Robot 6

They changed mainstream comics — but not always for the better

The Justice League, by Alex Ross

The Justice League, by Alex Ross

The A.V. Club has an interesting, and likely debate-provoking, list of “21 artists who changed mainstream comics (for better or worse).”

As the title suggests, the panelists don’t have kinds words for everyone. They heap praise on the likes of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and Carl Barks, and mix in some mild criticisms with their assessments of George Perez and Jim Lee.

But for George Tuska, Rob Liefeld, Greg Land and Alex Ross, they get a little rough.

Of Ross they write, “He’s a pioneer of the dull, unimaginative craze for giving superheroes celebrity faces, and with his shaky layouts and mediocre visual storytelling.” The charges against Land and Liefeld are, by now, quite familiar.

And then there’s “poor George Tuska,” who’s described as “the King Of The Fill-In Issue, hopping in to provide bland, forgettable work whenever someone else blew a deadline.”

So, what do you think? Are their assessments fair?

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17 Comments

when has ross given his heroes celebrity faces?
criticize him all you want, but he uses his own models and references photos he’s taken, not entertainment weekly spreads.

Agreed, anyone who is slamming Alex Ross for the sins of Greg Land and Greg Horn just doesn’t know what they are talking about. Land and Horn are terrible. It saddens me because I used to love Land’s work. Ross however, I just don’t think there is an argument here. The guy is arguably the best comic painter the medium has ever seen. As far as the “mediocre visual storytelling” comment goes I have to ask; are we talking about the same artist?

“when has ross given his heroes celebrity faces?”

Off the top of my head I do recall him using Russell Johnson as the model for Reed Richards in Marvels.
I guess it all depends if Johnson fits under the definition of celebrity.

I think my favorite comments on the list are these for Rob Liefeld:

He had legions of fans, even though he couldn’t actually draw; when he—along with Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, and other controversial artists—helped form the creator-owned Image Comics in 1992, the world learned that he couldn’t write, either. Since then, it’s been revealed that he can’t do much of anything else. Still, there’s no denying that the guy owned the 1990s. It was a strange decade.

And no Steranko in this list, neither Guys like Buscema, or even McKean, but we have Land, Liefield or Tuska (sorry, George, il love your work, but sincerely…)…And Wolverton for Mainstream comics !!!!!! Gulp !

Why are they picking on an innocent old man like Tuska who hasn’t really done anything for about 20 years. Surely there are more current artists who need to be mocked.

Man, that was really…predictable.

If they’re ripping Tuska for “the King Of The Fill-In Issue … whenever someone else blew a deadline,” I sure hope they aren’t also criticizing anyone for notorious lateness.

Steve Cameron

July 20, 2009 at 1:15 pm

It reads like it’s written by guys who like the idea of being into comics but haven’t done the legwork of actually being fans. Where’s Frank Miller for Christ’s sake? They include Chris Ware and Basil Wolverton but no Mike Allred or Dan Clowes? Walt Simonson? John Romitas both Sr. and Jr.? The Hernandez Brothers? John Byrne? Jeff Smith? Jae Lee? Adam Hughes? JH Williams? These guys are all major trendsetters. I guess it’s not supposed to be an exhaustive list, but it looks like it was compiled with a google search.

Steve Cameron

July 20, 2009 at 1:40 pm

According to this article, Ditko’s the one who made Peter Parker such a big part of Spider-Man, Mignola didn’t develop his signature style until he started Hellboy (and Fegredo is apparently his successor), Gary Frank only “came to prominence” in the 2000s, George Tuska is responsible for the trend of mediocre art in the medium, Carl Barks is “more responsible than anyone” for Disney’s house style, Todd McFarlane launched Rob Liefeld’s career (and Liefeld “burst onto the scene in the late 1980s”), and Chris Ware changed mainstream comics if you include “the younger alternative crowd and contemporary commercial artists.” Great stuff.

i guess at some point it became hip to slam alex ross, at least on the internet.

why isn’t art adams on the list? while not hugely prolific, he influenced quite a few of the more popular and notorious artists to follow in his wake.

the george tuska thing just baffles me.

I wish the writer(s) of the list would have compiled something that was better researched and maybe then we could have a healthy discussion on the points they are trying to make. This list seems shallow because there appears to be minimal support for their arguments.

Alex Ross could be criticized for his constant harping and spearheading the whole “DC Characters should be the way I remember them in the 79′s and never change” that has resulted in legacy heroes being pushed to the side.

Tuska deserves no criticism when he had to save a book from a slow artist. Only in comics are those who do good reliable monthly work seen as bland and dull. Get bent.

“i guess at some point it became hip to slam alex ross, at least on the internet.”

Or, you know, people might have some valid reasons as to why his art does not suit their particular tastes. Like for instance maybe they believe his characters are lifeless and lack emotion. Or that his compositions are repetitive and dull. Or maybe that his recent choices in color palettes have been garishly, eye-bleedingly hideous. Or you could be right and they are just trying to be the ‘cool kids’ on the ‘net.

@Steve Cameron:

you hit the nail on the head. it’s very trendy to be in to comics right now and it seems like a lot of these pieces for more mainstream outlets (the av club runs as a regular feature in the Onion weekly) seem to be done with a quick google search, or of the writers thinking that whatever theyve read is all there is to comics (which usually isn’t much)…

You guys crack me up.

It’s funny how offended people get when other people have different opinions.

Welcome to the internet, Preston.

Wow… I love Ross’ work… The slams seem unjustified to me.

But Rob Liefeld gets off easy, IMO. :-)

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