Who is the Greatest Comic Book Artist of All Time?

by Don

100721B-300x157 Who is the Greatest Comic Book Artist of All Time?We all love arguing about who is the Greatest of All Time? In professional basketball, is it Michael or LeBron the GOAT? In football, is it Jerry Rice or Tom Brady?

For our comic book investors, who is the greatest comic book artist of all time?

Jack Kirby

Screen-Shot-2021-10-02-at-3.12.50-PM-210x300 Who is the Greatest Comic Book Artist of All Time?If the most important criteria for being the greatest comic book artist of all time was simply about key issues, then Jack Kirby would win the GOAT argument hands down.

Kirby is responsible for illustrating some of the most important comic book issues in history, including Captain America Comics #1, Fantastic Four #1, Incredible Hulk #1, Journey Into Mystery #83, Avengers #1X-Men #1, and countless other key issues. Another factor in Kirby’s favor is the fact that Kirby illustrated key issues in the Golden, Silver, and Bronze Ages. Talk about impressive.

Keep an eye out for his distinctive “Kirby Krackle” that he used to illustrate the Power Cosmic. Taika Waititi brought Jack Kirby’s art to life in Thor: Ragnarok.

Steve Ditko

eyJidWNrZXQiOiJnb2NvbGxlY3QuaW1hZ2VzLnB1YiIsImtleSI6IjZhM2Y2NjI2LTIzZGYtNGIwZS04ZjgyLTk5ZGNmODgxMDA3ZS5qcGciLCJlZGl0cyI6W119-200x300 Who is the Greatest Comic Book Artist of All Time?It’s hard NOT to mention Steve Ditko’s name when discussing the greatest comic book artists of all time. After all, he is responsible for creating Marvel’s most important character, the amazing Spider-Man.

In addition, Ditko created Spider-Man’s famous rogue gallery, including Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, and Kraven the Hunter. And, like Kirby, Ditko was a prolific artist, with his work spanning well over half a century.

You all know the ones. You’ve got Doc Oc’s debut in Amazing Spider-Man #3 and the vibrant Machine Man #12. There are plenty of other examples of his work; what is your favorite?

Still, I wouldn’t call him the GOAT, but he’s likely in the top five.

Todd McFarlane

Screen-Shot-2021-10-02-at-4.38.57-PM-195x300 Who is the Greatest Comic Book Artist of All Time?For those of us who collected comics in the late 1980s and 1990s, we all know about Todd McFarlane. With the exception of Jim Lee, McFarlane may be the most famous comic book artist of the Copper Age. He is responsible for penciling numerous iconic covers, including the cover for Amazing Spider-Man #300 (1988), arguably the most important comic book of the Copper Age.

McFarlane and Lee made comics so popular that they ushered in the Modern Age of comics, a period that inflated a speculative bubble that later popped in the 1990s. Known for his highly detailed style, seen, for example, in his depictions of Batman’s capes or Spider-Man’s webs, McFarlane has illustrated numerous iconic covers coveted by collectors.

Jim LeeeyJidWNrZXQiOiJnb2NvbGxlY3QuaW1hZ2VzLnB1YiIsImtleSI6IjkzZGVjNWZhLWNjMGMtNDNjMC1hYmYwLTM5N2E1YjllNDFmMy5qcGciLCJlZGl0cyI6W119-195x300 Who is the Greatest Comic Book Artist of All Time?

Lee has left significant imprimatur on comic book history, including the founding of Image Comics.

For those of us who collected comics in the late 1980s and early 1990s, we all know about Jim Lee. With the exception of Todd McFarlane, Lee may is the most famous comic book artist of the Copper Age. Lee and McFarlane made comics so popular that they ushered in the Modern Age of comics, a period that inflated a speculative bubble that later popped in the 1990s.

Personally, after Alex Ross, I think he’s the greatest in terms of technical skill. Check out this blog I wrote about the importance of Jim Lee’s artwork on the history of comics.

