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15 Awesome Creative Dynamic Duos in Comics
Great Comic Writing Duos.
By Tim Janson
September 17, 2010
Dynamic Duos have been a staple in comics since Batman & Robin first donned their tights and capes but this time out we’re not looking for the best characters, we’re looking for the top creative duos. A great creative team can make all the difference in the world on a comic. They can take a book that’s about to be canceled and turn it into a bestseller. They can go down in history for their creations and outstanding storylines. Today we pay tribute to the greatest creative duos in comic book history.
It definitely was not an easy task. The comic staff at Mania (Rob, Kurt, Ben, Chris, Chad, and myself) huddled up to come up with a list of names that has been pared down to the very best. The three main criteria points are: Tenure. We wanted our duos to have at least a year together. The longer the better. Next up is quality. Tenure’s great but not if the work is bad. Our duos not only need to have been together for a while but also producing consistently great work. The last criteria was landmark work. These duos created great characters and/or wrote stories that blazed a new trail in comic book history. The very best teams met all these points and with that we present the Awesome Creative Dynamic Duos in Comics.
15. Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon
Ennis and Dillon are one of the most prolific and enduring creative teams in comics of the past 20 years. They first teamed on the DC/Vertigo title Hellblazer in 1992 and worked on 20 issues of the series. That was just a warm up for Preacher. The pair worked on the entire 66 issue run of the critically acclaimed title. If you never read Preacher it quite simply was one of the best titles of the late 1990s. After finishing Preacher the pair then headed over to Marvel to revamp and re-energize the punisher with a 12-issue mini-series and through most of the 37 issue ongoing series, both under the Marvel Knights imprint. It was Ennis’ and Dillon’s Punisher, along with cover artist Tim Bradstreet, that was used as the template for the Punisher War Zone film.
14. Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
In just a decade this team of Scottish creators has become one of the most popular and critically acclaimed in comics. The pair teamed for the first time on the Doom Patrol spin-off Flex Mentallo…the first of many team-ups. The pair moved on to Marvel to work on The New X-Men from 2001 – 2003 but their best work was yet to come. Back at DC they paired for the 12 issue mini-series All Star Superman. This series won the Eisner Award for best new series and best continuing series.
13. Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard
This pair of creators has enjoyed one of the longest tenures of the past decade with over six years and 70 issues together on Image Comics’ The Walking Dead. While not the first comic series to be about a zombie plague, it has been by far the most successful with well-developed characters. The comic series has been adapted for a TV show which will debut on AMC in October.
12. Bob Layton & David Michelinie
In this case, our dynamic duo is a pair of writers who have collaborated on some 80 issues of Iron Man from the late 1970s to as recently as 2008. Their run was most noted for the “Demon in a Bottle” storyline in Iron Man # 120 – 128 (Vol 1) in which Tony Stark deals with his alcoholism. Their run was also notable for the creation of the many different power armor variants, the creation of Justin Hammer, and Jim Rhodes who would become War Machine. In the past two years they have teamed again for Iron Man: Legacy of Doom and Iron Man The End #1. In addition to co-writing the series, Layton supplied most of the cover art including the iconic image to Iron Man #128.
11. Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley
In 2000 Marvel was looking for a way to attract new readers and decided to re-launch their most popular characters with modernized origins with the “Ultimate” line and the first of the titles was Ultimate Spider-Man. This fresh take on the Web-slinger achieved its goals of bringing in new readers while becoming one of Marvel’s top-sellers. The creative team of Bendis and Bagley did something most considered impossible in this day and age…the broke the record of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (Fantastic Four) for the longest continual run on a Marvel Comics series at a whopping 110 issues!
10. Alan Moore & John Totleben
Swamp Thing was nearing cancellation for the second time in 1984 when DC decided to give the title to an unknown writer named Alan Moore. Moore teamed with artists John Totleben and Stephen Bissette to change everything we thought we knew about the character. No longer was he a man who had been turned into a monster but Swamp Thing was now an earth elemental, part of a long line of elementals who had to finally let go of the notion that he had been human. Moore, Totleben and Bissette teamed for forty plus issues creating some of the most terrifying comics ever produced. They breathed new life into characters such as The Phantom Stranger, The Spectre, and The Demon. It was their run on Swamp Thing that eventually led to the creation of the Vertigo imprint for mature readers at DC. Moore and Totleben also teamed to update Marvelman (referred to as Miracleman for copyright reasons) in a memorable 16 issue run for Eclipse Comics that was one of the most violent and nihilist superhero comics ever produced.
9. Dave Sim and Gerhard
Dave Sims’s Cerebus the Aardvark is the most successful and critically acclaimed independent comic in history. Began in 1977, Cerebus ran for 300 issues until 2004. Sim was joined by artist Gerhard with issue #65 in 1984 and their 235 issue partnership holds the record for the longest-running English-language comic book series ever by a single creative team. Starting as a parody of Conan and Howard the Duck, Cerebus soon became known for its biting social and political satire. Cerebus paved the way for the black & white explosion of the mid-1980s and titles such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Usagi Yojimbo, Albedo, Fish Police, and countless others. The series and its creators won numerous awards during its historic run.
