web stats

CSBG Archive

Top 50 Comic Book Writers: #7-5

Here are the next three writers that you voted as your favorites of all-time based on over one thousand ballots cast! Click here to see the artists #7-5 on the countdown. Click here to see a master list of all writers listed so far.

NOTE: Five notable works per creator

7 Brian Michael Bendis – 1611 points (25 first place votes)

Brian Michael Bendis began his career in comics in the independent comic book scene in the 1990s, working on a variety of different projects, but most notably was his creator-owned series, namely AKA Goldfish and its sequel, Jinx, starring the awesome original character of Bendis’, the bounty hunter Jinx Alameda…

After an acclaimed piece of historical fiction with co-writer Marc Andreyko, Torso, Bendis began to work on higher profile projects, including a new series for Image Comics about cops in a world of superheroes. The comic was down with artist Michael Avon Oeming…

Later in 2000, Bendis made a tremendous splash with the beginning of his still-ongoing run on Ultimate Spider-Man…

the next year, Bendis took over Daredevil with artist Alex Maleev…

Soon, Bendis was taking on more and more high profile work for Marvel while he also became more and more important to the direction of the Marvel Universe as a whole.

This became abundantly clear when Bendis took over the Avengers franchise, making it Marvel’s #1 comic book franchise…

Bendis has been in charge of the Avengers book since 2005, and they’re still Marvel’s top-selling group of books. He continues to write Powers (now for Marvel) and he recently debuted a new creator-owned series called Scarlett (with his Daredevil collaborator, Maleev).

6 Frank Miller – 1628 points (21 first place votes)

After becoming a popular artist on Daredevil, Frank Miller was given the scripting reins, as well, and he did a marvelous job, making Daredevil one of Marvel’s more popular titles (especially impressive considering how poorly it was selling before Miller took over).

During the mid-80s, Miller returned to Daredevil for the most-acclaimed run in Daredevil history, the “Born Again” storyline with artist David Mazzucchelli….

Miller continued his hot streak into Batman: The Dark Knight, with Klaus Janson (who did Daredevil with Miller)….

and then into Batman: Year One (once again with Mazzucchelli)…

Within a two-three year period, Miller had written three of the most-loved comic book stories of all time – “Born Again,” “The Dark Knight Returns” and “Batman Year One.” That’s an achievement that is still amazing to this day.

Since then, Miller has continued to have success in a variety of comics, perhaps most notably with his series of noir comics, Sin City…

But also on a number of other comics, including 300 and the sales smash All Star Batman and Robin (with artist Jim Lee).

5 Stan Lee – 1662 points (63 first place votes)

Stan Lee started working for Timely Comics in the early 1940s, ultimately becoming Editor-in-Chief, a title he would hold for the next thirty years (not counting a brief stint in the military during World War II).

Lee practically was a one-man writing crew for Timely Comics during the 1950s, when they changed their name to Atlas Comics. By the 1960s, he and his skeletal crew of artists had devised a fairly novel way of writing comics. Lee would come up with a plot and talk it over with the artist – the artist would draw the story based on the plot and then Lee would script over the drawings. That was the process put in place when the company became known as Marvel Comics, and Lee wrote a few comic books that you might have heard of (working with artists you might have heard of like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko)….

Lee continued to script pretty much every Marvel Comic until the mid-to-late 1960s, and he oversaw the direction of Marvel Comics for a number of years after that. Since the mid-70s, Lee has been more involved in other aspects of the entertainment business (most notably Marvel Animation and TV projects), but he has found the time to write a ton of comics over the years. Even to this day, the octogenarian Lee is coming up with ideas for Boom! Studios characters and scripting Marvel stories every month or so.

117 Comments

It’s Day of the DD writers!

And I quite liked Bendis’s DD (and USM), even though I don’t like his Avengers work. And Miller’s DD runs hold up beautifully today, even if I can’t read his recent stuff at all.

Considering I voted for none of the above, this is somewhat underwhelming 7-5 list for me, but these guys are top-notch creators who changed the landscape of the medium with some of their more historic runs so it’s not as if they didn’t earn their place in the top 10.

If nothing else, this means the next 4 spots are guaranteed for Warren Ellis, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, and Neil Gaiman!

Looking forward to see who’s going to be #1. Normally, I’d expected Alan Moore, but Grant Morrison has made some major moves in the past 2-3 years that made him the fan favorite and could very well push him into #1.

Shame Stan Lee ranked so low, but I wouldn’t mind it so much if among the people who ranked about him were Kirby and Ditko. Howver Kirby is already out of the running :(

Gosh, I’m so pumped right now. I’m really hoping Gaiman can take number one. Not that I dislike Moore, but I mean… cmon! Go Gaiman! I have 2 of my list left… hoping they can make the top 3.

So who’ll be Nos. 1-4? I’ll give you a clue people, none of them will be American!

You have a typo on Miller’s entry. You wrote “Bendis continued his hot streak into Batman: The Dark Knight,” it should be Miller instead of Bendis.

I am very surprised Miller didn’t crack the top 5. When the top 100 storylines were made, three of the top 5 were written by Miller. He also had another one in the top 100. Besides those great storylines he also wrote Sin City and 300. I thought he was a lock. He might have lost votes in the writer versus artist section. Maybe some people who thought he deserved to be top 10 in the artist category and in the writer category decided to only write him once.

Thanks, Enrique – fixed it!

Looks like the old fogies came out and voted Lee into the top 10….whatev

At least Stan cracked the top 5.

I bet Miller would have been higher if so many people weren’t soured on his recent Batman stuff.

I kind of hope Neil Gaiman isn’t number one, just ’cause that would be based almost entirely on his Sandman work. That run deservedly earned the Best Comic Book Run but I hope Best Writer goes to someone with a more diverse comics portfolio (like the other three contenders).

I predict an upset of Morrison over Moore. Just ’cause this list has been skewing very modern but also very mainstream. Moore’s work is incredible but for straight-up superheroes he’s been off the radar for most of the past decade, while Morrison is doing great work but still playing very much in the superhero sandbox, giving him a wider appeal (especially to folks judging on the basis of the past few years, which again seems to be a lot of people).

Whatever happens, it’s a very cool list!

Thank God Bendis isn’t any higher. Some of my faith in humanity is restored. I LIKE a good deal of the guy’s work, but he’s clearlly not anywhere close to the level of a Frank Miller. Good god.

[...] artists that you voted as your favorites of all-time based on over one thousand ballots cast! Click here to see the writers #7-5 on the countdown. Click here to see a master list of all artists listed so [...]

If I’d voted, where to put Mr Stan would have been a real head scratcher for me. No other writer in comics has given me as much pleasure… apart from anything else he even made reading the letter columns terrific fun. But its all stuff I read as a kid, I suspect if I re-read it I’d find it a fair bit short of the sort of stuff more recent top writers turn out.

I guess Firebringer is right about the top four. But I’d have loved to see Will Eisner make it… yes, in addition, to the number 2 artists slot I confidently expect him to make.

NO WAY Morrison will rank over Moore. There’s just no way. Most likely it will be Moore at #1 and Gaiman at #2, then a toss-up between Ellis and Morrison for 3 and 4.

No Alias cover image under Bendis? You offend me, sir!

Man, even though I know the top 4 (and have a guess at the rank), and voted for them all,

people,

STOP GOING ON ABOUT IT IN THIS POST!

And it’s kind of funny that Miller and Lee are at 6 and 5 and people are saying they’re too low. You can’t get much higher, and the guys that are higher aren’t slouches.

