It was certainly unexpected to learn that “Goosebumps” author R.L. Stine would be writing a Marvel Comics series, but don’t be too startled — he’s just the latest in a long line of writers, musicians and other celebrities to have their words put to serialized art. From emo songwriters to standup comedians to congressmen to whatever you want to call Anthony Bourdain, it seems that the dream of many a comics-loving kid to create a series of their own is one that doesn’t go away easy.
Of course, if your profile is big enough to give you the chance to write a comic, how can you not take it? While their levels of success (and commitment) may vary, here are 16 more celebrities who grabbed their childhood dreams by the cape and flew.
16. Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance)
With their elaborate visual flair and music videos featuring Grant Morrison, you may suspect rock band My Chemical Romance of having comics roots. And you’d be right! Before pursuing music, the band’s frontman and co-founder Gerard Way actually went to the School of Visual Arts in hopes of pursuing a comics career. While music kept him busy, in 2007 he finally realized his dream, writing “The Umbrella Academy,” the story of a dysfunctional family of superheroes living in an alternate-timeline 1970s. It was one of the most successful examples of a music/comic career crossover ever, winning an Eisner award for Best Limited Series.
Way, who, in another musician rarity, has also drawn several variant covers, followed it up with “The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys” in 2013, and the next year made his Marvel debut with an “Evangelion”-inspired Spider-Man alternate universe story in “Spider-Verse” #5. But it was this year his comics profile grew to the next level, when it was announced he was launching “Young Animal,” his very own imprint at DC. The line seems reminiscent of early Vertigo comics, not least because it’s lead by Way’s own run on Vertigo classic “Doom Patrol.”
15. Margaret Atwood
Despite ongoing debate over whether or not her work is “technically” science fiction, Canadian author and environmental activist Margeret Atwood is one of the most revered writers alive of any genre. She may have only just heard of The Punisher, but from “The Handmaid’s Tale” to the biotech-heavy “MaddAddam” trilogy, Atwood has always home with some fairly comic-y subject matter. So it was only a matter of time before she tried her hand at them. Literally!
Her illustrated debut came last year in the Kickstarter-funded anthology “The Secret Loves of Geek Girls,” with a comic strip Atwood not only wrote, but drew. Soon after, she announced her first graphic novel, the first part of a trilogy called “Angel Catbird” drawn by Johnnie Christmas, from Dark Horse. Inspired by her concern for both the declining population of migratory songbirds, and the outdoor cats that hunt them, Atwood channeled her environmentalism into a wild tale of a genetic engineer who accidentally merges his DNA with a cat’s. If that’s not a sci-fi comic, we don’t know what is.
14. Method Man
You may not have known Method Man and/or his style in the early ’90s, but in 2016, it’s obvious to anyone that he’s one of the most versatile members of the Wu-Tang Clan, if not musicians in general. His acting in cinematic high water marks like “How High” and “The Wire” showed us an onscreen range that most recently reached the Marvel Cinematic Universe, when he cameo’d on Netflix’s “Luke Cage” series, based on a comic book of which he’s a longtime fan — the Man counts over 25,000 comics in his personal collection… one of which is his own.
Titled, naturally, “Method Man,” it chronicles the adventures of Peerless Poe, a private eye who must ally with the Order of the Sacred Method to defeat an ancient evil that threatens the mortal realm. Poe’s secret identity? Method Man. Written with Sanford Greene and David Atchinson (who also collaborated on a comic with fellow famous person/MCU member Rosario Dawson), the series from Grand Central Publishing had a fairly limited run in 2008. Given his history, however, the rapper, who also contributed a song to “Luke Cage,” will probably be back on the page soon enough.
13. Glenn Danzig
“Logan” may look good, but there is one thing Hugh Jackman’s now 17 year-long portrayal of Wolverine has robbed the world of: Glenn Danzig. The legendary singer of The Misfits, Samhain and, of course, Danzig, was actually offered the part of the world’s most popular mutant in the original “X-Men” movie, but turned it down. Yet the horror-obsessed rocker maintains many comics connections, from having Eisner winner Simon Bisley draw the album cover to “Thrall: Demonsweatlive” (NSFW), to lifting the classic skull logo of both Samhain and Danzig from Michael Golden’s cover for “Crystar, Crystal Warrior” issue #8.
