Comic books have come a long way. No longer is it solely considered just for kids, the medium has gained respect in recent years. The potential that it presents as a means of telling a great story is finally being given its due recognition, something that has been due for decades now.
Unmistakably, comic books are a collaborative medium that makes full use of the talents of both the writer and the artist. And it is the creative collaboration that has allowed comic books to transcend its initial incarnation as entertainment that was only meant for a young audience.
Things changed for the better when the true potential of the comic book medium was not only considered, but fully explored by some creators. The themes and the tone of some comic books became more mature and some have even gone for darker and edgier tones.
To look at the writers who have had the most influence on comic books is very interesting. By looking at some of the writers who came up with some of comic books’ greatest stories, it becomes easier to understand how and when comics came to be the way they are today.
Stan Lee being included in a list of the most influential comic book writers ever is one of the most predictable and least surprising things about this list. The big shock would be if Stan “The Man” would be left out of such a list. Lee is such an influential figure in the world of comic books and it is not just because of being a writer. He also made his mark as an editor and an innovative one at that. And the fact is that he is still pretty much around and making cameos in the blockbuster movies that are adapted from the many comics that he co-created. Before all of that of course is the fact that Stan has been a true creative force that originated so many of the things that we now take for granted in comic books, specifically super hero comic books.
But perhaps the most significant contribution that Lee has made in comic books is his creation of a shared universe for the characters of Marvel Comics. It might seem pretty conventional for all super heroes of a particular company to co-exist in their own universe, but back when he and his collaborators (notably Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko) started doing it in the 60’s, it was truly revolutionary.
The readers of the comics felt that their favorite heroes and characters could meet each other at any time and could either team-up to fight the bad guys or even fight themselves! This shared universe concept that has certainly been adopted and is mainly responsible for the major cross-over’s that frequent today’s comic books.
Harvey Kurtzman is one of the few writers in the history of comic books that can claim to be truly influential and revolutionary at the same time. There are those who might say that he was more of a cartoonist and an editor than a comic book editor, but he also did a lot of writing on his own and when he was editing he influenced the work that was produced so much that it definitely developed his personal style.
He has enormous body of work that serves as the greatest evidence of how great he truly was, although he was best known for being a writer and editor for MAD from 1952 to 1956, as well as the Little Annie Fanny strips that ran in Playboy from 1962 to 1988.
Kurtzman employed a style that was heavy on satire as well as serving up parodies of popular culture. He also offered critiques of the state of society in his works, providing what seems humorous and light hearted takes on subjects that were actually more deep and meaningful and that eventually becomes more apparent.
He started out in the 1940’s doing work for various publishers. It was his work for Timely (now Marvel Comics) that garnered the most attention, a humorous strip titled, “Hey Look!” However, it was over at Entertaining Comics (EC) that he would start doing his most important work.
He was serving as editor for the titles, “Two-fisted Tales” and “Frontline Combat”, but it got to the point where he wasn’t just editing the tiles but actually writing it. His vision was the guiding light of the comics and because of that it became so much more than simple war comics, as it actually became anti-war comics.
This type of list is not going to be complete without Alan Moore’s name on it. He is the man who is credited as mainly responsible for the way comic books are today. If not for his influence, the medium as we know it might not exist. The grim, gritty, and realistic tone of comics owes so much to Moore and his works and it all can be traced back to him.
His most famous work is of course Watchmen, and it also remains his most influential work. That piece of work was considered a landmark because it demonstrated super heroes who are more realistic than any that readers have encountered up to that point in time. Moore’s so-called super heroes in the story were all dealing with some pretty major psychological issues that left them neurotic. Those are basically flawed characters that are more relatable than the perfect and god-like beings of older comic books.
His most recognizable and influential work remains Watchmen, but some of his other great works include Marvelman/Miracleman, Swamp Thing, Batman: The Killing Joke, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow, V for Vendetta, From Hell, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and many, many more.
Chris Claremont is undeniably a major influence for many comic book writers working today. He is best known for his long stint as the writer of the Uncanny X-men, serving as its writer for about 16 years. Now that is a staggeringly long time to write a single comic book series and today you’d wonder if that is still possible in the industry.
But back then Claremont was able to write the title for so long and that means getting to know his characters very, very well. The long time that he spent writing the X-men also made it possible for him to use great character development and growth into his writing. He was also known for employing soap opera like storytelling into his work, and his long plotting style actually took years for it to pay off.
During his watch, the Uncanny X-men grew from a struggling Marvel title into the most popular series from the House of Ideas. As Claremont effectively utilized more complex literary techniques and themes into his stories, the characters grew and become more well-rounded. Fans noticed and sales soared.
Claremont was responsible for the co-creation of many different characters in the X-men, like: Shadowcat, Psylocke, Mystique, Jubilee, Rachel Summers, Mister Sinister, Gambit, Emma Frost, and many more. He wrote many of the title’s greatest storylines, such as “The Dark Phoenix Saga” and “Days of Future Past”, with which he collaborated with artist John Byrne.
If you are not familiar with any of the
names that are on this list, then you’re missing a lot in terms of great story telling. Don’t listen to those who consider comic books to be second rate fiction, because these writers have proven that’s not true.