Spoiler alert: comics have been really, really great for the last five years. Now that Multiversity has been around for a while, our Editorial staff of Matthew Meylikhov, David Harper and Brian Salvatore decided to put together a look at who and what made those five years so great, as they share their five favorite artists, writers and comics over that span.
Today brings the writers, and as it was with all three categories, it was tremendously difficult to boil it down to just five names. But boil it down they did, and these lists provide you insight into who excelled the most in bringing comic book stories to life with their written word. Take a look below, and please, share your thoughts as to how stood out the most for you in the comments.
1. Grant Morrison
Why He Made the List: In terms of provoking the medium and the timeless characters that we all have various feelings for, I’m not sure there is anyone who has challenged readers more than Morrison in the past five years, let alone the past ten or twenty years. Certainly the website’s moniker is a clue towards the appreciation we (I?) have towards Morrison’s oeuvre, and that didn’t change even remotely from his output of the past five years. In fact, if anyone has actually defined how I actually approach my reading of comics, it’s Morrison and his often quite challenging narratives and fiction.
So whether it’s the tail end of “Final Crisis” or all of his collected work on the glorious “Batman” epic (and I should note: I really don’t like Batman, generally speaking), Morrison delivered some of the most engaging superhero comics that we’ve ever had. In fact, his Batman epic will probably continue to define the approach writers take to long-form superhero epics for years to come. Toss in things like “Joe The Barbarian” (which helped launch Sean Murphy for a wider audience) as well as his incredibly informative non-fiction book “Supergods”, and the past five years were certainly banner years for Morrison.
Perhaps five years from now we may actually be able to say that we’ve read Multiversity and not be referring to this website?Continued below
2. Kieron Gillen
Why He Made the List: It’s weird to say this when addressing someone’s output in an objective, critical fashion, but when I read the work of Kieron Gillen I can’t help but always relate. Gillen often touches on certain themes that elicits specific emotions from me, all of which very much speaks to someone of my generation — or at the very least of my background, a place where music and mythology ruled all. It’s funny how certain aspects of being an outsider translates across different periods of time, but these ideas and musings are always something that is omni-present in Gillen’s work. Books like “Phonogram” and “Journey into Mystery” speak to me personally as a reader perhaps more than any other comic book ever has, and these are — essentially — my jams.
Read this thing I wrote about “Journey into Mystery”. My thoughts are much more organized there, but I think it explains everything better than I possibly could done in the space of a few paragraphs.
(Of note: in my career as a comic book fan, I have written exactly one “thank you” letter to a comic book creator for creating a book that has changed my life profoundly. It’s not that a comic having great importance to me is a singular event, but there’s only been one time I felt the need to contact the creator and explain my feelings to them as if they ostensibly cared in any fashion. And that letter that I wrote was to Kieron Gillen. That probably sums up why he’s on my list more than anything else.)
3. Matt Fraction
Why He Made the List: This might sound like a loaded statement, but Matt Fraction gets comics. He gets how they work, he gets why they matter, and he gets why they’re important to people like you or me. And while I think Fraction over the past five years has been a polarizing writer of sorts (certainly people have different reactions to something like “Fear Itself” than they do, say, “Sex Criminals”?), when we look at writers in comics who helped redefine the medium and who helped effect a change in the way we look at what we even want from comics, Fraction is certainly near the top of the list.
“Sex Criminals.” “Hawkeye.” “Invincible Iron Man.” “Casa-fucking-nova.” When people ask me to recommend them comics, these are some of the books I almost always reference. These books all represent to me some of the best that comics have to offer: “Sex Criminals” is the joy and humor wrapped up in a heart of gold; “Hawkeye” is the change I want to see; “Invincible Iron Man” shows what a specific writer and artist ongoing creative team can do when given the time and space to do it with a suddenly A-List character; “Casanova” is the joy of what a comic with balls can do on a magnificent and awesome scope. Every writer in my Top 5 represents someone who I will always read the work of, no matter what, and Matt Fraction most of all found a way to speak with his readers in a very unique and ever-evolving fashion — and it’s one that I’m always excited to see more of.
4. Kelly Sue DeConnick
Why She Made the List: Kelly Sue DeConnick had a very difficult task, in that she was set to relaunch one of my favorite characters in comics in one of those Bold New Directions we hear so much of. I am of course speaking of Carol Danvers, whom many enjoyed as Ms. Marvel (particularly in the Brian Reed run of the past decade). But with Kelly Sue’s “new” Carol Danvers, the comic industry was given something we perhaps didn’t even consciously know we needed: a character to rally behind, a cultural icon and symbol for us to point towards as a sign of change — and there was Kelly Sue spearheading it all wonderfully, honestly and earnestly. Carol Danvers and Kelly Sue were both the heroes we deserved and needed, and that’s not changed one iota. And as time went by and we all re-read “Osborn” for the twentieth time and celebrated books like “Pretty Deadly,” it’s impossible to not see Kelly Sue DeConnick as one of the industries best talents, someone showcasing a wide range of talent throughout various exciting books and eager to create a new challenge.
