Our every four years countdown of your all-time favorite comic book writers and artists continues!
Here are the next five writers that you voted as your favorites of all-time (out of roughly 1,008 ballots cast, with 10 points for first place votes, 9 points for second place votes, etc.).
15. John Byrne – 921 points (16 first place votes)
After cutting his teeth as the co-plotter (and eventual solo plotter) of X-Men with Chris Claremont (including being the main driving force behind the classic storyline, "Days of Future Past"), John Byrne made the move to the Fantastic Four as a solo writer (as well as artist). Byrne intended to treat his run in a similar manner to what Stan Lee and Jack Kirby did on their original run - take the Fantastic Four to far off new worlds, introduce bizarre new characters, while still re-using the really notable ones like Doctor Doom and Galactus (and yes, Diablo, too), and that's exactly what Byrne did.
Soon after Byrne took over the book, he was tasked with coming up with a 20th anniversary story, and he came up with a beautiful one with the Fantastic Four trapped in a world by Doctor Doom where they did not have powers. It was quite a touching story.
Then Byrne launched into his first major storyline with the title, a major tale involving Galactus and the Avengers. Byrne introduced many different new alien races during his tenure with the book, but probably his most notable achievements were with the characters he already had, as Byrne did a great deal of character development during his run, specifically the evolution of Sue from the Invisible Girl to the Invisible Woman, having Sue become pregnant but miscarry, having Thing leave the team (to be replaced by the She-Hulk) and having Johnny Storm become involved with the Thing's erstwhile girlfriend, Alicia Masters. Doctor Doom, who is practically the fifth member of the book, also saw a number of interesting character work via Byrne, especially the story where the Fantastic Four did not even appear!
While on the Fantastic Four, Byrne got a chance to reboot Superman for DC and he leaped at the opportunity. Byrne made a number of changes (although, notably, he also did not change a LOT of the comic - there certainly were more similarities to Pre-Byrne Superman comics in Byrne's Superman than dissimilarities), including reducing Superman's power level to one closer to the 1940s Superman, making Clark Kent more of an important part of the book (including a revamped origin where Clark was more popular as a teen), eliminating Superman ever operating as Superboy (as Clark gained his powers in his late teens), making Superman the sole survivor of Krypton, making Krypton a cold, heartless planet and basically having all the various Superman villains be reintroduced by Byrne or Marv Wolfman (who began the reboot with Byrne, but soon Byrne took over writing his comic, as well).
Lex Luthor was re-envisioned as a ruthless businessman that the public thought of as a philanthropist (this take on Luthor was used in the Lois and Clark TV series). The Luthor change was one of the most notable aspect of Byrne's run, including this famous back-up scene from an early Superman issue...
Awesome villainy right there.
Byrne recently showed off his writing skills in a unique series for IDW where Byrne would create new Star Trek stories using re-arranged images from actual Star Trek episodes.
14. Brian K. Vaughan – 997 points (10 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 and Paper Girls for Image. Saga (which recently hit essentially the midway point of the run, so Vaughan and his partner on the series, Fiona Staples, will be taking a year-long hiatus before they pick back up with the series) is 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.
Paper Girls (done with Vaughan's partner on the series, artist Cliff Chiang) is about four newspaper delivery girls who get caught up in a time-traveling mystery.
There have been so many twists and turns in Saga that I always like to only share the early stuff from the series in samples. Here is the very opening of the series, which beautifully captures what to expect from the style of the story being told here...
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.
13. Garth Ennis – 1,070 points (15 first place votes)
For decades now, Garth Ennis has excelled by holding true to a simple idea - if you create a true and believable character, that character can carry a reader's interest no matter how otherwise twisted the story gets. On the flip side of that same idea is the following - even in the most outlandish and bizarre of stories can you find an approach that allows you to see the humanity of a given character.
Garth Ennis tells outlandish stories. Garth Ennis tells stories where horrible, horrible, violent things occur. However, these events do not occur simply for the sake of gore, they exist to showcase how a well-developed character can react to them.
Much of Ennis' works hang upon the friendship of two male characters, from Hitman's Tommy Monaghan and Nate the Hatt to Preacher's Jesse Custer and Cassidy to The Boys' Butcher and Hughie. However, that doesn't mean that Ennis doesn't know how to write strong female characters. Heck, his first prominent U.S. work was Hellblazer, which introduced one of the greatest love interests that John Constantine ever had (and one of the very few supporting characters ever allowed to successfully LEAVE Constantine's world), Kit Ryan.
A character I was very impressed with, though, was Carrie Sutton, of the 2009 mini-series Battlefields: Dear Billy. In Dear Billy, Ennis explores one of the lesser-explored aspects of war, the treatment of female prisoners by the Japanese. Carrie was a nurse who was captured with a group of other nurses in Singapore and after they were all raped, they were gunned down. Only Carrie survived. Carrie eventually develops a relationship with Billy Wedgewood, a British pilot who was attacked by the Japanese and stabbed so many times by their bayonets that it is shocking that he survived.
Here, though, is where Ennis gets into the disgusting yet fascinating issue of surviving rape. Billy and Carrie both suffered horrible attacks. However, as Ennis rightly notes, there is no real comparison when it comes to actually being raped. By the time the series ends, you will come to enjoy Carrie so much that the depravity of her rape feels that much more painful, that it robbed us of a woman like this.
And there, in the horrors of wartime rape, Ennis is able to find some beautiful (if horribly tragic) humanity.
That's pretty much par for the course with Ennis, which makes him one of the most fascinating writers in all of comics.