This has been the year of diversity in comics. We have a Islamic superhero, a Korean Hulk, a female Thor, a female Wolverine, an African-American Captain America and a Bitch Planet that will straight f*ck you up. It's a year where it could easily be said that Marvel is doing a cash grab (and so many times this year did I say that), but they frequently and consistently came out with quality issues (yes, even with Gwen-Pool).
Writers like Greg Pak, Jason Aaron and Charles Soule have consistently brought great story arcs and introducing a different type of superhero that is refreshing and enjoyable. Also, creator-owned comics with such writers a Brian K. Vaughan, Rick Remender and Warren Ellis have shown that men with symbols on their uniforms do not necessarily a great comic make and there's some incredible things in the imaginations of comic-book writers.
Overall, it's been a great year for comics, and this December, right in time for the holidays, here's the most influential writers in the field.
Agree or disagree? Tell me in the comments and I'll give it another read, but for now, let's see the ranking.
30. Marjorie Liu
After the voluminous first issue of Monstress, I was wondering how far Marjorie Liu would go in issue two. Thankfully, she pulls no punches, and this issue holds just as much energy (as well as beautiful artwork by Sana Takeda) as the first one. Liu dives into history and introduces the character of the Mother Superior and the Inquisitrixes. Sure, this isn’t the murder of nuns that woke up the reader in the first issue, but more a show of evil, in all its power. Already in two issues I’m finding that Monstress is easily living up to its name and may be the most exciting Image comic of winter 2016. Also, a word of warning, this book is not flippant skim reading. This is a book that commands attention from the reader with a condensed but beautifully composed story that the reader my find him or herself looking back on frequently. In short, it’s pretty damn brilliant.
29. Dan Slott
While Dan Slott is frequently praised for finding multiple variations to make Spider-Man interesting, he doesn’t get the credit he deserves in how he does so much in balancing an enjoyable rapport with his characters as well as including fun action to keep the plot going. His latest Amazing Spider-Man has included as much fun discussion as it is packed full of action. Slott has been writing Spider-Man for a while now, and it’s a pleasure to consistently get a series that is fun, inventive and a pleasure to read each week.
28. Kieron Gillen
While this Wicked + The Divine story arc has definitely focused a lot more on the backstory of characters, Gillen still knows how to set up a cliffhanger, and this will be talked about for quite a while. Thankfully, we still have Phonogram and Darth Vader, both which seem to be getting better and better each week. The Darth Vader Annual is the perfect stocking stuffer for any Star Wars fan who wants to take his or her love of Star Wars to the next level. It’s really a packaged version of the entire series, showing not only how powerful Vader is but also how clever he is to outwit an attempt on his life as well as manipulate those around him.
27. Sam Humphries
Based on his enjoyable Star-Lord & Kitty Pryde and Planet Hulk, Sam Humphries does an excellent job of building on character development as well as being downright hilarious (the fact that Star-Lord became a singer who sang Disney’s greatest hits made me laugh on so many levels). Now with his newest creator-owned comic with Image, Citizen Jack, and taking over the beautiful strange Weirdworld from Jason Aaron, Humphries is quickly becoming the writer to look out for in 2016. Citizen Jack is especially interesting since it’s about a despicable character that you’ll end up rooting for by the end. Sounds exactly like politics, right? This is both daring and exciting work and there’s a lot of excitement surrounding both these comics and this writer.
26. Gail Simone
Since I started writing the power report both people I knew and commenters alike have come up to me and said they were amazed I didn’t put Gail Simone on the list. Problem was Gaile wasn’t putting out many series. The only one I read that was in a current run was Clean Room and it was good but I wasn’t certain where it was going. Now, on issue 3, I can say definitely pull this comic. The intensity has increased and the Gail Simone that we all know and love has shown that psychological horror is still her game. The story is of Chloe Pierce who begins a, well, interesting self-help organization after her fiancé commit suicide. Simone is playing around with the need of self-help and what that entails. There’s an incredible amount of suspense in these issues and Simone doesn’t skimp on the horror inside.
25. Cameron Stewart
Batgirl continues to be one of the best series DC publishes and that’s largely in part to how Cameron Stewart injects the craziest elements into a story that somehow just works. Tigers, check, ninjas, why not, cybernetic implants, let’s go there. Cameron Stewart does it with flair and the fun and craziness listed is in parallel with the growing friendship between Barbara and Frankie. While originally targeted to a younger audience, Batgirl has reached an audience that understanding that this is a special kind of series and one worth reading.
