Listed: The Top Ten X-Men Artists Of The '90s

Matt Streeter lists his top ten favorite X-Men artists of the '90s!!!

The X-Men started getting good way back in the '70s when Chris Claremont took over the book.  It helped him that great artists like Dave Cockrum and John Byrne were there to help (the latter penciling the all-time great Dark Phoenix Saga), but his writing set the book upwards and onwards towards greatness.  As such, a list of great writers would pretty much begin and end with Claremont.  Instead, we'll take a look at artists!  Pencilers!  Dudes who draw!  Why were they all dudes?  Weren't there girls who read X-Men who could draw, too?  Oh well, that's an entirely different article.  Anyways, here are 10 dudes who drew at least one issue for either Uncanny X-Men or X-Men (vol. 2), along with a few honorable mentions.

Jan Duursema is not a Dutch man, but
an American woman. Here's a sweet
splash page she drew for UXM #305
No, they weren't all dudes.  There was Jan Duursema.  Somehow, some way, silly, young me got it into his head that she was a Dutch guy or someone whose parents were from the Netherlands or something and his name was pronounced “Yan.”  I mean, Duursema sounds vaguely European, you know?  But anways, American woman Jan Duursema has a good, classic style that fits in a superhero book like X-Men, of which she did exactly one issue: Uncanny X-Men #305.  Coming after the epic Fatal Attractions tie-in it was a bit of a filler issue, but honestly her stuff worked better than Brandon Peterson's did.  If it wasn't for someone else who will appear later in this list, I think she could have had a really nice run right in the thick of classic 90s X-Men.

Speaking of Brandon Peterson, here are some other honorable mentions.  Bryan Hitch, who drew the first Ultimates miniseries and has most recently done a Justice League book, drew a couple issues.  He did part of X-Men Prime, the first issue back after Age of Apocalypse and an issue or two of Uncanny some time after that.  Roger Cruz did some fine work for the X-books, notably X-Men: Omega and some issues of the Apocalypse: The Twelve storyline, but his manga style was overshadowed by the much more dynamic art of another.  Lienil Francis Yu did an issue or two as well, but his best work was over in Wolverine's solo title.  Salvador Larroca arted well in his issue (X-Men #69), with the bonus of penciling the Psylocke and Archangel miniseries (Psylocke is my favorite character).  But they all miss out on being in the Top 10.

And now, our countdown.

10: Carlos Pacheco
Carlos Pacheco did a year or two of X-Men following the Onslaught debacle.  His run was interesting because of some of the really cool guest stars who showed up.  We got to see the X-Men travel to Hong Kong and team up with Shiang Chi, the Master of Kung Fu and do battle with Sebastien Shaw.  I mean, doing a storyline and incorporating the Master of Kung Fu gets you on the list automatically.  He's not any higher because his best work was yet to come on a different title (see Avengers Forever, wow, what a book THAT was).

9: Adam Kubert
I love Adam Kubert's art.  He did years and years of work on Wolverine (or at least it seemed like he did) before working on some issues of X-Men and the two big Onslaught bookends (Onslaught: X-Men and Onslaught: Marvel Universe).  He makes the characters look so substantial, so solid, but also like they could be soft and cuddly (in appropriate circumstances), or vulnerable.  He breathes life into the characters' emotions, allowing their facial expressions to be more than just your average scowling and growling in fury in the face of the most mundane of tasks as lesser artists are wont to do.  Adam Kubert was too good to allow that to happen.  But he only did a few issues of X-Men Vol. 2.  He left more of a mark on '90s X-Men in Wolverine's solo title, kind of like...

This list would be
without Silvestri
in it somewhere.
8: Marc Silvestri
This guy penciled some of the all-time best issues of X-Men... in the '80s.  He gets in here at 8 because his legacy did stretch *just* into 1990 which IS part of the '90s.  After that, though, he was getting Wolverine's solo title started.  As such, he's more associated with the little Canadian hairball of fury than with the rest of the X-Men for me.  At least if we're talking the '90s, which we are.  If this was a list of X-Men's best 80s artists, he'd be near the top, for sure.

7: Steve Skroce
This guy should be a superstar artist, doing whatever he wants on whatever book he wants to write.  Have you seen his art?  He's amazing!  All the little details, the fantastic motion he puts onto his pages, I mean, you really have to see it to believe it.  Sure, he's doing some weird Canadian comic about how they're at war or something with the US, so there is that.  But this guy did issues of Spider-Man.  He drew a FABULOUS three-issue arc of Wolverine where he goes to Tokyo and fights ninjas.  All that broken glass, what a spectacle.  He lit up the pages of Gambit for nearly a year, but he also did a single, solitary issue of Uncanny X-Men (#361) and that qualifies him for my list.  He ranks this high because DAMN is he a great artist!  Too bad he wastes his talent doing storyboards for pointless, boring Hollywood movies.  Sigh.

6: Whilce Portacio
Portacio couldn't get a comic book out on a monthly basis if his life depended on it.  At least, it sure did seem that way, especially once he was done drawing Uncanny X-Men.  But we're not here to talk about tardiness, we're here to talk about how his unique, dynamic style showed up on nearly two years' worth of the book.  What I like most about his art is that you don't need to look at the splash page credits to know it's him drawing the book, and his style is strong enough to be the sole reason to buy a book, like Wetworks, for example.  I'm not a huge fan of Trevor Fitzroy and the Upstarts storyline, but Bishop, whom he had a hand in creating, became a great X-Man who grew into a character who could carry his own monthly title (however briefly).  Mad props for creating the time-traveling mutant.  That's enough to get you up to #6, and past Steve Skroce, no less!

