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CSBG Archive

Top 50 Comic Book Writers #35-31

Here are the next five writers that you voted as your favorites of all-time based on over one thousand ballots cast! Click here to see the artists #35-31 on the countdown. Click here to see a master list of all writers listed so far.

Okay, new format! The comprehensive career retrospective was taking way too long (and for some of these people, it was getting nuts detailing their decades long career in comics), so now for each writer and artist, I’ll detail “Five Notable Works” by them.

35. Gail Simone – 385 points (13 first place votes)

After her initial success with her humor column on Comic Book Resources. Gail Simone first cracked into comics working for Bongo on their Simpsons line of books. I suppose I could/should pick one of those comics, but I think her debut on Deadpool for Marvel was a bit more notable, as that was her first run on a Marvel or DC series.

She wrote Deadpool into its transformation into Agent X, but then left Marvel and began writing for DC, beginning with Birds of Prey.

It’s rare to see a modern comic that was so defined by one writer (its creator, Chuck Dixon) become so identified by another writer, but that’s exactly what happened with Birds of Prey as Simone did such a strong job on the book that it was no longer considered “Dixon’s book.”

Tying in with the Infinite Crisis crossover, Simone did Villains United, which launched her Secret Six series of books (starring a team of “villains”) that continues to this day.

I go with Welcome to Tranquility over the All-New Atom because Simone (and artist Neil Googe) did such a great job introducing impressive characters that even after the initial series ended, Simone was able to recently pick up the title again for a mini-series and it was like nothing had even changed! In particular, Sheriff “Tommy” Lindo won the Glyph Award for the best female character!

Outside of Birds of Prey, probably the most notable single run by Simone was her long run on Wonder Woman.

Nowadays, Simone writes Secret Six and Birds of Prey (after she left the original series, it was eventually canceled. Simone has re-launched the title) plus a recently completed Welcome to Tranquility mini-series. I’m sure she has some more projects lined up!

34. Steve Gerber – 388 points (10 first place votes)

When Steve Gerber started writing for Marvel Comics, he worked on a number of comics. I suppose any one of them could be called “notable,” but he had such a varied career I don’t think I’d pick either his Daredevil run or his Marvel Two-in-One as representative of his career.

The first run that I WOULD single out would be his Defenders run. His work on the book was intriguingly offbeat.

Gerber also significantly brought the Guardians of the Galaxy to the forefront of the Marvel Universe.

I think his Guardians work is notable enough to spotlight here, as Marvel has recently re-issued these stories in hardcover.

Gerber’s most famous creation is certainly Howard the Duck, who first appeared as a supporting character in Gerber’s Man-Thing run.

After he left Howard the Duck over a dispute over his rights to the character, Gerber had a long spell where he worked on a number of small, really good comics. He eventually returned to Marvel and had some good runs on some lower-rung titles (Avengers Spotlight, She-Hulk, etc.). So it’s hard to pick on book from this period, but I guess I’m going with his epic mini-series Void Indigo.

This was considered quite controversial for the time, so I guess that would make it the pick for me, but really, you can pick any number of series (Nevada? Destroyer Duck? Foolkiller?) in its place.

Finally, Gerber’s last great comic book work was Hard Time, a book about a young man unjustly sentenced to life in prison. The young man discovers he has strange powers. Drawn by the great Brian Hurtt, the book was an impressive examination of prison life (with a nice slice of the bizarre, of course).

Sadly, Gerber passed away in 2008, while in the middle of a good introduction of a new Dr. Fate.

Story continues below

33. Joss Whedon – 390 points (1 first place vote)

Joss Whedon is world renowned as the creator of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

His entry into comics was with a series about a vampire slayer in the FUTURE called Fray (with artist Karl Moline).

Whedon later began to populate the comics world with adaptations/expansions of his TV universe.

He took the comics world by storm, though, when he wrote Astonishing X-Men with artist John Cassaday, as a follow-up to Grant Morrison’s X-Men run.

The book was a massive success.

More recently, Whedon decided to continue Buffy’s story through a very popular comic book series, titled Season 8 (Buffy the show, naturally, ended with their 7th season).

He also did a web comic, Sugarshock, that won an Eisner Award!

32. Bill Willingham – 392 points (3 first place votes)

Bill Willingham first made a name for himself in comics with his series Elementals for Comico in the 1980s. He wrote the series (and its spin-offs) for most of the decade.

