For kicks and giggles, I’m assembling my list of the top comic book writers of all time. And as I go through the names, I realize that so few of them were also able to draw their own words. So I thought I’d do this list as a prelude: The best comic book writer-artists of all time. Plus, this helps me take some names off the best writers list that I’m working on, ‘cause they’re already here.
Hit the break.
Remember these are guys who both draw pictures and make with the words. A post on best word-guys is coming soon, for fans of people who write stuff.
10. Mike Mignola.
Why? Hellboy and The Amazing Screw-On Head.
Why not? He’s much better known as either a writer or an artist, rather than taking on both chores simultaneously.
9. Dave Sim.
Why? The first two-thirds of Cerebus. Including the letters pages, on which I sparred with him several times.
Why not? The last act of Cerebus, which kinda fell apart.
8. Jeff Lemire.
Why? Essex County and Sweet Tooth.
Why not? He’s still young in his career, and it’s hard to say that three years in the industry makes you one of the greatest of all time. But it’s much, much easier to say that when your work consists mostly of Essex County and Sweet Tooth.
7. Robert Crumb.
Why? Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural.
Why not? Dude was more than a little over-the-top weird at time.
6. Howard Chaykin.
Why? American Flagg, Blackhawk.
Why not? His art is heavily stylized, and can turn a lot of people off. Fortunately, it works best when he’s creating a new universe—like in American Flagg—that is all his own.
5. Walt Simonson.
Why? Thor. If that’s not enough for you, throw in about a year of Avengers stories and a pretty decent run on Fantastic Four.
Why not? That Walt was a terrific writer is evidenced above, but he did far more work solely as an artist.
4. Jim Starlin.
Why? For creating the first Marvel original graphic novel: The Death of Captain Marvel. And for creating a little-known character named Thanos in the pages of Iron Man. Also for Warlock, Breed, and short stints on books like DC Comics Presents; Detective Comics; and Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #1. Oh, and for creating one of my all-time favorite books: Dreadstar. From that book, many images still stick with me: A man beaten to death with a chain. The first time I saw the creepy, benevolent Syzygy. And alieneroticism. Wonderful art, and one of the best space epics in comic book history.
Why not? He got a little too much mileage off Thanos, writing several miniseries for the character that weren’t all that great.
Why not? Tintin is pretty much it. But, hey, it was Tintin!
2. John Byrne.
Why? For his single-handed reinvention of Superman in Action comics, Superman, World of Krypton, and Man of Steel—a reinvention Grant Morrison can only hope to exceed in the DCnU. Other reasons? Almost too many to count: Making the Fantastic Four worth reading for the first time in about 200 issues; Alpha Flight; Doom Patrol; his all-too-brief run The Incredible Hulk, wherein he separated Banner from Hulk for the first time, and in which Doc Samson started to make sense as a character; the genre-breaking, hilarious and sexy Sensational She Hulk; and even a short Wonder Woman stint.
Why not? One word: OMAC. Ugh.
1. Frank Miller.
Why? Because he revolutionized the medium, several times. First, with his work on Daredevil (although Klaus Janson deserves some of the credit there), which introduced a new sense of grit and movement to comic books. Second, for his Batman: The Dark Knight miniseries, which inspired the Batman films and drew critical acclaim from “real” reviewers—not just comic book readers. Third, for Ronin, which expanded comic books way, way beyond capes. And then, along the way, he also delivered Elektra Lives Again; two of the greatest What If? issues of all time; was an uncredited writer (with Chris Claremont) of the Wolverine mini-series that, to this day, is the standard for that character; Sin City; and 300. None of this even mentions his writer-only and artist-only work, because that doesn’t belong on this list, but Miller is clearly one of the Most Important People in this art form. Period.
Why not? There is no reason for him not be here, based on his work as a writer/artist. But I suppose we could say the film version of The Spirit. He directed that. And it sucked.
COMING SOON: The top 10 comic book writers of all time.