Best X-men Artists

Daniel Brown
• Monday, 04 January, 2021
• 9 min read

Because comics are graphic novels the illustrators are equally important as the writers in making a story come to life. Though X-Men has had 50 years of changing and evolving through dozens of storylines and situations, the artists have continued to be innovative, yet authentic to the characters' looks and costumes.

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Without the artists, we'd only have half of the story, so our hats off to them for fleshing out such a great character. (Image credit: Marvel Comics)Between his work on House of M and killing off Professor Xavier in AVX, Bends demonstrated his ability to weave a mutated story to keep readers' tongues wagging for years after it hit newsstands.

Although Hugh Jackman quips about the film franchise's black leather uniforms, most fans appreciated the visual contributions Quietly provided to bring the X-Men into the 21st Century while honoring their superhero nature. (Image credit: Marvel Comics)The current so-called 'Head of X' Jonathan Hickman is the most recent creator on this list, but as the writer of X-Men and the creative mastermind of the latest mutant status quo, he's already earned his place in the annals of the greatest X-writers ever.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)Although Cock rum penciled less than 30 issues of Uncanny X-Men, his reboot of the dormant series alongside Len Wan was arguably one of the most important contributions to mutant kind. (Image credit: Marvel Comics)Following Cock rum's departure from the series, Byrne began his celebrated run on Uncanny X-Men alongside Chris Claremont penning what are still considered to be the greatest X-Men stories to date.

His work on the 'Dark Phoenix Saga' in particular is a touchstone for many artists and writers who step up into the role as a member of the creative team behind one of Marvel's premiere titles. Working with John Romina Sr. and Herb Tripe, Wan helped flesh out the pint-sized Canuck, who would go on to dominate comic books and silver screens the world round.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)A discussion about the most influential X-Men creators would be remiss if it did not factor in the very people who invented these genetically-enhanced superheroes: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Though Lee and Kirby's version dwindled, their core idea possessed the foundation for later creators to build upon, reviving the concept and turning the X-Men into enduring icons.

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Smith made a huge impression with the cover of issue #173, which featured Wolverine and Rogue. Bolton's style of heavy black lines and more classically illustrated figures helped squeeze in key character moments between some of the best stories in X-Men history.

With the X-Men believed dead, Nightcrawler, Kitty Pride, and Rachel Summers left for England to form Excalibur in 1987. Walt Simon son is a towering figure in Marvel history, writing and drawing some of the best Thor runs ever.

Simon son drew X-Factor early in the team's run, which saw the return of the original five X-Men, including Jean Grey, whose resurrection is arguably one of the worst Marvel recons ever. Simon son also drew the massive crossover between the X-Men and Teen Titans from DC, which combined the two most popular comic teams at the time in a battle against Daresay.

His unique style changed the game for X-Men spinoff The New Mutants and comics forever when he joined with issue #18. “The Demon Bear Saga” was hugely influential with its surreal, avant-garde art style, and later inspired the recent Easter egg heavy New Mutants film.

Bill Sienkiewicz later had major runs on The Mighty Thor, Daredevil, and Electra: Assassin. His success set the foundation for his early 90s work as a founding father of Image Comics, where he drew his original creation, Cyber Force.

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When Silver left the title, Lee took over and ushered in arguably the most successful era of X-Men comics ever. Windsor-Smith combined the bombastic comic style of early masters like Kirby with a more classical illustration technique.

His clean, powerful lines rendered the X-Men in a classic style that remains popular to this day. Byrne later went on to write and draw major runs of The Fantastic Four, She-Hulk, and the post- Crisis On Infinite Earths Superman reboot, Man of Steel.

Art Adams never drew the X-Men books proper, but he was a major contributor to their 80s success and a huge influence on the superstars that followed in the 90s. Adams has a dynamic style that clearly prefigures many of the Image artists that contributed so much to the history and success of the X-Men.

While the X-Men would still be finding their way through the first ten years of the 2000s, major artists contributed to the legacy of the team by taking them in startling new directions and in some cases, going back to what had made them so successful from the beginning. Chris Claremont changed the X-Men forever and alongside Dave Cock rum and John Byrne, defined the team as fans know it today.

Mike Mayhew provided a jolt for X-Men fans with his photorealistic painted covers for the Mystique solo series from 2003. The Exiles were Marvel's first true dimensional hopping team and Mike McKone was the artist behind their early run.

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McKone went on to work for both Marvel and DC Comics, drawing the Teen Titans and Green Lantern titles for the distinguished competition. Hubert drew big runs of the solo Wolverine comic in the 90s, as well as bookends for the Onslaught Saga, which hasn't aged as well as some other X-Men stories.

Ariel Olivetti, like Marko Djurdjevi, brought a painted life-like quality to his covers for the second volume of the Cable solo series. Ariel Olivetti's style had a clear influence on bringing Cable to life on the big screen in Deadpool 2.

Alan Davis was already one of the greatest X-Menartists of the 1980s, drawing Excalibur and introducing Betsy Braddock, AKA Locke. This was part of a broader initiative that saw similar titles exploring the narrative ends of Marvel heroes, including the X-Men, Iron Man, and Captain America.

Frank Quietly brought his signature art style to the New X-Men, a major revitalization of the brand written by Grant Morrison. His iconic yellow-X jackets would later inspire the uniforms seen on screen in X-Men : Dark Phoenix, the last of the Fox X-Men movies to be produced.

After a few years of avoiding the past, Joss When and John Cassady returned the X-Men to the colorful and varied looks with Astonishing X-Men. He brought a truly cosmic scope to the book while still maintaining a human and intimate focus on the relationships, especially that of Kitty Pride and her on-again, off-again love interest, Colossus.

