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Gene Lass
Posted on Thursday, June 10, 2004 - 01:38 pm:   

Shooting off of the comics discussion in the Grim Jack thread, I'd like to know which writers you'd cite as your favorites in comics. You can list artists as well, but I'm primarily concerned with which writers and why.

My top writers who are primarily identified with comics are:
Neil Gaiman
I've never read anything from Gaiman that I haven't enjoyed on some level. But what I like most about his stuff is I almost always learn something while I'm being entertained. Some bit of mythology or history or some archaic word. Even when you look at his early work on established characters, like his Superman/Green Lantern story, he put the characters in new situations with new perspectives that are mind boggling. He works with outstanding artists, too.

Steve Gerber
He's probably tied with Gaiman as my favorite. I've liked Gerber's stuff even before I knew kept track of the creators, back when I was 7 or 8 years old. The guy has written stories for most of the big characters out there, from Daredevil to Spider-Man to Superman and Green Lantern, but naturally the stuff I've liked most is his off-beat, unique work on Howard the Duck, Man-Thing, Nevada, Void Indigo, and Defenders. His mix of humor and social statement continues to be a major influence on me, and he's one of those writers whose work on certain characters simply defines the character. After Gerber, anyone trying to write Man-Thing, Howard the Duck, or Defenders came off as a struggling hack, and the books failed.

Frank Miller
I haven't read much of his recent work on books like Sin City and Yellow Bastard, and sadly I've never read Ronin, but I continue to admire what I see. Still, you can't beat what he contributed to Batman and Daredevil in the 80s. He helped change the way comics were done with Batman Year One, Dark Knight Returns, and his extensive run on Daredevil. And while his Dark Knight sequel wasn't nearly as good, it doesn't mean he's not an outstanding creator. Like Steve Gerber, most people trying to follow Frank Miller's example seem like pale comparisons or hollow jokes.

Warren Ellis
He's brilliant. He's twisted. His new creations like Transmetropolitan are groundbreaking. His work on books like Hellblazer, Druid, and Hellstorm sticks in your mind seemingly indelibly. And his short, underrated run on Thor in the late 90s was probably the most memorable, refreshing take on the character I've seen since Walt Simonson.

Roy Thomas
While Stan Lee created most of the classic Marvel characters, I think Roy Thomas stands as a better overall writer. And for me he's the precursor to Neil Gaiman. While Gaiman might explain the full story of Mr. Punch that most people don't know, or he might talk about the Templars or the Children's Crusade, Thomas was well-versed in classical literature and mythology, and his work on the Avengers and other titles demonstrated that. He also did a lot of work with the Sub-Mariner, the original Human Torch and the Justice Society to make them interesting back in the 80s.

Grant Morrison - like Warren Ellis, Morrison has the tendency to walk onto a book and give it a whole new perspective. Not usually as twisted and bizarre as Elis's perspective, but good all the same. His work on New X-Men and JLA was controversial, but undoubtedly different. When was the last time so many fans talked about Cyclops, other than saying he was either a boy scout or a lousy father? Possibly never?

Alan Moore. Swamp Thing. Hellblazer. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Green Lantern. Batman. He created 3 out of the 5 and had brilliant stories with the other 2. The guy is a genius. Like Ellis, he's a scary, twisted genius, but a genius all the same. Too bad the LOEG movie sucked so bad. Hollywood clearly doesn't get what makes something cool when they put a car chase in it.

Honorable mention goes to Denny O'Neil, specifically when teamed with Neal Adams. The two together made history in the 60s and 70s bringing new life into characters who were reaching a dead end, like the X-Men, Batman, Deadman, and of course, Green Lantern and Green Arrow.

This doesn't include writers like Joe Lansdale and Harlan Ellison, who have done some excellent comics but work primarily in standard print.