24. Mark Millar
Each issue of Huck makes me smile even greater than the first. The second issue deals with the ramification of Huck getting outted by members of the town and I'm already finding myself getting excited about the potential of this series. Also with the Jupiter's Circle starting on a new story arc and Jupiter's Legacy starting up again, Millarworld is in fine form going into 2016. It's impressive, with the Civil War trailer being released, how much the Marvel movies are depending on Millar's Civil War and the type of career this hall of fame writer has made and, with series like Huck coming out, it seems like Millar has no plans on ever slowing down.
23. Jonathan Hickman
With a load of OMG and even more OMFG moments, Secret Wars had definitely lived up to the hype. The last episode offered excellent moments with Thing, Galactus, and a hilarious encounter with Doctor Doom and Thanos. Hickman has done an excellent job of building up the anticipation until the final payoff, which thus far has been absolutely thrilling. Now with Black Panther and Namor coming into the fight, all the key players are in the game and there is probably not a comic I’m more excited about next month.
22. Skottie Young
I Hate Fairyland is diabolically engaging and sick and twisted and lovely in that in every single way possible. It’s the most fun thing to take out of my bag on the subway and say, you think you knew about comic books, well, yes you lady looking over my shoulder, you have no idea what you’re in for. It’s incredibly funny and devilishly insane and will easily make my best new series list of 2015. So far we’ve had a Conan type barbarian sent to kill Gertrude and now we have zombies on the attack. I can’t wait to see what Skottie Young comes up with next. Plus we have another run of Rocket Raccoon coming (this time with Groot!). Possible money grab from Marvel, yes, still possibly a good time since Skottie Young is at the helm, definitely.
21. Jason Latour
Spider-Gwen continues to be the best new character from Marvel and that’s all due to the wonderful mind of Jason Latour. We have excellent crossovers with Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman), Harry Osbourne (Green Goblin) and an evil Matt Murdoch (well, you should definitely know that one). Also it seems that Spider-Gwen can jump universes pretty well which opens up a new complexity to the plot and allows for so many twists and turns that the lack of action in the episode really didn’t matter because overall, I had such a fun time with the characters interaction. If you’ve had any hesitancy in jumping on the Spider-Gwen bandwagon, please get over it and realize that this one of Marvel’s best.
20. Tom King
The sleeper hit of the fall/winter has thus far been the surprisingly wonderful The Visions about the title character forming a family with three other synthezoids (a wife and two kids, boy and a girl) in Arlington, Virginia, a suburb of Washington D.C. The story is a smart examination of suburbia and what it means to be a superhero. There are, of course, conflicts that involve knowledge of a future event that is planted expertly to create tension throughout the series but there’s a lot more going on here than your basic comic book and I’m impressed with the confidence Marvel had in making this series. This may be the best new comic of the fall/winter and a must pull in the upcoming months.
19. G. Willow Wilson
The constant fight between being a teenager and being a superhero is still at the forefront of the G. Willow Wilson series that continues to be one of the most layered and complex series from Marvel. Wilson works well with opposition, building her characters in how they react to conflict and make decisions that dramatically affect, not only their lives but, their friends and family. The most interesting villain in this story arc though is the media. Kamala is not only affected by how the media has depicted her as Ms. Marvel but also the related public events in reality that have created Islamophobic views (especially in the Presidential race) and found its way to Wilson's Jersey City, where Wilson has Kamala deal with firsthand. While in the hands of other writers I would be nervous about the handling of this topic, I have the upmost faith in G. Willow Wilson and look forward to the next issues to see where she goes with such a controversial topic. It is a bold and daring move and worth noting.
18. Chip Zdarsky
I was a little skeptical about Jughead but Mr. Zdarsky has taken all those fears away with what has been, a really enjoyable fun comic that harkens back to the old versions of the character. Chip isn’t trying to recreate a new character but instead bring back a familiar one that we forgot how much we needed. Pairing up with Erica Henderson from Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, the duo look ready to take on Riverdale High in typical Jughead fashion, which includes nice dream interludes that harkens back to an older style. Also with Kaptara Volume One released this month and Howard the Duck selling strong at around 60,000 copies last month, Zdarsky may have our award breakout comic writer of 2015.