That said, I like some Bendis, and Miller and Lee made my list. Stan JUST snuck in when I thought about it a little, and he just bumped Kurtzman off there. But I thought about how much I enjoy the Essential volumes and SpiderMan, FF, and so on, and so on. Couldn’t leave him off.

These release times are throwing off my circadian rhythms! I don’t know when the posts are going to show up, and how many people will be on them!

It’d be interesting to see Gaiman miss the list altogether, although I know that’s pretty much impossible.

Dennis, Morrison has a lot more fans than Alan moore at this point in time. He will be number one, I’m guessing on the strength of his first place votes. This is a popularity poll, not who is the bestest writer.

I had Bendis at #8. I have three left on my list, and they will all appear in the Top 4.

Well, one can’t argue the inclusion of these people. Miller could have been higher but probably his newer stuff has indeed not helped his position. I suspect Gaiman will also be held off from #1 slot (I predict #3) because, well, he is essentially out of the scene nowadays and when it comes to that, his body of work is more limited than that of Moore or Morrison.

Stan Lee is the creator of the modern superhero. He is a giant. He’s the man that defined a whole genre and everything that we see today in all comic companies that deal with superheroes, in all movies and TV shows, it’s because of Stan Lee. No offense to Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko and their fans (I am also a big fan of them), but it’s Stan that brought it all together and channelled Kirby and Ditko’s quirkier talents into something more popular. The man deserves to be ranked at least this high, if not higher. And I liked it that he has more first place votes than Miller and Bendis combined.

I still have a deep love for Frank Miller’s Daredevil and for what it has shown all of us about the potential of the superhero story. DKR I never enjoyed as much as his Marvel work, but I’m not crazy to deny it’s rightful place as a masterpiece. But Miller is a fallen creator. Sin City was interesting, but already exhibited a disturbing hyper-masculinity bordering on the pathologic. I read it because I borrowed it from a friend that was a bigger Miller fan than I was. Everything he did later was ever more disturbing. Creepy even. Sorry, if I don’t find his current writing to be humourous. It’s too much like a man having a personality breakdown in public.

And Bendis. If I managed to somehow forget his AVENGERS work, then I could see him ranked #7. But since that workd regrettably exists, I think people are out of their fucking minds to vote him this high. But that is only my oppinion. I try not to become one of those insufferable people that posts at least once a day about how much Bendis sucks. The silent majority of comic book fans seems to be happy with him, and I’ve seen worse than Bendis in the 1990s, so what the hell.

I guess Lee earns a place on the list for concepts, but he really shouldn’t be that high. I sometimes wonder how many people who vote for Lee and his work on these kinds of lists are actually that well versed in it.
Sigh, I guess Ellis is off the list. I can hope, but I doubt it.

To expand on my comments in response to Rene (I really should read that stuff first), he was a brilliant promoter, but that doesn’t make him a brilliant writer. If this was a top list for EiCs then he would definitely deserve the top spot, and if it was a top list for contribution to the medium then he would deserve the top spot or close to it. But this is a list for writers, and his actual writing often wasn’t very good. Kirby and Ditko’s work with Lee was more popular than what they did solo, but that doesn’t make it better. I personally find their solo stuff to be much better. The Fourth World especially is a masterwork that exceeds anything Kirby did with Lee, even the later FF work when Kirby took over more and more of the plotting.

“I sometimes wonder how many people who vote for Lee and his work on these kinds of lists are actually that well versed in it.”

I’ve read pretty much everything Stan Lee wrote with the classic Marvel characters.

These guys are all great.

I totally agree with Rene(I guess I’m one of the old fogies that came out to voted for Lee). I guess the way I look at Lee’s work is to compare it to what was out there at the time. His writing was so far above anything else on the market during the 60s it was incredible. Sure you read it now and it comes off a little corny and simplistic, but in his day Lee was on the cutting edge of what became comics as we know it. Comparing Lee to a contemporary writer, is like comparing Johnny Unitas to Peyton Manning. It difficult to compare quarterbacks, writers or artists from different eras, but for me I judge them based on how they compared to others in their era. Stan Lee was in my mind the greatest writer by far of his generation and certainly deserves to be in the Top 10 for comic book writers. Some disagree, that’s ok. That’s what makes all of this fun.

Dunno why you think Ellis is out, Dalarsco. I’m pretty sure he’s coming up next.

That looks about right. Where’s John Byrne on the writer list?

Easton is absolutely right. Anyone who says Lee doesn’t belong on this list has zero concept of ‘history’ – Aside from CREATING characters like Spider-Man and the Thing – who had problems, were teens and/or were ‘freaks’ – his characters were the first with bona-fide Personalities, and he really introduced the book-length story (not 2 or 3 separate stories in an issue), not to mention that characters within teams fought (Thing and Torch, Thing & Mr. Fantastic), humor, and so many more things. Even the letters pages, which became fun and friendly “Dear Stan and Jack” not “Dear Editor.” All of these things make Lee a legend, and yes, comics are totally different now and arguably more sophisticated, but for pure excitement and fun, it’s hard, to this day, to beat Lee’s formative work.

Even though, I’d put a lot of people over Bendis quality-wise, I suppose his impact cannot be discounted.

Miller used to be sooo good.

Sad to not see Stan ‘The Man’ Lee even in the top three. Everything he created and has done for the medium… it is remarkable.

Of the presumed four remaining, I could see Morrison stealing it but Moore is probably number one.

It is interesting, as someone else pointed out, that Lee has a gargantuan amount of first place votes, but barely beat Bendis and Miller in the points. Translation: Lee appeared on far fewer ballots, but the ones he appeared on he had a high ranking.

I voted for all three of these guys. Miller was my #2, Lee was #6, and Bendis was #10 (mostly on the strength of USM and the general way that I think he has changed dialogue in mainstream comics).

Frank Miller… sigh… To be honest, I just prefer to think he died in 1999. I don’t mean that in a psycho way, not like I actually wish pain on him or anything. I just mean that, to me, 300 was the last thing he did, and everything after never happened. NEVER HAPPENED. (I find this surprisingly easy to do with many cultural figures; Rod Stewart and Elton John both died in 1975, Robert DeNiro died in 1996, etc.) I agree with Rene that Sin City is somewhat disturbing in its hyper-masculinity, but at least as a piece of comic art, is gorgeous and innovative to look at, so I can sill enjoy it on that level.

But that all being said, the fact that Warren Ellis is ranked higher than Frank Miller and Stan Lee (and Jesus, maybe even Neil Gaiman) is fucking ridiculous. I love Warren Ellis and I voted for him (he was my #9), but seriously, in no way is he better than Lee or Miller (well, as long as we all agree that Miller has been dead for ten years).

Lastly, a general question to people that I have no idea what the answer is: What is the best post-1970 Stan Lee scripted comic? Post-1980?

Lee surely belongs here. Possibly even as #5 (even if I didn’t vote him, as a writer he isn’t among my favorites even if as a idea man he obviously did well). But as far as comparing him to contemporaries, or stating what he did before anyone else…may I mention names like Barks, Goscinny, Herge, Eisner, Franquin, Kurtzman and so forth? One has to ask if people voting for Lee really have a grasp of history…

Stan should be higher.

My prediction for #1– Linda Fite :)
(What an upset that would be!)

Miller deserves to be here for the fact that with his DD he redefined super heroes forever. Like Stan Lee before him he raised the bar for the whole medium. And I think it’s appropriate that he got higher on the writers list than on the artists list because it was his writing that really made him special.
Personally my favorite work of his is Year One and I think that was a high point for him as well. It’s characterizations were so superb and understated that you really could get inside these people. They had motivation and there wasn’t anything sensational or gratuitous about it. To me this work was a beautiful summery of what Miller brought to comics and a standard for all to aspire to and that I am still waiting for someone to reach.
Unfortunately even Miller himself hasn’t done anything like it since. His later work has been very coarse and sensational. He has done some fun things but nothing of this subtly and depth.

