Comics Alliance Best of 2015: Outstanding Artist of 2015
Our judges have adjudicated; our readers have voted. We’re proud to present to you the outstanding artist of 2015 — and four exceptional runners up.
Runner Up: Tom Scioli
Tom Scioli was once famous as “the Kirby homage guy.” And even then, I was a fan. But somewhere around Satan’s Soldier, he began really pushing his limits. His work had always brought new things, including a more self-conscious psychedelia, to a Cosmic Kirby paradigm, but in time he stretched that paradigm so far that he broke through and left it behind.
The influence of Jack Kirby and his contemporaries is still evident in Scioli’s work on Transformers vs. GI Joe, but it’s only one small element of what his groundbreaking art is doing. This art owes as much to underground comics as to classic superhero epics. This is a comic based on toys, and often the characters resemble action figures more than people. But Scioli’s art leads the reader to the realization that most comics art resembles toys as much as reality. Indeed, what is any this vs. that comic, if not a child’s toy war inscribed on the page? In accentuating the artificial, Scioli leads us to what is real, and yet he’s never mocking the reader or the premise. Scioli understands exactly what he’s doing, but he loves playing with these toys as much as anyone could. [Elle Collins]
Runner Up: Chris Samnee
Over the last several years, Marvel’s Daredevil has been going through a renaissance, bringing a lighter and more swashbuckling tone to a hero that’s often defined by his darkness and his demons. The success of this recently ended run — one that’s going to be remembered for a long time — was the seamless partnership between the storytellers, which included artist Chris Samnee.
Samnee has been a remarkable artist for years now; more than a few artists have thrown their hands up in frustrated admiration at the high quality of the “warmup” sketches he posts. They’re so polished and expressive, it’s hard to imagine something even moreso, but there it was, every month: a new issue with the latest chapter in Matt Murdock’s messed up life. His pen made a fictional San Francisco seem like a familiar, exciting place for Daredevil to explore. His deep, dark inks gave characters like the Shroud their menace, or revealed the horror of a character being hooked into an electronic grid. And as he and his collaborators wrapped up their Daredevil, he finally got to really sink his teeth into the Kingpin. He helped make that book a classic. Next up: Black Widow. [James Leask]
Runner Up: Jamie McKelvie
It’s almost a cliché to mention that Jamie McKelvie’s character designs are amazing, but just because it’s welll observed doesn’t mean it’s not worth repeating anyway. The Wicked & The Divine has showcased some of his strongest work in a career packed with strong work, while his return to the work that jumpstarted his (and Kieron Gillen’s) career with Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl reminded readers that even if he’s gotten better with time, his early work’s never been bad.
So much comic book art is about picking the perfect moment to capture in each panel, and McKelvie’s easily the best working artist at this detail. Every page brims with energy and movement, like a candid snapshot, peeking into characters’ minds and personalities. That his work is one of the most constantly cosplayed in comics is hardly a surprise; his keen eye for fashion, design, and personality would set him apart even if his evocative and expressive character work didn’t. [Ziah Grace]
Runner Up: Sophie Campbell
Sophie Campbell makes everything look great. Sure, that's a cliche, but in her case, it's true, and for proof, you need look no further than the way she moved from the hyper-violent, blood-soaked, arm-ripping action of Glory to one of this year's breakout hits, Jem and the Holograms, and made it seem effortless.
It's not just the character designs, although those were good enough to get an award all by themselves, but the way that she blends those beautifully over-the-top designs with the emotions of the characters, from Jerrica's shyness to Pizzazz's frustrated, furious shrieking. And if that wasn't enough, she's brought us one of the best visual representations of music that I've seen in a while — and in a year where we got a new Phonogram series, that's saying something. Action, danger, emotion, design, it's all here in Sophie Campbell's art, and it's all done perfectly. [Chris Sims]
Winner: Fiona Staples
Fiona Staples accomplishes so much with relatively little. Sometimes space operas can almost choke with all that sci-fi in the background, but in Saga, Staples makes ample use of space and focuses on her beautifully-designed and lively characters. Regardless of how strange and alien her subjects, her cartooning is so spot-on that each one of them has their own body language; they have personalities; they emote.
What really drives Saga is character interaction, and Staples communicates humor, drama, and conflict with all of them, no matter how inhuman they are. Even television-headed robots seem to have facial expressions. Her lines are clear and authoritative, but loose and relaxed, and as her own colorist she gives Saga a sumptuous, almost animated look, with spare backgrounds and vibrant characters. A stylish minimalist who blends the fantastic with the mundane and gives it all something real, Staples makes every issue of Saga a visual treat from beginning to end. [John Parker]