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Top 50 Comic Book Writers #30-26

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 #30-26 on the countdown. Click here to see a master list of all writers listed so far.

NOTE: As I did last time, I’m featuring five notable works per creator.

30 Jack Kirby – 398 points (12 first place votes)

Jack Kirby, along with his partner, Joe Simon, was one of the first true superstars of comics. After the great success of their character, Captain America (which they would both write and draw)…

the pair got deals working for DC Comics and other companies as a duo. They created a number of characters and revitalized others still. They worked on comics in all sorts of genres, including helping to create the romance comic book!

Eventually, a drop in comic book sales caused the partners to split up and find solo work. Kirby eventually got a steady gig at Atlas Comics, soon to be known as Marvel.

While at Marvel, Kirby co-created some of the most famous characters of all-time, including the Fantastic Four, the Hulk and the X-Men.

On the Fantastic Four, Kirby steadily went from co-plotting the book with scripter Stan Lee to just flat-out plotting the books himself…

This worked out very well for fans, but not so great for Kirby, as he was not really getting the same credit as Lee.

So when DC made Kirby a major offer to come work for them in the early 1970s, Kirby took it.

At DC, Kirby’s most famous creations were definitely his work on his Fourth World stories of the New Gods (Orion, Darkseid, Mister Miracle, the Forever People, etc.).

But once the Fourth World line of comics ended, Kirby introduced a variety of amazing characters throughout the rest of his time at DC Comics…

After his deal with DC ran out, Kirby returned to Marvel for a number of notable series (that he wrote and drew), including Captain America, Black Panther and the Eternals.

Kirby eventually split from Marvel once again and spent most of the 1980s working in animation and independent comics, although he had a notable run to DC in the mid-80s where he “finished” his Fourth World saga.

Kirby passed away in 1994.

29 J.M. DeMatteis – 399 points (5 first place votes)

John Marc DeMatteis began working for DC and Marvel on a variety of fill-in projects in the late 1970s, but his first big break was when he got the regular gig on the Defenders…

While on the Defenders, DeMatteis became even more well-known with an acclaimed stint on Captain America (mostly with artist Mike Zeck)….

In the mid-80s, DeMatteis introduced his acclaimed creator-owned series, Moonshadow, for Marvel’s Epic line of comics (DeMatteis would eventually take the title to DC).

Around this time, DeMatteis began to do more work for DC Comics, including a very prominent and extensive stint scripting the Justice League series of books over Keith Giffen’s plots.

It was during the late 80s that DeMatteis wrote one of his most acclaimed stories ever, Kraven’s Last Hunt, that would foretell DeMatteis’ later extensive involvement in the Spider-Man titles throughout the 1990s…

DeMatteis has written so many other titles and worked on so many other series, it seems weird to try to list them all here. Currently, he is scripting Giffen once again in the pages of Booster Gold and has a number of Marvel projects.

28 Denny O’Neil – 401 points (3 first place votes)

Can you imagine being Dennis O’Neil and having one of your very first notable comic book assignments being scripting Steve Ditko’s final issues of Doctor Strange?!? But that’s just what happened to O’Neil, who stepped in to replace Stan Lee (who Ditko no longer wanted to script his Doctor Strange work)…

Soon after, O’Neil became the regular writer on Justice League of America, a major assignment at the time…

Over the next few years, O’Neil would re-work/revamp a number of DC’s most notable heroes, including a significant run on Green Lantern with Neal Adams…

an ultimately fairly short-lived revamp of Superman…

and perhaps most notably, a reworking of Batman into more of a “Dark Knight” after a number of years with the character being slightly on the lighter side of things…

During his Batman work (a number of issues of which were drawn by Neal Adams), he also co-created the major Batman villain, Ra’s Al Ghul (and his daughter Talia).

O’Neil would work for Marvel again in the late 1970s into the 1980s (including a stint on Amazing Spider-Man, Iron Man and Daredevil) before returning to DC in the mid-80s now as an editor in charge of the Batman line of comics. O’Neil would remain in charge of the line until he retired in 2000.

During this time, O’Neil also had a significant run on the Question as well as a 100-issue-long run on a character he created for the Batman titles in the 1990s, Azrael.

