Comicon’s 8 Best Comic Cover Artists Of 2017

by Hannah Means Shannon

Welcome to Comicon.com’s inaugural Best of the Year Awards, gathering the best comics and comics talent of 2017. This year we will be awarding in the following categories: Best Original Graphic Novels, Best Comic Series, Best Single Comic Issues, Best Writers, Best Artists, Best Cover Artists, Best Colorists, Best Letterers, Best Webcomics, Most Progressive Comics, and lastly, Comicon’s People of The Year: 2017.

Contributors to Comicon’s Best of the Year Awards this year include: Alan Stewart, Alex Schumacher, Brendan Allen, Gary Catig, James Ferguson, Kieran Fisher, Oliver MacNamee, Noah Sharma, Rachel Bellwoar, Tito James, Angel Carreras, and Hannah Means-Shannon.

The following are Comicon’s 8 Best Comic Cover Artists of 2017.

8. Jonas Goonface for Godshaper (Boom! Studios)

Though Jonas Goonfaces’ interior artwork on Godshaper is something to be reckoned with, and we expect great things from him in comics, his cover art for the six issue series with Simon Spurrier really calls out the elements of individual style that make his comic art so unique. It’s in this showcase situation that you notice how completely developed his aesthetic has become at a young age, and the logic of his linework, whether representing human beings, architecture, or more mystical things. His characters seem in freefall in a world not entirely fixed and stable, but still bursting with life. Most of his covers capture a sense of emotion, whether in motion or at rest. They also exemplify what it means to suggest a protagonist’s personality and importance to story.

7. Becky Cloonan for Shade the Changing Girl (Young Animal/DC Comics)

Becky Cloonan’s covers for the Young Animal/DC Comics title Shade the Changing Girl add an interesting narrative layer to the story as a whole, suggesting the many angles by which the story about madness, love, and inspiration, could be viewed. While interior art by Marley Zarcone and Ande Parks often suggested a realm of static surfaces sliding into madness, leaving massive room for interpretation on the part of the reader, Cloonan’s covers take a different approach, breathing an air of mystery into the character and the nature of her reality that sync well with the core concept of the series–that Rac Shade’s madness coat alters the state of mind, and therefore the abilities, of its wearer. The coat features prominently in most, if not all, of Cloonan’s covers, as the elemental mystery, and the role of eyes also plays a large part in composition. Eyes evoke a hidden depth, a potential jumping off point into madness or enlightenment. Cloonan’s vivid colors on the covers are also striking and formed a second aesthetic for the series that is as memorable as the interior art colors by Kelly Fitzpatrick and helped establish a sense of branding for the series.

6. Raul Allen for Secret Weapons (Valiant Entertainment)

Raul Allen was the interior artist, with Patricia Martin on colors, on the breakway success Secret Weapons from Valiant. The interior art style represented a new aesthetic for the publisher, in an era when they are branching out to express different moods and styles in the different genre corners of their line, but also suggested that a Valiant book can be as evocative and individualistic as many of the comics we see coming out from non-genre specific publishers like Image Comics and Oni Press. However, Allen’s covers are next-level in that regard through the combination of this interesting, fresh linework with design elements. From the beginning, promotional elements for Secret Weapons were carefully designed, but Allen brings artwork and design into harmony in interesting ways, suggesting that branding and character work together to reach readers. Note the overlap above between Livewire’s arm and the Secret Weapons logo, and also the use of open shapes for the orange layers that make her both pop from the cover and recede. This is innovative cover work, but it’s also executed with a lot of confidence that helped rocket Secret Weapons to success in 2017.

5. Victor Santos for Violent Love (Image Comics)

Props go to designer Dylan Todd for both the Violent Love logo and iconic layout of the covers for Image series Violent Love, where the paperback, faded quality of the presentation caught the eye of many fans in shops, to be sure. Within that Todd highlighted interior artist Victor Santos’ artwork in all the right ways, showcasing his kineticism to great effect, even in static imagery. It’s not surprising that Santos’ art works particularly well on covers since his composition on interior art often painstakingly creates individual panels as full compositions. Here, on his covers for Violent Love (and check out his own variant covers for the series, too), we get a glimpse of the shocks of emotion, action, and danger, that are typical of the series as a whole, but here frozen like an insect in amber. Santos also captures a depth of film and comic tradition dealing with crime stories in the posture and attitudes of his characters, making sure his covers are as much about mood as narrative. Many of his covers also contain subtle design elements within the art, like spiderwebs of cracked glass from gunshot impact, patterned clothing evocative of the 1970’s setting for the series, or, as seen above, the use of reflection to suggest cinema tradition and film posters.

4. Adam Hughes for Betty & Veronica (Archie Comics)

Adam Hughes may seem like an obvious choice for a cover artist of the year, but the fact that he’s still an obvious choice shows how strong his work has been in 2017 and continues to be. He took to interior art on the limited series Betty & Veronica from Archie Comics, in the story arc “Betty vs. Veronica” that pitted the two Riverdale icons against each other in even more specific terms than their long-running rivalry in the history of Archie Comics. The interior art was a pleasure to read, and unsurprisingly, was in an elevated style that spanned the cover art Hughes is most known for an a more workable panel-by-panel narrative style. Hughes’ covers for Betty & Veronica pulled out all the stops and often suggested the depth of emotion and rivalry that infused the series in a much more condensed and electrifying way. Since the traditions behind Betty and Veronica, as characters, were already steeped in rivalry, Hughes’ ability to bottle that and make that conflict archetypal really leap off the covers and remind us, once again, of who these characters are and what the stakes are in their continued frenemy relationship. Once you see Hughes depictions of these two in conflict, it’s hard to see them in any other way subsequently.

3. David Mack for Jessica Jones (Marvel Comics)

David Mack’s painted covers for Marvel’s Alias series in the early aughts were every bit as integral to that book’s identity as were Brian Michael Bendis’ scripts and Michael Gaydos’ interior artwork. So it’s terrific that he gets to participate in the recently burgeoning success of that title’s star, Jessica Jones, contributing not only to the Netflix TV show’s opening title sequence, but also providing covers for her current self-titled comic book series. Mack generally eschews depictions of action in his superhero comics cover work, but you never miss it; he doesn’t need to show you someone punching someone else to create dramatic tension in his compositions.

2. Kevin Wada for Iceman and Runaways (Marvel Comics)

Kevin Wada is the regular cover artist for Marvel’s Iceman and does variants for Runaways.  He has the uncanny ability to turn your favorite comic characters into supermodels. At times, he focuses on updating the costumes into high end fashion and frames his covers to mimic shoots that can be found in industry magazines like Vogue and GQ. His combination of pencils and watercolors convey a feeling of grace, class, and sophistication. In addition, his clothes always manage the most flattering fit and he captures the right moment with the hair flowing in the air to make a perfect superhero pose.  Sometimes, even photos cannot turn out as well as his art.

1. Michael Cho for Inhumans vs. X-Men (Marvel Comics) and Batwoman (DC Comics)

Michael Cho has been a highly sought-after artist for variant covers and this year was no exception.  He provided art work for Marvel’s event, Inhumans vs. X-Men as well as for a few Young Animal titles and the second arc of Batwoman. His work is a nod to Silver Age Comics and is reminiscent of Darwyn Cooke’s aesthetics. He has a simple, clean, minimalist style that relies on a few colors at most. His perspectives create characters that appear larger than life and are as eye-catching as any movie poster.  If a cover’s job is to draw the reader’s attention to a title, he has most certainly accomplished that. And he accomplishes it every time in new ways.