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How Comics Can Teach. Besides shaping a very enjoyable part of my career, comics have also taught me a lot. When I was in school, comics gave me the first inkling of topics that would be covered in depth by my teachers. I learned about the Cuban missile crisis in thanks to a Justice League time travel adventure. There was also plenty of science. Even today, comics continue to inform. I presumed it was made up, but another member informed me of the error of my ways: Thanks, Allie! There are series that slyly educate, while telling their larger story, and others that are designed specifically for learning.
Here are a few of the ones I like best. Comics That Are Slyly Educational. Lunella is very smart and knows it — much to the consternation of her teachers. But seeing her mature and learn to rely on others has been a joy. How much can you assimilate without losing your heritage?
I tweet about the series often. Finally, there is the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl , who often uses her mind, not her fists, to solve problems. In her civilian identity as a college student, she studies computer science, which sometimes plays into her solutions for super-problems.
The series is very funny and of the moment she loves Twitter! Graphic novel memoirs do a tremendous job of introducing readers to difficult and personal subjects, as schools all over are beginning to realize. For example:. Comics Designed for Learning. The publisher First Second has a wonderful line of Science Comics with topics that include coral reefs, the brain, dogs and rockets.
See him in action! Having illustrations to go with text can make almost anything bearable — even user manuals and terms of service. When Google was set to introduce Chrome, it asked the cartoonist Scott McCloud to create a page comic explaining it. Cloud is also the author of other explanatory graphic novels: What have comics taught you? Which would you recommend?
Should schools incorporate more of them into the curriculum? Let us know by commenting on our Student Opinion question. And to find many, many ideas for teaching and learning about comics and graphics novels via New York Times images, video, articles and essays, see our related lesson plan.
All of this, I should add, was fairly secret. I start by asking myself three questions: Why are we reporting on this today?
Will the general Times audience be interested in this? For example: Jack Kirby; Inker: Joe Simon. Today, Jack Kirby is known best as a superhero artist.
It gave Kirby and his business partner Joe Simon a life raft at a moment when superheroes were languishing and everything was up for grabs — a moment when comic-book sales were soaring but books about costumed derring-do were old hat. Romance comics, introduced by Simon and Kirby with this story in , became more than a genre — they were a sensation. Romance enabled Simon and Kirby to buy houses in the suburbs, and for a decade kept Kirby busier than all the other genres he worked in combined.
The story is punchy and exhilarating. Simon and Kirby so liked the protagonist that they brought her back for a sequel in issue No. Though endlessly mocked see the arch Pop Art paintings by Roy Lichtenstein and other spoofs , the best of the romance comics, like Young Romance No. Jack Cole. It was a best seller written by psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, who argued that the admittedly lurid crime comics clogging the newsstands of America were the direct cause of a spike in juvenile crime.
The book reprinted countless panels of mayhem and extremely male-gaze-y women. The injury-to-the-eye motif was one of the most harmful aspects of comics, Wertham wrote: It has no counterpart in any other literature of the world, for children or adults. Or Oedipus Rex? Wertham was so persuasive that Senate hearings were held to determine if comics were merely evil or outright enemies of the state.
Dozens of publishers went out of business and the onerous Comics Code was established. Cole, after becoming one of the original Playboy cartoonists, committed suicide in , and he left a legacy of dynamic pencils and layouts that could delight as well as terrify.
Matt Baker; Inker: Ray Osrin. Arnold Drake is best known for co-creating the original Guardians of the Galaxy for Marvel and Doom Patrol and Deadman for DC, but in he was going to college thanks to the GI Bill and picking up extra cash writing comics scripts. Basically, he had come up with the graphic novel as we know it today. Rust masterminds Dallas- style shenanigans in fictitious Copper City, playing her myriad rivals and pawns off of each other and slapping around her goody-two-shoes stepdaughter.
A sharp dresser — here he is with Lust publisher Archer St. John Stanley and Irving Tripp; Inker: It helped that the story was also utterly hilarious. The subtext showed that by rejecting girls and women, the boys were cutting off an essential part of their own humanity. Crumb to Daniel Clowes and beyond. Harvey Kurtzman; Colorist: Marie Severin; Letterer: Ben Oda. He used that gift dramatically in his war comics for EC, and humorously, with sudden, absurd gags to break up the rhythms, in his greatest gift to EC, the satirical Mad.
It reduces the genre of the war story to an elemental hand-to-hand fight between two unnamed soldiers, one American, one North Korean. The tale starts with the American musing about how remote and clinical warfare has become, but he is proven wrong when the North Korean, hungry and desperate, attacks.