27 Keith Giffen – 403 points (3 first place votes)

Keith Giffen first gained prominence for his abilities as a writer when he began co-plotting the hit DC title Legion of Super-Heroes with writer/co-plotter Paul Levitz. Giffen had been drawing the book for awhile and Levitz allowed him to share ideas for the title.

Giffen began plotting other series on his own, with the first major success likely being Ambush Bug…

Giffen then went on a dramatic run of successes as a plotter for DC. First as the plotter for the Justice League International series of books…

and then as the architect of the Legion of Super-Heroes “five years later” series of stories.

Giffen worked on a number of other titles for DC in the 1980s and early 1990s, including L.E.G.I.O.N., Lobo, the Heckler and TWO crossover series, 1989’s Invasion! and 1992’s Eclipso: The Darkness Within.

During the 1990s, Giffen did work for Image and Valiant (including a notable run on Magnus: Robot Fighter).

After a few years out of the spotlight, Giffen has returned in a big way the past decade, with an award-winning return to the Justice League characters plus being the initial writer on Marvel’s popular cosmic line of characters (starting with Giffen’s Annihilation crossover).

Giffen is currently working for DC Comics on a few series, including a solo stint on Doom Patrol and a plotting stint on Booster Gold.

26 J. Michael Straczynski – 420 points (2 first place votes)

Noted TV writer Joseph Michael Straczynski first had a stint in comics in the 1980s, but that was short-lived and before he was famous for his work on the TV series Babylon 5.

In the late 1990s, Straczynski created two notable series for Top Cow comics. The “what if regular people gained superpowers?” series Rising Stars…

and the journey through the dark recesses of America in Midnight Nation (with Gary Frank).

Around this time, Straczynski began working for Marvel Comics, as well, with a very popular long-running stint on Amazing Spider-Man (mostly with artists John Romita Jr. and Mike Deodato)…

Towards the end of his Spider-Man run, Straczynski also had a notable reboot of the Thor title (with artist Olivier Coipel).

He also began work on The Twelve, a murder mystery involving a number of obscure Golden Age characters thrust into the present.

A few years back, Straczynski began working for DC Comics, first as the regular writer on Brave and the Bold, but more recently as the writer of both Superman and Wonder Woman (he has since pulled back to more of an advisory role in both titles).

Very recently, Straczynski wrote an acclaimed graphic novel with artist Shane Davis that depicts a new take on Superman (sort of like “Ultimate Superman) called Superman: Earth One…

The book was a massive sales success, and Straczynski and Davis are currently working on its sequel.

46 Comments

“The book was a massive sales success, and Straczynski and Davis are currently working on its sequel.”

I still think that’s debatable. It moved only 8K in the Direct Market (placing third) and was only number 2 on the NYT list (behind a Serenity GN). I have no doubt they sold out and are going back for another printing, but no one’s proven to me yet that this book is the major commercial success that DC PR says it is.

Extremely pleased to see that eleven other people recognized Kirby as their tops comics writer. I honestly doubted whether he’d make the top fifty, let alone the top thirty. Very cool.
Faith in humanity briefly restored.

And now I’ll eat a bit of crow as it *was* #1 on the NYT list the week before, but there’s still a question mark as to what kind of numbers we’re talking about.

Hello, Brian, excellent work, I’m enjoying the heck out of this list.

Just a quick heads up. The link at the top that points to the artists list, #30-#26, instead takes you to an an old Comic Book Legends column. As I said, just an FYI.

Thanks.

Great bunch of writers, though none of them were in consideration for my top 10.

A few years ago, I probably would have considered JMS, but I’ve gone off him a bit. Rising Stars was great in parts, but not-so-great in others. Midnight Nation was fantastic (though I should maybe re-read it, as it was many years ago that I last read it). Supreme Power, which is even fresher in my mind, was even more fantastic. (Maybe he should do more with Frank?) His Spider-Man was excellent with Romita, less so after Romita left. His FF was mediocre at best. Thor was quite good though. I haven’t read any of his DC stuff. What’s it like?
Anyway, I don’t think he deserves to have beaten a lot of the writers he has, but he’s done some good stuff and brought me a lot of joy.

