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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Sandman Retrospective Part 10: The Wake (Finale)

The Wake book cover
The Wake book cover

“Only the phoenix arises and does not descend. And everything changes. And nothing is truly lost.”

I started this series of posts to talk about one of my all-time favorite comic books, The Sandman. It’s been interesting going through the volumes, as the first time I got into the series, I never really finished it.  I love to come into stories fresh, with no pre-conceived notions about what will happen. I may make cursory glances at Wikipedia, but for the most part, I always try to avoid spoilers. But now we come to the ending volume, The Wake. This is the grand finale to what I feel is truly one of the all-time greats.

In the previous volume, Dream was hounded by the Furies and lost his life.  Thus, Hippolyta’s son, Daniel, is chosen to take his place.  Many characters come to pay their respects, both ally and adversary.  Even Desire, who had sought to reign over the realm of the Dreaming, mourns her brother’s passing. “The bonds of family bind both ways. They bind us up, support us, help us, and they are also a bond from which it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to extricate oneself.” Despair, often Dream’s cohort, says this of Dream. “He was a creature of hope, for dreams are hopes and echoes of hopes, and I am a creature of despair.” They may have been allies or enemies, but they are still the Endless. For better or worse, they are still family.

Continue reading “Sandman Retrospective Part 10: The Wake (Finale)”

Sandman Retrospective Vol. 9: The Kindly Ones

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We have no nightmares. We are the hounds of Hades.  Gods fear us. Demons fear us.  We have hounded kings and angels. We have taken vengeance on worlds and on universes. We are the Kindly Ones”–the Furies

The story of Sandman’s penultimate and ninth volume was hinted throughout the series.  Everything was building up to it.   Desire’s lust for power. Hector Hal’s wife Hippolyta’s hatred of Dream. Her infant son Daniel even visited the House of Mystery in a previous volume.  This is the main reason Vertigo was my favorite thing about DC. They gave the creators more freedom than DC’s main line titles. Gaiman was allowed to decide when his story would end. DC could’ve pressured him to keep it going longer than he wished, but they let him decide its finale.

This story has Loki and Robin Goodfellow do the unthinkable. This is not the Loki from Marvel’s comics. That Loki is a misrepresented god of evil, complete with horns. No, the Loki of Norse myths was a god of mischief, not evil.  As for Robin Goodfellow, he is another example of Shakespeare’s influence on Gaiman.  This is the same Robin Goodfellow from his famous comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In that story, Robin played pranks on the other characters and reveled in the events that resulted from them.  He did not seem to care about the consequences of his actions, as should be expected of a trickster. Robin is a great representation of the “chaotic neutral” alignment. The chaotic neutral character is often a trickster, who doesn’t side with either good or evil, and instead operates in total freedom.  And it is this carelessness that threatens the very fabric of the Dreaming. It is so dire that Dream even conjures another Corinthian, the very same twisted creature who feasted on eyeballs. This time, however, Dream erases the Corinthian’s will so that he will be completely loyal to his creator and sends him, with Matthew as his keeper, to locate the missing infant.  (Against Matthew’s wishes, I should add.) Continue reading “Sandman Retrospective Vol. 9: The Kindly Ones”

The Complete Sandman V. 8: World’s End

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“When a world ends, there’s always something left over. A story perhaps, or a vision, or a hope.”

World’s End is the final short story arc in Sandman, collecting issues #51-56. Among the artists is Mike Allred, best known for his original character Madman, published by Dark Horse under their Legend imprint, and X-Statix, a comic he did for Marvel.  It’s another story where the Endless take a backseat to the supporting cast, or as TV Tropes calls it, a “Lower Deck Episode”. It also loosely ties in to DC’s “Zero Hour” event of 1995, the only crossover event Sandman ever crossed over with.  Even so, it was published a year after the event, so it’s not that necessary to know anything about it.

The arc is inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer’s timeless medieval classic “The Canterbury Tales”.  In that book, a group of travelers stop at an inn and swap stories.  Because Neil Gaiman has a passion for folklore, it’s no surprise that he would choose to pay homage to Chaucer’s stories.  In fact, we even meet Chiron, a centaur from Greek mythology.  Let’s take a look at each story.

“A Tale of Two Cities” (no relation to the Dickens novel)–(Alec Stevens) A story influenced by HP Lovecraft, this story is told by a city-dweller on the verge of madness after discovering a forbidden truth. It’s the only story to feature Dream. Alec is best known for The Sinners, a comic he did for DC’s defunct Piranha Press imprint.

“Cluracan’s Tale”– (John Watkiss) This is a story told by Cluracan, the faerie introduced in Season of Mists, who is summoned to the city of Aurelian. It also features Nuala, who was last seen in vol. 5.

“Hob’s Leviathan”–(Michael Zulli/Dick Girodano) We once again meet Hob’s Gadling from the “Doll House” arc.

“The Golden Boy”–(Mike Allred) This story focuses on Prez Rickard, who in the DC universe was the United States’s first teen president and was created by Captain America co-creator Joe Simon. He’s appeared on and off since his introduction in the 70’s, and was even featured in DC’s “New 52”.

“Crements”–(Shea Anton Pensa/Vince Locke) The only story that ties into Sandman‘s main arc, and features Destruction, Destiny, and the first Despair.

This is the volume I like the least. In fact, unless you’re a completist, I’d say you should skip it. Even “Crements” isn’t that necessary in the overall story of Sandman. Next time, in August, we go back to the main story for the rest of the collection, starting with The Kindly Ones.

Sandman Retrospective: Season of Mists

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“There must be a Hell, for without Hell, Heaven has no meaning.”–Remiel

Season of Mists is one of my favorite story arcs in Sandman. It brings us back to the main arc, continuing on from events portrayed in The Doll’s House.

In this arc, Destiny receives a visit from the Fates. Destiny is the eldest of the Endless and carries a book with him–a book that tells him every single event: past, present, and future. This volume also introduces Delirium, the youngest of the Endless. Delirium was once known as Delight, but she soon turned insane, turning her into what she is now. Gaiman has said that he based Delirium on Tori Amos. Because I’ve listened to (and enjoyed) her music, I cannot think of a better model. Tori Amos is insane!

Desire once again attempts to twist the knife in Dream, reminding him of how Nada spurned his affections, causing him to condemn her to Hell. Surprisingly, even Death agrees that Dream should go to Hell to undo this great wrong.

When Dream arrives in Hell, he’s in for a shock.  Lucifer has decided to abdicate the throne and hand it over to him.  This will kill two birds with one stone.  He is still rebelling against God’s plan and he will also gain revenge against Dream for humiliating him in the first volume.  He doesn’t need to kill Dream; those who wish to own Hell in Lucifer’s place will do that for him, or so he thinks.  Dream does not wish to rule over Hell.  To make matters worse, with no ruler, the damned are rising.  Death is too busy trying to keep her realm in check to help her brother.

Continue reading “Sandman Retrospective: Season of Mists”