Remarkably, this harsh fable was published during the Korean War itself; this issue would have been released in about September or October of , during a protracted and bloody stalemate in the War. Yet his thematic content also made waves: Writer and penciler: Carl Barks. McDuck was the creation of Carl Barks, an immensely imaginative cartoonist whose young adulthood spent working in various 19th-century professions — including cowboy and mule driver — left him with an appreciation for adventure and a firsthand knowledge of greed and stupidity.
After becoming an animator at Disney, Barks discovered his greatest talent was as a cartoonist, and for 24 years he chronicled the Duck family and the world of Duckburg with shrewd characterizations that played up the foibles of human nature. Scrooge evolved from a penny-pinching miser befitting his Dickensian name to a more comedic and occasionally even good-hearted uncle to that shiftless slacker, Donald.
Crumb names him as a major influence. Harvey Kurtzman; Penciler and inker: Wally Wood; Colorist: By , Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood had been working for EC Comics for a few years, turning out serious war epics, thought-provoking science-fiction stories, and satirical and gory horror morality plays. Then came issue No. After a wild battle with Captain Marbles who has become a villain , the triumphant Superduperman figures he can use his newfound glory to woo Lois.
It also parodies the copyright-infringement lawsuit that the publishers of Superman, National, filed and won against the publishers of Captain Marvel a few years earlier. National threatened to file a lawsuit against EC Comics for the parody, but they never went through with it. Mad continues to this day, outlasting its many imitators and still making fun of everything. Al Feldstein; Penciler and inker: Jack Davis; Colorist: Jim Wroten.
When Maxwell C. Gaines, founder of Educational Comics, died in a boating accident in , his college-student son William M. Gaines inherited the company. Max was reportedly abusive toward Bill, and in a bit of posthumous revenge, Bill took EC in a new direction with violent, irreverent titles like Tales from the Crypt, in which abusers get their comeuppance in spectacularly gory fashion.
Stephen King featured the story in his terrific survey of the horror genre, Danse Macabre , and infamous anti-comics crusader of the s Dr.
Fredric Wertham gave the page you see here a no less prominent, albeit less flattering, position in his best-selling Seduction of the Innocent. Note how Severin chooses to paint the goriest scenes in only two colors, to lessen the visceral shock while simultaneously allowing for all the gruesome details fans craved. Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein; Penciler and inker: Bernie Krigstein [as B. Krigstein]; Colorist: The page, powerful but perhaps unremarkable to the modern comics reader, may be the single most analyzed page in comics history.
It had a strong influence on Art Spiegelman — who wrote about it for the New Yorker — and Frank Miller, who frequently mentions it in interviews. The story involves Reissman, a former concentration-camp guard, who sees one of his victims on a New York subway and falls to his death trying to escape him. Although today these devices are established comics vocabulary, they were utterly revolutionary in their time and inspired countless artists who came after to experiment with their own storytelling.
Joe Orlando; Colorist: When the comic-book industry banded together to form the Comics Code Authority in September , EC Comics publisher William Gaines believed that the new rules were effectually designed to hurt his company. So it was replaced with a reprint of a classic Weird Fantasy story. He has to turn them down because blue robots were treated worse than orange robots for no reason.
As he flies away in his ship, he takes his helmet off and we see that he is black. The Comics Code would not allow the story unless the astronaut was recolored to be white. Writer Al Feldstein was outraged and so was Gaines. They threatened a lawsuit. Eventually, the Code relented and the story was published as originally drawn.
However, this was the clear sign that EC Comics could not work within the parameters set by the Code, so Gaines ceased his comic-book production, concentrating instead on his popular humor magazine, Mad , which skirted regulations because it was technically a magazine. EC are sometimes accused of being shock merchants, but this page reminds us that they were also idealists.
Alfred Hassler and Benton Resnik; Penciler: Sy Barry; Letterer: John Duffy. The Fellowship of Reconciliation was formed in England in early in a failed attempt to prevent the outbreak of World War I. The following year, they opened up their American branch of the organization and have been serving the public good ever since. In the s, they were directly involved with Martin Luther King Jr. It was while working with Dr.
He pitched the idea of producing a comic book that could serve to spread the message of the boycott. Essentially, he wanted to create a guidebook for nonviolent protesting. Hassler worked with Toby Press to produce the comic book. Legendary cartoonist Al Capp lent a few artists, including one named Sy Barry , from his studio to draw it. King gave his own feedback on the comic book as well. The success of the comic led to countless other political groups using comic books to express their message to the masses.
