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CSBG Archive

You Decide ’09 – Who Is Your Favorite Captain America Writer?

You know the bit – each day in October I’ll give you folks a poll question. Each poll will last four days. The results will be posted every Tuesday leading up to (and ending with) Election Day on the first Tuesday in November. Here is the master list of all questions asked so far!

Enjoy!

61 Comments

Waid brought the goods. Even a year long interruption to his run couldn’t mess things up. Yeah, it all went downhill when Ron left, but the only misstep was the convoluted way they brought back the shield.

I have to go with Mark Gruenwald. Easily the best run of any Cap writer (including Brubaker). In fact, a lot of what he set up during his run is reflected in the current Cap run, especially the use of Sharon Carter.

Mark Gruenwald didn’t use Sharon Carter in his run, Tobey.

Mark WAID did, though.

I’m not too well-read on Captain America (I have all the essentials but otherwise its just a scattering of 40s, Gruenwald, Waid and Brubaker) but from what I have read I had to vote Englehart.

Roger Stern and here’s why : there’s a scene where Cap stops a punk with a sawed-off shotgun from robbing a liquor store. Cap’s thrown his shield and he’s standing there in front of the guy. The punk thinks about shooting Cap but Cap just puts out his hand and says “Give me the gun.” The guy goes ” … take it …” and hands it over.

Second place goes to Gruenwald.

This is another tough one. I’m enjoying Brubaker’s run. DeMatteis was the writer when I began reading and he had a great tenure. I also went back to Roger Stern’s run years later and would give him second place for the Union Jack/Baron Blood two-parter alone. Mark Waid gave Cap an excellent treatment on two different occasions but I honestly haven’t read most of those issues.

I’m going with Mark Gruenwald. He was clearly a devoted fan of Cap and it showed in his stories. I continued reading the book because Gru wished he could write it “forever.” Not everyone agrees that his lengthy stint always equaled fine stories, but they were good enough for me.

Its pretty much a flip of the coin with Waid or Brubaker. *literally flips nickel on his desk*

Brubaker it is.

Tom Fitzpatrick

October 17, 2009 at 6:09 am

Waid’s the only writer I’ve ever read on any C.A.

So he gets my vote by default.

For the record, Steranko never wrote Cap. Co-plotted, yes. Drew, yes, Scripted, no.

I love what Brubaker’s sci-fi/espionage thriller take (at least until Reborn, which I’m not hating on – just doubting a little at this point), but I’ve got to go with the Gru. It’s pretty much a ten year run, right? Some of my affection for it is nostalgia – this was my childhood Cap, the version of the book that existing for my hardcore teen fandom years. But it was also all kinds of awesome, even when it seemed like it shouldn’t be. The Serpent Society (including Diamondback as Steve Rogers’ Selina Kyle), D-Man, Flag-Smasher, Scourge, The Captain/USAgent…these were all things I felt like I should be snarky about, but I also couldn’t help but love ‘em because it was good comics. I think the seeds of my love for things like Incredible Hercules or Immortal Iron Fist were planted here – superhero comics could be superhero comics and that was it’s own brand of cool. Claremont’s soap operatic angst and the beginning of what would morph into grim ‘n’ gritty coming from Miller or Moore was in vogue, but Gruenwald’s Captain America was an exciting, boy’s life adventure serial that never failed to entertain. R.I.P. Mark G, and thanks.

Robert Morales. The man got me interested in one of the few books I’d NEVER had any interest in — and with superhero titles, that’s rare since, as a kid, I tried everything. Except for Captain America. Maybe it’s a Canadian thing. But, I heard great things about Morales’s run, saw him online here and there where he seemed smart, so I picked up the first couple of issues. Damn good stuff. It’s a shame he wasn’t given a chance to tell his planned story.

Gruewald, for all the reasons S1rude pointed out. :) Though there’s a LOT of talent in that list. Others I could have voted for are Lee and Englehart .

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s tales of Cap in the 60’s were the best. Other writers would leave their mark in future years but it was all built on Stan Lee’s foundation. Excelsior!

I never cared about Captain America at all until Brubaker came along.

