Friday, January 05, 2007

Great Comic Book Writers

In order to really discuss great comic writers I believe it is necessary to segment them by time frames. Since I'm not an all knowing scholar in this I can only highlight whom I know as the best.
Starting with the Golden Age of comics I believe that Gardner Fox is the number one name that comes to mind. He had a hand in quite a few character creations and I believe was very prolific at the time. Joe Simon / Jack Kirby, Bob Kane, Jerry Shuster also have to be mentioned, along with Bill Everett and Carlos Burgos as they all were part of the creative process that brought many characters to life. During the Golden Age Superman, Batman, Captain America, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Human Torch, Namor, Atom, Doctor Fate, Spectre and many other great characters were created. Those writers set the stage for the Silver Age. Almost all of those characters are still playing roles in comics till this day.

The Silver Age was defined by Gardner Fox, John Broome, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. While the full extent of what were Kirby's ideas versus what were Stan's will be forever debated you have include Jack Kirby in that mix. These writers created what is still being mined to this day.

Moving forward we meet with the great modern writers such as Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Chris Claremont and John Byrne (in their day) and many others. Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman stand out as the writers who took the writing to a whole different level and made it equal to and at times exceeded it's more recognized prose counterpart.

The current writers have a tendency to have far reaching histories but Warren Ellis, Grant Morrison and Mark Waid stand out as the strongest class of writers that are still producing wonderful work today, but have to be considered established stars and not up and coming stars.

Then we have writers who are very active and producing great work and are striving to be the next great writer, that group included Ed Brubaker, Mike Carey, Geoff Johns, Kurt Busiek and many others that don't come to mind immediately.

Then there are the relative rookies like Gail Simone, Jeff Parker, Robert Kirkman, Christos (?) Gage and others who are just starting to make their mark in the industry.

We have a huge pool of talented writers in comics today and in the past we had some fantastic people who gave us all these wonderful characters to play with.

All of this is a long introduction to who are the greatest all time writer in comic books. I would need to do extensive review of my collection and who wrote what but I believe off the top of my head the top writers of all time are:

Alan Moore - He pushed comics forward the same way Neal Adams pushed the art work forward. he made comic into something more then just comics. I believe the modern writing approach is a direct result of Alan Moore.

Gardner Fox - Between the golden age and silver age he produced more material then almost any other writer I can thing of. Some of his work is very dated, but the ideas and concepts that he threw into his stories are still being mined today. In fact what Gardner wrote in an eight page story are turned into six part epics expanding and exploring great concepts that he had in his stories.

Stan Lee / Jack Kirby - I refuse to separate the two. You could tell by reading some of Jack's stuff on his own that Stan added a lot, but you can also tell that many of the stories were really done by Jack with Stan adding dialogue and maybe some re-writes of his ideas. Marvel is the house the Stand and Jack built.

Neil Gaiman - Inadvertently Neil created one of the great long term series ever in Sandman. I say inadvertently, because no one knew how long this book would last or that it would be the flagship that allowed DC to successfully launch a second imprint called Vertigo. Vertigo has produced some of the most diverse and fascinating works ever produced for comics. Marvel has yet to get a second imprint of the ground and Vertigo is 15 years old.

After that I'm at a lost. Warren Ellis may be close and Grant Morrison is hovering in that category. Will Eisner may be in that class, but as he added so much with his art, I'm not sure his writing was as big of an impact. In fact for me Neil Gaiman just barely made it as the bulk of his writing in is novels and putting him in that category for one series is iffy in my opinion. James Robinson has done some great work and with Starman he deserves some nods.

There are many great writers and each era has a different audience and different taste, so it is hard to define who is the best of all time, but my top four I believe would be hard pressed to be left off any one's top ten all time writers list.


  1. What gets me is the number of crap writers who somehow find time in the limelight, though undeserved. Bendis is a total hack and hasn't written anything worth reading since his independent days. I've never read anything Millar has written that was worth a second read. He's a pretty craptacular writer but a Wizard darling. Joss Wheedon might have given us Buffy and it's bevy of babes, but he sucks at writing comics. Meltzer's a very mediocre novelist and has the questionable honor of writing my most hated miniseries ever: Identity Crisis. What a pile! Yet fans of today praise these guys over the true greats of our favorite industry: Eisner, Miller, Moore, Gaiman, Morrison, Ellis et al. The hacks that I mentioned above(Meltzer, Bendis, Millar, Wheedon)are media favs who constantly get positive mainstream buzz for totally unworhty works. Meanwhile, guys like Kirkman, Slott and Cooke get passed over even though they are truly the new generation of great writers. It's sickening to me.

  2. I'm going to talk smack to you now:

    Mark Millar gave us WANTED which was very f'ing cool. If you didn't like that I pity you. RED SON was good and I liked the first run on ULTIMATES. CIVIL WAR sucks but I chalk that up to company mandated crossover-itis.

    I thought Bendis' run on DD made DD cool again, and ULT SPIDEY has been good though POWERS is still better than mere good. It's just his AVENGER stuff that has been lackluster. And that Illuminati nonsense.

    Joss Whedon's first year on ASTONISHING was pretty good. The second year not so much. But his FRAY from Dark Horse (about a future slayer) was kick ass.

    Not everyone is great all the time.

    I hear plenty about Kirkman. But his best stuff is WALKING DEAD and INVINCIBLE. His mainstream Work For Hire stuff is average thus far. He is writing the screenplay for the INVINCIBLE film. I think the media loves him just fine.

    I'll give you Meltzer because I haven't read anything of his I've liked yet.

    Cooke I believe has gotten some recognition. His NEW FRONTIER even got an ABSOLUTE edition. Keep in mind that Moore, Gaiman, and Eisner made it big making their own stuff up and not just paying homage to preexisting characters. Cooke does it better than most, but doesn't bring alot "new" to the table.