I know that rereading most of Stan’s work it comes off as pretty cheesy now but I think that was a product of his generation and audience at the time, not a failing of his ability as a writer. Lee is THE reason the comic book medium exists today. He created more iconic characters and had a greater influence on American pop culture than anyone else in the industry. The guys in the top 5 would all be working at a fricking Walmart or something if Stan hadn’t paved the way for them. How he isn’t the #1 is beyond me.

Dalasco, I think Stan Lee was far more than “just” a brilliant promoter. It has something to do with what Superscribe said.

Grant Morrison once said something very insightful: there are too many Stans and too little Jacks in the industry. I think Stan Lee is often underestimated because he is easier to copy. Jack Kirby is more or less inimitable (even though Byrne, Morrison, and Casey have tried) Stan Lee was the first to do the “superhero that could be you” and it was a huge thing, perhaps the biggest in the story of the genre after Superman, but everyone and their dog followed in Stan’s footsteps, some people badly, some people brilliantly.

And it’s often forgotten or downplayed how revolutionary Stan Lee was, because it became the industru standard. Alan Moore said once that any sophistication in his work, he owes to Stan Lee. That is no small thing. I don’t think we’d have WATCHMEN without Stan Lee. There are aspects of Lee’s work that are harder to imitate. Mark Andrew mentioned the post-modern self-awareness that Lee had, for instance. But the blunt of it influenced everybody.

I had guessed the order for top 7 and was close. My guesstimate put Miller at #4 and the person I now suspect will be #4 at #6.

I guess I underestimated people’s love for Doom 2099.

As to the list…

Stan Lee… Dalarsco, I highly suspect those who voted for Stan Lee (myself included) have read a lot of his work. Why else would you vote for somebody if you don’t love their work?

Miller… Thought he’d be in the top 5, but close enough. I think modern superhero comics owe as much to him as most anybody.

Bendis… I love Bendis (well, I love half of his work) but he is kinda in the company of giants up there. I suspect versions of this list a couple decades from now will have found a spot on the list he fits in better.

“…may I mention names like Barks, Goscinny, Herge, Eisner, Franquin, Kurtzman and so forth? One has to ask if people voting for Lee really have a grasp of history…”

Huh?

Yes, those are Lee’s peers, and yes, any list that has him on it should have them on it, but he surpasses them all. He is, simply put, the greatest writer the medium has produced. I realize that’s not a popular view on this site, but I have a hard time wrapping my head around how anybody thinks differently. I mean just in terms of character creation, there hasn’t been a year since 1965 or so that his characters have created more value for the industry than anyone else’s. Unlike the other greats you list, Lee created the finest kind of value that any writer can create: value that keeps on giving as it’s passed from hand to hand.

Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin

December 20, 2010 at 3:05 pm

@Matt Bird

“Unlike the other greats you list, Lee created the finest kind of value that any writer can create: value that keeps on giving as it’s passed from hand to hand.”

Eh, I disagree. An author’s worth is measured by his own work. Not the way others play with his toys.

“…but I have a hard time wrapping my head around how anybody thinks differently.”

And I have a hard time wrapping my head around how anybody would think that Stan Lee was better than the likes of Barks, Goscinny, Herge, Eisner, Franquin, Kurtzman, Caniff, Tezuka, Charlier, Jodorowsky… To me, they are all equals. Each has helped shape the medium in his own unique way. To say that one is better or more important than the other just doesn’t seem right.

Eh, I disagree. An author’s worth is measured by his own work. Not the way others play with his toys.

Exactly. And Lee’s work far surpassed what most of his sucessors did with his toys. I’d rate him as better than 75% of modern superhero comic writers working today, if not more.

I think Miller has really suffered from his recent work – the relatively low number of 1st place votes says it all. A lot of people voted for him, but he seems to have written himself out of being people’s FAVOURITE writer. If this list had been done between 1985 and 2000 he’d have been almost a lock for number 1 (yes, even over Moore).

I’m hoping Gaiman pulls it off, but whatever happens, at least 3 of the Brits to come are deserving of their top 5 places (I haven’t read much Warren Ellis).

I have to agree with Dalarsco, while Stan Lee is arguably the most influential comics creator, with much of modern comics built on his shoulders, (although there were definitely other broad shoulders as well), I just don’t see his actual writing as being top 5 material.

Now I suppose the argument can be made that you need to consider his writing in the context of the era it was written but that seems like a bit of a cop out. You shouldn’t need an excuse or a special circumstance for why someone is one of your favourite writers; they either are or they aren’t. I wonder if Stan is on here because lots of people felt the need to list him for historical importance rather than due to actually loving his writing.

Maybe I’m completely off base and people do feel his actual writing is better than Kurt Busiek or Mark Waid or Frank Miller. I can also see a nostalgia motivation, recognizing the craft isn’t there but getting great enjoyment from it, regardless. In any case, this list is about people’s opinions, and your opinion can’t be wrong. I’m just kind of curious what the motivation behind the vote is…

I don’t know that I have ever read a better single comic book than the very first issue of the Born Again storyline.

When I finished reading it I had to go back and count the pages to see if it was some kind of double-sized issue. I couldn’t believe that in 24 pages, such a whole and complete story had been told, and whats the more, it was only the first part of an entire arc.

Frank Miller was my number 2 behind Alan Moore, because I think V for Vendetta is a better overall story than Born Again. However, no single issue of a comic has ever been as satisfying to me as Daredevil #227.

Grant Morrison once said something very insightful: there are too many Stans and too little Jacks in the industry. I think Stan Lee is often underestimated because he is easier to copy. Jack Kirby is more or less inimitable (even though Byrne, Morrison, and Casey have tried) Stan Lee was the first to do the “superhero that could be you” and it was a huge thing, perhaps the biggest in the story of the genre after Superman, but everyone and their dog followed in Stan’s footsteps, some people badly, some people brilliantly.

I hope Morrison’s quote was better in context, because it looks ill-informed and obnoxious to me as it stands.

Howard Stern was once talking about all the shock jocks that came out after him and why none have real staying power or are as entertaining. And Robin Quivers said something I always remembered: “The problem with them is they’re just going for the imitation, but not the inspiration.” And in that way I think Stan Lee is VERY hard to copy. The superficial imitation, yes, but it always seems off because the people can’t capture the inspiration, which is REALLY where his magic comes from. I recently got a Black Widow trade full of 60s Marvel stories. It jumped back and forth between Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, Gerry Conway and others, and all the stories except for the Stan Lee one were painful for me to read. I had to push through, and it was really a chore. It was full of “true believers” and “nuff saids” and all that but wasn’t entertaining, it was cotton candy.

I guess my point is, when it comes to the aspects of being Stan that really mattered, I think Stan is as hard to imitate as Kirby is. Look at Kirby’s dialogue post-Stan, and look at Lee’s plots post-Kirby. Both were lacking.

I don’t think considering context is a cop out.

Modern writers use a more naturalistic style of dialogue, and the days when you used balloons to help narrate the story are long gone. When I was a teen, I hated Lee, Kirby, and Ditko, and I couldn’t see past their relative crudeness as compared to modern writers. But as I grew older, I learned to enjoy them, and nowadays I don’t need any conscious effort to “translate.” It’s just like reading in a slightly different language, that has its own rules, but isn’t necessarily any less beautiful.

T.

I’ll see if I can find the Morrison quote and post it here.

