Our every four years countdown of your all-time favorite comic book writers and artists continues!
Here are the next three artists that you voted as your favorites of all-time (out of roughly 1,008 ballots cast, with 10 points for first place votes, 9 points for second place votes, etc.).
6. Steve Ditko – 1599 points (22 first place votes)
During the early 1960s, there were a few different artists working at Marvel Comics, but really, it was Jack Kirby and it was Steve Ditko. They were routinely taking fairly mundane science fiction and fantasy stories and giving them a lot more panache than they deserved.
When Stan Lee slowly turned the company into a superhero comic book company again, Kirby and Ditko were given the chance to tell long form stories for the first time in years.
Ditko complied with the design of Spider-Man, one of the greatest superhero designs of all-time. Steve Ditko is one of the all-time great superhero/supervillain designers, coming up with a variety of costumes that are basically used today to the TEE. Spider-Man has had another costume, but really, the blue and the red costume is what he wears in the comics today and in all of the media adaptations (although the new movie is slightly different). And 50 years later, it is still that same Ditko design. Characters like Elektro, Vulture and Mysterio have gone through various looks but they always return to that awesome Ditko design.
Green Goblin, Kraven, Fancy Dan, the list goes on of iconic character looks that Ditko created.
But not only that, Ditko is a brilliant sequential storyteller, able to pack in SO much story into every issue of Amazing Spider-Man. These things are like freaking TOMES! The origin of Spider-Man in Amazing Fantasy is, like, a page and a half (okay, 11 pages) and Ditko makes it feel like it is seven issues long. The same continued in his run on Amazing Spider-Man. He packed SO much story into every issue while never making the panels boring.
Also, he could tell so much just by his art. The classic "lifting machinery" scene from Amazing Spider-Man #33 can be told pretty much solely through the artwork.
Meanwhile, over on Doctor Strange, Ditko was coming up with ideas so stunning and visuals so daring that they were unlike anything ever shown before in a superhero comic book series. Check out this stunning sequence from one of Ditko's last issues on the title (Ditko was psychedelic before psychedelic was a thing!)...
Back in the day, these were key exhibits in the argument that "comics weren't just for kids!"
5. Neal Adams – 1753 points (15 first place votes)
In the 1960s, there were artists who would work for DC Comics and Marvel Comics, but they would often use pen names for their Marvel work, not wanting to piss DC off. If they decided to go full-time at Marvel, they'd eventually use their real names (like Gene Colan eventually going by his real name instead of Adam Austin, which was always funny as few artists are as distinct as Gene Colan, so hiding it was a pen name was always kind of silly). Otherwise, artists had to commit to one company or the other, just to make sure they'd get regular assignments. Neal Adams changed that, by being so good that no one would dare tell him he couldn't do whatever he wanted to.
He drew X-Men and Avengers for Marvel and he had a seven-year stint on the Batman titles for DC while also being the regular cover artist for most DC Comics in the early 1970s (he also had a famous stint on Green Lantern with writer Denny O'Neil that dealt with the social issues of the day).
Adams "only" drew roughly thirty stories featuring Batman in that seven year period from 1968-1975 (and roughly eight of them were in World's Finest and Brave and the Bold), but that is all he needed to be recognized as the greatest Batman artist ever, as that is how much of an impact his work on Batman in the early 1970s had on readers and his fellow artists.
In Batman #251, he brought back the murderous Joker...
while also helping to reshape our view of Batman as a hunter...
In the classic introduction of Ra's Al Ghul, the famous fight where Batman is left for dead before Talia Al Ghul gives him an antidote to scorpion venom, Adams defined that era's take on the action-driven love hero Batman...
Not only is Neal Adams' approach to "realistic" comic book art (which is dynamic in a way that goes beyond realism, hence the quotes) dramatically different from most comic book artists using a similar style, he was ESPECIALLY different from what your typical comic artist looked like back in the late 1960s. For readers, it was akin to leaving Kansas and ending up in Oz. That's how dramatic the shift was. And within a few years, everyone was trying to draw just like him. Adams was a force of nature - veteran artists and new artists alike all had to adapt to his art style. He's pretty much the most influential American comic book artist of the past 50 years, and he had a major impact on many of the artists on this list (Bill Sienkiewicz, John Byrne, Alan Davis, Bryan Hitch and many more)