Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Most Influential Writers Part 2

So, here we go, part 2 of who I think are the 10 most ifluential writers in comics. This part might be a bit more controversial than part 1; after all, I don't think anyone can argue with the guys featured in part 1. This part, though, smacks of my own personal opinion. I will guarantee there's at least one on here that someone will disagree with. Well, here we go!

Marv Wolfman: So many, many contributions here. First, he created Blade who, as you know, was Marvel's first successful movie franchise. All of Marvel's success in films now can be traced to Blade back in the late 90's. Second, along with George Perez, he brought us Crisis on Infinite Earths; while not the first crossover, it set the standard by which all other crossovers are measured by. Third, he changed Robin into Nightwing. The significance of that is that it shows that characters, even those with decades of history, don't have to be static; they can change personas while still remaining true to the character's history. Fourth, he helped with the mid-80's retool of the Superman books. While John Byrne gets most of the credit, Marv's contributions should not be discounted. Most importantly, he was the one who helped change Lex Luthor from mad scientist into the evil genius businessman, which is how every successful media adaptation of Superman has portrayed ol' Baldy (Superman Returns didn't, and it was long and boring. Coincidence? I think not!).

Denny O'Neil: As grating as he can apparently be in person (my friend Nicole has a few horror stories about meeting him), Denny is pretty much responsible for dragging comics kicking and screaming into adulthood. As one of the then "new generation" of writers, Denny introduced the social consciousness of the Bronze Age to the medium. While writers certainly tackled social issues before, they did it in the ham-fisted manner that was the modus operandi of middle-aged white guys. Denny offered a more frank and honest look at the problems of the day. Granted, his social philosophy sometimes led to boneheaded decisions ("Hey! Let's take Wonder Woman and get rid of her powers, her lasso, her costume... Basically everthing that makes her cool! It's brilliant AND feminist!!!"), but more often than not, his works showcase a more nuanced approach to how comics interact with society.
     Also, his work on Batman helped turn the Caped Crusader into the Dark Knight. Without O'Neil, I doubt the creators who came after him would've had the chance to popularize the more serious Batman and help further the character away from the Adam West image. Now some of you may say, "Oh, but that's how Batman was supposed to be! In his earliest appearances blah blah blah!" Save it. There is no doubt in my mind that any darkness in Batman's earliest appearances was either an accident on the part of Bob Kane or a deliberate effort on the part of Bill Finger. Fun fact- Bob Kane originally wanted Batman to be ORANGE. And much like Eastman and Laird with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles years later, Kane dumbed it down to make a buck at the earliest opportunity. Denny O'Neil helped to erase that (mostly) ridiculous nonsense.

Grant Morrison: Ah, that crazy Scotsman. Like other writers, Grant was one of the many in the mid-90's to reinvigorate comics with the nostalgia trip, primarily Silver Age sensibilities in Grant's case. What separates him from contemporaries such as Mark Waid, Kurt Busiek, Alex Ross, and others, is that Grant brings an almost anarchic quality to his stories. Moreso than probably any other comics writer, Morrison possesses a great understanding of the subversive potential of writing. In that regard, he's not unlike John Milton, William Blake, or Philip K. Dick (in his later years).

Neil Gaiman: Gaiman is one of the few comic writers who's sequed into mainstream appeal and is regarded as "literary author", whatever that means. Like Moore, Gaiman helped elevate the status of comics. Moreover, Gaiman is partly responsible for rediversifying comics. DC's Vertigo imprint was more or less created to showcase Gaiman's The Sandman, but the imprint allowed for other non-superhero comics to reach a mass audience, with Garth Ennis's Preacher being the most successful example. The success of Vertigo allowed other publishers to experiment with other genres like westerns, fantasy, horror, crime noir, etc. Without Neil Gaiman, I don't believe we'd have such a wide array of quality stories of various genres to choose from today.

Gail Simone: Now, THIS is the choice that I think most will take issue with, as she's the most recent, but I have my reasons. First, Gail represents the current comic fan narrative- she blogged, posted on message boards, wrote fan fiction, and eventually came to the notice of various industry figures, which spiraled into a very successful career thus far. Second, she is arguably the most successful female writer in comics. She has a knack for writing that both speaks to female fans without alienating male fans. I think the future will prove her to have that same something that the other writers on this list have.

So, there you have it. Agree? Disagree? Feel free to let me know!

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