Justice League International volume 1 cover

Comic Book Artist: Kevin Maguire

It’s been a while since I last did one of these (about Dale Keown, back in 2015), so a recap: I talk about a comic book artist whose work I have enjoyed, give a brief overview of their career and where I’ve enjoyed the work, and post a lot of art.

Kevin Maguire is an artist who has been working professionally since 1986 on various titles for Marvel and DC. However, he would seemingly come from nowhere to ascend to a level of comic book fame very early on when he became the artist on Justice League #1 in 1987. The Justice League is a title usually associated with the big guns of the DC firmament, but this wasn’t the case coming out of Crisis on Infinite Earths. Superman and Wonder Woman were going through revamps (by John Byrne and George Perez, respectively) so were off-limits for the new title, and Batman was allowed for a brief amount of time. The team consisted of lesser known heroes, so Keith Giffen and JM DeMatteis did what nobody was doing at the time: wrote a superhero sitcom. Yes, there was action, but it was mostly about the interactions of the characters, something which required an artist who was perfect with facial reactions to sell the comedy. That artist was Kevin Maguire.

JLI by Kevin MaguireIt’s hard to decide whether Maguire would be as well-known if not for this book being as popular as it was, but it cemented in the comic book audience the idea of Maguire’s style, and his signature cover concept that has been reused so many times: the group of heads staring at the camera. When you need a comic book to be exciting and funny, Maguire is your first choice. It was here that I first encountered and fell in love with his work. His line is clear, strong and expressive; his heroes look muscular and his women look beautiful. His storytelling is fantastic: the panel transitions are a delight, he understands the right camera angle to flow the narrative and the way his character work speaks more than the word balloons is unmatched.

Blue And Gold by Kevin MaguireMaguire would do most but not all of the first two years on the Justice League/Justice League International, before he turned to the more lucrative, and more appropriate to his speed, cover work. (Maguire’s slowness in his quest for perfection is perhaps the only negative I have about him.) He would continue on covers for Justice League, as well as doing covers for L.E.G.I.O.N. and then Superboy before doing sustained stints on interior work.

In 1991, he did The Adventures of Captain America, a four-issue prestige series written by Fabian Nicieza, although he didn’t do all the art for the book, needing some help to finish it. He did some Team Titans, Strikeback at Malibu in 1994 (which finished over at Image in 1996), and did a creator-owned book called Trinity Angels over at Acclaim in 1997/1998, but he did not do any regular long-form work again until the X-Men Forever mini-series with Nicieza in 2001, marking lean years for fans of his interior art.

TwoMorrows Cover by Kevin MaguireA purple patch would arrive in 2003: he did the six-issue Formerly Known as the Justice League with Giffen and DeMatteis, bringing back the old ‘Bwa-ha-ha’ Justice League vibe; the year after they teamed up again for the sequel (in JLA Classified #4–9), before all three went to Marvel the next year to do a five-issue mini-series about The Defenders, one of my favourite books they’ve done together.

Avengers by Kevin MaguireMaguire would then return to DC the year after that, working with Nicieza again on Batman Confidential #17–21 (collected as Batman: The Bat and the Cat), in a fun little story about Batgirl and Catwoman in a chase/fight over five issues that utilised Maguire’s art talents perfectly (as I discussed in my review). He would mostly stay at DC but not pencilling full issues – he did the Metal Men back-ups in Doom Patrol in 2009/2010, the Tanga feature in My Greatest Adventure and Weird Worlds in 2011, then alternating in the issues with George Perez on Worlds’ Finest in 2012/2013. Unfortunately, after Maguire was announced as the artist on Justice League 3000, which would have reteamed him with Giffen and DeMatteis, DC bizarrely decided against using him and replaced him with Howard Porter, something I still don’t understand. He’s been doing some work at Marvel, but not nearly enough to justify his talents.

The Doctors by Kevin MaguireI don’t know what Maguire has got lined up for the future, but I hope that somebody puts him on a big book so that we can see his skills again. He does a lot of commissions now, and he’s prolific on his Twitter account, so at least we’ve got something to tide us over until his next book.

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