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2014 Top 50 Comic Book Writers #40-31

by  in Comic News Comment
2014 Top 50 Comic Book Writers #40-31

Here are the next ten writers that you voted as your favorites of all-time (out of roughly 1,040 ballots cast, with 10 points for first place votes, 9 points for second place votes, etc.).

NOTE: Don’t be a jerk about creators in the comments section. If you are not a fan of a particular creator, that’s fine, but be respectful about it. No insulting creators or otherwise being a jerk about creators. I’ll be deleting any comments like that and, depending on how jerky the comment was, banning commenters.

40. Dan Slott – 355 points (1 first place vote)

Despite writing comics since the early 1990s (with great work on licensed humor titles like Ren and Stimpy and Beavis and Butthead), Dan Slott has become a lot more famous in the world of comics since taking over writing duties on Amazing Spider-Man in 2008 (first as one of the Spider-Man team of writers who launched Brand New Day in Amzing Spider-Man #546 and later the sole writer of Spider-Man with Amazing Spider-Man #648.

Slott also pulled off quite a feat when he had Peter Parker be replaced as Spider-Man for over a year by Doctor Octopus and have the resulting storyline, Superior Spider-Man, work out really really well.

Slott’s best traits on Amazing Spider-Man have been the way that he follows in the strong suit of past Spider-Man writers of mixing action-packed adventures with character-driven stories in a blend that feels like a natural extenuation of whatever is going on in the book at that time. So a big event where everyone on Manhattan gets Spider-powers is personalized by the fact that Peter Parker’s girlfriend has the powers, too, and it leads her to figure out that Peter has been lying to her about his secret identity. Or, in one of the strongest one-shot issues of Slott’s run, Amazing Spider-Man #665, we see the trade-off for Spider-Man and Peter Parker both becoming so successful (Spider-Man being on two Avengers teams and the Future Foundation and Peter now becoming a successful designer at a think tank reverse-engineering the gadgets he creates as Spider-Man into useful technology for everyday life), which is that he is too busy for people like his closest friends. So when Betty Brant is assaulted after Peter stands her up for a standing movie date, Peter vows revenge (naturally) but what does that look like to his friends and family? Peter is out finding Betty’s assailant, but to everyone else, he is not there for Betty when she needs it the most. Aunt May calls him and reads him the riot act and brings up something shocking to Peter, that the way SHE recalls the night of Ben Parker’s death, she just remembers Peter running away when she needed him the most.

Daaaaang. See? Now that’s some character-driven twist right there. And that’s the sort of approach Slott takes to his whole Amazing Spider-Man run, you never know exactly how he will zig or zag on any given plot point/character interaction. It makes reading Amazing Spider-Man a true roller coaster ride of never knowing where he will be headed. And when he slows down for the character-heavy stuff, he nails it, like Peter’s reaction to the death of J. Jonah Jameson’s wife, which was essentially “one death too many” for Peter. Peter vows that he will not let anyone die. And naturally, that cannot work out long term, so seeing him deal with it when it DOESN’T is powerful.

And, of course, Slott knows how to bring the funny. He is bringing much of those same mix of qualities to his current run on Silver Surfer.

SLott’s first major Spider-Man work was a Spider-Man/Human Torch mini-series with Ty Templeton that was excellent. Here are some pages from that series that show prime Slott…

39. Walter Simonson – 357 points (9 first place votes)

There’s not much cooler of a way to introduce yourself to a title then to break the old logo of the book in your first issue and debut a new logo the next one. And that’s just one of the dramatic things Walter Simonson did with his first issue of Thor, a book that was not selling particularly well, so Simonson had a great deal of freedom to TRY these dramatic things. The other dramatic event in the first issue of Simonson’s Thor was just WHO it was that was wielding Thor’s hammer on the cover – some weird looking creature!

Beta Ray Bill, the noble alien who was found to be worthy enough to wield Mjolnir, was an attempt to shock readers, and to give his book a try, as Simonson spent the next thirty issues or so both writing and drawing an eventful time in the world of Thor, as Simonson used his extensive knowledge of Norse mythology as the foundation for his stories, which were a bit more serious and true to Norse culture than previous writers.

Simonson’s stories were mostly plot-driven, but he gave a number of interesting character moments along the way, as well, and of course he delivered that fantastic, stylized dynamic artwork that he is so well known for using.

There was a major story with a fight between Odin and Surtur that took advantage of Simonson’s ability to draw really outstanding fight scenes, but perhaps the most notable storyline during his run was when a number of souls of living Earth people are trapped in the land of Hel. Thor, Balder and a few other people lead a rescue mission to save them, and the evil toady of the Enchantress, Skurge the Executioner, asks to be allowed to help, too. At the end, when they are about to be overrun at a bridge by the hordes of Hel right before becoming free, Thor vows that he will stay behind and hold off the hordes himself while the humans escape. Skurge knocks Thor out, and while everyone at first thinks he is being a traitor, he is instead opting to take Thor’s place.

It’s an amazing sequence of events, beautifully written and drawn by Simonson.

In the years since, Simonson has brought that same compelling grandiosity to great runs on Fantastic Four and Orion. And, of course, he is also an amazing artist.

38. Jeff Lemire – 358 points (1 first place vote)

Jeff Lemire is a fascinating example of seeing a writer bring his independent sensibilities to mainstream comics and having the result work out very nicely. Lemire is currently writing Justice League United and The Valiant and in the past wrote Animal Man and Green Arrow (he is also going to be the writer on Hawkeye for Marvel). What I love about Lemire’s work is how unique it is – his approaches are unlike most other comic book writers and the results often throw you off balance, but in a very compelling way. One of my favorite Lemire works was the 2012 original graphic novel Underwater Welder. In it, Jack Joseph is 33 years old, the same age his father was when Jack was born. Jack’s wife is in the final trimester of her pregnancy with their first child, a boy. Jack lives in the same town where he grew up and works as an underwater welder on a rig near the city. His father was a diver who often searched for “treasure” and drowned years ago on Halloween when Jack was a boy.

Jack is drawn to the water and his father’s path in life and it clearly weighs on his wife. After all, his wife is soon going to be having a baby and Jack is going off to work on a rig for a few weeks!

While Jack is working on the rig, though, something weird happens. He begins to hear a voice saying his name…

This sends Jack adrift as he deals with his unresolved feelings over his father’s death. The watch plays a key role. Jack is driven. There is SOMEthing in the water that will tell him what really happened to his father. He knows it. Even if it is tearing his marriage apart (much like how his parent’s marriage fell apart) he is driven to find the “truth” out there in the deep. As he explores the deep, Jack goes on a journey into both the past (where he visits himself as a child) as well as the future. At the heart of the comic is a man who feels that he is tied to a certain path in life that he can’t avoid no matter how hard he tries. He cannot escape this town and this life, even if it ruins his life and turns him into basically his own father. Can he break free of this? Can he break free of that description of himself? Jack Joseph, underwater welder? If he doesn’t, he will likely lose everything.

That is the exact sort of dazed brilliance that we see in many Lemire creator-owned works, like Sweet Tooth and the recent mini-series, Trillium (Trillium is really like no other comic book). The comics world needs voices like Jeff Lemire’s.

Go to the next page for #37-34…

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