Monday, March 7, 2016

RIP Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan, comic book artist and cartoonist, died yesterday at the age of only 66. As a dedicated fan of 90’s comics, especially those that flew somewhat under the radar, this is really sad news. A veteran who contributed lasting work across three decades, it’s a shame that Ryan’s name is not particularly well known, even to comic book fans. Originally Iron Man artist Bob Layton’s assistant, Ryan moved on to penciling work at Marvel, taking over the art duties on Iron Man and the Squadron Supreme, and co-creating the series DP7 for Marvel’s New Universe. Perhaps his most famous single issue is Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21, aka the wedding issue.

Spider-Man Annual 21 1987 Paul Ryan wedding

 Ryan began the 90’s working on the Avengers comic at a time when the book was struggling to find consistency or much in the way of sales success, but was pulled from it in order to work with then Editor-in-Chief Tom DeFalco on Fantastic Four, where he’d work for the next four years. In the wake of Walt Simonson’s incredible, boundary-pushing work, De Falco and Ryan focused more on the soap opera aspect, a decision that played to Ryan’s strengths at conveying emotion and character in his art. Perhaps most infamously, Ryan designed Sue’s “invisible cleavage” 90’s outfit, notable for a four logo being cut out, along with various other missing strips of fabric along her legs and arms. In some ways it was a response to the “bad girl” trend, but it seemed less extreme in the context of the story, where Sue was behaving more recklessly over time due to the slowly returning “Malice” entity from John Byrne’s run.

Invisible Woman 90's Costume Invisible cleavage Paul Ryan

After Ryan left the title just before the Heroes Reborn event, he became a freelancer, working on Superman: the Wedding Album and Flash. He returned at the tail end of the 90’s as part of the MC2 line, where he’d be reunited with DeFalco. In 2005, Ryan, the former artist of the Spider-Man newspaper strip, was chosen as the daily artist for the Phantom strip, a job he’d hold until his death. In addition, he spent several years illustrating the Sunday strip.

Paul Ryan Ant Man Trading Card Series 3

That Ryan isn’t particularly well-known, even among comic book fans, is not correlated to his talent as a storyteller. Not particularly flashy, Ryan, along with relative contemporary Ron Frenz, was a sort of throwback to an earlier era of clean lines and strong anatomy at a time not particularly known for either. That ability to draw simple, clean characters helped Ryan become one of Marvel’s most prolific trading card artists.

Paul Ryan Art Avengers Poster

A fan of the industry since childhood, Ryan was fortunate enough to make his living drawing. His contributions, even of the invisible cleavage variety, should not be forgotten.

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