This one’s easy for me. Even though I’ve read and enjoyed nearly everyone on this list, the truth is that way back when I first started collecting comics (in the SEVENTIES!?!?!) I never enjoyed or understood the hype around this guy named Jack Kirby. His anatomy was all off, muscle lines looked metallic, it looked nothing like my heroes; Byrne, Adams, Golden, Starlin. Kirby was set aside with those other hacks Swan, Beck, Robinson (youth, wow!). But when I first READ Kirby, in Captain America no less, I was hooked. For sheer comicbook bombastic vernacular Kirby is KING. So over-the-top without a hint of condescension, Mr. Kirby gets my vote.

No Priest for his Captain America and the Falcon run?

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

October 17, 2009 at 9:30 am

Steve Engelhart, who really demonstrated to my mind how to use the character to his fullest potential, and actually made a political Cap work for one of the few times in the character’s post-WWII history.

Waid’s Cap is brilliant action stuff, Brubaker’s is smart thriller material, and Gruenwald’s created an enormous amount of Marvel Universe architecture, but Englhart’s Cap managed to be both timely and timeless. No contest.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

October 17, 2009 at 9:31 am

Also, I hear Steve Englehart’s not too bad, either.

This question is like sticking a knife in my heart. I haven’t seen anyone mention J.M. DeMatteis, so let me say that his run on Cap was just great. He brought back Baron Zemo II, who had previously been just a one-off years earlier, and established him as a legit Cap villain; gave us a lot of great personal character work with Steve and Bernie Rosenthal; and wrote the definitive Red Skull storyline.

Stern and Englehart also deserve a lot of credit for great runs, and Waid did some cool stuff (though his second, longer run didn’t do nearly as much for me as his first one). And I actually think Brubaker’s run is probably the best in Cap history.

For all that, I had to vote for Gruenwald as my favorite. My first issue of Cap was his second on the book, so there is some nostalgia, but he wrote some great stuff on Cap. The Serpent Society and Scourge stuff at the start were great; his replacement Cap arc is a classic; and starting with Bloodstone Hunt he wrote a good two or three years worth of top notch, fun adventures with Cap. It’s sadly true that the series went downhill later on, starting with Capwolf, but I also think #401, the Galactic Storm “day in the life” epilogue, is one of my favorite Cap issues ever. Plus, he was dedicated to the character and title like maybe nobody in comics has ever been dedicated to a series; when he died of a heart attack at such a young age, more than one commentator at the time said they believed he literally died of a broken heart from being taken off Cap, the stress and depression of his removal being too much of a strain on him.

Gru is the man.

As a P.S. My favorite Cap issue ever is v1 #248 a Stern/Byrne issue.

Wow. The only mark about Roger Stern is that his run was too short. DeMattis played up the “Mr. American Pie Cap” that reunited families a little too much. But I LOVED the Super Adaptoid, Zemo, Vermin story! Gru REALLY over stayed his welcome but the first half of his run was phenomenal. Waid had one of the best runs of the book! But the Heros reborn $hit killed his momentum. he relaunch wasn’t nearly the same level. the Skull story line the second year was alright and the double sized Cap vs Korvak that came out of it was one of the best Cap stories EVER! Bru started out good, but the Death of Cap story meandered and puttered out to 18 issues with no conclusion. it’s still puttering and I’ve lost interest.
They all have their marks against them! Hummmm Sadly I’ve never read the Engleheart run. i knowits good and has Sassy Sal on pencils so it’s a top priority. Because I can’t compare that run to the others, I’m voting for Lee And Kirby! Wham Bam Action ! Their run is PRICELESS and PERFECT! I couldn’t imagine if i was a kid and had to wait for the next TOS to get my next 12p installment.

What about John Ney Reiber? His run was short but it was somewhat controversial.

Brubaker’s run is currently my second favorite comic after Herc, and has been so consistently top notch that he got me vote. Then I read what s1rude wrote about Gru and it reminded me why I loved the series so much as a kid, and made me wish I could switch my vote. Oh well, they’re both essentially tied in my mind.

"O" the Humanatee!

