Although mainstream comic publishing is built on characters and brand names, the importance of creators has been one of the keys to its success. Since the early 1990s, talented creators have served as fonts of ideas as well as big draws for sales. And with the competition between DC and Marvel reaching to new heights in the build-up to "The New 52," comic creators are being snapped up left and right into exclusive agreements and put to work. But amidst all of this, there remains a number of talents that haven't been drafted. They might simply prefer to work on their own outside the Big Two or are just waiting for the right offer. I'm going to list creators who could make a big difference if they chose to go to Marvel or DC.
Let me preface this to say that I'm avoiding mentioning some creators due to the fact that they're generally considered as not looking for work from Marvel or DC. I'm talking about creators like Alan Moore, Brian K. Vaughn, Robert Kirkman, Mike Mignola, Joss Whedon and the like.
Joe Hill: Joe Hill is many things to many people. For comics readers he's the co-creator of the IDW epic Locke & Key; for novel readers he's the writer of Horns and Heart-Shaped Box; for Stephen King, he's his son. With all of that, Joe Hill could be a potent force if DC or Marvel would choose to go the lengths to get him on board. Hill is no stranger to super-heroes; he wrote a story for Marvel's Spider-Man Unlimited years ago, and did the recent series The Cape for IDW. Imagine him in the city limits of Gotham or perhaps showing up in Marvel's version of Hell's Kitchen.
Cosmo White: Although his name is unknown to most audiences, the advance art from Com.X's Blue Spear has drawn me back multiple times for repeat viewings. He's done a handful of British small press comics, as well as some issues of Titan's Transformers series but he's yet to make a name for himself. Check out this interview I did with him and the writers of Blue Spear for a preview of his work.
Nate Simpson: An overnight sensation if there is one, Nate Simpson's Nonplayer series was one of the quickest sellouts in recent memory when you consider his lack of prior published comics work. His gamer comic was sold as a potential movie franchise, but speaking to the comics itself Simpson could be a viable player for both the Big Two as both a writer and artist.
John Byrne: He's arguably one of the biggest comic creators of the past 50 years, but after turning his back on Marvel and finding few options at DC he's staked out new territory at IDW doing licensed books like Star Trek and Angel as well as reviving his own creator-owned series Next Men. But if behind-the-scenes turmoil could be put aside, a return to the Big Two for John Byrne could be bigger than Neal Adams' Batman: Odyssey and Howard Chaykin's return to Marvel combined.
Brian Wood: He's one of the strongest independent voices that's emerged from comics in the past 10 years, but also one that's largely avoided work-for-hire and licensed comics until recently. After he was famously dropped from writing Supergirl for "The New 52," he's announced himself as a free agent and has announced new creator-owned projects as well as licensed comics work for Lord of the Rings as well as Supernatural. Wood himself says he's in a new place for his career and open to work-for-hire possibilities, and did an amazing job revitalizing Wildstorm's DV8 series. What could he do next?
What about you -- who are some comics talent that Marvel and DC haven't pulled into their orbit but should?