Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Top 10 Transformers Artists

I can't believe that I live in an age where I can actually do this.  It was unfathomable during the Marvel runs that I could even conceive of ten different artists working on the Transformers in an official capacity.  Thankfully Transformers have proven to be so popular that a lot of people have worked on them.  Just to get this out of the way, this is my list based on those who have officially worked on the Transformers, whether through Marvel, Dreamwave, IDW, or Fun Publications.  There are many great artists out there who have done Transformers art, such as Benjamin Galley, or GrungeWerX, or Blitz-Wing, to name a few, but they haven't worked on anything in an official capacity.  Here, then, I present to you my list of the top ten artists.

10.  Hidetsugu Yoshioka
I'm a relative newcomer to this artist.  I first discovered this art on the E-Hobby "Solar Requiem" comic that came with the Shattered Glass Soundwave VS Blaster set. His art, while it does bear a Derek Yaniger influence, is expressive and fluid. 

Picture from TFWiki
Since I'm not too familiar with everything Yoshioka has done, I'm eager to find more.  I know that he's been working on Transformers related things for Takara since the 80's, so I'm sure that there is more out there.  He doesn't have a deviantart page that I can find, so for now, if you'd like to read up more about him, check out his TFWiki profile here.

9.  Josh Burcham
I was first introduced to Josh Burcham on the old Dreamwave message board.  At the time, he was primarily a fan artist, but he eventually found his way to being employed by Dreamwave as a colorist.  As a matter of fact, most of his official work has been as a colorist.  He's colored for IDW and Fun Publications.  However, he did provide actual art for the latest Botcon comic "Termination".

Picture from
As you can see, Burcham's art is a mixture of Skottie Young and Geoff Senior.  It's hyperkinetic, and stylized.  I really like it.  Burcham is someone that I wish would do more penciling duty from IDW, but so far that hasn't materialized.  You can check out his deviatart page here.

8.  Makoto Ono
Another great artist who hasn't done a lot of official work, his art is still amazing.  I first found out about him thanks to this picture:

It's an amazing piece of work.  It's what I imagine the G1 cartoon would look like if it was done in the comics.  This is the kind of fluidity and detail I wish the cartoon had.  Makoto Ono is just brilliant.  It's his lack of official work that keeps him from going up higher on the list.

As far as official work goes, Ono (also known as Makotron) has done work mainly for 3H and Fun Publications.  He did do some art for the Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye profile series that Dreamwave put out, but his style was sublimated a bit to conform to Pat Lee's house style.

Picture from
On a personal note, Makoto Ono did the picture that I use of Optimal Omega as my avatar.  It was a great commission that he did for me almost a decade ago.  As it stands now, it's the only thing I've ever paid someone to do for me.  If you'd like to see more of his great art, and I suggest you do, check out his deviantart page here.

7. William Johnson
Some of you may be scratching your head over this one.  Maybe some of you don't know who he is.  Maybe this will jog your memory:

This was the first Transformers comic I read as a kid.  Back in the day, you could buy multipacks of comics at store like Hills or Roses.  The art in this issue had a lasting impression on me, especially as I was later exposed to the art of Jose Delbo for so long when I started buying comics on a regular basis.  Johnson only penciled two issues of this comic, issues #7 and #8, but they were beautiful to look at.

Picture from

A lot of the early Marvel Transformers artist get dismissed, and rightfully so.  The artwork for the early issues seemed to be done by staff artists on the downturn of their careers.  But something about Johnson's work spoke to me.  It was lively and actually good!  Sure, there may have been an error here or there, but it looked much better than this:

Picture from
I can't find any kind of page for William Johnson, but I did find a page where you can look at and maybe purchase his art.

6.  Alex Milne
If I had written this list 8 years ago, Alex Milne would not have been anywhere on this list.  He would have maybe been on my list of the worst Transformers artists of all time.  That just goes to show two things: 1) how pervasive and horrible the enforced Dreamwave house style was and 2) how much Milne has rid himself of this and become his own artist.

