Friday, July 1, 2016

Who's the Best... Doctor Strange Artist?

Redartz: With the Doctor Strange film coming up before the year is out, it seems appropriate to pay some love to the remarkable array of great artists the good Doctor has been blessed with...

Steve Ditko
Gene Colan
Dan Adkins

Frank Brunner
Marshall Rogers
Michael Golden

Paul Smith


Unknown said...

My very favorite Dr. Strange artist is Steve Ditko, who was perfectly suited to illustrate the mystic magician's exploits. Of course, Ditko's artwork was phantasmagorical and looked like something one might see if one had taken a heavy dose of hallucinogens (a not entirely uncommon occurrence in the late Sixties). The first Dr. Strange story I read was his origin, which in addition to being as good a place to start as any, was reprinted as the back-up feature in Marvel Tales #137 and can be picked up for a few dollars. It features the introduction of the Ancient One and his sinister student Mordo. Incidentally, for a great Spider-man/Dr. Strange team-up, check out Amazing Spider-Man Annual #14, featuring fantastic early Eighties artwork by Frank Miller with a script by Denny O'Neil (reprinted in Marvel Tales #200).

Anonymous said...

For me it was difficult to choose between Steve Ditko & Marshall Rogers. Ditko's sublime surreal art and concepts are unique. However, Marshall Rogers became transcendent on Doctor Strange. He takes Ditko a goes even more surreal with unimaginable details. Is I vote for Marshall Rogers as the best Doctor Strange Artist ever.

david_b said...

My very favorite is Ditko as well, I strongly prefer Ditko on Doc Strange over his Spiderman work. It just seems to conjure up the original Lee notion of a pulp-ish carnival-type magician solving crimes. Austere in graphics, it was a great, uber-cool rendition of all the budding psychedelics in the Marvel House of Ideas at the time, circa 1966/67.

Adkins was very good but not quite as memorable. I just recall a lot more character self-analysis than Ditko's typical stories.

While having Colan take over seemed like a natural idea at the time.., his tenure saw more lusher, captivating panel work but less organic 'weirdness'. Unfortunately, by the time Brunner drew his own '70s title, it was pretty much the same, edging more towards a 'monster-of-the-week' format comparatively, where I lost interest quickly.

Humanbelly said...

Man, every one of those covers make me want to Buy This Book. Yet I think the only off-the-rack issue I ever picked up was a Giant-Size Dr.Strange (near the end of that era) which reprinted a string of stories drawn by Frank Brunner. Which were TERRIFIC, I might add.

Ah, heck-- I'll go with him, then.

Maybe Doc is a nice, niche collecting goal awaiting me? Hmmmmmm---


William said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William said...

I've got a strong feeling that Ditko is going to win this one hands down. No one does weird (or Strange) better than Ditko.

However, I was never a huge fan of Dr. Strange so I'm not that familiar with the work of other artists outside of Steve Ditko and Paul Smith.

Martinex1 said...

I think Ditko definitely set the standard for the weirdness. The landscapes and the settings really established the mood and mystery. I hope the movie captures some of that magic; it would be lacking if it skimped on that craziness in my opinion. I have always however enjoyed Marshall Rogers on the character. So I agree with Anonymous. I would have liked to see Golden do more Strange (is that his only work on the character?); his ornateness fits well with the character. What a great costume by the way; these covers highlight that.

Guy Lawley said...

Has to be Ditko for his originating role, his crazed other dimensions, and all round fabulosity.
Colan perhaps the better artist, especially with Palmer.
Brunner lovable but really an inspired amateur.

Karen said...

Ditko, as the originator, is the artist all others are compared to, and rightly so. But I'm partial to Brunner, who conjured up some amazing visuals during his time with the Doctor.

Doug said...

I cannot count myself as a fan of the Doctor outside his appearances in the Defenders. That being said, I'd promote Ditko as the best based on innovation alone. He laid the groundwork that all others would follow or attempt to amend. If I had a second place nomination, and again with no real experience, I'd go with Frank Brunner.

Steranko could have done some trippy things, too.


Humanbelly said...

Steranko's an inspired What If-?, there, Doug! Yeah, that would've been something to see.

Didn't Marie Severin handle Dr Strange for a bit--- or was she simply doing covers during one of his earlier runs? That rings a bell. . .

And Sal B actually drew a LOT of the good Doctor as well during his time penciling DEFENDERS. And I have to say that, as with everything he drew, Sal's Dr Strange worked just fine for me-- it definitely had the feel of an approachable, grounded-in-the-MU Doctor Strange. The Man behind those perpetual Mystic Arts. . . the NOT-weird against which the TRULY-weird could be measured.


Pat Henry said...

Ditko set the standard, no question, creating a fantastic realm and playhouse for the character. But Gene Colan was always my personal favorite, just a magnificent illustrator who added a solid sense of reality to the phantasmagoria. His scenes of astral projection were the best.

J.A. Morris said...

My favorite artist on this series was Marshall Rogers. I say this because I've never been a big fan of Doctor Strange stories. I enjoy him as a Defender, playing off Hulk, Valykyrie and Namor, or as a guest star teaming with Spider-Man or the FF.

