When a live action “Doctor Strange” can take over the box office, it’s safe to say Hollywood is now part of the comics world. From here, it just makes sense that celebrities best known for film or TV would start moving in the other direction, by creating, writing, and sometimes even appearing in comics of their own.
While a few are probably just angling for movie adaptations, others seem truly inspired by the form. Some are even really good in terms of scripting their work. Taking into account fan response, critical reception, and a special criteria we are just going to refer to as “the ability to actually get the comic released,” we’ve ranked these screen celebrities’ careers in comics, from most successful to least.
17. Joss Whedon
When it was first announced that Joss Whedon would write and direct “The Avengers” back in 2010, fans of the cult favorite creator of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly” knew Iron Man and co. were in good hands. But the item on his resume that really made him qualified wasn’t from TV at all, it was his work on Marvel’s other super team, the X-Men.
Whedon had actually made his comic debut in 2001 with “Fray,” a “Buffy” spin-off taking place in a dystopian future, and continued to work on Dark Horse’s official continuations of his shows with series like “Angel: After The Fall,” “Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Eight,” and “Serenity: Those Left Behind.” But as far as comics go, his run writing “Astonishing X-Men” towers above the rest. Whedon has never been shy about taking inspiration from the Chris Claremont era, but with the chance to write Kitty Pryde and co., and art from John Cassaday, the 2004-2008 run almost instantly joined the pantheon of greatest X-Men stories ever. And that wasn’t even his only pre-Avengers Marvel team, either. He also took over for Brian K Vaughan writing “Runaways” in 2007.
16. Patton Oswalt
Comedian, actor, and all around personality Patton Oswalt may have the highest comic-nerd percentage of any famous person in America. After all, is anyone else from “The King of Queens,” dropping references to Steve Ditko’s “Shade: The Changing Man”? The author of the most insane comics crossover idea ever is also an invested cultural critic, penning a widely shared op-ed “Wake Up, Geek Culture: Time To Die” on the explosion on the recent popularity of what used to be the provenance of nerds.
Given all that, it’s surprising he hasn’t written more comics himself, but the few he has are at least interesting pieces. Starting with the Justice League one shot “JLA: Welcome To The Working Week” in 2003, it took 4 more years for his return to comics as part of Dark Horse’s ‘The Goon: Noir” anthology. But his highest-profile comic is “Serenity: Float Out,” a continuation of “Firefly” set after the movie based around the character Wash, who, uh… let’s not talk about it. Combining the cult series with the Oswalt’s comedy style, it’s tailor-made to become one of those tie-ins that in-the-know fans will be recommending for years to come.
15. Richard Donner
The oldest member of this list, Richard Donner has also had the most influence on comics out of anyone. Way, way before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Christopher Nolan, or even Tim Burton, was the Donner-directed “Superman: The Movie,” which immortalized Christopher Reeves’ as the Man of Steel back in 1978. While studio tensions ultimately got Donner removed from the General Zod-based sequel “Superman II,” Donner did get to return to the character whose destiny he forever altered nearly three decades later with “Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut.”
Co-written by Donner and Geoff Johns, and illustrated by Adam Kubert, “Superman: Last Son” is a five-issue story arc that ran from “Action Comics” #844-847, 851, and “Action Comics Annual” #11, which makes Donner one of the few famous filmmakers to work on an already ongoing series rather than launching their own limited run. While delayed by Kubert’s health issues, “Last Son” gave Donner a chance to reintroduce Zod to DC continuity following several canon-altering crises. According to reviews, he was certainly the the right guy for the job.
14. Beth Behrs
One of the few actors on the list not associated with big geek properties, Beth Behrs’ foray into graphic storytelling was inspired by a dream from best friend and fellow actor, Matt Doyle. The “2 Broke Girls” lead co-created and co-wrote the series with Doyle, which takes place in the year 2111 after an apocalypse caused by global warming.
Released online via the the LINE Webtoon platform, the Sid Kotian-drawn digital comic is lead by Eleanor, a 14-year old girl who discovers she is one of the many superpowered twins, known as “Dents,” who are hunted by those in power. Inspired by the X-Men’s attempt to explore serious issues in comics form, “Dents” incorporates themes of sexuality, feminism, and the ailing environment via it’s heroine’s journey. And seeing as this it’s one the few actor-created comics that wasn’t instantly optioned or previously pitched for film or TV, it seems like a true passion project.