Recently, in honor of The Montgomery Story , Representative John Lewis used comics to tell his autobiography in the award-winning and best-selling graphic memoir series, March.
Dan DeCarlo; Inker: Rudy Lapick. In , MLJ Magazines launched a teen humor feature based on a popular series of films starring Mickey Rooney as an everyteen. When comic sales took a drop in the late s, DeCarlo began taking more freelance assignments for Archie. The only problem: Around , they successfully got him to commit to them full time by letting him draw in his own style.
This pinup from Betty and Veronica No. Soon, every other artist at Archie had to draw like DeCarlo. Kirby; Inker: George Klein; Colorist: Stan Goldberg; Letterer: Artie Simek. It was almost certainly through a collaboration between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, but both men claimed it was their sole creation that they then brought to the other.
Either way, there is no doubt about why this story changed comics for good. Even leaving aside the fact that the Fantastic Four gain their powers from stealing a rocket ship and then crashing it it was the early s, though, so at least they had a noble cause: These were superheroes who acted like actual people. They had genuine reactions to each other and their situation.
Real people, real problems, plus superpowers. Within a year or so, Lee and Kirby as well as others, perhaps most notably Steve Ditko were applying this formula to all their new heroes and the Marvel Age of Comics was born. Gardner Fox; Penciler: Carmine Infantino; Inker: Murphy Anderson; Letterer: Gaspar Saladino.
One can only read her blank-faced silence as benumbed shock at the arcane exposition of superhero continuity being performed by two men in her living room. So, in a way, Barry Allen is the first fan-turned-pro. This was the very first of many, many long-winded continuity explanations in comics history. Robert Kanigher; Penciler and inker: Irv Novick.
We selected this page for its final panel, which Roy Lichtenstein appropriated for one of his most famous Pop Art paintings, Whaam! Lichtenstein made millions from these and similar paintings, but the artists who did the original comics? Not so much. The Pop Art movement occupies a strange place in comics history. On the other hand, it reinforced the almost entirely American stereotype that comics were dumb crap made by hacks for morons. Ditko; Colorist: Andy Yanchus; Letterer: Since the launch of Fantastic Four No.
Working with Ditko on Spider-Man, however, Lee advanced the idea to a gut-wrenching new level. He instead decides to use his powers to make money and become famous. Then comes the famous kicker: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby; Penciler: George Roussos; Colorist: In the early s, a superhero revival brought back their three major Golden Age superheroes: Captain America, the Human Torch, and Namor.
The effort flopped, but that revival was on the mind of publisher Martin Goodman when he directed Stan Lee to start writing superheros again. However, perhaps due to Captain America being so associated with the Golden Age, they held back on reviving him too. The Avengers discovered Captain America had been in suspended animation for two decades.
In a stunning artistic sequence from penciler Jack Kirby and inker George Roussos, Captain America wakes up, realizes his partner Bucky is dead, sees he is surrounded by strangers, but then quickly gathers himself. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko; Penciler and inker: Ditko; Letterer: By late , Ditko had kicked Lee off co-plotting duties for the series they co-created, The Amazing Spider-Man , meaning Lee only added his distinctive dialogue flourishes after the comics pages themselves had already been completed.
While Ditko seemed to lose interest in Spidey at the end of his run, his love of Doctor Strange just got stronger, climaxing in an epic serialized battle between the Master of the Mystic Arts and his two main adversaries, Baron Mordo and the Dread Dormammu.
The fight took place in a string of cliff-hanger tales for over a year, from No. On this page, a highlight of the tale, Strange makes his way to the embodiment of the cosmos, Eternity, across one of the gonzo trans-dimensional vistas Ditko was known for concocting. Superheroes perform amazing feats of strength, speed, and skill seven times before breakfast. Joe Sinnott; Colorist: Super-scientist Reed Richards discovers what will come to be known as the Negative Zone, an other-dimensional realm rendered in photo-collage and delirious abstraction.
Fantastic Four No. At the same time, he was pushing his art into areas where even his drawing could not go. This seminal page not only proved a watershed for Marvel continuity by introducing the oft-used Negative Zone, but also by suggesting a kinship between Kirby and fine-art collage in Surrealism and Pop Art.
Further, it anticipates the mixed-media work of such later comics artists on this list, such as Jim Steranko, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Dave McKean. The moniker was unrelated to the political party of the same name, which had yet to officially form the name had already been in use in African-American political circles, so Kirby and Lee did not coin it. They did not simply want to introduce a new black superhero; it was important to make him stand out from the crowd.
