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CSBG Archive

Top Five Daredevil Writers

Top Five Month (check here to see an archive of all the top five lists featured so far) continues with a look at the top writers on Daredevil.

Enjoy!

HONORABLE MENTIONS

D.G. Chichester

I think that the bad aspects of Chichester’s run were more likely more editorial driven than anything he really wanted to do. Meanwhile, his early issues were a good deal stronger.

Gerry Conway

Fairly light fare, but still fun stuff.

Marv Wolfman

Similar to Conway’s run, although Wolfman also gave us Bullseye, which is worth an honorable mention just on that alone!

Karl Kesel

Personally, I’d have him on the top five if I were just going by my own personal views, but I have to admit that in the context of critical history…

5. Ann Nocenti

Nocenti’s run has fared better, critically. In addition, she recently wrote a very good story in Daredevil #500, which was really impressive given her time away from the book.

4. Stan Lee

It’s amazing how long Lee wrote Daredevil. He was on the book for nearly four years!!! He co-created the character and wrote some excellent issues, none more famous, likely, than this one with Daredevil vs. Namor.

3. Ed Brubaker

Brubaker’s run certainly had some flaws (mostly the utter bleakness of it all), but it was still an extremely well-constructed, well-told series of stories.

2. Brian Michael Bendis

Bendis and Brubaker had very similar runs, but I think Bendis likely had a bit more freedom in constructing his run, and as a result, came away with a slightly more cogent overall arc. Still, to go from Bendis to Brubaker is pretty amazing for a comic book title.

1. Frank Miller

Heck, if we just went by “Born Again,” Miller would fight for the top spot, but we also have his exemplary first run on the title (plus the strong mini-series, Man Without Fear).

That’s the list! Agree? Disagree? Any fans of the Gerber issues? Or the Roy Thomas stint on the book? Or Kevin Smith? David Mack? Let me know!

55 Comments

I didn’t know Frank Miller worked on that 300th issue, but yes I agree with his spot on the list

A friend of mine and I were arguing if any one writer had broken free of the confines of what Miller had done. He claimed that no one has and that made him stop buying the book 15 years ago.

I told him that Brubaker, Bendis, and at times Smith did some new, original things with their stories and with new characters but he wholeheartedly disagreed.

I definitely feel Kevin Smith should have gotten an honorable mention, if for nothing else than taking a book struggling in sales and thrusting it to the top tier of the industry, where it has basically remained in the dozen years since. Plus Smith’s run launched Marvel Knights, and by extension, the Quesada era at Marvel, which are both extremely notable events from a historical perspective.

I didn’t know Frank Miller worked on that 300th issue, but yes I agree with his spot on the list

He didn’t, that was a coding mix-up. Fixed now! Thanks!

Steve Gerber deserves an honorable mention, but probably not a spot in the top 5.

I like it when I can guess the list before glancing at it. I completely forgot about Stan Lee, had Nocenti at 4 and Wolfman at 5. Personally I’d take Brubaker’s run over Bendis’s but Bendis makes better sense at 2. Thanks for all the lists.

I would bump Kesel up to the list proper, just for being the only one in the last thirty years to have the balls not to ride Miller’s coattails.

I will rail against Bendis Avengers all day long, but you won’t hear a peep from me about this one. The man writes one hell of a Daredevil comic.

Well Miller’s definitely my no. 1, but I always seize the opportunity to bring the love for Denny O’Neil’s run between the two Miller stints, especially his done-in-one issues with Mazzuchelli which include my favourite takes on Two-Gun Kid, Jester, Vulture, and even the Beyonder! Not “ground-making”, maybe (except the Vulture issue in a literal sense), but still very solid, entertaining comics.

I would put Kesel at number four, but yeah, good list.

Someone mentioned Kevin Smith, and it’s a shame, because he pulls the old “WIR” within the story, makes DD nearly fail against a 2nd-rate Spidey villain, and generally contributes nothing all that meaningful to Daredevil at all. Plus, Quesada’s art is cartoonish and goofy; there, I said it.