13. Max Landis
While the son of Hollywood legend John Landis has achieved a level of fame rare for screenwriters, it may be due as much to his controversial public persona as to his prolific career. The writer of movies like “Chronicle” and “American Ultra” has always let us know he has comics on the mind. In fact, the same day Chronicle was released, Landis uploaded the 17 minute video called “The Death and Return of Superman,” to YouTube.
In it, the increasingly drunk screenwriter explains how DC’s infamous “Death of Superman” storyline damaged both Superman as a character and the comics industry as a whole. The irreverent but passionate take, complete with visual accompaniment starring a cast that includes Elijah Wood (now starring in the upcoming Landis-penned “Dirk Gently” series), helped make Landis a polarizing figure, but may have also got him a comic. In 2015, Landis had the chance to write a Superman series of his own, “Superman: American Alien,” which was released to critical acclaim. He’s following it up with “Green Valley,” an Image/Skybound series about knights, and while it’s unclear if it’s official, seems determined to return to DC for something he calls “Superman: Agent of Batman.”
12. Alyssa Milano
While you may know her best from “Who’s the Boss?” and “Charmed,” did you know actress Alyssa Milano is also an outspoken advocate of internet freedom, publicly opposing bills like SOPA? Or that she wrote a graphic novel about it?
Inspired by the high-profile work of hacking collective Anonymous in 2014, Milano created “Hacktivist” with writers Jackson Lanzig and Colin Kelly, and artist Marcus To, from the concept: “what if Anonymous was one guy?” Inspired by her friend, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, the series follows a duo who, by day, run a Twitter-esque social network company and, by night, a massive hacking group called sve_Urs3lF. Consulting with actual hackers, and, in a stroke of guerilla marketing that involved making it look like her own Twitter account was hacked, it’s surprising Milano hasn’t appeared on “Mr. Robot” yet. Maybe it’s because the CW just optioned “Hacktivist” for TV?
11. Thomas Jane
Before Jon Bernthal, and before Ray Stevenson, it was Thomas Jane starring as the hero of 2004 movie “The Punisher”. But the first live action Frank Castle since Dolph Lundgren actually turned down the role twice–because he wasn’t a comics fan! In fact, it wasn’t until the producers sent him art from the comics that he became interested, and ended up reading as many Punisher comics as he could find.
The comic bug must have stuck, because a year later, he was working on a series of his own. Co-written with Steve Niles under their own Image Comics imprint, Raw Studios, “Bad Planet” was conceived from pain-induced fever dreams Jane experienced while recovering from a car accident. The six-issue series features a battle between “horrible alien deathspiders” who invade earth and an alien warrior who appears to battle them. This is Jane’s only comic, but, unlike several other actor’s comics, it was actually quite well-reviewed.
10. Quentin Tarantino
It’s probably not a shock to learn that video store-raised auteur Quentin Tarantino is also a lover of comics and wishes the current crop of superhero movies had been around when he was growing up. He’s spoken at length about his love for Marvel’s early, blaxploitation-inspired Luke Cage series, and though his own 70’s Cage movie never came to fruition, the writer/director has managed to dip his pen into comics a few times, most recently last year, when he wrote an eight-page prequel comic to “The Hateful Eight” for Playboy magazine.
Before that, though, was “Django/Zorro,” a crossover between the slave-turned-western hero of “Django Unchained,” and the classic pulp defender of the poor and indigenous peoples, Zorro. Written with Matt Wagner and illustrated by Esteve Pols, the Dynamite tie-in boasts Tarantino’s trademark historical revisionism, racial solidarity, and something unique in among the entire Tarantino canon: it’s the only official sequel to to any of his films.
9. Rashida Jones
Fresh off co-writing the first episode of “Black Mirror” season three, and doing the same for the upcoming “Toy Story 4,” Rashida Jones may soon be as known for her writing as for her acting on shows like “Parks and Recreation.” But in 2010, she was writing something else: comics.
