Paul Ryan (cartoonist)

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Paul Ryan
Paul Ryan at That's Entertainment comic shop, Worcester, Massachusetts in 2006.
Born (1949-09-23) September 23, 1949 (age 66)
Nationality American
Area(s) Artist
Notable works
D.P. 7
Fantastic Four
The Phantom
Squadron Supreme

Paul Ryan (born September 23, 1949[1] in Massachusetts) is an American comic book and comic strip cartoonist. Ryan has worked extensively for Marvel Comics and DC Comics on a number of super-hero comics. Currently, he pencils and inks the daily comic strip The Phantom for King Features Syndicate.[2]


Early years[edit]

Paul Ryan attended St. Polycarp Grammar School in Somerville, Massachusetts and graduated from St. Mary of the Annunciation High School in 1967. He graduated from the Massachusetts College of Art[3] in 1971 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Graphic Design. After graduation Ryan enlisted in the United States National Guard and was assigned to Fort Dix, New Jersey for Basic Training and AIT (Advanced Individual Training) in automotive mechanics. He later attended Massachusetts Military Academy in Wakefield, Massachusetts for officer training. During this period Ryan landed a job in the Graphics Department of Metcalf & Eddy Engineering in Boston, where he worked for 11 years.

First steps in comics[edit]

According to a 2007 interview, "Ryan began his training as a child, growing up in Somerville. He'd park himself in front of the television each night to watch George Reeves in the Adventures of Superman."[4] He has said that as a young comics fan and aspiring artist in the Silver Age, he was influenced by the work of Wayne Boring and Curt Swan on Superman.[5] In 1961, Ryan became a big fan of the Fantastic Four of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, having "bought the first issue at the tender age of 11."[6] He has acknowledged that even as a youth he studied the work of Hal Foster, Sy Barry, Dan Barry, and Mac Raboy, adding "I'm pretty much influenced by anybody whose work I admire."[7]

In 1983, in response to a general "open audition" offer from Charlton Comics, Ryan was finally prompted to write and draw his first comics story, which he titled "BREED". Charlton had recently instituted a program whereby they would publish the best of the work submitted by aspiring comic book artists in Charlton Bullseye. Payment would be in the form of 50 contributor copies of the printed piece. The artist would then have published work to show Marvel Comics or DC Comics in the hopes of landing a job with the "Big Two." Charlton accepted Ryan's story, but the title was cancelled before "BREED" saw print.

The remaining stories from Bullseye ended up in the hands of Bill Black of Americomics in Florida, and Black published "BREED" in Starmasters #1 (March 1984).[8] This brought Ryan to the attention of comic book stores in the Boston area. When Marvel artist, Bob Layton, moved to Boston and needed an assistant, the employees at these stores recommended Paul Ryan to Layton. Ryan worked for Layton for a year doing his backgrounds, and through him met the editors and staff at Marvel. By this time Ryan, having taken a circuitous route toward a career in comic art, was in his early 30s.[9]

Fantastic Four #358 (Nov. 1991), art by Paul Ryan, © Marvel Characters, Inc.

Marvel Comics[edit]

Soon, Ryan was getting assignments of his own, starting with inking The Thing #27 (Sept. 1985)[8] and then moving on to penciling Iron Man, Squadron Supreme, The Eternals, and a Thor graphic novel.[9]

In 1986, writer Mark Gruenwald and Ryan co-created D.P. 7 for Marvel's New Universe imprint.[10] Rich Johnston of Bleeding Cool called D.P. 7 "a wonderful comic book, everything just seemed to gel together perfectly on that series, and on Quasar that followed it, and I was hooked. Paul had a classically clean style."[11] Ryan drew The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 which featured the wedding of Spider-Man (Peter Parker) and Mary Jane Watson.[12][13]

Ryan penciled the first six issues of Quasar[14] followed by work on Avengers, Avengers West Coast, Iron Man, and Ravage 2099 a character which he co-created with Stan Lee.[15] Ryan would be most strongly associated with the Fantastic Four for his notably long run on Marvel's flagship title, trailing only Jack Kirby and John Byrne in total number of issues drawn.[3] His first issue was #356 (Sept. 1991) and his last #414 (July 1996). Ryan would complete eleven years of comic book art exclusivity with Marvel Comics.[9]

