you know who is great?

I’ll tell you. Alan Davis. Who is Alan Davis? Alan Davis is one of my favorite comic book illustrators, that’s who! Back when I was still buying new comic books (I stopped years ago), I discovered Alan Davis when he was penciling Detective Comics for DC. His Batman was terrific. Davis’ style is fluid and graceful. It’s every bit as powerful as comicdom’s other greats: John Buscema, Jack Kirby, Joe Kubert, Will Eisner, John Byrne, Jim Lee, Alex Ross and the like.

When he finished up on Detective Comics on the middle of a story run (he was replaced by the extremely overrated Todd MacFarlane, I’ll talk about him in a moment), he moved over to Marvel Comics. He went to work penciling Excalibur. And I went to work buying them.

I think Alan Davis was, unfortunately, overshadowed by the Todd MacFarlane craze. I freely admit I was impressed with MacFarlane’s work for about five minutes, but, as a nearly life-long student of comic book art, I quickly saw MacFarlane’s deficiencies as an artist. His work was dramatic and eye-catching, but his anatomy drawing was poor. His proportions were off and his women all looked wrong. His characters all looked like they were in danger of falling over (always leaning and their bodies tapering toward their feet). MacFarlane’s line work was way too busy and lacked weight and definition.

MacFarlane's art: Just how big is Spider-Man's butt?

Alan Davis’ work, on the other hand, was lush and disciplined. His line work was simple, flowing, elegant and expressive. His eye for page layout and design was outstanding. A mark of a really good comic book artist is being able to follow the story without having to read the narrative and dialogue. Davis’ pages never left you confused as to what was going on, while MacFarlane’s often did.

And the way Alan Davis drew women… AHEM.

Let's see MacFarlane draw a woman this well!

Maybe I suffer a little from the sour grapes when I look at MacFarlane’s work. I spent years trying to get into the comic book biz, but no go. Sometimes I’d get some praise, “You’re good, but you need work.” Sometimes I’d get slapped, “Have you had any drawing lessons?” This was asked of me by an editor after I had spent three years in art school. Often I would hear that my work was a little too cartoony. I’d work on improving my work and then I saw MacFarlane’s drawings. Cartoony?! Talk about cartoony! Are you looking at his stuff?!

MacFarlane's Wolverine (This cover did catch my eye at first.)

Davis' Wolverine

(To be fair, I have to say that although I don’t care much for MacFarlane’s drawing, his line of toys he later produced were fantastic!)

However, when I see great work, I marvel at the artist’s ability. I revel in it. I feel as though I’m witnessing something transcendent. It’s a beautiful thing.

MacFarlane's Hulk

Davis' Hulk (Drawings like this make me want to put down my pencil and let the pros handle it.)

And I think Alan Davis produced many beautiful things.

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