Dreamwave influenced puffy art.  Pic from
Alex Milne is and will probably always be inexorably linked to Pat Lee and not just because of the house style that Lee enforced.  For those who aren't aware, not only does Lee owe Milne a few thousand dollars, he also owes him credit for the penciling all of those pages of the Cyberforce comic that Lee took credit and money for.

I was genuinely shocked and dismayed whenever IDW announced that Milne would be handling art chores for the Megatron Origin comic.  When I read it, the Lee puffiness was gone, but it still didn't look that great.  Imagine my surprise when he kept getting work from IDW for the live action comics (which in all fairness, I haven't read).  I think that his speed had one thing to do with it.

After not seeing his work for a few years after Megatron Origin, I was pleasantly surprised to open up issue #2 of The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye and, after reading and checking the credits, realizing that Milne had done the art.  The line work was much tighter, and it was pleasant to the eye.  I truly enjoy his art now so much that I'm disappointed when he doesn't pencil and issue of MTME.  His art has progressed to the point that Hasbro are basing figures from his designs, such as the upcoming Skids release in the Generations line.

Milne's real style
 If you'd like to see more of his work, check out The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye and his deviantart page.

5.  Geoff Senior

Here's the thing about reading the Transformers comics in the 1980's: you couldn't read it for the art.  Sure, William Johnson did two great issues, but that was about it.  That changed with issue #61, for in that issue, we were treated to Geoff Senior.  His art was stylized, blocky, powerful, and robotic.  In short, it was awesome.

I know it's not from issue #61, but it's still from
If you lived in the UK, then you were already familiar with his art.  Senior had already done a fair amount of work on the Marvel UK Transformers comics, but I had never heard of him until issue #61.  Senior's art, coupled with Simon Furman's scripts, made the Transformers comics the first comic I read when I got my comics each month.  Unfortunately, Senior only did a handful of US issues before pursuing other things.  He did briefly return for some issues of the Generation 2 series.  He's also done some covers for the Regeneration One comic and provided a couple of pages of art for 0 issue.  How great is Geoff Senior?  When I think of Unicron, I picture this:
Yeah, that's the stuff.  Geoff Senior has a webpage here.

4.  E.J. Su

My introduction to E.J. Su came with the "-tion" comics from IDW, but he had done some Transformers work for Devil's Due for their G.I. Joe vs Transfomers comics.  When I read Infiltration, I was blown away by the art.  The robots were detailed, yet still a little cartoony and the humans looked like humans!  This had been a problem during the Dreamwave issues.  The humans all looked weird for some reason.  Su had done some redesigns on a lot of the characters in the arc and they looked fantastic.  It was certainly a breath of fresh air.

E.J. Su cover art
That's some great stuff, right there.  What really pushed Su up the charts was his work on the Revelation series.  He did all of the connecting covers and inked and colored them himself.  He also provided art for issues #1 and #4.  When he inks and colors his own work, it looks painted.  And this painted quality it fabulous.

I can see this on a canvas.  Click to see the full size.
Sadly, the end of the "-tion" series of comics, coupled with IDW's soft reboot, pretty much spelled the end of Su's work on the Transformers.  Around this time, Su's wife gave birth and he pretty much retired from freelance work to get a corporate gig as an industrial designer in his homeland of Taiwan.  He's popped up a couple of times providing some art or a cover, but I don't see him coming back full-time, which is sad.  I believe that he still updates his deviantart account, which you can check out here.

3.  Nick Roche

As sad as it was to see E.J. Su leave, it paved the way for another great artist to come aboard - Nick Roche.  Roche basically broke into comics by landing work on Spotlight: Shockwave.  His art is very stylized and on first glance, you know it's him.

There's no way that image above could have been drawn by anyone else.  Roche's art style is adaptable to any given script, which is a bonus.  His art has grown in leaps and bounds, as well.  Compare the Cyclonus image above with this one from Last Stand of the Wreckers:

The characters all have their own distinct personalities that you can discern just from looking at how Roche drew them.  Just look at how solemn Perceptor is, how bulky and in charge Springer looks; it's just amazing how he's able to pull this off.

