See How Bill Sienkiewicz’s Experimental “New Mutants” Art Shifted Comic Sensibilities

IDW Publishing has collected the veteran artist’s seminal work into a limited-edition coffee table book, including some with original art.

It arrived in stores only just last month and is already poised to become a collector’s item.


The New Mutants: Bill Sienkiewicz Marvel Artist Select Series, from IDW Publishing, is a limited-edition thirty-something anniversary book of the Eisner-winning, Emmy-nominated illustrator’s seminal reimagining of Marvel’s New Mutants comics in the mid-1980s. The 352-page tome is the first time Sienkiewicz’s entire run of the series, plus a revisit of the characters in X-Men Unlimited #43, has been collected.

It includes a transcript of an interview with Sienkiewicz conducted by IDW CCO Chris Ryall and signed print of artwork used for first appearance of a popular character, Warlock.

Sienkiewicz’s New Mutants represented a seismic shift in how comics could be portrayed. “People refer to it as a thing that changed comics,” he says. “It was a complete departure from what was out there, not to mention the series, and it really polarized the audience. I got letters from kids says, ‘Stop him, Jim, before he kills again!’ and ‘When I first read it, I hated it. Now I love it!’ After it, other comics began to expand their positions about non-traditional approaches.”

Sienkiewicz was just 25 when he took over illustrating New Mutants in 1983, with issue #18. Until then, the series—an X-Men spin-off about mutated teens with special powers training to be superheroes—touted a more traditional drawing style and homogeneous renderings of the characters.

Bill Sienkiewicz

“As good as that approach was, I couldn’t tell them apart as characters,” says Sienkiewicz. “I wanted to play around with the awkwardness and angsty emotion of puberty, and give them more individual characterizations, such as varying heights, proportions, angles or curves, etc. My approach was also weirder, darker, and more abstract, that skewed toward a more mature audience of kids weathering or just finishing puberty. We resonated with those readers.”

He also introduced traditional painting in the covers. “I was just experimenting with the medium and pushing boundaries in storytelling and not even thinking about the response,” he adds. “I was just trying to tell the best story I could with Chris Claremont, the writer. I was only going to do three issues, but Chris and I had so much fun, it turned into a longer run [to issue #31 in 1985]. It not only elicited the response it did, but 30 years later, it still looks fresh. I’m really proud of that.”

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About the author

Susan Karlin is an award-winning journalist in Los Angeles, covering the nexus of science, technology, and arts, with a fondness for sci-fi and comics. She's a regular contributor to Fast Company, NPR, and IEEE Spectrum, and has written for Newsweek, Forbes, Wired, Scientific American, Discover, NY and London Times, and BBC Radio.