While it’s hard to even imagine Glenn Danzig as a child, that’s where it all started. Having grown up an avid comics reader who hoped to write and draw comics, it must have been a nightmare come true to launch his own comic company, Verotik, in 1994. Featuring some typically Danzigian explicit imagery of sex and violence, the adult-aimed publisher’s titles include “Grub Girl,” which was adapted into a pornographic movie, and “Death Dealer,” a comic adaptation of artist Frank Frazetta’s 1973 fantasy painting. The latter, which featured art by Bisley, was written by Danzig himself.
12. MF Grimm
Percy Carey, aka MF Grimm, may be best known to hip hop heads for his collaborations with masked musician MF DOOM, but the rapper/producer has additional career: comics. In 2007, Carey wrote “Sentences: The Life of MF Grimm,” an autobiographical graphic novel from Vertigo detailing his 1970s childhood through to 2006. While it’s all true, the origin story is probably more intense than most fictional comics. To start, Carey’s neighbor, Morgan Freeman (!), got him cast as a child actor on Sesame Street for four years, but his budding hip-hop career was repeatedly derailed.
In 1994, Carey was shot seven times in a murder attempt that left him deaf, blinded and paralyzed from the waist down. Recovered his vision, hearing and speaking ability, he still requires the use of a wheelchair. In 2000, he was sentenced to life in prison on narcotics and conspiracy charges, and recorded an entire album while on one-day bail. Studying law in jail, he was eventually able to reduce his sentence and was released in 2003. With all this told through art by Ronald Wimberly, it’s no wonder “Sentences” made Carey one of the only Eisner award-nominated rappers out there.
11. Max Bemis (Say Anything)
Like Gerard Way, frontman, primary composer and lyricist of emo all-timers Say Anything, Max Bemis is as serious about comics as the music he’s known for. No really. he told us! Describing reading comics to us as “literally [his] greatest passion,” Bemis grew up writing screenplays and short stories, but was too intimated to try working in what he calls his “favorite medium” until just a few years ago. In 2013, he finally made his debut writing “Polarity,” for BOOM! Studios, which tells the story of an artist who, like the singer, is diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Unlike the singer, he finds his medication is supressing superpowers.
Also like Way, Bemis wasn’t dabbling, starting two more BOOM! series, “Evil Empire,” and the excellently titled “Oh, Killstrike.” Meanwhile, he made inroads into the Marvel universe. He began with an issue of “Avengers vs. X-Men” tie-in “A+X,” before progressing to his own series featuring obscure mercenary “Foolkiller,” to the recently debuted “X-Men: Worst X-Man Ever,” and shows no signs of slowing down.
10. Courtney Love
For better or worse, Courtney Love is known for a lot of things: fronting one of the most underrated rock bands in history, being married to Kurt Cobain, having a volatile public persona, and assembling the soundtrack to the utterly bonkers 90’s comic movie “Tank Girl.” Okay, that one not so much, but the adaptation of the British cult fave was the Hole frontwoman’s first foray into the world of comics. Her next, though, wasn’t British, or even American, it was Japanese.
The only manga on this list, “Princess Ai,” is written by Love and DJ Milky (aka Tokyopop founder Stuart Levy), with art by “Paradise Kiss” creator Ai Yazawa and Misaho Kjiradou. The titular princess escapes from the war-torn, alien land of Ai and ends up in modern day (2006) Tokyo, where she’s pursued by armed talent agents and demons, before falling in love with a musician named Kent.
Love has referred to Ai as an alter ego, and it’s not a stretch to see the parallels between the blonde haired guitarist Kent and Cobain, adding an extra layer of depth to the strange, five volume series. And yes, there is a tie-in album.
9. Tom Morello
Whether you’re in a basement blasting Rage Against The Machine’s politically-charged blend of hip hop, metal and funk or have Audioslave’s sports-ready anthems echoing around a stadium, the weirdest sounds you’re hearing probably come from innovative guitarist Tom Morello. However, before the musician and activist’s childhood was filled with guitar effects and left wing politics, he was also a committed nerd. Of course, the D&D campaigns he ran as a kid did include some socialist class consciousness.
