The famed artist turns 63…


In celebration of David Mazzucchelli’s 63rd birthday — he was born Sept. 21, 1960 — I decided to go against my first instinct, which would be to run 13 images from my two all-time-favorite comic book stories, the Frank Miller/Mazzucchelli Daredevil: Born Again (which originally ran in 1985-86’s Daredevil #227-233 – although I’d make the argument that #226 should also be included as a kind of zero issue/lead-in to that storyline), and Batman: Year One, from 1986-87’s Batman #404-407.

Why would I do this? In part because those two stories loom so large for me. They’re both storylines I revisit regularly, and Born Again remains for me the greatest superhero story I’ve ever read. Those seven issues (or eight, if you’ll allow #226) would be my deserted-island comics, if I wasn’t afraid of the elements on that island destroying them.

And as good as that one is, Year One is probably even better, although I’ve more affinity for the former than the latter. But both are such stellar examples of Mazzucchelli’s amazing artistic progression that it almost does him a disservice not to show plenty of visual examples of just why they’re so great to look at.


However, I think the greater disservice to Mazzucchelli would be to freeze the artist of those two much-heralded stories in amber, to somehow trot out those same images year after year in celebration of his work. While those series broke some true artistic ground, they were also both released nearly 40 years ago, and while we’ve all continued to love and revisit those older comics, Mazzucchelli continued to develop.

The challenge I put to myself was to seek to celebrate the entirety of Mazz’s work thus far without taking the easy route of posting the covers and pages from those two series that have been lodged in my head and my heart for so long.

And so, in honor of the amazing talent that Dave Mazzucchelli brought to comics and graphic art both before and after those two runs, here are 13 Mazzucchelli non-Born Again and Year One images to show both how good he’s been and why I so hope he has more great works to come.

X-Factor #16 Unpublished Cover. I’m sure there are sound reasons why so many of the great unpublished covers that have eventually surfaced were deemed wrong for any given comic. But for the life of me, I can’t see why this one didn’t pass muster. The composition is amazing, the art moreso. Who could resist seeing this image and not wanting to know more? Someone at Marvel in 1986, evidently.

Daredevil #215 Splash Page. Even from his early issues of Daredevil, those inked by Danny Bulanadi or Kim DeMulder, it was evident that Mazz was something special. I think the page that first made me think he was destined for greatness was a half-splash from DD #208, the Harlan Ellison-written issue, showing DD overlooking this massive, Winchester Mystery House-style building. It was great. But even still, nothing prepared us for how much more life his pages would have when he inked his own pencils, as he did as in Issue #214. But this splash from #215, with its great, Christy Scheele covers, really announced the guy as a master storyteller.

Marvel Fanfare #40 Page. David’s final Marvel work, an Angel story in Marvel Fanfare #40, showed that as quickly as he’d honed a perfect superhero style on his Daredevil run, he was that quickly evolving and moving past it into someone even more interesting. This final panel alone evokes as big a smile on my face as that of the woman driving that gorgeously rendered car. I couldn’t wait to see what he would do next.

World’s Funnest. One thing he did next was a beautiful Kirby riff on a few pages of Evan Dorkin’s World’s Funnest one-shot. The book is great, and just filled with amazing talents. But even amid all of them, Mazz’s Kirby-esque sequence demanded you stop and really admire how impressively he was able to channel Jack’s Fourth World work here.

Paul Auster’s City of Glass. As happens often when creators move on from superhero fare, their work gets more interesting but can also be harder to find. Both this series and the next series I’m featuring, are in desperate need of proper re-printing. Because with a cover this beautifully composed, you just know that the pages that await you within will be even better.

Rubber Blanket. This page from Rubber Blanket is a perfect indicator that Mazzucchelli was continuing to incorporate interesting color treatments in his storytelling, the artistic culmination of which can be seen below in the 12th entry.

Nozone #6. I’ve never seen Nicholas Blechman’s Nozone before but this cover sure makes me want to track it down.

Phobia. Likewise, I’ve never found a good copy of Mazzucchelli’s Phobia but pages like this show a continued evolution of artistic style, and beautiful use of shadow and light.

“The Fisherman and the Sea Princess.” David spent six months living and working in Japan, which led to this gorgeous work for Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly’s Little Lit.

Drawn and Quarterly #9: “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Epsilon-Neighborhood.” I can only imagine the frustration of an artist who’s developed in such a unique way as to produce this kind of story to no doubt open his inbox to find numerous pleas to do more superhero work or standard covers. I’m guilty of sending an email like that a time or two myself. And I get it—we’d all love more DM work that we can all readily find and access but the artist of a story like this clearly has different forms of expression on his mind.

The Comics Journal Special #1: “The Boy Who Loved Comics.” The color work alone on this image demands everyone’s attention.

Asterios Polyp. A two-fer. It doesn’t feel like enough to only show the cover from Asterios Polyp, Mazzucchelli’s uniquely stunning 2009 graphic novel, so I’m showcasing both the cover and a page.

But even then, it doesn’t even approach providing a proper look at how great a work this is. For that, you need the entire book. The story and art  in this one really feel like a distillation of every style, design theory, color exploration, and storytelling technique Mazzucchelli has honed over his entire career. It’s a masterpiece, and one that has left all of us wanting to see more.

Aaaand okay, I know I hit my requisite 13 images but I figure I should at least give one small concession to the Batman: Year One fans among us without violating my rule above of not showcasing images from Batman #404-407. Instead, I’ll end on this intriguing and visually stunning teaser image that showed all of us that we were in for something special. With Mazzucchelli, we always are.


— BATMAN: YEAR ONE — All Four Issues to Be Re-Released As Facsimile Editions. Click here.

— 13 COVERS: A DAVID MAZZUCCHELLI Birthday Celebration — 2022 EDITION. Click here.

Chris Ryall is the co-owner/publisher of Image Comics imprint Syzygy Publishing. His latest series is Tales of Syzpense, out now. Subscribe to his Substack of the same name!

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. Wow, that is a range of styles. Please continue with more.. and Happy Birthday David!

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  2. I worked with David at Hasbro when he was a graphic illustrator in their art department. We chatted a lot about comics and he was just getting his start with Marvel at that time. He’s a great guy and I am so happy for his success.

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  3. Great stuff. That Marvel Fanfare store with Angel is so good.
    Love his Rubber Blanket series. Wish he would do more

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