Fan art from future professionals

Fan Art from Future Professionals

In the 90s, comic magazines still published print editions.  Obviously, “Wizard: The Guide to Comics” happened every month.  But there was a host of others, too, like “Arena” and “Hero Illustrated.”

Most of them printed fan art.  They made contests out of it.  People drew on the envelopes they mailed their letters in with. Or, they just drew on the envelope and sent that in.  Things escalated quickly. People were doing full color art for these contests.

Personally, I’d love to see someone go to a convention and start a collection of sketches from artists on regular letter-sized envelopes.  If nothing else, the size and shape of the envelopes should push some fresh thinking.

Some of the letters in print came from people who would later make comics professionally.  That’s what we’re here for today.  I’m going to show you some of those professionals who got their start drawing on envelopes or other contests from comics magazine publishers of the early 90s.

Because Tumblr/Instagram/Twitter weren’t around yet.


Fan Art from Future Professionals, Part One

We start with the earliest days of “Hero Illustrated.”  From issue #3, here’s Josh Medors with his Turok art:

Josh Medors Hero Illustrated Turok fan art

Sadly, Medors passed away a few years ago now, but not before starting a career as a comics illustrator who often worked with Steve Niles.

In “Hero Illustrated” #4, Tony Castrillo contributes his version of Spawn, winning him third place that month.  He lost out to another Spawn in second place, and a first place envelope depicting Bane straddling Batman’s disembodied skullified head.

Tony Castrillo Hero Illustrated fan art Spawn

Castrillo had a short run on “X-Force” in the late 90s, and skipped around after that.  He drew a back-up story in Jay Faerber’s “Dynamo 5” in 2009 and then appears to have left comics.

In the November 1992 issue of “Wizard,”  Gerry Alanguilan had a Conan piece:

Gerry Alanguilan drew Conan for Wizard #15 in 1992

Alanguilan is most frequently seen as an inker for Leinil Francis Yu in his professional career.

In the following issue, “Wizard” #16, Derek Fridolfs crosses company lines:

Derek Fridolfs fan art in Wizard #16, December 1992

Funny enough, I was talking to Derek at the New York Comic Con last month while he was drawing a Batman head shot in someone’s sketch book.

Just a few short issues later in 1993, we got this painted art from a young up and comer:

Jim Cheung Valiant fan art from Wizard Magazine #20 in 1993

Jim Cheung! His first published comics work was still a year away in the pages of “Marvel Comics Presents” #170.

I hope he was able to sell that “Gold Eternal Warrior” #1 issue before the market tanked for Valiant that go-around.


The Ryan Ottley Portion of Today’s Presentation

The “Invincible” artist turns out to have been quite the active fan artist back in the day.  Also, he was good. So good, in fact, that “Hero Illustrated” once published envelope art of his twice.  They did a “Best of the Year” segment in an “Annual”, and included this piece in it for the second time:


Ryan Ottley draws Lestat in Hero Illustrated Annual Ryan Ottley draws Lestat in Hero Illustrated #12


The “Ted Noodleman” artist wasn’t limited to just horror characters, though.  He was also quite the Angela fan:

Ryan Ottley draws Angela in Hero Illustrated #23

He could also draw a mean ghost. Caspar?  This was for a Halloween-themed contest:

Hero Illustrated #20 featured Ryan Ottley with a Halloween-themed winning drawing.

The reproduction values in magazine publishing at the time weren’t so great…


And then we’re back to vampires.  Ottley had a thing for vampires, obviously:

Hero Illustrated #24 by Ryan Ottley drawing a vampire


All of these images were printed in the span of about four months.  Ottley picked a good time to be prolific, I’d guess.

I wonder if any of this gives us a clue to his future career goals post-“Invincible”?

Nah, probably not.  Unless he starts up a vampire book.  Then you can tell everyone you heard about it here first.


The Raff Ienco Portion of Today’s Presentation

Raff Ienco first came to my attention when he did the “Epic Kill” mini-series at Image a few years back.  I loved that book bunches. Nowadays, he’s busy working with Top Cow on two titles simultaneously in a completely different style: “Symmetry” and “Mechanism”.