But the first Strange arc I ever read was the Stern-Rogers-Austin stories published in the early 80s. I have no idea why their work on the Master Of Mystic Arts hasn't been collected as a tpb.

I still say that Ditko is the best and the definitive Doctor Strange artist in my book. "Favorite" and "Best" aren't necessarily the same thing.

I like Colan and Severin's work, but Frank Brunner is my #3 Strange penciler.

Redartz said...

Great comments, all!
Thomas F.- that Spider-Man annual you mentioned is top- notch. Actually, all the Dr. Strange/ Spidey team-ups seem tovwork well. Maybe it's that Ditko magic...

Martinex1- I too love that costume. The stills from the upcoming movie look promising in that regard.

Doug- great idea; would love to see Steranko on the Doctor. Would seem a perfect match.

My pick- although my mind says Ditko, my gut says Brunner. Perhaps it's because Frank was drawing the book when I first discovered it; but those issues define the character for me...
That said, all the above artists did well. The Doctor just has a history of fine illustrators seldom matched by other books, imho.

Anonymous said...

I have a reservation choosing Ditko, because the actual art itself is not that great, but the conceptualisation, the imagery, the mind at work is fantastic. It’s weird when you consider that Starlin, Englehart etc were the hippies and Ditko was actually very conservative. Then you look at the sheer level of freak out, boundless imagination in Ditko’s work and it seems bizarre that he is basically Mitt Romney.

What I love about Ditko is that most artists start from reality / normality and then go plus/minus. With Ditko, even up and down are not up and down. Gravity is optional. Electromagnetism – only on Tuesdays, I mean there are NO rules.

No one mentioned that insanely huge & grandiose Eternity saga that went on for about 2 years in Strange Tales, which Ditko plotted and drew. Ditko really took everyone to Doc Strange school there.

I have the same issue with Dan Adkins. Some great conceptualisations – love the Yandroth story, but not great actual art. I prefer Adkins as an inker (Gil Kane’s best partner, discuss?)

The best Mike Golden issue, and one of the best full stop, is #55. I agree with the group, more Mike Golden would not be a bad thing.

Surely, with the amount of Defenders Doc, Sal Buscema should be in with a shout here, but I’m sure no one would pick him.

I’m amazed there’s not more love for Gene Colan. I know he’s an obvious choice, but the run that Englehart wrote and Tom Palmer inked is kind of a high water mark for Doc Strange. The Drac crossover followed by the Hell story was fantastic.

I seem to recall some great art by Rudy Nebres and great inking on various artists that made for a really strong Doc strange vibe. He could take an artist who was not particularly great for the Doc and really Strange them up.

Somewhere here, a while back, someone mentioned a graphic novel I never knew existed – Doc Strange & Doc Doom with Mignola art. Whoever you are, please step forward and tell us if that artwork was top 5.

Final choice: don’t know. I kind of want Ditko’s brain and Colan’s hands. There must be a spell for that.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I think this one's almost impossible to narrow down. I think Ditko was best on the settings, the surroundings and trappings of Doc Strange, while Brunner's figure-work was great; for me, Colan is kind of a blend of the two...good on setting and characters, but not quite as good as Ditko or Brunner respectively.

Mike Wilson

Pat Henry said...

Agreed that Englehart Colan run was top flight, a high water mark for the whole series. Someone had done their homework on mysticism and the occult, and the whole running on a top-level adult theme of depth and intelligence. Even Mordo became a highly nuanced character, to say nothing of Dormmamu and his realm. Then suddenly, in one issue, the whole edifice came crashing to a halt—Sorcerer Supreme No More!—and the series devolved into Bad Guy of the Week themes. Art, not so bad. Story? Yawn.

Edo Bosnar said...

Richard, among others, I've mentioned that graphic novel: it's called "Triumph and Torment" and it is my favorite Dr. Doom story and one of my favorite Dr. Strange stories. Mignola's art is definitely spectacular and quite perfect for the story.

As to the question at hand, even though Ditko is a sentimental favorite, I'm going to try to be 'objective' and say Frank Brunner. Hard choice, though, as I also very much love the work by Rogers and Smith, although both of their runs on the title were all too brief.

Comicsfan said...

I think Tom Sutton's work on the good Doctor also deserves some love; in fact I think he may come the closest to Ditko's approach to the character than any of the other artists, while still managing to distinguish his own style of artistry on the book.

Humanbelly said...

Holy Cats-- EXTREMELY embarrassing amendment to my first post (but I'm gonna take it like a man). It occurred to me that the GS book I referred to couldn't possibly have been Frank Brunner--- so I double-checked--- and it was Dan Adkins! An arc starting around Strange Tales #164 or so. Sooooooo I'm gonna change my sentimental vote to the deeply underdogged Dan Adkins, yep!


Edo Bosnar said...

By the way, if we're going to talk about Golden as a Dr. Strange artist, with the single (admittedly beautiful) issue plus a few covers that he drew, we should definitely add P. Craig Russell to the list: his art on the sole Dr. Strange annual in the 1970s was quite lovely, and he inked a few issue of the regular series. He also did the art in a Dr. Strange graphic novel in the 1990s that I'd really like to read.

