Our Favorite Comic Book Cover Artists of All Time

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Frank Frazetta:


Is your significant other suddenly sick of your cardigan-wearing, Snapchat obsessing, Werner Herzog-quoting lameness? It's probably because they just saw a Frank Frazetta cover. Here's how you know you saw one of these images: the men looked like they just bathed in a water park of testosterone, and the women look like they're about to conquer the men in the testosterone water park. Got it? Frazetta may have started out illustrating adorable snowman strips, but his legacy stabbed and pillaged swords-and-sandals excess across publishers like Warren throughout the '70s and '80s. The muddled tones and blotched suns painted a merciless, reptile-brained world of horror, survivalism and the occasional two-piece outfit. Sean Edgar

Geof Darrow:


Geof Darrow may not publish often, but when he does…damn. The marriage between foreground and background melds in chaotic harmony as a sea of details drown the reader in hyper-kintetic visual bliss. In other words, Darrow creates two-dimensional acid trips. After a stint at Hanna-Barbera, Darrow cut his teeth alongside luminaries like Hergé and Moebius, incorporating a colorful European element to his work in addition to Japanese influences. That unmistakable style has adorned various Frank Miller projects like Hard Boiled and Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot, as well as more recent work for Marvel and concept art for The Matrix (so very many circuits). Uncompromisingly patient and ornate, these are covers that deserve to be studied, with more visual information (and side jokes) than some comics contain in an entire issue. Sean Edgar

Dave Gibbons:


If Dave Gibbons' career consisted solely of his striking cover work on Watchmen, he would have more than earned a spot on this list. Add in his work on 2000 AD and that fantastic cover of the Superman tale "For the Man Who Has Everything," and the man is a certified legend. A fan of classic, stark images with crisp lining, Gibbons has the uncanny ability to make any character or image—whether it's one as well-known as Superman or one as simple as a drop of blood falling on a smiley face—feel iconic. Mark Rozeman

Hergé:


Hergé's best-known work is the Tintin series, and each of the 24 installments is covered with a single image that represents the totality of the story treasured beneath. The covers also represent everything interesting about Hergé's cartooning: the adventure story ethos is contained entirely in a single, energetic image. Hergé's linework is concise and stripped down, a simplicity that belies its effectiveness. But the unadorned illustrations Hergé conjures are dynamic, and they have the exact effect that a good book cover should: you want to know what happens inside. Shea Hennum

Stephanie Hans:


A consistent cover artist with strong storytelling skills can occasionally fool you into ignoring rotating interior artists, a trick French painter Stephanie Hans pulled off handily on Kieron Gillen's Journey Into Mystery. Across 20-odd issues, Hans perfectly captured the young trickster god's defiant humor in the face of imminent doom. Hans, still relatively new to the stateside comic scene, seems to have a knack for Asgardians: she made the leap to Marvel's unlikely cult hit Angela and may be the first person to make the former Spawn character look truly at home in the 616 thanks to vibrant digital colors and an eye for striking composition. Très impressionnant. Steve Foxe

Los Bros Hernandez:


Modern comic book art is often (and rightfully) taken to task for its unrealistic depictions of the female form. In creating the much-celebrated Love & Rockets, the Hernandez brothers not only produced a poignant portrait of a very specific time and place, but also presented a cast of beautiful female characters that never felt like overly-stylized fantasies. Armed with their brand of clean and sparse drawing style, the brothers successfully re-appropriated the retro simplicity inherent in the likes of Dan DeCarlo's Archie comics and transformed it into something much more modern and progressive. Mark Rozeman

Adam Hughes:


No one draws women like Adam Hughes draws women. Though frequently under-dressed and quite buxom, Hughes' female heroes never lose their agency or strength. For many diehard and casual readers alike, Hughes is the definitive Wonder Woman artist despite no prolonged interior stint on her book. His concluded cover run on Fables spinoff Fairest was a no-brainer match, what with its rotating cast of beautiful fairy tale ladies, but what could have been an exercise in sleepwalking for the artist has instead been a chance for Hughes to show off his masterful, fine-art-inspired range—and to prove that his princes are just as sexy as his princesses. Steve Foxe

Frazer Irving:


Frazer Irving's covers won't make you feel joyful. Or empowered. Or even mildly happy. The British digital artist uses warped perspectives and unconventional angles for maximum claustrophobia and unease. Much of his work assumes a worm's eye view, letting the reader gaze helplessly at charging superheroes or villains of the utmost malcontent (including some nasty X-Men protestors). The surreal darkness dissipates for haunting layers of red, yellow and green-blue, like some bioluminescent deep-sea trench hoisted onto land along with all of the algae and monsters yet to be discovered. Though Irving often works with Grant Morrison on offbeat projects like Annihilator and Seven Soldiers, his recent Marvel work on Uncanny X-Men cast the team in a new threatening aesthetic unseen since Bill Sienkiewicz' run on New Mutants. Sean Edgar

James Jean:


James Jean lies at the nexus where surrealism, the renaissance, beautiful women and animals intersect. Responsible for the first 81 covers of Fables, Jean's art projects ageless portraits of men and women frozen in an augur of mythology and hallucinogenics. His sucker punch lighting veers from sepia yellows to freon blues and beyond, casting moods that captured the passing of time with a sense of innocence that feels hopelessly endangered. It's that sense of serene perfection plunged into dream-like chaos that defines his greatest work, represented in the many maiden and beast motifs. At the very least, Jean is the only comic artist whose fashion-forward style led to gigs for high-end international handbag magnates like Prada. Sean Edgar

Jock:


2000 AD alum Jock's work can often feel angry, full of sharp edges and unsettling angles. His long run of crafting covers for former Vertigo flagship Scalped reveals the range within that aggression: anyone who followed that series from start to finish likely still gets emotional comparing the final issue's cover to the first's. Jock is hard at work pumping out monthly nightmare fuel with Scott Snyder in their Image series Wytches, but it's the duo's first collaboration on Detective Comics that produced Jock's most enduring image: the Joker's horrible visage dissolving into flying bats, an iconic portrait that will be associated with the Clown Prince of Crime for years to come. Quite the artistic mic drop. Steve Foxe