Everyone knows that stereotypical comic book art style pictured above. Flat colors, dramatic word balloons, that chiseled Superman jaw. Though technology has drastically improved since the golden age of comics, this art style is still very prevalent in comics illustration, especially superhero comics. If this common type of comic art isn’t your cup of tea, you might not ever go near a comic book or graphic novel, even though they’ve contained some of the best literature of the past decade. So I’ve compiled a list of some of the most distinct, one-of-a-kind illustrations I’ve found during my life as a lover of the graphic medium.
Godshaper by Simon Spurrier and Jonas Goonface
Not only is Godshaper #1 a fantastic debut to a unique, satisfying series, the art is breathtaking. The artist, Jonas Goonface, uses vibrant, striking colors together in a way that I had never come across in comics until then. Goonface uses gorgeous illustrations to complement Simon Spurrier’s excellent writing. Together, they create a world where every human has a god and every god has a human, except for Ennay, our beautifully drawn main character.
Harrow County by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook
I always thought the art of Harrow County, an eerie horror comic series, was amazing. But it wasn’t until Harrow County Vol . 5 included bonus material of the artists’ process that I fully understood the talent I was witnessing on the page. In a world full of digital art, Tyler Crook returns to traditional materials. He uses watercolor paints to bring haunting, realistic scenes to life. I can’t imagine the time and skill that goes into to every endeavor — Tyler Crook makes Cullen Bunn’s writing pop off the page. The scary area of Harrow County never seemed so real and disturbing.
Ava’s Demon by Michelle Czajkowski
Webcomics are one of the best ways for artists to showcase their talent without having to land a publisher. Some of my favorite graphic novels have been webcomics republished in a paperback format. Ava’s Demon is the best webcomic I’ve ever read, hands down. It’s also one of the best comics I’ve ever read. Each webpage is a new panel for this webcomic, so as you click through it almost feels like an animation. Czajkowski actually does animate some of her scenes with skill that grows with every panel. It’s a journey that feels interactive and alluring. Anyone who likes science fiction, animation, comics, or just plain amazing storytelling should check out Michelle Czajkowski’s work here.
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Nimona has been at the top of everyone’s “Best Graphic Novels” list, and I can’t disagree. The story is a perfect blend of adorable, heartfelt, and hilarious. This webcomic turned graphic novel stole all of our hearts with through the titular character of Nimona. She’s a heroine unlike anything we’ve ever seen. In addition, she looks like no one we’ve ever seen. Stevenson’s unique artwork makes the book memorable.
Crawl Space by Jesse Jacobs
A graphic novel about a magical world inside a washer and dryer. Could the art be anything but psychedelic? Jesse Jacobs created Crawl Space, a journey inside the childhoods of suburbia. His art definitely consists of one-of-a-kind illustrations, as you can see above. It’s difficult to draw a spiritual, hallucinogenic journey, but somehow Jacobs pulls it off. Furthermore, the novel itself raises a lot of interesting questions about suburban life and lack of spirituality.
Deja Brew by Taneka Stotts and Sara DuVall
Eisner nominated masterpiece Deja Brew is just one of many comics created by Taneka Stotts, an especially talented writer with a seemingly never-ending resume of great comics. The art comes from Sara DuVall, who creates mind-boggling illustrations. Their use of colors and style is so refined that seeing it in a webcomic and not in a museum or in a physical copy feels strange. You can read the first chapter for free here.
House of Women by Sophie Goldstein
Another webcomic for the list! House of Women explores an age old science fiction trope in new, clever ways. Fantastic worlds and storylines come to life in Goldstein’s comic about a group of women trying to bring “civilization” to another community. What could possibly go wrong? Find out here.
I’m Not a Robot by Ashanti Fortson
Ashanti Forston tells an autobiographical story in I’m Not a Robot. This is yet another webcomic with fantastic colors, art, and story. Fortson talks about their experiences being autistic in a world that doesn’t respect those on the spectrum. Not only does I’m Not a Robot open a door to the voice of brown, queer, and autistic experiences, it’s really aesthetically beautiful. Fortson’s use of minimalist imagery coupled with their raw take on the harsh reality of being different makes for an important, and quality, read. You can find this spellbinding comic here.
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
While I found the story of On a Sunbeam to be a little hard to follow, the art more than makes up for it. This minimalist style takes the black and white of outer space and makes it into something beautiful. The contrast and use of shadow on every page is breathtaking. As a result, boarding schools in space never looked so striking. Start reading now here!
I hope you found something that interested you, and changed the way you look at comic art. However, there are always more comics to read. So, are there any artists or graphic novels that are noteworthy to you? Tell us some one-of-a-kind illustrations that you’ve come across.