Alex Ross

Screen-Shot-2021-10-02-at-4.22.27-PM-194x300 Who is the Greatest Comic Book Artist of All Time?In comparison to the other artists here, Alex Ross hasn’t illustrated that many key issues; however, many fans have praised Ross for his painted and realistic renderings of classic comic book characters. For example, the cover he painted for Captain America #23 may be the most realistic depiction of Captain America ever seen. In terms of realism, you’d be hard-pressed to name an artist who is more skilled than Ross. Is he the GOAT?

Did I miss anyone? Neal Adams? John Byrne? Tell us who YOU think the greatest comic book artist of all time is in the comments section below!

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Scott October 13, 2021 - 8:41 am

Neal Adams was excellent and changed the way Batman was envisioned. Steranko was very influential. Barry Smith at his peak was awesome.

David ONeal October 13, 2021 - 10:51 pm

Mike Zeck had a good run and if you put Alex Ross in there you have to give Jusko some love

John October 13, 2021 - 12:45 pm

Neal Adams should have made this list in my opinion.

Derek Wilkinson October 13, 2021 - 3:14 pm

My opinion also.

Vince g October 13, 2021 - 12:47 pm

You missed a bunch. Alex schomburg, frank frazetta, Wally wood, Bill Everett, al Williamson.

Graham Carr October 13, 2021 - 12:52 pm

Jack Kirby hands down the GOAT

Derek Wilkinson October 13, 2021 - 3:16 pm

I think that he is better as the Co-Greatest Creator but he certainly was not a great artist.

Green October 13, 2021 - 6:27 pm

Neal Adams laid the foundation for “creators rights”, co-founded Continunity Associates and Best Batman artist ever and all his other work is amazing. How could he not be on this short list.

Vincent October 14, 2021 - 8:01 am

I know art is subjective but Derek is just wrong. It takes a true appreciation and understanding of art to understand the pure genius that is Jack Kirby.

Kai’ckul October 13, 2021 - 1:13 pm

Frank Frazetta

Derek Wilkinson October 13, 2021 - 3:13 pm

While I do love Frazetta’s art, I think that he is better recognized as a Fantasy Artist than a comic book artist.

Darrell October 13, 2021 - 6:25 pm

I feel similarly about Alex Ross. A great artist/painter – but not a great comic book artist.

Paul Temby October 13, 2021 - 1:15 pm

Before seeing your list Jack Kirby was the obvious answer. He is THE GOAT.

kevin baird October 13, 2021 - 1:25 pm

Without setting criteria this is an exercise in subjectivity. There are simply too many great artists to choose from in the 100 years of comics.
For my money (subjectively) it’s Schromburg, Bill Everett, Al Williamson from the Golden Age. Kirby, Steranko, Gil Kane, Neal Adams and John Buscema for the Silver Age. The Bronze is George Perez, Bernie Wrightson, Barry Windsor Smith, Mike Kalutta, Mike Grell. Copper Age has Howard Chaykin, John Byrne, Jae Lee, the Pander bothers, McFarlane…
You see my point. Too many greats to choose from without some guidelines. One thing is for certain though, the GOAT is absolutely not Rob Liefeld!

Smick October 14, 2021 - 12:59 am

I would add Barry Smith t the Bronze Age and then whole heartedly agree to this list.

Rande Benz October 13, 2021 - 1:31 pm

Great article but I did raise my eyebrow at the Tom Brady or Jerry Rice part at the beginning. 🙂

Clark Landry October 13, 2021 - 1:40 pm

Kirby: Johnny Unitas. Ditko: Dan Marino. McFarlane: Tom Brady. Lee: Peyton Manning. Ross: Patrick Mahomes.

MoeLarryAndJesus October 14, 2021 - 10:35 am

So you’re saying Lee is the GOAT? Because Brady sure is.

Yoosh October 13, 2021 - 1:51 pm

They are all great. McFarlane is my personal favorite! They each were at the top of their game and needed to be there in order for the next artist to get better.