October 17, 2009 at 11:23 am

I wonder how many of us have read all these writers, and what effect that might have on the results? I think I’ve read something by almost all of them, with the possible exceptions of Jurgens – whom I know from his other writing would not be my favorite – and Friedrich, who was a little before my time: it was Englehart’s 1950s Cap story that brought me into collecting comics. I confess that I didn’t last long on Gruenwald’s Captain America, for two main reasons: First, I really disliked Paul Neary’s art (which started at the end of DeMatteis’s run), especially coming as it did on the heels of Mike Zeck; in fact, Gruenwald’s run had a lot of bad-to-mediocre art. Second, I felt there was something forced about characters such as Flag-Smasher, who seemed conceived too deliberately to be Cap’s “opposite.” I prefer characters to be invented organically and spontaneously, and to let time decide which ones will be classics. (I doubt the Joker’s creators – I know there’s some dispute about who they are – sat down and said, “Let’s invent the all-time greatest Batman villain!”)

As for my favorite, I’m torn between Englehart and Stern. I was very fond of DeMatteis’s run (especially when he moved Steve to the neighborhood I grew up in and got him involved with a girl who shared my religion/ethnicity), but I don’t find it has as many memorable moments as theirs. I’m enjoying Brubaker’s run, but most of it’s not actually about Cap, at least if you mean Steve Rogers. Moreover, for me Cap is all about heart and idealism, and I don’t think those are Brubaker’s strengths. Mark Waid, a writer I generally like, didn’t really get Cap IMO: he focused on the idea of the “super-soldier” rather than the idealist who would disobey an order he thought was immoral. And his portrayal of Cap’s reaction to losing his shield was ridiculous. Cap should be self-reliant; his shield is just a tool – maybe his favorite tool, but it’s not some mystic totem that defines him.

I went with Gruenwald. The only time I ever bought the series regularly was when he was writing it. (I started with the debut of the Captain.)
I do wonder whether I should really be qualified to vote on this, though, since I’ve barely read any of the others. I think I’ve read three issues of Dematteis, and I know I’ve only read two by Kirby or Englehart. (But those two by Englehart show a lot of promise for his run.)
I’ve thought about picking up a new issues sometime– I know a lot of people rave about it– but I just can’t force myself to do it. When I found out that Bucky had been resurrected, it was just so stomach-churning an idea that I couldn’t stand the thought of actually buying an issue and letting Marvel earn any money from this travesty. It really is that horrible an idea. I don’t care how good a character the modern Bucky is– they could’ve just as easily come up with an all new character exactly like him without undoing Bucky’s death. Bucky was Captain America’s Uncle Ben– by far the most important aspect of the character was the impact his death had on the Captain. So, since I assume Brubaker was the one responsible for this, I haven’t read any of his issues, even though I know the stories may very well be great.
(I have continued to read New Avengers, though, even though Bucky-Cap has been appearing there. So far I haven’t seen anything worth caring about in the character that could justify the resurrection.)

I feel somewhat ashamed, because I always hate those people who refuse to read a series because of one little detail they hear about and they dismiss it out of hand without bothering to check it out for themselves. But I guess maybe everyone has a few things they will not stand for, and this is one of mine.

“What about John Ney Reiber? His run was short but it was somewhat controversial.”

I was actually pretty glad to see that he wasn’t even an option. His “Ice” storyline was not only terrible (it ripped off a storyline from Heroes Reborn Captain America, for God’s sake), it demonstrated a complete ignorance about the fundamentals of comic storytelling.

HATED Mark Gruenwald’s work on Cap. i love DeMatteis [‘specially with Zeck!] and once he left the title went so far downhill i could no longer read my favorite character. I did read his last storyline where Cap’s body is betraying him, and it was soooooo awful. Really, really bad. i kept hoping that it would get better and it only got worse and Worse and WORSE. When Waid came on, it was so much of a relief to be able to read my favorite character again. Plus, i love Waid’s writting.
i also loved Roger Stern’s run, along with some others, but the relief that i felt once Gurenwald left was so great i can’t vote for anyone else.
By the way, i have really enjoyed Mark Gruenwald as an editor and think that he had a great editorial touch & was sorry when he died [esp so young!]
DFTBA

I have to say that even though I don’t like his portrayal of many characters in the Ultimate universe, Mark Millar’s Cap is the BOMB!

I suppose I’m one of the few who will vote for J. M. DeMatteis.

His run truly is one of the overlooked treasures of the 1980s. A lot of great stuff.

