Comic creators come and go, but it's the ones who stick around and become veterans who tend to make the biggest mark on the industry. Some work continuously in comics while others take a hiatus from the business and then return later: Jack Kirby did it, as did James Robinson, Alex Toth, Brian K. Vaughn and others.
One of the most recent big splashes by a returning veteran has been Greg Capullo, who took a hiatus from comics in the 2000s after making a name for himself on Spawn, X-Force and Quasar. In 2009, he limbered up working on Image's Haunt and sealed the deal when he jumped to DC Comics in 2011 to relaunch Batman with Scott Snyder. That got me thinking: Are there other creators floating around on the outskirts of comics, or outside of comics completely, who could pose a formidable force if they returned to comics -- and more importantly, if the comics industry knew how to use them? It's with that in mind that I compiled this list.
1. Mike Zeck. This Pennsylvania-born artist was an absolute beast in the late '70s and '80s, turning in monumental runs on Captain America, G.I. Joe, Deathstroke, The Terminator, Spider-Man and Punisher. He went on to draw one of Marvel's biggest series of all time in 1984's Secret Wars, and became a trusted hand in the '80s and '90s. After doing the creator-owned book The Damned, Zeck took a step back and began focusing more on licensing work for DC, Marvel and others. He remains prolific to this date (as seen with his postings on his website), but for one reason or another hasn't been given the ball in terms of big projects at DC or Marvel. Maybe he doesn't want it, but this fanboy's idle mind hopes that's not the case. Imagine Zeck being put to work on one of DC's Batman titles, or perhaps maybe as one of the Avengers Vs. X-Men artists. To borrow a phrase from Stan Lee and DC, just imagine ...
2. Steven T. Seagle. Seagle has drifted in and out of the comics industry on many occasions, but with good reason. With his cohorts in the writing squad Man of Action he's had unprecedented success writing for animation on things like Ben 10 and Generator Rex. Call me a fool, but Seagle has something special when it comes to comics; whether it be the unique bent on Superman with It's A Bird... to thrilling indie work like Kafka and Soul Kiss. He may not fit into the easy mold of a mainstream writer, but then again he's writing material for an audience that dwarfs comics with Ben 10. And as a comic fan, I'd love to see him come back.
3. Barry Windsor-Smith. For a lot of comic fans, Barry Windsor-Smith is best known for "Weapon X," a multi-part story-arc that ran in Marvel Comics Presents and served as a building block for the anti-hero. But Windsor-Smith (or BWS) is much, much more than that. From Conan to Machine Man to Valiant, BWS is an under-appreciated icon in the industry. In the past dozen years, he's been mostly absent from comics, sporadically contributing covers and pin-ups with hints of new work. He's spoken in interviews about several unpublished story arcs, like a Superman graphic novel, a Thing graphic novel and even a book for Vertigo called Monsters, but those seem like fever dreams after all this time. At 63, he may not be inclined to resume the grueling daily schedule of a comics artist, but I imagine BWS could assume a great featured-attraction role like John Romita has.
4. Chris Claremont. He may have not created the X-Men, but Chris Claremont is the one who made them who they are today. But now in 2012 he's on the outs with comics completely; when I interviewed him in January, Claremont said he hadn't written a comic in more than a year, which would have been 2010 at that point. Bleeding Cool quoted him earlier this year as saying he's still under an exclusive contract with Marvel but hasn't been offered, or invited to pitch, any new work. Rumor is that it's part of a legacy deal because of his contributions to the X-Men, but surely there's a place for Claremont at Marvel, or somewhere else in comics. Maybe X-Men Forever isn't the answer, but it seems as if the comic industry doesn't know what to do with Claremont -- much in the way, unfortunately, it viewed Jack Kirby in the 1980s.
5. Jamie Hewlett. I spoke earlier this year about my despondence over the lack of major comics work from Tank Girl co-creator Jamie Hewlett, and that sentiment still stands. Trying to speculate what a comic comeback for Hewlett might entail, imagine if he came back full-force with an Image series akin to the way Brian K. Vaughan returned with Saga. Boom!
6. Travis Charest. It must be daunting being so talented, especially if everyone around you knows it. Charest skyrocketed into comics as a protege of Jim Lee and became a modern-day Drew Struzan with his run on Wildcats and the Wildcats/X-Men crossover. But since then, it's really tough to say. In the past five years he's been restricted in the U.S. market to producing covers for Dark Horse's Star Wars line and various pop-in visits to Marvel books like the recent Spider-Men #5 variant, but Charest seems like a guy who needs the right schedule to produce work. Maybe he's like a Marlon Brando, who in his later life rarely appeared in movies, yet certain directors took chances and organized their schedule to accommodate his needs in return for his talent. But just imagine if Charest were given enough time to do a succinct Captain America run or perhaps a guest issue on Wonder Woman. Or best of all, what if his webcomic Space Girl were given the funding for him to work on it more diligently.