Her five-issue Oni Press series, “Frenemy of the State,” co-written with Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir, with art by Jeff Wamester, was inspired by a source few other comics can claim: Paris Hilton. Imagining the celebrity as a secret genius with more going on than the public saw, she came up came up with the story of Ariana Von Holmberg, a wealthy young heiress who is recruited into the CIA. The series had a movie deal before it was even released, but while production seems to have stalled out, Jones was slated to co-write the script, so you never know. It’s her only comic to date.
8. Samuel L. Jackson
Samuel L. Jackson may be the only person ever to have appeared as a character in a comic before portraying them onscreen. When Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch wrote their groundbreaking series “Ultimates” in 2002, they didn’t just redesign Nick Fury to look exactly like the “Pulp Fiction” star, but literally had the character announce he wanted Jackson to play him in a movie. Six years later, “Iron Man,” specifically during that fateful post-credits scene, made the fictional Fury’s words come true.
But “Ultimates” isn’t the only comic to “star” Samuel L. Jackson. Hard as it is to remember a time when Marvel’s Cinematic Universe wasn’t the most popular entertainment property in the world, things were still totally up into the air back in 2010, which meant its stars kept their options open. So Jackson took things into his own hands, creating “Cold Space” with “Afro Samurai” writer/producer Eric Calderon and artist Jeremy Rock. Published by BOOM, “Cold Space” is set in the year 4012 and features Mulberry, a space pirate who gets caught up in a civil war on a foreign planet. And yes, he happens to look exactly like Samuel L. Jackson.
7. Rosario Dawson
As Claire Temple/Night Nurse in Marvel’s Netflix series “Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones,” “Luke Cage,” and soon, “Defenders,” Rosario Dawson will have appeared in more comics-based TV series than any actor around. Her first geek property though, came in a comic of her own. Unlike the celebs on this list who brought their idea to a publisher, Dawson was actually shown the existing pitch to “Occult Crimes Taskforce” before insisting on joining the creative process as both a writer and the face of the project instead of just the latter.
Described as “CSI meets Harry Potter” by David Atchison, who co-wrote with Dawson, the four-issue series from Image/12-Guage follows Sylvia Ortiz, a member of a special NYPD task force that protects the rights of non-magical NYC residents from their magic wielding brethren. Taking inspiration from true American oddities, like the Florida law against dogs marrying elephants, and modeling its lead on Dawson herself, the 2006 series was unsurprisingly optioned for TV by A&E in 2012. But, like many of these stars’ series-turned-shows, its future is currently unknown.
6. Seth Green
Seth Green doesn’t lack for comics cred. First coming to the collective nerd consciousness as the easygoing werewolf, Daniel “Oz” Osbourne, in “Buffy” back in the 90’s, the actor was a fitting choice to appear in Weird Al Yankovic’s “White & Nerdy” video. As a creator and executive producer of Adult Swim’s “Robot Chicken,” Green used stop-motion animated figures of everyone from Darth Vader to Batman to build its dark parodies, gaining an impressive amount of experience writing the most well-known characters in geek media.
Perhaps satisfied with pre-existing IP, Green co-created “Freshmen” with fellow “Robot Chicken”writer Hugh Sterbakov in 2005. The Image/Top Cow takes place among super-powered college freshman going by character defining names like Puppeteer, Wannabe, Intoxicator, the Drama Twins, and Green Thumb. At this point in the list, you can probably guess it was optioned for a movie in 2008 to be directed by Green himself, but as you can probably guess, this movie also has yet to be made.
5. John Cleese
Actor, comedian, writer, and producer John Cleese’s most well-known brush with comics may have been with Monty Python’s Bicycle Repairman sketch, but there is another. While the multihyphenate has only one comic to his name, it’s fittingly weird. “Superman: True Brit,” written by Cleese and Kim “Howard” Johnson and released in 2004 as part of DC’s “Elseworlds” line, is a sort of small-town British counterpart to the better known “Superman: Red Son.” Here, instead of Kansas, baby Kal-El is sent to the English town of Weston-super-Mare (which is a real town, believe it or not).