This is dated two days ago, but it only appears now?

I’m glad to see Gerry Conway and Marv Wolfman on here, and of course The Man. Miller wrote some great stuff, but sadly it’s caused people to ignore the fact that there was once a lighter, more optimistic Daredevil series. There are great stories in tragedy, but not if it goes on for years and years. Someone really needs to bring back the fun Daredevil– the dark stuff can still happen, but it should only be occasional.

I love that you put Brubaker in at number 3. A lot of people found his run lackluster, but it was mostly because he followed Bendis. His opening arc is my second favorite DD story after Born Again.

I would rate Ann Nocenti as a better Daredevil writer than Frank Miller. As others have observed elsewhere, Miller totally wrecked the status quo of the book with “Born Again,” but then he immediately walked away from the title, leaving it up to someone else the difficult task of figuring out “Okay, what next? Where do we go from here?” That someone was Nocenti, and she did a brilliant job. She also created some very interesting villains, especially Typhoid Mary. She worked social commentary into her stories in a manner that was very ahead of its time. And, to top it all off, against all odds she managed to make what you would think would be a totally ridiculous concept, namely Daredevil vs Mephisto, work absolutely brilliantly on so many levels, crafting one of my all-time favorite comic book stories.

Good list!

I’d put Ann Nocenti at 3, probably. With Ed Brubacker at 4 and Stan Lee at 5. Otherwise, very good.

Roy Thomas and Steve Gerber both deserve honorable mention.

I think Roy Thomas (and not Frank Miller) was the first to do a “dark” Daredevil. Of course, that was in the early 1970s, so his darkness still had some science-fiction stuff, but he had DD as a somewhat noir hero from early on. And Karen Page discovers DD’s identity on his run.

Good list. I’d rank Smith and Gerber above Chichester on the honorable mention list, but the top five is just right.

yeah id put stan lee at 5 or on the HM list

I’d give Gerber, Thomas, Smith, & Mack honorable mentions.

Also, Ann Nocenti should be number 2. While preachy at times, it was both more entertaining and deeper than anyone else’s. Bendis had a good run, with a serious dip in quality between issues 50 & 75 or so. Brubaker’s run started great, but ended poor. The Mr. Fear story seemed to go on forever with no real resolution.

Nocenti wrote highly original comics, with a focus on characterization. The Typhoid Mary & Mephisto issues rank among DD’s best. Her last story put a new spin on the Daredevil/ Bullseye relationship. Her writing had its flaws (including too many “relevant” issues, although she wrote them better than most comic book writers), but her Daredevil comics stand out even against other quality work on the title.

Kesel should be, at the least, in number five. He brought DD back to what he was originally.

I’d rate Bendis lower. He did write good Daredevil stories, but almost all of them were copies of ideas that Frank Miller did 20 years earlier. We had someone find out DD’s secret identity, we had a kid being affected by a fight between DD and a bad guy. All stories that Miller did first, and better, 20 years previously.

I would also rate Kesel in the top 5. He was doing some great stuff in a very low period at Marvel. Who to remove from the top 5, though?

Umm, not a single mention of Roger McKenzie. I loved his run with Miller.

I’d drop Conway entirely, seeing as how his ludicrous “furute robot psychics” crossover story almost got this book and Iron Man canceled.

And another vote for Kesel being ranked a lot higher. Joe Kelly might deserve some kind of mention too.

Yeah, and McKenzie deserves some mention. He plotted the first few Miller issues and co-plotted the famous Punisher two-parter.

My favourite DD writer was Nocenti. While Miller did good Daredevil stories, he didn’t do a good series (if that makes sense.)

Theno

I’m amazed that in all this talk of Nocenti, nobody has mentioned yet that she had Daredevil beat Ultron to death with a stick.

That ranks pretty high among my favorite DD moments ever.