Steven Johnston October 13, 2021 - 3:04 pm

Jack Kirby is my favorite hands down but Schomberg, Frazetta, Woods, Adams, Wrightson, Charles Biro, Williamson, Matt Baker, Carl Barks, Brian Bolland, Simon Bisley, Alex Raymond, Russ Manning, Bill Everett, Steranko, Basil Wolverton, George Tuska, Kubert, McFarlane, Byrne, Lee, Barry Smith are all heavy hitters in many genres and hopefully all of them are never forgotten. There are so many more great artists but because they didn’t work on the more popular books or created some of the most iconic heroes we may never truly appreciate their works of art. Jack Kirby in my eyes created or was part of creating some of the most iconic fictional characters of all time. It was his style that drew the attention of many younger artists and fans alike. Obviously these are my thoughts and many others have different views but we all can agree on one thing, there were some amazing artists that drew for comics since the platinum age.

Ryan Homan October 13, 2021 - 4:22 pm

I think that George Perez, John Byrne, John Romita & John Bucema should be in the mix before McFarlane or Ross. Ross is the best painter hands down. I love McFarlane but his body of work is fairly small in comparison and he defined a style not the best art.

Taneleer Tivan October 13, 2021 - 7:06 pm

I was about to point out the lack of George Perez love – though I don’t think he’s the best ever, he’s got a distinct, recognizable style that is greatness, and he was on epic stories and runs. He at least deserves a mention. Same could be said about Byrne. Both are miles better than, say, McFarlane, I think.

Adams is amazing.

Never much cared for Ditko to be honest. For example, the difference between the Kirby first half of the Machine Man run and Ditko’s second half is distinct – and not flattering to Ditko in comparison.

Larry Banes October 13, 2021 - 4:23 pm

Context is a key.
For world building no one beats Kirby. Those worlds were populated by the most interesting characters in the most interesting costumes.
I always liked the way Bob Kane drew Batman
Same with John Romita and Spiderman (the contortions of Spiderman swinging through NYC are breathtaking)
Need groups – George Perez could handle 5 or 50 characters keeping them all relevant to each scene. His work on Teen Titans is so good.
Mood – Gene Colon on Tomb of Dracula set the tone for the darkest of characterizations
And finally did any artist create a character so identified by his drawing as John Buscema’s run on CONAN?

Dan Robinson October 13, 2021 - 4:59 pm

John Buscema, hands down.

Andy Baer October 13, 2021 - 5:26 pm

I think by GOAT standards, one thing to take highly into consideration is longevity and body of work. While I love the likes of Dave Stevens, BWS, Steranko, Wrightson and even Frazetta, their actual “comic” runs were limited compared to Buscema, Romita, Kirby and, say, Adams. On the other hand, if you look at the prices that McFarlane brings in on original art auctions vs. even non-key issues, that almost automatically makes him the GOAT… there’s a damn good reason he racks in the big bucks.

Mike October 13, 2021 - 6:17 pm

It’s Jack Kirby, tho.

Sideviper October 13, 2021 - 6:28 pm

Funny, No-One mentions The Godfather of Marvel…Stan Lee

Jay Pele October 13, 2021 - 7:44 pm

He was a writer and editor not an artist.

Tim October 13, 2021 - 6:51 pm

In terms of both style and impact, Frank Miller should well and truly be in this discussion. Hard to argue that his work on the Dark Knight and Daredevil have not had a significant impact in shaping the creative direction of the industry in the decades since.

STEVE RODRIGUEZ October 13, 2021 - 6:55 pm

Will Eisner needs to be mentioned. His artwork in the golden age was incredible compared to any era. Let’s get some ladies in the conversation, Marie Severin and Ramona Fradon.