First, he managed to humanize the Red Skull, and he did it while keeping the Skull as evil as ever (or perhaps even more evil, since he is at his most depraved and manipulative and insidious). DeMatteis’s Skull was not just some boring supervillain, he was almost like Satan at times, but with an intriguing personal backstory.

I also love how DeMatteis used Bernie Rosenthal. Let’s face it, the girl-next-door is rarely portrayed in an interesting way in superhero comics. But Bernie had so much soul, she worked pretty well to humanize Steve Rogers, and she never went into either of the annoying extremes that romantic interestes often go, she was not a weak-willed victim and she also was not a kick-ass take-charge woman. She was a person.

DeMatteis was also very brave. Introducing a gay character in the early 1980s, and making him Steve Rogers childhood friend to boot! Making it clear that Captain America is about tolerance, he never had a problem with Arnie Roth’s homosexuality, it was the Red Skull that was the gay-bashing homophobe.

And there were so many other intriguing characters introduced or re-introduced in DeMatteis’s run. Baron Zemo II, Vermin, Deathlok, Nomad, Sister Sin, Black Crow, Dave Cox…

But Cap had a lot of other great writers too. A quick assessment of the other runs:

– Ed Brubacker: I like the modern-day thriller take. I like how Bru managed to write some controversial stories in the best way possible: by slowly building up dramatic tension and earning the reader’s trust, instead of just killing off Steve and bringing in Bucky in the first issues, like Bendis would have done.

– Mark Gruenwald: There is something very likeable about Gru and his stories. He was rarely excellent, but he was often good. Once in a while he was awful. But I think he had more good stories than bad. I like the Serpent Society, Diamondback, the Flag-Smasher, John Walker/Superpatriot/USAgent…

– Steve Englehart: Excellent run, perhaps the first time Captain America had a writer that really got the idea of Cap as a living symbol for America, more than just a superhero. If there is one flaw in Englehart’s run is that he is a little too certain and smug in his liberal sensibilities. And I say this as a liberal. Englehart wasn’t big in offering a somewhat sympathetic opposing viewpoint like DeMatteis did with Jack Monroe and Gruenwald with John Walker.

– Stan Lee: Not the best stuff Stan wrote, but not the worst either. Readable. The high point must be the Sleepers stories and the one where Cap and the Skull switch bodies and the Falcon is introduced.

– Roger Stern: Pretty good run, though a little too short. Stern also got the living symbol thing, though he was less overtly liberal than DeMatteis, Englehart, and Gruenwald. Byrne’s art is always wonderful too.

– Mark Waid: I think Waid is a little overated, though his run has some excellent stories. Perhaps the greatest thing he ever did was to bring back Sharon Carter and make her a lot more interesting than she has ever been before. And he certainly made Cap more bad-ass and less whiny, though he also made Cap a bit less deep than some other writers.

– Jim Sterank: Excellent, but too short.

– Gary Friedrich: Like a lot of his superhero work, Friedrich never seemed like his heart was on the stories he told. Mostly mediocre. He was far better as a war and horror writer.

– Roger McKenzie: Mostly mediocre too, but a little better and more intense than Friedrich.

– Steve Gerber: Gerber is usually a genius, but his Cap run was just weird. And not in a good way.

– Jack Kirby: Also very weird. Kirby by himself isn’t very good at writing a human hero like Cap.

– Joe Simons, Dan Jurgens, and Robert Morales: I still didn’t read any of their Cap stories.

Even with mediocre art, Englehart’s Cap stories are very good. I bought the most recent Essentials volume, and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

Truthfully?

Mark Millar, via Ultimates.

Ed Brubaker, the first and to date only writer to get me excited about Captain America ( Mark Millar writes a much different character in the Ultimates ).

Jeph Loeb?

I have been meaning to read Englehart’s run for a while, and I’m sure he probably deserves my vote. (His Doctor Strange is pretty much my favorite comic run ever). But, since I haven’t read it yet, I had to give it to Gruenwald. Not that it was the most spectacular thing ever or anything, but… he was the Cap writer when I was a kid, and so that’s what Cap is in my mind.