The success of the Black Panther paved the way for all other black superheroes who followed, as well as for the astounding success of his feature-film adaptation. Stan Lee and John Romita; Penciler: John Romita; Inker: Mike Esposito; Colorist: After working on his co-creation for almost four years, Steve Ditko ultimately had enough with Marvel Comics and decided to leave the company. Romita must have passed muster, as he moved over to take over Amazing Spider-Man from the departing Ditko with issue No.
You could barely tell that Ditko was gone. One of the ways that Romita put his stamp on the title early on was visible in Amazing Spider-Man No.
In subsequent years, the notion of Spidey hanging up the tights has become just about as commonplace as lectures about great power and great responsibility, but Lee and Romita did it best.
Robert Crumb. His older brother made him draw their own Dell-style comics, forcing him to develop cartooning skills that served him well after high school, when he got a job as a staff artist at the American Greetings card company in Cleveland. Nevertheless, when the opportunity arose for him to go to New York and work for Kurtzman at one of his post- Mad comedy magazines, Crumb leapt at the chance, only to arrive and find that that magazine, Help! Broke and stuck in New York, Crumb began dropping LSD, still legal then and prescribed to his then-wife by her psychiatrist.
Psychedelic drugs twisted the cartoon images instilled in his brain since childhood into new and exotic forms. Crumb would later claim to hate being a counterculture icon: Writer, penciler, and colorist: Jim Steranko; Inker: Joe Sinnott; Letterer: That was never something Marvel had to worry about, though, with Jim Steranko.
However, Steranko soon took off in his own direction: He merged comic-book art with Pop Art, the psychedelic with the surreal.
Marvel editor Roy Thomas said it best: Neal Adams; Colorist: Cornelia Adams; Letterer: John Costanza. As often happens, a major innovation arrived in something that was on its last legs and thus had nothing to lose. He teams up with newly woke archer Green Arrow, who introduces his fellow Justice Leaguer to an old man on a ghetto rooftop who delivers this famous speech.
The emerald duo then embarked on a series of social-issue-of-the-month adventures, tackling various ills like overpopulation, drug addiction , and pollution the only way superheroes have known how since Action Comics No. Their efforts seem a little cringeworthy today, like your dad trying to be cool while wielding an extraterrestrial ring of power; indeed, the ultraestablishment New York Times featured this rooftop scene in a typically condescending survey of superhero wokeness.
The Arrow-co-starring run on Green Lantern wound up not selling very well, but was hugely influential among creators young enough to be hippies themselves and ushered in a new generation of socially aware heroics.
This was back in the days when DC would run ads on some story pages where that Green Lantern symbol is now. Meredith Kurtzman. A perfect confluence of events made the underground comix movement financially viable. It was a great time to be in the underground … if you were a man, that is.
The underground comix business model was built on group efforts. A fellow decides to put out a new comic and he asks Friends A, B, and C to work on it. The issue was that it was only guys asking other guys. Robbins and Mendes decided that their only way of breaking into underground comix was by forming their own female-only group effort.
The book was a major success, selling 40, copies over three printings, proving that there was a market for female-created and female-driven underground comix.
Jack Kirby; Inker and letterer: Mike Royer. His so-called Fourth World saga , a cluster of four interwoven titles, and in particular New Gods , brought a Biblical sense of scale to the genre.
New Gods envisioned two warring worlds: In a failed bid for peace, the ferocious Orion, son of Darkseid, is traded to New Genesis in return for Scott Free, son of Izaya, who is sent to Apokolips.
Orion, warlike, tormented, is the linchpin of New Gods ; raised in New Genesis, he will fight the evil of Apokolips.
Comics and Graphic Novels | Image Comics
Superheroes ever since, on page and screen, have sought to inhabit this same outsize sense of grandeur and threat. Justin Green. At once sacrilegious, comic, and scary, this introductory page by cartoonist Justin Green imagines the work of making his autobiographical comic, Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary, as an act of penance and a form of torture. The threat of castration — so apt for a book about sexual guilt — hovers over Green as he seeks to explain, or excuse, this story about adolescence, religious mania, and what Green has since recognized as his OCD.
From there, Binky Brown depicts a full-on plunge into hyperscrupulous overcompensation and self-torment, as filtered through an unsettled visual imagination.
Based on its topic, you might think that this pioneering confessional comic would be a drag. Binky is at once shameful and shameless, appalling and thrilling, embarrassing, excruciating, and hilarious.
