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GeekZenith’s Top 5 Comic Book Writers of All Time

GeekZenith's top 5 comic books of all time

As a comic book geek, this is something I’ve been deliberating in my head for quite some time. Who is my favourite comic book writer? Who’ll make the top 5 of all time and who won’t? How do I even decide something this?

Well, after considerable consideration I managed to whittle down all of my favourite comic book writers down to just 5. It wasn’t easy and it just kills me to leave some of the names off the final list, but that’s the way things go.

The Criteria

My Top 5 is nothing more than this writer’s personal preference, but I’d like to think the criteria in which I applied to all of my favouirte authors in order to filter out my top 5 is valid and agreeable to most. Do I think this list will satisfy every comic book reader with this list? Hell no. But do I think I picked the final list based on a well rounded argument? Yes. Yes, I do. Let me explain.

I have just under twenty favourite comic book authors, all of them are there because I either have enjoyed or still enjoy their work. The next questions I asked myself were:

  • What are my favourite comic book runs and graphic novels of all time?
  • Which of the writers on the list have written some of them?
  • Have these writers written multiple titles on my favourite comic book runs or graphic novels list?
  • Out of these, how do these writers compare to each other?

Answers to all of these questions gave me my top 5 list and allowed me to rank them. Ask yourself these questions. What answers did you get? (Feel free to share them in the comment section below).

Honourable Mentions

No GeekZenith Top 5 List would be complete without an honourable mentions list. There are all of my favourite comic book writers who didn’t make my final 5. Take a look over the list. Some of the names on it might surprise you for a variety of reasons.

  • Mark Waid
  • Jeph Loeb
  • Warren Ellis
  • J. Michael Straczynski
  • Peter J. Tomasi
  • Grant Morrison
  • Brian K. Vaughan
  • Gail Simone
  • Geoff Johns
  • Ed Brubaker
  • Andy Diggle
  • Brian Azzarello
  • Stan Lee
  • Neil Gaiman

Soul destroying isn’t it. All of that talent and they haven’t made my list. Now you can imagine how much turmoil I endured making this list. I have to tell you, a couple of those names came a little closer than others. For example, Warren Ellis’ work on Transmetropolitan is some of the best writing I’ve ever read (as detailed in GeelZenith’s Top 5 Comic Book Series of All Time), but I feel that a couple pieces of fantastic work, can’t be rated higher than other writers with a half dozen pieces of great work.

The List

5. Alan Moore

alan_moore

Alan Moore is one of the most eccentric and talented comic book writers there as ever been.

After a background of writing for 2000AD and Marvel UK with the Captain Britain character, Moore came into prominence in 1982 with his story V for Vendetta which was and still is regarded as some of Moore’s best work and was made into a successful movie in 2006 (despite Moore’s problems with it).

It wasn’t until 1983 that Moore gained worked in the American mainstream comics, firstly being commissioned to write a regular Swamp Thing comic book. Moore deconstructed the character and reimagined it, writing a series of experimental stories and within it revived many of the magical and supernatural characters DC had neglected such as Spectre, the Demon, the Phantom Stranger and Deadman. Also in his Swamp Thing run, he created John Constantine, an English working-class magician who later became the lead character of the Hellblazer comic books and later made into the Constantine movie in 2005, with Keanu Reeves playing the lead role.

Moore’s work on Swamp Thing lasted approximately 3 years, becoming both critically and commercially successful and prompted DC to recruit British writers such as Grant Morrison and Neil Gaiman to revamp obscure characters.

Following this run, Moore was given a chance to write a story for Superman called “For the Man Who Has Everything” in which Batman, Robin and Wonder Woman visit Superman in the Fortress of Solitude on his birthdau only to discover him overcome with an alien parasite and hallucinating. This concept was later transfered to the Justice League cartoon series under the same title. Moore followed this story up with another now iconic Superman story called “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” which was designed to be the final appearance of the silver age superman, leading into the Crisis of Infinite Earth’s story arc.

In 1986 Moore wrote what I consider to the be the greatest graphic novel there has ever been (and later the greatest movie ever made in 2009) with Watchmen. A cold war superhero mystery in which a superhero concocts an unthinkable scheme to put the world at peace and circumvent the nuclear arms race. It was also created one of the greatest comic book characters of all time: Rorsach. Watchmen is the only comic book to have ever won the pretiged Hugo Award and is widely accepted to be Moore’s greatest work.