As it turns out, he had quite the epic career in magazine fan art before this.

In “Arena Magazine”, which had a subscription base of me and 10 others, Ienco was featured twice in the same issue in the summer of 1993.

Raff Ienco fan art from Arena Magazine of August 1993. Raff Ienco fan art from Arena Magazine of August 1993.

For those of you unfamiliar, this character is Zen the Intergalactic Ninja that independent creator Bill Maus kept coming back to throughout the 90s and 2000s.

Ienco also featured in “HERO Illustrated,” another magazine of the early 90s that had a subscription base of me and a dozen others.  This is from their 12th issue:

Raff Ienco draws Pitt in Hero Illustrated Magazine


Round Two

“Wizard Magazine” #21 featured a soon-to-be Extreme Studios employee in Jeff Matsuda:

Wizard Fan Art from Jeff Matsuda

Drawing X-Force, of course!

We jump ahead a year or so to “Wizard Magazine” #37, where a young Kerry Callen takes a shot at fan art humor:

Wizard fan art from Kerry Callen

Callen is perhaps best known on the net lately for his animated GIFs of classic comic covers.  You can see those on his blog.  You can also pick up his much-loved and much-missed comic, “Halo & Sprocket.” (Available on Comixology!)

Next up is a guy who draws a lot.  You can find him on YouTube and all the social media drawing constantly.

Todd Nauck draws Mike Allred's Madman for Hero Illustrated #14

Todd Nauck was part of a three-way tie for first place in “Hero Illustrated”‘s “Mad About the Madman” fan art contest.


A Quick Animated Diversion

A few artists went the goofy cartoony route with their contest entries and envelope art.  A couple of them had letters printed repeatedly in their recognizable style. If Skottie Young were drawing Marvel Babies in 1995, it would have been in the pages of the Fan Art of the Month sections of these magazines, I’m convinced.

One such artist was Chris Battle:

Youngblood’s Riptide, from “Wizard” #20:

Chris Battle draws Rob Liefeld's Youngblood's Riptide in Wizard #20

Cable, from “Wizard” #13 in September 1992:

Chris Battle draws Cable in Wizard #14, September 1992

And, finally for this sampling, WildC.A.T.S.’ Spartan in “Wizard” #40:

Chris Battle draws Jim Lee's WildC.A.T.S' Spartan for Wizard #40

Chris Battle doesn’t have any comic book credits, but his animation resume is pretty solid. Check out his IMDB profile.  He’s worked on everything from “Teen Titans Go!” to “Dexter’s Laboratory” and “Dan Vs.” as a (lead) character designer.  You can watch an interview with him here. And keep an eye on his Tumblr page for updates.

So, yeah, that worked out rather well for him.

The Final Round!

Let’s go out with two bangs:


Kaare Andrews draws his own version of Mike Allred's Madman for "Wizard" #40

Kaare Andrews draws Madman in “Wizard” #40.

And, finally, here’s a contest winner who got some advice from his future boss:


Currently at Marvel but working at DC for a while before that, Ken Rocafort got some advice from current DC Co-Publisher (then, WildStorm Boss) Jim Lee, who advises,

“Inking could use a slightly slicker, more professional look. Appears he used magic markers, which are tricky– Ink will bleed, causing blotting and un-evenness in the line weights.  Looks great.  Ready to give him work! Want to see panel-to-panel work.”

This was years before Copic markers took over. Now those markers can look more even, at least…

And though Lee says he was ready to hire Rocafort, Marc Silvestri beat Lee to it and put Rocafort to work on the “Hunter-Killer” series at Top Cow.


To Be Continued?

This is hardly an exhaustive list.  I don’t have every issue of either “Wizard” nor “Hero Illustrated.”  There is another box in my collection somewhere with more magazines with fan art included, I’m sure. Once I find them, expect a sequel.


  • Nano Rubio August 8, 2017 at 3:39 am

    I’m looking for the fan art of Wizard Issue #21 of Cable. I’ve been looking for over 20 years. Send any images of the fan art to me as I want to redraw those images

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