Fire & Water #156 – Favorite Artists

This week Shag and Rob welcome Nuclear Sub extraordinaire Xum Yukinori to discuss some of their favorite comic book artists: Art Adams, John Byrne, Dick Dillin, George Perez, Walt Simonson, and Frank Thorne!

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12 responses to “Fire & Water #156 – Favorite Artists

  1. I was firmly in the satellite era of JLA; so, Dick Dillin was my artist. He had a great way with the various characters and he knew how to tell a story. I remember those Super-Sons stories and devoured them as a kid, not recognizing they were supposed to be “imaginary.” He was an artist of great subtlety.

    Walt Simonson was one I first read at DC, with some of his Batman work. I read an interview with him and he mentioned an artistic influence that I had never considered. Kirby was always obvious and you could see a bit of Neal Adams; but, the surprise was British comic strip artist Jim Holdaway, artist on Romeo Brown and co-creator of Modesty Blaise. You can see it more in his non-superhero stuff, though Manhunter is where I really see it. One work that not many later fans have seen is his Alien adaptation, for Heavy Metal (with Archie Goodwin). He handled that extremely well. He is the artist on my favorite Marvel Star Wars story, which introduced Valance, the cyborg bounty-hunter.

    John Byrne was one I first saw, in ads, at Charlton, then, in some of the lower tier books at Marvel. he had a lot of Marvel Team-Up and Marvel Two-in-One, and the like, which were often some of the more interesting stories. His noted work goes without saying; but, I enjoyed those lesser pieces just as much. of his creator-owned stuff, Torch of Liberty was the most fun and Next Men the most developed, though I don’t think the story holds to the end. Danger Unlimited was just too derivative, which was ironic, given some of his Image criticisms. I would say my favorites of his post-Superman run were the Batman/Captain America crossover and the Generations books. He had fun with the concepts and the time periods.

    Art Adams I first saw in college and he burst on the scene with an impact, though he wasn’t prolific. I loved the X-Men Annual and New Mutants Special, as he was able to let loose his inner Kirby (and Simonson). I especially loved Monkeyman and O’Brien and wished he had produced more.

    Frank Thorne was one I mostly saw at Gold Key, on Mighty Samson. It was years before I saw some of Red Sonja; but, I found Ghita of Altizaar (Red Sonja cranked to 11) before that, as well as Lann and the reprints of Moonshine McJuggs, from Playboy. I loved his art; but, his stories were a bit too much, for me.

    Perez is another favorite, though I do think he gets a bit self-indulgent. It usually works; but, it can clutter a scene, at times. I am always amazed at how he can handle crowd scenes.

    One of my favorite works of both Byrne and Perez is the Project PEGASUS storyline, from Marvel Two-in-One. Byrne starts it and Perez continues and finishes it. It’s an awesome piece of storytelling, with multiple guest stars, all of whom have a role. It’s one of my top ten single storylines.

    I loved the discussion here; but, feel one name is missing from the discussion: Howard Chaykin.


    ps. Before I forget, Xum’s work on The Line It Is Drawn is awesome! I also enjoyed his dry wit, on this episode.

    Take care.

  2. The Dick Dillin discussion reminds me all over again how solid he was, and how well he drew the Justice Leaguers. Especially Wonder Woman, IMHO. And I really wish that DC would collect the Justice League in a series a affordable (color) trades because I would buy the hell out of a bunch of Bronze Age satellite eraJustice League trades.

    Art Adams is THE MAN. He did a gorgeous Action Comics annual featuring Supes and Bats. It’ so worth hunting down to see him draw these two DC legends. Written by John Byrne, too. Question for you all, though – I’ve never gotten my hands on his Jonni Future work, having only seen snippets here and there. I’d really love to read it, though. Does anyone know if its collected anywhere?

    Still listening, so I’ll comment more later!

  3. John Byrne will always hold a special place in my comics artist pantheon because of his run on Uncanny X-Men. The Dark Phoenix Saga is my favorite comics story ever. I never did read his Fantastic Four run (but I’m hoping to correct that soon), but I read plenty of his other work and for my money, in the 1980s there was no one better. Some were as good – Arthur Adams for a brief stretch, Walt Simonson, Frank Miller, and George Perez come to mind as being equal to Byrne’s awesomeness in that decade.