The confessional vein of underground and alternative autobiographical comics begins here. Crumb, have declared their debt as well. Binky, wellspring of one of the key genres in 21st-century comics, is a scabrous and irreverent masterpiece. Trina Robbins as Trina. That said, most of the stories tended to tell stories concerning feminist issues of the day.
That the first non-pornographic comic-book story about an out lesbian character was written by a heterosexual woman caused some controversy at the time, but as Robbins later noted, it inspired one critic, artist Mary Wings, to create her own comic, Come Out Comix.
Bobby London. Disney won the battle in court, but they lost the war: Aline Kominsky. Kominsky quickly seized the power of first-person cartooning, and her scratchily drawn horror vacui style demonstrated the potential of comics rendered in defiance of narrow standards of illustrative slickness. Underground comix had their share of slickness, sure, but they also helped broaden the range of acceptable styles into the comix brut. Unlike Hayes, Kominsky had studied painting and art history, and knew what she was doing.
Gerry Conway and Gil Kane; Penciler: Kane; Inkers: John Romita and Tony Mortellaro; Colorist: David Hunt; Letterer: With his promotion, Lee, who had already scaled back his comic-book writing, officially dropped his last two series, the two that meant the most to him: Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man.
Since Lee had already been cutting back, Marvel had gone through an influx of new, mostly very young writing talent. One of these writers, Gerry Conway, was named the successor to Lee on Amazing Spider-Man when he was just 19 years old.
Conway, Thomas, and Romita are said to have had the idea to kill off a major character: In the fateful issue, the Green Goblin throws Gwen off of a bridge and Spider-Man catches her with his webbing — but in the process, her neck snaps. Gwen Stacy was by far the most famous character killed off in a superhero comic at this point and fans were outraged: Stan Lee was so irritated at the fan outcry that he insist that Conway bring her back.
So Conway introduced a clone of Gwen, leading to the first of many Spider-Man clone sagas. Steve Gerber and Frank Brunner; Penciler and colorist: Brunner; Inker: Steve Leialoha; Letterer: Thus, the first issue of Howard the Duck opens with a talking duck contemplating suicide by jumping into the Cuyahoga River. Gerber was one of a new breed of comics writers who excelled at emotionally charged stories dealing with abuse, identity, and low self-esteem disguised as superhero or horror comics.
Gerber sued for copyright of the character he had created, and a benefit comic for his legal battles, called Destroyer Duck , was drawn by Jack Kirby. Harvey Pekar; Penciler and inker, and letterer: This ought to be as dull as dirt, but thanks to the comic timing of writer Harvey Pekar and subtle graphic variations of cartoonist R.
Crumb, the story exerts an undeniable pull. Comics have the ability to transform tedium — humdrum repetition, subtle changes, the ticking of a clock — into fascinating, even hypnotic sequences, and there are few better examples than this page. Laying out strips in stick figures, Pekar, a self-taught, working-class literary intellectual, urged his artists toward minute observation, insisting on a standard of unexaggerated realism even as he bared his hard-knock life and curmudgeonly persona.
Though Pekar would sometimes welcome the comics stylizations of Crumb and others, in general his comics avoided the grotesque heightening of a Justin Green or Aline Kominsky-Crumb other great comics memoirists in favor of a studied naturalism.
Pekar also wrote several book-length comics, but his longer tales cannot match the knack for structure and payoff that he shows in the American Splendor shorts. Daily life in Cleveland was never so vividly captured, nor Crumb ever so well partnered with a writer.
Will Eisner. He spent the following decades in commercial and advertising work, primarily for the United States military. But Eisner never gave up his dream of legitimizing comics as a serious literary form. Eisner bundled this tale, along with three others about working-class Jews in the Bronx of the s, into a single volume, A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories. So, as these things go, the phrase finally stuck, and Eisner was heralded as the father of the form.
John Byrne and Chris Claremont; Penciler: Byrne; Inker: Terry Austin; Colorist: Glynis Wein; Letterer: Tom Orzechowski. Since the s, countless legions of superheroes have been created. But only a select few have become iconic, household names. Wolverine — a. Logan — is one of those names. The book hit legendary status when the new team — writer Chris Claremont and artists John Byrne and Terry Austin — took over the book.
And under the magical pencils and inks of Byrne and Austin, the character was a short, solid, scruffy, cigar-smoking powerhouse.
Early in the story, Wolverine is taken down by members of the Hellfire Club, seemingly left for dead in a sewer.
As we find out, though, Wolverine can take a beating like no one else: The last panel, with a grimy and gritty, utterly determined Wolverine swearing revenge in the rushing waters of the sewer, established the template for his future visual and narrative depictions.