In the late 80s into the mid-90s, he had a slightly lower profile, although he kept working, including a series for Eros Comix…

He showed up at Vertigo in the mid-to-late 1990s with an acclaimed mini-series, Proposition Player…

which eventually led to his most notable work yet, his still-running series, Fables…

The success of Fables also brought Willingham into DC’s “regular” comics, including a long run on a book he created made up of disparate DC characters called Shadowpact.

Willingham also writes a spin-off of Fables, Jack of Fables, with his co-writer Matthew Sturges. The pair also worked on Justice Society of America. Willingham recently finished a run on Angel for IDW.

31. Mike Carey – 396 points (7 first place votes)

Mike Carey worked on some comics during the early 1990s, but his first major work was for Vertigo, where he did a spin-off mini-series from Sandman in the late 1990s starring Lucifer.

This mini-series eventually led to an acclaimed ongoing series that Carey wrote for a long time (basically as long as Neil Gaiman did Sandman).

Buoyed by his success in the States, Carey began to do new series back in his home country of England, as he contributed a few notable series in 2000 AD, including Carver Hale…

Soon afterwards, Carey began a long stint on Vertigo’s flagship title, Hellblazer.

Carey has had great success in the world of superheroes, as well. He took over X-Men with #188 and has written the book ever since (even as it changed its name to X-Men Legacy with #208, which it has remained for the past 30-plus issues).

Recently, Carey has debuted a new creator-owned series for Vertigo called Unwritten, with his former Lucifer collaborator, Peter Gross.

Carey has done a number of other series over the years.

As a general note, do not use the comments here to bash creators. It seems that a lot of posters need to tone their rhetoric down about 150 notches. If you think a creator is too high or too low, feel free to say it, but just keep it civil. -BC


Nice group. I haven’t read any comics by Whedon (though of course I am familiar with his work in TV), and Gail Simone was the only one I actually voted for, but Gerber was on that “top writers 11-20″ list. I have enjoyed both Fables and Lucifer, and thus view both Willingham and Carey favorably, but I have read too little of their other work for them to make the cut, but still I am pleased to see them here.

Ronald Kearschner

December 9, 2010 at 5:29 am

I can’t recommend Steve Gerber’s run on THE DEFENDERS enough. Bozos, an elf with a gun, an evil Bambi, these will all bring back fond memories to anyone who read these stories. How about a brain in a bowl, a trip to the future to fight an alien race, a racist organization with an unusual benefactor?

Gerber’s Defenders is the business. Essential Defenders 2 & 3 are what you want at the moment, but hopefully it’ll get a nice colour HC soon.

Joss Whedon…I just don’t get this guy’s stuff. Everything he seems to write is a bout a scrappy young female who kicks a lot of butt. It is like he has some type of fetish for that character type.

I thought Whedon’s X-Men run wasn’t anything special.

I run so hot-and-cold on Willingham. Fables is a masterpiece; it’s remained absolutely great for a very long time, and there’s rarely an issue that falls as low as “very good”. But Shadowpact rarely had an issue as good as “kind of OK;” generally it was a tedious and simplistic mess. And Shadowpact is the *best* of his DC superhero writing; it goes downhill from there to Salvation Run and then on down to Decisions. He’s very good at complexity and subtlety when writing his own characters; when writing DC’s, he seems to forget all of that.

Not particularly a bunch of writers I love, but I can’t disagree with Gail Simone and BIll Willingham as i’ve enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) the hell out of Welcome to Tranquility and Fables.

I didn’t vote for any of these, but I also have no problem with the inclusionof any of them.

Good writers.

Elementals alone would make me put Willingham on my top ten list(if I would have voted) I don’t think there has been as good of a series that mixed the superhero team concept in an adult world without having to be dark and gritty. I mean at the time it came out everyone was trying to ape Watchmen and heck even a decade later crap like the Authority was still coming out, but in between you had a real superhero book with positive heroes living an adult life. Of course since then Fables has also rocked, but agree about his mainstream licensed titles hasn’t worked out as well.

Nice work on the write ups, Brian.

Joss Whedon…I just don’t get this guy’s stuff. Everything he seems to write is a bout a scrappy young female who kicks a lot of butt.

Then I think you do get it. But why don’t you want it? Sounds like a good recipe to me.