It’s yet ANOTHER strong list – good topic, good choices. Thanks, Brian!

Tweaks I don’t insist on: I too would give Denny O’Neil an honourable mention, and put Ann Nocenti at #2. And would Harlan Ellison be the outstanding DD writer who only did one issue? :D

Say, does that spark a potential category: best issues done by creators who only did one issue of that character? I’d nominate the Barry Windsor-Smith Iron Man (#232?) in a flash!

I’d have put Kevin Smith in the top five. I definitely agree with your top three though.

I’ve only read the first 250 issues or so (I have all but maybe 3 or 4 of them) and I’d put the writers (that I remember) in this order (from worst to best):

Tony Isabella – A truly awful multi-part story around issue 120 with Silvermane, his son Blackwing, Hydra and other forgettable things.

Gerry Conway – I’ve never been a fan of his writing. He was quite young at the time and his grasp of plausible science was non-existent. He actually may have had a few good concepts but the execution always left a lot to be desired.

Denny O’Neill – His writing for Marvel was really boring. I quit collecting the book during his run and I loved Daredevil more than any other character.

Stan Lee – There were a few good issues. The origin is great. The Masked Marauder ones are very good. But overall, I don’t think he ever got going with the character.

Roy Thomas – No consistency. Every time things seemed to get interesting it would go back to directionless fluff again.

Steve Gerber – His reign is divided into two parts. His first half was terrible. Science Fiction-based monsters and just boring stories. His second half was really interesting. The Mandrill story and the Man-Thing/first Death Stalker story were great fun, but then he left abruptly.

Jim Shooter – He was the writer when I first started collecting the title. So, I may like these stories better than they really are because of the nostalgia. I think it is a solid, short run.

Marv Wolfman – His first issues featuring Copperhead were, in my opinion, the best ones in the title up to that point (issues 124 and 125). Unfortunately, he also had some absolutely terrible issues. Uri Geller anyone?

Roger McKenzie – Wonderful bridge between old-style DD and gritty DD.

Frank Miller – You had to be there at the time to realize why his run was so great. It was different from anything that had come before in super hero comics. The 30 (sometimes 60!) days in between issues was painful. Forever changed the character and comics. Maybe not for the better, but that’s another story.

I have to give an incomplete to Ann Nocenti. I have a few of her first issues and I don’t like them, but maybe she needed more time. I understand that she seems to be very well liked by many DD readers.

As for one issue writers, Bill Mantlo did a real fun done-in-one story featuring the Gladiator and the Beetle. I think that fill-in issues were Bill Mantlo’s strength. He could really be counted on to produce a 17-page fun story back in the late 1970s. Also Alan Brennert wrote an excellent issue somewhere around issue 200. A dark themed story that really got my attention.

I hope I didn’t forget anyone! I’m doing this all from memory.

Another list I wouldn’t disagree with in your choices or how you ranked it.

I do think David Mack deserved an honorable mention though. The first Echo story was remarkable and I was quite disappointed at the time that he wasn’t going on to become the new regular writer on Daredevil– of course that opinion changed after I read Bendis’ first arc!

I wasn’t there at the time so I’ve always thought that Nocenti was a much better Daredevil writer than Miller, but he’s clearly more influential.

I agree that Kevin Smith should have gotten an honorable mention. Whether you loved or hated his take on Daredevil, his run is without a doubt historically significant.

I’d put Ann Nocenti before Brubaker, and Kevin Smith deserves a Honorable Mention because his short run really brought the spotlight BACK to DD.

People say Kesel was the only writer that didn’t follow Miller, but Ann Nocenti was pretty different from Miller, even though she was dark too.

And I loved how she included characters like Mephisto, Ultron, the Inhumans, the Human Torch, and made them work.

I’d put Karl Kesel at # 3 behind Bendis and Miller. Actually, Kesel’s run is the only one I actually enjoyed and bought regularly, but it’s hard to argue with Bendis and Miller at the top spots.

