Who are The Greatest Comic Writers of All-Time? - Mania.com

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Who are The Greatest Comic Writers of All-Time?

Help Mania select the best of the best

By Tim Janson     May 09, 2009
Source: Mania

Who are The Greatest Comic Writers of All-Time?
© Mania

I’ve previously written articles on the greatest Sci-fi, Horror, and Fantasy writers and now I want to turn my attention to my first love, comic books by looking at the greatest comic book writers of all time. For help, I sought out the wisdom of two wise sages of comic book lore, namely Mania’s own Chad Derdowski and Chris Smits. Along with my own 30 plus years of being a comic fan I think we have a strong knowledge base. BUT…since I know many Mania readers are extremely passionate about comics, this is your chance to give us your two cents before the final list comes out. Below we have come up with a list of some forty candidates that will eventually be whittled down to a Top 20. Are there names we are missing? Which are your choices? You don’t have to pick an entire top 20 but let us know the ones you definitely think should be on there.

Now…here is the criteria. We’re not looking for the best writers today and we’re definitely NOT looking for the “hot” writers that the fan boys go ga-ga over…Think of this as a lifetime achievement award. Writers should have at least 10 – 15 years in the business with a hefty background of work. Yes, Brian K. Vaughan is a fine writer but he’s still too new to be included. We’re looking for people who have made significant contributions in the way of monumental and memorable stories they’ve written or popular characters they’ve created. So go over the list below. I’ve listed the name and a brief line or two noting their important credits. Tell who should or shouldn’t be on here. I will stress that the emphasis will be on those writers who have established a long track record in the business. Give us some feedback and expect to see the final list very soon!

Dave Sim – creator of Cerebus the Aardvark

Mark Gruenwald – Longtime writer on Captain America, Quasar, and the official handbook of the Marvel Universe

Jack Kirby – Co-creator of Captain America. Formed comics most famous writer/artist tandem with Stan Lee; created the New Gods, Kamandi, and The Demon for DC, and co-created many of Marvel’s top characters.

Walt Simonson – Writer/artist who worked on Thor, Fantastic Four, and many other titles

Bill Willingham – Wrote the Elementals, Robin, Fables, Shadowpact, and others…

J. Michael Straczynski – Longtime run on Spider-Man, current writer on Thor and did Rising Stars series for Top Cow

Jim Starlin – Cosmic writer supreme of titles such as Captain Marvel, Warlock, Thanos, and the various Infinity War/Crusade/Gauntlet series’.

J.M. Dematteis – longtime writer on Defenders, Captain America, and Justice League of America. Wrote the “Kraven’s last Hunt” storyline.

Mike Mignola – Creator of Hellboy

Steve Gerber – The late Gerber wrote The Defenders, Sub-Mariner, and Daredevil. Gained fame as the creator of Howard the Duck.

Steve Englehart – lengthy runs on The Avengers, Doctor Strange, Fantastic Four. Wrote Batman: Dark Detective which was used as the basis for the first Batman film

Peter David – Eisner award winning writer of The Hulk.

Chris Claremont – Longtime writer of the X-Men

Grant Morrison – writer of Animal man, Doom Patrol, Justice League, The invisibles, New X-Men, and many more

Len Wein – Creator of Wolverine, Swamp Thing. Wrote the Justice League, Hulk, Thor, Fantastic Four, Marvel Team-up, Wonder Woman.

John Ostrander – prolific writer who worked on The Spectre, Suicide Squad, Justice League, X-Men, Star Wars, and others.

John Byrne – artist and writer. Wrote She-hulk, revamped Superman in the 1980s, Iron man, Avengers West Coast, Namor The Sub-Mariner.

Roger Stern – longtime writer on the Avengers, also wrote Dr. Strange, Fantastic Four, Iron man, Action Comics, and others

Marv Wolfman – One of the most prolific writers of the 70s and 80s. Created The Black Cat and nova. Wrote acclaimed Tomb of Dracula series. Writer of the New Teen Titans and Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Denny O’Neil – Wrote the critically acclaimed Green Lantern/Green Arrow series in the early 70s. Has written almost every major title at DC including Batman, Superman, JLA, Wonder Woman, and the Flash.

Keith Giffen – Artist/writer. Worked on the Legion of Super Heroes, Justice League

Mark Waid – Longtime writer on The Flash. Also wrote Kingdom Come, Captain America, JLA: year One, JLA, Fantastic Four, Superman: Birthright, and many more…

Roy Thomas – One of the Top writers of the 60s and 70s. Wrote the Avengers for six years, and Conan the Barbarian for ten years. Created The Vision and co-created Ghost Rider and numerous others.

