Our Favorite Comic Book Cover Artists of All Time

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Brendan McCarthy:

Maybe it's fitting that Brendan McCarthy—who's blessed the comic community with off-the-wall, warped visions—made his debut with the pulpy, wacky Sometimes Stories in 1977. McCarthy's distorted visions within Freakwave, Strange Days or Skin were, like the fast-rising music movement of the same year, pretty punk in description. The images that landed McCarthy on the comic scene were loud, frantic and distorted from any preconceived expectations. McCarthy was prolific with his weird visions through the '80s, pausing through the muscle-and-spandex-saturated '90s, but his return to DC and Marvel in the mid-2000s on work like Spider-Man Fever and Zaucer of Zilk proved his talent in the comics industry wasn't a youth-driven fluke. Tyler R. Kane

Dave McKean:

Dave McKean's innovations in comic book art aren't just stylistic—they're material. Throughout The Sandman universe and other intoxicating projects—including Cages and the erotic Celluloid—McKean unleashed new dimensions of texture and immersion through multimedia art. Museum exhibition, oily brush strokes, warped sculpture and distorted pixelation merged into images as likely to enchant as disturb. Whatever their form, a mystery always writhed underneath waiting to be solved. Though his covers are always dense with information and a litany of fonts, McKean's portals never feel claustrophobic. They're simply gateways into realities too progressive and bizarre to be ignored. Sean Edgar

Mike Mignola:

Ensconced in a macabre, Victorian style, Mike Mignola's covers are as consistently striking and compelling as his sequential art. They're most easily identified by their heavy shadows that envelope the focal characters, defined by chiaroscuro spotted blacks that recall German Expressionism. But Mignola's work is similarly notable for its immaculate composition and unaffected acting. He poses his subjects like a Byzantine painter rendering religious subjects, and they take on a timeless, epic quality. Like his interior artwork, Mignola's covers have gotten more and more minimalist and abstracted over the years, but this simplicity has only enhanced their elegance and power. Shea Hennum

Frank Miller:

Frank Miller's rise as writer, artist and comics visionary is one of the medium's most documented for a reason. Back in the '80s, Miller was one of the many creators effectively shifting superheroes from spandex-abusing caricatures to the gritty, dead-serious characters we know today—take a bloodthirsty Matt Murdock or a battle-addicted Bruce Wayne. Miller's sphere of influence still hovers over the mainstream in works like Marvel's lauded Daredevil series, as well as Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight films. But some of the best peeks into Miller's decade-spanning influence are his covers, from the black-and-white beauty of his Sin City work to the now-iconic images of Batman and Carrie Kelley in the Dark Knight Returns. Though work as bold as Miller's doesn't come without criticism, he's earned his spot among the most iconic (and imitated) cover artists. Tyler R. Kane

Mike Del Mundo:

Mike Del Mundo's first covers for Marvel were frenzied and delirious with unusual color choices—pretty, if not groundbreaking. Somewhere along the line, though, Del Mundo decided to invent a new style for practically every piece, exemplified by his stellar string of X-Men Legacy covers. That underdog fan-favorite book featured David Haller, Professor Xavier's uber-powered son, struggling with hundreds of alternate personalities at war within his head. Del Mundo ran wild with the premise, churning out covers inspired by instruction manuals, puzzles, board games, medical advertisements, prison cells and, in one of the best uses of text on a cover in decades, word balloons. Del Mundo has an extraordinary knack for elevating gimmick into metaphor, telling as much story with one page as many artists do with 22. Steve Foxe

Dustin Nguyen:

Dustin Nguyen constructs ornate comic covers that have weight. Every visual element and structure is thought-out and assembled, pencils and water colors hiding cogs, wires, pulleys and nails underneath their two-dimensional veneer. This impression proves especially apt for the artist's latest project, sci-fi heartbreaker Descender, which features a litany of new worlds brimming with androids and automatons. But look back at Nguyen's previous covers in Wildcats 3.0, The Authority: Revolution and his various Bat-art to find an adept who can flit from genre to genre and never lose his precision or dedication. Sean Edgar

George Pérez:

Pound for pound, nobody has drawn more superheroes than Pérez. His exacting pencils have covered a huge swath of the Big Two's most sacred creations, with the exception of extensive work in the X-Universe. The Fantastic Four, Avengers, JLA, The New Teen Titans and literally every DC character (at the time) in Crisis on Infinite Earths. His covers reflect this awe-inspiring range, brimming with shared-universe scuffles and demigod poses mimicked the world over by toddlers in cardboard domino masks and bath-towel capes. With such lively, empowering covers, there's a certain irony that Pérez's most famous image portrays a weeping Superman holding the lifeless body of his cousin, Supergirl. And that eclecticism defines Perez's greatest strength, the storytelling prowess to zoom from epic battles to intimacy from cover to cover. Sean Edgar

Sara Pichelli:

Sara Pichelli takes the bombastic, cinema-fueled energy of '90s super heroics and tempers it with respectful anatomy and evocative body language. It's almost a contradiction. Pichelli's work with Brian Michael Bendis on Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man helped usher more diversity into the mainstream comic publishing with verve and style. Her covers on Guardians of the Galaxy hint at a huge richness and energy—to find that it also exists on every interior page with her name is a rarity in the field. Whether she's introducing the new female Thor to a questioning public or a frisky Han Solo, Pichelli straddles the perfect balance between the human and divine within these immortal characters. Sean Edgar

Paul Pope:

Since his early days self-publishing THB, Paul Pope has always lived up to his self-styled moniker "Comics destroyer." He spoke of destroying to create a space, an idea he cribbed from Pablo Picasso, and he would use that space to create something new. Pope did this by synthesizing European and Japanese cartooning aesthetics as well as commercial and fine art. While his contemporaries were devouring the newest Marvel and DC releases, Pope was looking to the prints of Tadanori Yokoo, the latest fashion magazines, the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky, the paintings of Pablo Picasso, the comics of Hugo Pratt. The result is an artist who combined text and image to create something striking and singular, something halfway between conventional American comic covers and the incredibly busy, collage-like covers of manga magazines. Shea Hennum

Frank Quitely:

Primarily known for his association with fellow Scottish lads Grant Morrison and Mark Millar, Frank Quitely has a real knack for taking well-established iconic figures, whether it be Superman, Batman or the X-Men, and giving them a crisp, modern makeover that's both faithful to the spirit of the characters as well as just generally cool to look at. With his finely detailed textures, he's the go-to guy for making the cool heroes look even cooler and the nasty villains look appropriately grotesque. Often, he can communicate big emotions merely through a character's posture. The '90s were not always the most creatively fruitful time for comic artists, but Quitely's arrival in the industry will always stand as one of the more fortunate events of that troubled decade. Mark Rozeman