    Slott, although I love him, hasn't put out anything that has really sold well. It is hard to gain attention if your books sell under 20,000 copies. It's fun stuff but only a few of us read it. He's got a new darker series coming out soon that may finally allow him to catch on to a bigger audience.

    You cannot apply the Hollywood ideal of "only as good as their last project" to comic creators. If that is the case Frank Miller is horrible. I state this for ALL STAR BATMAN and for THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN.

    Of course if you look at his body of work, from DD, to ELEKTRA, to MARTHA WASHINGTON, to HARD BOILED, to RONIN, to SIN CITY, to 300, that's not really the case.

    You know whose going to be the next big things? BRIAN WOOD, MATT FRACTION, and KIERON GILLEN just off the top of my head.



  3. Shawn--quick reply. Never read Wanted but Millar always puts me off as I don't think he's very good. After all, if it were not for the fact that he's Morrison's buddy he would not have been able to ride Grant's coattails and get his comic writing gig.
    As for Bendis' run on DD, it was truly terrible. He opened with a ludicrous court case that made no sense. Matt is a defense attorney, so Bendis had to figure some way of letting him sue and attack a big, evil corporation. He did so by making the company so evil that they pre-emptively sue the people injured by their product before they could be sued. Laughable. If you are familiar with Miller's run on DD you will recognize the fact that Bendis gave us not one new idea during his entire run. He was just riffing off what Miller had done. And I've talked with a few comic shop owners who say that Bendis ruined the hobby completely with what he was doing on DD by driving away kids. Many creators followed in Bendis' footsteps when he did away with the costume, supervillains and secret identity. And Bendis cemented the idea of 6 issue storyarcs during his DD time. 6 months is an eternity to a kid. But Bendis wanted to get paid 6 times for each idea he had. Said so to a friend of mine at a Con.
    All these things were adopted by most other mainstream comics and drove the kids away en masse. Would have been forgiveable perhaps had he added anything new to the DD mythos, but everything he did had been done previously by Miller, even the leaking of Matt's secret identity. And could someone please tell me how getting stabbed 85 times cures blindness(Kingpin)?
    Take care! Hope you and the rest of the CosmicComix panel have a great 2007!!!

  4. Oh Hell No:

    First of all, WANTED would, in my opinion at least, make you respect Millar as a creator. It's really good.

    As for Bendis: not liking what he did on DD is of course up to personal taste. And you cannot blame him for Marvel and even DC writing for trades. They did it for the bookstores that carry trades, and not for any other reason. Bendis had six-issue arcs yes, it is called decompression. A story stretched over many issues.

    Warren Ellis made it popular before he tried something else.(Ellis always tries new things.) He did it on THE AUTHORITY. He took a single issue story and stretched it over four issues.

    Bendis' work, no matter how indie you get, (SEE JINX or the like) was full of alot, alot, alot of dialogue. Less plot, more dialogue. His arcs on DD were long because he wrote DD like he did his indie stuff.

    You can say what you want about his run, but I read DD off and on for years, and it was garbage for the better part of a decade or more. I wasn't very thrilled with Kevin Smith's run. It wasn't until Bendis took over DD that it became a more widely read title. He reinvigorated the book. That is a true story.

    And people writing DD have been aping Frank Miller for years. At least Bendis did it fairly well IMO.

    If kids turned away from comics it wasn't because of Bendis.

    It was because of Playstation and X-Box.

    I wouldn't read a DD written for kids anyway.

    I understand everyone has their own likes and dislikes. That's cool. But Bendis and Millar proved themselves on their books and sales.

    Once again: Kirkman KILLS on INVINCIBLE and WALKING DEAD, but ULTIMATE X-MEN is not very good.

    SLOTT's stuff is great and I enjoy it alot. Not everyone feels the same way and that's why THE THING gets cancelled.


  5. Shawn--Bendis blew on DD. Period. Nothing will ever change that and I think that in time you will come to see that I'm right about this point. If you want to read some good DD check out DG Chichester's run or the immortal run of Ann Nocenti. These two creators plus Frank Miller are THE best writers DD has ever seen. Each delivered classic stories to DD that I will never forget. What did Bendis give us? The first story, Underboss, was ridiculous and dealt with the death of Kingpin. Since he's alive again, Underboss is pointless. What else did Bendis do? The entirety of his 5 year run focussed on the outing of Matt Murdock. However he never really handled it properly. Never fully dealt with the ramifications of a leaked secret ID. You want to read a great story about Matt's secret getting out? Read Born Again, one of the best stories of all time.
    When Bendis first came on the scene he was a breath of fresh air. His quirky dialogue made him a fav and the comic book equivalent of Quentin Torentino. But just like Quentin, Bendis got old real fast. His dialogue was the same no matter what book or what character he was writing. He'd have Aunt May using hip street slang just like everyone else. You read Bendis' dialogue without looking at the art and you would have no idea who is speaking. And like I mentioned, an acquintance of mine(comic book professional) was at a Con talking with Bendis. My guy was questioning this new "writing for the trade" mandate. He didn't like it. Bendis said, "Dude! This is awesome!! We only have to come up with 2 ideas a year and we get paid 6 times for each one!" How can you respect a guy like that?
    Everyone has their own tastes, but you have to admit that Bendis totally hacked out once his daughter was born. He went from Indie guy to corporate kiss ass who was only working for the paycheck to feed his family. Can't blame him for that, but he certainly is not a good writer by any means.
    Take care!

  6. HaHa.

    I like you.

    POWERS and ULT SPIDEY are still good books, and they kick a$$.

    There will never be a better storyarc than BORN AGAIN on DD. Ever.

    I do like that Brubaker cat though.

    He can do it right.