But in , there was no instantaneous mass mode of communication. The readers who picked up Uncanny X-Men No.
No one was prepared for the page where Jean sacrifices herself to prevent the Phoenix Force from taking more lives. Jean must be punished or die. Writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne had been telling the tale of Phoenix for months, a hugely popular and addictive soap opera with a colorful cast and space-opera vistas, but had no choice but to scrap their planned ending although Claremont would later kvetch when a different writer brought Phoenix back.
The death of Dark Phoenix has had an impact through comics history, spinning into many subsequent story lines about Jean, and inspiring myriad attempts to craft a shocking superhero death. Dave Sim. An unexpected but welcome side effect of this retail specialization was that an entire independent comics scene began to spring up within it. Cutting-edge material could thrive in the comics shops that would not have been accepted by either the Comics Code or by mainstream news vendors.
Chris Claremont; Penciler: Michael Golden; Inkers: Armando Gil; Colorist: Michael Golden; Letterer: Joe Rosen. An action-packed battle between our heroes and the newly regrouped Brotherhood of Evil Mutants; the first appearance of the popular character Rogue, who would later join the X-Men; and the cleanup of a messy continuity issue involving superhero Carol Danvers, who later would become Captain Marvel.
The real reason this issue is a standout, though, is the spectacular and highly influential artwork of Michael Golden. Golden, who started his career in commercial art, started doing comics in the late s. By the time he drew and colored the issue, ably inked by Armando Gil, Golden was at the height of his powers.
With most artists, you can tell what their influences are. Maybe a little Kirby here, a bit of Buscema there, or some resemblance to Ditko in the face. Golden was different. His quirky, highly detailed style had the feel and energy of Japanese manga, the elegance of the great European comics auteurs, and the in-your-face excitement of American comics, all put together into a blender and coming out looking like nothing that had been seen before.
You can see the influence in artists like Arthur Adams, Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane and many others, some of whom would go off and form the blockbuster Image Comics a little over a decade later. Frank Miller; Pencilers: Frank Miller and Klaus Janson; Inker and colorist: Klaus Janson; Letterer: When Daredevil No.
Under Miller, Daredevil had gone from swashbuckling superhero to moody crime epic; the preternaturally talented Miller, along with Klaus Janson, began to casually blow up everything the world thought a Marvel comic could be. And it culminates here, in one of the most dramatic pages in Marvel Comics history: Elektra Natchios, killed at the hands of Daredevil foe Bullseye with her own sai.
Even now, the page is striking: The two panels of her staggering away, followed by five panels that draw out her falling to the ground and struggling back up. Miller would go on to tell many more acclaimed and memorable Daredevil stories. But this page will always stand out as the moment he forged the culmination of his influences — a bit of Raymond Chandler, a healthy dose of Will Eisner, and a lot of Japanese manga — into something distinct, something that made superhero comics feel brand new all over again.
Superhero comics, for better or worse, have never fully stopped chasing Elektra, bleeding out into the street, as the man who killed her indifferently puts on his jacket and walks away into the night. Wendy Pini and Richard Pini; Penciler, inker, and letterer: Wendy Pini. Artist Wendy Pini, who had already made a name for herself as one of the first cosplay celebrities , conceived of her fantasy epic about competing tribes of elves in the early s, and enlisted her husband Richard to help her write it.
The couple shopped the series around to all the major publishers with nothing but rejection to show for it, so they founded their own company, one of the first of the indie comics publishers, WaRP Graphics. The series made no bones about being a high fantasy tale for adults.
This is from one of the more notorious sequences, when the elves basically have an orgy before a big battle. Evolving attitudes about what comics were supposed to be — and who they supposed to be were for — clashed greatly with unevolved attitudes in the s. Howard Chaykin; Colorist: Lynn Varley; Letterer: Ken Bruzenak.
The book, a graphic-design orgy, showed writer-artist Chaykin at his densest but also most elegant, with pages enhanced by the lettering of the brilliant Ken Bruzenak. Flagg was the first U. Flagg was media savvy, exploring postmodernity and artifice including its own. It also experimented with the remediation of other media through comics: The Dark Knight Returns , Chaykin was configuring panels as television screens, and commenting acidly on how TV could drive events.
Watchmen also picked up on this idea. Alan Moore; Penciler: Stephen R. Bissette; Inker: John Totleben; Colorist: Tatjana Wood; Letterer: It was a mind-blowing revelation, handled so well by Moore and new series artists Stephen Bissette and John Totleben that no one could complain. This was the first sign that Moore was going to take the series into some disturbing new directions, showing Swamp Thing adjusting to his newly revealed status quo.