5: Chris Bachalo
Chris Bachalo has one of the most unique styles in all of comics.  Sometimes this is just a kind way of saying that an artist sucks, but in this case it's completely complimentary.  No one draws the way he draws, from the cute way he draws his characters to the interesting way he lays out his panels.  There is a lot of good stuff going on.  When he was first gaining exposure he was fresh, different from just about everybody else.  His pages were always dense with detail, with playfulness hidden throughout the background (especially in Generation X).  It's evident that this is a man who loves his job.  While his manga-influenced style is pretty great, he only did about a year's worth of Uncanny X-Men.  Most of his X-work came in the 00s.  Were I to cover that decade, he'd probably rank a wee bit higher, but since I'm reliving my glory years he's sitting at #5.

4: John Romita Jr.
He is my favorite all-time comic book artist.  His blocky style pounds so much power and energy into whatever book he's working on that it's about as easy to ignore as an uppercut in Mortal Kombat.  And you know what?  When I was reading through my collection last summer, I saw that he did way more Uncanny X-Men than I initially remembered, penciling #300-302, 304, and 306-311.  There are two big anniversary issues in there, with the super-sized #300 and holographic-covered Fatal Attractions tie-in #304, quite the honor to be able to pencil.  The best of this run was his final issue, #311.  Power goes down at the mansion and Sabretooth escapes, leaving everyone is at his mercy, especially Jubilee.  Well, at least until Bishop decides to take things into his own hands.  John Romita Jr. shows us exactly how badass the time-traveling mutant is, going toe to toe with Sabretooth in an effort to maintain order.  It's a classic issue in the middle of a fantastic career that includes not just more X-Men (including many issues of Uncanny in the 80s), but popular stints on Spider-Man, Thor, Hulk- look, this guy did just about every single Marvel title there was over the course of his career, sometimes doing two titles at one time!  He has to be one of the hardest working men in comics.  And if that's not enough, he's taking on Superman now, and it's just as spectacular as these old X-Mens were.  John Romita Jr. is one of the all-time best artists in all of comics, not just '90s X-Men.  He warrants a spot this high on any list of pencilers.

This art was fantastic.
Uncannily good, even. 

3: Andy Kubert
I started reading X-Men a couple of years after Volume 2 launched.  X-Men #22 was my first issue, and lo and behold it was drawn by Andy Kubert.  As such, I have always associated this artist with X-Men.  I know he's done plenty since, penciling some memorable Batman books, some Ultimate stuff, and a superb relaunch of Ka-Zar back in 1997.  But before all that was 5 years illustrating the X-Men.  He took over in 1992 with issue #14 and made some of the best-looking superhero books in the business.  Most comics fans have seen his cover to X-Men #24, but his run is full of great covers, with greater interior art.  Partially, it's my bias putting him this high on the list, but on the other hand he was penciling adjective-less X-Men for five years.  He left a huge impact on the book, shaping how the characters looked and moved in a major way.  The only reason he's not #1 is because that guy literally invented '90s X-Men.

2: Joe Madureira
His work polarized my friends when we were in high school.  The heavy manga-influence set him apart from EVERYONE drawing our funny books in the 90s and it turned some people off.  But with every issue that came out he won more and more fans.  He has an ability to put motion on the pages that few other artists match with such consistency.  It was always exciting to get a new issue of Uncanny X-Men while he was penciling, the visuals combined with the new computerized coloring jumped off the page and demanded your attention, like an elaborate Disney musical number, only minus the sound and the backup dancers and all the talking animals, although in a couple issues I think that there was a character who was rather ugly and animal-y and said nasty things to Gambit.  Anyways, that's besides the point.  The point is that Joe Madureira was huge, he left a huge mark in how we fans expected our X-Men to look.  He paved the way for later manga-influenced pencilers like Chris Bachalo and Roger Cruz.  It was always a joy to look at anything he drew, I just wish he had a bit more John Romita Jr.-like productivity.  Could you imagine 2 Joe Mad books a month? That would be  amazing.  Oh well.  You can't rush genius, can you?

While the story wasn't great, it wasn't terrible either. The visuals were amazing. 

1: Jim Lee
Was there ever any doubt as to who would occupy this spot?  This guy invented 90s X-Men.  Those blue-and-yellow uniforms we love so much?  Jim Lee designs.  Psylocke reborn in her Japanese body?  Jim Lee (and Chris Claremont).  Gambit?  Jim Lee (and Chris Claremont, of course).  Magneto as a bad guy again, menacing the earth from above?  Lee (and Claremont!), and man, not only did he determine how the X-Men would look in the '90s, he's the gold standard by which all other superhero book pencilers are judged.  You look at his X-Men (and his WildC.A.T.s, Justice League, Batman, Superman, etc) and you think, “This is what all comic books should look like.”  Part of the reason Andy Kubert's art worked so well on X-Men is that his style resembles Jim Lee's.  But Lee was there first and Lee will always be first.  If I were to make a list of top artists that runs the gamut of X-Men dating back to #1 in 1963 he would still be near the top, if not still occupying this very spot.  When you help define an entire genre in the book you help create (oh yeah, he and Claremont launched X-Men Vol. 2, #1 of which is the best-selling single issue of any comic book of all time), you get ranked high up on any list.

Jim Lee is the reason we all love The X-Men. 

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- by Matthew Streeter