Dubbed “Colin Clark” by parents who mishear his name, Cleese’s Superman is raised to follow British values, his core philosophy being: “what would the neighbors think?” The farcical volume sees some big changes to the hero, giving him the Cyclops-esque inability to control his heat vision, a job at British tabloid The Daily Smear, and a rival who was impaled by a cricket bat named… Batman. But despite art from comics royalty John Byrne, the “Superman: True Brit” received mixed reviews for humor many Brits found cliched at best.
4. Milo Ventimiglia
Before Marvel and DC filled the airwaves, and before Netflix original series even existed, there was “Heroes.” While it can seem somewhat dated to viewers of, say, “Jessica Jones,” this “what if superheroes were real” show was one of the first serious attempts to bring superheroes into the limelight on TV. Leading the charge was actor Milo Ventimiglia, who for four seasons played series lead Peter Petrelli, and midway through the series began a comic of his own.
Admittedly, Ventimiglia wasn’t very involved in the comic itself, which was written by Mark Powers and drawn by Shawn McManus and Marco Castiello. But the series, about an aimless 20-something who becomes enmeshed in a conspiracy around a drug that eliminates sleep, was released under the actor’s Devil’s Due Publishing imprint. And, as you may expect at this point in the list, modeled its lead character on him. Its once-announced TV show adaptation remains only announced.
3. Jon Favreau
“Iron Man” may have changed the comics industry forever when it kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008, and it couldn’t have happened without Jon Favreau. The director, who also plays Tony Stark’s bodyguard Happy Hogan, was pivotal in the push to cast Robert Downey Jr., who, it’s easy to forget these days, was considered a huge risk at the time.
Riding high off that arc reactor energy, Favreau started writing a four issue mini-series called “Iron Man: Viva Las Vegas” a few months after the movie’s successful release. With art from “Iron Man: Extremis” artist Adi Granov, who also designed armor for the film, the series would recount how Tony Stark’s attempted Las Vegas vacation was derailed by a plague of lizards, who are trying to… Well, we may never know, because the series was faced with another kind of plague: delays. Eight years later, it’s still on issue two.
Tyerese most recently made comics headlines for his one man campaign to be cast as John Stewart in the upcoming Green Lantern movie, launched in response to Instagram fan art. Like many of those on this list, the “Fast & Furious” family member has more than just an acting career to his name, with stints as a fashion model, MTV VJ, and Grammy-nominated R&B singer/songwriter, so is it any surprise that the aspiring Corps member has dipped his toes into comics as well?
Unfortunately, “Mayhem,” the three-issue series he co-wrote for Image, caused more mayhem off the page than on. Beyond less-than-stellar reviews for it’s violent tale of the drug kingpin-battling title character (who looks suspiciously like Deathstroke), the project dealt with fallout from another musician turned comics pro. Percey Carey, AKA rapper MF Grimm, stepped down as the comic’s marketing director, in protest of what he called “snake oil” marketing tactics that focused more on celebrity than the actual quality of the comic. Will DC give him the chance to make amends to the comics community? We can only hope.
1. Kevin Smith
Ever since his breakout indie hit “Clerks” in 1994, Kevin Smith has been one of the most public comic nerds around. It’s only natural the writer/director/Silent Bob started writing comics featuring his own films’ “View Askewniverse” characters soon after. And yes, in 1999, he lived the dream, writing the eight-issue Daredevil miniseries “Guardian Devil” with art by Joe Quesada, and again in 2002, when he had privilege of bringing Oliver Queen back from the dead in the well-received Green Arrow series “Quiver,” which also introduced the villain Onomatopoeia to the DCU.
But the success didn’t last. Begun the same year, his next two Marvel series were plagued with delays brought on by a busy filmmaking schedule. “Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do” took three years to gets its six issues out, and his next Daredevil series is unfinished to this day. Smith did have a more productive streak later in the decade, including 2010’s “Batman: The Widening Gyre,” where Smith made the decision to retcon one of of the most iconic moments from Frank Miller’s “Batman: Year One,” to include, for real, Batman peeing himself. On second though, maybe the delays were a blessing in disguise.
Think those two Favreau issues were so good he should be higher on the list? Sound off in the comments!
- Ad Free Browsing
- Over 10,000 Videos!
- All in 1 Access
- Join For Free!