Many of them have faltered, but all owe a debt to this game-changing page of revelation. Writers, pencilers, and inkers: Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman; Letterer: This page shows the full quartet of Renaissance-painter-named turtles for the first time. Unfortunately, there was a dark side to all of this, too: As back issues of TMNT climbed ridiculously high in value, publishers and retailers smelled easy money. In the hopes of discovering the next Turtles, speculators started buying up all the sudden surge of black-and-white indie titles.
An economic bubble was created, and it quickly burst, wiping out innumerable publishers and many retailers in what became known as the Great Black-and-White Boom and Bust. It was the worst thing to happen to the comics direct market, but far from its last catastrophe. Marv Wolfman; Penciler: Jerry Ordway; Colorist: Tony Tollin; Letterer: In the end, the heroes were able to defeat him, but not before the Multiverse was condensed to simply one Earth. This allowed DC to then reboot a few of their titles with new continuity.
As a way of making the crossover feel like it was important beyond the reboot, DC decided to kill off a few major characters. One was Supergirl; the other was Barry Allen, the Flash. It was highly symbolic of the superhero who launched the Silver Age of comics dying in a comic that eliminated the multiverse entirely. Subsequently, a new, darker age was born.
Peter Bagge. They just had a need to get their stories out there. One of these creators was Peter Bagge, who spent the s honing his artistic style. His first series for publisher Fantagraphics was Neat Stuff.
In , after ending Neat Stuff , Bagge aged his Buddy Bradley character and moved him to Seattle as a something for the follow-up series Hate , which became a major hit and defined the boom in alternative comics in the s and perfected the image of the slacker in popular culture.
The ending of Neat Stuff No. His family sucks. Life sucks. Everything sucks. Mark Pierce and Mike Saenz; Colorist and letterer: In , the Macintosh computer was an ugly beige slab that was slightly bigger than a bread box and weighed and-a-half pounds.
However, it was the most advanced computer for graphics yet available for the home user, and computer art was becoming more common. None of that mattered much. Saenz would do layouts for approval, then recreate them directly on the computer, using the ungainly mouse of the time, and a pitiful one megabyte of memory. Saenz left the book after a few issues and subsequent artists figured out how to scan in art for a more fluid look , but he continued to experiment with digital comics for years.
Shatter may not hold up artistically, but the feat of drawing with an Apple Mouse — like Stonehenge and the pyramids — proves that humans will suffer anything to express themselves. Frank Miller; Inker: Klaus Janson; Colorist: Haunted and helpless, a middle-aged Bruce Wayne channel-surfs through news of one atrocity after another even as bursts of memory — of that memory, the murder of his parents by a mugger in an alley — flash through his tormented mind.
Here Miller takes an idea that had been part of Batman lore almost from the start as we saw earlier in this list and fiercely reinterprets it, insists upon it, and makes it matter. Miller seems to have intuited the often imagistic and disconnected nature of traumatic memory, and the result is a harrowing union of psychological violence and clinical form. But Batman is his most perfect example of that trope: The killing of Thomas and Martha Wayne unfolds with a dreadful intimacy: Artists and filmmakers have been referencing this sequence ever since.
Frank Miller; Penciler, inker, and colorist: Bill Sienkiewicz; Letterer: James Novak. The FX television series Legion does a surprisingly good job, intentionally or no, of channeling the crazy-quilt visual style of the great comics artist Bill Sienkiewicz.
But it was on the subsequent Elektra: In brief: You know, as one does. Rarely has a comics artist been able to so effectively depict the shifting states of mind that make up all our own internal monologues; in doing so, Sienkiewicz inspired many future superhero experimenters to come.
Alan Moore; Penciler, inker, and letterer: Dave Gibbons; Colorist: John Higgins. While Moore and Gibbons are far from the first to adopt this construction, their approach allowed the structure of their story to become its text in a way no one had seen before. Post- Watchmen , the nine-panel grid is often the mark of comics creators at their most ambitious. Keith Giffen, J. DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire, and others would use it to more comedic and heroic effect in Justice League International , while contemporary teams — perhaps most notably, Tom King and Mitch Gerads of The Sheriff of Babylon and Mister Miracle — embrace the grid for the ways it puts the strength of the medium front and center: With careful plotting and pitch-perfect cartooning.
Gary Panter. Man flayed, horse slayed, landscape laid to waste — this slashing black-and-white page is the pitch of the punk apocalypse envisioned by Gary Panter. King of the ratty line, Panter is one of the great modern cartoonists.