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John Klima
Posted on Thursday, June 10, 2004 - 02:22 pm:   

John Ostrander
My favorite ever. Now that Grim Jack is coming back, I hope that more people can see how fucking brilliant he is. Perhaps only Judge Dredd had a better realized world than Grim Jack's. I also liked that Jack wasn't some young buff guy in tights. He looked like that guy in the shadows of the bar that you just steer clear of. There's so much back story to Grim Jack when you start issue #1, half the fun of the series is learning about his past. Then he gets reincarnated and all hell breaks loose.

Alan Moore
Brilliant. He changed the way comics were thought about. LOEG is brilliant. I can't say enough about this guy.

Frank Miller
Daredevil used to be one of my favorite comics and Miller really outdid himself on the his Daredevil stuff. His work with Batman is excellent as well. The Hardboiled stuff is way over the top and cool, and Sin City is very striking.

John Wagner
He created Judge Dredd. One of the best realized comic universes. He thought of everything. It didn't feel like today with some cool stuff, it felt like the future. It felt like a future that could happen.

Pat Mills
In addition to other things (including the concept of Judge Dredd with his friend John Wagner), Mills created with Kevin O'Neill (LOEG artist) Marshall Law, an amazing, scary futuristic comic. They used American WWII comic tropes and moved them into cyberpunk. All the soldiers had taken super serum, and now they were back home and bored. And they could fly. Or lift cars. Or shoot laser beams. So they formed gangs. Marshall Law is another former soldier who becomes a cop to take down the superhero gangs. Really gritty stuff. There's also a great send-up of Superman through the first six issues.

Matt Wagner
Gave us Mage and Grendel. Vastly under-rated. The Grendel series went from one man (then a woman) bent on evil/revenge, fighting an ancient Japanese spirit/demon to stories set thousands of years in the future about vampires and a entire world who worshipped Grendel, and the Grendel concept. It's tough to explain if you haven't read it. It went from very small and noirish, to world-spanning and noirish.

I've only ever read Ellis in Hellstorm, but that was great. I hear lots of good things about Transmetropolitan, so I'll have to check it out. Same thing with Mignolia and Hellboy. I was looking through some graphic novels when the movie was coming out, and they look interesting. I'd have to see how they read. When it comes down to it, I need a good story. A lot of the Image stuff floundered for me because there wasn't enough story.

I've never read any Gaiman comic work. Every time I try to get into Sandman, it just annoyed me. Sorry. I love Neil's fiction. I'm sure if I had a good starting point for Sandman I could get into it.

JK
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Gene Lass
Posted on Thursday, June 10, 2004 - 03:17 pm:   

I hadn't read any Hellboy, but kept hearing how good it was, so I paged through one Trade Paperback, which I enjoyed.

When Sandman was first getting started, I kept seeing it on the stands, and like the other VErtigo titles, I thought it looked striking, but I wasn't able to see anything cool at a glance, so I just tossed it aside. Then the buzz built and built and I finally saw a collection I thought looked cool, "Season of Mists", in which Dream/Sandman goes to Hell to challenge Lucifer. That might still be the best one to jump in on, as it has the most action and tension. After that, go back to "Preludes and Nocturnes," which is the beginning of the series.

The Gaiman story with Superman and Green Lantern is a softcover graphic novel that I think is called "legend of the Green Flame" or something. IT was a story Gaiman wrote for ACtion Comics Weekly back in the early 90s that never saw print, but it features Superman, Hal Jordan, the Demon, Catwoman and I think the Spectre. Key scene for me is of course Superman and Green Lantern going to Hell. Great great story.
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Mastadge
Posted on Thursday, June 10, 2004 - 07:26 pm:   

Ostrander. Love his Star Wars work, liked Apache Skies, looking forward to the GrimJack reprints.

Gaiman and Moore.

Dark Knight Returns didn't do much for me, and I haven't read anything else of Miller's. I flipped through a Hellboy, but the art didn't appeal to me, so I didn't pick it up.

I'm enjoying Mike Carey's stuff immensely -- Lucifer and My Faith In Frankie are a great deal of fun.

