I imagine many of us have seen Marvel’s latest movie “The Eternals”. In July 1976, Jack Kirby had returned to Marvel Comics to create the “Eternals” comic series, following his Fourth World saga stint at DC Comics. Kirby’s original series ran for 19 issues, including an annual (an extra issue). The “Eternals” is on its fifth iteration. At the heart of the newest series is an artist I very much want to tell you about, his name is Esad Ribic.
In 2004, Ribic’s illustrations for Marvel’s four issue mini series “Loki” garnered him much deserved attention and he became a fan favorite, quickly becoming one of the most highly sought after comic book artists in the industry. Ribic graduated from the School of Applied Arts and Design in Zagreb, Croatia as a graphic designer. In a 2019 interview with Anthony’s Comic Book Art at the NY Comic Con, which you can find on YouTube, Ribic speaks about his initial struggles as an illustrator working in Europe and the United States. Eventually, he found himself working at Marvel after an argument with management at DC Vertigo. What we learn from this interview is that Marvel was in debt and had filed for bankruptcy. Ribic was probably consider- ing another career at this point.
Fast forward 20 years, Marvel has used Ribic to relaunch several important franchises, including the Fantastic Four, Avengers and Conan. Some of his original comic book art is selling for more than $10,000. In 2019, Marvel published a fantastic collection of his work in a book entitled: “The Art of Esad Ribic”. Ribic’s pencil marks are clean and deliberate. His line work is delightful. The way he creates tone, value and contrast is unique, unlike other artists I have studied. However, he is better known for his painterly illustrations of Marvel’s Wolverine, Thor, Loki, Sub-mariner, Silver Surfer and most recently, The Eternals.
Ribic draws everything by hand, which is rare when most comic book artists today choose to combine digital techniques. In a 2008 interview with Body Pixel, Ribic tells us that he uses gouache, tempera and aquarelle for his painting due to acrylics and oils not being ideal for tight deadlines because they are slower techniques. Ribic’s figures are often times strange and frightening to look at; the faces he draws are grotesque— comically distorted or repulsively ugly. They speak to us on a subconscious level.
Check out Marvel’s “Thor: God of Thunder” (2012 – 2014)! It is my favorite of Ribic’s work. He teams up with writer Jason Aaron for the twenty-five issue run. They would work together again in 2019 on “King Thor”, issues #1 – 4. Ribic would paint the first twelve covers to Aaron’s “Conan The Barbarian” (2019 -2021) series at Marvel, ending on issue twenty-five. “Eternals” is Esad’s latest project with writer Kieron Gillen. It is an on-going series and issue #10 will be released on March 9, 2022.