8. Marv Wolfman and George Perez
In 1980, these two former Marvel creators both found themselves at DC and paired to revamp the Teen Titans into DC’s most popular title of the early 1980s with The New Teen Titans. They created new characters Raven, Cyborg, and Starfire, and wrote complex stories that rivaled Marvel’s X-Men. The pair enjoyed a popular five year run on the title until Perez left in 1985. But they teamed again that year on one of the most important limited series of all time, “Crisis on Infinite Earths”. The series featured the deaths of The Flash and Supergirl. This 12-issue storyline is still having ripple effects in the DC Universe 25 years later and is the granddaddy of all the mega-crossover storyline events in comics.
7. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
All these two kids from Cleveland did was to simply create the first, and greatest superhero of them all—Superman! Conceived as a newspaper strip in 1933, they were unable to find a publisher until 1938 National Publications, the precursor of DC, took a chance and placed it in the first issue of their new title, Action Comics, and the rest, as they say, is history. The pair teamed for 10 years until a legal dispute over the rights to the character led to their departure in 1947. While they were not the most talented creators, Siegel and Shuster paved the way for every superhero that followed and created much of the Superman mythology that remains in place today.
6. Stan Lee & Steve Ditko
Ditko was with Marvel during the lean years of the 1950s when the company was known as Atlas Comics, primarily working on weird Sci-Fi tales for titles such as Amazing Adventures, Strange Tales, Tales to Astonish, etc…Stan turned to Ditko to develop Spider-Man. Ditko’s style was more delicate and abstract than Jack Kirby’s and thus a perfect fit for the gangly, smallish Peter Parker/Spider-Man. The pair worked on the first 38 issues of the title and created most of Spidey’s best-known villains. Arguably their best work however was on the Doctor Strange feature of Strange Tales for which the collaborated for 35 issues. Ditko let his imagination run wild with its surreal, almost hallucinogenic imagery. The reclusive Ditko, still living in New York , has rarely been seen in public in the past 40 years but his work with Stan Lee in Marvel’s early days help lay the foundation for the company.
5. Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams
Neal Adams was the first true “rock star” of comic artists. Adams never stayed on one title for long but even if it was a character you didn’t follow, you had to pick it up for his gritty, realistic art style. O’Neil and Adams teamed for some two-dozen issues of Batman and Detective comics in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The pair took Batman back to his dark and gritty roots and far away from the campy storylines of the early 1960s. Their most important work and indeed, one of the most runs in comic book history, was their 13-issue run on Green Lantern/Green Arrow in the early 1970s. They tackled subjects which previously had been taboo such as drug addiction and racism. They turned Speedy into a heroin addict and Green Arrow into a left-wing activist. In one notable cover, Adams depicted a Jesus-like figure being crucified to an airplane wing.
4. Roy Thomas and John Buscema
One of the best continuous and creative periods of the original Avengers run was Roy Thomas’ 8 year run as writer from 1966 to 1972 with John Buscema as the primary artist. This period saw the creation of Avengers super foe Ultron, the Vision, Yellow Jacket, and the marriage of Yellow Jacket and the Wasp. The pair were just warming up for their next and far longer collaboration on Conan the Barbarian. For over ten years the team created the adventures of Robert E. Howard’s pulp character. In addition to well over a 100 issues of the color comic, the pair teamed for dozens of issues of Savage Sword of Conan Magazine as well as several issue of King Conan making them one of the most prolific creative teams in history.
3. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
This team has the shortest tenure of any of the teams on the list so they better have made their works pretty significant, right? No problem. This pair of British comic creators first teamed together on various issues of England’s long running 2000 AD comic magazine. At DC they wrote one of the most famous Superman stories of the 1980s “For the Man Who Has Everything” from Superman Annual #11. However this all pales next to their next project, Watchmen. This ground-breaking 12-issue limited series is without a doubt the most important limited series in comic book history. This is the series that virtually invented the collected graphic novel when the series was sold in book form for the first time. Watchmen was the story that allowed comics to be viewed as true literature. In 2008, Entertainment Weekly placed it at number 13 on its list of the best 50 novels printed in the last 25 years, describing it as "The greatest superhero story ever told and proof that comics are capable of smart, emotionally resonant narratives worthy of the label literature." The series was turned into a big-screen film in 2009…but of course you already knew that.
2. Chris Claremont & John Byrne
After the X-Men were revamped in Giant-Sized X-Men #1 (1975) the reins of the title were given to writer Chris Claremont and he never looked back. He wrote the book from issue # 94 to 279, an incredible 17 year stretch, and later returned for two shorter runs. Claremont is credited with turning the X-Men into Marvel’s flagship title with strong characterizations and soap opera-like drama. His partnership with artist John Byrne during a three year stretch is considered by many to feature some of the greatest stories in X-Men history including “The Dark Phoenix Saga” and “Days of Future Past”. Over 30 years later, the ramifications of Claremont and Byrne’s work is still felt within the X-Men Universe.
1. Stan Lee & Jack Kirby
They are, quite simply the most successful creative team in comic book history. Lee and Kirby kicked off the Marvel Age of Comics with Fantastic Four #1 and their run lasted 102 issues. They created Thor and teamed for over 80 issues of that title. They created the X-Men, The Hulk, Iron Man, The Avengers, The Silver Surfer, Galactus, The Inhumans, The Black Panther, and countless other characters of the Marvel universe. Lee and Kirby virtually changed superhero comics in the 1960s, bringing a previously unseen element of realism and drama to the characters. For the first time we saw the human side of the heroes and the everyday problems they encountered such as finding work, paying bills, relationships, and public ridicule. Teenagers and college students immediately gravitated towards Marvel and they became the next generation of comic writers and artists. The importance of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby cannot be overstated. They were the Big Bang that created the Marvel Universe.