Our every four years countdown of your all-time favorite comic book writers and artists continues!
Here are the next three 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.).
6. Neil Gaiman – 1,749 points (18 first place votes)
Neil Gaiman wrote one of the most acclaimed ongoing series of the 1990s, the brilliant Sandman, about Morpheus, the embodiment of dreams. The framework of the series allowed to give Gaiman the freedom to tell all sorts of different stories and he adapted to this beautifully, giving us an epic tale broken up into smaller stories.
Very early on, Gaiman showed off his impressive way with words in a sequence where Morpheus must battle a demon in a battle of wits to secure one of Morpheus' items of powers that had been lost years earlier...
Hell was the setting for one of the greatest stories in Sandman's history, Season of Mists, where Lucifer gains his revenge on Morpheus by GIVING him hell...literally. What follows is an entertaining exploration of what the universe would be like without Hell, along with a brilliant piece of mythology work as Gaiman shows all the various other deities (like the Norse Gods and the Egyptian Gods, etc.) showing up to bargain with Dream for the rights to such prime interdimensional real estate.
To show what I mean about how varied the stories Gaiman could tell with Gaiman, he used the temporary absence of hell to tell some stories about the souls who now have nowhere to go, which led to the charming Dead Boy Detectives (two boarding school boys, one a ghost and the other tormented by OTHER ghosts until he, himself, passes) who decide to become ghost detectives.
Speaking of Death, possibly the greatest creation of Gaiman's was Morpheus' sister, Death herself...
In one of the most famous issues, Shakespeare and his actors put on Midsummer's Night Dream for actual faeries...
Gaiman WAS doing other work other than Sandman at the time, though, of course. Right around the time he was doing Sandman, he rebooted Black Orchid, which was Dave McKean's first American comic book work. Gaiman did a memorable origin story for Riddler in a Secret Origins Special. Also right around the time he was doing Sandman, he also took over on Miracleman from Alan Moore. Sadly, the story was cut short. Hopefully Gaiman takes the opportunity to finish it for Marvel. Gaiman wrote an excellent graphic novel with McKean art called The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch. Also, of course, he wrote two excellent mini-series featuring Death and he did some other Vertigo tie-ins.
Since Sandman ended, Gaiman has mostly worked (very successfully) in prose, but he has done a number of comic book stories, as well, including some projects for Marvel, a Batman two-parter and a recent return to Sandman for the creation of a "Sandman Universe" of titles for Vertigo.
5. Frank Miller – 2,363 points (22 first place votes)
After becoming a popular artist on Daredevil, Frank Miller was given the scripting reins, as well, and he did a marvelous job, making Daredevil one of Marvel's more popular titles (especially impressive considering how poorly it was selling before Miller became the artist on the book).
During the mid-80s, Miller returned to Daredevil for the most-acclaimed story in Daredevil history, the "Born Again" storyline with artist David Mazzucchelli.
The basic concept of Born Again is that Matt Murdock's former girlfriend, Karen Page, has fallen on hard times and finds herself selling Matt's identity as Daredevil for drug money. The information finds its way to Daredevil's arch-nemesis, Wilson Fisk - the Kingpin. Fisk then uses his great resources to systematically destroy Matt Murdock's life. He gets him dis-barred, he takes all of his money, everything. However, Kingpin couldn't help but go one step further, so he blows up Murdock's townhouse. Up until this point, everything had been pretty slick and subtle - this? Anything but subtle, and somehow, Kingpin ends up giving Matt a reason to fight...
What a way to start a storyline, right? So perfect.
Things get even BETTER when Murdock (in a state of near insanity along with not being in the best physical condition exactly due to not been sleeping or eating) he foolishly decides to confront the Kingpin directly. He’s been dreaming of beating the Kingpin nearly to death all issue long, figuring that he will FORCE the Kingpin to give him his life back. It does not work as the Kingpin beats him senseless and then works out plans to murder him in such a way that it looks like MURDOCK murdered a cabbie. The Kingpin then just sits back and waits for the news of Murdock's body being discovered. There's just one hitch in his plan...
Miller was brilliant the way that each issue would be dark and yet at the end, there'd be some awesome moment to give you reason to come back next month. And that's just TWO ISSUES INTO THE STORY! There is SO MUCH MORE to this story, including perhaps the coolest moment of the entire story! That's how awesome Born Again is.
So Miller continues this hot streak with Batman: The Dark Knight, with Klaus Janson (who did Daredevil with Miller), which is set ten years in the future where a retired Bruce Wayne realizes that his city needs Batman again, so he, well, returns.
Miller plays with the concept (not originated by Miller but certainly cemented by Miller) that perhaps Batman's existence draws OUT the crazies in an action-reaction deal. As soon as Batman returns, so, too, does Two-Face and the Joker. The other major characters in the story (besides Alfred) are Carrie Kelly, the teenaged girl who becomes the new Robin and Superman, whose conflict with Batman makes up the finale to the series (Superman is depicted as a servant of the United States). Just an epic story.
Miller then re-teamed up with Mazzucchelli for Batman: Year One, which tells the tale of Bruce Wayne and James Gordon, and how one man became Batman and the other became the symbol of honest cops in Gotham City (Harvey Dent also plays an important role, but Batman and Gordon's stories are the main ones in the story).
Originally, Bruce tried to be a vigilante without a costume. It did not go well. He then gets the inspiration to become the Batman. That this story was the basis for the blockbuster film, Batman Begins, is of no surprise, since Miller writes the story in a totally cinematic style, and Mazzucchelli's brilliant artwork certainly has a cinematic style to it, as well.
This is especially evident in the way that Miller uses the passage of time via calendars. Check it out in this legendary sequence from the second issue of the story, as Jim Gordon tries to get extra support to take down Batman but his superiors ignored him...
What a great use of the passage of time.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the comic is just how strong of a character Jim Gordon is in it. He truly works as the co-lead of the story. While writers certainly had done solo Gordon stories before this storyline, never had he gotten the attention Miller gave him, and a result, Gordon HAS had the same attention since. Add it all together and you have an engaging and entertaining new origin for Batman as we see him go from green vigilante to a trusted friend of the Gotham City police (as the police also go from being totally corrupt to only being significantly corrupt - a major step up!).
So check that out - in less than three years, Miller wrote three of the most-loved comic book stories of all time. That's an achievement that is still amazing to this day.
Since then, Miller has continued to have success in a variety of comics, perhaps most notably with his series of noir comics, Sin City, but also with the historic drama, 300 (which were both turned into hit films). He helped co-write a sequel to Dark Knight Returns with Brian Azzarello. That recent hit project has reinvigorated Miller and he has a lot of upcoming projects ready to go.