‘BLACK’ FRIDAY: The 13 Greatest Horror Artists Ever

Ron Marz and Matthew Dow Smith pick them…

Writer Ron Marz, artist Matthew Dow Smith, sculptor Paul Harding and colorist Neeraj Menon have a terrific looking Kickstarter going — Beasts of the Black Hand, a story that mixes monsters, Rasputin, espionage, the occult and dieselpunk. It looks fantastic and I urge you to click here and check out the project.

“The time is December, 1916. War rages across Europe, some empires collapsing, others being born,” the official description reads. “In snow-covered St. Petersburg, Russia, the mad monk, Rasputin, is invited to dinner at Moika Palace by Prince Felix Yusupov. Among the dinner guests is a British secret agent named Oswald Rayner. This much is historical fact. Despite the monk’s supernatural might, Rayner succeeds in assassinating Rasputin. But his death only presages far darker events. The secret cabal known as the Black Hand is plotting to unleash otherworldly horrors upon Europe…”

The project also features contributions from Mike McKone, Marc Laming, Eric Powell, Meghan Hetrick and Mark A. Nelson. They are now in full-on stretch goal territory. This thing is happening. (Again, for more info, click here.)

Anyway, we’re taking the “Black” part of the title to heart today — it being Black Friday and all — and Marz (Green Lantern, Witchblade) and Smith (Doctor Who, Batman ’66 Meets Steed and Mrs. Peel) have put together a great list of comics’ 13 Greatest Horror Artists Ever:


1. Bernie Wrightson. The word “master” gets thrown around a lot, but there are few as deserving of the title as Bernie. Much loved and much missed, he set the standard for every horror artist who came after him, and his gorgeous illustrated edition of Frankenstein is one of the true masterpieces of art. (Matt)

It’s hard for me to even grasp Bernie’s magnificence as an artist, because he was first and foremost my friend. He was a guy I had beers with, and laughed with, and now he’s gone. The world lost one of the great artists of the 20th century. I lost my friend. (Ron)

2. Mike Mignola. There aren’t many comic-book creators who become brand names, but say the name Mignola and you instantly know to expect a blend of Lovecraftian horror and big, fun fight scenes. Everything that comes out of his pen is ominous, atmospheric and creepy, but he never forgets to throw a little dash of off-kilter humor in there, as well. And it’s all absolutely gorgeous and stunningly well drawn. A true master. (Matt)

3. Graham Ingels. I learned about “Ghastly” Graham Ingels from Bernie Wrightson, who said Graham’s EC work was a huge influence on him. It’s easy to see why. The look, the feel, it was all … well, horrible. In the best possible sense. Bernie told me he loved the way Graham’s screaming characters would have those strands of spittle in their mouths. That’s pretty high praise. (Ron)

4. Guy Davis. Guy’s my go-to… well… guy… when I need inspiration for a monster. No one designs cooler, more interesting monsters, which is probably why directors like Guillermo Del Toro turn to him for films like Pan’s Labyrinth and Pacific Rim. But my personal favorite work of Guy’s is his creator-owned comic, The Marquis. And his run on Sandman Mystery Theater. And his many B.P.R.D. stories. And … yeah, I like everything Guy Davis does. (Matt)

5. Mike Ploog. Certainly not strictly a horror guy, but Mike left his mark on Man-Thing, Werewolf by Night, and The Monster of Frankenstein, not to mention Ghost Rider. Some of my favorite Ploog work is the card set he produced in the ’90s, which was filled with a bevy of glorious monsters. (Ron)

6. Ben Templesmith. I hate Ben. I hate Ben so very, very much. He makes it all look so freakin’ easy. Loose, seemingly carefree lines, moody abstract coloring, crazy visuals. From 30 Days of Night to Gotham At Midnight to his Gentleman Corpse stories, they’re all gorgeous and seem so effortless, but there’s a master behind that pen who has already left his mark on the industry and established the look of modern horror. (Matt)

7. Stephen Bissette and John Totleben. Swamp Thing was a watershed comic for me. It was the first comic I read when I was younger that seemed to have been made just for me. A story that took the medium seriously, and art that changed what I expected from a comic book. Bissette and Totleben, both separately and together, created an expressive, creepy masterpiece of horror art. And some of the monsters they’ve drawn still haunt my dreams. (Matt)

8. Richard Corben. There’s nobody like Corben, before or since. The work is so unique in its blocky power that it’s instantly recognizable, somehow beautifully ugly. Or possessed of an ugly beauty. Corben’s been doing it for years, and he’s still doing it now. His recent Hellboy stories, as well as the Poe adaptation, are already classics. (Ron)

9. H.R. Giger. Speaking of brand names, Giger is one of the biggest in the world of horror, and no one has captured the looming, unearthly dread of Lovecraftian horror better. Best known for his designs for the original Alien — which is basically just one of his disturbing and erotic illustrations come to life — his paintings and sculptures are nightmarish visions of profound, nihilistic beauty. And I’d like extra points for using the word “nihilistic” in a sentence. Thank you. (Matt)

10. Basil Gogos. We lost Basil recently, and I felt like a part of my childhood went with him. His covers for Famous Monsters were an integral part of my growing up. When I started seeing him on the comic convention circuit, I never quite managed the courage to go say hi to him, and express my appreciation. Now, obviously, I regret it. (Ron)

11. Gene Colan. Whenever Colan drew Dracula, the Count never seemed more alive. Gene’s energetic, moody artwork on Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula redefined the Count for a new generation, and led to the creation (with writer Marv Wolfman) of the vampire hunter Blade. But the thing I always loved him the most for was a book he did at DC (also with Wolfman), Night Force. Which you should totally read, if you haven’t already. (Matt)

12. Junji Ito. For my money, the most visually disturbing artist on the list. From Tomie to Uzumaki to his Frankenstein, Ito’s manga work is thoroughly unsettling in both content and style. I don’t know if I can even say I like his work … but I can’t look away from it. (Ron)

13. Brom. Not a comics guy, obviously, but you can’t talk about horror art without mentioning Gerald Brom’s illustrations and covers. Pale flesh, leather, creatures both alluring and repellent … Brom’s world is sexy and horrific at the same time, and you can see his influence in a host of other artists. Our collaborator Paul Harding said we had to include Brom, or there would be trouble. There was no argument. (Ron)


For info on Beasts of the Black Hand, click here.

For the 13 Greatest Horror Comics Ever — also picked by Ron and Matt, click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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