While a young Morello put the thousands of comics he accumulated in his teens on the back burner in order to focus on music about politics, he made his way back in 2013. “Orchid,” a 12-issue series from Dark Horse, takes the epic fantasy Morello grew up with and injects a dose of socialist class consciousness. The series, written by Morello and drawn by Scott Hepburn, takes place in a dystopian future where rising seas have caused the evolution of powerful, human-eating animals. The rich live safely in high cities, but Orchid, a teenage sex worker, is one of the many poor whose shantytowns are helpless against the were-animals. That is, until she finds out she’s not who — or what — she thinks she is.
8. Ta Nehisi-Coates
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ writing for publications like “The Atlantic” has made him one of the foremost public intellectuals in America today. His combination of skillful prose and insightful thought has made pieces like “The Case For Reparations” some of the most widely read examinations of racial issues of the decade. Amidst the cultural, political and social issues, Coates has blogged for years; although, his other thoughts have been occupied with comics.
This year, Marvel made headlines when it announced Coates would write a new Black Panther series, with art from Brian Stelfreeze. While it was a high profile title for someone with no previous pro comics writing experience, Coates quickly allayed any skepticism with the critically acclaimed and bestselling run, which is currently on its seventh issue. The MacArthur “genius grant” winner, whose father is, coincidentally, a former member of the Black Panther Party, delves deep into Wakanda in a way rarely seen before, calling into question Prince T’Challa’s very rule, as he battles a terrorist threat. Even with a few snags, it’s been about the most successful comics debut a nonfiction writer could ask for.
7. Brian Posehn
Comedian and actor Brian Posehn has been beloved by comedy nerds since his appearances on alt-sketch classic “Mr. Show,” but he’s got plenty of nerd all his own. It wasn’t just incorporating Star Wars jokes into his routine in the documentary “The Comedians of Comedy,” he can also be seen stopping at a store to pick up a stack of comics mid-tour (alongside fellow comedian/comics writer Patton Oswalt). Though if the 2005 documentary had been filmed a year later, he could have bought a copy of his own.
Posehn, who was also a writer for “Mr. Show,” released “The Last Christmas” in 2006. Co-written with Gerry Duggan, with art from Hilary Barta and a pre-Marvel stardom Rick Remender, the five issue Image series presents the life of Santa Claus in a postapocalyptic world. That laid the groundwork for his highest profile work, a run on Deadpool with Duggan launched as part of Marvel NOW! that lasted 45 issues, from 2012-2015. With humor perfectly suited for the Merc With a Mouth, Posehn and Duggan’s stories used everything from zombie presidents to succubus queens to create the longest single series of anyone on this list.
6. Anthony Bourdain
Gonzo chef, writer, world traveler and host of four reality shows, Anthony Bourdain seems to have been everywhere and done everything. And yet, not even his most intense cooking adventures can compare to those of the chefs in his 2014 comic, “Get Jiro!” Bourdain described the graphic novel, which he co-wrote with Joel Rose, as “a gourmet slaughterfest” about “ultraviolent food nerds.” Taking place in a near future L.A. where master chefs rule like crime lords, the Langdon Foss-drawn story focuses on Jiro, a renegade sushi chef not afraid to kill anyone who dares stir wasabi into their soy sauce.
Though a bestseller, it doesn’t seem to have just been a cash-in — Bourdain told CBR he grew up a comics nerd, collecting old EC Comics and “The Spirit” strips, and dreamed of becoming a comics artist before lack of drawing skill made him give it up. If the fact that last year he released follow-up prequel “Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi” is any indication, the dream seems to have come true anyway.
5. Scott Aukerman
Following in Posehn’s footsteps, Scott Aukerman is the latest comedian to make the leap to Marvel Comics. Unlike anyone else on this list, the fellow Mr. Show writer and performer may be best known for a podcast and a web series. The host of “Comedy Bang Bang,” which also became a TV series, and co-creator of “Between Two Ferns With Zack Galifianakis” has never been afraid to generate bizarre comedic bits from his comics knowledge, and now he’s doing the same in the comics themselves.