Thomas Morrison

December 9, 2010 at 8:21 am

I’m not familiar with most of these guys works. The one I am most familiar with is Gerber. I’ve read his Defenders run and some other works like Manthing. I find his quirky sensibilities a little too strange for my taste but to each his own.
I’ve read an collection of Fables but didn’t care for them. Maybe you have to read it from the start.
My first exposure to Whedon was on Astonishing X-Men. I was thrilled with Cassaday’s work. This is a strong work from one of my favorite contemporary artists. And while the story was very exciting I was very disappointed in the end. Sure Joss takes you for a good ride, but he throws logic, believability, and continuity out the window. I was offended by many of Whedon’s choices as a writer but chief among the choices was touching Professor X’s sterling character. Profesor X is the rock of the group. He is the foil by which all of them are judged. While I’m not one to dislike changes to the status quo, I felt this was done for no good reason other than sensationalism. And to top it off, Joss has Wolverine lecturing Pro on morality?!? Come on Joss!!!!
I haven’t read Gail or Carey’s work although I am really looking forward to it. I especially want to see what a really good female writer does with cool female characters. It’s so rare in the comic business!

Gerber was on my list – because he had such a distinctive voice and was just bats**t crazy. It’s clear no one was watching him or editing him, because his stuff crashed through the envelope. You just got swept up in the rush of Man-Thing, Defenders, Howard. You had no idea where the story was going – but you wanted and cared for the pay-off. The Elf in Defendners was classic Gerber – just something he threw in – and you cared about it. You needed a scorecard on the Headmen series because you lost track of whose brain was in whose body. There were few titles whose next issue I eagerly anticipated – but any Gerber title went to the top.

Agree with the previous poster that Gerber’s Defenders run is great stuff. Didn’t vote for him, but he was under strong consideration. Wasn’t a huge fan of Howard the Duck, but did enjoy a lot of his Man Thing stories. His way too short run on Guardians of the Galaxy was also very good. I gave up comics in the 90’s so not terribly familiar with some of the other writers, but they sound very interesting.

Love gail simone but this placing seems a little high
Dont even know mike carey was xmen legacy sure aint anything special.

Yay, Steve “Baby” Gerber, the first of my top ten writers to appear. Agree totally with ggersten, there was a considerable run of years when a new Gerber would automatically be the first read of any week’s new issues. I remember crashing off my bike on the way home from the corner store because I was reading Omega # 4 as I rode, couldn’t wait the five minutes to get home.

Thomas, to be honest, Joss wasn’t the first or the last writer to impugn Professor X’s morality. Actually, it became something of an habit among the X-writers. Charles has gone from the sterling paragon to the sleazy manipulator with a multitude of skeletons in his closet.

I am a huge fan of Whedon’s television shows, but as a comic book writer I wouldn’t put him in the list.

Ninjazilla, to get the full appreciation of Mike Carey, you have to read his Vertigo stuff. Really great work. (But then again I think his X-Men is the best X-Men book anywyay.)

Go Mike Carey! I know I had him high on my list!

Xavier’s always been morally spotty; that’s been played up more in the last 15 years, but it’s been there from the very beginning. He’s as capable as Niles Caulder of being cold and manipulative in the service of his biggest aims, and of using his students. The scam he pulled during the original run involving Changeling and letting his students think he was dead was pretty cruel.

By the time Whedon came along, we’d already had the Onslaught revelations and the Xavier-killed-his-twin-in-the-womb revelations; and the Vulcan/ Deadly Genesis story was already in the works, I think. And, after all, his whole business model rests on seeking out teenagers to put into combat. Some, like Jean or Scott, would have needed help with their powers; but many, like Kitty, would not have.

Speaking of Chuck Dixon, I really hope he pops on this list.

Kanigher or we riot!

That’s “pops UP on this list.” Damn you, editorial skills!

Gerber at #34? Insanity! I would have pegged him for at least a single-digit spot for sure.

Whedon= Fail. Whedonites strike again. Dude’s best comic work is the first six issues of Astonishing X-Men, which is pretty good. The rest of his output is boring unless you are already a fan of his (buffy/fray, etc) or just plain bad (the end of Astonishing/Runaways). In fairness I haven’t read sugarshock. This guy made the list because of television. B.S.

Although not on my list, I like both Gail Simone and Mike Carey. Secret Six is a kick@$$ read month in and month out, her first Birds of Prey run was excellent and her Wonder Woman was undervalued. IMO, Carey is the only decent X-Writer out there writing the only decent X-book out there.

Still none of my votes have shown up, but I think at least 7 of my guys will be in the top ten, and all of them should be top 20.

I think someone suggested we post our own votes and justifications on the master list… Is everyone up for that? Brian, if you strongly don’t want that to happen for any reason, let us know.

As for these five writers, I find all of them in the good to very good range, but none of them true masters. Though, to be fair, I have read none of Lucifer, and only the first hardcover of Fables.