    I just read a digital collection of Frank Thorne’s Red Sonja run last year and Rob ain’t kiddin’, Thorne drew some sexy women. His action scenes are bonkers, too! The dynamism on display as Sonja beats the tar out of baddies or beasts is just phenomenal. And I was struck by how much he accomplished with such simple line work. As Rob said, the great artists could use very little in the way of extraneous line work and still make absolutely stunning art. Now that Rob put the idea of a Frank Thorne Mera drawing in my head, I can’t get it out! Argh!

    George Perez’s detailed panel work is truly astounding., which is one of the qualities of it that makes it immediately recognizable as Perez art. As Xum says, it doesn’t matter where you look in one of his heavily detailed panels, you’re always going to find something fascinating to explore. His work on New Teen Titans, Justice League of America, and Crisis alone are enough to solidify his place in the pantheon, but then you add in all of the other amazing work he’s done (Wonder Woman, Avengers, etc.) and you realize it’s nearly impossible to pick his defining work. I think I’d still choose Crisis, due to the scope and utter imagination on display in that maxi-series, but it’s close.

    Xum made for a great guest! Bring him back!

  4. Great episode, fellas! Wonderful to hear Xum on the show at last.

    DICK DILLIN – I was just thinking how I would phrase my adoration for Dillin’s work on my next Fire and Water appearance when Xum sneaks in and says everything my heart wanted to say (like a Peter Gabriel song).

    WALT SIMONSON – I, too, was never a big Thor fan, but when I got the opportunity to purchase the colossal omnibus edition of Simonson’s run on the book, I couldn’t pass it up. He oversaw a modern recoloring process on the book so it looks a lot more contemporary, but the colors don’t matter; his line work is so, sooo damn good! Rob sometimes talks about commissioning fantasy projects if he was a millionaire. If I had the green I would pay Walt Simonson to write and draw a year-long Superman epic.

    JOHN BYRNE – I generally prefer his older stuff from Marvel like X-Men and Fantastic Four, though there was still a whole lot to love about his DC work on Superman and Action Comics. Still, I find him best when paired with an inker like Terry Austin. And his writing never does much for me.

    FRANK THORNE – Not familiar with him, but based on the sample art pages–DAAYUMMM!!!

    GEORGE PEREZ – I’m one of those malcontents who does–on occasion–voice criticism about George Perez. As I try to express time and time again, I absolutely love his line work, the way he draws superheroes. If I could commission any artist to draw any superhero, Perez would be my first choice. But some of his pages and layouts are simply suffocating. It’s like watching TV in Mega-HD. “No mas! I can’t handle that much detail!”

  5. These artists are all masters. Dillin is definitely one of the earliest artists whose style I recognized. I loved his work on JLA as that seemed to be a comic I picked up a lot in the late 70s, early 80s. Loved hearing you all talk about the different artists and their works.

    I’m sort of surprised that Rob didn’t pick Aparo given the Aquaman/Phantom Stranger connection. Equally surprised that Shag didn’t pick Pat Broderick.

    I would love to hear more of these talks and would recommend Aparo, Chaykin, Marshall Rogers, and Dave Gibbons.

  6. Man, I loved this episode! Xum, you need a podcast. You have a great voice, and obviously great insight into comic art, because you are a damn fine artist yourself. And I appreciate your humility, but c’mon. You’re all kinds of awesome.

    A few thoughts on these artists, all of which I have great respect and admiration for:

    1. Dick Dillin: Xum, JLA #155 was my very first issue of that comic! Even though I couldn’t read yet, I totally undestood that moment between Batman and Red Tornado! I think Dillin absorbed a bit of the Bronze Age style from Neal Adams and Dick Giordano as JLA entered the 70s, which proved how good he was at adapting to the times and the title he was on. His 70s JLA members LOOKED like their counterparts in their own titles, not Silver Age leftovers. He also drew quite a few issues of DCCP which I enjoyed.

