Comics Alliance Best of 2015: Outstanding Cartoonist of 2015
Our judges have adjudicated; our readers have voted. We’re proud to present to you the outstanding cartoonist (writer/artist) of 2015 — and four great runners up.
Previously of Spanish satirical magazine El Jueves, currently of Panel Syndicate sci-fi comic Universe, Albert Monteys' cartooning is deceptively simple. Simple because his exaggerated figures have the physicality of clay figurines rather than anatomical models, and his backgrounds will often fade away to a single flat colour. Deceptive because, with only two issues of Universe released in 2015, his craft is clearly painstaking.
But even the most basic image, an entire page consisting of just a single character on a sheer white background, is compelling. And when it's necessary, Monteys knows how to crank up the detail to maximum. In close-up, he can pick out every wrinkle and errant hair to bring a face to life. When he's building a world, as in Universe, establishing shots come stuffed with character designs and technology and architecture that appear once and never again. These are pages that are worth lingering on. They invite you in, beg you to zoom in as far as the screen will allow, and then reward that attention with little details and ideas, even when — at first glance — they look completely simple. [Alex Spencer]
Ben Sears has a style that seems just perfectly at home on the page; every figure seems placed as if by magic, fully-formed and packed with character. With a solid, blocky style and a minimal use of cross-hatching, Sears’ work is evocative of decades of talented cartoonists without feeling overly derivative of any of them.
I keep coming back to the word specific when I think about his art, because it is. Specifically placed and specifically drawn; there’s a sense of purpose and undeniable exactness to his art that’s consistent in all of his work, whether it’s a black-and-white commission, a gray ink wash, or a one-tone color screenprint of a robot admiring jewelry. Sears’ work just seems to belong exactly where its drawn, and there are very few artists that are as good at it as Sears. [Ziah Grace]
"Queertoonist" Melanie Gillman is probably best known as the creator Eisner-nominated webcomic As the Crow Flies, a coming-of-age comic about a group of queer girls at a Christian youth camp. What you might not have known is that Gillman is also the editor of The Other Side: An Anthology of Queer Paranormal Romance, and often contribute illustrations to other popular comics like Lumberjanes and Oh Joy Sex Toy.
Through these projects Gillman has contributed to the growth of queer comics for all ages. With their stunning colored-pencil masterpieces and moving stories that focus on nonbinary and genderqueer characters, Gillman has easily established themself as one of the most talented and influential queer creators in comics. [KM Bezner]
Harry Bogosian’s got a buoyant, expressive style that’s evolved through years of webcomics work and style practices on Tumblr; his evolution on his recently completed webcomic, Demon’s Mirror, has shown how adaptable he can be at changing his style while retaining the strong expressiveness and unique character designs that remains the core of his art, and his life-drawing and character studies show his commitment to learning and practicing new techniques and strategies to integrate into his art.
It’s refreshing to see a cartoonist with such a malleable style growing and remixing to see what works and what doesn’t for their particular style, and Bogosian’s art is like a chameleon, shifting from one technique to another. Seeing him integrate different techniques into his core style should be inspiring to any upcoming artists. [Ziah Grace]
Noelle Stevenson is an excellent writer, and it’s not surprising that most of her mainstream work has come from that direction. But something truly magical happens when she draws her own stories, such as Nimona. Stevenson’s cartooning style has become more polished since she started Nimona on the web in 2012, but it remains delightfully loose and playful. Her characters’ emotions are perfectly displayed on their faces, but just as often their whole bodies are equally expressive. Stevenson can show you a character’s mood through their posture, their walk, or the way they leap into panel. And of course, in Nimona’s case, her physical form is often a reflection of her feelings.
Nimona is a fantasy story, a story about heroes and villains (and anti-heroes, and heroic villains), but at its heart it’s really a story about emotions. Nimona might be a monster, but she’s definitely a young girl in need of a home. Blackheart is a science villain, but really he’s just working through the loss of his greatest love. These themes are expressed through the unity of Stevenson’s words and art with a deftness that marks her as a world-class cartoonist. [Elle Collins]