Then in 1988 Moore produced another iconic story, this time writing for the Batman character in the story “The Killing Joke” in which the Joker broke free of Arkham Asylum and went on a killing spree as well as shooting Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) and causing her paralysis. This story laid the groundwork for Barbara Gordon to become her current alter ego Oracle, a digital moniker who helps Batman and other heroes fight crime in the information age.

Following a falling out with DC Comics, Moore largely went to work in the independant scene working on titles here and there, but reaching critical acclaim again until 1991 when he began work on the From Hell series of comic books, which depicted a fictional account of the Jack The Ripper story. It was later made into a film in 2001 staring Johnny Depp and the series was collected into a graphic novel in 1999 in which Warren Ellis praises as “my all-time favorite graphic novel”.

In 1999 Jim Lee allowed Alan Moore his own comic imprint (which promptly named America’s Best Comics) and Moore set about writing another iconic and critically acclaimed series in The League of Extrodinary Gentlemen (yet again, later made into a Movie in 2003 with Sean Connery as the lead) which took characters from many Victorian adventure novels such Alan Quartermain, The Invisible Man, Captain Nemo, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Professor Moriarty and even the Martians from The War of the Worlds. The story arc was fantastic, the reading was compelling and was surprisingly well received in the US and Moore was amused that the America audience enjoyed something he considered “perversely English”.

It was V for Vendetta, Watchmen and The League of Extrodinary Gentlemen which drew me to his superb storytelling ability and finely craft, if not controversial, plots. Moore may not have as many great works as the rest of the names in this top 5 list, but the works he has done are so fantastic they more than make up for it. As previously stated, Watchmen was work of utter genius and remains this day as my all time favourite graphic novel.

Notable Works

4. Brian Michael Bendis

Brian Michael Bendis

In 2000 Bendis’ tipped everyone’s lips as he took on the task of modernising the Peter Parker/Spider-Man character and supporting characters when Marvel effectively re-lauched their universe with the Ultimate series. Ultimate Spider-Man quickly become one of the most popular titles Marvel published, issue #1 voted “the ninth greatest comic book of all time” in a list compiled by Wizard readers.

In December 2001 Bendis was commissioned to write and Alex Maleev to pencil the popular Daredevil series from issue #26 for what turned out to be a four and a half year run and quickly became one of the most critically acclaimed run’s for the title.

In 2004, Marvel showed their trust in his work, allowing him to take on the Avengers titled, ending the current arc with Avengers Disassembled in which Scarlet Witch effectively went apeshit and tore the team apart, killing Hawkeye, Ant-Man (Scott Lang) and ripping Vision in two. They also comissioned Bendis to write a limited comic book series entitled “The Secret War” which was first published in April 2004 and was intended to be a bi-monthly publication, but due to delays the final issue wasn’t released until December 2005.

The disassemblement of the old Avengers title allowed Bendis the appropriate platform to set up the New Avengers which began publication in January 2005 and was undoubtedly inspired in part by the Secret Wars line-up which tested well with the readers. From here, Bendis has been entrusted with writing a number of major Marvel story arc’s since starting with House of M in 2005, The Secret Invasion in 2008 and Siege in 2010.

Essentially, I feel Bendis made the Marvel universe readable again, utilising a sense of realism that his love for crime stories cemented into his style and apparent in the Ultimate Spider-Man series. His work on Daredevil, New Avengers and consequent story arcs made these characters and the Marvel universe must-reads for any comic book geek.

In addition to his work at Marvel, Bendis started a title called Powers which began under Image Comics publications (from 2000-2004), with subsequent volumes being published by Marvel (2004 onwards). Powers is set in an entirely new universe in which super powers are not uncommon and superheroes aren’t as sqeauky cleam as they appear to be. As the series continues and the layers of the Powers universe is peeled away, the story and the characters become more and more compelling with each new issue and easily stands as one of my favourite comic book series of all time.

Notable Works

Awards

  • 1999 Eisner Award for Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition
  • 2001 Eisner Award for Best New Series (for Powers with Michael Avon Oeming)
  • 2002 Eisner Award for Best Writer (for Powers, Alias, Daredevil and Ultimate Spider-Man)
  • 2003 Eisner Award for Best Writer (for Powers, Alias, Daredevil and Ultimate Spider-Man)
  • 2003 Eisner Award for Best Continuing Series (for Daredevil with Alex Maleev)
  • 2000 Cleveland Press “Excellence in Journalism” Award
  • 2000 Wizard Magazine Best Writer of the Year
  • 2001 Wizard Magazine Best Writer of the Year
  • 2002 Wizard Magazine Best Writer of the Year
  • 2003 Wizard Magazine Best Writer of the Year
  • 2002 Comics Buyer’s Guide Best Writer of the Year
  • 2003 Comics Buyer’s Guide Best Writer of the Year
  • 2004 Comics Buyer’s Guide Best Writer of the Year
  • 2005 E3′s People’s Choice Award for Activision’s Ultimate Spider-Man
  • 2010 Inkpot Award

3. Frank Miller

Frank Miller

Frank Miller is one of the most recognised names in the comic industry and has a body of work behind him that more than justifies it.

