Saturday, October 2, 2010

Episode #143: Superman Legacy Month Week I: My Favorite Superman Artists, After Curt Swan Of Course!

Since my birthday is in the month of September, I thought I would use some of the episodes this month to highlight my personal Superman legacy. In this episode I want to share my favorite Superman artists, after my favorite, Curt Swan.

I've divided them into two groups, using the 1986 John Byrne mini-series Man Of Steel as the dividing line. Those artists whose careers were mainly in previous decades I've grouped together in the Classic catagory. The artists whose careers are more current I've put in the Modern group.


Wayne Boring: subject of episode #76. For more information visit
Kurt Schaffenberger: subject of episode #5.
Al Plastino and Jim Mooney: I grouped them together because I find their art styles very similar. Mooney was the subject of episode #13. For more information about Al Plastino:
Neal Adams: subject of episode #77. For more information about Neal Adams:,


John Byrne: subject of episode #25. For more information about John Byrne:
Jerry Ordway: for more information:
Alex Ross: subject of episode #110. For more information about Alex Ross:
Stuart Immonen: To read his web comic, Moving Pictures, about the theft of European art by the Nazi's during WWII, go to


Wayne Boring: Just as Curt Swan is the iconic Superman artist from the 1960's through the mid-1980's, Wayne Boring was the iconic Superman artist of the 1950's. His Superman fit the 50's ideal of the muscular man, a big barrel chest and thick waist. He drew a solid Man of Steel. Boring got his start with the Siegel and Shuster Cleveland studio during the early years of Superman comics, and worked his way into being the main Superman artist for many years. He didn't draw Superman flying very dynamically. His Man of Steel looked as if he flew sideways. And when Superman was surprised while flying, he looked as if he ws putting the brakes on, or sliding into base in midair. But I enjoy his art regardless. Boring conveyed emotion on his faces.

Kurt Schaffenberger: He was the iconic silver age Lois Lane artist. His clean style made it no surprise that he had been one of the Captain Marvel artists from the 1940's to the mid-1950's. Kurt was perfect for the mostly humorous and light hearted Lois Lane title. His Superman was different from Curt Swan's or Wayne Boring's styles, but is still  a great Man of Steel.

Al Plastino and Jim Mooney: Their art styles are hard for me to differentiate, so I grouped them together. Both artists had a simple art style for a simpler era in comic book history. Their art serviced the story well, and conveyed the emotions of their characters well. Both men had long careers, with Mooney drawing into the 1990's.

Neal Adams: his realistic art style was groundbreaking in the late 1960's and early 1970's. His sense of almost photorealism in comic book art has been continued by Alex Ross and others today. Adams raised the bar for comic book artists, combining excellent knowledge of anatomy with sophisticated page layouts. He also knew how to draw various body and facial types. My favorite Neal Adams cover was the wrap-around cover for DC 100 Page Super Spectacular #6, which depicted the Earth-1 superheroes on the front, and the Earth-2 heroes on the back. Inside was a key which identified all of the characters. Adams' Earth-1 Superman was stockier and a little shorter than the taller, yet still muscular Batman.


John Byrne: I couldn't leave off the comic book creator who laid the foundation for the modern Superman. I was first exposed to his art with the first issue of Charlton Comshort lived comic book series Doomsday +1. While his style has vastly improved since the mid 1970's, I still enjoyed his drawing back then. His Superman is iconic for modern times, and including a hint of Christopher Reeve (without channeling him as Gary Frank does, even though I enjoy his style also). The rebooted Superman begun by John Byrne fits a more modern time while being faithful to the character's roots. My only criticism is that sometimes Byrne had too much story to fit on a page. In a few issues he would wind up with a very narrow panel across the bottom of the page, with a talking head almost drowning among the word balloons. Fortunately, that only happened a few times.

Jerry Ordway: His career with DC Comics began just a few years before Byrne's Man Of Steel series, but he was part of Superman's reboot with the retitled The Adventures Of Superman, which continued the numbering of the original Superman title. The most prominent feature of Ordway's Superman is the chin of steel. His style reminds me a little bit of John Severin. A lot of the Superman stories Ordway worked on in Adventures concentrated on Clark Kent and the rest of the Superman supporting cast, which I miss in current Superman stories. He doesn't skimp on background detail, and draws different body types well. He made Clark Kent's world come to life.

Alex Ross: He is often called the Norman Rockwell of comic books, and to me, that's a high compliment. He has a classic, photo realistic art style. Unlike other comic book artists with similar styles he is able to depict motion and action well, without drawing panels that seem too stiff or posed. I find his version of Superman the iconic version for current times. His painted art brings an almost 3-D quality to comic books. While his art is pretty to look at, he doesn't forget to tell the story.

Stuart Immonen: I first saw his art on the Legion Of Super-Heroes, then on Superman, and later the mini-series Superman: Secret Identity. He has a classic, realistic style on these titles, giving his figures a 3-D look. They have depth and shape. He is also able to convey emotion. I can believe it when he once stated in an article that Curt Swan was one of his inspirations.

Next Episode: Superman Legacy Month Week II: My Earliest Superman Stories!

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