More than anything, though? I find DeConnick to be a very inspiring and endearing person in comics, and I think we need more people like her. The very first time I interviewed Kelly Sue for this site she immediately called me out on some of my own nonsense, and that honestly stuck with me. Further interviews and conversations with her always wound up being incredibly informative, and she never fails to impress and motivate not only myself but others (#BGSD). That’s important in a way that I can’t quite explain without ranting and rambling, but her rise and impact in comics is something that I am looking forward to seeing more of as time goes by.
5. Jason Aaron
Why He Made the List: I will relent: Jason Aaron makes my list for a very personal reason, and a decidedly unbiased one. To not admit that outright would be dishonest, but it’s nevertheless true. Why? Because I can remember sitting in a hospital waiting room for hours waiting for the doctor to call and say that my girlfriend’s cancer had been removed, and for whatever reason that day I had decided to catch up on “Scalped,” a book I’d read one volume of. I re-read what I’d already been through and pushed forward as far as I could — and for those hours that I read that book and nothing else in this scary, isolated space, I found myself completely absorbed, almost forgetting the world outside and all my problems. As such, my love of “Scalped” is very deep, unique and not based solely on other critical elements, but the experience did essentially cause me to redefine how I looked at Aaron’s work.
See, I already liked books like “Punisher MAX” or his various “Wolverine” stories and “Ghost Rider” for what they were. How could I not? They’re damn good comics! But it’s funny how things like this can change everything about how you appreciate a creator’s work. I found myself so deeply engrossed in “Scalped” over that day that my relationship to this writing stayed with me through all of Aaron’s various endeavors over the past five years — and now I’m a diehard fan. “Wolverine and the X-Men.” “Southern Bastards.” “Thor, God of Thunder.” Anything and everything; I don’t care — I’ll seek it out, read it as quickly as I can and I’m sure I’ll love it. Jason Aaron is a smart, clever, often vicious, guttural and incredibly personable writer, and I’ll follow his career down whatever avenues he chooses to go.
Aaron felt the gravel in his guts like I did, and in spite of expressing it in different ways, the connection was still very much made. It’s still there, too.
1. Jason Aaron
Why He Made the List: Even if I just included “Scalped” here, Aaron would rank on my list, and right near the top. That Vertigo series is one of my all-time favorite series, and the way Aaron and artist R.M. Guera built a world that I never imagined I’d be interested in reading made it something I couldn’t imagine help but love even with the tragedy that was omnipresent throughout. Aaron’s gift to make moments feel completely real and utterly human gave the story of Dashiell Bad Horse and the other denizens of Prairie Rose Indian Reservation appropriate weight. This story was something I really feel could only be told in comics, and with each and every step of the journey, Aaron ensured that when the hammer hit by the end, we’d feel it completely.
Elsewhere, Aaron told some of my favorite Wolverine stories ever, made the X-Men fun again in “Wolverine and the X-Men”, and made Thor as epic as I’ve always wanted him to be in “Thor: God of Thunder”. With “Southern Bastards” kicking off this past week, the next five years look strong for him as well. I can’t wait to read whatever he does.
2. Jonathan Hickman
Why He Made the List: I don’t know if there is a writer in comics that is better at building worlds and weaving sprawling tapestries than Hickman. Whether you’re talking about his work in an all-time great run on “Fantastic Four” and “FF” or his creator-owned work on books like “East of West” and “The Manhattan Projects”, you really can’t find another comic like one written by Jonathan Hickman. It’s a unique experience that goes beyond traditional comic book storytelling, incorporating transition pages and graphic elements into the storytelling that you simply can’t find elsewhere.
Hickman in a lot of ways is pushing comics to evolve with his work, and if only for that fact, he has to make my list.
3. Brian K. Vaughan
Why He Made the List: I don’t think anyone has a better grasp on writing characters that feel completely real than BKV. While “Saga” and “The Private Eye” would be cool concepts with great art even without that aspect, Vaughan’s ability to make each and every one of us find a character that we can identify with – even if they wear a mask, have horns or are in fact a robot – is completely unrivaled.
The crazy thing is Vaughan had disappeared from comics for several years, working on things like “Lost” and writing highly esteemed but never filmed screenplays. For the first part of Multiversity’s run, he was MIA and not in a musical way, with yours truly even writing a piece that asked “whatever happened to the writer of tomorrow?” But then, he returned, and the world of comics was infinitely better because of it. For me, the next five years look bright if only because of the promise of more BKV going forward.
4. Matt Fraction
Why He Made the List: Even before “Sex Criminals”, Matt Fraction was deservedly known as one of the best and most popular writers in comics. I mean, he’s the guy behind “Casanova”, “Invincible Iron Man” AND “Hawkeye”, three incredible books that were far better in his hands than they’d likely have been in others (for “Casanova”, that book just couldn’t exist without him).