I agree with a few other posters that Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men run underwhelmed me. I didn’t dislike it; I thought it was perfectly entertaining and a breeze to read, but the breeze thing might be part of the problem… I’m a bit sick of the Quesada-era mandate that every storyline written in a Marvel comic must be six issues in length for trade-sale purposes. Sorry, but not all stories demand six issues, and when you try to make this happen, you end up getting two issues worth of story spread out to six issues through and interminable amount of splash pages. Granted, there are few artists I’d rather see doing splash pages than Cassaday, but still… Did anyone really feel like Whedon’s X-Men run was 24 issues worth of content? By comparison, Frank Miller’s original Daredevil run was also 24 issues; doesn’t it feel like a bit more happened in those?

The perfect balance, for me, is the first year and a half of Grant Morrison’s JLA… you had a 4 issue story, then a 1 issue story, then a 2, then another 2, then a 6, then a 3, etc. Every story was exactly as long or as short as it needed to be. It was the perfect balance between the way it used to be (virtually every silver/bronze age story was a single issue, or demanded an interminable three page recap-through-inner-monlogue), and the way it has become (let’s sell trades! lots and lots of trades!).

I’m relieved that Gerber has appeared in the list at all.

I think Steve Gerber’s Man-Thing work is way better than Howard the Duck. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Man-Thing is the equal of Moore’s run on Swamp Thing.

Whedon is massively overrated due to his TV work, but that’s ok. Just happy to see Gail on here, she was on my list.

Thomas, Fables indeed benefits from reading in order, there’s a nice amount of buildup over the series and the storyarchs are long (couple of first trades are essentially introduction, after that it’s basically one story up to trade 11…)

I can post something resembling my list, though I don’t have it in writing anywhere so I can’t remember what positions I put them (and at least one case where in retrospect I note I put a creator too high…but since I doubt he makes the list it doesn’t matter that much)…though there are also couple of artists who I remember pondering and can’t be quite sure who finally made the cut :)

I admit I am a bit surprised that Gail Simone got such a high position, but for me she is pretty much the most enjoyable writer in current superhero comics.

I didn’t pick any of these, but I really like what I’ve read of Simone, Carey and Gerber. Gerber almost made my list, mainly for Follkiller but I really like his other stuff, too. Haven’t read much by Willingham or Whedon. I started buying Fables when it first came out, and even though I loved the idea the stories fell flat for me. I’ve heard so many good things about it I might need to give it another shot.

Willingham’s superhero comics are a pretty good summary of everything that’s terrible about superhero comics today, and his “sophistocated” comics are a pretty good summary of everything that’s wrong with “sophistocated” comics today. If any of these writers (even Gerber) beat out Mantlo, I will weep.

Did you get the issues by Mark Buckingham, jazzbo? It’s “generally” accepted that the book didn’t really take off until Buckingham took over with issue…#6? or was it #5?

I read the first dozen issues, or so. I haven’t gone back to check out any later stuff. And granted, at the time I was just getting back into comics and was buying way too much stuff and realized I needed to cut back, and that was a title that got cut. Maybe I’ll see if I can pick up some trades at the library.

Gerber was my number one. He was a visionary writer, even if his vision didn’t extend beyond his neuroses. Howard the Duck was a monthly attack on banality, with hard-luck characters that seemed to exist beyond the comics page. Defenders was a madcap study of misfits, most of whom had no business being super-heroes. Man-Thing, Hard Time, Foolkiller, Stewart the Rat… I miss Gerber’s writing so damn much.

Gerber was high on my list as well. Gail was also on there.

If I had voted, and if I voted only for scripters (not cartoonists or writer/artists) Gerber would have been my # 1.

For those accusing Whedon of impugning Professor X’s stellar character, please read this:


I agree with you Roman that Man-Thing was superior to Howard. As to whether it was superior to Moore’s Swamp Thing, hmmm…..
I’ll have to reflect on that for a year or two, I think. Man-Thing was a pretty special book. I’d say Moore was far superior in terms of craft and storytelling, but Gerber gets your heart more and takes you to stranger places.
Giant-Sized Man-Thing #4 was one of the best single issues of anything, anywhere.

I was one of those 10 people who ranked Gerber at #1 (yeah, big surprise, right?).
He was the first comics writer whose work I really cared about or learned to recognize as something special to follow (obviously not counting brand-figurehead/company-shill Stan).
He had a profound effect on my tastes in comics from an early age and in the years since: my #2 vote was for Grant Morrison, and my fondness for the things that drew me to Morrison are a direct result of the way my tastes were shaped by those Gerber comics when I was younger.

I am kicking myself for not putting Bill Willingham on my list. His run with Fables – stellar! I can’t say enough good things about it. And I really loved Shadowpact as well. Who else could combine demons, mages, Detective Chimp, and then throw in Flippy for flavor as well as Bill?