William Preston said...

Are there any other characters whose milieu requires an artist with such particular gifts? One has to be able to turn the unbelievable into suggestive imagery; plus you have to be able to simultaneously awe the reader while still establishing a point of view, not letting the visuals become a mere jumble.

The first Doctor Strange I bought was a Brunner (death of the Ancient One—I had no idea what was going on . . . which I loved), but I'm a huge admirer of Colan's way of bringing a sense of the epic, cosmic feel to the comic, and Ditko's groundwork made all of this possible.

Martinex1 said...

Edo I agree on P. Craig Russell.

Regarding Colan - he is one of my all-time favorite artists but for some reason I liked him on Daredevil, Dracula, Subby and even Captain Marvel better than on Dr. Strange. I don't know why exactly I feel that way - maybe with Strange I like the juxtaposition of the weird and the clarity that Ditko, Adkins and others bring, while Colan's shadows pushed it too far???? I dont know, just never been as in favor of Colan on Strange as much. I'm sure I am in the minority there.

Although not the "best" I did like John Byrne's brief take on Strange in FF and elsewhere. I am not sure if I ever saw Perez's version.

Anonymous said...

Hi HB – didn’t want to tell you, but that GS (GS Doc Strange #1 1975, the only GS Doc Strange) reprints the Adkins Yandroth issues (ST 164 – 168) I was talking about. It has a lot of merit. There are some great panels, and great pages. Adkins is definitely channelling Steranko in a few places.

Incidentally, the gap between me reading Marvel Feature 1 (which picks up from that Yandroth story) and the original was…. 40 years. Yikes.

Hi Edo – ref the Docs, if it’s your favourite, well, nuff said. I just went & bought it on ebay. I’ll let you know.


BretSector said...

Brunner was my "gateway drug" for Dr. Strange, but I have to say Ditko is the best. He invented the "language of Strange" and all of the tropes...he is truly the best hands down.

Anonymous said...

Hi Redartz, you started this by saying the good Doctor was blessed with some remarkable artists: Ditko; Adkins; Colan; Brunner; Golden; Rogers & Smith to whom we added Miller; Marie Severin; Sal Buscema; Nebres; Mignola; Sutton; Russell & Byrne, and none of us mentioned Palmer, who took a one-off swing; John Buscema (in the Avengers); Alan Weiss; Kane (on many covers, obviously); Alcala; Starlin; Kerry Gammill; Kevin Nowlan and others.

I never realised how many great artists – would be hard to build such a list for most heroes over a relatively short number of issues. Great topic. I think we all know what we have to do before the movie comes out!


PS Martinex – Avengers Annual 8. Perez !

pfgavigan said...


For me, the best artist was Dan Green. Mostly known for his inking he was a very capable penciler who could really deliver. He handled most of the art chores, along with the talented inks of Terry Austin, for the Strange v. Dracula story line that resulted in the banishment of vampires (was that temporary?) from the Marvelverse.

Doctor Strange certainly wasn't known for stability of creative staff during the Bronze Age . . . or any other period. Seemed to be a 'revolving door' title.

Sometimes I think there can be an argument made that before an artist can be considered the 'best' on a title that they must have stayed on the book for a definite period of time or a minimum number of issues. For all that he's considered the 'classic' X-Men artist, Neal Adams was on the book for such a short time that I still consider Werner Roth to be the main artist from that era.



Redartz said...

I fully agree with Edo, and everyone else, regarding the high quality of the likes of Craig Russell on those special issues. Byrne's version (as seen in a few Fantastic Four issues) was indeed nice.

Also, J.A. and PFG (let's hear it for initials!) both make the good point about "best" and "favorite. I would add "definitive" as a qualifier- all three could bring a different answer.

And, as Doug mentioned Steranko- what about Barry Windsor-Smith? I'd say he would have done a beautiful job on Dr. Strange. Anyone know if BWS (there's those initials again) ever did a Strange story?

Martinex1 said...

Really great topic today Redartz. I believe Barry Windsor-Smith handled art on Dr. Strange in early issues of Marvel Premiere. #3 and 4

Redartz said...

Thanks, Martinex1! I'll have to hunt those stories down...

Anonymous said...

Ditko for weirdness, Colan for his lush shadowy art!

- Mike 'no doctor, just strange' from Trinidad & Tobago.

B Smith said...

Frank Brunner, for the simple reason that his rendering of Clea was most pleasing to my adolescent eyes

Rip Jagger said...

I put them in this order:

6. Marshal Rogers
5. Paul Smith
4. Gene Colan
3. Frank Brunner
2. Dan Adkins
1. Steve Ditko

Ditko rules this competition by a large margin!

Rip Off

Anonymous said...

I love Rogers and Paul Smith, but there is no question - Ditko. I don't think this is a question that is even debatable. He created a whole visual vocabulary that is cannot be separated from the character.

drivingovercanaan said...

MANY artists have done a great story or two or twenty in this series. Honorable mention must go to the great Bill Everett, who handled the strip at the lowest ebb of his career. He would have been a contender at his 1950s or 1970s strength.

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