I also like Greg Rucka a lot.
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John Klima
Posted on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 06:07 am:   

Nathan:

I've heard a lot of people passed on Hellboy because of the artwork. I like the artwork in Hellboy better than the artwork in Transmetropolitan, which makes me pass on it. In fact, there is very little DC artwork that I like. It tends to be too colorful in that bad Hanna Barbara way. It just doesn't like natural, but it doesn't look unnatural in the way that Hellboy does (or like Ted Mckeever or Bill Sienkiewicz, two artists I love).

Comics are an interesting form of storytelling since the image is just as vital as the story. If the image turns you off (i.e. for me Sandman, Transmetropolitan, etc.) you will be hard pressed to pick up the book. However, if the artwork is striking (i.e. Spawn, Maxx, etc.) you will pick up the book and see if the story's worth following. You may lost interest in the long run (i.e. for me Spawn, Maxx, anything Image put out) but you picked it up in the first place, It can be really tough to sell people on comics where they don't like the art. How can you keep reading the story when every page makes you want to stop?

I don't know Mike Carey, what's his stuff like?

JK
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Gene Lass
Posted on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 06:40 am:   

Good point on the art. That's essentially the argument Marvel and Image had for doing things the way they do or at least did. The classic Marvel style was/is to have the writer rough out a basic plot, often in conjunction with the artist. The artist then draws all or part of the book, depending on how late the book is, and the writer fills in the dialogue. This led to the argument by some that artists like Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby did as much writing on classic books as Stan did.

In the 90s, when Image came to be, there was the argument that the artists were the true superstars because without them, you're not likely to pick a book off the stands. They have to catch your eye and carry you through. But Image also proved that writing is important, since so many of their books have turned to crap over time despite great art. Now Marvel is paying top dollar to bring back or keep great writers while trying to pair them up with decent artists.

I didn't like all of the art in the Sandman series. I think Charles Vess is pretty mindblowing, but I prefer Marc Hempel's brilliant writing and art work on his Gregory collections or even Tug & Buster, though a lot of people like him with Gaiman.

It's true, though. If the art is unbearable, there's almost no way you can keep reading a book. I was really frustrated by the Arkham Asylum graphic novel because the art often bothered me a lot, but I thought the story was great. I enjoy the art more now, but there's still parts that bug me.
And while some people loved Sienkiewicz's work on New Mutants, I dropped the book during his run because I found the shift from the clear lines of Bob Layton to Sienkiewicz's sketchiness unsettling.

Some artists I'll follow no matter who's writing for them. Berni Wrightson is one of them. I'd pick up a book if it was nothing more than Wrightson drawing pictures of the ingredients in a box of cookies.
Neal Adams is another one. His perspectives and textures are awesome, and I almost always prefer realistic artists.
Alex Ross is probably the final one. I have a small version of his Green Arrow portrait (printed from his web site) taped up by my desk. It's sometimes hard to tell his paintings apart from a photograph. Amazing.
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Mastadge
Posted on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 06:57 am:   

Mike Carey's writing Sandman spin-off Lucifer right now, as well as Hellblazer (which I'm not reading). Lucifer started off reading like Carey was trying too hard to be Gaiman, but he soon settled into his own voice and rhythm, and right now Lucifer's my favorite running comic book. Which isn't saying much, as I don't read terribly many comics. Carey's definitely still maturing as a writer, though.

In Sandman, Lucifer abdicated and left Hell, lost his wings and set up on Earth, none of which really spoils anything. Lucifer picks up there, with Lucifer essentially starting his own universe, which pisses off the fellows in Heaven quite soundly, and making all kinds of powerful enemies along the way. He's an arrogant asshole, but somehow lovable. And he's not a standard superhero or tragic hero, and he's not navel-gazing or searching for God, and on the whole I find his stories terribly enjoyable.
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John Klima
Posted on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 07:43 am:   

Yeah Gene, I tend to like non-realistic artists. This goes for book covers, too. I hate SF and Fantasy books that have covers with people on them, especially if they look realistic. I hate the covers that end up on series, like the Jordan books, or Piers Anthony (I know those are by the same artist, so maybe it's just him...). I'd prefer covers like the British China Mieville books. I'm really turned off by people on covers.

