The Comic De-SPEC-Tive v.1-4

Great Ex-SPEC-tations

Artists to Watch


It seems many readers agreed weeks ago when I highlighted Ben Oliver as a cover artist on the rise.  It got me thinking about some of the other unappreciated cover artists who have either toiled for years honing their chops or who are, similarly to Oliver, talents that are just starting to come to the forefront.  

One only has to look to some of the artists who have broken out recently in terms of their cover work like Artgerm, Jenny Frison, and Joshua Middleton as examples of both.

(This is not to say they weren’t known quantities before this but the work they did in the past year greatly elevated their profiles.)


Here are three other tremendous talents who are ready to hit the next echelon.

Stephanie Hans

A strong contender for the throne this year is Stephanie Hans who finished up last year on a high note, and also gave us our first bonafide chase book of 2018.  Her unique painted style, always hauntingly beautiful, and the fact that many of her most iconic covers tend to be 1:25 or 1:50 variants create a combustible combination of gorgeous imagery and rarity- the speculator ‘sweet spot’.

X-men: Blue 21 1:50


A-Force 1 1:25

Power Rangers Pink 1 1:50

Phoenix Resurrection 3 1:25

Firestar 1

Cosmic Ghost Rider 1 1:25 (June 21st)

Klaws of the Panther 1 1:10

Fearless Defenders 2 1:50


While she first attracted attention with her gallery-style covers for Angela, 1602 (Secret Wars) and Journey Into Mystery, it was her A-Force 1 cover that started to get the collective attention.

Hans then ended last year with a classic Jean/Scott moment but it was another cover of the iconic redhead that created a stir- the venomized Poison X 1:50 variant for X-Men Blue which at release was going for $180 but has since settled into $90 sales. Her upcoming take on the Cosmic Ghost Rider will undoubtedly be a hot commodity this summer.

Featured above are a few other covers that could end up being books to own if she continues to attract higher-profile assignments. That final book is a virtual ghost, one of several from a 1:50 Fearless Defenders run I am still trying to complete!

Her next work in progress is the upcoming cover for Ms Marvel 50. Here’s a screenshot from a live Facebook painting she recently aired. We all remember what happened to that last variant of Kamala blowing a bubble, right?



Brandon Peterson

Peterson is a talent who has worked steadily since the early 1990’s. Well known for gigs on Uncanny X-Men, Codename: Strykeforce and Mystik over at CrossGen, he was very much a product of the Image stable of talent.  His evolving style has led him to be a monthly staple on Green Lantern and his innovative ‘B’ cover variants.  The upcoming Green Lanterns 4 is below.



One of my favorite variant sets of all time is this one featuring Tron-themed versions of our heroes.  Peterson did the majority of the covers in this run.  One of those covers are below; he alternated with the phenomenal Mark Brooks on these.  

Invincible Iron Man 33 (Tron variant)

Red Sonja 0 (1:100 Partial Sketch variant)

House of M 4 (variant)

G.I. Joe: Cobra Files 1 (variant)

X-Men: Kingbreaker 3

All-New X-Men 20


The biggest deterrent for investment potential is that he just doesn’t have enough of a repertoire; conversely, it is relatively easy to grab the majority of the covers above.


Stepan Sejic

This Croatian-born artist was heavily influenced by the work of Michael Turner and Marc Silvestri after he ran across a copy of Witchblade.  This influence can be clearly seen, as can the more posed photo realistic influence of some of the Italian artists he followed.  

He started his career as the colorist for another go-to cover artist, Tyler Kirkham. While he primarily then worked on interiors, his style has shifted dramatically, most notably on his Aquaman run.  Coupled with the Middleton ‘B’ covers, this might be the only DC book that I am buying both covers for consistently.

He has worked across many of the independent companies as well where his Image training has served him well, particularly on some of his Zenescope and Dynamite work.  Be aware if you do search out his work that his wife Linda Sejic is also an artist.


Aquaman 38, ‘A’ cover

Aquaman 25, ‘A’ cover

Aquaman 27 ‘A’ cover

Grimm’s Fairy Tales Alice in Wonderland 5 ‘A’ cover

The Darkness 75, ‘C’ cover

Savage Tales 2 (Dynamite), Variant


One last bonus from his Deviant Art page, She-Ra and Swiftwind because who doesn’t love Pegasus unicorns and lightning effects!  



