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THE TEN GREATEST SUPERMAN ARTISTS OF ALL TIME (at least, in my opinion)
Superman remains one of the most famous – and influential – comic book super-heroes of all time. And since his debut in ACTION COMICS (1st series) #1 (June 1939), many comic book artists’ renditions of the Man of Steel have helped kept him in the public eye for almost a century – even during those periods when many fans considered him less than relevant. Here’s my list of the ten greatest Superman artists of all time (and if you agree or disagree with some of my choices, you can contact me on my Facebook page):
10. DAN JURGENS – Jurgens first drew Superman in a cameo panel in NEW TEEN TITANS (2nd series) #6 (March 1985) – nobody reading that particular issue could have predicted that by the end of the 1980’s and throughout the 1990’s, Jurgens would be drawing (and writing) Superman’s adventures. Jurgens’ most famous (or infamous, take your pick) Superman stories as a writer/artist occurred in SUPERMAN (2nd series) #75 (January 1993), in which the Last Son of Krypton died at the hands of Doomsday (though that would prove to be temporary) -- and SUPERMAN (2nd series) #82 (September 1993), when the character returned, totally revitalized. It should be noted that Jurgens wrote more Superman stories than he illustrated during his comic book career -- including the controversial SUPERMAN (2nd series) #123 (May 1997), in which the Man of Steel’s costume and powers were changed (if only temporarily).
9. ROSS ANDRU – Andru didn’t draw that many Superman stories during his career as a comic book artist – though the stories that he did work on certainly helped to increase their quality. The Superman comic book covers that Andru and Dick Giordano illustrated for DC in the late-1970’s and early-1980’s remain some of the best of that period – and their work on the first SUPERMAN VS. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN one-shot published in 1975 is a great example of how their art styles worked well together, while reminding us of what might have been had Andru and Giordano actually teamed up to illustrate more Superman stories during their long and successful careers. It’s worth pointing out that Andru served as a DC editor from 1978-86 -- which limited most of his artwork during his editing career to comic book covers.
8. GEORGE PEREZ – Perez, best known for not only DC’s NEW TEEN TITANS and WONDER WOMAN, but also Marvel’s FANTASTIC FOUR and AVENGERS, was definitely no slouch when it came to drawing Superman (he first drew the Man of Steel in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA [1st series] #184 [August 1980]). While Perez didn’t illustrate that many Superman stories – the results were very impressive, including the character’s appearance in CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS; #7 (October 1985) of the limited series continues to stand out among fans, including its iconic cover in which a grieving Superman carries his cousin Supergirl (who was killed by the Anti-Monitor in that particular issue -- though the character would be revived in one form or another throughout the next few decades).
7. JOHN BYRNE – It was Byrne who helped revamped Superman for a new generation of fans in 1986, as well as reviving his popularity. Byrne’s reworking for the character would help influence those who wrote and illustrated the Action Ace’s adventures in the coming decades – while at the same time, altering the character’s status quo in order to keep him fresh and relevant. It’s interesting to note that Byrne wrote and/or illustrated only two years’ worth of Superman stories (from 1986-88) -- though he would return to sporadically write and/or draw the Man of Steel’s adventures over the next few decades.
6. WAYNE BORING – From the 1940’s to the 1960’s, Boring was one of the prominent Superman artists of several generations – building upon and improving the character’s visual image, while raising the bar for all future Superman artists (including Swan, Byrne, etc.). It was Superman co-creator Joe Shuster who recognized Boring’s potential as a comic book artist, when his artist’s studio hired him to draw Superman, starting in 1940. Boring was also one of the many comic book artists working on the long-running SUPERMAN newspaper comic strip (in Boring’s case, the Sunday comic) from 1939 to 1966. Boring’s final Superman stories for DC in the 1980’s dazzled a new generation of fans, while reminding those who grew up admiring his artwork of both the man and his talent.
5. JOE SHUSTER – Shuster, of course, co-created Superman with Jerry Siegel. Shuster’s Superman artwork in the late-1930’s and 1940’s was no doubt typical of the comic book artwork of that time, since both the comic book industry and the super-hero genre were in their infancy – but without Siegel and Shuster (and the generations of writers and artists whom they inspired), the Metropolis Marvel might have never become the pop culture icon that he is today. Though Shuster’s worsening eyesight would end his career as a comic book artist by the late-1940’s, there’s no question that Superman had already become an American institution, thanks in part to the Siegel/Shuster team. (A little trivia note: Joe Shuster’s cousin Frank would make his own mark on pop culture, as one-half of the legendary Canadian comedy duo of Wayne [as in Johnny Wayne] and Shuster, whose greatest success would come on TV from the 1950’s to the late-1980’s.)
4. JERRY ORDWAY – Ordway’s long association with Superman really began in the early-1980’s, when he worked on ALL-STAR SQUADRON -- even if the Man of Steel he drew was the Earth-Two version. In 1986, when Superman was revamped, Ordway became the regular artist on THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN (the new title for the monthly SUPERMAN comic book that debuted in 1939) -- Ordway’s rendition of the character remains one of the best that ever graced the comic book pages. Ordway’s talents as an artist would also play an important role in his emergence as a comic book writer, when he started to co-plot and write Superman scripts in 1987-88 (and later on, write a successful revival of Captain Marvel in the 1990’s [THE POWER OF SHAZAM!]).
3. GIL KANE – Best remembered for drawing such super-heroes like Spider-Man and the Silver Age versions of Green Lantern and the Atom, Kane proved his mettle as a Superman artist when he teamed up with writer Marv Wolfman for a number of comic book stories in ACTION COMICS during the early-1980’s. Kane’s experience with drawing both super-heroes and science fiction served him well when he drew Superman, not only in comic books – but also TV animation, when he provided character designs for the short-lived SUPERMAN animated TV series which aired on CBS in 1988.
2. JOSÉ LUIS GARCIA-LOPEZ – Though Garcia-Lopez did illustrate a sizable amount of Superman comic book stories during his career, his renditions of the Man of Steel (and other DC characters) are more well known around the world, by appearing on various forms of merchandise, from clothing to toys. And yet, Garcia-Lopez’s rendition of Superman remains one of the most dynamic in the comic book industry – a testament to his immense talent and skill.
1. CURT SWAN – Swan has been called the definitive Superman artist by several generations of fans and colleagues – not only because he drew more stories than any artist before or after, but also because his artwork helped raise the bar of excellence for those artists who succeeded him in the decades to come. It certainly helped that Swan worked with some of the best inkers in the comic book industry – including Murphy Anderson, whose collaboration with Swan on both Superman stories and covers during the late-1960’s and early-1970’s, remains a benchmark in the character’s history. Even after his death in 1996, Swan’s popularity and influence has yet to dim.
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