Just a quick heads up. The link at the top that points to the artists list, #30-#26, instead takes you to an an old Comic Book Legends column. As I said, just an FYI.

Thanks.

Thanks, Dennis. It was the damndest thing. The link was correct, but you’re right, it took you to a totally different part of the blog. I deleted it and re-pasted it, still the same thing happened. So I just started it from scratch and now, for some reason, it seems to be working. Sooo weird.

Giffen and O’neil – 2 more. Yay!

I’m pretty sure I voted JMS, so yaaaaay

I am still 0 for 10 :(

DeMattis Cap is great, why haven’t Marvel traded it yet? I’ve got the Kraven’s last hunt HC but it’s spoiuled by some horrendous modern recolouring, is there a better version out there with the original colours? Got some JLA trades here but they aren’t doing anything for me (sorry)

Denny O’Neill’s Iron Man run (160-203) is to me the definitve run on the title. Brilliant stuff and, apart from a short stretch towards the end, also absent in trades. AND YOU DIDN’T EVEN MENTION IT BRIAN !

I was a big fan of J. Michael Straczynski ‘s Babylon 5 on TV and *loved* Rising Stars when it started. But I feel it tails off as it goes – the long breaks between issues didn’t help, and neither did the art on the latter half of the series. His susbsequent comics work I’ve found subject to the law of diminishing returns, not read the Superman stuff yet.

How appropriate for Giffen and DeMatteis to be so close to each other on the list… both were considered for my own list, as was Denny O’Neil, but none of them quite made the cut. Still none from my top ten, but I’m confident they’re all still coming. I never really considered voting for Kirby, but certainly have no problems with him being here.

JMS though, not much of a fan. Admittedly, I haven’t read much, only the first two Amazing Spider-Man ultimate collections, and all of the Civil War tie-ins he did. It was all competent and entertaining, but I never found myself thinking “this guy’s great! I need to start hoarding up all of his stuff!” I wonder if Romita Jr made him look far better than he actually is.

25 guys left, and 22 of them are guaranteed to be (alphabetically): Bendis, Brubaker, Busiek, Byrne, Claremont, David, Ellis, Englehart, Ennis, Gaiman, Johns, Kirkman, Lee, Millar (ugh), Miller, Moore, Morrison, Stern, Thomas, Vaughan, Waid, and Wolfman.

So who for the final three spots? Some possibilities: Dixon, Rucka, Conway, Wein, Moench, Chaykin, Fraction, Meltzer, Sim, Jeff Smith, Wagner, Grell, Joe’s Casey and Kelly, Spiegelman, Nicieza, Shooter, Priest, and Kevin Smith. All of them seem like they could have fit in the top 50, but I don’t feel like any scream top 25.

Nobody I voted for…though I did consider J.M.DeMatteis (great Spider-Man, and I did enjoy those Moonshadow and some of the less-remembered early Vertigo pieces).
What little I have read from Straczynski hasn’t been that special (and I never got into B5 either), and O’Neil and Giffen…*shrugs*
Lee-Kirby FF was of course great, but I never ventured to read his later works.

Hmm, I find both artists and writers list #26-30 something of a lull, I think I prefer #31-35 group better in writers too.

Glad to see Jack Kirby on the list. Many diss his writing. Many are fools.

JMS ranking higher than the other four guys on the list today is nuts.

I never thought to include Jack Kirby to the writer list. See, that’s why I respect these boards so much, because the contributors are so intelligent. I’m ashamed for not thinking of him. He should make it for Demon and Kamandi alone, let alone the New Gods and so many other creations (Silver Surfer)! That being said, I am shocked JMD was so low on the list. He was a top 10 of mine, and was expecting him no less that top 20. Can’t wait to see who beat him. Wow, Jack Kirby. Great choice everyone!

The Crazed Spruce

December 10, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Giffen and DeMatteis were 5th and 6th on my list. O’Neil was tied for 11th.

While I loved “Rising Stars” and a good deal of his Spider-Man run (and I was a huge Babylon 5 fan), too much of his work just fell flat. (That, and I’m still bitter over what he did to Gwen Stacey’s memory.) He wasn’t even a contender for me.