You know the other great thing about Roche?  He's a writer as well!  He has written some of the better received issues of the IDW comics.  Spotlight: KupSpotlight: MegatronLast Stand of the Wreckers?  They were all written and drawn by Nick Roche.  The man's influence in this continuity is strong.  Because of this, he was approached by Hasbro to design Sandstorm, and in turn Springer for the Generations line, two of the most hotly anticipated and beloved figures released this year.

His output for IDW is surprisingly limited, but considering that he needed extra artists to finish Last Stand of the Wreckers and he only penciled the first issue of The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye, I wonder if it's because of deadline issues?  Who knows.  I do know that he will be working for Marvel on their Death's Head II series, so I'll be picking that up for sure.

2.  Don Figueroa

The DON.  His influence has permeated the Transformers brand for a decade now.  Don't believe me?  Have any Titanium or Classics figures?  How about the new Generations Megatron?  Guess what?  They were designed by Don Figueroa.  Well, he didn't design all of the Classics figures, but he either outright designed or helped to design a big chunk of them.

Like everyone else, I was first introduced to Don Figueroa's work through his Macromasters online comic.  For those who haven't read it, you can check it out here.  Not only was the art top-notch, but Don even created custom figures from scratch based on these designs.  This lead him to Pat Lee's doorstep and he was eventually hired to pencil their The War Within miniseries.  This led him to being hired by Hasbro, and essentially becoming Dreamwave's go-to guy for Transformers, which suited everyone fine because then we didn't have to look at Pat Lee's work anymore.

After Dreamwave folded, Don worked for Devil's Due where he kept trying to get them to let him write a G.I. Joe/Transformers crossover.  For some reason, they kept balking at it.  Their loss, but I'd still like to see it published one day.  From there, he went to IDW and penciled quite a bit for them, including the Transformers: Ongoing series where we were introduced to this:


Yes, Bay movie inspired designs.  Eww.  At any rate, Don tired of doing Transformers and took a break.  Now he's working on a project called Armarauders which looks fantastic.

Don's art has quite a few traits that never seem to change.  The eyes are wide, teeth are present, the characters all seem to be broad shouldered and look impossibly strong.  Don's Transformers are detailed, but not overly so.  The most telling characteristic?  The vents on the hands.

You can check out Don's deviantart page here.

1.  Andrew Wildman

And here we are, at number 1!  Why, you ask, did I pick Andrew Wildman as the greatest Transformers artist ever?  Simple: his work is super expressive.

Andrew Wildman has caught a lot of flak for his art in the past.  There are those who have thought that his Transformers aren't really robotic.  They looked cartoonish.  They had teeth!  None of that matters to me.  His art is what I think about when I think of the Transformers.  Wildman's ability capture emotion with giant robots helped to sell Simon Furman's scripts.  Sure they always seemed to be wet for some reason, but that's fine.  Even though I had no idea who Andrew Wildman was, or where he was from, his Transformers always looked British to me.  I can't really explain why, but when I was 13 years old, I took one look at his art and said "I guess the Transformers are from Britan."  I had never read a British comic in my entire life.

Seeing Megatron fused with Ratchet in issue 70 made me pee my pants a little.  That's the effect that Andrew Wildman had on me.  His ability to make Optimus Prime look sad and Kup so angry just floored me.  Notice how Prime has parts just falling off?  That's another thing that I love about Wildman's art - the little details.  These Transformers weren't always in tip-top condition; it looked like they were always in need of repair.

Optimus Prime, dry for once during Wildman's run
When Optimus Prime dies in issue #76, Wildman hit a homerun.