(T. – I generally agree that Stan is more often copied badly, anyway, here is the quote)

GM: As for trends, I know what I’m doing next, but apart from that I predict … umm … too many Stans, too few Jacks. Too many low budget movies and radio dramas passing themselves off as comic books. Too few big wild comic book ideas, more pishy old ’80s themes and more “realistic” guvmint-sponsored superheroes. At least for a short while ….

GM: So f&*^k “realism” and let’s give our artists cool s*** to draw, instead of talking heads and military bases!

Ummm…. even FULLY considering context, I still put Stan Lee at #2, behind Al Feldstein. I get much more enjoyment out of reading Marvel comics from the 60s and 70s than I could possibly get reading the likes of Miller or Moore or Gaiman or Morrison or Ellis (none of whom would have even a chance of sniffing my list).

Not everybody put someone like Stan Lee on their list out of a sense of nostalgia (Lee more or less retired before I was born). And not everybody wants their comics to be gritty and real and serious. Sometimes people just like to read comics that are fun. It’s precisely why a relative newcomer like Jeff Parker landed on my top ten list. Fun. What a novel concept to incorporate into comic books.

Look, I understand why people have and will continue to adore the Moores and Millers out there. The issue, to me, is when someone who would choose 60s and 70s era Marvel comics over Watchmen or TDKR is immediately expected to justify why that is, or to “put it in context” – to look at it in a relative sense. I, for one, refuse to do that, because that attitude is still degrading to any intrinsic literary value of the book. It is still saying “even if it is as good, it still isn’t as good.” That’s bullshit, and it would be disrespectful to my own integrity as a reader.

The Man With No Name

December 20, 2010 at 4:31 pm

What is the best post-1970 Stan Lee scripted comic? Post-1980?……
Silver Surfer-Parable with Moebius

Ummm…. even FULLY considering context, I still put Stan Lee at #2, behind Al Feldstein. I get much more enjoyment out of reading Marvel comics from the 60s and 70s than I could possibly get reading the likes of Miller or Moore or Gaiman or Morrison or Ellis (none of whom would have even a chance of sniffing my list).

Not everybody put someone like Stan Lee on their list out of a sense of nostalgia (Lee more or less retired before I was born). And not everybody wants their comics to be gritty and real and serious. Sometimes people just like to read comics that are fun. It’s precisely why a relative newcomer like Jeff Parker landed on my top ten list. Fun. What a novel concept to incorporate into comic books.

Look, I understand why people have and will continue to adore the Moores and Millers out there. The issue, to me, is when someone who would choose 60s and 70s era Marvel comics over Watchmen or TDKR is immediately expected to justify why that is, or to “put it in context” – to look at it in a relative sense. I, for one, refuse to do that, because that attitude is still degrading to any intrinsic literary value of the book. It is still saying “even if it is as good, it still isn’t as good.” That’s bullshit, and it would be disrespectful to my own integrity as a reader.

I agree with this 1000%. Stan Lee was long out of monthly comics when I discovered comics, so I too get insulted when people assume it must be out of nostalgia you like him. I only discovered Stan Lee after collecting comics for a several years in the 80s. I discovered him in reprint books, but at the time I didn’t know they were reprint books. I thought they were current. And I fell in love with the writing instantly, even compared to the other modern writing at the time, without even knowing that i was reading something from the past. It just felt like everyone was having a blast, I loved the bombast, the nicknames, the jokes, the soliloquys, the melodrama.

Reading a new Geoff Johns book comes off way cheesier to me than an old Stan Lee book for sure. Same for Moore and Miller.

Ookerdookers, I think you misinterpreted what I meant by context. The point I was trying to get at was I don’t think someone should be bumped up or given a pass because the people writing around them are using the same conventions. To put it another way, if a method of conveying a story beat hadn’t been used in their time I don’t think they deserve a handicap.
In my mind, it’s not about having to justify the writing, it’s the exact opposite, it’s making excuses based on context. If you think any writer, Stan Lee or whoever is top on your list, that’s one thing. I was just wondering how many people when making out their lists were thinking, this is the order my list would go in, but they had a different audience or were constrained by the format back then, so I’ll give this author extra points since they weren’t on a level playing field.

I don’t think considering context is a cop out.

Modern writers use a more naturalistic style of dialogue, and the days when you used balloons to help narrate the story are long gone.

I hear what you’re saying, but I’ll use myself as an example. i was a preteen, Lee/Ditko and Lee/Romita Spider-Man was being reprinted on the stands, and I had no idea I was reading 20 year old comic books. I had been exposed to Frank Miller DD, Mazzuchelli, Roger Stern, Chris Claremont, Alan Moore books, etc. I didn’t need to take ocntext into account in order to enjoy the books. Marvel Tales instantly became my favorite book, more than Simonson’s Thor, Byrne’s FF, Miller’s DD, everything (even though I loved all those too).

@T & ookerdookers-

Just a general question (not an assumption)-

I love Super Mario Brothers 3. I would much rather play Super Mario 3 than any other current video game; to me, it’s far more fun. But, I also think it’s ridiculous to say that Super Mario 3 is better than any current game. My issue with all of the current video games is that they’re just too much. I don’t care about discovering the complexity and advanced gaming techniques, I don’t want to expend the mental energy, I don’t want to think about strategy… I just want my scrolling action games.

Is that the same situation as you guys with Stan vs. Moore, Morrison, etc.?

I guess my point is that there’s nothing wrong with preferring a medium when it was simpler, but you still have to acknowledge that the increased ambition is a good thing, even if it’s just not for you, right?

Stephen, I think based on his answer he actually did get your point about context. He seems to be saying under ANY criteria, level playing field or not, with or without context, he’d objectively choose a Stan Lee book over the others.

I agree with Stephen on context.

Of course, I first read the Lee/Ditko Spider-man when I was twenty. And I think it’s legitimately better than anything that followed it.

Stan Lee, like his work or not, read his work or not, is the main reason people are still writing or reading comics. That, in my opinion, makes him #1.

Stan’s best scripting after 1980 (keep in mind that I haven’t read everything) is Amazing Spider-Man Annual #18, with Jameson’s wedding.
I don’t know about stories he plotted since the early ’70s, though. The ones I’ve read have all been light throwaways. There was a decent back-up in Fantastic Four a few years ago.

Stan Lee, like his work or not, read his work or not, is the main reason people are still writing or reading comics. That, in my opinion, makes him #1.

Stan the Man was a giant no question, but can we at least acknowledge that he co-created most of his famous characters, and wouldn’t have gotten as far without Kirby & Ditko? I think Lee utilizing the “Marvel Method” (plot, then art, then script) was brilliant, and allowed two extremely talented storytellers to work with very few restrictions.

I think the Morrison quote is a bit backwards, even if I agree with his point. We don’t have too many Stan Lees, we have too many ’50s DC writers, only without the imagination. Lee let Kirby & Ditko go off, while modern scripters often keep the artists’ visions from flourishing.

Bendis has written some of my favorite comics, including most of his pre-Marvel work, Daredevil, Powers, & Ultimate Spider-Man. I remember how exciting it was in the late ’90s to discover this new talent writing in a style different than his contemporaries.

“Born Again” is one of the best super-hero comics ever. I thought 300 was pure entertainment, and it was one of Miller’s best art jobs.

I wonder how things would go if the voting was done this way:

Choose your top 10, THEN choose ONE person you DON’T want to see on the list (subtracting the equivalent of a first place vote from their total).

If done that way, I might have voted (just to make my negative votes for Gaiman and that one guy who did New Mutants that I can never spell the name right (even though I actually liked his DD & elektra stuff), without copying and pasting).

