The "How Did You Get Into Comics?" thread made me think of a question I heard on a podcast earlier.
Who was the artist that you first recognized without having to look at the credits? You could recognize them by looking at their work; it was that visually striking to you.
As an art guy, I have to say that it was a few that happened at once:
I was never an art guy as a kid, nor really a writer guy. I was all about the characters and stories, and frankly didn't notice the credits half the time. That being said, Kirby's style was incredibly distinctive, even if I wasn't always very enamored with it ( I preferred the cleaner stylings of Neal Adams, the John's Romita and Buscema, etc.).
I think after Kirby, the next artist who's style I clearly noticed was Frank Robbins, who also had a very distinctive style, particularly for the day.
Curt Swan: Forever the "Good" Superman Artist.
Mike Grell on the Legion and GL/GA.
Dick Dillin: Always my JLA artist!
Irv Novick: my Batman and Flash artist.
Jim Aparo: B&B Forever! And the best Bronze Age Aquaman artist.
Joe Kubert: the draftsman!
Easy one for me:
1. The first artist I really got attached to was John Byrne. When I was 7 or 8 he was doing Avengers, X-Men, Marvel Team Up, Champions, Iron Fist, and Captain America. At some point I made it my mission to track down all of his stuff.
2. Running a close second was George Perez. He was alternating with Byrne on Avengers at the time. I followed him to DC when he started working on JLA and then Teen Titans.
3. Around the same time I discovered Neal Adams through various reprints and became a lifelong fan. If I'm grading based purely on technical skill, Adams is probably my favorite.
Carl Barks in the early 1970s, age circa 10-12.
He was never credited in those days, but I could always distinguish that he was "the good duck artist," as opposed to all the others who were nowhere near as good. This was many years before Don Rosa came along.
After him, possibly Curt Swan on Superman, LOSH, etc.
Probably Pat Boyette. Although I couldn't have told you his name, I identified his as a style I didn't like. I wouldn't say he was "my" artist, but he was the one I could first identify without having to look at the credits.
ADDENDUM: You know what? I was looking at Mad magazine at least as early as I was reading comics books (or having them read to me as the case may be). I think my first favorite Mad artist was Don Martin.
Being an art guy, I noticed a lot of artists fairly early. I could pick out Kirby, Kane, Heck, Ditko and Sekowsky pretty early, probably some others. I knew Murphy Anderson's style, but it took me longer to twig that sometimes he was drawing and sometimes he was inking, and which was which. That was long ago, so it's all pretty fuzzy, but that's how I remember it.
I do remember the first artist that knocked me over: Neal Adams. His photo-realism style was like nothing I'd seen and I loved it. I would have been 11 or 12 when he came along.
I remember the first "good girl" artist that struck me as such: Nick Cardy. As I've said before, Marvel's main artists in the Silver Age were so terrible at women that I only knew Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Sue Storm, Liz Allan, et al, were supposed to be attractive was because of the way the male characters reacted to them. Over at DC, Sekowsky's women were hideous, there was nothing attractive about Andru & Esposito's Wonder Woman, and even Swan's women were pretty prim and dressed like they were middle-aged. But Cardy's Mera and Black Canary (in Brave and Bold) and Bat Lash women were so luscious they were practically pornography to my pre-adolescent self.
The first artist I saw that I knew had a future was when I saw John Byrne on Charlton's Doomsday + 1. I made sure to memorize the name, because his early work was better than most of the artists working at the time, at least to my eye. And sure enough, I spotted him on Iron Fist shortly thereafter.
It was hard to miss Kirby. No one's stuff ever looked like his. Ditko, too, although I always hated his art.
Perez was an early favorite of mine.
"First" recognized without having to look at the credits?
Hmmm ... I'd have to say Wayne Boring. Nobody else's Superman looked like his.
Right from the beginning I recognized different art styles. Superboy and Jimmy Olsen, two of my early favorites, usually featured three 8 page stories with different artists handling each. I identified the Best (Curt Swan), the Second Best (Al Plastino) and all the others who rated below those two. Back then there were no credits in most of the DC books so it was a few years before I actually knew the names.
The most visually striking is another issue - for me that was Carmine Infantino. I was blown away by what he did with the New Look Batman in comparison to what had been done art wise up to that point.