Now, I think Alex Ross or someone like Jon J Muth are amazing artists but I wouldn't necessarily pick up something based on them, while I will pick up a Mckeever title right away.

I think there's also an element of an artist you like working with writing you like. Tim Truman has worked with Ostrander and Lansdale (I'm sure they're others). I like both writers and will pick up anything they work on, but I also know that if I see Tim Truman work somewhere, that the story will most likely be good because of his past record. Same thing with Kevin O'Neill. While LOEG probably sold me on concept and Alan Moore, knowing that O'Neill was doing the art made it a 'must get' for me.

This may not be true in the bigger houses where artists are assigned titles, but certainly independent stuff I would like to think that artists are working on projects because they like the writing/writer/story/concept.

Look at something like Hellraiser (although a lot of Epic was pretty good) wherein there is a broad variety of talented artists working with talented writers to create an incredible product. Sometimes I wish I had held on to those. DC did something similar with Flinch, which had phenomenal covers, but only OK interior work. What was great about the interior was the stories.

JK
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Gene Lass
Posted on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 09:50 am:   

Yeah, I wish I had kept my Hellraiser issues, too. And Marvel's very short-lived SF anthology Open Space. And the two issues of Nightmare on Elm Street magazine Marvel did. Sounds like it would suck, and to some extent it did, but there were some good bits, and I've become somewhat of a black and white mag fan now. Steve Gerber did stories in those things and even bad Gerber is good.

Back on OStrander, his work on the Spectre with Tom Mandrake was also pretty good.
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ben peek
Posted on Saturday, June 12, 2004 - 05:06 am:   

well, rather than add to the list of names that have already been put out (which i mostly agree with), i've got some other names to chuck up too. but before that:

john: if you want to try some warren ellis stuff, there's ORBITER, a hard sci-fi novella illustrated by colleen doran, which i thought was pretty cool. and his PLANETRY series, and there's a GLOBAL FREQUENCY trade out, which i think shows a nice range of diversity. i liked TRANSMET when it was out, and i still think it's nice, but not, i don't think, the strongest of ellis' work.

and i'm a big fan of HELLBOY, but there's also a current series out featuring the supporting characters called BRPD, which is written by mignola and illustrated by guy davis, and i swear, it's almost putting the HELLBOY arcs to shame so far. it's just beautiful and creepy.

anyhow.

i'm enjoying a lot of the things scott morse is doing right now. i read SOUTHPAW a while back, which is this strange little picture book about a tiger who fights robots... all the pages are done in one tiny square panel, and yet, you know, he conveys so much in it.

craig thompson is another writer i quite like. i haven't read his huge opus BLANKETS yet, but i read GOODBYE, CHUNKY RICE and a bunch of other small things which showed a nice range and a real ability to connect with emotion.

david lapham. he does STRAY BULLETS, which if you haven't read... man, you're missing out on one of the coolest, noirist, finest crime comics out there.

bill willingham's FABLES is another series i've been liking. revamped fable characters like snow whtie and the big bad wolf (called bigby) living in new york. sounds like it'd be a bit of a dodge, but he's pulled it off surprisingly well, and continues to do so.

brian michael bendis. his marvel work doesn't interest me, but POWERS is pretty cool, and the dialogue, as always, is first rate. but it's the books like JINX and GOLDFISH and FORTUNE AND GLORY that are where he shines.

paul pope. i've only read HEAVY LIQUID, but man did i like that. such beautiful art to go along with it, too.
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Jamie Rosen
Posted on Tuesday, June 22, 2004 - 07:23 am:   

Mike Allred: Underrated writer, underappreciated artist. For a long time, he was the only creator who kept me into comics (until I had to cut even his work out of my budget... I keep meaning to go back....)