Third Man, you had no way of knowing, but you chose a loaded analogy with video games. By choice, the only console I own is a Sega Genesis. I might be the wrong person when it comes to that analogy.

Bendis would not have made my top ten writers- when he’s good (Powers) he’s very good, but when he’s bad (Secret Invasion) -oy.

I actually like Miller better as a writer than an artist- and despite the stumble that All-Star Batman has been, his place in comics history cannot be denied.

And Stan Lee? ‘Nuff said. :)

“Stan the Man was a giant no question, but can we at least acknowledge that he co-created most of his famous characters, and wouldn’t have gotten as far without Kirby & Ditko? I think Lee utilizing the “Marvel Method” (plot, then art, then script) was brilliant, and allowed two extremely talented storytellers to work with very few restrictions. ”

Yeah, but Stan hired them. “Incredibly eye for collaborative talent” is one of the reasons I consider him such a great writer.

ookerdookers –

The funny thing is, even though I can see how Stan Lee was jokey and having a blast, I also believe he was the guy that actually started grim and gritty, and he was the first big deconstructionist in superhero comics.

He started the quest for realism in comics with Spider-Man; the uncertain, troubled life Peter Parker had seemed to me a direct challenge to the self-assured champions of order that were the 1950s DC Heroes. His Fantastic Four stories made much of the anti-hero concept with the Sub-Mariner and the Thing (even though Stan called it “Hero-Villain” instead of anti-hero), not to mention the Hulk and Hawkeye.

I don’t see Stan Lee in opposition to Moore and Miller, I see Stan Lee more as their conceptual grandfather.

“If you think any writer, Stan Lee or whoever is top on your list, that’s one thing. I was just wondering how many people when making out their lists were thinking, this is the order my list would go in, but they had a different audience or were constrained by the format back then, so I’ll give this author extra points since they weren’t on a level playing field.”

“Stephen, I think based on his answer he actually did get your point about context. He seems to be saying under ANY criteria, level playing field or not, with or without context, he’d objectively choose a Stan Lee book over the others.”

Precisely. My issue is with others’ presumption that people MUST be, or even MIGHT be, voting for Stan Lee out of a ‘sense of duty,’ or out of historical acknowlegement. That presumption is what is so bothersome – that I or someone else must not have regarded Stan Lee so highly based on his writing merits alone, that he must be scoring points because of his promotional skills, how he revolutionized comics, his legacy.

It is surprising that Warren Ellis will (presumably) rank above both Lee and Miller. Even though Miller has become one of the crappiest writers in recent years, his influence and sheer talent cannot be overstated – remember, in that same period (86-87), he also wrote Elektra: Assassin! Heck, I think he should have been way higher as an artist, as well, as he is arguably one of the greatest storytellers of all time.

Rene, I totally agree. I don’t think they are in opposition at all. It’s more a matter of balance, I guess. Moore’s Watchmen or Miracle Man is the porridge that is too hot. Golden Age DC is the porridge that is too cold. Lee’s Spider-Man is the porridge that is…

Frank Miller was my #6.

I find myself torn on the Stan Lee issue myself. Like T., I mostly discovered his work via reprints that I didn’t exactly realize were reprints and I was immediately swept away by the brilliance of these comics without any academic consideration of context. (At a time when I was slowly transitioning from making mine Marvel to reading more DC stuff, I felt Marvel tales was the most exciting monthly coming out of the House of Ideas.)

But as years have gone by, learning more about the Marvel Method of making comics, reading of Kirby’s and Ditko’s gripes about not receiving adequate credit for their ideas, etc. it’s hard for me to think about Stan as a writer in the pure sense… He’s more of a “writer” (with the ironic quotes) for me. Like Rene said, Stan initiated the deconstruction of the comic book superhero, but to some degree I feel like he also deconstructed the comic book writer, reinventing him as a Warhol-style Pop Art auteur who was equal parts ad man, carnival barker and fictional character. (Probably not coincidental that Marvel sport that “Marvel Pop Art Comics” banner for a while in the late 60s.)

I still love the dialogue Stan wrote in those Spidey and FF comics, so I’d still rank him fairly high… but he’d be number one on the “Best Comics Editor” list or maybe even on just a somewhat more ambiguous “Great Comic *Creators* of All Time.” But purely as a writer? I don’t know…

“Precisely. My issue is with others’ presumption that people MUST be, or even MIGHT be, voting for Stan Lee out of a ‘sense of duty,’ or out of historical acknowlegement.”

Perish the thought that someone might think some of the votes were coming in for this reason. It couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the fact it’s been clearly stated that way in some of the above posts.

I’ll clearly admit, Stan Lee wasn’t on my top 10 list but I have no problem understanding why someone might put him on theirs. However, when posts are saying he has to be considered based on the era he wrote in or that he should be at the top of the WRITERS list based on overall contribution to the medium, that’s not rating based on the enjoyment of his writing. Taking offense to the fact that someone might be wondering how wide spread this might be seems kind of ridiculous to me.

Speaking of writers who “this medium wouldn’t be here if not for them”, I haven’t seen Jerry Siegel on this list. He is the true father of the medium and out of merit deserves to be here. Truly without him none of the others would have come later.

I voted for him mostly because his Spectre stories are very dear to my heart. I didn’t vote for Stan Lee because I find his writing archaic and a little dull. I appreciate the energy he brought to the books and the inventiveness of his characters but for every great character there was a Paste Pot Pete or an Ultimo. The only thing that I read by Stan that I really liked is his Dr.Strange with Ditko and the first few issues of the Avengers. I still think they are some of the best Avengers issues ever written, but that all changed when the new team arrived.

“I’ll clearly admit, Stan Lee wasn’t on my top 10 list but I have no problem understanding why someone might put him on theirs. However, when posts are saying he has to be considered based on the era he wrote in or that he should be at the top of the WRITERS list based on overall contribution to the medium, that’s not rating based on the enjoyment of his writing. Taking offense to the fact that someone might be wondering how wide spread this might be seems kind of ridiculous to me.”

Sure.

Some people might, to some degree, equate “Favorite” with “influential” or “Favorite” with “critically lauded” or “favorite” with “I read their comics when I was eight and sick in bed.” I think like a critic, so it’s hard for me to dis-tangle “Favorite” from “good.”

I don’t see any of those as invalid.

(Although, if I had (A) voted, and (B) voted ONLY for scripters, not cartoonists, Joe Gill would have made my cut. Because he seemed to be havin’ fun writing crap.)

Like the list as it is, lots to disagree with but nothing disgusting.

I’d have had MIller higher but for the fact that his writing in the last 10 years has been so self indulgent that it’s pulled back my opinion of him. Years from now that will be forgotten, I trust, like the Favre years outside of GB.

It amuses me greatly that people on here are arguing as to why so-and-so should or should not be considered a BETTER writer than the others, when this whole thing is about who our FAVORITES are.

Stan Lee didnt make my list, but in retrospect he definitely should have, my bad. I left him off mainly because he was assured a top spot so I chose to vote for ‘lesser’ writers that I like.

I voted Miller at #1 on the strength of Born Again, Man Without Fear, Dark Knight Returns, Year One, Sin City (except Hell and Back which was a mess and could’ve been cut down by half into a decent book), and yes Dark Knight Strikes Again which is a stupidly brilliant satire/parody.

Havent read enough Bendis to be impressed at all, but what I’ve read says to me that he’s big on ideas but fails in the execution. Powers has been on my ‘to-read’ list forever tho.

Just a general question (not an assumption)-

I love Super Mario Brothers 3. I would much rather play Super Mario 3 than any other current video game; to me, it’s far more fun. But, I also think it’s ridiculous to say that Super Mario 3 is better than any current game. My issue with all of the current video games is that they’re just too much. I don’t care about discovering the complexity and advanced gaming techniques, I don’t want to expend the mental energy, I don’t want to think about strategy… I just want my scrolling action games.