And while I do appreciate Kirby’s work, his art always overshadowed his writing. (In fact, of all the writer/artists on my list, I didn’t pick any of them as a writer.) He is on my artists’ list, though.

Hey, no Question covers for Denny O’Neil? You offend me, Brian!

;-)

Was hoping Giffen would get more recognition. I’m not surprised at where he is at (although JMS ahead of him and the others so far?), but I’d hoped. FWIW, I had him 2 because of his versatility as a writer (he plots and writes, can do comedy, horror, and serious quite well, which is not easy to do) and, well, he successfully blew up the Earth.

Glad to see Kirby make it. Him and Gaiman (who hopefully makes this list) are two guys who should have made my list who for some reason I completely didn’t include.

The Crazed Spruce

December 10, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Okay, I meant to say, “except for Giffen, I didn’t pick any of them as a writer”. Probably because I’m not as huge a fan of his artwork most of the time. He has a great sense of design, and I loved his early Legion art, but a lot of his work (especially his later stuff) is just too harsh for my tastes.

Only Giffen was actually on my list in this batch, but I’m thrilled to see O’Neil up there, because he was reponsible for some of my favorite stories (The Question especially). Also love DeMatteis and Kirby’s craziness as a writer.

I loved JMS’s run on Thor and almost-run on The Twelve–so far haven’t liked anything else of his (including Bab 5), but I’m always willing to be pleasantly surprised.

JM DeMatteis was definitley in my top 3 – I can’t remember if I finally put him as #1 or not. I’m almost positive Denny O’Neil was fairly high on my list also.

And although I’m pretty certain I ended up cutting Giffen and Kirby from my lists, I’m glad to see them here.

I don’t really dig JMS too much though. Personally, I never would have voted for him. I liked his Thor run, but really did not like his Spider-Man stuff (I guess I’m a minority of 1 on that one) – I particularly hated ASM (v2) #50, with Doom trying to walk through the metal detectors at the airport – it was so stupid it made me annoyed (maybe it was a ‘joke’ but I never found it humorous – just ridiculous). His BATB stuff was hit-or-miss for me. Haven’t read his Superman or Wonder Woman stuff though… (but the previews I’ve seen online seem… well I guess “lame” is the only term I can think of)…

I’ve got the Kraven’s last hunt HC but it’s spoiuled by some horrendous modern recolouring, is there a better version out there with the original colours?

God, I can’t stand that trend. Doesn’t matter whether it’s Dark Horse’s Conan trades or DC’s deluxe Superman vs. Muhammad Ali HC; the modern recoloring always looks much worse than the original — muddy, less crisp. Just color the freaking things as originally intended.

I agree with Mer, I think O’Neil’s entry warrants a Question cover. That was where I discovered his work and what I still think of most when I read/hear his name.

I forgot that JMS did The Twelve – I’ll admit, I was digging that series, until it just disappeared.

Did a double-take seeing Kirby at no. 30 before I realized this was the writer’s list. I assume he’ll be showing up higher on the other one!

Denny and J.M. were, I believe, back to back on my list, both for their Marvel stuff. I know it’s not as well-regarded as his other stuff, but O’Neil’s Daredevil holds a special place in my heart, esp. his one-offs with Dave Mazzuchelli.

Liking how more “old school” guys are showing up today (although the newer writers listed have been very good).

Giffen is the first person to show up from my list.

dhole – I did the exact same thing. I couldn’t believe Kirby was only #30 until I realized this was the writer’s list. Glad to see he made it onto the writer’s list. He made my top 10. Don’t remember the exact placement, but I think in the middle. I love all the stuff he wrote and drew himself, but Kamandi and Devil Dinosaur are my favorite.

Heh. I was all ready to bitch about how disappointed I was to see Kirby at #30, when I realized I was looking at the *writers* list.

I know that JMS’s Ultimate Superman (as if that’s not what it is, come on…) did very well sales wise, but I’d probably still quibble with calling it “acclaimed.” I’ve seen some VERY mixed reviews (to put it mildly) and not all just from over-familiar fanboys with an axe to grind, either.

I’m glad Kirby made it onto the writer’s list. All good choices.

