I’ve been looking at a lot of the up and coming artists online. There’s some really terrific ones I think and going to really break through in the next couple of years and it’s fascinating to me, both as a pro and as a fan, how the artistic zeitgeist shifts when someone new and amazing breaks onto the scene.
It’s not so much that other artists swipe their style, it’s just that they pull things in a different direction and you see their stuff bleeding through everyone else’s to some extent. It happens in music and it definitely happens with writers. You can look at a huge number of comic pros from the late eighties and see them influenced by what Alan Moore or Frank Miller were doing a few years before.
Similarly, artists tend to have an alpha every five years or so. I think in the first half of the 90s the new kids were all trying to be Jim Lee. In the second half of the 90s they were aping the painted-realism of Alex Ross. The first half of the 00s everyone was copying the widescreen cinematic perspectives of Bryan Hitch and the other half of that decade the pack-leaders seemed to be influenced enormously by Travis Charest’s hyper-detail. A good half-dozen of the biggest Marvel and DC artists were channeling Charest big-time over this period and some of the best were actually very difficult to distinguish from him, especially when they would go full painted.
So who’s the pack leader at the moment? who’s the alpha influencing all the newbies coming through and the titles I’m flicking through more in the comic-store?
I think it’s unquestionably Fiona Staples.
I don’t want to name names, but I see her stuff not being swiped but massively, massively influencing a lot of the shots in books at the moment and her beautiful, almost casual ink-line is becoming as distinctive and oft-copied as Jim Lee’s was back in the day. Have a look around Deviant Art and she’s who all the new artists want to be, which I think is a great thing as she’s a genius. But it’s only really struck me recently JUST how much she’s influencing the next gen coming through. There’s a magic going on here and she’s just on fire. My oldest kid was talking to me in the kitchen, a huge pile of comics on the table and she was distracted for a second, stopping mid-sentence and saying ‘ooh, what’s this?’ when she saw one of Fiona’s covers. That’s magic and she’s just on it right now.