In 1992 Ryan took over the penciling on The Amazing Spider-Man Sunday comic strip written by Stan Lee, inked by Joe Sinnott, and distributed by King Features. He drew that feature for just over three years.[9]

DC Comics and after[edit]

In 1996, Ryan's run on Fantastic Four was ended by the Heroes Reborn event. Shortly after, Paul Ryan left Marvel to work for DC Comics where he became the artist on Superman: The Man of Tomorrow and The Flash.[8] That same year, he was one of the many creators who contributed to the Superman: The Wedding Album one-shot wherein the title character married Lois Lane.[16][17] Ryan drew part of the Superman Red/Superman Blue one-shot which launched the storyline of the same name which ran through the various Superman titles.[18] He penciled a Superman Annual and various Batman titles, as well as several fill-in assignments on other Superman titles.[9] With writers Grant Morrison and Mark Millar, Ryan introduced the Jakeem Thunder character in The Flash vol. 2 #134 (Feb. 1998).[19]

Paul Ryan and writer David Michelinie are the only comic book creators to have contributed to the wedding issues of both Spider-Man (Peter Parker marrying Mary Jane Watson in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21[12][13] and Superman (Clark Kent) marrying Lois Lane in Superman: The Wedding Album.[9][16][17]

Egmont's Fantomen (Phantom) cover art by Paul Ryan, © Egmont Publishing

He was a contributing artist on the NASCAR/Superman custom comic and on Celebrating the Century, a stamp collecting book which DC produced for the United States Postal Service.

Ryan briefly returned to Marvel in 1999, teaming with writer Tom DeFalco on the Fantastic Five. The turn of the Millennium found Ryan working with Wildstorm, penciling one of the Left Behind graphic novels, and working with Crossgen as a fill-in artist on such titles as Ruse and Crux. Ryan became a regular contributor to The Phantom or Fantomen comic books published by the Swedish company Egmont, a job which would position him well for his next major assignment.[9]

The Phantom comic strip[edit]

The Phantom comic strip began as a weekday newspaper strip on February 17, 1936, with a color Sunday strip added in May 1939. It was originally written by creator Lee Falk, and when Falk died in 1999, Tony DePaul took over the writing duties. Several artists have illustrated the character's adventures over the decades.

In 2005 then-current artist George Olesen announced his retirement. Jay Kennedy at King Features Syndicate chose Paul Ryan to assume the artist's role on the daily strips. Then in October 2006 Graham Nolan, artist on The Phantom Sunday Strip, announced his intended departure from the series. Once again Kennedy called upon Ryan, who agreed to add the Sunday strip to his duties for King Features. His first Sunday appeared in newspapers on April 1, 2007. Ryan later wished to cut his workload and on July 31, 2011, Eduardo Barreto took over as artist for the Sunday strip. Following Barreto's sudden death in late 2011, Ryan returned to the Sunday feature briefly until a replacement, Terry Beatty, was found.

The Phantom daily strip from 2006. Art by Paul Ryan, © King Features Syndicate.

Rich Johnston of Bleeding Cool wrote of Ryan on The Phantom: "Here it seems he has come into his own, a richer and more luxurious style that is less tempered by the effects of Marvel or DC editorial with a greater influence from Europe."[11]

Working methods[edit]

When asked how long it takes to produce his daily comic strip, Ryan estimated "four hours to pencil a strip and three hours to ink it in, crafting lighting and shadows." [4] Ryan's art is characterized by a strong story-telling sense, careful attention to design and perspective, and solid knowledge of anatomy—on a strip that he at one time drew for publication 365 days a year.

On The Phantom, Ryan begins with penciling only the line work. "I work out the lighting, shadows and texture in the inking stage. I go in with the brush first and hit all the shadows and large dark areas. This helps define the page. Then I go in with a finer brush or pen to add details, texture or contour lines."[7]

While Ryan keeps reference books handy, he gives more credit to observation—and an artist's eye—for his knowledge of human anatomy as well as the structure of the world around us. "Whenever I'm in any situation, I'll constantly try to memorize things. I'll memorize a face, a room, and actually mentally outline everything."[4]

Ryan confesses to having run around his neighborhood as a youngster with a makeshift Superman cape tied around his neck ("I got beat up a lot", he jokes),[5] and his emotional identification with comic characters has continued into his professional years: "I find that while I'm illustrating a story I become so focused that I feel as if I'm [actually] in the story, taking the part of each of the characters as I draw them," Ryan says.[4]


