Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Great Underrated Artists I Like: Tom Grummett

From the upcoming X-Men Forever

To be clear, I was not always a big Tom Grummett fan. As someone caught up in the hyper-stylized 90s, Grummett's illustrations seemed sort of retro. Sort of...normal-looking. But he has become one of the great underrated comic book artists to me, and looking back on his body of work I have a newfound appreciation for it.

I even followed his run on Titans in the early 90s. Never appreciated his expressive art and clear, sharp storytelling. Kept looking for tiny noses, stress lines, and no feet.

Now, is this a matter of getting older and having developing tastes? I think the art of someone like Tom Grummett is a universal. It's good storytelling. I can dive right into it. And I think he has drawn the iconic Superboy for me.

I read this old post once that questioned Marvel's exclusive with Grummett. The idea was that his work was "boring." Why would Marvel make exclusive a "boring" artist?

Artists like Grummett produce beautifully rendered pages with great storytelling on time. Maybe you have to have been editor to appreciate this, I don't know. Is it a matter of an editor being "lazy" and turning to him for a project? No, it's an editor wanting a professional artist who can turn around a good looking book that also makes sense visually. I could name (but I'm not) 3 or 4 books out now off the top of my head that would immediately benefit from having Grummett on it. Books that would suddenly make sense story-telling wise. Books that would stop looking ugly/wonky. And books that would not give the editor agita schedule-wise.

I mean, god bless Rob Liefeld and the rest, but these aren't the mainstream superhero artists whose work I track down nowadays. Now, I track down John Byrne, Bob McLeod, John Buscema, Sal Buscema, Norm Breyfogle.

Anyway, that's my two cents on it. Didn't appreciate his art when I was younger, now I go seek it out on purpose. I'd pass up the cover to the original X-Force #1 for an iconic Superboy shot any day.


  1. I'd add Chas Troug, Carmine Infanito, Dave Sim, Gerard, and Pia Guerra to that list.

    But Sal Buscema?????

    His stuff has to be some of the sloppiest, scratchiest, ugliest work I've ever seen in the pages of a comic book. He is about as interesting, visually, as whoever draws the Family Circus. His clothes, cars, and weapons always look so generic, and if draws backgrounds in his panels, I can't remember any of them.

  2. Beat you to the punch on that one, Val.

    I have been a HUGE Tom Grummett fan aver since his "Death of Superman" fase.

    He is, in my opinion, one of the BEST artists in the business, and I wanna be like him when I grow up. :p

  3. I am in complete agreement! I actually bought a ton of Superboy comics at NYCC this past weekend. Any ones that are not drawn by Grummet just feel... off.

    Totally under appreciated and a great artist.

  4. Add Jackson Guice to the list too.

  5. "But Sal Buscema?????"

    I think The Comics Journal forums had a thread on artists that sort of draw "ugly" but you have an appreciation for anyway. I think Sal was at the top of that list...for drawing "angry" faces on everybody regardless of mood.

    Reading some old New Mutants issues now, I like how Sal drew Rahne.

  6. I remember that when i first saw Tom Grummett's artwork I thought that he looked a lot like Bob McLeod.

    I dig his work but to I put him in the category of artists that just seem to bend a basic shape for all the characters, like Balent, modern Byrne, Tom Lyle or Dan Jurgens

  7. Yeah, Jackson Guice is very underated. I think a lot of people (myself included) just assumed some other Marvel standard did all the great books he drew. Well, maybe all the books were not great but the art was. But looking through the old stuff lately I've been noticing he did a lot of beautiful work.

  8. I enjoyed Grummett's work on Robin, and I'd put him either third or second on my list of favorites artists on that book. Have him either tied with Pete Woods or just behind him, with Mike Weiringo as my favorite.

    His art definitely stood out while reading The Death of Superman for me as well.

  9. Grummett caught my eye back on the Titans. Loved it then. It filled the void left by Kerry Gammill not doing nearly enough comic work. Two guys that do comics you can actually enjoy and understand AND can do a pretty picture when they NEED to.
    You know... when the story calls for it.
    Grummett actually kept me going on Titans thru some lean story years. Same with Exiles. Even when the plot got dull, I'd still get the issue because it was just well done comic art.

  10. Old school is the best school.

  11. I wouldn't have included Portacio and Jim Lee in with Liefeld either.

    At least they had SOME grasp of decent anatomy and proportion.

  12. Yeah, Grummett is a bit like Bob McCleod. Visually similar. I love these underrated artists, the ones who can rotate a decently proportioned body into just about any foreshortened angle. And who frequently draw backgrounds in perspective.