I don’t think Brubaker should be that high. I’d put Nocenti at three, and I think I’d put Chichester at 5.

No love for Joe Kelly’s brief but fantastic run!? For me it was Okay, I know in a critical context it can’t be top five, although it’d be in MY top five on personal taste… but surely it deserves an honorable mention.

I will always show love for Karl Kesel’s excellent, excellent albeit far too brief run on Daredevil. Thanks for highlighting it.

No Kevin Smith? It really is a good arc that he did. She should get an honorable mention.

Kesel’s run is good, from what I remember. Plus, he had Cary Nord and Gene Colan drawing it! Hells yeah.

I dig the one issue of Nocenti that I’ve read, which is 264, a one off with art by Ditko. It’s touching.

Chichester was decent. What’s he doing now?

From what I know, the Kevin Smith run ended Kesel’s run, killed off a major character just…cuz, had a Spidey villain kill himself, but appear again in a month or 2 in a Spidey book, and was only, what, 8 issues? Although due to delays, I believe he was on the book for 5 years, right? :) But then, I’m not a big Kevin Smith fan anyway.

Stan Lee probably stayed on so long because, as I believe I read in an interview (or Wizard piece) with Bendis, DD was Stan’s fave character. Not sure how true that is.

Born Again is probably my favorite DD story (along with man Without Fear) but my favorite run is definitely Ann Nocenti’s! Yeah the preachiness could be annoying at times, but overall she did fantastic character-driven work. I’m kinda surprised at all the -much deserved- love she’s getting here, I thought her run was very underrated.

Nice list, but never understood the Nocenti love. Some interesting story lines and directions for the character that hadn’t been done before, and was very insightful in her stream of conscious style of writing. But I think her biggest weakness was the dialogue she wrote. Often overly verbose, and unrealistic. Never seemed to me that she wrote dialogue that would actually sound like something someone would say.

Tom Fitzpatrick

October 3, 2010 at 11:06 am

I really can’t comment on those whose works that I haven’t read (ie. Wolfman, Conway, Stan Lee) on the title, but those that I’ve read have been mentioned or on the top 5, with the exception of Kevin Smith and David Mack.

I’m curious as to why you didn’t think they rate at all or even weren’t mentioned on the list.

Not even Bob Gale?

nice list, i’ve been a Daredevil fan for almost 30 years now and have to pretty much agree with your choices, although in all honesty i’d rank Nocenti in a tie for #1 with Miller. Miller definitely took the character and shook up the status quo showing us he can be darker and more serious, but it was Nocenti who actually used that to show DDs daily conflicts & triumphs.

I love all the Nocenti attention. She told more story in her run that Bendis and Brubaker’s combined. She managed to have Matt interact with every aspect of the MU, told brilliant “street” dark and gritty crime stories.
Barry Windsor-Smith, Sal Buscema, Todd McFarlane, Rick Leonardi, Keith Giffen, Steve Ditko, Greg Capullo, Lee Weeks, Kieron Dwyer, 30 of JRjr’s best artwork of his career, 44 issues of Al Williamson inks, and the single greatest comic Mark Bagley has ever drawn. (and outside of the first 20 issues of New Warriors, the only art of his I’ve ever liked)
Nocenti worked seamlessly in many crossovers, often telling some of the best side line stories of events. The Silver Surfer gets a beautiful intro splash page and a perfect narrative character summery.

Bendis’ run was execrable – I still have no idea what people see in this hack, especially when he’s doing his Mamet-cum-90210-meets-superheroes schtick for Marvel – but I agree with the rest of the top 5. I would have dropped Bendis from the list entirely and bumped everybody else up one slot, including Kesel in the ranked list.

As a longtime Daredevil fan (since the late 70s), here’s my list:

1 – Frank Miller
2 – Ed Brubaker
3 – Ann Nocenti
4 – D.G. Chichester
5 – Karl Kesel

Unlike the majority of newer DD fans, I loathed the Smith and Bendis runs.

