Monday, December 20, 2004

Cover Artists of the Year (Part 1)

I never feel as if I read a large enough cross-section of comics to select a proper Best of the Year list. I mean, I haven't read a Spider-book since junior high, I've never in my life picked up an issue of Spawn, and I don't read as many manga and small-press titles as I'd like.

How can I speak with any authority on whether a certain book is heads and shoulders above everything else published this year? I suppose it can be argued that most any compilation isn't as much a Best of the Year list as it is a Best of What I Read This Year list, but that's another issue.

But I do like to pretend I know a little something about design (I make my living, such as it is, as a graphic designer). I appreciate a well-designed comics cover, even if it's for a title I'd never buy in a million years, and wince at the scores of poorly executed ones.

So, I figured while everyone with more diverse reading lists than mine were compiling their lineups of the Best Comic Books of 2004, I'd focus on what I think were the Best Comic Book Covers of 2004.

As I was sorting through the countless cover images, I began to notice some artists whose collected body of work made them stand out from the rest. These were the creators who consistently produced outstanding cover art that, in most cases, helped to define the book on which they were working. These were the 20 creators I selected as the Cover Artists of the Year; they are, to my mind, the best of the best.

Some of the names came as a surprise to me. For instance, I'd unfairly written off Tim Bradstreet as overrated and predictable. But once I began combing through his covers from the past year, I came to appreciate the subtleties of his work. Similarly, I'd paid little attention to the now-canceled Batman Adventures or the work of cover artist Kelsey Shannon. Now I realize I really missed out by not giving his wonderfully designed covers a second, earlier look.

Although a handful of "independent" creators appear, you'll notice the Cover Artists list is pretty "mainstream"-heavy. That's not necessarily a statement about the quality of indy covers; instead, it likely has more to do with the frequency with which many indy books are published. It's difficult to amass of body of cover work in 2004 when only a couple of issues are released.

Still, more indy work will appear later in the week when I post a selection of great individual covers.

So, after all of that, I post for your amusement, bemusement and scrutiny the 20 Cover Artists of the Year (in alphabetical order, broken into two parts for easier viewing)

Tim Bradstreet
for his work on Hellblazer and Punisher

Dave Bullock
for his work on Teen Titans Go!

Jo Chen
for her work on Runaways and Thor: Son of Asgard

Darwyn Cooke
for his work on DC: The New Frontier

Tomer Hanuka
for his work on DC's Focus line and Midnight Mass: Here There Be Monsters

Tony Harris
for his work on Ex Machina, Sword of Dracula, Reign of the Zodiac and others

Adam Hughes
for his work on The Ride and Rose & Thorn

James Jean
for his work on Fables and Batgirl

for his work on The Losers, Detective Comics and Legends of the Dark Knight

Dave Johnson
for his work on 100 Bullets, Batman and Captain America