Miller set out in the industry to be an artist and as he explains in an article at FilmJournal.com:

When I first showed up in New York, I showed up with a bunch of comics, a bunch of samples, of guys in trench coats and old cars and such. And [comics editors] said, ‘Where are the guys in tights?’ And I had to learn how to do it. But as soon as a title came along, when [Daredevil signature artist] Gene Colan left Daredevil, I realized it was my secret in to do crime comics with a superhero in them. And so I lobbied for the title and got it”.

Miller teamed up with writer Roger McKenzie on Daredevil on issue #150 and from then established himself as one of the industries rising stars. He had so much success with the title that in 1981 in issue #168 of Daredevil he took over as writer as well as penciller and immediately introduced the Elektra character to the storyline. The Daredevil storylines took a darker tone from then onwards and his popularity on the run hit its peak when he had Bullseye kill Elektra in issue #191 (Feb 1983), transforming a once B list Marvel character into one of the most prominent.

It was long after this, between 1983-1984 he produced a cult six issue mini series entitled Ronin which was his first creator-owned title and was met with critical acclaim.

Then in 1986, DC Published written and penciled classing Batman: The Dark Knight Returns in a four issue mini-series that has to be considered by any comic book connoisseur one of the best storyline’s ever written.

By this time, Miller had returned to the Daredevil title and continued to reinvigorate the character in story arc entitled Daredevil: Born Again between issues #227 and #233 (Feb to Aug 1986), also producing a graphic novel with Bill Sienkiewicz called Daredevil: Love and War in late 1986, which was set to bridge the gap between Miller’s first run on Daredevil and his second. Miller and Sienkiewicz then went onto write Elektra: Assassin, which was set outside of regular Marvel continuity. All of these projects were critically acclaimed, especially Dark Knight Returns and Born Again.

Next, Miller worked on Batman and between issues 404 and 407 in 1987 titled Batman: Year One. Proving a hugely popular arc, the trade paperback was released in 1988 which remains in print today and it one of DC’s all time best selling books.

In 1991 Miller started work on of my all-time favourite graphic novel works (and much later one of my all-time favourite movies) in the form of Sin City, which was first serialised in Dark Horse Presents #51-62 and proving to be another success, released in trade paperback. Miller spent pretty much the rest of the decade writing more Sin City stories until 1998 in which wrote another minieseries which became one of my favourite graphic novels and a pretty icon film in 300.

Miller’s next project was a sequel to Batman: The Dark Knigth Returns entitled Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes again which enthralled more of the DC Universe in Miller’s idea of an aging Batman and the world he now finds himself fighting for. I, personally, thought this was better than the first and remains to this day my favourite Miller graphic novel. Perhaps it was because (like an idiot) I read Dark Knight Strikes Again before it’s prequel, but nevertheless the first time I read I became engrossed within Miller’s storytelling and the world I found Batman and the other DC heroes in.


Notable Works

Eisner Awards

  • Best Short Story – 1995 “The Babe Wore Red”, in Sin City: The Babe Wore Red and Other Stories (Dark Horse/Legend)
  • Best Finite Series/Limited Series – 1991 Give Me Liberty (Dark Horse), 1995 Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (Dark Horse/Legend), 1996 Sin City: The Big Fat Kill (Dark Horse/Legend), 1999 300 (Dark Horse)
  • Best Graphic Album: New – 1991 Elektra Lives Again (Marvel)
  • Best Graphic Album: Reprint – 1993 Sin City (Dark Horse), 1998 Sin City: That Yellow Bastard (Dark Horse)
  • Best Writer/Artist – 1991 for Elektra Lives Again (Marvel), 1993 for Sin City (Dark Horse), 1999 for 300 (Dark Horse)
  • Best Artist/Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team – 1993 for Sin City (Dark Horse)

