Top 25 Female Comic Book Artists #20-16

The countdown continues!

Here are the next five artists that you voted as your favorites of all-time. Click here for the master list of all of the creators listed so far.

20. Wendy Pini

Ever since she was young, Wendy Pini (born Wendy Fletcher) had an interest in science fiction and fantasy art. In her twenties, she carved out a strong name for herself as a sci-fi/fantasy illustrator. In 1978, the arc of her career changed for good when she and her husband, Richard Pini, launched their independent comic book series, Elfquest. Think about how hard it is to launch an independent comic book series TODAY. Now think about how hard it was to launch one in the days before the direct market was fully established. That was the world that the Pinis entered into with their labor of love, Elfquest, a tale of, well, elves (but really all sorts of other beings on the world with two moons). Their engaging and inventive story and especially Wendy Pini's striking artwork drew readers in as they soon gained fans throughout the world of comics (I did a whole Comic Book Easter Eggs just on other comic book creators paying homage to the Pinis - Chris Claremont in particular promoted them a lot).

Wendy Pini's dynamic artwork was filled with detail and original character designs. I was talking the other day about how Colleen Doran was sort of working without a real clear forebear for her A Distant Soil work, and Elfquest came out even before A Distant Soil! The world that the Pinis created was intriguing and captivating, and Wendy Pini brought it all to life with her artwork.

The Pinis actually offer pretty much the entire history of Elfquest (up until the current series) here on their website FOR FREE, and they even went back and colored the original black and white artwork! Here is our first introduction to the world of Elfquest (I'll post half the pages as they appear on the Elfquest website right now and half as they appear in black and white as part of Dark Horse's reprint collection of Elfquest)...

Now THIRTY-SEVEN years into their story (and having gone from their own Warp Graphics to Marvel to DC and now to Dark Horse), the Pinis are still going strong.

19. Jillian Tamaki

Beyond just the world of comics, Jillian Tamaki is a brilliant illustrator and designer, doing work for major publications like the New York Times and the New Yorker. Within the world of comics, though, she goes to a whole other level.

Due to her skills as an illustrator, her characters always have an impressive lush feel to them, but what impresses me more is her storytelling. Check out the opening of this short story she did about a woman who finds herself literally shrinking...

(Go to her website to find out the fascinating ending to this short story).

I often hear Tamaki's excellent sequential work described as cinematic, and there is something to be said for that, but I think it actually downplays just how great of a sequential artist she is. A major difference between film and comics is that the "power" with a film is with the filmmaker. If they want you to watch something in slow motion, they're going to make it appear in slow motion. If they want to freeze the frame, they can freeze the frame. You're essentially "stuck" with what they give you. While with comics, it is the opposite. Since every frame is technically a freeze frame, the reader ostensibly controls the pace s/he reads the story at. However, certain strong sequential artists can sort of wrest that control away from the reader through unique page and panel layouts, sort of forcing the reader to read the story in a specific way. For instance, take this one-pager by Tamaki...

Through the unique layout, she sort of "forces" you to read the story her way, without the use of, like, arrows or some such silliness. Great one-pager, by the way.

This is especially evident in her recent graphic novel, This One Summer, which she worked on with her cousin, writer Mariko Tamaki (their first graphic novel was the brilliant Skim). Check out the progression of time here...

Through her panel arrangement, Tamaki not only controls the pace the reader goes through the pages, but also the timing. Things speed up because she forces them to speed up. She's an exemplary talent. Her graphic novel collection of her webcomic, SuperMutant Magic Academy, is out later this year. I cannot wait!

18. Ming Doyle

Few artists have summed up their style quite as well as Ming Doyle has when describing her distinctive art style. She has referred to it as "gritty/pretty." That's an awesomely succinct description!

Doyle recently did a tour de force performance on the mini-series Mara with Brian Wood, which details what happens when the world's most famous athlete is revealed to be superhuman...

She expertly captures both the power and beauty of Mara, as well as her building frustration. Plus, that scene with the throngs of people? That was excellent. It is difficult to capture the intensity of movement in comics, so the scene with the volleyball was very tricky to pull off, but Doyle did so well. She particularly excels when given strong women to depict, as she really evokes the duality of humanity, which ties back into the gritty/pretty description. Her characters are seemingly larger-than-life, but they manage somehow to be grounded, as well.

This is particularly evident in her current Vertigo series, The Kitchen, with Ollie Masters and colorist Jordie Bellaire (who also colored Mara), where a group of mob wives are forced to take over their husbands' business when their husbands are incarcerated. Things don't go well at first (warning, this being a Vertigo series, there are some rough language in these sample pages)...

First off, how epic are those panel arrangements? One of them was so awesome I used it as the display for this whole entry. It's like they are bursting with energy. But again, look at the women in those panels - they're over-the-top and yet still feeling very much "real."

A talented writer, as well, Doyle will be co-writing the new Hellblazer series for DC Comics in their post-Convergence launch. She will also be drawing the new DC title Dark Universe, which James Tynion IV (her co-writer on Hellblazer) Will be writing. DC is betting big on Ming Doyle, and it is easy to see why that's an easy bet to make!

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