Quick Hits

(Potential spoilers for Old Man Hawkeye and Avengers based on solicits.)


According to the June solicits, it looks like Old Man Hawkeye 1 might pick up interest soon:


Old Man Hawkeye 6

  • The MADROX VENOMS vs. HAWKEYE in a battle for the ages!
  • But how can Hawkeye and his RELUCTANT NEW PARTNER defeat a Venom that can multiply?!
  • Don’t miss this pivotal turning point in the archer’s quest!



I just used my eBay bucks to grab a B&W 1:100 variant to pair up with the color 1:50.  I am hoping to CGC fast track both to time them for the release of issue 6.  Issue 1 is the first appearance of the Multiple Man-Venom mash-up.  Remember the spec game isn’t for the spoiler-averse; the solicits can give you a big jump on most reported ‘news’ from the big comic sites.  Which leads me to the solicits down the road for the upcoming Jason Aaron Avengers


Clint Joslin recently dropped the mic on all things Celestial with his comprehensive write-up on these space gods a few days back.  (Check it out if you haven’t yet here; go ahead, I’ll wait: and as we’ve seen in Legacy 1, the Fallen One references the coming of the big bad for the first story arc, namely the Final Host.

Upcoming solicits for issues 3 and 4 makes mention of the Progenitor.  We have seen Progenitors before, most recently in the now-cancelled Inhumans spin-off Royals.  The Progenitors were defeated in the final issue but they first show up in Royals 5.  (There is one variant, a Jim Lee Magneto trading card one(!)  Whether or not Jason Aaron picks up Al Ewing’s baton from that series (and man, would I love to see Marvel Boy pop up again in that rotating Avenger spot), it would seem odd if there was no connection between the two.  

The Progenitors are an eon old space who have had contact with both the Kree and the Inhumans.



Below is some of the concept art for the Progenitors.  



Additionally, the Avengers 1,000,000 BC will be featured throughout Aaron’s Avengers run and specifically their connection to the Final Host will be explored.



While they show up on this Ribic cover for the new #1 (and also on the Land party variant cover above), the gang all appears first in Legacy #1.  The Deodato variant also features the team on the cover.  

There is the color 1:500 shown below and the black and white 1:1000 version.  The color can be found for around $150 and the 1:1000 for a little over double that so if you do believe that Legacy has um, legs, have at ‘em.  The second cover appearance, is in Avengers 677, another variant by Ribic.



Besides the Avengers first issue, the only other real game in town this Wednesday is DC Nation 0.  While I love the variant covers I can’t wholeheartedly endorse them as they are going to be out there in HUGE numbers as they will be kicking off three major events for DC: Bendis’ Man of Steel, Snyder’s No Justice and the Bat nuptials.

I’ll be grabbing the other books below.

The Death or Glory 1  is my cover of the week and I’m also looking forward to the interior work by Remender and Bengal.  The Grimm’s Fairy Tales Dance of the Dead 5 Queen of Cups variant continues the run of consistently beautiful Zenescope covers as does the Bustos 1:25 cover for Go Go Power Rangers 9 which continues the 80’s homage film covers for each issue.

I am over the interchangeable Mattina Spawn covers but I do like that McFarlane/Tan cover.  Finally the minimal trade dress will let Kirkham’s Green Arrow ‘B’ cover pop even more.

It looks to be a relatively quiet spec week but be sure to check Adam Lebednik’s ‘The Wednesday One’ column as a resource to identify any books that you should be keeping an eye out for.



And sorry folks, just like this Mark Brooks cover for Astonishing X-Men 1 will always have me seeing killer whales…



…this 1:50 Dynamite AH! Cover for Tarzan/Red Sonja 1 has me humming the ‘Married With Children’ theme song.  This is my Beware of the Weekas this is not even the best AH! Red Sonja we’ve seen.



Next week- a recap of Free Comic Book Day goodness! And remember, with May 4th almost here, this is a great time to throw up some Star Wars books.  

As always, your feedback helps to shape future columns and I welcome your comments.




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