Is that the same situation as you guys with Stan vs. Moore, Morrison, etc.?

No.

I have reread Stan’s great-60s work in recent years, and it does hold up. Is it cheesy sometimes? Sure. But so is the dialogue in many great golden era Hollywood movies. I voted for him at number one because I love those Fantastic Four and Spider-Man stories that he helped create. If it’s not gritty or realistic enough for you, well, that’s your loss. Stan (with ample help from Kirby, Ditko and Romita Sr.) made classic stories.

The countdown is not about who deserves to be ranked higher, or who is more influential, or who created superheroes. Its about your favorite writers. Its interesting to see Lee still on peoples lists on work from the 60′s and 70′s. Music is like that too, everyone’s favorites are usually the ones you discovered when you first started listening to music. (books? movies?)

I guess I understand it, but I feel many voted for Lee simply because they felt they had to include him. I’m of the mindset that the first to do something, or create a work, isn’t always the best forever and ever.

The whole argument about “dialogue was so cheesy back then” seems short-sighted. Unless the dialogue you’re reading is meandering, mumbled and uncommunicative, then it’s unrealistic. The dialogue you’re reading today isn’t realistic. Dialogue of the ’60s may seem to you like a product of its time but that’s only because you don’t yet have the perspective to see that the dialogue you’re reading today is also a product of its time.

I find Lee’s dialogue to be intentionally stylized, like all dialogue, but in a delightful way. And frankly, it’s not that different from how I and my (rowdier) friends talk. Yes, when we’re chasing each other around playing pranks on each other, we do speak with an exclamation point at the end of every line! (and when we’re thrust into a stressful situation together, we’re even more likely to do so!)

I suppose that I’ve also met a few people who spoke like they were in a Sandman comic, but I made sure to never speak to those people again.

This is disheartening and sad. Anyone that doubts Stan Lee as with out a doubt the most important comic writer in history is either short sighted or trying to be cool and alternative. Without Lee’s contributions to comics, none of these writers on the list would be anywhere near where they are today. In fact comics and sequential art would not be even close to relevant if it weren’t for the creations that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby birthed. While I admit that each of the creators on this list is extremely talented you simply cannot provide a good enough reason to put Stan Lee anywhere but number 1. He is a pillar of our modern mythology more so than any of these creators combined.

I agree that the countdown is about favorite writers. But to vote, didn’t you have to submit a top 10 writers and top 10 artists? If that is the case, don’t others agree that this hurt Miller a bit. It seems like the top 5 includes only people who wrote. I think that Miller lost some votes because of the split between voting for him as an artist versus voting as a writer. I only included him as a writer, but I chose to just include him on one of the two categories.
I know many people still included him in both of the lists but it seems like it at least cost him the top 5 as he didn’t lose to Stan by many points.

Bendis I could take or leave, but I don’t really get why everybody hates him so much. He’s mediocre at dialogue and characterization, but a lot of people who read comic books read them for the bam pow action and the sweeping, “world-changing” storylines. I think he’s got that down undeniably.

Also, remember that this isn’t a top 100 list generated by some scholarly review. How many “real people” would really say Citizen Kane is the best movie ever? This is a popular vote here, and since Bendis is a huge seller it stands to reason that all those people who buy his comics would vote him high on the list.

Don’t get me wrong – I would love to see really great creators like the Bros Hernandez, Amanda Connor, Rebekah Issacs, Richard Starkings, etc, higher on the list, or even on the list at all. But their shit doesn’t sell like the big boys do. So expecting your favorite indie creator to be in the top five is just unrealistic and very stuck-up hipster bullshit.

“I guess I understand it, but I feel many voted for Lee simply because they felt they had to include him. I’m of the mindset that the first to do something, or create a work, isn’t always the best forever and ever.”

Trey, I certainly didn’t feel I had to include anybody. Only allowing 10 choices makes that impossible anyway, as there are for more than 10 writers I would have felt obligated to include. Also, if I felt to be under such an obligation, I would have included Kirby as an artist, as he is a better artist than most on my list and more important than any. But I wasn’t voting for the best or most important, but those I love the most. That Kirby isn’t on that list says far more about me and my experience than it doe about Kirby. But that is the point of this list, I figure.

I suspect very few people felt pressure to include Lee. I feel many voted for him because they like his work. That’s why I voted for him.

I am also not of the mindset that the first to do something is the best. I have never cited Bob Kane as my favorite Batman writer or Stan Lee as my favorite Daredevil writer. Nor do I think Lee was the best X-Men writer. And I frankly didn’t care much for his Avengers. Avengers really began for me with Thomas/Buscema.

However, I have never read better: Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, or Amazing Adult Fantasy comics than those scripted by Mr. Lee. (In fact my only trepidation in voting for Lee is an uncertainty how much is due to him and how much to Ditko. But we let that go.)

Also, Fantastic Four doesn’t seem to have been improved upon, but I’m yet to sit down and read through the entire series, so I don’t say that with the certainty I do the above.

No, I believe people voted for Lee out of love for his work, and nothing else.

On the other hand, those who voted for Morrison are just trying to be cool and pretentious. None of them actually enjoy his work.

I absolutely agree with Matt Bird about the subject of dialogue. Chris Claremont is another writer that I feel gets unfairly criticised by people who claim that his dialogue is just not realistic, when in truth no dialogue really is in comics.

The Crazed Spruce

December 21, 2010 at 1:47 am

Bendis was my #9. Sure, I’m not so big on his Avengers run (I’m sorry, but as much as I love ‘em, Spidey and Wolverine do NOT belong on the Avengers), but the man wrote Alias and Powers, two of the best superhero comics of the past two decades.

Miller was part of my 11th place tie. He might’ve placed higher, but the overwhelming amount of testosterone in his comics weighed him down.

I had Stan Lee at #10. The man redefined the comic book. And sure, in retrospect a lot of his work is corny and overwritten (which is why he’s only #10 on my list), but that’s mostly due to the era in which it was written, and much of it still holds up today, side by side with many modern stories.

“Exactly. And Lee’s work far surpassed what most of his sucessors did with his toys. I’d rate him as better than 75% of modern superhero comic writers working today, if not more.”

This I agree with, and might put the number even higher, though I admit it is hard to say how big part Ditko, Kirby and Romita had in his best works. Still, his Spidey and FF and others are far more readable than most of his contemporaries and plenty of people coming afterwards.
But considering the number of writers playing with his toys, that would still put a bunch of people above him. And then there’s the sea of writers who don’t play with his toys…(if the voting was about “your favorite _superhero_ writer” I probably would place Lee somewhere around #7-10, but, well, Goscinny, Barks, Eisner, Franquin…)

I’ll not exactly be surprised to find Ellis way up there what with all the Internet guru cult surrounding him, his fans are rabid and he has a cool website to keep them interested.
Also, in my humble opinion, and that goes for Miller and Millar, too, provocative subject matters and obnoxious characters are a reason in and of itself to buy a book nowadays and be hyped by the press for “daring” and “risque” writing…
Ellis has been disappointing me for some time now his characters are too alike no matter what his book is about and all the atrocious art in the Avatar books does not exactly help matters.

I can understand why Frank Miller gets accolades as an artist, I still think people rate his art higher than it deserves to be (he’s not the next Eisner, that’s Mazzucchelli) but he has a strong sense of pace and can depict movement and planes very well.

