Comics Creators

When comic-book artists become pack leader!


I noticed a thing the other day and it’s how many new, up and coming comic artists are influenced by the style of Sean Gordon Murphy. It struck me a while back that these exceptional artists just kind of emerge every five years with their own distinctive style and then everybody copies the Hell out of them for a few years.

This has nothing to do with sales or fame or whatever. I’m talking about artists who influence new comic-book artists and, stylistically, there tends to be two a decade. I was thinking that Fiona Staples just exploded on the scene before Sean with the launch of Saga and the amount of people influenced by her very particular style is staggering over the last half-decade. It’s a beautiful style and I remember my oldest kid seeing it a few months back among a pile of comics and singling it out to read immediately, saying how much she liked the cover. It’s just a kind of magic you can’t bottle.

Before Fiona, I think it was Travis Charest and although he’d been around for a decade and a half by this point we saw his style massively popularised by pretty much all the big Marvel artists between 2005-2010. Hitchy broke through into the mainstream around 2000 and EVERYBODY swiped him, even some of the other artists I was working with who would often lift entire panels!!!) and he paved the way for photo-realistic line-art dominance on his mighty runs. Alex Ross was the most imitated guy of 1995-2000 (broadly speaking) and Jim Lee the 5 years before that. Again, this isn’t always the biggest-selling. I mean the MOST COPIED BY OTHER ARTISTS.

With that in mind, who are the 70s and 80s pack-leaders? Byrne and Miller owned the 80s in cultural and sales terms, but Byrne especially wasn’t really copied. I think Dave Mazzuchelli probably has the upper-half of the 80s and I see half a dozen big artists still very influenced by him 30 years on. Adams has the early 70 and Kirby the early 60s, but who owns the latter half of those decades? Again, not sales-wise. I mean their INFLUENCE. I was talking to Hitchy about this earlier today and he thinks Art Adams or Michael Golden for early 80s as they were huge influences on what came next.




I guess I immediately thought of artists who became popular in spite of the norm - JRJR, Leinil, JHW3, Steve Skroce, Joe Mad!

The obvious ones to mention are Jim Lee and McFarlane for the 90s.

Barry Windsor Smith may be worth mentioning, and Frank Miller…


In terms of influencing other artists?



I think so – I think BWS ultimately influenced Hitchy, and guys like Miller led to David Mack and Aja — but maybe not the immediate impact you’re talking about.

Possibly Netzer?


I think Johnny’s style is so incredibly unique. I’ve never seen anyone copy it, interestingly.



Jim Lee and Joe Madureira are two perfect examples of that.
Their styles are still influencing the industry today.


I think Hitch is right on Art Adams, not many outright copied him (although early Joe Madureira had a good go at it, see pic below) his style is too detailed and slow to produce but I think his influence is really evident in all the of the big 3 Image guys work (McFarlane, Lee and Liefeld).


Joe Mad started off like a Jim Lee clone, but, yeah, ultimately I think he influenced more artists than Lee.

Stu Immomen is someone who I think stands outside the pack - someone who can’t be copied.

Both Kuberts have been pretty influential.


Immonen is a completely different championship.

To me he is on the chapter of guys like Sienkiewicz, Quitely and J.H. Williams.

You can draw parallels and try to get some influences (like Hughes and Alex Ross there is a perfect knowledge of human anatomy - bits of Mucha and art nouveau - but there is also Manga influences in there). But the thing is… If you try and copy him it’s impossible. I don’t know of anyone who can streamline human figures like he does, who does values of line and shadow as impeccable as him. Just look at Nextwave, Ultimate Spider-Man and forth, and now look at Empress. He never stops evolving yet at the same time you feel like he can do ANY book.

Yet if you try and copy him you will completely fall on your ass.


One thing I heard mentioned on a recent iFanboy podcast is how much work they were seeing very much inspired by David Aja. He has a very kinetic action style mixed with an indie aesthetic. It owes a nod to David Mazzuchelli too though.


Immonen is like Garcia Lopez. He’s too technically brilliant to be copied. I think Frank Quitely and Greg Capullo are likewise guys who are very, very difficult to emulate. Johnny Romita Jr too. They’re massive, massive artists and often the best-sellers, but their style remains their own.



Right at the start he was more Art Adams (I think that Excalibur stuff was his first pro job) but the manga influence came on much stronger later on.


That might be the perfect comparison.
Definitely well spotted.



… How are you getting these guys? Do you know the location to the Jupiter’s Legacy island and are promising them all superpowers?

tt’s crazy.


I think Alex Maleev has been very influential to many on the artists in the new millennium with his run on Daredevil with Bendis. His style can be seen in artists like Murphy, Staples, Aja and others. He brought a stark realism that hadn’t been seen since the 80s.


Honestly, I think Samnee is someone who’s influence won’t be realised for a couple of years to come.

When DC shift back around to joyful comics, Samnee will be their Jim Lee and every artist will want to imitate him and Staples and Cameron Stewart.


I think Bolland is similar too. There’s a guy who has been at 2000ad for decades called Cliff Robinson who has done the best at trying to emulate it but there’s a certain perfection about Bolland’s artwork he can never match so didn’t reach the big time.

Bolland, Quitely, Charest and Adams though have all had very low output, they are perfectionists people are willing to wait for, I don’t think the same patience is granted for imitators. Much like there were a lot of attempts to mimic Simon Bisley in the UK after he knocked everyone’s socks off with Slaine but none of them stuck unless they later evolved.


In the early 80?s I think Miller, Ordway and Mazzuchelli

In the 90’s Jim Lee, Madureira, Mcfarlane, Capullo, Ross

Between 2000-2005 Bryan Hitch and Quesada

2005-2010 Leinil Yu and Mcniven

2011-Today it’s difficult but Sean Murphy and Staples are among them


Yeah, I haven’t seen anything of Joe Mad’s that was in a Jim Lee style.

Unless, Tim, you’re conflating Joe mad with Roger Cruz - Cruz started as a pretty convincing Jim Lee clone (see his two Uncanny fill-ins; Jubilee leaving the X-Men ahead of Generation X, and Colossus on Asteroid M during the period Magneto was mindwiped and vegetative) - better than any of Lee’s employees at Image/Wildstorm at the time - but swiftly adopted the style of Joe Mad, before transitioning to his own look.

Can’t argue with Charest - it took a while to flow through, but you see his influence in Lienil Yu, Olivier Coipel, and Dustin Nguyen for starters, let alone the also-rans.


Another one who is a massive influece nowadays: Olivier Coipel.