Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

2012 Glass Eye Awards – Best Cover Artist & Colorist

Posted by Don MacPherson on January 15th, 2013

Man, you think the Oscars show tends to drag on? The Glass Eye Awards got underway more than a week ago, and here we are, still picking away to my selections for the best from the world of comics in 2012. In this installment, I turn my attention toward the men and women responsible for the strongest storytelling of the year. Again, my picks are limited by what I found the time to read, and there’s no way for anyone to cover all the industry has to offer (or even a majority).

Winners of the Glass Eye Awards can expect rare certificates of achievement in the mail, including a cash prize (both of which are invisible and intangible).

Best Cover Artist: A seemingly ever-present creator on my annual list of the best the industry has to offer in the way of cover artists is Mike Mignola. The Hellboy creator’s dark, gothic style is always eye-catching, and one can’t help but be impressed with how he brings simple, inky shapes together to create haunting, complex and inventive imagery. And with the strength of Dark Horse’s “Mignola-verse” line of comics, there’s never a shortage of Mignola covers to dress up the shelves of comic-shop shelves. Another heralded cover artist over the years as been Brian Bolland, whose more recent efforts have been all too rare as of late. Fortunately, he returned to illustrate the covers for DC’s new Dial H series. It’s interesting to see Bolland’s photo-realistic take on the surreal concepts crafted by writer China MiĆ©ville for the title. One would think the two divergent approaches would clash, but I suppose it should come as no surprise. After all, Bolland was the artist who adorned the covers of Grant Morrison’s Animal Man so perfectly a couple of decades ago.

David AjaThe next two artists on my list of those who excelled with cover art in 2012 worked on the same title. Marcos Martin and Paolo Rivera not only contributed interior artwork to Marvel Entertainment’s much-lauded Daredevil series, but each contributed cover art for the ongoing series as well. Both artists have shown a willingness to play with design and disregard convention, and they both have the skills to pull it off successfully. My top pick for the best cover artist of the year goes to another Marvel artist who works on a title as interesting and inventive as Mark Waid’s Daredevil. David Aja‘s covers for the new Hawkeye series he’s doing with writer Matt Fraction really pop with their minimalist designs. He makes fantastic use of white space, and he manages to come up with new, different looks even while limiting himself with a specific color scheme and iconography to represent the title character.

Best Colorist: Assessing the strength of coloring work in comics can be a challenge. Sometimes, when it’s done right, it enhances the linework in such a way it’s seamless and almost invisible. Other fine efforts can really pop and grab the reader’s eye, and it can be quite apparent just how adept the colorist is at his contributions to the medium. One of the best the industry has to offer in the world of color art is Matt Hollingsworth, whose been sought after in the industry for some time. He delivered a lot of strong work on a variety of Marvel titles, but where he really excelled was with his work on Hawkeye, mainly because some creative choices have been made to restrain the palette available to him. For the most part, the book looks quite grey, reinforcing the mundane, regular-world approach to the title character, but it also boasts splashes of purple to evoke his super-hero costume (which has been rarely seen in the series). One would think including some purple in every outfit the protagonist and his sidekick wear would get old, but that hasn’t proven to be the case. While Hollingsworth has been a mainstay in the list of the top coloring talent in comics, the next name on my list in this category came as a bit of a surprise. Phil Noto turned up in the credits of Darwyn Cooke’s Before Watchmen: Minutemen in 2012, but as a colorist, not a traditional line artist, his usual role. He employs muted tones throughout the book, reinforcing the noir leanings of Cooke’s style and storytelling.

Now that I’ve spotlighted the work of two men responsible for coloring the comics we love, I turn my attention to a couple of women who turned out top work in the field in 2012. Trish Mulvihill has proven to be a vital creative partner for artist Eduardo Risso. They’ve been working together on projects for years, and they continued to produce great work together last year. I loved the muted tones she brought to Spaceman, which helped to bring the slightly dystopian nature of the future setting to life all the more effectively. She threw brighter colors into the mix in Before Watchmen: Moloch, slicing through the darkness in which Risso immersed the characters. Speaking of vibrant colors, one can’t have a discussion about the best coloring work of the year without mentioning artist Fiona Staples and the colors she brought to her own linework on Saga. Her colors are so rich, lush, full of life. They reinforce the natural and magical appeal of the characters and concepts. Staples always manages to instill some brightness with her colors, maintaining an encouraging, optimistic tone, even when the plot takes dark turns or when monstrous characters or behavior emerge.

Dave StewartMy choice for the best colorist of the year is the same as my choice from 2009. Dave Stewart is the workhorse of the comics colorist’s profession. From a multitude of Mignola-verse comics to Batwoman to Fatale, everything Stewart touched was stronger as a result of his involvement in the creative process in 2012. He does great work with dark shades and understated, moody colors in works that boast simpler linework and noir leanings, like Lobster Johnson and Fatale, but he also adds to the richness, texture and detail or more complex, realistic comic-art styles, like that of Batwoman writer/artist J.H. Williams III.

There are a few Glass Eyes yet to be doled out — for the best artist, writer and publisher of 2012 — so check back soon so you can see me reach my climax.

Whoa, that was a poor choice of words.

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2 Responses to “2012 Glass Eye Awards – Best Cover Artist & Colorist”

  1. teamspawns Says:

    we’ve been enjoying your year end roundups a lot!
    and have been reading your reviews since the fourth rail!

  2. Brock Says:

    Well done as usual Don. A few of my favorites made your list, and I have a few to check out too.