Allow me to geek out for a moment and share with you what I believe are the best designed comic characters ever. Feel free to throw into the ring your favorites in the comments section below. In no particular order…
One criteria that I think makes a great character design is timelessness. The Shadow debuted in the early 1930’s and his design has essentially remain unchanged since – and he’s STILL badass! Above cover art by Michael W. Kaluta.
Another stunning example…created in 1940 by Gardiner Fox and Howard Sherman, Dr. Fate’s look has changed very little. The above painting by the incredible Tom Fleming.
In May 1980 Taskmaster debuted. Seven months later you get the VERY similarly styled Deathstroke. Both were designed by the legendary George Perez. It seems as if Mr. Perez had a great design idea with Taskmaster then polished it a bit and let the world see his finished product with Deathstroke.
Often the notion of “keep it simple stupid” works in character design as well as politics. Captain Britain’s redesign by Alan Davis just plain works.
You didn’t think I’d forget Bats did you? Another example of a simple, effective design that has lasted for over 70 years with hardly a change. Don’t fix what isn’t broken, right?
Darksied was created by Jack Kirby in 1970. Thanos came off of Jim Starlin’s pencil three years later. What is they say about the sincerest form of flattery?
Originally designed by John Byrne in 1980 (above left), The White Queen has always been a bit of a tramp. These days even less is left to the imagination. (above right image by Frank Quitely). That said, even as a gay man, I can say Emma Frost is pretty damn hot. [warning: do NOT do a google image search for this character with safe search off if your kids are in the room! Oh my!]
A character whose design alone should have vaulted him to “A” list status, but alas has always been “B” tier. Perhaps that’s for the best. Often times without the harsh spotlight on them, artists crank out their best work. (Above: Don Perlin’s original design, a rare glipse of the character as drawn by Gene Colan, and the character today. Again – you don’t mess with good design!)
Last but not least I have to give a nod to horn head. Granted there were some growing pains before he became the beautiful crimson guardian of Hell’s Kitchen we know now. That original yellow and red costume was a clear giveaway that he was blind! And there have been a couple times when otherwise gifted aritsts have lost their common sense and changed his costume for a short while (I’m looking at you Scott McDaniel!), but overall the red DD is the one we all know, and it’s also another example of a simple costume that works. (Above: Wally Wood’s cover to issue #8, David Mazzucchelli’s atmospheric cover to #220 and Paolo Rivera’s stunning cover design for the 2011 reboot.)
So…what are YOUR favorites?