DC Comics[edit]

Marvel Comics[edit]


  1. ^ Miller, John Jackson (June 10, 2005). "Comics Industry Birthdays". Comics Buyer's Guide. Archived from the original on October 29, 2010. 
  2. ^ "King Features: The Phantom". King Features Syndicate. 2013. Archived from the original on December 7, 2013. Retrieved December 26, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "Paul Ryan". Lambiek Comiclopedia. 2012. Archived from the original on September 10, 2012. Retrieved December 26, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d Chaityn Lebovits, Susan (June 17, 2007). "Artist draws on his childhood dreams". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on October 12, 2012. Retrieved August 26, 2007. 
  5. ^ a b Best, Daniel (2004). "Welcome to Paul Ryan @ Adelaide Comics and Books". Archived from the original on August 8, 2007. Retrieved August 9, 2007. 
  6. ^ "Articles: Interview: Paul Ryan". May 19, 1997. Archived from the original on April 5, 2007. Retrieved August 9, 2007. 
  7. ^ a b Rhoades, Ed (April 7, 2006). "Talking with Paul Ryan, The new artist for The Phantom comic strip". Archived from the original on July 29, 2013. Retrieved November 7, 2007. 
  8. ^ a b c Paul Ryan at the Grand Comics Database
  9. ^ a b c d e f g "About the Cartoonist". King Features Syndicate. n.d. Archived from the original on December 5, 2007. 
  10. ^ DeFalco, Tom; Gilbert, Laura, ed. (2008). "1980s". Marvel Chronicle A Year by Year History. Dorling Kindersley. p. 228. ISBN 978-0756641238. Created by editor Mark Gruenwald and artist Paul Ryan, D.P. 7 was published under the New Universe imprint. 
  11. ^ a b Johnston, Rich (August 12, 2012). "Celebrating The Career Of Paul Ryan. In Comics.". Bleeding Cool. Archived from the original on August 15, 2012. 
  12. ^ a b Manning, Matthew K.; Gilbert, Laura, ed. (2012). "1980s". Spider-Man Chronicle Celebrating 50 Years of Web-Slinging. Dorling Kindersley. p. 164. ISBN 978-0756692360. Plotted by Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter and written by David Michelinie with pencils by Paul Ryan, this issue wasn't the standard wedding comic fare. 
  13. ^ a b The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 at the Grand Comics Database
  14. ^ DeFalco "1980s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 242
  15. ^ Manning, Matthew K. "1990s" in Gilbert (2008), p. 261: "Stan Lee returned to his rightful place behind the typewriter with this new series penciled by Paul Ryan."
  16. ^ a b Manning, Matthew K.; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1990s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 275. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9. The behind-the-scenes talent on the monumental issue appropriately spanned several generations of the Man of Tomorrow's career. Written by Dan Jurgens, Karl Kesel, David Michelinie, Louise Simonson, and Roger Stern, the one-shot featured the pencils of John Byrne, Gil Kane, Stuart Immonen, Paul Ryan, Jon Bogdanove, Kieron Dwyer, Tom Grummett, Dick Giordano, Jim Mooney, Curt Swan, Nick Cardy, Al Plastino, Barry Kitson, Ron Frenz, and Dan Jurgens. 
  17. ^ a b Superman: The Wedding Album #1 (Dec. 1996) at the Grand Comics Database
  18. ^ Manning "1990s" in Dolan, p. 283: "The special written by Dan Jurgens, Stuart Immonen, Karl Kesel, and Louise Simonson, with pencils by Stuart Immonen, Ron Frenz, Tom Grummett, Paul Ryan, and Jon Bogdanove."
  19. ^ Manning "1990s" in Dolan, p. 285: Jakeem Thunder debuted in The Flash (second series) #134 in February [1998], by writers Grant Morrison and Mark Millar and penciller Paul Ryan.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Rich Buckler
The Avengers artist
Succeeded by
Herb Trimpe
Preceded by
John Byrne
Avengers West Coast artist
Succeeded by
Steven Butler
Preceded by
John Romita Jr.
Iron Man artist
Succeeded by
Kev Hopgood
Preceded by
Al Milgrom
Fantastic Four artist
Succeeded by
Carlos Pacheco
Preceded by
Sergio Cariello
The Flash artist
Succeeded by
Ron Wagner