Great list!
Even though it was Kevin Smith’s reboot that pulled me back in to comics after a 15 yr hiatus, it was Bendis’s run that turned this book into my favorite…the one book you read in the car after you bought it! Bru’s run was underwhelming IMO, but where do you go after Bendis???
I love the Frankk Miller omnibus!!! And a cold winter morning, with a hot pot of coffee awaits us again!!
Poor Andy Diggle…not even an honorable mention…I feel his run (although truncated) outshined Brubaker’s! Shadowland has been lackluster, but the Lord Daredevil stuff places this book back on top of MY read pile! Thanks Diggle!

Cool to see all the Nocenti appreciation in here! Her run is just as good as Miller’s and Bendis’s stuff.

I loved the Nocenti run. They are some of my favorite comics period. I’m so happy to see so much support here.

Bendis had a great go of things, but I would give Nocenti a slight edge. I can’t fault anyone for putting Bendis over, though. He and Maleev made some great modern comic books.

Frank Miller is what Frank Miller is…I’m sure without him, DD wouldn’t be the character he developed into, but I have a bit of a personal Miller backlash after hearing about his greatness time and time again. It’s weird, I’m a fan of his DD stories, but I still dread his work at the same time. I just don’t like being told what to like, I guess.

I don’t think the Brubaker run was anything more than pretty good. It was really good in parts but dragged in others. Plus, I give Bru part of the blame for setting up Diggle with the situation that grew into Shadowland.

If it’s any consolation, Bru makes it to the upper end of my favorite Captain America list.

Just wondering what people would rate the Last Rites (297 to 300) story arc by D.G. Chichester out of ten?

William Morizio

March 5, 2012 at 8:58 am

Were this written now, I believe Mark Waid would be in the top 5, though I have no clue who he’d replace, probably Stan Lee. The tough part is measuring someone’s tenure on the book, with all the highs and lows, because Brubaker’s first arc is probably the best I’ve ever read (probably tied with Miller’s best), but it never kept that high note after.

I have to agree with that comment. I don’t believe you’d be able to leave out what Mark Waid has done with this book since he’s joined. It’s truly brilliant and the best work on the character since Bendis. I agree with a lot of comments saying that while Brubaker started high and with great expectations, I believe the rest of his work fell flat. Not to say I didn’t like it, but it just fell short compared to what Bendis did kind of went out with a whimper. Also led up to the tragedy of Shadowland. Tragic in that we ever had to read it.

David Mack absolutely deserves honorable mention. Fresh, different, unique. Some amazing work. Kevin Smith gets honorable mention as well for bringing DD to the forefront again. Frank Miller is the given.

As for the rest of the writers I honestly can’t say because besides Miller, I only started on DD with Smith. And it has become my favorite comic series of all time because of the work he started and what Bendis exponentially expanded. Bendis and Maleev IMO were a match made in heaven.

I have to agree with that comment. I don’t believe you’d be able to leave out what Mark Waid has done with this book since he’s joined. It’s truly brilliant and the best work on the character since Bendis. I agree with a lot of comments saying that while Brubaker started high and with great expectations, I believe the rest of his work fell flat. Not to say I didn’t like it, but it just fell short compared to what Bendis did kind of went out with a whimper. Also led up to the tragedy of Shadowland. Tragic in that we ever had to read it.

David Mack absolutely deserves honorable mention. Fresh, different, unique. Some amazing work. Kevin Smith gets honorable mention as well for bringing DD to the forefront again. Frank Miller is the given.

As for the rest of the writers I honestly can’t say because besides Miller, I only started on DD with Smith. And it has become my favorite comic series of all time because of the work he started and what Bendis exponentially expanded. Bendis and Maleev IMO were a match made in heaven.

Isn’t anyone here reading the new daredevil series by Mark Waid? He is doing an excellent job and has managed to steer away from the miller type daredevil.

Check the date on the list. ;)

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