The Greatest Superman Artists
For eight decades the Man of Steel has been the cornerstone on which the entire superhero genre has been built upon. People all around the world recognize the iconic image of the hero and it is no wonder the character has attracted so many gifted artists. These talented people have ensured that even after all this time the Last Son of Krypton remains fresh and relevant. Even now some of the most gifted illustrators in the comic industry are gearing up to help Brian Michael Bendis tackle the next chapter in the neverending battle for truth and justice.
Joe Schuster: Naturally the artist who co-created the Man of Steel should start this list. He and Jerry Siegel laid the groundwork for the entire superhero genre cooped up in a house in Cleveland. The legacy they left on our culture owes largely to Schuster’s visual work. The young artist took his inspiration from the circus strongmen of the 1930’s (hence the red trunks) but also made it into something wholly unique with a science fiction twist. For the first several years of Superman’s run, Joel Schuster’s pencils guided him along the way; battling slum lord, gangsters, and all manner of bad guys. There is a tragedy to his career though, as DC Comics took over the character entirely. This left Schuster forced to sleep on a cot at his brother’s house, working part-time as a courier while battling deteriorating vision. Luckily he was championed by Neal Adams and was able to see his and Siegel’s credit restored.
Curt Swan: When you close your eyes and think of Superman, chances are it this Swan’s interpretation you think of. Striking looks and chiseled Physique combined to make his arguably the definitive Superman. This in in large part due to the length of his tenure, his first work on the franchise has been traced back to an issue of Superboy in 1949. He was later called upon to pencil the first couple of meetings between Superman and Batman. Through the 1960’s and part of the 1970’s, Swan established himself as the go-to artist for the Man of Steel, presiding over new elements and new characters along the way. His style always seemed to adjust ever so slightly to remain relevant within the industry. In 1986, seemed only fitting for Curt Swan to be the artist to say good-bye to the character. In the classic tale Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow, Swan teamed with Alan Moore and George Perez to tell the ultimate final story for the character he left such an indelible mark on. Even after he passed away, his legacy on Superman remained as a number of his pieces were featured in the Superman wedding special which was published in 1996.
Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez: This Spanish-born artist began his career on Superman inking over the likes of Curt Swan and Dick Dillin in the pages of Action Comics and Superman. Soon the higher-ups began his knack for drawing their most popular character and with Superman constantly featured on various merchandise pieces, Garica-Lopez’s Superman began appearing everywhere on; T-shirts, mugs, posters, action figures, and various other goodies for fans. Given how many people were introduced to the Man of Tomorrow through this diffusion of the character, they inevitably saw this interpretation of the hero without even realizing it. During the late 70’s he had a beloved run illustrating Superman which has been collected into a single volume published under the title Adventures of Superman: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. In the near future, Garcia-Lopez is set to return to the Superman books as he has been announced as the artist for Brian Michael Bendis’ inaugural Superman story.
John Byrne: After the Crisis on Infinite Earths ripped through the DC Universe, a new more modern Superman was needed. Beginning with the mini-series Man of Steel, the famed artist gave readers a younger and more modern Superman, for a generation to call their own. Everything in Superman media from Smallville to Man of Steel to the upcoming Krypton, has made no secret of their inspiration from Byrne’s work. Shortly thereafter, the artist took over both Action Comics and Superman to ensure his changes to the character’s past would resonate in the present. Despite his notorious battles with DC editorial, he has made numerous returns to Metropolis to work on Superman both in Action Comics as well as the Elseworld story Superman: True Brit.
Dan Jurgens: Being the writer and artist who crafted the bestselling“Death of Superman”, it is fitting that Jurgens has become so tied to this character. I mean he did not pick up the nickname Dan “Death of Superman” Jurgens, by NOT playing a major role on the character’s history. The Jurgens era on Superman saw the character; die, be replaced by Super-inspired heroes, come back, grow a mullet, become electric blue (and red) and get married. Jurgens’ interpretation of the hero gave the 90’s generation a version of the character to call their own. His influence on the character even resonates with modern readers to serve as the writer on Action Comics after Rebirth.
Alex Ross: This acclaimed painter has worked his magic on just about every superhero out there, but he still seems to have a knack for Superman. The Man of Steel Alex Ross paints has a certain majesty and dignity, fitting of a character of his status. Look no further than the classic Kingdom Come where Ross, along with Mark Waid, told the story of an aging Superman returning from retirement to prove his relevance even in darker times. His oversized graphic novel Superman: Peace on Earth, is easily one of the best Superman stories ever published, and Ross is able to perfectly capture why Superman has been so beloved for so many years.
Ed McGuiness: We all love our Superman to look classic and embody all of our greatest hopes and aspirations. But sometimes we just want a Superman who is a chiseled action hero. McGuiness brought a manga-inspired visual style to his run on Superman, which gave the Man of Steel a squared-jaw and stocky muscle-filled physique, which seemed almost like a modern interpretation of the Golden-Age style. His tenure on the title saw the city of Metropolis become rejuvenated with technology to truly live up to its moniker the City of Tomorrow. Seeing as Superman is often written as the most powerful superhero around, McGuiness found the perfect way to demonstrate that physically.
Gary Frank: From his acclaimed run on Action Comics to his current work on Doomsday Clock, Gary Frank has demonstrated a style that beautifully marries the current and the classic. The timeless style he brings to his Superman works is sure to appeal to fans of any tastes. Frank illustrated a new spin on Superman’s origin in “Secret Origin” where he perfectly captured the cornfields of Smallville and the gleaming spires of Metropolis perfectly, all while giving us a Superman who looked just like Christopher Reeve. As for his current work on Superman, Doomsday Clock, he was upfront with readers that there would delays in the publication of this series. This is entirely up to his desire to meticulously illustrate each and every page to the perfection this story deserves. The issues that have already hit the shelves, have proven to readers that this series will be well worth the wait. Frank has a style which is realistic but also captures a certain warmth, and Superman is the perfect character to show this off with.