Our Favorite Comic Book Cover Artists of All Time

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Walt Simonson:


Walt Simonson remains one of the few living creators that can write for superheroes as well as he draws them. And he draws them pretty damn well. Case in point—his run on Thor remains both the definitive portrait of the character and a master class in how to construct a complex, yet accessible, fantasy world. In regards to his cover work, Simonson's predilection for striking imagery has produced images of all shapes and tones, including excerpts from intense brawls, iconic hero poses and the hilarious image of Frog Thor in action. In this way, Simonson's covers are akin to the most effective kind of movie posters—ones that succeed in quickly grabbing the viewer's attention and immediately piquing their interest for the story inside. Mark Rozeman

Fiona Staples:


Fiona Staple's imaginative and colorful work on Saga's much-heralded covers has "future legend" written all over it. The art is detailed without ever looking cluttered, thoughtful without betraying a sense of playfulness and demonstrates a phenomenal use of light. Any comic art fan worth their salt should no doubt find themselves drawn to Staples' expressive art like bees to honey. Mark Rozeman

Jim Starlin:


A driving force in constructing the Marvel Cosmos, Jim Starlin's vibrant and acid-fueled vision of the galaxies and their various residents has yielded some of the most indelible (and trippy) imagery in comics. A hot-tempered creative during his tenure at Marvel, Starlin excelled in having his covers beautifully reflect his characters' psychological interiors—most notably in how his chaotic, psychedelia-tinged spreads for Warlock so thoroughly reflected the fractured mind of its titular character. Drawing from his own fascination with theology (not to mention his own personal struggles), Starlin embedded the sort of personal stamp on his work that is almost unheard of in the comics industry. Mark Rozeman

Jim Steranko:


Only a literal magician could pull as many stylistic innovations out of his hat as Jim Steranko did during his lengthy career. A former advertising art director (among many other things—he really was a magician), Steranko devoured pop cultural influences ranging from Dali surrealism (check those clocks in the illustration above), Andy Warhol pop art and all manner of Euro excess. The resulting covers (and interiors) played with typography, patterns and textures in ways that had never been manipulated before, escorting readers into the head-trip cool of the '70s and the glitz assault of the '80s. Perpetually sporting a pair of red-gradient sunglasses, Steranko peered through a different lens and helped pave the road for other electric voices like Dave McKean, Marco Rudy and Tom Muller. Sean Edgar

Curt Swan:


For generations, Curt Swan was Superman–the artist whose gentle-yet-heroic depiction of the Man of Steel and his extended universe defined the character. Swan's Superman had the look of a trusting, relaxed father figure–even when he was inflicted with whatever fever-dream indignity that was conceived for that particular cover, whether being run out of town or turned into some malformed monstrosity (his "Pal," Jimmy Olsen suffered even worse). Swan was pushed out of the Superman books in the 1980s to make room for John Byrne's run, but his last regular work, "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" with Alan Moore, yielded two of his best stories and covers, allowing a legendary run to end on a high note. Zack Smith

Jill Thompson:


Jill Thompson's career ignited in the mature-readers trenches of Vertigo, where she pencilled memorable runs on The Invisibles, Swamp Thing and The Sandman. Her work that's followed has retained the expertise and storytelling of that '80s output, but it's also infinitely more…adorable? Thompson has bridged her fantasy horror output to all ages spook-house fun in titles like Little Endless and Scary Godmother. Her smooth explosive sense of motion meets with superb water color textures, creating covers both stimulating and alluring. All of these elements converge Beasts of Burden, a series about domestic animals that routinely conquer the supernatural and Eisner judges, with three Best Painter/Multimedia Artist wins alone. Sean Edgar

Bruce Timm:


For many adults of a certain age, Bruce Timm created the definitive vision of the DC Universe via his work on Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League. Television work aside, Timm's love and appreciation for the Golden Age of Comics combined with his penchant for art deco designs has resulted in some beautifully crafted covers perfectly suited to anyone looking for a familiar entryway into comics. Mark Rozeman

Charles Vess:


Charles Vess' portraits of folk gods and Homeric journeymen transcend time, bringing sterling past influences to the present with meticulous precision and depth. Vess' art has graced new editions of work from literary icons like Shakespeare and Edgar Rice Burroughs, but the artist has thrived most comfortably with comic writers, whether providing full-page illustrations or sequential art. His lush line and paint strokes carry the tradition of Victorian and Edwardian Fairy Tale artists like Arthur Rackham and Hermann Vogel. Blushing maidens, cherubic toddlers and valiant warriors venture into absurdly green woodlands adorned with gorgeous border ornamentations. Though the aesthetic has lent itself to the high fantasy of Neil Gaiman and Jeff Smith, some of Vess' most alluring work occurred when he broke type on his Web of Spider-Man covers. Either way, gazing into these portals is a one-way ticket to surreal beauty that puts our reality to shame. Sean Edgar

Kevin Wada:


Sometimes the collective will of the Internet can make beautiful things happen, as evidenced by Marvel's outreach to fashion illustrator Kevin Wada after his haute couture X-Men illustrations blazed through social media. Although his professional career is still young, Wada has already lent his exquisitely precise watercolors and runway-ready taste to cover runs on Catwoman and She-Hulk, as well as a string of highly sought-after variant covers for inclusive fan-favorites like Ody-C, Midnighter, Adventure Time and WicDiv. With any luck, Wada's rising profile will persuade Marvel to one day authorize the too-hot-to-handle swimsuit special he and fellow beefcake master Kris Anka began assembling last year… Steve Foxe

Skottie Young:


Scottie Young delights in the exaggerated. Verisimilitude and physics are for chumps: Young's characters bend, guffaw, boast, fume, sprint, hurl, weep and roar with happiness and rage. These illustrations stretch comic characters into cartoonish glee and the results are simply wonderful. Patron saints Sam Keith, Dr. Seuss, Quentin Blake and Jamie Hewlett may float over these aggressively charming works, but Young has a DNA all his own. He's also one of the few artists who can nail a one-frame joke, as he often does in his variant "baby" covers, providing a striking counterpoint to the humorless, violent extremes that superheroes can fall into. In another era, Young's work would sit next to Bill Watterson's in the Sunday funnies. Fortunately, we can list him as one of the best comic cover artists of our generation. Sean Edgar

J.H. Williams III:


Sometimes descriptive writing isn't necessary to appreciate the majesty and immersion of good art—and J.H. Williams III makes such art. Starting with Alan Moore's mythological epic Promethea through the vivid monster mash of Batgirl to his current work on Sandman: Overture, Williams' library redefines excellence. Panels twist and turn and break and contort while characters sport tangible textures that gleam like shined vinyl or glisten like snake venom. Williams employs a freakishly deep and wide number of competencies, which makes him such a unicorn in the industry. Even with profound technical finesse, the artist clearly conveys what matters: emotion. And in the covers of lonely dream gods and abandoned vigilantes, these images aren't just one-page advertisements—they're a glorious summation of the entire book's identity. Sean Edgar