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Among comics' most "literate" artists, Craig Russell has recently made a career successfully adapting operatic librettos and the works of Kipling and Oscar Wilde into a foreign medium. With a delicate, almost fragile style, his work has gone against the grain of modern trends toward power and explosiveness. It is to his credit, however, that he has thrived and produced some of comics' best work during those years.

SEE: Dr. Strange Annual #1; Amazing Adventures #34; Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde; Night Music #1 (Eclipse Comics, 1979)

Who would have expected the young man who began his career aping Neal Adams (beautifully, we might add) in Moon Knight to turn into modern comics' most interesting stylist? Bill's unique vision, which combines elements of cartooning, commercial art, and fine art has unleashed a Pandora's Box of awed, but unknowing pilferers. Sienkiewicz began his march toward a new sensibility early in his career, creating terrific covers for titles such as Moon Knight and Dazzler. But it was on New Mutants and his proceeding work that he really hit his stride, using the magic of cartooning to visually portray the emotional and psychological aspects of the story. He also played with size and scale, creating a Kingpin who dwarfed his wife Vanessa in a surreal, but revealing mode of expression. In these ways he enhanced the internal elements of a story in a manner rarely accomplished. Unfortunately Bill is also responsible for a legion of artists drawing house-sized, peanut-headed "heroes" without the slightest idea why his work and theirs don't.

SEE: New Mutants #18-24; Elektra: Assasin mini-series; Daredevil: Love and War graphic novel

While Tales from the Crypt has become a franchise name in film, television and comics, there is still one name indelibly linked to it even after 40 years of distance. Graham Ingels, more than any one person (except perhaps originator Bill Gaines) is thought of when conjuring the name of EC's flagship horror title. His style perfectly suited the stories editors Gaines and Feldstein gave him: mouldy tales of dilapidated Victorian mansions, populated by old crones, hags, and decrepit freaks bent on mayhem of every type. Rendered in bold shadows, Ingels pulled out all the stops to create a general feel of decay: drybrush inks; chiaroscuro lighting; crooked, almost skeletal figures; and everywhere, always, the saliva between the lips of the (choke!) doomed living and the vengeful dead. Graham, unfortunately, never understood our benign - if childish - love of being scared. He long ago disavowed his horror roots and retired to the life of a teacher, never to look back. It's a shame, since for generations of fans who love to be frightened, his work is every bit as valid as that of Boris Karloff, Alfred Hitchcock, or Stephen King.

SEE: "A Strange Undertaking", Haunt of Fear #6; "A Little Stranger", Haunt of Fear #14

Curt Swan's impeccable drawing style never deserted him through fifty years of work in the business. Unlike many artists who hit a peak, perform for a number of years and drop off, Swan's facility remained consistent until the end. A mannered, subdued stylist, he brought Superman his smoothest, most polished look and set the mold of DC's corporate image and licensing for years. His one knock seems to be a restrained, flat layout style which compared unfavorably to the explosiveness of Marvel during the 60's and 70's. For many older readers, however, Curt is the zenith of drawing in the years just prior to Marvel's ascent.

SEE: Superman: The Earth Stealers; Superman #423; Action Comics #583

It's hard to imagine that someone could rival Joe Kubert as the top artist on Sgt. Rock, but Russ Heath sure gave him a run for his money. Tight, beautifully rendered figures; complete, well delineated backgrounds and total mastery of lighting, texture, and form made Russ a man to reckoned with. An obvious choice as one of comics' all-time war artists (on that list with John Severin and Joe Kubert), Heath crafted a realism not only from architectural and mechanical details, but from the emotional resonance of his characters.

SEE: Punisher #27; "Give and Take", Blazing Combat #4; various painted covers for DC war comics

George Evans is easily one of comics' most underappreciated talents. Although his stint at EC (as with everyone who worked there) was the high point of his career, George also did dynamite work for Fiction House and Gilberton, among others. His true love was aviation stories, which is easily seen in his great WWI features for Aces High. In addition, his controlled, occasionally stagy style worked perfectly on tales of suspense and, shall we say, "drawing room" horror. Evans' housewives, businesswomen and librarians, while ostensibly prim and proper, often concealed things inside which belied their bun hairdos and perfectly tailored suits. All of which made them, in some strange way, among comics' sexiest.

SEE: "All Washed Up", Haunt of Fear #15; "Blind Alleys", Tales From the Crypt #46

A unique modern stylist, Mignola has cobbled together a wonderful visual lexicon from sources as diverse as classic comics, Italian Rennaissance masters, and vintage industrial design. His flagship character, Hellboy, is a crackling blend of horror, humor, superheroics, and freewheeling adventure that crystalizes everything he's learned about lighting, design, layout and cartooning. His considerable tools are on display regularly not only in Hellboy, but as one of comicdom's most sought-after cover artists.

SEE: Hellboy (any issues); Dr. Strange/Dr. Doom: Triumph and Torment graphic novel

Displaying a beautiful chiaroscuro technique and an outstanding layout sense, Mort Meskin was a stylist par excellence for over 25 years. A mainstay at DC for most of the 40's, Meskin was perhaps the finest artist never to work on a major feature. His talent, however, elevated strips like "Johnny Quick" and "Vigilante" to new heights. Along the lines of an Alex Toth (a man who admired Meskin greatly) or Frank Robbins, Mort's style followed the queue of men who loved the dark world of shadows and contrast. In the shadows were stories, and Most Meskin threw in just enough light to reveal them.

SEE: Sheena (various); stories in select issues of: Bullseye, Foxhole, Black Magic and many others

Gray Morrow just seems to get better and better. A brilliant draftsman, superb inker, and fantastic layout artist, Gray has lent a fluid grace to just about every genre imaginable. He peppers his work with handsome effects: drybrush, zip-a-tone, craftint, washes, and other graphic tricks built up over a lifetime of top-flight work. War and western themes seem to benefit most from his realistic rendering, although he is equally adept at styles from science fiction to horror. Gray is an underrated talent still in our midst who continues to craft exceptional stories.

SEE: "Water Hole", Blazing Combat #3; "Orion", Witzend #2; Edge of Chaos #1-3

When was the last time Mike Kaluta worked on a regular comic? Who cares? He's an artistic soul who's given us a ream of great stories since starting in the business almost 30 (!) years ago. As part of The Studio with Barry Smith, Bernie Wrightson and Jeff Jones, he helped fuel a renaissance in the illustrative aspects of comic storytelling, and a revival of interest in younger fans for the works of master artists such as Aubrey Beardsley, Howard Pyle and the like. Hopefully the lure of comics will soon draw Kaluta back to the fold and give us some new examples from the pen of a maestro.

SEE: Starstruck #1-5; "Carson of Venus", Korak, Son of Tarzan #46-56

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