I will never understand why he gets so much praise as a writer. What cool ideas he has (the Atom being imprisoned in a petri dish and the Flash being forced to power the electrical grid by running on a giant hamster wheel, Carrie Kelly and the mutants, Ronin) are completely drowned in his ever present misogyny, homophobia, jingoism, and juvenile war worship in the realm of adult affairs, How many times has he written the same story about his uberman’s man and the whores, both dirty and virginal, who ultimately don’t deserve him no matter how independent and strong they may think they are?

Warren Ellis at four (or higher??). Grant Morrison maybe at 1.

And yet some posters think that giving Mr Stan a number 5 slot can only be down to nostalgia? I’ll walk into town grinning all over my face. Seriously anybody who doesn’t think Mr Stan should be higher probably just came to his comics too late in life?

He produced wonderful stuff for youngsters…. maybe the toughest audience there is. ( For those guys above who have said they first came to Stan via reprints, I’d be interested to hear how old they were when first reading his stuff.)

Well, at least Bendis is finally out of the way.

Miller’s my fave of these, by far in terms of actual comic writing ability, though he descended into self-parody ages ago. At his peak, though – nice.

The lower Morrison gets in the remaining 4 the better, but he’ll get at least #3, with any other number being totally possible, too.

I’m guessing Mark Millar, Dan Jurgens, Grant Morrison, Jack Kirby, Mark Silvestri and Robert Kirkman are the possible choices for top 4 since Geoff Johns, Brian Bendis and Stan Lee are already ranked lower than they should be.

Miller should be higher regardless of crap like dk2 &asbar

A few people here are comparing Bendis and Miller, but I bet they’re taking the worst of Bendis and holding it up against TDK, which isn’t fair. “Who Killed Retro Girl?” is an amazingly good crime drama, and one that I think is more accessible than a lot of Miller’s work. Bendis deserves his credit.

“Anyone that doubts Stan Lee as with out a doubt the most important comic writer in history is either short sighted or trying to be cool and alternative.”

Or absolutely correct.

“Most important comic writer in history” is Tezuka.

“Most culturally important American comics writer” is Harvey Kurtzman.

I guess I understand it, but I feel many voted for Lee simply because they felt they had to include him.

Because God forbid if someone doesn’t like what you like, they must be using flawed judgment. Therefore you must ascribe motives to them and then attack THAT strawman. You’re as bad as those people who claim anyone who likes Grant Morrison doesn’t really understand it and only pretends to like him because it’s pretentious and they’re afraid to admit it.

I’m of the mindset that the first to do something, or create a work, isn’t always the best forever and ever..

What a coincidence. I and many of the others who voted for Stan Lee are of the exact same mindset!!! That’s why we voted him high based on the fact that he’s objectively better than modern writers in our eyes rather than due to the fact he was the first.

Come to think of it, why did you bother to bring up your “mindset” anyway? Oh yeah, you were attacking a strawman. Carry on….

I’m guessing it’ll be Morrison, Moore, Gaiman, Ellis, in order from one to four. For me it’d be the same except with Moore ahead of Morrison. Honestly Morrison is doing better work than Moore these days and has been for several years, but Moore’s overall output is unsurpassed, for me.

Did anyone mention Stan Lee’s current work? The Boom studios stuff, where he’s plotting and some highly talented contemporary writers are scripting? Soldier Zero (with Paul Cornell) and Starborn (with Christ Roberson) are both excellent. The Waid-scripted Traveler hasn’t caught on with me yet for some reason, even though I love the rest of Waid’s work these days.

Still, his Spidey and FF and others are far more readable than most of his contemporaries and plenty of people coming afterwards.

It was definitely more readable than Waid’s FF to me, which was just a poor man’s Lee/Kirby. I could only take three issues of that and it was dreadful. But I can read dozens of Lee/Kirby FF in a single afternoon. And not enjoying it ironically or due to nostalgia (since I read my first Lee/Kirby FF only a few years ago). It’s just objectively better written than anything I read today from Morrison, Moore, Waid, Kelly, etc. He’s simply better at his craft.

I’d rather read someone doing lowbrow really, really well, on a genius level even, like Lee did, than someone trying to do poorly conceived pedestrian aspirational highbrow in a traditionally lowbrow venue, which is how many modern superhero writers come off to me.

We really gotta stop using “objectively” to defend your choices.

I’d like to ban “gamechanger” while we’re at it. Not just from the discussion of this poll, but from human discourse in general.

andrew said “Anyone that doubts Stan Lee as with out a doubt the most important comic writer in history…”

yes, he was an important writer – but necessarily a great writer. If this was a list of important writers he would be at the top – but this is a list of good writers. Brian Azzarello, to name one, is a better writer than Lee. But Azzarello’s body or work is clearly not as important as Lee’s

We really gotta stop using “objectively” to defend your choices

You’re right. When I said “objectively” I meant that i was viewing it as objectively as I could as opposed to using a handicap such as “within context” or taking being influential or groundbreaking into account. I didn’t mean to state that I sincerely believe my opinion to be objective, as opinion by their nature are subjective.

I’d like to ban “gamechanger” while we’re at it. Not just from the discussion of this poll, but from human discourse in general.

I agree, but I think the word “iconic” needs to go first. DC comics and its fans in the last 5 years alone have abused that word more than i think it’s been used in the previous century.

“I agree, but I think the word “iconic” needs to go first. DC comics and its fans in the last 5 years alone have abused that word more than i think it’s been used in the previous century.”

By the same token, we’d have to banish “relatable” from comics discourse as it’s been worn to a nub by Marvelites.

By the same token, we’d have to banish “relatable” from comics discourse as it’s been worn to a nub by Marvelites.

I can agree with that, although I think relatable while overused still hasn’t been beaten to death to the same degree. The reason I say that is that DC uses “iconic” to death now not only in the real world of interviews and articles and message boards, they’ve actually gotten to the point where they use it to death INSIDE the books, either by explicitly using the term or implicitly by constantly having other characters, even other superheroes, constantly remind us how wonderful certain characters are.

For example the use of the term “Trinity” is a good example. There was even a miniseries explicitly called Trinity, which I found crazy, because it was just another unsubtle way for them to beat people over the head with the “iconic” meme. It would be like Marvel explicitly titling a book “Superheroes! They’re just like us!” to drive home the fact the heroes are relatable.

DC and its fans are really bad with these words. “Speedsters.” “Legacy heroes.” It’s the literary equivalent of dried jizz in a tissue.

This would be a good next poll: words/phrases you could ban from the comic industry.

Stan Lee, Stan Lee, what is there to say that he hasn’t already said himself? I ended up with him at #4, somehow both surprised that he finished so low and surprised that he finished so high.
Somebody in one of these threads compared a writer or artist to U2. If Stan was to be compared to someone in music, it would be as if George Martin didn’t just produce the Beatles, he also produced the Rolling Stones and the Who, along with Jimi Hendrix as a personal pet project. And he was intimately involved in the arranging, editing and recording of every song, in ways that were hard to distinguish from the artist’s personal work. He’d often rework lyrics or add his own stuff, in ways that sometimes really improved the songs and in other ways that really pissed off the creators. Every once in a while he’d even contribute a bit of piano or ocarina, and noisily distinctive, yet effective background vocals. And say the same record company produced all of these albums, and gave George Martin co-writing credits on every song.
Not a bad legacy. Not an insignificant contribution to music.

