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2014 Top 50 Comic Book Writers #10-7

8. Brian K. Vaughan – 1628 points (27 first place votes)

Brian K. Vaughan has had a particularly unusual career. Unlike most famous comic book writers, he's never had an extended run on a major pre-existing title. He's done an arc on Batman and some fill-ins for Wolverine very early in his career, but Vaughan's first major work was a new ongoing series for Vertigo starring Tefe Holland, the daughter of Swamp Thing. It didn't do that well, so no one was quite expecting him to suddenly practically save Vertigo in their post-Sandman, post-Preacher state.

The concept of 2002's Y the Last Man was simple - one day, all the men on Earth die. All the men, that is, except young amateur escape artist Yorick Brown and his monkey, Ampersand. They're the only two males alive on the entire planet, and, as you might imagine, hilarity ensues.

Seriously, though, Yorick (who is freaking out because he JUST proposed to his girlfriend, Beth, over the phone when the plague hit, and she's all the way in Australia!!) is tasked to first travel to find Dr. Allison Mann, a geneticist who needs to study Yorick to discover what happened and if they could reverse it. Along with Yorick on his journey is this government agent, Agent 355, who serves as Yorick's bodyguard. Once they find Dr. Mann, the four (counting Ampersand) travel the country and the world in their mission to save the planet from dying out.

The relationship between these four characters (mainly the three human ones) forms the main focus of the series. So I'll show you a few sample pages to get the dynamic they shared on their trip across the United States. Along the way, they (and we, the reader) find out how the world has been coping with the loss of all the world's men. It's fascinating and touching stuff.

Right after Y the Last Man launched (and before it became TOO much of a sensation), Marvel brought him in for the launch of a short-lived line of comics called Tsunami. Titles included a Human Torch comic as well as two comics by Vaughan. One was a Mystique ongoing series that lasted a year. The other one was a series with artist Adrian Alphona called Runaways.

The concept of Runaways was a clever one - a group of teens (and one pre-teen) meet each other every year when their parents have some sort of meeting. When they decide to snoop around, they discover the unthinkable - their parents are supervillains!!! With this knowledge in mind, the kids decide to (wait for it..) run away, each taking something with them from their parents, whether it be Nico Minoru (Sister Grimm)'s magical powers, Karolina Dean (Lucy in the Sky)'s alien abilities, Gertrude Yorkes (Arsenic)'s pet dinosaur, Chase Stein (Talkback)'s gadgets, Molly Hayes (Bruiser/Princess Powerful)'s mutant strength or Alex Wilder's cunning and tactical abilities.

On the run, they try to both foil their parents' schemes while also trying to do some good.

While working on Y the Last Man, Vaughan then launched ANOTHER new series, this time it was called Ex Machina and it was Vaughan's take on what a superhero in the real world would appear like, as well as what would happen if a former superhero became Mayor of New York. In doing so, Vaughan gets to make points about superheroes AND politics (as opposed to politics and poker) while being ably assisted by Tony Harris' realistic artwork.

Mitchell Hundred was a civil engineer who gained superpowers by a mysterious seemingly alien object. He now has the ability to communicate with mechanical devices. He became the world's first superhero but after a short career he retired and ran for Mayor as an independent. His candidacy was going nowhere until he came out of retirement to save one of the Twin Towers during 9/11. Now a world famous celebrity, he is easily elected Mayor of New York.

The series follows his term in office, although there are tons of flashbacks. Vaughan expertly uses time jumping to inform his stories. The cast of the book is a fascinating one, from Deputy Mayor Wylie to Hundred's two closest friends, Bradbury - his head of security and Kremlin - a family friend of Hundred's since childhood that helped him become a superhero in the first place who is none too thrilled at Hundred giving up superheroics to be a politician. That is just a sampling of the many cool characters who make up Hundred's staff.

Most recently, after taking a break from comics, Vaughan launched the hit comic series Saga for Image, about (almost literally) star-crossed lovers who run off together and have a kid, contrary to what all of their family and all of their people want from them.

Here's the opening to the series, which I think encapsulates what Vaughan (and his talented artistic partner, Fiona Staples), is going for with the tone of the series...

If Brian K. Vaughan is writing a book, you know the odds are very good that the book is one of the best books on the market.

7. Warren Ellis - 1649 points (29 first place votes)

Warren Ellis had worked for some small comic book houses in the early 1990s, with the most notable result being his great Lazarus Churchyard series. After a few years, Ellis began working at Marvel, with a notable run on Hellstrom and Doom 2099. His longest run at this time, though, was on Excalibur, where he introduced the world to Peter Wisdom.

After working on a number of projects for Marvel during the mid-90s (including a memorable Thor storyline), Ellis began his longest-running project yet (issue-wise), with his creator-owned series Transmetropolitan, with artist Darick Robertson, about the journalist Spider Jerusalem.

Ellis had already been working for Wildstorm (notably on DV8), but he took his work to a whole new level when he took over Stormwatch (Stormwatch actually predated Transmetropolitan). That series led to two of the great comic book series of the late 1990s and 2000s, the Authority and Planetary (Planetary was not tied into Stormwatch, it just launched the same time as Authority).

Planetary was about a group of (this is what is on the cover of the first issue) "archaeologists of the impossible."

Essentially, Planetary explores unexplained phenomena and, if there is any practical use to mankind out of said phenomena, they extract it. The Planetary team consists of the super-strong Jakita Wagner, the "plugged-in" Drummer and the century-old Elijah Snow. The team is funded by the mysterious "Fourth Man." The first "season" of Planetary ended with the discovery of just WHO the Fourth Man is and how that revelation changes the game plan of the title for the rest of the series. Each issue of Planetary explored the concept of "what if all popular culture characters existed, in some form or another, in the Wildstorm Universe?" So each issue, Ellis and Cassaday examined a different notable pop culture figure, almost always with analogues for the characters who are not yet in the public domain (Doc Brass, for instance, instead of Doc Savage).

As the series went by, we learned that there is a group out there with an entirely different focus than the Planetary folks - this group, known as The Four (based on the Fantastic Four, naturally), wants all of the "super-science" of the world to themselves - they don't want the rest of the world to have any access to these wonders. That, and the identity of the Fourth Man, were the key points of plot development over the first 12 issues of Planetary.

Here we see Elijah Snow in battle with a member of The Four...

The revelation of WHO the Fourth Man was excellent.

In recent years, Ellis has alternated between creator-owned work for Wildstorm (and then later, Avatar Press) plus short runs for Marvel Comics, including the brilliant Nextwave (with Stuart Immonen), Thunderbolts (with Mike Deodato), Secret Avengers (with a number of artists) and most recently, a great opening six-issue arc on Moon Knight.

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