My Top 10 Favorite Comic Book Writers

The main reason I like comic books is they are a great marriage of writer and artist. For the next two posts, I will be discussing my favorite writers and artists of the medium. For now, I will focus on the writers.

10) Chuck Dixon –For most of the 90’s, Dixon was one of the best writers on Batman and the various spinoffs. He helped Tim Drake break out as a new Robin in his solo book. He created Bane, one of Batman’s most dangerous enemies. And he helped establish Nightwing as a solo hero by creating his home turf of Bludhaven, Gotham’s sister city.

9) Jeff Smith–Creator and artist behind Bone, Jeff Smith gets the nod here for his mastery in humor. He is excellent at pacing his stories in order to time his jokes perfectly, but he’s also just as good at creating a rich lore for his characters.

8) Denny O’Neil–For most of the 70’s and 80’s, Denny O’Neil helped to redefine Batman beyond what he was in the Silver Age, becoming almost as important as Frank Miller would become years later. In addition, he also was the creative team behind the establishment of the Green Arrow/Green Lantern team, helping to show how comic books can be a viable medium for political expression.

7) Scott Snyder–the most recent addition to this list, Scott Snyder was recruited to Batman during DC’s controversial New 52 rebranding. While I had my problems with the New 52, Snyder’s version of Batman was not one of them. I’m so glad they’ve kept Snyder on in the Rebirth version of DC’s universe.

6) Dan Jurgens–a writer and artist best known for creating Booster Gold and his work on Superman, especially the “Death and Return of Superman” arcs. During his tenure on Superman, he showed that Superman could indeed be a relatable character.

5) Kurt Busiek–creator of both Astro City and Marvels, both of which also feature the magnificent work of Alex Ross. What I like about Busiek is that he often uses the POV of the ordinary person, allowing the reader to imagine what it would be like to walk among the giants of the superhero world.

4) Grant Morrison–while some may consider Morrison to be overrated, I don’t think he is. He is a very surreal writer whose imagination creates intricate stories that I often have to read more than once in order to fully grasp. I especially love his runs on JLA and Doom Patrol.

3) Chris Claremont–While Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the X-Men, I feel it’s the creative team of Chris Claremont and John Byrne that truly defined the team. He turned them into the dysfunctional family that they are best known as and weaved plots that often took a long time to pay off, but when they did, it was often awesome.

2) Neil Gaiman–Neil Gaiman is best known for his work on the Vertigo series Sandman, my all-time favorite comic book. It combined several genres–superhero, fantasy, horror, and mythology; weaving them all into an intricate tapestry that I would even recommend to those who don’t normally read comics.

1) Alan Moore–Time Magazine once made a countdown of the greatest novels of the 20th century, and bent their rules so they could include Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s epic miniseries Watchmen. This series is often celebrated for its excellent deconstruction of the superhero mythos. What I like best about Moore is his ambiguity. He often leaves the story up to your own interpretation. I think it’s great that he trusts the reader that way. And as for his worshipping a sock puppet, hey if his weird habits help him to create such awesome stories, then why not?

Come back next week, and I’ll talk about my favorite artists!

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Bookworms: Astro City v. 1

astrocity1

Many superheroes have a fictional city they call home. Superman has Metropolis. Green Lantern has Coast City. Batman has Gotham City. Have you ever wondered what it must be like to be an ordinary person living in these cities? Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross’s Astro City can give you an idea.

The series was launched in the mid-90’s as part of Image Comics’ short-lived Homage imprint, before Wildstorm Studios folded and was bought out by DC. I’ve decided to review as many of the collections as I can, because I think the series needs more love.

First, let’s talk about the creative team. Kurt Busiek really is one of the best writers in comics. His favorite technique is not using superheroes, but ordinary people to tell his stories. His Marvels novel, for instance, was told from the POV of a reporter who witnessed the first adventures of many of Marvel Comics’ legendary heroes.  This series uses that same approach. Of the six stories in this volume, only two are told by superheroes.

Alex Ross is the cover artist, and his work is museum quality.  His covers are included in a gallery at the end and all look great.

Brent Anderson is the main artist. He has a style that can capture motion well. It’s unique and complements Ross’s concepts well, without emulating it.

samaritan

Image: The Samaritan

Now I’ll talk about the stories. First is “In Dreams”, spotlighting the Samaritan. The Samaritan can fly and has superhuman strength, speed, and endurance. He also has a barrier that can repel energy.  In a way, he’s a tribute to Superman. He laments that he spends so much time flying around and saving people, he can’t just fly around and enjoy himself.  We also meet the Honor Guard, the Astro City version of DC’s Justice League. The roster consists of Beauty, Samaritan, The Black Rapier, Cleopatra, MPH, Quarrel, and the N-Forcer.

Elliot Mills, editor of the Rocket
Elliot Mills, editor of the Rocket

“The Scoop” takes place in the 60’s, and is about Elliot Mills, editor-in-chief of Astro City’s Newspaper, The Rocket. (He’s basically a tribute to Perry White, editor of the Daily Planet, where Clark Kent works) In this story, he tells a new reporter about a framed article on his wall–one that was actually rejected by his editor. The story gives us a glimpse of the city’s earlier days, when a new hero called the Silver Agent called Astro City home. We also meet the original roster of the Honor Guard, and learn it was founded by a wealthy businessman named Max O’Millions. I liked this story for its glimpses of Astro City’s history.

The Jack-in-the-box, a clownish superhero
The Jack-in-the-box, a clownish superhero with a storied legacy

“A Little Knowledge focuses on a homeless criminal who catches the superheroic clown Jack-in-the-Box as he is removing his mask. Jack in the Box is what you call a “legacy” superhero, meaning that more than one person has taken on the identity (think of how there has been four different Robins throughout the Batman saga) . Jack has rubber noses that can stun criminals, stretchable limbs, and shoots confetti like Spider-man shoots webs. While Jack-in-the-box is a light-hearted superhero, his costume can be frightening to criminals, and the narrator is worried what will happen to him now that he knows the clown’s secret.

Continue reading “Bookworms: Astro City v. 1”