Kirby Awards

  • Best Single Issue – 1986 Daredevil #227 “Apocalypse” (Marvel), 1987 Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #1 “The Dark Knight Returns” (DC)
  • Best Graphic Album, 1987 Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (DC)
  • Best Writer/Artist (single or team) – 1986 Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli, for Daredevil: Born Again (Marvel)
  • Best Art Team – 1987 Frank Miller, Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley, for Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (DC)

Harvey Awards

  • Best Continuing or Limited Series – 1996 Sin City (Dark Horse), 1999 300 (Dark Horse)
  • Best Graphic Album of Original Work – 1998 Sin City: Family Values (Dark Horse)
  • Best Domestic Reprint Project – 1997 Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, 10th Anniversary Edition (DC)

Cannes Film Festival

  • Palme d’Or – 2005 (nominated) Sin City (Dimension Films)

Scream Awards

  • The Comic-Con Icon Award – 2006

2. Mark Millar

Mark Millar to be Fox Consultant

Mark Millar came into prominence in 2000, when he became the successor to Warren Ellis’ fantastic run on The Authority, which became a very popular title for Wildstorm, until it fell fowl of DC’s censorship laws and ultimately lead to Millar’s resignation from DC in 2001. During this time he wrote the excellent graphic novel Superman: Red Son which was released after his departure and in trade paperback in 2003. Superman: Red Son reimagined the well-told Superman orgins story to suppose what would’ve happened if Superman had crash-landed in Stalin-era Russia. The graphic novel was as astounding as it was compelling and for me breathed life back into the Superman character that I hadn’t previously cared for all that much.

During 2001 Millar began work on the Marvel Ultimates series, starting with Ultimate X-Men, a reboot in the same way Bendis rebooted spider-man. However, whilst Ultimate X-Men was a fantastic reboot of the perhaps stagnant team, unarguably his better Ultimates work came in the title The Ultimates, an ultimate universe style reboot of the Marvel Avengers, which saw the team take a more realistic and militaristic frame. For me, the Ultimates title was the most compelling one within the ultimates universe and edged characters a little more real-world credibility (or as much real-world credibility you can muster for characters who are essentially superheroes).

Next, Millar launched a creator-owned line called Millarworld and published a number of fantastical comci book creations. The first being the “Wanted” title wjhcih first ran as a limited series in 2003 and 2004 published by Top Cow. This of course was made into the motion movie starring James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman and was highly successful.

In 2006 Millar worked with artist Steve McNiven on Marvel’s major storyline of the year, Civil War, which dealt with superhero registration and pitted superhero against superhero and became the biggest success in Millar’s career, seeing sales exceeding any Marvel comic since the boom of the early 1990s.

In Feb 2008 Millar started work with legendary artist John Romita Jr on the comic book series Kick Ass which again was made into a film in 2010 and was very successful.

At around the same time, Millar took up the Fantastic Four title as well writing the spectacular six-issue series called Marvel 1985 which depicted a regular world with only one super-powered being. Trouble is, this super-powered being can transgress the fabric of reality and brings all of Marvel’s supervillains to this untouched world.

In addition to these fantastic runs, in June 2008 Millar started work on a truly great series called “Old Man Logan” in the Wolverine title from issue #66-72, finishing up in Wolverine Giant-Size Old Man Logan in September 2009. This story arc told of a future in which the supervillains banded together and won and follows the fate of a now humble Logan who has resisted his violent ways since the world went to hell and the villains broke him. The story was compelling and the art was gorgeous and became one of my favourite story arc’s of all time.

In addition to this, Millar created the absolutely fantastic Nemesis four part comic book which turned the standardised superhero concept on hits head and was very well received.

Notable Works

Awards

  • 2000 Nomination for “Best Writer” Eisner Award for Superman Adventures
  • 2001 Nomination for “Best Writer” Eisner Award for The Authority and Ultimate X-Men
  • 2004 Nomination for “Favourite Comics Writer” Eagle Award
  • 2005 Won “Favourite Colour Comicbook – American” Eagle Award, for The Ultimates Volume 2
  • 2005 Won “Favourite Comics Story” Eagle Award, for The Ultimates Volume 2 #1-9
  • 2005 Nomination for “Favourite Comics Story” Eagle Award, for Wolverine #20-25

1. Garth Ennis

Garth Ennis signing a comic book for a fan

When thinking up this list, I decided Garth Ennis had to be number 1 pretty much straight away. I mean, it was a given. Everything he’s ever written and I’ve read, I’ve loved. It was like I just connected with his writing and his sensibilities from the very start and I’ve been addictied to his work ever since.

