Comicon’s 8 Best Comic Artists Of 2017

by Hannah Means Shannon

Welcome to’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 Artists* of 2017. [*Pencillers, inkers, and line artists are included in this category]

8. Warwick Johnson Cadwell for Helena Crash (IDW)
This year Warwick Johnson Cadwell grappled with vampires in Dark Horse’s Mr. Higgins Comes Home. He’s currently adding his mark to IDW’s Samurai Jack: Quantum Leap, but before either of these titles, Cadwell started 2017 drawing high speed car chases for Helena Crash. Set in a future where coffee’s illegal, Helena makes smuggling cool and is the perfect mix of edge and class, wearing a driving scarf like an actress from an old movie, while armed for a martial arts film.
You can speak that way about any of Cadwell’s character designs. These are people who emanate personality without a single word passing through their lips – a puffer fish who’s a hot head, or a gangster who’s a hulking wolf. The series deals with warring gangs but never makes you struggle to tell who works for which side, off of a glance at their appearance. Cadwell’s cars are an extension of their drivers. Helena’s ride is sleek and quick. Los Fantasmas’ vehicle is brash and aggressive. Able to squeeze excitement out of multiple styles of combat, Cadwell also does a great overhead shot, for when Helena needs to case a place, or so readers can survey the action. His line art doesn’t know what dull means. The struggle’s trying not to zoom through it too fast.

7. Lisandro Estherren for Red Neck (Skybound Entertainment)

Lisandro Estherren earned this nomination based solely on his work on Redneck (Image/Skybound) in 2017. When Donny Cates pitched Redneck to Skybound, there was no artist attached to the project. Once it was greenlit, Cates and series editor Jon Moisan pored over artist portfolios until they came across Estherren’s work. Lisandro’s portfolio stood out for his raw emotion, evocative moods, and settings. Donny Cates says “Lisandro draws ugly things really pretty. And that kind of blend of hideous and beautiful, mean and emotional. It’s just perfect for the book.” And readers have more than agreed.

6. Shae Beagle for Moonstruck (Image Comics)
Newcomer Shae Beagle, has made a great impression with their first creator owned project Moonstruck. There aren’t many modern, all ages, LGBTQ friendly fantasy comics out there.  They have a playful and whimsical art approach that matches well with the upbeat tone of the title, and they create a warm and inviting environment that encourages the reader to jump into the story. Their soft lines and the pastel color palette can make even the most fearsome of creatures like Gorgons and minotaurs look absolutely loveable and charming. Along with co-creator and writer, Grace Ellis, they are building an adorable world and series about everyday life. It just so happens the residents in this world can be werewolves, centaurs, and other mystical beings.

5. Nick Derington for Doom Patrol (Young Animal/DC Comics)
Doom Patrol is a weird book featuring weird characters and weird situations. It makes sense that such a title would require an artist well-versed in the weird, and Nick Derington is definitely a master of the weird. He can make the unearthly seem real but never normal, and his sense of visual storytelling is kinetic and sharp. He’s literally a perfect fit for this book, which requires him to take incredible concepts and give them believable shape and form without sacrificing their bizarre unreality.

4. Liam Sharp for Wonder Woman (DC Comics)

Liam Sharp’s return to regular comics could not come soon enough for me, and with he and Greg Rucka’s run on Wonder Woman, he has created a Wonder Woman for the ages. Strong, independent and intelligent, with the air of the Mediterranean about her, Sharp’s Princess Diana stands firmly at the heart of DC, as well as injecting more than a touch of the gothic and the sublime to the mythology. A classic run from a classic artist of the medium. Here’s to his The Brave and The Bold in 2018. Surely one of the most anticipated titles of next year?

3. Jillian Tamaki for Boundless (Drawn & Quarterly)

With several notable projects under her belt including the graphic novels Skim and the controversial This One Summer, Jillian Tamaki’s exceptional illustrative work is once again on display in her 2017 offering from Drawn & Quarterly, Boundless. An exercise in surrealism and dark humor, Boundless is a brilliant vehicle for Tamaki’s hazy, yet poised and expertly rendered, illustrations. The artwork shifts between utilizing scratchy holding lines and leaving fairly open figures, straddling the worlds of reality and dream depicted in the various tales contained therein. Tamaki’s muted, yet enticing palettes serve as a perfect accompaniment to her expressive and lush strokes. When the mood calls for such control, Tamaki can also reign in her kinetic stylings to offer understated and reflective compositions and portray the banalities and absurdities of life. While the stories collected in Boundless are engaging (and unsettling) on their own merit, Tamaki’s artwork provides a gravitas which catapults her writing into the stratosphere.

2. Walter Simonson for Ragnarok (IDW)
Walter Simonson is perhaps the greatest living artist to emerge from what we call the “Bronze Age” of comics, and any new work from him may rightly be considered a gift. That his new work can stand proudly alongside the most accomplished and renowned of his long and distinguished career is really more than a fan could hope for, but here we are. Ragnarok is Simonson’s return to the Norse mythological milieu he previously explored in his fabled run on Marvel’s Thor, but it never feels like a retread. Neither the artist’s inventive sense of design nor his dynamic approach to action have diminished with age, not even a little, as is made even more evident via the later issues’ inclusion of some of his raw pencilled artwork. On every single page, Ragnarok is a feast for the eyes.

1. Kris Anka for Star-Lord and Runaways (Marvel Comics)

Kris Anka draws really good-looking people, and he does it really well. He has a subtle, more realistic approach to drawing bodies, creating a more chiseled and toned aesthetic compared to overly exaggerated barrel-chested heroes with more muscles than are anatomically possible. As can be observed from his Peter Quill or occasional work on The Wicked + The Divine, he doesn’t shy away from any opportunity to illustrate a great pair of abs. His eye for fashion is as impressive, as witnessed by his costume design for his Runaways run. Each member has a distinct, chic style, that although they are orphans, still speak to their affluent, southern California upbringing. Also from Quill’s fully-grown beard and just enough chest hair, Chase’s man bun pony-tail, and Gert’s a little bit more curvy body, Anka’s nuanced attention to detail adds enough personal touch to distinguish his versions of these well-known characters. Finally, he has a great ability to display emotion and personality through facial expressions. He can convey Molly’s youthful exuberance and cheerful demeanor through a single yearbook photo, and it’s surprising how much storytelling he achieves through Victor Mancha, who is only a head at this point.  Hopefully more people have been exposed to Anka’s art from his two acclaimed runs on the underappreciated Star-Lord and the return of the teenage superhero group, Runaways.

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