Geoff Johns – One of the best of the modern day superhero writers. Long runs on The JSA and The Flash. Also wrote Action Comics, Hawkman, Infinite Crisis, The Avengers…

Will Eisner – Writer/Creator of the Spirit

Garth Ennis – perhaps the best of the “mature” writers. Wrote Hellblazer, Hitman, Preacher, Punisher, Punisher Max, Bloody Mary.

Kurt Busiek – Two time Eisner Award winner. Creator of Astro City. Wrote The Avengers, Iron Man, JLA, Thunderbolts, and Marvels.

Ed Brubaker - Two time Eisner Award winner. Writer on many titles including: Catwoman, Detective Comics, Gotham Central, Daredevil, Uncanny X-Men, Immortal Iron Fist.

Frank Miller – Writer on Daredevil, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City, 300. Winner of numerous Eisner awards for story and art

Neil Gaiman – Writer for the entire 75 issue run of Sandman

Alan Moore – Winner of Nine Eisner awards for Best Writer. Writer of Watchmen, Swamp Thing, V for Vendetta, Promethea.

Gardner Fox – perhaps the most prolific comic writer of all-time. Wrote over 4,000 comics. Co-Created the Golden Age Sandman, Flash, Hawkman, and Justice Society of America.

Bob Kane – Creator and writer of Batman during the Golden Age

Bill Finger – Early collaborator on Batman with Bob Kane. Helped create Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, and Two-Face. Co-created the Golden Age Green Lantern.

Gerry Conway – Longtime writer on Amazing Spider-man. Wrote the acclaimed “Death of Gwen Stacy” storyline in 1973. Wrote the Superman Vs. Spiderman story, the first DC/Marvel crossover. Also wrote Thor and the Fantastic Four.

Jim Shooter – former controversial Editor-in-Chief at Marvel, Shooter started as a writer working on Adventure Comics, The Avengers, Daredevil, Legion of Super heroes. Founded Valiant Comics.

Stan Lee – Created or co-created most of Marvel’s best known characters including Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, Thor, Daredevil, X-Men, The Hulk, Doctor Strange, to name a few. Wrote the first 125 issues of the Fantastic Four, first 111 issues of Journey into Mystery/Thor, and first 100 issues of The Amazing Spider-man.

Mark Millar – One of the top modern writers. Wrote most of the “Ultimate” Marvel line including Ultimate X-Men, Ultimate Fantastic Four, and The Ultimates. Wrote the controversial Civil War series. Also wrote Marvel Knights Spider-Man, Wolverine, Kick Ass, and Fantastic Four.

Warren Ellis – The prolific Ellis has written for just about every major company on titles such as Excalibur, Transmetropolitan, Hellblazer, Stormwatch, Strange Kiss, and more.

So there you have the nominees we’ve come up with so far. Feel free to add any names we may have forgotten and give us some opinions on those we came up with. I ask that if there are names you are not familiar with, please do some research and check them out. You may find it will open your eyes to a lot of very outstanding writers.


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mxhaunted 5/6/2009 5:53:27 AM

Interesting list. Although I would have added, Alan Grant and especially Pat Mills to this list... and not forgetting John Wagner. Three very influential British comic writers who had a big hand in 2000ad and other comics.

Alan Grant: Re-inventing Lobo, writing Judgment on Gotham and quite a few American comics such as Batman and the likes

Pat Mills: Created 2000ad, helped mould Judge Dredd, created ABC Warriors , Nemesis the Warlock, Slaine, Marshal Law... quality writing.

John Wagner: Created Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog, Button Man, Judgement on Gotham, A history of Violence etc.

All solid and very influential writers in the UK scene if not world. If anything, they have given a hell of a lot of tallented artists and writers their first go at creating comics. You know... I'm just sayin'. :)

gauleyboy420 5/6/2009 10:42:54 AM

In No peticular order. Maybe I'll assign an order soon, but for now this is my list. (keep in mind I'm in my early 30's havent read a lot of comics from the 70's and 60's, but I'm workin on it, reading Crisis on Multiple Earths right now, and just finished some good old Teen Titans, and the Roadtrip adventures of Green Arrow and Green lantern)

Will Eisner

Alan Moore

Geoff Johns

Mark Millar

Mike Mignola

Stan Lee

Denny O'Neil

Peter David

Grant Morrison

Kevin Smith -( I throw his name into the ring, he's been in the industry for a while and had a defining run on a certain Mr. Oliver Queen)

Hobbs 5/6/2009 11:14:37 AM

Just one question....you have Claremont and Byrne seperate but shouldn't there be a set for teams?  As I had said a few weeks ago Claremont/Byrne run of X-men in the 70's is still the best set of comic book writing I have ever read and its whats still being ripped off today.  See Heroes 1st season as example. 