Aukerman started small in 2015, with a five page backup story in “Deadpool,” and followed it with a ten pager in an issue of “Secret Wars Journal.” While he’s still going slow, he recently wrote his first full issue: “Spider-Man/Deadpool” #6. The issue, which features Deadpool in Hollywood attempting to produce a movie about his life, was one we quite enjoyed, so let’s hope that it’s just the beginning.
4. Samuel R. Delany
One of of the greatest writers ever to write science fiction, Samuel R. Delany is truly unique. The author of boundary pushing (and totally insane) SF classics like “Babel-17” and “Dhalgren” was for years the only high profile black, gay writer in the genre. The prolific creator, also known for nonfiction like “Times Square Red, Times Square Blue,” an acclaimed work of urban studies, had a brief comics career, too.
Unfortunately, it was mired by various obstacles. First was a planned six-issue run on, believe it or not, Wonder Woman, in 1972. The highly political series was supposed to feature a battle to defend an abortion clinic, but was canceled after two issues, supposedly over complaints that Wonder Woman had abandoned her traditional costume (though the change happened before Delany). In 1978, “Empire,” his graphic novel drawn by Howard Chaykin, was permanently mangled by a publisher who physically cut up the art in order to change the ending. So let’s be thankful that he finally got a comics break in 1990 with graphic novel “Bread & Wine,” drawn by Mia Wolff, which tells the story of Delany’s relationship with his partner Dennis.
3. Roxane Gay
No one was expecting Roxane Gay to write a Marvel comic, but when the writer of acclaimed essay collection “Bad Feminist” and novel “An Untamed State” was suggested by Ta Nehisi-Coates to write Black Panther spinoff “World of Wakanda,” she made history as the first black woman to be the lead writer of a Marvel Comic (It’s about time!)
While the first issue, co-written with Coates, isn’t out at the time of this list’s publication, it has the potential to be Marvel’s next breakout hit. Starring the Dora Milaje, Wakanda’s all-women fighting guard, and featuring a backup story by poet Yona Harvey on Zenzi, a female revolutionary, the series will feature art from Alitha E. Martinez and rising star Afua Richardson. Gay describes it as “the most bizarre thing [she’s] ever done … in the best possible way,” and promises to make the most of her chance to write black women and queer black women into the Marvel universe, with a little inspiration from “Scandal” along the way.
2. CM Punk
In his nine-year WWE career, CM Punk was a unique presence. The wrestler set himself apart with his straight edge lifestyle and anti-establishment persona, and also by being a massive comics fan, as made clear by his entrance line: “It’s clobberin’ time!” After leaving the WWE at the height of his popularity in 2014, fans weren’t sure what Punk would do next. And while he eventually joined the UFC, he began another career as well, writing a story in “Thor Annual” #1.
That was just the beginning of Punk’s plan to become to become a full time Marvel writer. This year, he launched “Drax,” co-written with Cullen Bunn, which models the Guardian of the Galaxy’s latest quest to slay Thanos on the structure of a road novel. The series, currently on issue 11, is illustrated by Scott Hepburn, and features what is probably some of the most well-researched brawling in comics. Of course, he’s not just a Marvel writer: Punk also had a story in Vertigo’s “Strange Sports Stories” collection last year.
1. John Lewis
As both a key figure in the Civil Rights Movement and U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district since 1987, John Lewis has done quite a bit with his life. He’s even made comics! “March,” a three volume graphic novel series written with Andrew Aydin, recounts the story of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement through Lewis’ eyes, including as chairman of the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), which helped organize the 1963 March on Washington.
“March,” released from 2013 to 2015, quickly became an award-winning bestseller, and could potentially join the very small list of comics read in schools alongside “Maus.” Interestingly, the series was inspired by a much older comic. “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story” was published in the 60’s by a pacifist group called the Fellowship of Reconciliation, which hoped to show how the Montgomery Bus Boycott successfully used nonviolent protest. It succeeded, when the comic inspired Ezell Blair, one of the Greensboro four, who helped begin the North Carolina sit-ins protesting segregation. While only time will tell if “March” can have the same effect, it’s a noble goal for a comic to have.
Any celebrities you’d like to see try their hand at a comic? Sound off in the comments!
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