And he's wet again.
After the Marvel Transformers comics ended, Wildman worked on G.I. Joe, Spider-Man, and a few other things for Marvel.  He then kind of disappeared before reappearing providing art for The War Within: The Dark Ages for Dreamwave.  He's popped back up at IDW, first providing some alternate covers for the Infiltration and the Ongoing series.  Wildman jumped back into the interiors game with Regeneration One.  Sadly, he's since left that series, but I understand that he'll be returning to finish off the series.  Seeing his art on these newer issues, I can tell that he hasn't lost a step.

Well, there you have it.  All 10 of my favorite artists of all time.  Agree?  Disagree?  Let's talk about it in the comments section!


  1. I will wholeheartedly agree with a lot of these, except for perhaps #2, and #7 but I can definitely understand why you picked William Johnson. There are a couple others that I really like, Livio Ramondelli and Casey Coller. I know a lot of people don't like Livio's style and I used to agree with them, but as soon as I started looking at each of his pages as more of an art canvas than a comic page I started liking his stuff a lot more. Each piece is a work of art, even if it is difficult to distinguish what is going on sometimes. I'd love to have some of his originals hanging in my house. And Casey's work is just so clean and three dimensional. I really love his style for the opposite reason I love Livio's, it is so easy to see exactly everything going on. Casey's work is how I would like to draw if I could do it well. But I agree with your #1, Wildman has always been my favorite and I was so happy when he came back for Regeneration One. And it was interesting to see him painted into a corner with Grimlock who has no eyes, mouth or nose in which to be expressive. His Action Master Grimlock was absolutely beautiful even if it wasn't in his traditional style. I know he really didn't like drawing robots, but I think that worked to his advantage. To me it made them more relate-able because they looked more human.

    1. I definitely agree with on Wildman, but I didn't know he hated drawing robots! That's amazing. I would probably put Collier at #11 or #12 on my list. His art is really good, but it just hasn't had any kind of super impact on me . As far as Ramondelli goes: maybe his art loses something when it's compressed to a smaller format like a comic page or tablet? It's just so dark and murky. Maybe if I saw it in a larger format, but for now, it's just hard to get through anything he's drawn.

    2. One other that I just though of was Guido Guidi. I've always really enjoyed his work and find it amazing how he can imitate so many different styles.

    3. Guidi's art has always been hit and miss for me and I've never been sure why. I think it's his chameleon-like prowess that always throws me off!

  2. Nice piece of writing and idea Optimal! I might have to create my own list at some point.

    It’s interesting that you mention #7 – William Johnson. I do fondly remember his art for those couple of issues that he drew. At the time, his art of one of the best and most detailed around. It was simply stunning to me. I think it was page 1 of #8, with Ratchet on the MARB? That, was art!

    Milne and Senior only at #6 and #5? They should be closer to the top few artists I think. Heh. Milne’s MTMTE art is sublime, so different from what he did for Megatron Origin. Also, for the latter, I think the really dark colours kind of ruin the feel of Milne’s art a little.

    So glad that you have EJ Su on the list. He did really good work and I tend to agree with you assessment there. It’s a real pity that he caught so much flak and now has even left the comics field entirely. However, since he is based in Taiwan and that is so near me, there is some chance that I may be able to run into him, heh.

    The one that I have question marks about is Wildman, who not only is in the top ten, but at the top of your list. Haha. I think if we were talking about his work in the 80s / 90s. I’d put him down a one of the best, of the era, definitely. I agree with your comments on his work, that the expressions are great and all. However, his present day work has really just not shone through on any level for me – in fact, I think that the present day work is actually of poorer quality than his work in the 80s. I was recently reading Regeneration and was really disappointed with his work. If assessed today, I would be putting Wildman out of my top ten or if he is in, it would not be so high in the pecking order.

  3. That's funny about the MARB because I almost used that picture! Johnson is who I thought about TF art pre Senior and Wildman so I felt he deserved the slot.

    The only reason Milne and Senior are low is because of the guys in front of them. I can't deny the impact that Senior has had and the strides that Milne has made, but I really felt as though the other four just shone more brightly.

    Wildman has adjusted his art style a bit recently, but his overall impact during the Marvel run was just too strong to ignore. He's still my definitive TF artist.