- Terry Moore: If someone had told me years ago that my all-time favorite non-superhero comic series would be about a lesbian, her straight best friend, and their wishy-washy male pal, I would have said you were insane. But Moore’s Strangers in Paradise still holds up as the best illustrated human drama of all time. As cliché as it sounds, the man is a genius. Next came Echo, a wonderful sci-fi tale about a woman with magic boobs. Okay, that’s oversimplifying, but check it out for some of the best-written sci-fi of the last decade. Presently, Moore is publishing another winner, Rachel Rising, about a murdered woman in a small town coming back to life and searching for her killer. Moore draws real, believable characters and gives them distinctive personalities. Forget strong women or strong men, Moore does strong characters. I would purchase anything he creates, sight unseen.
- Chuck Dixon: Dixon has been on my best list for almost thirty years. He has forgotten more about adventure writing than most writers will ever know. Starting on Eclipse characters such as Airboy and continuing with Sky Wolf, Valkyrie, Sgt. Strike and so many others, Dixon set the standard in the ’80s for adventure fiction. Branching out to creator owned comics, he gave us Winterworld, which has just resurfaced as a comic and possible TV show. Then he blew the doors off with his DC Comics work, with record-setting runs on Batman, Detective, Robin, Nightwing and Birds of Prey. Along the way he co-created Batman villain Bane and added prize character after character to the Batverse at DC. Dixon never phones it in, whether it’s a new Airboy story or adding to the G.I. Joe mythos. His finest attribute as a writer is that he always moves the story and characters forward. He is a writer I admire personally and professionally. Recently Dixon has branched out to movies, television and novels (his Hard Times time-travel novels are a hoot), but I hope he never stops working in comics. I’m selfish that way.
- Garth Ennis: Scotsman Ennis has many naysayers, mostly for the level of sex and violence with which he infuses his work. Indeed, not everything he has written has been to my taste (I’m looking at you, Preacher). But I’m attracted to his clever plots and nobody-does-it-better dialog. Ennis listens to how real people speak and captures it like a drunken Scottish poet on the page (and I do love me some Robert Burns). He has had the definitive run on Hellblazer, and deconstructed superheroes in The Boys and heroism in Hitman. War Stories is his salute to fighting men, which is obviously his dream project. His recent Red Team comic about a group of vigilante cops left me cursing the end of every issue for not having the next one now. Ennis always has a fascinating point of view in his work, and is one of the most talented writers of his generation.
- Kurt Busiek: Who does superheroes (and fantasy, and sword & sorcery, and tons of other genres) better than Kurt Busiek? Few people. I’ve loved his work since The Liberty Project, a 1980s Eclipse comic about superpowered teenage delinquents. He stunned the comic reading world with Marvels (with spectacular painted art by Alex Ross), then stunned them again with possibly the most creative hook for a superhero series ever in Marvel’s Thunderbolts. The last page reveal in Thunderbolts #1 is still one of the most shocking moments in comics—how they kept that a secret I’ll never know. Busiek’s Astro City comic has run for nearly two decades and has never run out of things to say. His lesser known works, such as the World War I fantasy Arrowsmith and offbeat superhero tale Superstar always offer a quality reading experience. If anyone is unfamiliar with superhero comics and wants to get acquainted, you couldn’t do better than start by reading anything by Busiek.
- Peter Milligan: I know Milligan has been a big deal in the UK for some time, but he snuck up on me as writer of Vertigo’s Shade the Changing Man as someone who could tell a story. I next remember his work on the quirky and wonderful X-Statix for Marvel. How that book was green-lit by Marvel is a story I’d love to hear one day (the scene where Iron Man and X-Statix hero Mr. Sensitive fight for their lives naked, on the grounds of a French Abbey? That’s high concept). His best work so far has been a years-long run on one of my favorite books, Hellblazer. He closed the doors on that book and always had some new ground to cover with anti-hero John Constantine. His new book The Names is a riveting conspiracy/murder mystery. Everything I’ve read from the man has been worth the price of the book; he has a gift for presenting original ideas in a more than slightly skewed way.
- Ed Brubaker: Brubaker is probably the finest crime writer working today. I discovered him with the miniseries Scene of the Crime, about a crime scene photographer who gets caught up in a murder investigation. The story is well worth seeking out. He then did some work at Marvel, with an original take on the Iron Fist title and a long run on Captain America. His Captain America was excellent when he wasn’t trashing the Tea Party, but that’s a conversation for another time. His absolute best work has been with artist partner Sean Phillips, and they get better with every project. Sleeper, Criminal, Incognito, Fatale, The Fade Out—Brubaker and Phillips are masters at everything they attempt; horror, gangsters, secret agents or superheroes. Brubaker’s best recent project is Velvet with artist Steve Epting, about a spy secretary framed for a murder who tracks down the real culprits. Sort of “what if Moneypenny was the hero of the James Bond films?” It’s astounding work, and one of my all-time favorite spy stories. Brubaker has many, many years of storytelling ahead of him and I can’t wait to see what’s next. As long as it doesn’t involve the Tea Party.