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The world of mutants had an abundance of riches when it came to artists during the 90s, including some of the best to ever work at Marvel Comics and some of the most iconic of all time. The X-Men saw heights in sales and popularity they never saw again during the 90s, thanks largely to major artists like Jim Lee.

Carlos Pacheco is a Spanish-born artist who drew the adjectiveless X-Men title between 1997 and 1998. Pacheco got his start with the mutants by drawing a spin-off title of the Age Of Apocalypse storyline a few years later.

A fan favorite, his run was, unfortunately, a period where the book was in something of a decline both in popularity and quality. Stories focusing on villains like Bastion and lame X-Men heroes like Maggot left the series in stasis before Grant Morrison kick started it a few years later with the New X-Men run.

Ziegfeld's characteristic art style was widely praised and panned, but there was no denying its huge success. Portico, a native of the Philippines, took over penciling duties on the Uncanny X-Men when Jim Lee left to start the adjectiveless title back in 1991.

Like John Romina Jr., Adam Hubert is part of a proud comic book legacy. His father, Joe Hubert, is one of the most influential artists in the genre, and his brother Andy also drew the X-Men in the 90s.

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He also drew the one-shots that book ended the Onslaught crossover epic, perhaps the epitome of 90s excess in comic books. Apollo instantly impressions with fans, taking the heavy armor (and pouched) look of the team and adding his more streamlined style to it.

He drew major stories during this era, including the dark, dystopian Age of Apocalypse and the Phalanx Covenant, notable for introducing Blink's character. Chris Bachelor's unique style of smooth lines eschewed traditional muscle heavy looks, but it was hugely popular.

He drew many landmark moments of this era, including Wolverine first revealed his bone claws, the wedding of Cyclops and Jean Grey, and the epic Executioner's Song crossover revealed the truth behind the origin of both Cable and Strife. His art style contributed to making X-Men #1 the biggest selling comic book of all time, to this day.

His dramatic costume designs remain iconic and popular and were made even more so with their use in X-Men : The Animated Series. The Internet has brought with it the possibility of previously near-impossible completion, and with it, the overwhelming implicit weight of years of continuity and the necessity of “catching up” before you dive in.

If you like long, intricate stories, try In the fast-moving world of shared-universe superhero comics, Chris Claremont has spent a staggering 17 years shaping the X-Men. While his run technically starts a few issues after this, Giant-Size X-Men #1 lays the foundation for a decade and a half of intricate long-form storytelling, interwoven plot lines, and the kind of slow-burn soap opera for which the X-Men are famous.

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Excalibur has plenty of X-Men -style soap opera, but the long-game storytelling here veers further into the realm of the weird; and Davis’s run deftly weaves Claremont’s spiraling plot threads into surprisingly poignant tapestry. Ask any fan to pinpoint the classic, iconic X-Men story, and most will send you straight to Uncanny X-Men #129-138: the issues that chronicle the corruption and fall of the cosmically empowered Jean Grey.

All of that is because The Dark Phoenix Saga is the X-Men at their best : fighting as and for their found family and the fate of the world, backs to the wall, in the face of impossible odds. If you’ve watched the eponymous 2014 feature film or the 1993 arc from the animated series, you’ll recognize a lot of the motifs in X-Men #141-142, which have been adapted almost as often as The Dark Phoenix Saga.

Next, try The dystopian timeline of Earth-811 plays a cameo role in Days of Future Past, but one of its residents would go on to become a refugee in the main Marvel Universe. Rachel Summers, the daughter of Earth-811’s Cyclops and Jean Grey, served first on the X-Men, and then on the British superhero team Excalibur.

If you want to read a book that examines just about all the main themes of X-Men, you’re not going to find a more on-brand option than God Loves, Man Kills. Published in 1982 as the fifth installment of Marvel’s fledgling graphic novel line, God Loves, Man Kills takes on anti-mutant sentiment through the lens of bigotry in an evangelical megachurch, juxtaposing the “monstrous” mutant X-Men with the inhumane doctrine of a man perceived as a moral force.

Over the more than half a century he’s been appearing in comics, Magneto has gone from a one-dimensional super villain to a strikingly nuanced and sympathetic figure who more than once has put aside ideological differences to aid X-Men in need. Cullen Burn, Gabriel Hernandez Malta, and Jodie Bella ire’s 2014 serial adds even more depth to Magneto’s complex legacy as a Holocaust survivor, mutant activist, and first and closest friend of X-Men founder Charles Xavier.

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There have been a lot of reality-hopping X-books over the years, but few so substantial and deft as this series, which spun off from writer Greg PAK’s single arc on Astonishing X-Men. Instead of shifting the main status quo, PAK and a series of spectacular artists reimagine the X-Men’s corner of the Marvel universe over and over, building a fascinating and unlikely cast of heroes in the process.

Husband-and-wife writer team Walter and Louise Simon son’s surreal, noir-tinged story of Cold War paranoia, and artists Jon J. Much and Kent Williams’s lush painted art, combine into a strange, elegant, and intricately built series that spotlights both one of the more rarely explored dynamics between X-Men team members and the breathtaking potential of comics as a narrative medium. Kent Williams returned to the X-line with Wolverine: Killing, a one-shot comic that’s even harder to track down than Meltdown : it’s never been collected, and it’s not available digitally.

Williams and writer John Na Racer craft a work that falls somewhere between traditional comic and visual tone poem, and a lyrical exploration of some quieter parts of Wolverine’s story. With appealing art by Gurihiru, the Power Pack crossover series are generally great kid-friendly introductions to Marvel’s adult superheroes.

It’s silly and fun enough to hold the attention of even fairly young kids; and seeded with enough layered humor and continuity gags to keep adults engaged at the same time.

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