My point is seperate neither one of those two were as good as when they were together.  Together they made comic book history in the tradition of Stand Lee and Jack Kirby. 

Gauley, read Uncanny X-men about 94 through Byrnes (he started with issue 108) run of 143 I think was his last issue.  The best run of a comic book ever.  Those are the issues that put X-Men on the map and why Marvel wrecked comics by have about 100 X-men titles every month. 

kentmid 5/6/2009 3:20:29 PM

When you talk about greatest of ALL TIME, I think you have to have as primary criteria the impact these artists had on the industry.  What style changing/genre bending/new visionary work they brought that grew the industry and provoked respectful imitation.  Whether one likies the groundbreaking visual narrative style of  Frank Miller, or the deft handling of the many subplots in Claremont's team books, or the angst ridden superhero humanity of Stan Lee's cfreations, or the twisted originality of Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore, one cannot deny the way the industry followed those groundbreaking leads into the books and stories we have today.  With that as my microscope, here are my selections:

Chris Claremont

Marv Wolfman

Denny O’Neil

Will Eisner

Frank Miller

Neil Gaiman

Alan Moore

Gardner Fox

Stan Lee

There are many in your article whose work I adore and a few who may yet meet the industry-changing standard in the future.  But these remain, IMHO, the ones with the most dramatic impact on the industry as a whole.

mbeckham1 5/7/2009 8:53:27 AM

Glad to see Jim  Starlin up there. Adam Warlock was always one of my favorite cvharacters in the Marvel Universe.  He was just so different than any of the characters I'd seen before.  Gamora was brilliant.  Love seeing her kick ass.  Pip was hilarious, gave a real wit and perspective often sardonic or sarcastic, that made the big comsic stuff seem alot more warm blooded and human.    And Thanos of course is an Icon of villainy.  One of the best characters ever.  And the Captain Marvel adventure fighting Thanos for the Cosmic Cube was brilliant one of the best minis out there. And the Cold War feel surrounding Thanos's plot was brilliant.  Starlin always ade he wildest and strangest journeys coler for having really great characters to go with.

thecheckeredman 5/9/2009 7:02:58 AM

Mark Gruenwald

Walt Simonson

Jim Starlin

J.M. Dematteis

Steve Gerber

Peter David

Chris Claremont

Grant Morrison

Len Wein

John Ostrander

John Byrne

Marv Wolfman

Denny O’Neil

Keith Giffen

Mark Waid

Roy Thomas

Geoff Johns

Will Eisner

Kurt Busiek

Ed Brubaker

Frank Miller

Neil Gaiman

Alan Moore

Bill Finger

Jim Shooter

Stan Lee

Paul Dini

Jeff Smith

Chadghostal 5/9/2009 8:52:06 AM

I think Brian Azzarello, Darwyn Cook and Joe Kelly were definitely overlooked on this list. Easily the best writers of dialogue and characterization to ever grace the page. 


Otherwise I have to say

1.Grant Morrison- All star Superman might be the greatest comic I have read in my lifetime. Not to mention Animal Man, Arkham Asylum, Doom Patrol, WE3, New X-men. Easily the most inventive man in the business.

2.Alan Moore- Watchmen is arguably the most literary piece ever written for the medium. This is what makes Alan Moore great, but also tends to drag him down as a writer. He's a brilliant writer, but he seems to hate the genre which he works in.

3.Warren Ellis- Possibly the smartest man working in comics. Every story that he writes is a giant mind melting experience. Planetary alone puts him on this list.

tjanson 5/9/2009 11:01:32 AM

chad...those guys were not overlooked.  remember the criteria set forth...10 - 15 solid years in the business...not a good story here or there.

skaught1966 5/10/2009 6:52:14 PM

I am disappointed that Chuck Dixon is not listed. A writer who has been writing comics on a consistent basis since the 1980's helping to re-introduce Airboy to a new generation at Eclipse, going on to write Conan, Alien Legion, and the Punisher for Marvel, writing Detective, Robin, Nightwing, Birds of Prey, etc., contributing to CrossGen such titles as Way of the Rat,  El Cazador, etc., has written several Simpson stories for Bongo, and now works on IDW's GI JOE titles.

And these are the titles that I can only think of off the top of my head.  Chuck Dixon deserves to be on the list more than JMS or Ed Brubaker. Nothing against those guys, but Chuck has seniority.

tjanson 5/10/2009 8:19:02 PM

skaught...don't be disappointed...yet.  This is just the prelim list.  That's why we did it...we wanted to get the fans opinions and we knew there were some names we would miss.  Dixon is a fine writer.  Top 20?  Not sure but he definitely deserves to be on the starting list

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