one of the major influences on the development and success of the graphic novel/comic book medium. He created the character Captain America, who was not initially a Marvel character, and worked for Atlas (who later became Marvel) to work on X-Men, Fantastic Four and Hulk. Due to professional clashes, he left Marvel in the early 1970s to work for rivals DC. A highly accomplished artist, he was one of the first inductees into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame. Kirby died in 1994.
10. Marie Severin
If there is one industry where women are severely under-represented, comic book art is it. Marie Severin stands out as a giant within the crowd. She worked for Marvel precursor ‘Atlas’ for several years in the 1950s but a downturn led to her taking another job. When popularity began to climb again, she was invited back to work with them and illustrated for the character Doctor Strange. She also worked on Hulk and Iron Man amongst other things and eventually co-created Spiderwoman. She retired in the early 2000s.
Comic book characters are part of our everyday life whether we read them or not. Far less famous are the artists that created, draw or colour them. These represent some of the biggest names in the comic book world and are as metaphorically immortal as the characters they worked on.