I had to go with Gruenwald, although I was tempted to vote for Waid or Brubaker and sorry but Englehart doesn’t get a consideration for the way he completly ruined the Falcon and turned him from something fairly unique to a typical angry black guy in comics with the same origin that every single black male character not named Black Panther had at the time.

I don’t hate Capwolf as much as others (although there was zero reason for Wolverine to be in the storyline, and very minor reason to have Cable in there) Cap giving up the costume, Serpent Society, Diamondback(I love Diamondback) Crossbones, Scourge, Super Patriot etc. All are rememberable storylines that had a decent pacing and had the heroic inspiring image of Captain America that he is.

Waid, issue for issue I think had the best quality, but I really just remember Korvac, and the Skrull storyline as truly memorable. Bringing back Sharon was ok(she’s a great character now—and Ali Larter has to portray her in the movies if they put her in it–but she was never really as interesting as Diamondback, because the reasons for keeping Sharon/Steve apart were extremely contrived and stupid lazy writing, with Diamondback it made more sense that they had to do the Ross/Rachel dance) Waid just doesn’t have enough stories to surpass Gruenwald in my book.

And Brubakers storylines are great read, but slow as molassess(not Bendis slow, but still, the man with no name storyline actually took more than two issues for absolutely zero reasons–oops, trade paperback I guess) and of course Winter Soldier is quite possibly the best new character in the two mainstream comics in the past 5-10 years. (I know some will argue for Bob the Hydra agent or Fat Cobra–good arguments there) but again, the pacing really hurts the number of quality storylines. And of course the fact that Brubakers only villain has been Red Skull and AIM for the most part, really limits the variety of storylines.

another hard call to make for as much as i like what ed is doing now and the early run of capts creators. had to go with grunwald for he showed he understood what makes cap tick and how to make him fit into the times.

I wasn’t mentioning John Ney Reiber out of any great love for his work. I found it awful as well. I just was surprised he wasn’t mentioned because Robert Morales was mentioned and I believe his run was shorter and less controversial and impactful. Reiber after all was the first Cap writer to address 9/11 I believe and had him reveal his identity to the world, a major moment. And his run was over a year to boot.

That being said, I agree he was awful.

No Rob Liefeld? lol jk

I really did Brubracker’s take, tackled some good themes without being heavyhanded.

Maybe 3 years ago I read a big ol’ chunk of the first series — #s 260-355 or so — & really, really liked the vast majority of it. Not sure offhand who the writers would’ve been .. DeMattais succeeded by Gruenwald, mostly?

Anyway, now that I’ve completed the run back to #210 (I believe — anyway, the issue after the otherwise immortal Jack Kirby finally moved on after reducing the series to childish trash) & up through the final issue (#455), i really need to just devour the whole damned thing. And then the several subsequent series, of course skipping the idiot Liefeld’s (but I repeat myself) garbage.

Merzah the Mystic

October 17, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Englehart wrote probably the best cap story ever with the 50s cap. that gets my vote.

Grunwald is a close second. Stern probably would have been the best if his run had lasted longer (but stern was the top spiderman writer)

And yeah, Englehart ranks really high up there as well. And Stan, whose original Sleepers arc has resonated with me ever since I saw it highlighted on TV as part of those cheapjack 1966-’67 cartoon adaptations back when I was in 2nd grade. Brubaker’s been pretty good as well, though insanely overrated.

Lots of good comics there, & that’s with having probably in excess of 300 more to read, having barely touched the various series that came out between the end of the first series & today’s ongoing, not to mention the dozens & dozens I mention above having yet to read from the ’80s & ’90s (& probably at least a couple of dozen from the early ’70s). It’s hardly by happenstance that Cap is my 2nd-favorite character & comic (after only, of course, Sgt. Fury in both categories) despite my virulently unpatriotic politics.

Brubaker and Waid are probably the best of the modern age but I have a fondness for Steranko…he gave us a noir-ish Cap who smoked! :-) Joe Q wouldn’t allow that these days!

Englehart is just the all time ultimate “it” when it comes to Cap writers. For me, Brubaker is the only one who’s ever come close, mostly because what he’s doing seems to me to pay tribute to the sensibilities of the Englehart run in a pretty significant way.

