Here at Comics and… and across the internet we frequently sing the praises of one Grant Morrison. Here and around the comics internet he is rightly regarded as one of the towering figures of this industry over the past twenty years. And rightly so, as his mad ideas and storytelling skills have resulted in not just some of the best comics of that time period, but some of the most definitive runs in the history of some of these characters. While Morrison deserves all the respect and plaudits thrown his way, I think that too often we put him in a class by himself, when one of his peers who have been working in roughly the same time period deserves to be mentioned in the same breath. That would be Mark Waid.
Now, most people like Mark Waid and I think he is considered a good to very good writer by most of the comics readers I know. But this week I was reading Daredevil #1, which has to be one of the best first issues I have ever read. Now a lot of that is clearly down to the phenomenal art team, but this was book was an amazing introduction to a new take on the character and it was written by a guy who clearly understands what makes this character tick. I honestly haven’t been this excited by a new comic in ages and as I read it and thought about Waid’s work, I realized he has got a bibliography that easily rivals that of Morrison or any of his contemporaries.
Here’s a thought experiment. How many big time comics writers have a “definitive” run on a superhero title? Most writers, even big name writers, would be lucky to have one or two. By my count, Waid owns definitive runs on the Flash, the Legion of Super Heroes (Twice!), Impulse, Captain America (Twice!), and the Fantastic Four. Not to mention his involvement with 52. Lets compare that to Johns, who has definitive runs on JSA, 52, and Green Lantern, or Bendis who has definitive runs on Daredevil, Spider-Man, and Avengers (no matter what you think about his run, he’s made a huge impact on the book’s history) or Busiek who has definitive runs on Avengers and Thunderbolts. Hell, it even stacks up well compared to Morrison’s definitive runs on JLA, 52, Animal Man, X-Men, and Batman.
Throughout his career, Waid has consistently written strong character based superhero work, with an output that can rival the most impressive of his peers. So why doesn’t he have bigger name recognition? Well I think his style of focusing heavily on character and not crazy ideas (like Morrison) or a certain type of storytelling (like early Bendis) makes him harder to summarize in one sentence as anything other than a guy who writes really good superhero stories, which is something to be proud of, but doesn’t make you sound distinct in the comics industry.
Also, I think his relative lack of creator owned work also makes him less distinct. Now this second reason is a little less valid if you dig a little deeper. Waid’s best creator owned work, Empire (the story of a supervillian who has actually conquered the world), can stand along any creator owned work published in the last twenty years. It’s great and fun and it’s a shame we haven’t gotten more of it. Unfortunately it was beset by the publishing problems of the Gorilla Comics imprint and years passed between the publication of the first batch of issues and the last. As the editor in chief of Boom, he has done a great job publishing new books like Potter’s Field and Unknown. These books are great, but they’re not the long form indie work of, say the Invisibles or Jinx. However, Irredeemable and Incorruptible seem to slowly becoming the long-term indie successes that have so far eluded Waid’s career.
Honestly though, these are stupid reasons though. Quite simply, Mark Waid is one of the giants of the comic book industry and deserves to be treated as such. He has been writing comics basically as long as I’ve been reading them, and no matter what phase of my life I’ve been in, he’s been doing something great. Its now almost 20 years since his first issue of the Flash, which really catapulted him to everyone’s attention, and in an industry where people struggle to stay relevant after a decade, let alone two, he just produced Daredevil #1, which was one of the best constructed and best written books of the past year and given his track record, it is probably the start of something great.