Wednesday, June 26, 2013

ARTISTS WE NEED MORE OF: Paul Ryan

Not many artists can claim co-creating a character with Stan Lee to their credit, but with Marvel's Ravage 2099 under his belt, former military man and comics artist Paul Ryan can. As other fads have come and gone, Paul has been a reliable source of what I call a "classic comics" illustration style for decades - and he's just getting better. All of which means - why aren't we seeing more made of him?

By 'more' I don't mean more work. Currently Paul is kicking tail as the artist of King Features Syndicate The Phantom strip. It's some of the most detailed art Ryan has ever produced. Reportedly he has negotiated the volume of his workload with the publisher to an output that suits him just right - so that knocks 'more' out of the question. 'More made of him' though means the current artist on The Ghost Who Walks deserves a rise in respect for the massive body of work he has already accomplished - and he does.

I first found Paul's pencils in the pages of Avengers West Coast, pitting the Westies against the Legion of the Unliving. Written by John Byrne, the issue laid the plans for a dark Scarlet Witch, but it was Ryan's artwork bringing the dead to life. For me, having just brought a copy of the fabled How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way, Paul's ability to visually tell a story, his perspective and knowledge of anatomy were living proof of what the lessons were talking about. Wonder Man especially had/has never looked so cool - his eyes burned with energy!

Byrne must have thought so to. The next time Paul stumbled into my pull-list was when the infamous writer took over Iron Man to write the incredible Dragon Seed Saga. Pulled in to pencil, Paul brought with him the clean compositions and rounder Iron Man armour he'd perfected in Avengers West, reintroduced The Black Widow and tore apart how readers visualised both The Mandarin and Fing Fang Foom.

Unhappy with working on just a handful of my favourite titles, Paul's biggest stint came on my ultimate addiction: The Fantastic Four. From the death and return of Reed Richards to the Image Comics-ising of the Invisible Woman's outfit, Paul had one of the longest illustrative runs ever on 'The World's Greatest Comic Magazine'. His crisp pencils homaged the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby run that inspired his younger mind.

After eleven massive years at Marvel, Paul left for other pastures as the House of Ideas turned towards Heroes Reborn. For DC he graced the Batman and Superman titles - the later another of his great influences, thanks to the likes of actor George Reeves and artist Curt Swan. He also drew Legion Science Police, writer Grant Morrison's The Flash and more, until he was nabbed by talent savvy CrossGen.

Having helped marry both Spider-Man and Superman (separately, not to each other - that really would be career defining), Paul Ryan deserves his place in comic history. While no amount of acclaim could ever be enough, this article is my way of giving him a little bit more.

 What do you think?   To see Paul's stunning work on the current Phantom strip, you can subscribe for a really small fee here. Paul Ryan himself runs his own website outlining his full career right here.

10 comments:

  1. Same here with me. I 1st saw his work in AWC as well, also like you, followed by IM.

    He really is one of those sturdy, dependable, old-school taught and style artists isn't he?

    Nothing wrong with that. And yeah he's not as flashy as other artists, but he can draw the shit out of a scene when it's called for.

    He's like Jerry Ordway in a way, yet not as ink heavy.

    But yeah, he sure as hell has come a long way from those early 90's days hasn't he?

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  2. See Dale the more I learn about you the more I think twins can be born though different mothers. The Jerry Ordway connection is bang on.

    Where would comics be without workhorses like these guys?

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  3. Exactly. For every hot artist that gets the fanboys to cream their shorts like a Jim Lee or Joe Maduiera(and nothing wrong with that) there's sturdy artists/pros like a Paul Ryan, Jerry Ordway, Don Newton, Ron Lim, the list goes on....

    Twins huh? I think you just might be right. Say, did your dad ever visit the states in say 81? Ha ha...

    You da man Dan, you da man;)

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  4. Now THERES a name I thought was long. long forgotten...back in the 90s Ryan was a fabulous artist on my beloved Fantastic Four.
    To be honest I do think he went on a bit too long on the book - something like six years iirc - but he had a classic style.
    I always wondered what happened to him after he left FF - I heard a rumour he went into teaching or went back to it, Im not sure. Thanks Dan for this updated info on this much ignored artist - I always wondered what became of him!

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  5. You're an 80's baby Dale? That rules me out maybe as a twin... I was born in 79, you know the year so cool the Smashing Pumpkins made a song about it!

    Thought you might have a few words to say about Paul Karl, being a fellow Fantastic Four fan and all! I was trying to look through my copy of Fantastic Four #400 with all the book's cast in lastnight and trying to decide who he drew best. Long story short I actually think it was the Watchers - all of them, good and bad.

    Glad I could help!

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  6. Yes, I couldn't help but feature Sue Richards' rather--bold costume change in a post I once did on such changes. Ryan certainly took the "less is more" adage and ran with it in her case. :)

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  7. Damn, well at least you're not that older than me. So far all of you guys(Random, Shlomo, Googum, not sure about Tiger though) are older than me. That's cool, as it's usually the other way around for my friends here.

    Again Paul Ryan's work is solid, but I will admit to not liking his work on the short-lived series, Superman: man of Tomorrow. It just looked....blah.

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  8. Thanks for the comments Comicsfan. He sure did. Mind you the 4 started of as transperant then got filled in blue so compromise was reached somewhere! :-) I liked it.

    Dale this morning I cant even talk age. Without my coffee I feel like Gandalf! Unshaven I probably look like him too.

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  9. I really enjoyed his run on the FF. Sue Storm never looked better.

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  10. Hey Kid - always good hearing from you. Seems during the Image phase of comics, traditional workhorse Ryan still had plenty of fans over in Fantastic Four. Just shows huh?

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