Our Favorite Comic Book Cover Artists of All Time

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Dave Johnson:

Dave Johnson's monolithic images feel larger than a meager piece of paper can contain. The artist and designer broke out a truly chameleonic range across all 100 issues of the Vertigo crime series 100 Bullets, but many of his most memorable images come from short guest runs on other books. Whether it's Soviet-era propaganda adorning B.P.R.D. and Superman: Red Son, movie poster homage for Avengers Arena, or retro-noir on Lobster Johnson, Johnson wears his influences on his sleeve and elevates the medium with serious design chops. Steve Foxe

J.G. Jones:

J.G. Jones creates charged images that beg huge questions. The question may be why a boy in a straight jacket looks like any sense of normalcy was robbed from his identity, or what's going to happen to Batman's noggin after an Amazonian boot exerts a few more pascals. Jones simplifies and directs the eye to a singular element that stands as a huge marquee of intrigue. This acumen stems from an education that includes a Master of Fine Arts, grounding his work in a classic basis before carrying it to super heroic and pulp extremes. In addition, the man kept up the ferocious pace of illustrating all covers in DC's weekly 52 series back in 2006. Sean Edgar

Matt Kindt:

Matt Kindt's covers are treasure troves of easter eggs and cryptic details. Kindt firmly understands the necessity of cover art to not only enchant the eyes, but to communicate the inner workings of the comic as a whole. Stitched scars hide words hinting at bile and villainy. Three pristine metropolitans are mirrored bloody and beaten, a charred apocalypse sky overhead. The artist and writer behind MIND MGMT, 2 Sisters and the upcoming Dept. H lays a series of breadcrumbs to a payoff that can only be answered by opening up the issue and reading approximately 24 pages. He also recruited his daughter to assemble the eraser shavings for MIND MGMT #30, which is both adorable and genius if you know the identity of the figure portrayed. Sean Edgar

Jack Kirby:

Jack Kirby is just as monolithic a force in the comic industry as the reality-warping, cosmic gods he created throughout his tenure. When Kirby showed Captain America's fist cocked back and ready to fire like a lit cannonball into a goon's face, your imagination couldn't help but fill in the next frame: a red, gloved hand dislocating a jaw like a freight train hitting a sheet of glass. We felt these illustrations as much as watched them. They took on a mobile life of their own, perfecting a moment with its preceding and succeeding seconds baked into its anatomy. Kirby could also pan his lens back to show huge vistas of chaos and commotion (Fantastic Four #26) and plot teasers so bizarre and inexplicable that they guaranteed a purchase (Fantastic Four #7). In any case, Kirby's hands channeled the divine through pencil and ink, a human Metatron that will forever be missed and never replicated. Sean Edgar

Joe Kubert:

Joe Kubert established an entire school for this kind of work, so you know he's the real deal. In all seriousness though, Kubert has more than earned his entry into comic book royalty via his dynamic cover work on various war comics, countless Tor installments as well as early Hawkman issues. Embracing a grittier artistic style, Kubert's covers managed to capture the brutality of war while, at the same time, honoring the heroic men caught in its crossfire. What's all the more impressive is how Kubert, ever the workhorse, was churning out some of his best, most celebrated artwork well into his 80s. Mark Rozeman

Jae Lee:

If there's one fair criticism to lob at Jae Lee, it's that his work can occasionally feel same-y. Dynamite keeps him on speed dial for their various pulp revival books, so it's unsurprising that some of his striking compositions have recycled over the years. Despite this repetition, there are few artists in the industry that can capture threatening darkness quite like Lee. Rather than rely on motion, Lee's figures are often frozen right before the "money shot," lending his covers a thrilling tension. The shadow-drenched artist has seen a creative renaissance since making DC Comics a more permanent home: he's discovered color. "Whimsy" is not a word you would have associated with Lee 10 years ago, but it has become a delightful tool in his current arsenal and the comic racks are all the better for it. Steve Foxe

Jim Lee:

The most likely entry in any American comic collection features a cover by Jim Lee. Partially thanks to its multiple variant covers, the first issue in X-Men: Vol 2 is documented by Guinness as the best-selling comic issue of all time, a feat that belongs to Lee and Lee alone on this list. And though Lee's cover work is most notably remembered in the '90s—I mean, just look at X-Men's badass Magneto cover—Lee's managed to impress in modern day. Though he's moved on to bigger-picture comic work (Lee is DC Comics' co-publisher, along with Don DiDio), Lee's cemented his place as a modern master with his recent work on Scott Snyder's Superman Unchained as well as Geoff John's Justice League. Tyler R. Kane

John Paul Leon:

For my money, John Paul Leon is one of the most underrated cover artists working in comics. His cover work for DMZ paired him with writer Brian Wood (who knows a thing or two about distinctive covers himself). And his work on distinctive takes on the superhero, from Static to The Winter Men, are equally distinctive, bringing stylized grit to larger-than-life figures. Tobias Carroll

Tula Lotay:

Ever since Supreme: Blue Rose, Tula Lotay's Image Comics collaboration with Warren Ellis, its superstar artist has felt like a heavyweight in the medium. With that series, the comics community was baffled: Lotay's work arrived so fully formed, it was easy to forget that Lotay was a relative newcomer. And that's a nice surprise for comic fans; with Lotay's work, we've been gifted an expressive, emotive artist with hopefully decades of her own surprises ahead. Aside from her great work on Supreme: Blue Rose, Lotay's brought her soft, expressive visions to titles like The Wicked and the Divine, The Fiction—and, soon, a Paste Songs Illustrated installment (!!!). The comics world is lucky to have her. Tyler R. Kane

David Mazzucchelli:

Whereas Frank Miller often gets the lion's share of credit for helping to shape the modern perspective of both Batman and Daredevil, David Mazzucchelli's striking, film noir-inspired covers for Batman: Year One and Daredevil: Born Again hold as much sway as Miller's grizzled prose. Certainly, Mazzucchelli is an acolyte of the "show don't tell" method wherein his covers are defined just as much by what's left out of the image or draped in the shadows. Moreover, while his resume might not be as extensive as others on this list, it's definitely an example of quality over quantity. Mark Rozeman