My impulse vote clicked on Gruenwald, barely beating out DeMatteis. I loved J.M. ‘s return of Nomad/Ameridroid storyline, especially his use of the Red Skull, but overall Mark G. piled up memorable tales of the Serpent Society (their assassination of Modok was very intense) and Scourge, and the excellent “replacement of Cap” saga. I didn’t read much else after that, so that’s a good 100 or so issues I can’t vouch for, but the ones I read, I liked, and I especially liked the depiction of Cap’s spirit and noble character.

So Gru it is.

@azjohnson: but Cap 248 was great too. That was my first issue. Stern’s run was indeed very, very good.

The Steranko Cap smoked?!?!? Whoa, I’ve never seen that. I’ve noticed most of the Marvel heroes seemed to smoke pipes at least occasionally in the ’60s, but I’ve never seen Captain America do anything like that.

(I’m probably the only one, but I’ve always thought the Wasp should’ve smoked, at least back then. But I don’t think she ever did. I have strange ideas about how I picture some characters.)

Lobstah Johnston

October 17, 2009 at 9:12 pm

I voted Brubaker because he drew me back into Marvel comics in recent years after a 28 year absence on my part. His Captain America has the best of the old and new styles fused together. my sentimental favourite would be Englehart, although having gone back and reread most of his run I’d have to say dialogue was not his strong point.

Also, I”ll go ahead and say that Bucky should stay as Cap. I know it’s not gonna happen, but he’s a more interesting character, and the steady and endless stream of Steve Rogers WW2 strips should be enough to keep that IP cultivated while Bucky continues to surpass his mentor.

I think Brubaker’s run will be the one people will remember. Every issue I read has been amazing. Steranko’s run was too short and I liked Mark Waid’s run Pre Heroes Reborn but not post.

I know he hasn’t had a run on Cap’s solo book, and I usually hate those people who go out of their way to pick someone who isn’t on the list, but Mark Millar really is my favourite Captain America writer.

I rushed and voted for Waid thnking of the past – forgetting how much I love Brubaker’s work on Cap! Aaargh!

I read quite a lot of Captain America by now. I enjoyed the runs by Simon & Kirby (I actually have a complete reprint that Marvel put out years ago), Lee/Kirby, Kirby solo, Stern/Byrne, deMatteis and the long, underestimated Mark Gruenwald run.

Steranko’s way-too-short run was my favorite since I first read it, though. Until Brubaker came along. He impressively trumped all of those! He is the man!

Best,
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

I’ve probably read 85-90% of ’50s-and-later Capatain America.

Way more than any other series of comparable length.

And I really LIKE most of it – The only ones on the list I don’t at least kinda dig are Gary Friedrich and Ed Brubaker.

I’d call Steranko my favorite “Run,” but it’s hard for me to consider him a writer. Gerber’s my favorite writer of the bunch, but he only did a handful of middling issues. I had to look up who Robert Morales was.

But I’m voting for Englehart, for dealing with the symbol/regular joe dynamic, which is (IMO) the smartest reinvention of any major comic book character ever.

I voted for DeMatties; Englehart and Brubaker were close calls.

Oh, Gruenwald for me. The only real false note for me was Cap-Wolf (that was him, right?). Otherwise, great stuff.

I completely agree with “O” the Humanatee!’s opinon about Gruenwald’s run.

My first inclination was Steranko, but I think his tenure on the book was too short. I went with Steve Englehart for his great run, but Mark Waid and Brubaker are close behind.

I haven’t read a lot of these . . .Gruenwald bored me, Waid’s was only good in the first half, and what I’ve seen of anyone other than Kirby just feels so outdated and boring that I can’t deal. Brubaker all the way.

I went with Waid because that’s who my dart landed on (I put J.M, Brubaker, Stern, Waid, Englehart, Grunwald and Jurgens on my dart board) As a Cap fan, I found this much harder to choose than most of the survey questions so far. I found just about all their stories to be quality in the long run.

Gru over Bru.

I like Mark Waid but his tenure had that LOOK that nearly drove me away from comics. That isn’t his fault but it stops me from enjoying his run as much as I could have.

I second MCGroupy:
“Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s tales of Cap in the 60’s were the best. Other writers would leave their mark in future years but it was all built on Stan Lee’s foundation. Excelsior!”

‘Nuff said!

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