- Bill Willingham: Television’s Once Upon a Time is a poor shadow of the comic it ripped off; Willingham’s greatest creation (so far) Fables. Fables has led to an empire for Willingham; the comic spinoff Fairest, toys, statues, hardcover reprints, original graphic novels and even a video game. There are rumors of a movie adaptation; perhaps the movies will finally get it right. One might say Willingham was a 20-year overnight success. He certainly labored in the trenches of comics long enough; with writing or art stints on Comico’s Elementals, DC’s Green Lantern and some creator-owned books. Everything Willingham wrote was outstanding, it was obvious from the first he was a gifted storyteller. But you may not know he’s a fantastic artist too. He has obviously preferred writing recently, and Fables is one of the finest fantasy books ever. He also knows how to go out on top ... Fables is ending in a few months with issue #150. I will desperately miss the book, but Willingham already has his next creator-owned gig lined up. So, while the king is dead—long live the king!
- Mark Waid: Waid is an example of a writer whose work runs hot and cold for me. But overall, the man always gives his best. I may not like everything he produces, but he is always thinking around corners and not doing the same story repeatedly. I first remember reading his work on DC’s The Flash, a character for whom Waid obviously had long affection. It showed. His Kingdom Come (with Alex Ross) rewrote the future of the DC Universe in a story that still resonates with its themes and execution. His creator-owned work scores through the roof, with Empire setting the bar for villain-based comics. That is, until Irredeemable, about a superman gone bad, and companion title Incorruptible, about a career villain turned good. Waid always has something to say and something new to offer. I didn’t care for his take on the Man of Steel in Superman: Birthright or his Fantastic Four run—they weren’t terrible, just not to my taste. Waid made up for those lapses with his current run on Marvel’s Daredevil. Daredevil is currently the wittiest and most fun read on the stands. I’ll follow Waid to whatever he does next and at least give it a try. He has earned a look from me at whatever he produces in comics.
- Jay Faerber: I have never read a bad comic book by Jay Faerber. On the contrary, he keeps hitting it out of the park, book after book, concept after concept. He should be a monster hit writer, but life doesn’t work that way. I first remember his work on DC’s Teen Titans, but that pales in comparison to his creator-owned output. Noble Causes was about a Kennedyesque family of superheroes that ran for years and was extremely enjoyable. Dynamo 5 was a terrific action/adventure book about a group of illegitimate superpowered children of a Superman-like father. Near Death was a unique concept about a hitman who dies and is revived, then sets about helping people in need. Not for any kind of altruistic purpose, but because he glimpsed Hell and doesn’t want to go back. Point of Impact is a gritty crime miniseries about a murder and its aftermath that doesn’t pull punches. His newest series, Copperhead, is a sci fi Western about a female sheriff and her young son, keeping the peace on a frontier planet. I love these books and they are all well worth your valuable time to find and read. I’m not sure any of them sold well, and Faerber remains, in my opinion, a vastly underrated writer. He has turned to television recently, writing for the shows Ringer and Star-Crossed. I hope comics never loses him, but discovers how truly talented he is.
|Brian Michael Bendis|
- Brian Bendis: I thought long and hard about including Bendis on a best list, but ultimately decided he deserved to be here. He has his indelible quirks (which I will discuss later), but overall his work is unique, fun and—dare I say it—mostly original. And I don’t doubt he loves comic books, so we have that in common. His creator-owned book Powers has been around over 10 years now and has always been worth reading—even though co-lead Deena Pilgrim is the most annoying comic book character in history. The book has looked at super people as criminals in a novel way no one has really thought of before. His man-crush on Luke Cage at Marvel has revitalized that character and put him once again at the forefront of the Marvel Universe. His runs on the Avengers titles have been down-to-earth and cosmic while still exploring the characters and moving the story along. Secret Invasion was one of the best Avengers stories in years. His newest book, The United States of Murder, Inc., has an intriguing premise that Bendis is exploring with glee. While his creator-owned titles have generally been successful, Bendis is still committed to mainstream superhero comics, which I appreciate. They need all the talented creators they can get.
Honorable Mention: Peter J. Tomasi, Chris Roberson, Dennis Hopeless, Victor Gishler, Jonathan Luna &Sarah Vaughn, Joshua Williamson, Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray