Thursday, December 18, 2008

Top Five Wolverine Artists

Time for another Top Five! Last time, we looked at the artists that have defined the Fantasic Four since their creation in 1961. This time we're looking at the five artists that have defined and redefined Wolverine, that rascally mutant with the adamantium claws, since 1974 when he made his first appearance in Incredible Hulk. This is a bit trickier, despite Wolverine being a full thirteen years younger than the FF; Wolverine's had appearances in the X-men books, various mini-series and his own series. There's a greater multitude of artists to look at and choose from. But, choose we shall, as we decide which Wolverine artists are "the best they are at what they do".

Sorry, couldn't resist.

(As always, these images come from the Grand Comic Book Database)

Honorable Mention
Art Adams

Art Adams draws a mean Wolverine, and his would influence artists for years to come. If there's any knock against his Wolverine it's that he can be a bit too big or 'cool' at times, possibly abstracting the character from the ferociousness you want from Wolverine.

John Romita, Jr.

John Ronita Jr., one of comics consummate storytellers, has drawn Wolverine off and on for over twenty years now, if that can be believed, first in Uncanny X-men after Paul Smith, and most recently in Wolverine's own title, with current inker/collaborator Klaus Janson.

Paul Smith

Speaking of Paul Smith (who himself has the ineviable task of following in the massive footsteps of John Byrne and Dave Cockrum), this is an artist who really clicked with his clean, delineated work on the X-Men in the early eighties. His Wolverine could at times be perhaps too graceful, too effortless, but despite these criticisms his Wolverine was one which spoke of inner intensity and rebel 'coolness'.

Top Five
5. Marc Silvestri

Marc Silvestri built on the grittier Wolverine which was established by Frank Miller in his and Chris Claremont's mini-series. The litheness of Smith's Wolverine but with an added brutality and darkness that was a more natural fit for the character.

4. John Byrne

John Byrne came in just as the new X-Men, Wolverine included, were taking off. His Wolverine was cocky and super-heroic, with some grit, and would become a touchstone for the character.

3. Barry Windsor-Smith

For an artist who started off so average, it is amazing that he ended up so good. Two seminal works, "Wounded Wolf" (from Uncanny X-Men #205) and Weapon X, which was serialized in Marvel Comics Presents and later collected, helped cement Wolverine's image, which Marc Silvestri had already started to visually define, as the brutal, savage loner who is almost as much animal as he is man.

2. Dave Cockrum

Dave Cockrum's art has been going in and out of style for over three decades now. One thing which will never be in doubt however is the palpable, decided non-heroic 'toughness' which he brought to Wolverine in the mid-seventies, when he helped to relaunch the X-men. Wolverine was first defined as loner, agressive, dynamic and savage by this one man. Cockrum died in 2006 and is still missed.

1. Jim Lee

Jim Lee is knocked for his storytelling abilities, which can be stilted and by-the-book, but equally lauded (and especially loved by fans) for his ability to visually define, redefine, and make character fifteen years old seem fresh and new. Such was the case with Wolverine. Jim Lee was able to capture the original sleek coolness of Cockrum and Byrne, toss in a bit of the grit from Romita, Jr. and Silvestri, and top it off with some modern illustrative polish from Michael Golden and Art Adams. This is the Wolverine that will be remembered when people think of the Wolverine.

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