Ennis first came to prominence during his work on Judge Dredd, taking over from original creator John Wagner for a period of several years, which saw notable work such as Muzak Killer and the twenty-part epic, but hit the American mainstream comics in 1991, when he worked on DC’s Hellblazer title until 1994. He wrote issues then anyone to date for that title and saw him team up Steve Dillon for the first time.

From 1993 to 1995 Ennis and John McCrea worked on a DC title called The Demon which first introduced the super powered contract killer Tommy Monaghan also know as Hitman.

It was in 1995 that Ennis and Dillon embarked upon their epic 66 issue series called Preacher in which a Preacher with the word of god thanks to a celestial being called Genesis co-inhabiting his body goes looking for god to ask him why he abandoned the human race. Along the way he meets some fucked up people and experiences some fucked up thinks and Ennis’ skill of writing extreme violence right along side extremely witty humour enhance that dynamite story a hundred fold. To this day, I re-read all my issues of Preacher and every year and each time, I get to appreciate the story more and more. It’s currently my second favourite comic book series of all time (just behind Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan) and the characters of Jesse Custer and The Saint of Killers are amongst my all time favourite comic book characters of all time.

During Ennis’ run with Preacher, he also started work on the Hitman series, which was lower profile than Preacher was still critically acclaimed and run or 60 issues between 1996 and 2001.

At the end of this series, Ennis was quickly snapped up by Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada to The Punisher. In his run he deicided to take on the character in a much more serious role, abandoning his humour and creating a much more sinister story.

In 2002 Ennis penned a one-shot comic called The Pro, which seemed to be a forerunner for the Boys, a comical parody of mainstream superhero comics which saw him return to his violent, yet unbearably funny writing.

Then in 2006, Ennis started work on a creator-owned series called The Boys, which saw Transmetropolitan penciller Darick Robertson join him for the critically acclaimed and high selling title. It ran for six issues on the Wildstorm publication was unceremonisiously dropped (premusably due to it’s filthy and violent content), but picked right back up by Dynamite Entertainment which it still continues to run.

Notable Works

Awards

  • 1998 Eisner Award for Best Writer (for Hitman, Preacher, Unknown Soldier and Blood Mary: Lady Liberty)
  • 1999 Eagle Award for Favourite Colour Comic Book (for Preacher)

What Would You Change

As I previous, said my list was based primarily on personel preference and I have no doubt my list won’t sit well with some. So I want you all to voice your opinions. I want you to share your lists and comment on my own. Would you change the list? Would you add or remove writers on the list? Or would you just reorder it? Please let us know in the comment section below.

Check out these related posts of interest::

10 Responses to GeekZenith’s Top 5 Comic Book Writers of All Time

  1. KillingJoke says:

    Decent list. Think I would’ve had Warren Ellis on that list, probably instead of Alan Moore. Also, I would move Frank Miller up the list, probably to second.

  2. Gonzo says:

    Millar would be top for me. Just for Nemesis, Kick Ass and Old Man Logan alone.

  3. Carmine The Bowler says:

    Grant Morrison should definitely be on that list. Probably ahead of Alan Moore – I think he’s overrated to be honest.

  4. The Master of Awesomeness says:

    Overrated? I can’t say that I agree with you.

    Like I said in the article, Watchmen is absolutely phenomenal!

  5. Stewie says:

    Good call on Ennis as number one. Love his work. Ellis and Loeb should’ve definitely been on this list too. Hush was fantastic.

  6. Jonno says:

    What? No Stan Lee on the list??? WTF?

  7. The Master of Awesomeness says:

    I know. Stan Lee. The legend of the comic book industry, which wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for him.

    Truth of it is, whilst Lee’s work is timeless and still quality, I just prefer the work of the those on my list more. There. I said it (typed it).

    I love Stan Lee. I admire his contribution to the industry like everyone else, but you give me a Bendis/Millar/Ennis/Moore/Miller book to read over a Lee book…then I know which option I’d choose.

  8. Rock says:

    Glad to see someone else who puts Ennis #1 on their list. He’s #1 on my list, too. I love picking up anything he writes.

  9. The Master of Awesomeness says:

    Good to see another fellow Ennis fan.

    Interesting to know: would you alter my list any?

  10. Chad says:

    Would have to go with Neil Gaiman as the GOAT by a country mile. Anyone who can weave as complex a narrative as Sandman and not have it come of as long, boring or pretentious gets my vote.

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