The problem with people dissing Kirby’s writing is that they only think of the stuff he scripted himself when they think of his writing. But if you know anything about the Marvel method of creating comic books, stuff like Fantastic Four and Thor and everything else he did at Marvel should be taken into account when talking about his writing, because he basically plotted all of those. Some may argue that plotting alone is not enough and scripting should be taken into account to, but let’s be honest, Claremont will probably rank high and he’s the textbook example of great plotter/awful scripter.

Denny O’Neil is the first from my list to show up. He was my #8.
Im also happy to see Kirby this high at this list. I’m perfectly fine with the other writers, even though i think the quality of JMS’ work is very irregular.

i’m so happy to see Kirby make it on the writers list, especially at this placement. he was one of my top votes as writer — as insane as this is, i think he was ONLY on my writing list and not on my artists list (in fact, my writers list looked a lot like an artists list, if i remember correctly). i mean, his art is incomparable, but there are others out there whose style speaks to me more… but as a writer, Kirby really resonates with me.

I just wanted to second the love for O’Neil’s DD. They were good solid reads, although the fact that Mazzucchelli was drawing them helps make them that much more special to me.

Kirby was/is my number one on both lists. Never hesitated about it.

Kirby — Yeah, oh yeah. He didn’t make my list, but would’ve been up there somewhere high. New Gods alone are amazing concepts that hardly anyone else gets right. There was also the whole Secret City Saga from Topps, and Silver Star, and someone is bringing those concepts back (and Giffen drew a series with those characters that Busiek wrote).

DeMatteis — I love the JLI stuff, Moonshadow is good, I even liked his Hal Jordan as the Spectre stuff. But his SpiderMan stuff was — ugh. I also believe that you want a Defenders cover in there, Brian.

O’Neil — good stuff there. I like the Question myself. The most surprising thing about this entry? Azrael made it to 100 issues? I thought there was a typo until I checked out the grand comics database. Wow.

JMS — the SpiderMan stuff was ok in parts, but the Gwen Stacy thing — ugh. Some of his other stuff has been ok. I do like him for writing a piece about Cerebus in an issue of Following Cerebus several years back (#7, I think).

D’oh! Almost missed my favorite on this list, Giffen! Heckler Heckler Heckler!!!! Great stuff. Ambush Bug, Lobo, the Legion stuff I’ve read, JLI. Everything he does is awesome. Hope he placed in the artist category, but I have my doubts. And Trancher, Trencher was pretty good. He even wrote a decent Extreme Studios Christmas special. It starred TROLL, for god’s sakes!

And since people are saying it, I’ve had one writer from my list make it so far (Eisner), I know 2 won’t make it, and I’m pretty confident the other 7 are still coming.

The Heckler was awesome.

Third Man: “Bendis, Brubaker, Busiek, Byrne, Claremont, David, Ellis, Englehart, Ennis, Gaiman, Johns, Kirkman, Lee, Millar (ugh), Miller, Moore, Morrison, Stern, Thomas, Vaughan, Waid, and Wolfman.

So who for the final three spots?”

My bet: Barks, Goscinny and Spiegelman

Giffen and DeMatteis are the first two from my list to show up. I placed DeMatteis a little higher though, ’cause the six fingered hand can’t be ignored. :)

So, Third Man, In your view, it’s not looking good for (among others) Gardner Fox, John Broome, Jerry Siegel, Otto Binder, Robet Kanigher and Jim Shooter. You young whippersnappers….

Please none of this “let’s statistically analyze who will be on the list” stuff. I hate that.

Greg Rucka and Jason Aaron are 2 new names that very might make the list.

@benday-dot and Fourthworlder: Kirby topped both of my lists, too. I wish he had ranked higher, but I’m glad he ranked as well as he did. His work as a writer is very under-rated.

Why isn’t Garney listed as an artist on JMS’ Spider-Man?

Kudos to everyone with the good taste to vote for Kirby. Really, it’s almost a straight line from Kirby’s writing to Morrison’s.

Giffen & DeMatteis, together and separately, are favorites that came close but didn’t make my top 10.

One of my top 10 writers show up – Denny O’Neil

I was travelling and offline while voting was happening but Denny, Marc & Keith would all have scored votes from me.

Yes, indeed, Azrael volume 1 lasted 100 issues, and some were very good indeed.

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