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2014 Top 50 Comic Book Writers #6-4

Here are the next three artists 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.).

6. Chris Claremont – 2181 points (53 first place votes)

Chris Claremont and John Byrne combined for an epic run on the X-Men that finished with a stunning sequence of stories back-to-back-to-back - The Proteus Saga followed by The Dark Phoenix Saga (two issue break) followed by Days of Future Past ending with the Kitty Pryde story where she fights a demon alone in the X-Mansion. Their run ended in 1980. The very tail end of their run had finally moved the X-Men (which was not even a monthly book when Byrne started on it, partially because sales weren't high enough to warrant it and partially because the previous artist on the title, All-New, All-Different X-Men co-creator Dave Cockrum, couldn't keep up with a monthly schedule at the time) right to top three best-selling Marvel titles. Then Byrne left. That was 1980.

Chris Claremont then wrote the book for the next ELEVEN YEARS, in which he took the book to #1 on the charts where he kept it there for the rest of the 1980s and into the 1990s. During this time, he launched multiple spin-off titles, only one of which was not initially written by him (X-Factor). If you counted JUST his runs on the spinoff series, his New Mutants run with Bill Sienkiewicz, his Excalibur run with Alan Davis and his Wolverine mini-series with Frank Miller are all highly acclaimed runs. And those are just the SPIN-OFFS!

All told, he wrote the X-Men from late 1975 until 1991. And his last storyline just so happened to start off with THE HIGHEST SELLING COMIC BOOK OF ALL-TIME. So this guy is on a book for nearly two decades and not only maintains the popularity of the book the entire time, he INCREASES the popularity of the book and then leaves right after setting sales records (over disagreements with editorial, who he felt were taking over too much control of how he was writing the stories).

Let's look at just a handful of classic Marvel moments that were written by Chris Claremont...

In Uncanny X-Men #173, just two issues after Rogue was introduced as the latest member of the X-Men and she was not particularly well-received, Chris Claremont and Paul Smith made their move on making her one of the more popular X-Men characters. The X-Men travel to Japan for Wolverine's wedding. The Viper poisons their drinks, leaving only Wolverine and Rogue together to stop the Viper and the Silver Samurai (Storm is off on her own little adventure, as well). When the Viper is about to use her powerful ray gun to kill Wolverine's fiancee, Rogue shows that she DOES have the instincts of a hero, as she leaps in front of the blast to protect Mariko. Wolverine is shocked and impressed by her actions, so much so that he is willing to let her use her power absorption (on skin contact) power to gain his healing powers so that she can live (healing powers Wolverine really needed at that point as he had been injured in the battle, as well). It's such a wonderfully constructed sequence...

X-Men #100 has an awesome ending where the X-Men have rescued their captured friends and escaped from a space station but their space shuttle has been damaged enough that no one can pilot it without dying, as there is a solar flare going on. Jean Grey pulls a Skurge and volunteers for the mission, pulling the information on how to fly the shuttle from the astronaut who piloted the X-Men to the space station. Jean uses her powers to try to keep the radiation out but by the time the issue ends, it seems like her powers are failing and she is getting a full dose of radiation (similar to the cosmic rays that hit the FF).

The next issue shows the shuttle crashlanding (but at least all in one piece) and then we see what happened to Jean...

In X-Men #134, the villain known as Mastermind had used his powers of deception to slowly corrupt the Phoenix so he could use her to become a King of the Hellfire Club. Eventually, her X-Men teammates rescued her from his clutches, but he had messed with her head so much that she was too far gone - he had effectively turned her evil, which was dramatically revealed to her teammates while they were flying her home...

In X-Men #170, the X-Men run afoul of a group of underground mutants known as the Morlocks (made up of mutants who can't "pass" as human like Storm, Colossus and Kitty Pryde) have first kidnapped Angel and then Kitty Pryde, as well. Storm, Colossus and Nightcrawler go to help their friends (they were a little short on team members at the time as Cyclops and Wolverine were both away from the team). They soon find themselves stuck with only one way out - someone has to fight the Morlock leader to the death in a knife fight.

Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaang.

I know that that sequence is mostly remembered for Paul Smith's artwork (the knife catch? DAAAAAAAAAANG), but

A. Claremont is KILLING it with the set-up and the dialogue ("I never thought you'd actually do that" and Storm is all, "Neither did Callisto. That was her mistake." Daaaaang!)

and, most importantly,

B. Something Claremont did throughout his run - he totally embraced his artists. He would let a lot of them become co-plotters (or, in the case of John Byrne, sole plotter at times) and cater the book to their respective styles, which helped to keep the book fresh from the mid-70s to the early 1990s.

Since he left the X-Men, Claremont has written a ton of comics, including a creator-owned series for DC Comics called Sovereign Seven, as well as a number of returns to Marvel and the X-Men since 2000. He is currently writing a strong series for Marvel starring Nightrawler (which is sadly coming to a close soon).

5. Stan Lee – 2234 points (85 first place votes)

Stan Lee started working for Timely Comics in the early 1940s, ultimately becoming Editor-in-Chief, a title he would hold for the next thirty years (not counting a brief stint in the military during World War II).

Lee practically was a one-man writing crew for Timely Comics during the 1950s, when they changed their name to Atlas Comics. By the 1960s, he and his skeletal crew of artists had devised a fairly novel way of writing comics. Lee would come up with a plot and talk it over with the artist - the artist would draw the story based on the plot and then Lee would script over the drawings. That was the process put in place when the company became known as Marvel Comics, and Lee wrote a few comic books that you might have heard of (working with artists you might have heard of like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko).

Like the return of Captain America (with Jack Kirby)...

How much of a stunning example of Captain America's coolness is that? He wakes up twenty years in the future and he basically just has a quick freak out and then he pulls a Fonzie and suddenly he's totally calm.

Then, for good measure, he's like, "Hey, bunch of powerful looking folks I just met, I bet I can kick all of your asses." And then he pretty much DOES JUST THAT!

So amazing.

And Spider-Man's greatest triumph (with Steve Ditko). This scene is so famous that it has spawned a multitude of imitators. It is hard to ever beat the original, though. Spider-Man manages to get the serum that can save a dying Aunt May's life, but he's trapped under a pile of machinery in a leaking underground base of Doctor Octopus and even if he were to somehow get out of this particular situation, Octopus left behind a squadron of guards to kill him. Things look hopeless, but then Spider-Man thinks about what will happen to Aunt May if he lets her down or what Uncle ben would say and, well, he gets an extra reserve of strength...

And those are just two of the most famous comics scripted by Stan Lee! He scripted a TON of other classic Marvel Comics, which makes sense, since he scripted pretty much every other Marvel Comic until 1966 or so and even then he continued on the books he really wanted to write (Spider-Man and Fantastic Four) into the 1970s. He continued to oversee the direction of Marvel Comics for a number of years after that. Since the late 1970s, Lee has been more involved in other aspects of the entertainment business (most notably Marvel Animation and TV projects), but he has found the time to write a ton of comics over the years. Even to this day, Lee, who is a week away from his NINETY-SECOND birthday, occasionally writes a comic here and there. He's a national treasure (as an aside, I never realized that Stan Lee was the same age as my grandfather. My grandfather just celebrated his SEVENTIETH class reunion of the United States Merchant Marines Class of 1944. Here's something my grandfather wrote a couple of years back about the Merchant Marines. It's actually kind of a bleak article, so be forewarned!).

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