Comicon’s 7 Best Comic Cover Artists Of 2018

by Hannah Means Shannon

Welcome to Comicon.com’s Best of the Year Awards, gathering the best comics and comics talent of 2018. 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 Digital/Webcomics, Most Progressive Comics, and lastly, Comicon’s People of The Year: 2018.

Contributors to Comicon’s Best of the Year Awards 2018 include: Brendan Allen, Gary Catig, James Ferguson, Oliver MacNamee, Noah Sharma, Rachel Bellwoar, Tito James, Omar Spahi, Tony Thornley, Josh Davison, Richard Bruton, and Hannah Means-Shannon.

The following are Comicon’s 7 Best Comic Cover Artists of 2018.

 

7. Lee Garbett for Skyward (Image Comics)

A cover has to do one major thing for a comic book – sell it to you. Anything less is a fail. Magnificent comics with terrible covers are there, but there’s nothing quite like the joy of picking up a wonderful comic from the stands just because the cover draws your eyes to it. And so it was with Skyward #1. That cover is my favorite of the year, my favorite of Garbett’s 9 Skyward covers so far.

Everything about that first issue cover simply works. There’s an incredible joy about it, a sense of youthful exuberance, of freedom, the positivity of the whole comic coming through loud and clear in that radiant, joyful expression from the series’ protagonist, Willa. And magnificent hair as well. And yes, she’s upside down, in a book called Skyward, fabulous design idea, all the way down to the design of the logo, with the A or Skyward pushing upwards, arrow-like, to the sky. Perfection. And over the nine issues, Garbett’s cover work, not to mention his interior art, has perfectly encapsulated the ideas of this spectacular book, pages and covers with a sense of space, of openness, of the sky above being somewhere to explore. It’s beautifully done.

6. Ryan Sook for Heroes in Crisis (DC Comics) and The Weatherman (Image Comics)

Ryan Sook continues to be a favorite of mine with covers that sing to me from the comic book store’s shelves. These are not only breathtaking illustrated with a high attention to detail, but his composition often make his covers the standout covers out there, whether it be his variant covers for DC’s Heroes In Crisis, or his work on other titles such as Image Comics’ The Weatherman, or covers for his own comic, The Unexpected.

5. Jenny Frison for Wonder Woman (DC Comics)

Jenny Frisson’s Wonder Woman variant covers are a must-buy whenever I pick up an issue from my local comic store. They are outright stunning, capturing Diana’s strength and compassion in each still. The texturing is so vivid that you feel like you could touch the metal-plated armor of the Amazonian warrior princess. Frisson truly delivers art worthy of the legendary stature of Wonder Woman.

4. Jen Bartel for The Wicked + The Divine (Image Comics) and Blackbird (Image Comics)

This entry could simply be posting some of Jen’s best covers of the year. I wouldn’t have to say anything else, but I’m not going to take that cop out.  She’s evolved over the past few years from a great pop-art pin-up artist to a breathtaking line artist. Whether it’s her variants on Big Two books, one-off covers for books like The Wicked +The Divine, the covers to her own creator-owned Blackbird, or even the Star Wars coffee table book, Women of the Galaxy, every one of these covers are distinct and frameable.  It’s exciting to see her move into sequentials more this year, too.  There’s no denying that Bartel will be a favorite for years to come.

3. Christian Ward for Black Hammer (Dark Horse Comics), Cosmic Ghost Rider (Marvel Comics), Doctor Strange (Marvel Comics)

Christian Ward is a talented illustrator receiving as much recognition for his sequential art as he does for his covers. The combination of linework and ethereal colors create beautiful visuals that emit a psychedelic, cosmic aura. His style fits perfectly for covers of Black Hammer, Cosmic Ghost Rider and Doctor Strange. He can even change it up with a more reserved approach like his Neapolitan-inspired variant for Ice Cream Man #6. It’s no surprise that publishers and comic stores alike want to enlist Ward’s talent for covers and exclusive variants.

2. Karl Kerschl for Isola (Image Comics)

2018 has been a varied year for Karl Kerschl as a cover artist. He’s tackled projects as disparate as a variant for Hit Girl and continuing to design a slew of classic-inspired covers for DC’s Bronze Age Omnibuses. Recently, he drew a pair of Flash variants that are truly stunning both in their effect and their simplicity. From a four-color infinity of Flashes caught between seconds, to the breathtaking faux-manga exaggerations of issue #59, these two would have made Kerschl a contender almost on their own.

But there’s no denying that anything related to Kerchl in 2018 comes back to Isola and it’s impossible not to give Kerschl his due in this regard, as he draws not only the main covers, but the variants for the series as well. You’ve no doubt seen his incandescent tiger this year, gazing at you, whether from your LCS wall or any number of positive articles that have littered the internet (including several right here at Comicon.com). The power and intrigue of the covers’ juxtaposition of simple cartography, brilliantly colored characters, and bold graphic design cannot be overestimated and likely sent the book home with many readers who needed nothing more to justify the purchase. And if the directness of the main covers didn’t resonate with audiences, there were the enigmatic B covers, also collaborations between Kerschl and colorist Msassyk.

1. Sana Takeda for Monstress (Image Comics)

Yes, this was an easy pick. No, I don’t regret or really feel any need to defend it. This was the year that Monstress dominated the Eisners, taking home every one of the five awards it was nominated for and performing similarly at the Harvey and Hugo Awards. That included a Best Professional Artist Hugo and the Best Painter/Multimedia Artist and Best Cover Artist Eisners for Takeda and, looking at her work, it feels almost pedantic to try to explain why. 

It can be said that Sana Takeda has a very distinctive style and that she did not do much to deviate from it, even in her work for other companies on books like The Power of the Dark Crystal, Labyrinth: Coronation, The Life of Captain Marvel, and Mother Panic. However, it is hard to begrudge an artist for essentially making their brand synonymous with words like “detailed”, “elegant”, and “breathtaking” within their field. Takeda knows what she’s good at and this year she let it run wild, bringing a fineness of detail, a mastery of lighting, and a potent combination of ominous darkness and truly gorgeous earth tones to Monstress and more.

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