Clash of Artists

By Mindy Wheeler

We adapt to the life of social media more and more every day. Infinite interconnectedness also means a merging of multiple industries that previously had little to no connection before the digital age. One such merging I’ve witnessed over the past few years is an influx of painters and 3D artists into the comic book world. As these new types of artists brush shoulders with established comic book artists, ignorance of each other’s mediums can result in hostility. Such was the case surrounding this specific painted cover of Rogue by Victor Garduno.

Zenescope/Lady Death pin-up artist Mike Krome recently took to Facebook to criticize Victor’s piece, accusing it of being AI-generated. This caused harsh blowback from Mike’s fans toward Victor, who is by trade a fine art painter who paints using various photo references and references he creates himself. This incident made me wonder if anyone told Victor (and every other painter and 3D modeler entering the scene) that comic art is expected to be drawn from imagination. New artists often remain unaware of this standard, yet they are being published left and right, even with Marvel and DC.

In my experience, I’ve found many comic book artists to be unwilling to share industry knowledge and quick to shame others, stemming from a competitive nature. This attitude has only backfired as new types of artists enter the industry in huge waves (thanks to social media), regardless of what established comic book artists say about it. These new artists also don’t care to conform, as they bring their own styles and audiences.

The truth is, the comic book medium is simply evolving. With new types of fans each artist brings with them, the medium expands, drawing more eyes to all of our projects. While some comic book artists see this as competition, I see it as growth. During this growth, I encourage everyone to learn the basics behind each technique, as each requires a different skill set and should be appreciated in its own way. When fans see three pieces of art on a table—one drawn by hand, one painted from reference, and one 3D-modeled—they tend to only care about the end result. Understanding how each piece got from A to B can help you better support artists for their individual efforts and appreciate each art piece more for what went into it.

Here’s a good breakdown of the skills and setbacks for each medium: comic book art, painting, and 3D art.


Painters create from various photo references. They are not expected to memorize the human anatomy in every way from complete construction; their expertise is in color, light, and replication. Their process typically involves research and replication of various aspects of their references to produce the desired result. Painters can blend colors and carve out three-dimensional volume from two-dimensional planes (which even comic book artists struggle with). They are usually highly skilled at drawing what they see. If they can improve their craft to go beyond photo references and harness the skill of painting light from imagination, they can become highly skilled comic book colorists; however, they tend to be limited by only what they see and are often perfectionists, making the process time-consuming.

More and more painters are doing Marvel and DC covers because they can create that perfect, polished result that fans love. However, painters are not typically cut out for sequential work. One of the most common techniques used in painting is the grid technique, where a photograph is gridded out, and each square is replicated onto a canvas focusing on the shapes within each grid. Another technique involves using a projector to project the image onto the canvas, allowing the artist to trace the outline and then fill it in with colors.

Comic Book Artists

There are two types of comic book artists: cover artists and sequential artists.

Cover Artists

Cover artists work hard, but for the same reason as painters, they are usually not suited for sequential work. Their expertise is in creating beautifully polished pieces without heavy reliance on photo references, with a focus on clean, beautiful line work and composition. However, cover artists can sometimes make anatomical mistakes due to their focus on line work, which tends to be overlooked because of the appreciation for their imagination.

Sequential Artists

Sequential artists create comic book stories, which is one of the most grueling jobs in the industry. These artists master construction, movement, composition, perspective, and more. They need a memory bank of poses, clothing behavior, muscle structure, and various other details to draw entire pages from imagination. It’s one of the most challenging jobs, requiring a minimum of 10,000 hours of practice to master.

3D Artists

3D artists use 3D software to create detailed scenes that can be used for comic book covers or illustrations. They require heavy technical knowledge to manipulate 3D models and add textures, lighting, and other details to create the final result. This skill set is entirely different from traditional comic book art, yet it is becoming increasingly common for creating comic book covers.

Now that you are more familiar with the process, I hope you can appreciate each artist for what they bring to the table. There will always be a place for traditional art, and there will always be a place for digital art. Both are unique in their own right. So go forth, True Believers, and enjoy your comic book art, but know the difference between each style to avoid being fooled into appreciating something for what it’s not.

—Mindy Wheeler, Art Director, Comics Illustrated

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Comics Illustrated