    2. Art Adams: Yes, Cindy and I did cover Action Annual #1, and yes, Adams rocked that comic! I think you nailed it Shag, he had a VERY unique style. He synthesized what he liked about artists like Simonson and even guys like Frank Miller (you can see it in his Batman in that Annual) and totally made it his own. His covers made the JLApe stunt bearable as well. No body draws better gorillas than Adams!

    3. Walt Simonson: I agree he seemed to emerge into comics fully formed, and again, such an original. He does have Kirby’s dynamism, but with a design sense unlike pretty much anyone. Other 70s artists like Marshall Rogers came close, but few fully integrated it into their work like Simonson.

    4. John Byrne: I think both Xum and Shag made good points. While Shag is correct that Byrne CAN draw different faces and body types (like the Superman cast example) his heroic faces and figures tend to be similar. I think Byrne’s art is helped by a strong inker myself. Byrne’s stuff looks best when Austin, Giordano or Kesel are working over his pencils. His later stuff is mostly self-inked.

    5. Frank Thorne: I think Xum said it rather delicately, but yes, gravity is in effect in Thornes’ work. To put it bluntly, Red Sonja’s chest has a certain…hang to it under Thorne (Jim Balent, please take note). I remember seeing ads for Red Sonja and thinking the same thing. Why is this dirty part in my Spider-Man comic…and why do I like it!?!

    6. George Perez: I agree, THE Super Hero artist, and for my money, the greatest LIVING comic artist. Also, a helluva nice guy as you all pointed out. I can’t really add anything you guys didn’t say. He’s really my all-time favorite comic artist.

    Again, GREAT episode! Please come back soon, Xum!


  7. My thanks to you all for all of the kind words, and my thanks to Rob and Shag for enabling my podcast debut. I had a wonderful time.

    I had this next comment on the top of my notes page for this podcast, but I had never referred to it: When Rob and Shag first approached me to talk about my favorite artists, over 20 names immediately came to my mind (many of whom are mentioned in the comments above). It was very, very difficult for me, and I am sure for Rob and Shag as well, to limit the discussion to just two. And make no mistake, my selection of Dick Dillin and George Pérez on this podcast should not be taken to mean that these are my “top two” favorite comic book artists.

    I do hope there will be a “sequel” in which we can talk about a few of our other favorite artists, so please send your cards and letters and brickbats if you agree…

  8. Great show everyone. You could do sequels.

    I’m a writer-first kind of comics reader (and that’s the spin-off, that would make a cool episode too), so I’d be hard-pressed to name favorite artists (but I will, patience) unless they’re also providing a complete vision by being writers as well, which most of your choices were.

    I rate Simonson quite highly; he came up with the Filipino invasion and has a similar style which he eventually took in his own direction. Byrne’s 80s work took me from Marvel over to DC in a big way when he jumped on Superman. Perez is great, of course, but was often paired with writing I didn’t care for, including his own. I liked Adams at the time, but I prefer more efficient simple cartooning these days. And very glad you Thorne and Dillin to celebrate the history of comics; lest we forget.

    My interest in the form would have me mention innovative story tellers like Ware and Aja, but despite my strong interest in Kirby, my absolute favorite comics artist of all time is Joe Kubert.

  9. Xum has the best voice and the driest wit of any F&W guest. The fact that he’s a talented artist too makes him completely intolerable.

  10. The comic rights to Red Sonja is a complicated thing. She wasn’t created by Robert E. Howard, *exactly*… The version of the character in the comics who is a contemporary of Conan the Cimmerian was actually created for the comics, but is based on a similar character, Red SonYa, from a Howard story named “Shadow of the Vulture.” That character’s stories were set in the late Renaissance. Roy Thomas and Barry Winsor-Smith mixed this character with another Howard creation, Dark Agnes.

    So, I’m confused about how the rights work for this character. She was created in a Marvel Comic, but her setting is Conan’s Hyborean Age, and she’s based on a Howard creation. But she’s being licensed to a different publisher than Conan is… so….yeah.

    I have no idea who owns the character.

  11. I’ve made it known a time or two that I’m slightly behind on my listening due to a short commute. I JUST got to this episode and it is WONDERFUL!

    Xum has a voice for podding, and makes a great addition to the listen.

    Great job, guys!

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