-J. Michael Bestul is a writer for the Addison Recorder. Stephanie Ruehl is an artist who works in a comic book shop. They’re married and have a lot of discussions about comic books and graphic novels. Combine all that into a biweekly feature and you get “J. & Steph Talk About Comics.”
At the end of last year, we decided to spotlight the comic book artists that make us want to pick up a comic book or graphic novel. We turn now to the wordsmiths who craft the scripts behind the comics we love. This list is abridged, as our choices started to spiral out of control, threatening to take over more than just this post.
Steph: When I was first getting into comics, I chose the books I read based on the characters involved (e.g. X-Men) and shown on their covers. I was 12, what do you expect? But I would listen to my local comic shop owner discuss comics based on the writers. I had never really thought of choosing my comics this way. (As I said, I was 12.) Books, novels, yes, but comics? As I began to pay attention to the writers of my favorite stories, I would start to look for them in other titles. I would pick up new or unknown comics based on the writer alone. So for those who are new to comics, or just want a few new titles to pick up, we are going to discuss some of our (current) favorite writers in comics.
-J.: That’s a good parenthetical. We’ve tried to focus on writers who are still active, with ongoing titles you can find at your friendly local comic shop. Without further adieu…
Kelly Sue DeConnick
Captain Marvel, Pretty Deadly, Bitch Planet
Steph: I first read Kelly Sue during her run on Captain Marvel, and I thought this was a woman who wouldn’t take shit from anyone. I don’t want to say I’m a blind follower of her, but I will honestly pick up anything she writes.
-J.: I originally knew DeConnick from her Twitter account. I liked her stuff on Captain Marvel. I liked her take on Ghost. But it was Pretty Deadly that grabbed a hold of my brain and wouldn’t let go. It was mythic storytelling of the highest degree, and the title that started me actively seeking out her other work. Speaking of, I love everything about Bitch Planet. Her stories are audacious, her characters memorable, and she’s a blast to follow on social media.
Nameless, The Multiversity… so many titles, so very, very many titles…
Steph: I have read so many books where Grant Morrison has been the writer. He seems to be everywhere in the comics industry, and I’ve come to trust that if he’s attached to a project I am going to enjoy it.
-J.: I love Morrison as a writer, even when I’m disappointed in something he’s written. His narrative style is often frenetic (sometimes overly so), and he’s an iconoclast who features iconography throughout his stories. This is the guy who took the beloved “Weapon X” and broke it, before reassembling it into the brilliant Weapon Plus storyline. This is the guy who wrote The Filth, one of my favorite pieces of dense, dirty, postmodern sequential art. Every so often, I notice Morrison’s influence creeping into my writing, and I don’t know whether to be afraid or laugh uncontrollably.
Batwoman, Cyclops, Daredevil, Lazarus, Veil, Lady Sabre & The Pirates of the Ineffable Aether
-J.: It’s odd that this is still a vivid memory, but I can remember this one day I went into the local comic book shop during my years at BGSU. There was one copy left of Queen & Country #1, and I saw Rucka’s name on it. I liked his work on Detective Comics, so I decided to pick it up on a lark. Best. Idea. Ever.
Steph: If I see Greg Rucka’s name on a book, even if I have never heard of it or seen it before, I am 99% certain that it will be a good story. Rucka is a fine storyteller. Lazarus and Veil are both new and currently on-going, and I highly recommend them.
-J.: Only 99%?! Well, I guess that’s fair and totally objective. The real test might be the upcoming DC Convergence crossover… event… thing. One of my favorite characters from Gotham Central, Renee Montoya (The Question) returns in a Rucka-penned 2-issue story. DC likes to toy with my emotions.
Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Red Sonja, Secret Six
Steph: Gail Simone is someone I admire as a person, not just as a writer. She’s very outspoken on social media, and she’s so kind to all of her fans. She knows how to write women. Strong, emotional, complex, angry, kind, sweet, Simone is on point.
-J.: Mentioning Simone next to Rucka is intentional — what he did for Batman and the Gotham PD, Simone did for the extended Bat-family. Her runs on Birds of Prey and Wonder Woman are indicative of how amazing DC’s titles were back in the ‘00s.
Steph: She was the reason I was (sort of) okay with the “New 52,” the relaunch of the DC Universe in 2011. With her at the helm of Batgirl I knew at least one of my favorite characters was in good hands.
-J.: Here’s how good Simone is: I’ve always been tangentially interested in the Conan and Red Sonja stories, but rarely enough to dive into them. I picked up her first volume of Red Sonja just to skim through it, and was instead utterly engrossed. I read it, and then read it a second time right away so I could experience it again. You can easily lose yourself in her stories.
Kurtis J. Wiebe
Steph: I suppose I’m a little biased by this one. I’ve only read Rat Queens (which is my favorite, EVER.) But because of that, I will most likely read anything Wiebe writes from here on out.
-J.: He’s both created one of our favorite series (ever), and carried himself with humility and aplomb as a creator and comics professional. I have no problem waiving the requirement of a lengthy resume to make this list. Which wasn’t actually a requirement. It just sounded fun to say.
Brian K. Vaughan
Y: the Last Man, Ex Machina, Runaways, Saga
Steph: Saga was one of the first books I started reading when I got my job at the comic book store. I loved it. I bought copies for so many people. Everyone should read it.
-J.: Truth. A copy of Saga, volume 1, was shoved into my hands. I was told that I was to read it IMMEDIATELY. I did so, and enjoyed it immensely. I then realized that it was from the same writer as Y: the Last Man, and my professional jealousy may have kicked in a wee bit. Two epic series, each a unique take on standard genre stories, remixed in ways that are seductive. One such series would be a helluva achievement. He’s already on his second.
JSA, Starman, the Shade, Fantastic Four
-J.: For me, Robinson epitomized what was great about DC Comics at the turn of the millennium. His ability to use background and continuity as powerful tool in the writer’s arsenal is second to none. He set the tone on the revamped JSA after turning in one of the greatest modern series in comics with Starman.
Steph: J, you introduced me to James Robinson with Starman, and I can see why you like him so much.
-J.: So good. I’m pissed at Marvel for canceling Fantastic Four before Robinson could get a full head of steam on that series. One of superhero comics’ most recognizable archetypes, in the hands of the master? I’m not even a big FF fan, and I was on board. He’s mentioned that Marvel has plenty for him to write on other titles, but still…
Brian Michael Bendis
Steph: Bendis has had his hands in so many Marvel titles and projects. He’s been a consultant on almost every recent Marvel movie, and grew up wanting one thing: to draw/write Spider-Man, which happened. Also his Tumblr is a fun read, especially when he gets into GIF wars with other comic writers.
-J.: The Daredevil stories that Bendis told with David Mack and Alex Maleev are probably my favorite books that Marvel has ever published. Bendis has the ability to make the supporting characters as compelling as the title’s “star.”
To Find More Words…
This is nowhere near an exhaustive list, though it is quite long. Other writers worth checking out (and are on the short list if we do a spotlight, part 2): Marguerite Bennett, Jonathan Hickman, Jeffrey Brown, Matt Fraction, G. Willow Wilson, Rick Remender, Warren Ellis, Terry Moore, Brian Clevinger, Noelle Stevenson, Mark Waid, Brian Wood, Tim Seeley…