You know who is great? You know who isn’t?

This was originally posted on my blog over at way back in June 2010. I have updated it a bit.

I know there are lots of fans of Todd McFarlane’s artwork out there. I am not one. The following is my comparison to one of McFarlane’s contemporaries who, in my opinion, should be counted as one of the all-time greats. Again, this is just my opinion…

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. On par with Neal Adams, I’d say.

batman alan davis.jpg

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 McFarlane, 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.


You know who isn’t great?

Todd McFarlane.

Now, I should say that these fellows’ greatness is only pertaining to their artwork. McFarlane might be the nicest guy in the world and Davis a complete jerk. I don’t know, I’ve never met either. My critique is only of  the art, not the artist.

I think Alan Davis was, unfortunately, overshadowed by the Todd McFarlane craze. I must admit I was impressed with McFarlane’s work for about five minutes, but, as a life-long student of comic book art, I quickly saw McFarlane’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 severely tapering toward their feet). McFarlane’s line work was also way too busy and lacked weight and definition.

321 macfarlane

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 McFarlane’s often did.

And the way Alan Davis drew women… AHEM.


Davis putting the Vampirella in va-va-voom!

Maybe I suffer a little from the sour grapes when I look at McFarlane’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 drawing and then I saw McFarlane’s drawings. Cartoony?! Talk about cartoony! Are you looking at his stuff?!


Eye-catching to be sure, but just not quite right.

alan davis wolverine

That’s more like it!

I know art is in the eye of the beekeeper, or something like that. It’s subjective, so there might be a person who thinks the exact opposite of me when it comes to these artists. That person would be wrong, but they might exist. And they are entitled to their opinion.

And so as not to be too harsh toward Mr. Mcfarlane, he has succeeded in an industry that many have tried to get into, but just couldn’t, including myself. And that is remarkable. Of course, Rob Liefeld also made it in… Don’t get me started.

I, also, have to say that although I don’t care much for McFarlane’s drawing, the line of toys he later produced were fantastic!

macfarlane grey hulk

Just a mess.

hulk alan davis

It’s when I see art done this well that I say to myself, “Put down the pencil. Let’s the pros handle this.”

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

And I think Alan Davis produced many beautiful things.

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One thought on “You know who is great? You know who isn’t?

  1. unclegabby says:

    I know of Davis but never took critical eye to his work. This is just the motivation for me to do so. Thanks, Jim.

    Additionally, I am one of those individuals who never jumped on the McFarlane bandwagon.

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