And, I was going to say that this was the first one to show up here that I voted for, but I re-checked, and that was Gilbert Hernandez.

I’m such a dummy! I can’t believe I left Gail off my list! Sorry, Gail (and please do more Agent X at some time before the end of time, I beseech you! I need more of those hot salty nuts.)

I’m very glad to see Willingham on the list. In my opinion, Fables has been one of the most consistently good comics of this decade. His talent for characterization really shines there. I also really enjoyed his work on Day of Vengeance and Shadowpact, I think those were very underrated.

As for the others, Simone does great work, and definitely deserves her spot on the list, I like a lot of Whedon’s TV writing but I’m not really familiar with his comics work, and I haven’t read anything on the other two.

The Crazed Spruce

December 9, 2010 at 11:01 pm

The only Mike Carey work I’ve read was the start of his X-Men run (before the stores around here stopped carrying it). Frankly, it didn’t impress me.

I’m a fan of Whedon’t TV work, but (except for Astonishing X-Men) his comic work never really struck my fancy.

Not really familiar with Bill Willingham’s work, which is a shame. From what I hear, he’s pretty good.

Gail Simone and Steve Gerber are part of my 11th place tie. Still haven’t cracked my Top 10.

Gerber was my #2; like with Eisner, I’m happy to see he’s on the list, but I also think he should have been way, way higher. As in top five, or top ten at least. Gail Simone just barely didn’t my cut, so I guess I can’t complain that she didn’t place higher (although it looks like I did anyway…)

For me, it is weird to think of Whedon as a comic book writer.

I never realized Hard Time was Gerber. I read it before I ever knew who Gerber was an forgot about it. I should revisit it. Can’t forget about Omega the Unkown.

I echo the sentiments regarding Steve Gerber -a truly original genius who seems to personify the character of 70s Marvel. ‘Nevada’ is worth checking out from Vertigo (if it’s still in print), and weirdly this had it’s origins in a special text issue of Howard The Duck.
Also good to see Gail Simone up there- she almost made my top 10- Secret Six is the only comic I read from DC at the moment, a modern classic.

Simone — I was wondering the other day if we’d have any female creators on this list, and didn’t think that Colleen Doran, or Jill Thompson, or the lady who drew Madame Xanadu had enough fans. Then a day or 2 later I went “D’oh, Gail Simone!”, which led me to think of Nicola Scott. It’d be a shame if Gail was the only female on either list, but she certainly deserves it. And the Atom series was great just for the Head alone. But anything I’ve read of hers has been great.

Gerber — didn’t realize that he was involved with Guardians of the Galaxy. No mention of Omega the Unknown? (I understand you’re SPOTLIGHTING 5 works, but you are mentioning more…) Actually, I know his work from stuff you didn’t show, Nevada, Foolkiller, A Bizarro, Sludge. Good stuff all around.

Whedon — I loves me some Buffy, Angel, Dollhouse, and I want to get Firefly/Serenity, but I don’t know that I’m overly impressed with his comics. I did like the first trade of Astonishing XMen, Fray was ok, and parts of Buffy season 8 have been ok, but overall he’s a good but not great comics writer. And he likes Loeb and Meltzer too much for my tastes :)

Willingham — I first encountered him with an issue of Elementals, probably in the first grab bag I bought as a new, green collector. (That was a magic bag of comics. Great stuff, but that’s neither here nor there.) I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read of Fables, Prop. Player and Shadowpact. Good choice.

Carey — pretty good stuff, I like what I’ve read of Lucifer. I believe he also cowrote a Minx book with his daughter, Confessions of a Blabbermouth. He’s also a novelist.

Simone was my #9. I haven’t been reading her stuff long enough to put her any higher, but man is Secret Six ever awesome. Mike Carey was definitely one of my honorable mentions that could have made that tenth spot on a different day. His X-Men run has been flying under the radar for a long time now.

I’ve now tried Fables 3 times.

I read volume 1 and 2

A few years later I read volume 1,2,3,4

And last month I read volume 1,2,3,4,5,6

The very definition of mediocre. Love the concept and the art. But the writing is just average. And thats ok.

Sorry- Gail Simone doesn’t belong in the top 50. She’s written some nice stuff, but her Wonder Woman run was pretty awful. I think she does a nice job with villains, particularly really dark ones. But her writing is a bit campy and hammy for me.

nice been waiting to see Gail show up on this list. plus was going to be suprirsed if Steve Gerber place did not include howard the duck his big work. joss interesting he made the list.

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