Bob Burden: The Mystery Men movie didn't really do his creations credit. I try to pick up a Flaming Carrot Comics whenever it becomes available.

Rachel Pollack: Seems to me she always gets lost in Grant Morrison's shadow. Truth is, it was her stories that brought me to Doom Patrol and Kid Eternity, and I only read Morrison's back issues because I was enjoying her work. I still think her stuff was more to my tastes than his -- although I did love his Flex Mentallo miniseries.

Nobody's mentioned James Robinson, which surprises me -- I quite liked his work on Starman, although I resented the wholesale slaughter of the JLE (I have a weakness for 80s and 90s misfit teams.) And how about Kurt Busiek? His Asto City was a classic, IMNSHO.

And for straight-up superhero comics, the late Mark Gruenwald. Squadron Supreme didn't get the recognition it deserved.

As for artists: Ted McKeever. I can't explain it, but I love his art.
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John Klima
Posted on Tuesday, June 22, 2004 - 12:34 pm:   

Ted McKeever, yeah. There's something weirdly beautiful about his art. Here's some stuff he did for The Matrix if you don't know his style:

http://whatisthematrix.warnerbros.com/cmp/ted_01.html

I love it! It's not pretty....

JK
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ben peek
Posted on Tuesday, June 22, 2004 - 07:05 pm:   

james robinson has done some cool stuff, but hardly works in comics these days, from what i understand. he was, however, responsible for the script of league of extraordinary men.

which, y'know, isn't a good thing.

ben
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bryan scott cederberg
Posted on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 10:15 am:   

alan moore's 'promethea' is the most impressive series in comics at the moment. especially so, if you're interested in western esotericism.

ed brubaker's 'sleeper' and 'gotham central' are both excellent.

'halo and sprocket' by kerry callen is a really fun book.

robinson's 'starman' was fantastic.

i really like darwyn cooke's artwork.

as far as classic books are concerned, the original ditko 'dr. strange' books are great to look at. also, really like wally wood's stuff.

i loved mark waid's run on 'ruse'.

and daniel clowes, jeff smith, chris ware, jim woodring, etc...
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John Klima
Posted on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 10:53 am:   

Yeah, Jim Woodring's fantastic. I've actually never read anything that he's worked on, but I've been to his website, and it's way cool.

http://www.jimwoodring.com/

JK
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bryan scott cederberg
Posted on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 12:30 pm:   

i highly recommend 'the frank book'.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1560975342/qid=1090006169/sr=1-1/r ef=sr_1_1/104-7885256-4290356?v=glance&s=books
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Ahmed A. Khan
Posted on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 11:37 am:   

Two of the most underrated writers and artists in comicdom are probably Mike Barron (writer) and Steve Rude (artist). I love their work, individually and together.
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Luke
Posted on Monday, September 27, 2004 - 01:12 pm:   

JM DeMatteis - For Moonshadow and his work on The Justice League books. He always seems to have deserved more credit than he ever got. The Avengers story that he wrote about The Resurection Stone is still wonderfully tragic and profound.

Peter David's work on The Hulk back in the day was usualy funny, and often touching.

Garth Ennis' Preacher - Who ever made blasphemy and violence as much fun as that?

I likes the New Mutants - not sure who was writing it. 64 was funny and sad at the same time, difficult to do without being trite, especially with superheros.

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Ahmed A. Khan
Posted on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 12:28 pm:   

I think Peter David did some of his best work on the first 6 issues of Young Justice.

Ahmed
http://www.angelfire.com/zine2/fictiononline/myworks.html
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John Klima
Posted on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 12:34 pm:   

I don't know why, but I never cared for Peter David. I think it's because there was a point in time when I didn't follow comics at all, and this was when Peter David became a NAME. And when I came back to comics, everyone I knew was telling me how great he was and I either set my expectations too high, or read something adequate of his, or something, but I was underwhelmed. Same thing was Sandman; I don't get it.

JK

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