There is no better time than now to be a super hero "geek." If there's an article of clothing you want with a super hero theme, just Google "Captain America leather jacket" or "Supergirl camisole" and you can find those items, ready to order. (I know, because I've purchased both). In the mood for a well-done, smartly-written super hero flick, you'll probably be able to find at least two playing in the theaters at any given time (except for a brief period of time that started on June 17 in 2011). Want a kick-ass comic book tattoo? Download the geeksterink app to get ideas and find a number of artists who specialize in such tattoos.
Things have gotten so good that nowadays, the high school quarterback wearing the letterman jacket may find himself in real competition with the high school senior wearing the Flash t-shirt for the affections of the head cheerleader.
How we got to this glorious era can be debated. But in my opinion, we'd have never gotten to this point if it weren't for the art. For me, it was the bright, almost patriotic colors of Superman's suit that grabbed my attention as a six-year-old. It was the darker grays, blues and blacks of the Dark Knight that sparked my interested as a teenager, and actually got me into reading the pages behind the cover.
I am still by no means an expert on comic book superheroes and their storylines. The Powergirl/Supergirl thing--forget about it. I still, however, find myself impressed with a lot of the artwork and the seriousness with which many of the artists treat their subjects.
One case in point is English artist Des Taylor. I would describe his artwork as "classic." When I look at his work, I'm reminded of the 1950s serials that used to come before the main feature at the local cinema. Except that the serial is totally awesome, and I'm in a theater that costs a little extra to get into, and it may even be owned by Hugh Hefner.
Des Taylor did the Supergirl piece as a commissioned work for me. Since then, I've purchased several other pieces of his work. He does everything from Star Wars to Dick Tracy, and his original work is also amazing. Des Taylor's work reminds us of the era when our favorite heroes were created, where and how they were born. Get to know him on his Facebook page, or on his website at http://despop.co.uk. Commissioned work may be hard to get these days (he's very in-demand), but he's still got plenty of other pieces to choose from, and he's very easy to do business with. (Yeah, I just ended a sentence with a preposition. Deal with it).
Are you more into a realistic look with maybe a little bit of sex appeal? You like your comic book heroes to look like people who actually existed outside of paper and film? Then Adam Hughes is the artist you seek. I discovered Adam Hughes while looking for superheroine pin-up ideas for a tattoo (which I still haven't had done). The first piece I discovered was of his Catwoman.
I have yet to find an artist who can capture the sex appeal of a comic book character like Adam Hughes can. Just before it slaps you in the face, it pulls back, still leaving a bit to the imagination.
Adam Hughes has a talent for making the women he draws look bad-ass, but still very feminine. Beautiful, but tough. I've been able to purchase a couple shirts with his work printed on them, and tracked down and bought a couple of posters on e-bay (for which I paid a fairly pretty penny). You can browse and buy pieces of his work at www.justsayah.com.
Bringing me back to comic books almost 20 years ago was Alex Ross. Perusing through a book store one day (the Internet and Amazon weren't really things yet, at least not to me), I came across the DC Comics series Kingdom Come, illustrated by Ross. I was in awe.
I couldn't believe that an artist was willing to put so much time and effort into drawing superheroes! Not that the subject wasn't worth the effort, but I grew up watching the poorly-animated Super Friends cartoons. The comic book art I grew up with was very one-dimensional. Color palettes were very limited. Alex Ross changed everything. For me, Alex Ross officially made it acceptable, maybe even cool, for an adult to enjoy comic books.
Alex Ross has earned enough acclaim that it's not difficult to find access to any of his work. In fact, it's not uncommon to find his work unintentionally. His work was featured on the cover of TV Guide years ago, promoting the television show Smallville. Collectible statues based on his work have also been made. If you're not already familiar with his work, you can find some of it at www.alexrossart.com.
I know there are many other talented comic book artists out there. These three are just the ones who have made the biggest impressions on me. I think these are the guys who have created and maintain the current state of pop culture--one that has seen a highly successful Batman movie franchise, more than a decade of successful Marvel flicks, years of more DC movies, a number of currently successful and upcoming superhero TV shows, and a market for killer superhero clothing and other novelty items.
If you know of any other cool artists, tell us about them!