Nov 29, 2010

Top Ten Most Influential Comics Writers of All Time: The Shortlist

Now that this list of most influential comics writers is done, I'd like to say that I spent months figuring out the list as it pertained to order and importance. Having said that, there's a shortlist of people who didn't make it, and I'd like to point them out here, in this little sidebar, for those who are wondering where these people went.

Denny O'Neil would have been number 11, mainly for GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW, which showed that you can tackle serious real-world issues in mainstream comics. At the end of the day, though, Stan Lee did beat him to it.


Neil Gaiman is certainly influential because of SANDMAN, but it wasn't enough to get him into the top 10, mainly because anyone influenced by Gaiman is, in a very real way, influenced by Alan Moore.

SANDMAN. Art by Charles Vess.

Grant Morrison is a very popular writer, but influential? He's a little too unique to really be that influential (as of the moment).

ANIMAL MAN. Art by Chas Truog.

People like Mark Waid and Kurt Busiek, who tried lifting the superhero genre out of the grim and gritty era, would have made a top 20 list.

Mark Waid's KINGDOM COME. Art by Alex Ross.

Kurt Busiek's MARVELS. Art also by Alex Ross.

I considered Marv Wolfman over Chris Claremont, since UNCANNY X-MEN and NEW TEEN TITANS were very similar, and Marv also wrote CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, so he had the "big events" thing going for him. At the end of the day, though, I think the "big events" thing was on its way, regardless of who was writing it, and I think it's sustainability was more dependent on George Perez's ability to handle large groups. And Claremont's X-MEN did come first and stay longer.


There's so much going for Len Wein (X-MEN, SWAMP THING, etc.) that I felt bad NOT putting him on the list, but there's a difference between producing great work and producing influential work. It seemed to me that as solid as Len was, and as good as his stories were, other people (namely Claremont and Moore) took his works and made them influential, as opposed to him making them influential himself.

GIANT-SIZE X-MEN. Art by Dave Cockrum.

I feel the same way for Gerry Conway and Roger Stern. Such solid writers who wrote such good stories. But I can't say that they were particularly as influential as the ones on the list.

Gerry Conway's "The Night Gwen Stacy Died." Art by Gil Kane.

Stern's AVENGERS: UNDER SIEGE. Art by John Buscema.

Mark Gruenwald almost made it in for SQUADRON SUPREME, which predates WATCHMEN with the "superheroes in the real world" theme. But WATCHMEN made the bigger splash, and Moore made a bigger impact.


I'm probably going to get some flak for this, but I did consider Herge (TINTIN) and Rene Goscinny (ASTERIX) for my list, since they influenced Europe just as much as Tezuka influenced Japan. But where it breaks for me is where Tezuka influenced outside of Japan, whereas when you go outside of Europe (even in some European countries, actually), these two comics all of a sudden become the "comics that non-comics readers read," much like ARCHIE is in the States. Also, I actually wasn't sure if either Herge or Goscinny was influential as a writer or as an artist (It's easy with Barks because he was drawing in the Disney house style), and I just thought their work was so complementary in terms of words and pictures. That is, the words depended on the pictures and the pictures depended on the words, for them to make the top 10 of either list. But if I were to make a top 10 most well-rounded creators list, I can guarantee you, at least one of them would be in there.

Rene Goscinny's ASTERIX

Herge's TINTIN

I'm not sure anyone was influenced by Bill Watterson and CALVIN AND HOBBES who wasn't indirectly influenced by Charles Schulz.

Jerry Siegel created Superman, so some will argue there's a place on the list for him. I would argue that there's such a thing as influential characters, and that's different from influential creators. Superman is special just because of his idea - the stories weren't very special in terms of execution - while Daredevil was a relatively pedestrian character until the next guy got a hold of him.

ACTION COMICS #1. Art by Joe Shuster.

Frank Miller wrote BATMAN: YEAR ONE, THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, and a very long and acclaimed run on DAREDEVIL.  I left him out though, because I felt that his storytelling was so heavily influenced by Eisner (he admits that the introduction of Elektra in DAREDEVIL is a direct lift of Eisner's SPIRIT story, "Sand Saref.") and that in the ushering in of the grim and gritty era, Alan Moore was really the man on the forefront.

BATMAN: YEAR ONE. Art by David Mazzucchelli.

Finally, there's Lee Falk, who pretty much influenced superheroes (superpowers with Mandrake the Magician and skintight costumed adventurers with the Phantom), as well as developed racially respectful portrayals (Lothar in Mandrake), but at the end of the day, I don't think people today are saying "I want to write like Lee Falk," and I think enough people have gotten that kind of reaction from professionals over the years to bump Falk off the list. If you really think he should be on the list, feel free to bump out Claremont.

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