Atlas Comics presents


It took one spring for Alex Ross to go from a relative unknown, working on titles such as Terminator: The Burning Earth and Open Space, to comics' number one superstar of the middle 90's. Growing more ambitious and surehanded in the years before he wowed the comics world with Marvels, Alex has built on that 1994 triumph to become the industry's most sought-after painter, designer and cover artist. His meticulous and sharply executed painting is the result of supreme confidence and superior preparation. Every step of the process is confident and well thought-out: design, layout, drawing, and painting. His style reflects his attention to detail without being top-heavy on technique (ala Boris Vallejo): strong emphasis on color composition; sharp contrasts; use of reflected light; and an uncanny ability to render fantastic subjects in a "realistic" manner while retaining the paper-thin barrier between fantasy and reality. Check this list in 5 years and you can be sure Alex Ross will have moved up a few notches.

SEE: Marvels #1-4; Kingdom Come #1-4; Uncle Sam #1-2

Walt Simonson is the man with the most inventive signature in the business. Happily, the artwork that appears with that little brontosaurus (his John Hancock takes the form of a dinosaur) has been among the most vital and dynamic of recent years. Yet another Kirby disciple, Walt has brought his own drawing and storytelling abilities to bear on reinterpreting the "classic" superheroes. As a result he's given us a fresh look at such characters as Thor, The Hulk, and the Fantastic Four.

SEE: Thor #337 - 350; Manhunter (complete reprint); Star Slammers graphic novel

Instantly recognizable to any fan of the fifties, Joe Maneely livened up countless horror, western, and humor titles. Working primarily for Atlas, Joe developed an inking style that was wholly unique and inimitable. Possibly his finest work, on Atlas' Black Knight, was a spot-on collaboration between feature and artist. His pencils and inks evoked at once a grittier, yet more heroic milieu which lent greatly to the success of the series. Sometimes rumored to have been a suicide, Joe died young when he fell from a train in 1958.

SEE: Black Knight #1-4

Coming to comics from animation, Paul Smith's simple, elegant figure work and clear layouts have been a welcome contrast to generations of comics cluttered with unnecessary detail. Smith understands the need for the eye to rest and absorb what it's seen. These negative areas allow the reader to focus in on the important details which really tell the story in Paul's work: body language, facial expressions and relationships between spaces, size and staging.

SEE: X-Men/Alpha Flight #1; Uncanny X-Men #172; Dr. Strange #59

Another underappreciated master, Kintsler has been all but forgotten except by long-, long-time fans and comics historians. During his heyday in the 50's, Kintsler was turning out lushly rendered western, war, and mystery stories, primarily for Stan Lee's Atlas line. A supreme talent with drybrush (every bit the equal of Graham Ingels) his stories were set apart from his contemporaries obsessed with line. An obvious stylistic cousin would be Gene Colan, whose work would have benefitted from Kintsler's touch as an inker.

SEE: Search hard through Atlas war and western back issues and reprints

Although Joe Shuster's active career lasted a relatively short time, it is his high achievement as the co-creator of Superman which makes him such an important figure in the history of comics. With a simple but dynamic style reminiscent of Roy Crane, Joe Shuster turned comicdom on it's ear in creating an icon which set the template for superheroic adventure from 1938 until today. While it's tough to decipher exactly what Joe did in those early years (he worked with innumerable assistants) his best work had a pure, direct impact that belied its surface simplicity. He will always be remembered for creating one of popular culture's most enduring characters.

SEE: The Superman Dailies

The incredible talent of Alex Schomburg should be immediately apparent when you realize he has made the top half of this list for his accomplishments doing covers alone. During the war years Schomburg turned out the most ornate, flamboyant, and outrageous covers of the time. Jammed with detail, these covers were a veritable cornucopia of concepts, contraptions and captions, overflowing with the good natured fun that exemplified comics until the dour 80's. Close your eyes and poke a pin into the run of many Timely series in the Photo Journal, and you're likely to find not just a great comic cover, but a great piece of Americana from the pen of Alex Schomburg.

SEE: Marvel Mystery Comics #36, 50 (covers); All Winners #11 (cover); many others

One of the great Golden Age artists who forged a second career at Marvel in the sixties, Shores spent decades turning out terrific work just one step behind men like Jack Kirby, Joe Simon and Will Eisner. With Al Avison, Syd formed the core of men who shepherded Captain America after Simon and Kirby left the fold. Later, he showed his stuff as a world class inker, reteaming with Kirby on Cap after 25 years apart. Easily one of the sharpest talents in the history of comics.

SEE: Captain America Comics # 5, 6, 7; Red Wolf #1

With a deceptively simple style, sly wit, and endless invention, John Stanley elevated a single strip, "Little Lulu", to the status of a legend. Unpublished for over 25 years, there are still a legion of fans who remember his work on the curly-haired spitfire. Not many artists make this type of indelible impact.

SEE: Marge's Little Lulu (reprints from Another Rainbow)

When Arthur Adams burst on the scene, his impact was immediate and powerful. His ornate, heavily detailed drawings delighted a generation of fans in the 80's, but as a whole his work was often busy, cluttered, and visually noisy. It wasn't until he began to strip away the unnecessary detail and artifice in his work that he truly hit his stride as a storyteller and artist. His figures now have greater impact and weight, the layouts are more concise and direct, and the staging is remarkably clear and easy to read. Continuing to improve, Adams is one of the few modern artists to resurrect the pure fun and enjoyment of reading comics.

SEE: Monkeyman and O'Brien (any issues); New Mutants Special #1; X-Men Annual #9

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