Collectorsclub October 13, 2021 - 7:24 pm

This post—as most posts in GoCollect—is so Marvel centric. While each of the artists here have done striking and important work for DC and indies, the DC stable has much more depth and talent, inmho. Kane, Infantino, Swan, Adams, Wrightson, Miller, Bolland—how can anyone write an article about comic artists and not mention at least a few of these folks?

Steve B October 14, 2021 - 12:35 am

Absolutely true!

Patrick Bain October 13, 2021 - 7:36 pm

It’s kind of like picking your favorite meal or dessert. At different times you may have a taste for one over another, but aren’t you glad you’re not restricted to only one choice. My favorite artist has always been Neal Adams, but Jack Kirby has the most influence on the comic industry in 2021. Artists like Joe Shuster and Bob Kane made tremendous contributions, but like a lot of greats, including McFarlane, don’t have a huge body of work (done by them personally).
And when it comes to high auction prices, if suddenly the number of Kirby Marvel pages shrunk to quantities similar to McFarlane numbers, then prices would be astronomical.

GAC October 13, 2021 - 8:02 pm

Jack Kirby is head and shoulders above everyone else period. There is no Marvel without him…Jack Kirby’s career is comics history.

william October 13, 2021 - 8:21 pm

I was always a big fan of Ross Andru growing up and reading Spider-Man in the 70s. A very prolific yet under appreciated, and for the most part, forgotten comic book artist.

jack alberti October 13, 2021 - 11:02 pm

Kirby is the only one I would leave on the list.

Kenloi October 14, 2021 - 4:13 am

Maybe you should say greatest comic book artists from each era including females if merited. Then let the people vote overall winner !!

Raymond Palmer October 14, 2021 - 8:35 am

Neal Adams is the GOAT!

Jimmy Daniels October 14, 2021 - 11:51 am

John Byrne, George Perez and John Buscema should be the last three you mentioned in my opinion, love you’re three but they are mostly pinup artists, IMHO

Steven Moore October 14, 2021 - 5:16 pm

My approach is to think about the objective measures. How much has their original art sold for? Whose covers have the most cover swipes? Whose comics are collectible for their covers, even when there is no first appearance or other reason to collect it?

When you put it together, all signs point to Todd.

There are three other contenders in my reckoning who fall just a bit short. Franzetta has the most expensive comic art but I agree with one of the posters above that he is more of a fantasy artist (I love his covers, though). Jack Kirby and Neal Adams have their share of expensive art and cover swipes–especially if you include Amazing Fantasy 15–but I don’t recall either having comics whose high values derive solely from their covers, like Todd’s Incredible Hulk 340 or the run on Marvel Tales reprints.

Anyway, that’s my opinion and it was fun thinking this through.

Gavin spitzner October 14, 2021 - 9:37 pm

Can’t argue with those but where’s the love for Gene Colan? He’s right up there with Steranko for my money.

Ryanovision October 15, 2021 - 6:21 am

This is hands down the lamest attempt at a real list. Yes, all artists mentioned are some of the best (Lets be honest, king Kirby wins this hands down), but where are the real influencers? Wheres Wally Wood? Wheres Alex Toth? Where is Morbius? Who ever wrote this “article” has a very surface level knowledge of comics and needs to educate themselves.

Don Y October 15, 2021 - 8:27 am

Thank you for your feedback and would love to learn from you!

Mike Rouse October 15, 2021 - 10:48 am

I respectfully agree with Alex Ross being on this list. If we are all judging the absolute pinnacle work of all professional comic book artists, then the following artists should be strongly considered among the absolute very best ever in no particular order.

Neal Adams. (Examples; The cover of Savage Tales #5 or the cover of Green Lantern Green Arrow #2)
George Perez (Examples; The cover of New Teen Titans #37 or the entire issue of The New Teen Titans #1 from 1984)
John Byrne (Examples; The interior splash page of Uncanny X-Men #115 or the first issue of The Last Galactus Story)
Michael Golden (Example: The entire issue of Doctor Strange #55)
Brian Bolland (Example: Batman The Killing Joke)
Jim Starlin (Example: The Death of Captain Marvel)

C2O comics October 15, 2021 - 3:04 pm

John Buscema, Frank Frazetta, Berni Wrightson, Kirby, Walt Simonson, John Byrne, Neal Adams…..

