The Ten best writers currently working in comics and why you should be reading them.
The art of writing comics is something no sane writer would ever attempt. To begin with, it's not at all like writing a novel, and it's not really like writing a screenplay though it uses skillsets from both. Then, you usually have to have a level of trust in the graphic artist you'll be working with, so right from the start your vision is already filtered through the eyes of someone else. By the time you add in the editors, colorist, letterer, inker, it's amazing that there's anything left of the writer's original vision. The people who work in this craft are amazing and the best of them craft intelligent, affecting stories that play to the strengths of the people they work with, while not allowing their own voices to be drowned in the sea of other creators. What follows is a list of the best of the best. Ten comics writers who have mastered the craft and turn out consistently amazing stories, ten writers who any reader would follow religiously... if they weren't writing comic books.
Moore is a literary genius who has thankfully chosen to ply his trade in the world of graphic storytelling. He started out in the Seventies writing for the British underground music scene and was quickly indoctrinated into the burgeoning London comics scene. His early work for 2000AD Magazine and Marvel U.K. led to his taking over the failing Swamp Thing series for DC. Moore divested the titular muck monster of his superhero trappings and reworked the series into one of the best horror comics of all time.
Over the years Moore has created many cornerstone series and key characters, many of which have been adapted into movies with varying degrees of success. Some of these include: The Watchmen, V For Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and From Hell, just to name a few.
Though he was born and raised in Scotland, Morrison is another graduate of the British pop culture scene. He made his first splash in The US when he took over writing Animal Man and Doom Patrol for DC. He injected new life into both failing titles and cemented his place as a master of meta-fiction and esoteric plotting. In recent years Morrison has become a rock star at DC, writing long stints on JLA and Batman. Morrison is pretty much DC's go to guy for company wide crossover events.
Continuing my trend of superstar British writers, Neil Gaiman is one of the best fantasy writers to ever grace the four color page. His first comics work at DC was a mini series reboot of their classic Black Orchis character, and he parlayed that into The Sandman which became a holy gospel for the goth subculture. Beyond that he turns out consistently fine graphic reads between bestselling novels.
Warren Ellis is yet another Brit, but whereas the previous writers attack their craft from a fantasy bias, Ellis is a Science Fiction writer and a Futurist. His stories are cutting edge and breakneck paced social commentary, even while working with the superhero subgenre. He's a fantastic and prolific writer with a solid body of work and a penchant for supporting upstart indie companies.
Rounding out the top five is the first US writer on the list. Kirkman is best known for being the driving force behind the massively popular The Walking Dead, however his other series, Invincible (a superhero comic), Battle Pope (comedy), and the new series Outkast (occult horror) are exemplary reads that illustrate just how comfortable this man is, with writing in different genres.
Brian Michael Bendis
Bendis is primarily self taught as a writer, and he's a master at dialogue. He started his career writing crime and thriller comics that were eventually collected by Image, but he jumped into the big leagues with his series Powers. After several years writing his ongoing tale of outlawed superheroes and the cops who keep them under control, Bendis went to Marvel where he took over their Avengers franchise, catapulting the team into super stardom. Recently he's jumped the Avengers ship to sail with Marvel's other tentpole franchise, The X-Men. Through all of this high profile work, his stories have remained consistently engrossing, with a humanistic element that puts a fresh spin on characters that have become a bit shop worn.
Brian Wood has yet to achieve the rockstar status of many of the creators on this list, but he's one of the most solid storytellers working in comics today. Wood is a master at taking concepts that seem pedestrian or overplayed on the outside and jumping directly to the core of what made these ideas interesting in the first place. His work on DMZ, Star Wars, and Local are must reads for fans of grandly entertaining storytelling.
Miller is the creator of Ronin which popularized graphic novels as a worth wile medium, The Dark Knight Returns which brought back the grim creature of the night Batman, 300 which made an historical tale into a fantastic modern action movie on paper, and Sin City which successfully revitalized the dying crime genre in comics. He rates lower on this list than he would have in years past, simply because he doesn't write a lot of comics anymore. However he's still a ground breaking, important writer that has indelibly left his mark on comics.
Simone is best known for her long running stints on Agent X for Marvel, and Birds of Prey for DC. She revitalized The Secret Six for DC before moving to write the New 52 Batgirl series. Through all of this she has consistently written characters that ring true as people, while at the same time framing them within the most outlandish situations, typical of the superhero genre in comics.
Ennis' work is hallmarked by hyper-violence and a pitch black sense of humor. However over the years he has accomplished bullwark runs on Hellblazer and Preacher for DC, and The Punisher for Marvel. He dresses his stories up in extreme cartoon violence and dark comedy, but his tales are at their core about the human condition. They succeed on multiple levels that make them endlessly fascinating reading.
So there you have it. Ten writers who illustrate so to speak, the best of what comic books have to offer. They are benders of genre, masters of plot and dialogue, and geniuses at keeping their voices loud above the din of creators that help to bring a comic book fully to life. They are all well worth reading, even for someone who is unfamiliar with the comics world.