But it’s a bit uncharitable and bordering on snark, so let me commend him as a tremendously innovative and engaging scripter in his own right. I’ve no doubt that he helped bring out the best in Kirby and Ditko, but one of the best testaments to Lee’s ability to create and sustain unique characters was his work on the “new” Avengers with Don Heck. Far from the creative powers and dazzle of Kirby and Ditko, he didn’t create much of note (the Swordsman, the original Power Man, and the not-so-memorable Commisar and Minotaur.) But he put Captain America with a group of unpromising unknowns (Hawkeye, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch) and made the stories engrossing solely through his characterization.
I tend to cringe every time he does yet another walk-on in another Marvel movie, but have to admit that he was one of the most unique contributors ever involved in comics.

Stan Lee became so renowned because he worked in an industry at a time when there was absolutely nothing artistically or intellectually interesting going on. This does not make him a great writer. By any objective standards, he’s not even a good writer. So he was the first superhero comic book writer to give his characters personalities. This basically just means he had his characters arguing and fighting amongst themselves (a device he desperately resorted to over and over again), and since no one at the time had ever seen that before, they thought, Wow, this is realistic! Yes, he was probably the best comic book writer of the ’60s. Which is like calling someone the smartest idiot. It’s not like superhero comics would not have grown more “realistic” without his influence.

Sorry, I’m just tired of people mistaking “groundbreaking” and “historically significant” for “great.”

I’d love to hear more about those objective standards. Are there graphs? Everybody loves graphs.

To answer JackDaw53:

He produced wonderful stuff for youngsters…. maybe the toughest audience there is. ( For those guys above who have said they first came to Stan via reprints, I’d be interested to hear how old they were when first reading his stuff.)

I was 6 or 7 when I got my first Marvel reprint collections–Origins of Marvel Comics and Marvel’s Greatest Superhero Battles–and I was 10 when Marvel Tales started reprinting ASM over again from the beginning… That was when I REALLY came to appreciate Stan (who I had come to think of as just the name in the marquee on the first page of every Marvel book, and the annoying, self-aggrandizing personality who wrote the ITEM!s on the Bulln Bulletin page).

(damn keyboard… I meant “Bullpen Bulletins,” obviously)

Regarding Stan Lee: I knocked Kurtzman out of my top 10 for Stan, because on reflection, I’ve enjoyed all of the Essential volumes I’ve read of his early stuff. So while I agree with MarkAndrew that Kurtzman is the most culturally relevant comics writer ever, I felt that I enjoyed MORE stuff by Stan overall. (I’m still pondering that “Tezuka is the most important comics writer ever” bit, MarkAndrew. Hm, interesting.)

Read any of the Essential volumes where Stan is listed as writer on most or all of the stories. They’re all enjoyable, even the ones that aren’t done with Jack or Steve. But the first 2 Spidey ones and the first 4 FF are incredible.

Also, for anyone questioning Stan’s ability as a writer because of how much the other collaborator had a hand in (Ditko, Kirby, I’m not sure how much other artists plotted with Stan), find the post here from a while back where Brian asked what the last great Stan Lee work was (Brian, maybe you have a link?). MarkAndrew, I think, pointed out how hard it is to dialogue over already drawn comics. Especially, I would think, over such great art as Steve and Jack’s.

Keep in mind too, that he (co)created pretty much every interesting element of the Marvel Universe. There certainly have been other concepts in the Marvel U that have been cool since, but nearly everything has at least a foundation in what Stan and his collaborators did.

Oh, and for an homage to the early Marvel days, find the 6 issues of 1963 by Moore/Bissette/Veitch et al. The stories are (mostly) loving homages to the Marvel stuff (with twists, certainly), and the text pages are delightfully savage lampoons of the Stan-as-huckster/Bullpen Bulletins/ what was really going on behind the scenes. Great stuff.

Lee didn’t even make my list. He’s like the great sports stars of old. They made a huge impact, but put anyone from today against the top guys of old and they would be pummeled. Yes him and Kirby pretty much created the entire marvel U, and they deserve mad respect for that, but that doesn’t make his stuff any less painful to read. He’s the George Lucas of Comics. He created an incredible framework and I am forever thankful, but everything good that has come from that framework was done by someone else.

Well, would Ty Cobb have hit .366 for his career if baseball had been integrated back then? Would Babe Ruth have hit 714 home runs? Sure, there have been better comic book writers since Stan Lee. Few people would dispute that. However, in the 1960s, whose work would you rather have read if you were into comics in those days? (OK, maybe Arnold Drake or Roy Thomas on a good day, but Stan defined an entire decade in comics-an incredible accomplishment, in my opinion).

Well, would Ty Cobb have hit .366 for his career if baseball had been integrated back then? Would Babe Ruth have hit 714 home runs? Sure, there have been better comic book writers since Stan Lee. Few people would dispute that. However, in the 1960s, whose work would you rather have read if you were into comics in those days?

Screw that. Even if you included the modern day talent, I’d rather read Stan Lee’s writing at his peak over Geoff Johns, Bendis, Brubaker, Morrison or even Alan Moore at his peak, including Watchmen. I don’t think we have to even use your Ty Cobb analogy to defend Stan Lee.

Stan Lee became so renowned because he worked in an industry at a time when there was absolutely nothing artistically or intellectually interesting going on.

These modern writers are supposedly so superior artistically and intellectually than the creators in Stan’s era that they (a) can’t come up with any new intellectual ideas for the things created in Stan’s era outside of deconstruction and rehashing (and I even include Moore’s Watchmen, great as it was, basic recycling with a more adult viewpoint) and (b) still have yet to substantially evolve artistically beyond the visual fundamentals of the craft laid down in that era. Look at most new costumes even of established characters and at best they’re slight remixes or tweaks of the original looks created in Stan Lee’s era. Any substantial design that truly overhauls a character’s look almost always inevitably fails and ends up getting reset to status quo. The only costume changes with staying power are the ones that are basically just remixes, keeping most of the elements and the spirit of the original, including things like Batman, Iron Man and Thor’s costume changes.

Yes, our modern creators are so superior intellectually and artistically to the architects of the whole genre that they can’t create one new character or intellectual or artistic idea with a fraction of the staying power or that isn’t 90% influenced by a creator from Stan Lee’s era.

Give me a break.

I don’t know, man. Look at those names. Look at those covers. It seems like everything else everybody did, was based on a path first tread by Stan Lee.

“Stan Lee became so renowned because he worked in an industry at a time when there was absolutely nothing artistically or intellectually interesting going on. This does not make him a great writer. By any objective standards, he’s not even a good writer. So he was the first superhero comic book writer to give his characters personalities. This basically just means he had his characters arguing and fighting amongst themselves (a device he desperately resorted to over and over again), and since no one at the time had ever seen that before, they thought, Wow, this is realistic! Yes, he was probably the best comic book writer of the ’60s. Which is like calling someone the smartest idiot. It’s not like superhero comics would not have grown more “realistic” without his influence.

Sorry, I’m just tired of people mistaking “groundbreaking” and “historically significant” for “great.””

Two years late, I know, but I happened to read this and it’s a really maddening argument. It’s not “only” about the realism Stan brought to comics, it’s about the characters Stan brought to comics — with other artists. It’s about the fact that Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, John Romita and others did their best work with Lee. It’s about Doctor Doom and the Green Goblin and Galactus. It’s about the attitude that first presented itself in the Sixties with Marvel, the youthful vigor, the respect as an art form that I feel was first engendered by Marvel Comics before extrapolating out to comic books in general. This guy Fuller just couldn’t be more wrong.

And in this case “historically significant” and “ground-breaking” IS great. Those characters, those storylines are still evolving, still growing. Other great artists saw it and took it on as their own. That’s greatness. Bob Dylan doesn’t suck because Stevie Wonder and Jimi Hendrix did better versions of his songs than he did. That those amazing artists picked up on what he did underscores how great he is.

Uh, I’m done now. Yeesh.

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives