• The Top 5 Comic Book Writers and What They’ve Taught Me.

I love comics. I love writing. So, one would think the dream job for me would be a comic book writer. And one would be right. I’m currently piecing together a couple of different projects, and along the way learn as much as I can about the uniqueness of the medium and how to tell great stories by embracing that uniqueness.

Over the past few years, I’ve been soaking up as many comics as possible, and here are the 5 writers who have influenced me the most as a writer and why:

1) Brian K. Vaughan (Recommended Reading – Y: the Last Man, Runaways, Dr. Strange: the Oath)

I just adore every single thing written by Vaughan. He’s a master at balancing plot, characters, & theme.

He taught me that “world-creation” is key to a great series. The idea that you create something like Y: the Last Man, where all the men in the world have died… except for one. What does a world without men look like? What are the political, social, sexual, physical changes that take place in the world as a result of that? What stories arise from that world? It’s not just a premise, it’s a world.

This has encouraged me to look at my own projects: What does the world look like? How is it different than a world I’ve seen before? What are the stories I can tell that are unique to this world?

2) Robert Kirkman (Recommended Reading – Invincible)

Kirkman taught me that superhero comics should be fun. No one has as much fun writing comics as Robert Kirkman, and it shows on the page.

Reading Invincible made me realize that you can get away with things in comics that you can’t in movies, TV, & books. You can have 100 wacky supporting characters, introduce a popular character, kill him, and bring him back, you can have a kid worried about his relationship with his girlfriend on one page and have him flying to Mars on the next, you can have a man having a baby with a bug woman, or a man who travels through different portals in time. In comics anything is possible.

On my projects, this opened up a lot of possibilities for me. I began to think in these “anything is possible” terms and it really expanded the stories that I could tell.

3) Jeph Loeb (Recommended Reading – Hulk: Grey, Daredevil: Yellow, Superman: For All Seasons)

Nearly everything Loeb’s done with artist Tim Sale has blown me away. Probably my favorite writer/artist team of all time.

He taught me that you can embrace the super hero genre and still make it deeply human. He’s great at balancing that. He loves the super hero genre, and doesn’t try to make it dark or angsty… his books are fun. But at the same time, there is a deep emotional core to his stories. It’s a good lesson in all story-telling that something doesn’t have to be dark to be

He’s also a master at coming up with creative ways to frame stories – Hulk: Grey is told as a story from Bruce Banner to his Psychiatrist, dealing with the “grey” nature of his psyche. Superman: For All Seasons is written with each chapter physically and thematically representing a different season.

I really wanna capture that emotional core that he explores in each of his characters on my projects. And his framing devices have challenged me in my screenwriting as well.

4) Bryan Lee O’Malley (Recommended Reading – Scott Pilgrim)

O’Malley captures the voice of a generation. Scott Pilgrim has me hooked. I have more fun reading a Scott Pilgrim book than I do with almost any other media. Reading this series is like hanging out with friends.

He taught me that people connect with natural dialog, personal stories, and inside jokes. That even though my relationships & my friendships & my sense of humor is so personal to me, that’s what people want.

The more personal you write, the more universal it will be. I’ve always heard this, but it’s hard to put into practice because you always 2nd guess yourself. O’Malley has challenged me to be honest in my work, from dialog, to jokes, to plots that, on the surface, might seem petty

5) Gerard Way (Recommended Reading – the Umbrella Academy)

Way has only written one book so far, but it was my favorite book of this past year. A lot of people say that he’s just channeling Grant Morrison, but I haven’t read much Grant Morrison, so I’ll give Way the credit. He’s the one that’s influenced me.

He taught me that, in comics, you can let your creativity run wild and still make it work. The Umbrella Academy is a quirky book. It’s super heroes, but not. A lot of times I limit my creativity and quirkiness on a project, because you feel that people may not “get it.” The success of Umbrella Academy has proven that people will “get it” no matter how “out there” you go with it.

I feel like this is something that is unique to comics. Maybe it’s because comic readers are more prone to wackiness or maybe it’s because it’s such a small niche audience. Either way, it’s encouraged me to really push myself creatively and to not be afraid to try new things and put out whatever pops into my head.

A huge thank you to all these authors for letting me “take their classes.”

  1. Daniel Emmons said:

    Gerard Way has been an influnce on me too, not only the music he makes but the writing in UA. I think you summed up everything I like about him. I’m really looking forward to his next work in comics, I think it’s going to be a lot tighter and smother then this first run was.

  2. Absolutely… for his first major book, he knocked it out of the water.

    And yeah, I dunno why I feel embarrassed to admit it sometimes, but I really like My Chemical Romance. There, I said it.

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