And Panter, along with Lynd Ward and Will Eisner, is one of the few in his field to deal directly with God, and godlessness. His drawings of the blasted-out post-nuclear zone called Dal Tokyo, first scrawled in the s, marked the end of the hippie phase of underground comix. Writer, penciler, inker, letterer: Jaime Hernandez.
Hopey Glass was more anarchic, a troublemaker who pretended to never look back.
Did Speedy take his own life, or was he killed by the rival gang? We never find out, which raises the question: Does the cause of a death matter as much as the raw impact?
The final pages of the story — including a flashback to a much younger, innocent Speedy and Maggie — capture both the haunting past and the unknowable future that define every human moment. Alan Moore; Penciler and inker: Brian Bolland; Colorist: John Higgins; Letterer: Richard Alan Starkings. In , the comic was one of the most exciting things to happen in DC, a union between acclaimed artist Brian Bolland and Moore, who had just finished his epic Watchmen, the capstone on his landmark tenure writing for DC.
It all comes down to this page, wherein the Joker visits Barbara Gordon in her home and shoots her, shattering her spine and leaving her helpless on the floor. The Killing Joke arrived at the end of a decade that superhero comics had spent in the pursuit of a form of psychological verisimilitude in its stories.
Heroes were recast as possibly mentally ill vigilantes, villains became truly depraved, and The Killing Joke , at the time, satisfied this call for a fight between good men and a monster to be a struggle truly monstrous. It would be some time before the industry would contemplate the cost of this mission. Richard McGuire. Within this constant shape are smaller inset panels: A single panel can contain myriad smaller panels and time frames: The original, drawn in black ink on white paper, maintains a steady six-panel grid, while the graphic novel, rendered in part digitally, uses full-bleed spreads and a lush color palette.
Grant Morrison; Penciler, inker, and colorist: Dave McKean; Letterer: A Serious House on Serious Earth. In it, the inmates have literally taken over the asylum and the Caped Crusader has to fight his way through the entirety of his rogues gallery to free the captive staff; as he descends deeper and deeper into the house and learns its horrific history, he creeps closer and closer to madness himself.
Arkham Asylum. Neil Gaiman; Penciler: Mike Dringenberg; Inker: Robbie Busch; Letterer: Todd Klein. When Neil Gaiman, Mike Dringenberg, and Sam Kieth created The Sandman , it was heralded as an uncommonly good horror comic, one where the endless potential of a story about the lord of dreams and his kingdom of vapor was realized.
This is how the massively popular character of Death was introduced in A deliberate inversion of the traditional take on the ghoul, this Death was friendly and funny, a psychopomp less cryptic and more humane. She also signaled a shift in purpose for The Sandman , from occult-tinged horror — which the book would still still do plenty of — to something akin to a box of fables, one where someone like Death could just show up, win you over with a joke, and smile sweetly as you remember that Death always shows up for a reason.
Afterward, comics were never the same. Julie Doucet. Her caricature of herself as a fearless grunge sprite gave even the most outlandish tales an inviting charm.
Often, though she was a force of nature.
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She turned to other fields, including poetry and commercial work, and even made a short film with Michel Gondry. But her comics made a lasting impact, and a collected edition of Dirty Plotte is coming out this fall. Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza; Penciler and inker: Liefeld; Colorist: Steve Buccellato; Letterer: That collectibility was specifically being driven by a group of young artists at Marvel whose books sold much better than others.
During his stint on the book, a number of characters were introduced, including Cable, a grizzled cyborg from the future who became the new leader of the team of youthful mutants. When the longtime writer of the series, Louise Simonson, left Marvel to go write a new Superman series, Liefeld became its main plotter, as well. In New Mutants No. After Liefeld left Marvel, Deadpool continued to be developed into a more metafictional comedic and heroic character.
But beyond the specific success of Deadpool, this page also encapsulates the violent, scratchy, weapon-filled style that Liefeld and his peers pioneered to such great success in the s. Jeff Smith.
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The stars of Bone are cute, almost naked, white, four-fingered, pudgy, bald creatures who come from Boneville. For all its cuteness, though, Bone crossed many boundaries. It is, in fact, a masterpiece of comics mix-and-match, combining the look of fantasy fiction comics with the plots of other-world epics and funny-animal comics.
The characters are a mishmash too. And the Rat Creatures, fanged, red-eyed, slow-witted, bloodthirsty monsters obsessed with cooking technique, would fit nicely into the The Lord of the Rings, the epic to which Bone is often compared. Todd McFarlane; Colorist: