Comics Creators

The comic art style everyone's copying!

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.



Agreed. Staples one of, if not the, best artist at the moment.


But it’s her influence that interests me. She’s the one the other artists right now are looking it. It’s a subtly different thing. Her style is the fresh style right now.



Agreed. I think Staples is the current zeitgeist; in the same way that Jim Lee was in the early 90s (as you said).

She’s the synthesis of all the things that are niche and popular; anime, realism etc.

Mostly, though, the reason why I think Staples excels where others fall is her character designs - Prince Robot IV, The Will etc etc? Brilliant; Kirby-esque in terms of ingenuity.

Every song anyone sings about Staples is not hyperbole; she’s wonderful.

The only other artist that has made me sit up like her in recent times is Nate Simpson - but his output is very limited.

EDIT: Actually, Staples has sometimes reminded me of Immonen, also Pia Guerra and Tony Harris - Vaughan can pick 'em, chief!


I think she knows when to let the art breath. Her style is very complex but does not look cluttered. There are times that her panels are very detailed and there are times when they are figures on a blank background. It all depends on what tells the story best. Her style carries this odd fusion of American comics, Bande Dessinee and Manga.

I also think it’s a bit of a Barack Obama moment. She’s the superstar artists and a woman. So suddenly, young women know that it is possible to make it at the top of the industry. I think that opens up a lot of possibilities for new voices.


Funny thing about that chain of influences is that Charest started out as a clone of Jim Lee, as witnessed by his early work on DC’s DARKSTARS:

1 Like

Yep. Just as Adams epitomised the early 70s and was major influence on 90s Lee and 00s Hitch.

It’s all very organic, but one always rises every few years and becomes the definitive artist for that period.


1 Like

She is extremely talented and she is one of the only artists that can express emotion perfectly and in a subtle manner.

She is one of my favorite artists.

But, if it wasn’t for SAGA being from Brian K. Vaughan and it’s story I do wonder if she would be the one everybody would be copying.

1 Like

I’ve seen Frank Quitely’s influence being strong and consistent over a long period of time. Like Moebius, he elevates all the art and artists he touches.

Maybe there’s an alpha. Sometimes I think too much emphasis is placed on the loudest or showiest. I know the studies, how defining an alpha came to be. I do not think that is what happens. There’s another concept called “behavioral contagion”. It’s a method of analyzing random (sometimes called “Brownian”) motion and perceiving patterns and, from that, how to anticipate and alter the behavior of groups of people. All the arts have had cycles of one creative person being in the forefront, surrounded by gonna-bes and wannabes and has-beens. The motions are quite complex and require both accurate observation and empathic separation. It’s more like packs of wild dogs here and there, and when the packs interact there is some growling and rearrangement.

We may notice the surfer at the crest of the wave, but there’s more people swimming out there to catch the next one. Fiona surely rocks, and it’s a positive thing right now as society again tries to split into camps. And we do enjoy seeing a champion surfer riding a wave magnificently!


Anthony Spay is really good he’s done some work for me recently

Yeah, I don’t know how clear it is anymore. I think we’re seeing a real rise of the storyteller in the modern age, both in terms of the clarity and formal experimentation. For a long time the emphasis was on the individual shot, the iconic image, but much moreso now I think we’re seeing sequential coherence emphasized.

That can take a lot of different forms, and can go back to a lot of individuals - Moebius, Toth, McKay, Eisner at their center. People like Frank Quitely, David Aja, Annie Wu, Babs Tarr, Robbi Rodriguez, Francis Manapul, Aaron Kuder, Chris Burnham, JH Williams III, Chris Samnee, Doc Shaner, Darwyn Cooke…they all fall somewhere on that scale, with very different finishes but an overall emphasis on storytelling and formal experimentation.

It very much feels like the decade (or half decade, if you prefer) of the storyteller right now.

1 Like

These guys and maybe a few others have that deceptively simple style that seems to be gaining traction now. I really love all three of them.


Yeah, well I think their rise coincides with that of Annie Wu and David Aja, was pre-figured in a lot of ways by JP Leon and even Tommy Lee Edwards.

Basically I’m listing the best storytellers in the business, but that ‘school’ of art is becoming more and more popular.

I’d love to see some creator owned something from JP Leon. It’s been a minute since Winter Men, but that was a revolutionary book.


I don’t know about creator owned, but he is doing the Kurt Busiek Batman sort of follow up to Superman Secret Identity.

1 Like

I’m not familiar with Wu but Aja, Leon and Edwards art always seemed to be similar to Samnee, Shaner and Cooke but a little rougher. Like it almost has a rotoscoped quality to it.


Yeah, Creature of the Night or whatever. It’s been coming for a long, long time. I’m sure it will be great.

I would one of most influential comic artist in the 90’s is Todd McFarland and late 00’s is Greg capullo and Gerard way

I wouldn’t have said Capullo. If anything he’s a throwback to the 90s, like Bachalo.