Welcome to Comicon.com’s Best of the Year Awards, gathering the best comics and comics talent of 2019. This year we will be awarding in the following categories: Best Comic Series,Best Original Graphic Novels, Best Single Comic Issues, Best Writers, Best Artists, Best Cover Artists, Best Colorists, Best Letterers, Best Digital/Webcomics, and Most Progressive Comics.
Contributors to Comicon’s Best of the Year Awards this year include: Brendan Allen, James Ferguson, Oliver MacNamee, Noah Sharma, Rachel Bellwoar, Tito James, Tony Thornley, Richard Bruton, and Erik Amaya.
The following are Comicon’s 7 Best Comic Cover Artists of 2019.
7. Adam Hughes
What is there left to say about Adam Hughes that hasn’t been said before? Cover artists, and their individual styles, can come and go, but Hughes’ style has never been out of fashion with its blend of realism, lively and expressive characters, and his undeniably beautiful people. Hughes has been the go-to guy for amazing covers few a good few decades now. There is something of the bygone era to his work too, which only appeals to this fanboy even more. Whether he’s drawing Power Girl or Power Pack, Hughes’s ability to create fine art that is beautiful, but not objectifying, continues to amaze the senses with each and every cover. What’s even more astonishing is the economy of line that he’s evolved over the years. Blended with his digital coloring skills, it really make his work pop and stand out on the rack, often contrasting with the way too busy covers of others. He’s still at the top of his game, and still knocking ’em out of the park.
— Olly MacNamee
6. Nick Roche
Once you get to know Death’s Head, it becomes pretty clear that Nick Roche’s cover for Death’s Head #1 is a fantasy. You’re not going to see him playing guitar anytime soon and the only reason he’s at a concert that issue is for reasons outside his control. If Roche takes some liberties with his covers, though, the results couldn’t be more playful and diverting.
The energy and sound coming off that first cover is like you’re attending a live performance (and packed with references Roche detailed on this Twitter thread). His cover for issue #2 is full of good humor. A newer model of Death’s Head, unimpressed with the technology that humans find so absorbing, stares off the page like a mopey teenager. Issue #3’s boxing match cover is made by the appearance of some of the Young Avengers in the background. While Wiccan and Hawkeye look like they’re having a ball, Hulkling’s dismay, by contrast, is all the funnier. With colors by Felipe Sobreiro, they’re great concepts, and more importantly get across what a blast this miniseries is from beginning to end.
— Rachel Bellwoar
5. Emanuela Lupacchino
Xena is a warrior princess. She’s somebody people can look up to, but that doesn’t mean she has to strike a hero’s pose to prove it. Sam Rami was one of the original television series’ developers. Robert Tapert (who co-created Xena with John Schulian) was one of The Evil Dead’s executive producers. Comedy was a huge part of the show’s appeal which is why Emanuela Lupacchino’s variants for Dynamite’s new arc are such a joy to take in. Instead of needing to play into the image of a hero, Lupacchino shows Xena out of her element. It’s Gabrielle, not Xena, who’s comfortable, surrounded by kids, on Lupacchino’s cover for the first issue. Even in her cover for the third issue, which is the one where Xena and Gabrielle look most ready for combat. Xena’s expression gives away her concern, just like Lupacchino’s variant for issue #2, vividly colored by Triona Farrell. That balance is what makes Lupacchino’s covers so special and is sure to translate well into her interior work for DC Black’s upcoming Birds of Prey one-shot.
— Rachel Bellwoar
4. Esad Ribic
In the pantheon of legendary fantasy artists there are names like Frank Frazetta, Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell. In the last decade, Esad Ribic has done stunning work that puts him at the level of those legends. But with his 2019 output, he has outdone himself.
On Conan the Barbarian, he’s chronicled the entire life of the legendary adventurer and depicted fine art worthy snapshots of grand moments. On Fantastic Four, he’s captured the terrible majesty of Doom and the exuberance of youth. Most impressively, he re-teamed with Jason Aaron to conclude the saga they began seven years ago in King Thor with a series of covers that showed the mythological grandeur of the title character in full display.
— Tony Thornley
3. Declan Shalvey
I hate using the term “gritty” to describe comic art, but in the case of Declan Shalvey’s 2019 output, the term applies in the best possible way; particularly with the images that grace the covers of Dead Man Logan from Marvel Comics. Over the course of the twelve issue maxi-series, we saw things get more and more grim for the elder X-Man in a gorgeous, yet brutal design that spoke to the heart and soul of the series. Clearly we’re not alone in loving his work as we’ll soon see a Marvel Monograph collection of Shalvey’s vast array of work at the publisher.
— James Ferguson
2. Yasmine Putri
Yasmine Putri is probably the cover artist whose work has flown under comic readers’ radar the most while delivering some of the most stunning covers we’ve ever seen. We could post virtually any cover she’s done this year, from Shatterstar to Avengers: No Road Home to Fearless to prove it. And afterwards, it would be impossible to disagree with our assessment of her work.
She’s made the maligned X-Force mainstay a sleek warrior. She’s summed up some of the most plot-dense Avengers stories in recent years in single images. And in Fearless, she delivered four iconic images of four of Marvel’s most iconic female heroes; effortlessly capturing Captain Marvel, Storm, Invisible Woman and Ms. Marvel. We can’t wait to see what she has in store next.
— Tony Thornley
1. Karmome Shirahama
Oddly enough, 2019 was very much not the biggest year for Kamome Shirahama as a cover artist. A mangaka and illustrator, Shirahama is not the typical comic cover artist, but she has contributed a slew of beautiful covers to Marvel’s Star Wars books and DC’s Batgirl and the Birds of Prey over the last few years. However, there was something about her variant cover to Wonder Woman #63 (one of the best issues of G. Willow Wilson’s run, by the way) that immediately brought her the attention she so richly deserves.
With its stark, limited color and forcefully confident linework, the cover captured the power, beauty, and determination of the Amazon princess. The use of negative space and attention to Diana’s armor and iconography made this an instant favorite. The ferocity in her face and the crumbling ground of the cover warned off anyone who dared to think of it as just another glamour shot.
Shirahama would return to this style for a charming variant for Flash #82 and also offered some very different but still gorgeous covers for Nightwing, Shazam, and more; demonstrating that she can work with all manner of subjects and find the heart of a character with or without that striking, color-limited style.
2019 also saw the American publication of Shirahama’s Witch Hat Atelier, which features full art and story by Shirahama, as well as, of course, four lovely covers — each with deep, striking colors and loads of carefully chosen detail.
— Noah Rohan Sharma