But with “Sex Criminals”, he and Chip Zdarsky turned what could have just been a book into a borderline movement. With its honest, hilarious storytelling, this book made a brimper out of each and every person who reads it, and Fraction’s ability to make Suzie and Jon two people who fall in love with each other and, in the process, we can’t help but fall in love with ourselves makes it something that’s completely magical. Sure, we don’t get any sweet Queen lyrics to read, but with what Fraction does with this book, we don’t need Queen.
And how many comics can make you say that?
5. Rick Remender
Why He Made the List: This ranking is heavily weighted by the close of “Fear Agent” and the “Dark Angel Saga” in “Uncanny X-Force”, and while he wrote plenty of other great books, holy crap you guys, those books are amongst my all-time favorites in comics. I love the way Remender builds a story, developing a book in mini-arcs to build the greater whole, and when you read things like the “Dark Angel Saga”, that’s when a process meets skill to create absolute magic.
With books like “Deadly Class” and “Black Science”, we’re seeing Remender get back to what he does best: build worlds that we didn’t know we wanted to read, but making it impossible for us to want to read anything else. We can’t wait for more from him, and we’re only going to get just that going forward.
1. Jonathan Hickman
Why He Made the List: I’m a guy who typically wants heart in a story; I’d rather see strong characters with a well-defined arc in front of them than see crazy battle sequences or a concept so convoluted that it loses me after a few pages. And yet, the guy whose comics I most identify with over the past five years is Jonathan Hickman. That’s not to say he doesn’t do characters well, because he does. That also isn’t meant to imply that his characters don’t have a path which takes them from point a to point b. But Hickman is the king of high concept. His books usually have the most clever premise on the shelves, and are full of epic action, all of which serve that simple, direct path for really well written characters, while putting them in simply batshit scenarios. His “Fantastic Four”/”FF” run is, perhaps, the last great extended run on a company-owned set of characters. Nothing about it feels fake or put on, and nothing about it seems out of place. It is a perfectly crafted story, with a beginning, middle, and an end. And what an end.
2. James Robinson
Why He Made the List: This pick is as shocking as Matt putting Grant Morrison on his list, or David putting Brian K. Vaughn on his.
If you talk to many comics folks, they’ll tell you James Robinson peaked young; nothing since “Starman” has been all that great. Now, I love “Starman” – it is my single favorite comic of all time, but Robinson has been doing great work since then, and particularly over the past year or two. When Robinson launched “Earth 2” for DC, he started telling a slow burn of a story about a world that was decimated and starting to pick itself up…and then DC fucked him over, and he never got to finish that story. Not to be outdone, he took his talents elsewhere, and has rebranded himself from “the ultimate DC historian” to “gatekeeper of classic Marvel.” Throw in “The Saviors,” his creator owned masterpiece with J. Bone for Image, and you’ve got a guy at the height of his talent.
3. Jeff Parker
Why He Made the List: > I find that, most times, if I like a writer’s company owned stuff, I like their creator owned stuff, too (or vice versa). That’s usually because the two are simpatico in an obvious way. It is rare, however, that a creator’s two worlds can feel more different than Jeff Parker’s. From his “Thunderbolts” and “Hulk” work to “Underground” and “Bucko,” it is one of the more major tonal shifts in all of comics, and I find both sets of work fascinating for totally different reasons. A guy who knows how to be funny without being dumb, and who knows how to break your heart without making it maudlin, Parker is one of those guys who will turn around one day to find a legion of guys trying to write just like him, if that hasn’t already happened. And comics will be a better place because of his influence.
Plus, dude can draw. It’s almost not fair.
4. Greg Pak
Why He Made the List: Until his gig writing “Action Comics” and “Batman/Superman,” I never really paid much mind to Greg Pak. Well, at least I didn’t five minutes after finishing one of his comics, of which I was always a buyer and, frequently, a passionate fan of. But I never really sat there and pondered what made his “Herc” so good, or why his take on the Hulk felt more interesting than most people’s, I just knew that I really enjoyed what he brought to his characters. But when he started writing Superman, far from my favorite character, but perhaps the one I know best, I began to appreciate his nuanced writing in a way that suddenly made his entire back catalog so refreshing and enjoyable. There may not be a better pure character writer than Pak, nor someone who knows how to utilize his artist’s strengths better.
5. Matt Fraction
Why He Made the List: There are very few guys whose work polarizes me more than Matt Fraction’s. In fact, I would say that at least 50% of what he writes doesn’t hit me in the same way any of the other writers on my list do with their work. And yet, when he hits: with “FF,” with “Hawkeye,” with “Sex Criminals,” I can read his books endlessly, and never want them to end. Fraction is maybe my favorite, not world-builder, but world-architect in all of comics. His books don’t always have well defined universes with established rules and huge supporting casts (although they do sometimes), but what they have is that certain quality you want to live in. His books feel like that movie that makes you want to take your shoes off and stay awhile. And while that doesn’t happen every time, when it does, there is no one who’s comics I’d rather read.