Greg October 15, 2021 - 10:18 pm

Which artist has the most iconic cover artwork? Incredible detail with eye popping detail that cannot be matched?

Who is credited with the most sought after books? Tomb of Dracuka #10 (1st Blade)? Werewolf By Night #32 (1st Moon Knight) Amazing Adventures #11 (1st Beast), Green Lantern #59 (1st Guy Gardner) , Spider-man #129 (1st Punisher), Spider-man #101 (1st Moebius), Showcasr #22 (1st Silver Age Green Lantern) , Showcase #34 (1st Silver Age Atom),-
All those classic Horror coverrs from Werewolf to Frankenstein , Dracula, Supernatural Thrillers(Mummy), Countless titkes bth DC and Marvel…Marvel Team Up, Marvel , Iron Fist, What If, Spider-man 161 (Classic Nightcrawler and Spidey on Ferris Wheel.

This list is seemingly without end. I am not going to take away anything from any other artists…But Gil Kane is , in my opinion based on his lifetime of work; the top 5 greayest of all- time. Special mention Nick Cardy.

Alex Ross, is the comic version of Ballantine Romance cover novels meets Kincade. Nice work but ..his first stuff was his best stuff.
McFarlane has some nice stuff, but really top all time? I could say 15- 20 books warrant such recognition.
Kirby is simply Iconic and in a league of his own.
Frazetta, a simple master in any genre.

Byrne – defines the 80’s.

Todays top artists..Crain, Gist, Dell’Otto. (no order)

Robert Brewster October 15, 2021 - 10:57 pm

Kirby for sure. Throw in Steve Rude the dude.

Nick October 17, 2021 - 4:15 pm

“Greatest” to me implies a place of importance, power, and skill. So obviously Jack Kirby was the greatest comic book artist of all time.

Now “best” artist or favorite, or the ones who really excelled at the medium? That list for me has to contain: Wally Wood, Alex Ross, Carmine Infantino, Curt Swan, John Byrne, Darwyn Cooke, Steve Rude, Will Eisner, Neal Adams, George Perez, John Romita, Moebius, Greg Capullo, Dave Gibbons, Bernie Wrightson, Carl Barks, Gil Kane, John Buscema, Harvey Kurtzman, Alex Toth! And probably so many more truly amazing artists that have shaped the craft and left their mark on pop culture. But Kirby is still the greatest of these as an artist, trailblazer, entrepreneur, advocate, and visionary.

Doug Cowley October 17, 2021 - 8:13 pm

For me, John Buscema. And again, just for me, it’s not even close..

kevinmonkey6 October 17, 2021 - 11:33 pm

Hard to argue with John Buscema,

Daniel Ludlow October 20, 2021 - 9:30 am

Neal Adams has my vote. Try and find any bad work from Adams? Many classic covers.

Matt Kennedy February 21, 2022 - 10:48 pm

I think that Jack Kirby is in a class by himself. He is absolutely responsible for more iconic covers, title pages, stories, character designs —you name it, than any other artist. His closest peer is probably Osamu Tezuka in Japan who created dozens of amazing, iconic characters and truly innovated not just an art form but a method of communication.

Once you get the number one spot out of the way, you can have a spirited discussion about who may have been the best draughtsman (my money is on either Bernie Wrightson or Charles Vess), who was the most creative (Eisner or Steranko? McKean or Miller?) and who was the most versatile (John Buscema, Wally Wood, or Gene Colan), etc.

And what about the journeymen? Dan DeCarlo, Walt Kelly, Jerry Ordway, Dick Giordano? Should longevity be a factor?

There’s a reason why they don’t just give out one Oscar every year: because there are categories with different criteria for greatness.


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