    Check out any of the DC Showcase Presents House of... for a ton of these kinds of solid artists. And also some ultra-brilliant overlooked ones, like Nestor Redondo. No one talks about Nestor Redondo but his art was gorgeous! He smoked all the Image guys.

    I'm also enjoying Jim Aparo's old Batman and the Outsiders work, although the stories themselves are kinda blah.

    I'm actually re-reading a lot of New Mutants lately, too. I just did a silly post about their love for Magnum, P.I. and it rekindled my interest. Sal Buscema did some decent enough work there. I think during his art phase where he was more similar to his brother John he did do some generic stuff, but it reads cleanly and he did do a lot of backgrounds.

    Then he changed to a funkier, Walt Simonson-inspired look.

    I wish Rick Leonardi had done a few more issues of New Mutants. He's someone I've really come to appreciate in the last couple of years. His Batgirl art is my favorite, even if the stories are also kinda weak.

    Bob McCleod is awesome.

    But Nick Cardy is my artist of the moment, though. I can't get enough of Nick Cardy!

  13. definitely one of the best, for sure.

  14. Anonymous7:41 PM

    I remember being really into the death and return of Superman storyline when it came out. I was 12 or 13 so I was a lot more naive about events and such.

    And not many artists can say that they drew Superman with a mullet.

  15. I agree with you completely on Grummett's work, Valerie. I also followed his TITANS work as well as his work on SUPERBOY and ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN. My favorite work of his may well be the Amalgam book CHALLENGERS OF THE FANTASTIC. Wherever in the multiverse Amalgam Comics actually exist, I believe Grummett must have done a 100-plus issue run with those characters.

    As far as "ugly" artists go, there's one artist I've really grown to appreciate as an adult that I hated as a kid; Frank Robbins. Those early issues of THE INVADERS are like gold to me now.

  16. Anonymous8:45 PM

    I have a sketch of Black Bolt from Grummet from a Toronto con a few years back. Tis nifty :)

  17. Grummett certainly draws proportionately formed figures, a basic skill which eludes many professionals. He's timely. His lines are nice and clean.

    But I find his work rather uninteresting for the most part. He isn't a very expressive artist; his faces look, at best, bland, but a lot of the time, the facial expressions are sleepy or badly-formed. There isn't a lot of energy to his layouts or perspectives. There's nothing about his work that really stands out as distinctly his.

    He's good at drawing kids, though, and "Robin" seemed to bring the most out of him. There was some spark there; a vitality I've not seen in his work since.

  18. Sal Buscema is seriously, seriously underrated.


    But Tom Grummett's work is just pure awesome. Some of his work on Thunderbolts is just amazing. Pure superheroic stuff, and if you look closely you'll see lots of careful thought going on in his work. Definitely stuff worthy of being added to any beginning artist's swipe file.

    And Sal Buscema too. Especially some of his Captain America work from the 70's.

  19. Anonymous11:32 PM

    Grummett was my favorite Superman artist in the 90s, without a doubt. Paul Pellitier reminds me of him.

  20. I completely agree with you. Sometimes with the "flashier" artist, you either can't tell what's going on or it's nothing but splash pages.

  21. Something I've always appreciated about Tom's art was his refusal to draw a cheesecake Supergirl. He is not an artist who will sex up the way a character looks just because they're female. I also loved his time on Robin and Superboy, although I preferred Ray Kryssing's inks on him than Karl Kesel's. Ray gave him a slicker line, I think. And some of the most underrated Grummett art could very well be his brief stint on Silver Surfer. I can't remember his inker there but, man, I loved those pages. I remember Tom saying that he really enjoyed working with DeMatteis on those issues but when he got the gig he figured it was going to be a lot of flying around and cosmic stuff and, of course, it turned out to be anything but.

    Val, if you like Tom's super-hero stuff you might get a kick out of the small-press stuff that he did.

  22. Why the Sal Buscema hate? :(

    When he's inked by the right person, his work is quite good (see any issue of Rom)...when not inked well, his work is scratchy and "ugly" but still _tells a story_...the man knows how to move a story along, which is kinda important.

  23. I agree about his version of Rahne. He made her cute.

    Hey, I was 14 at the time.

  24. I've always loved Tom's work ever since his run on Superboy. I wish he had a blog like Mike Wieringo did that he could update with his own illustrations. There's not enough of his work out there!

  25. Paul Pelletier is who I immediately thought of -- he's not flashy, but *man* do I love his work!

  26. I've been a Grummett fan since I first encountered him on New Titans. He's best with a stylish inker like Al Vey, but always a treat, regardless. I also love Sal Buscema and his tiny, creepy pupils. He draws the recently, violently deceased and the deranged like nobody's business!