A friend of mine asked me what book she should get her daughter and I loved telling her about Lumberjanes. There’s no other place you’ll find one-eyed werewolves, mermaid wars and merit badges to go with basically everything. And at the heart of the absolute absurd fun and weirdness is the friendship between the characters which is heartwarming and exactly what the reader would like to see out of a camp story (even if it is a pretty magical camp). This is the start of a new story arc for the Lumberjanes, and I think we’re all excited to go back out to camp.
16. Ryan North
Time travel, Dr. Doom, and a new story arc takes off in what still is the most fun series in the Marvel Universe. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl has comea long way in 2015, she joined the Avengers, did a crossover with Howard the Duck, and sent basically a million tweets to Tony Stark. Will there be an addition to the growing list Marvel movies with this character in the future? I definitely think Marvel would be nuts not to include her.
15. Brian Michael Bendis
So last comic book power report I had a great comment by a Chad Smith that disagreed with me about Bendis. He was not a fan and had not been a fan since Ultimate Spider-Man, which I believe we both thought was amazing. He made excellent points about X-Men that made me relook at the series. Then why is Bendis still on the power report? Because Invincible Iron Man looks to be the same wonderful Bendis that we both embraced in USM and even now, I’m hoping that Chad Smith, wherever you are, will pick up Invisible Iron Man and tell me what you think. This series has humor, loads of actions and a big helping of heart to go with it. Plus the cameos are great and completely fit in with the story in a way that’s not in a oh-look-there’s-a-crossover-so-everything-has-to-stop-and-wait kind of way. Mr. Chad Smith, and all you non-Bendis supporters out there, I call to you to look at Invincible Iron Man. I believe you’ll be happy with what you read.
14. Jeff Lemire
Jeff Lemire does so much. He’s worked on Black Hammer for Dark Horse, Bloodshot Reborn for Valiant, he had a brilliant Complete Essex Hardcover come out this year, plus the television show of Essex country just announced. Add that to his brilliant creator-owned series with Image Comics, Descender and Plutona (plus a series entitled A.D. After Death that has been long rumored with Scott Snyder) and his work on Marvel’s two celebrated titles: Extraordinary X-Men and All-New Hawkeye and it’s hard to throw any type of shade at the guy. But I’m not so hot on the X-Men series so let’s try. We’re currently at the start of the series but isn’t it annoying sad that the X-Men are still the characters in the same funk as it looks like they’ve always been. Storm is a frustrated leader and the story revolves around getting the team back together which seems a little outdated in its arc. There are fun points, especially with the interaction of Magik and her brother Colossus, but Lemire seems to be trying to tie up everything that happened before him instead of making the characters his own. It is still young in the series though and Lemire has repeatedly shown to be up to the task at hand. I’m just afraid of when so much becomes too much.
13. Grant Morrison
Is there a more perfect Christmas present this year for a comic book fan than a comic book about Santa Claus by Grant Morrison? Definitely a shout or two away from the jolly old guy in a red suit, this Santa’s both got muscles and a lot of Yuletime spirit. Dan Mora’s artwork is also an excellent pairing to Morrison’s words as Mr. Kringle could conform any scrooge to accept the Christmas spirit. I couldn’t think of a better stocking stuffer than this series for comic lovers one and all.
12. Tom Taylor
It’s refreshing to see that All-New really does mean All-New in the Marvel Universe after the Secret Wars and there’s nothing as all new as seeing a female Wolverine. A clone of the original Wolverine, Laura Kinney, or X-23, has spent time wandering around Avengers Arena and All-New X-Men before she got her own series. What’s incredible is that Tom Taylor has taken a character that probably has the hardest time adjusting to an audience that liked a gruff guy that called people bub and built a personality for her that looks to compete with one of the Marvel’s most iconic characters of all time. She’s a bonafide badass and, with sales around 120,000 issues sold for the debut issue, it looks like she’s being rightfully being embraced by the Marvel audience.
11. Frank Miller
Remember where you were when you read your first comic book? Me neither but both me and most of my friends knew exactly when we first read The Dark Knight Returns. It was one of the most monumental moments in comic book history and it became one of the most brilliant stories in comic books with one of the best characters put to pen and ink. That said, the sequel really sucked (like crazy bad) so there’s more than a little apprehension I have about this DK III The Master Race. Helping put my mind at ease is the co-writer of the series Brian Azzarello, a solid writer that has been doing Wonder Woman for some time now with Paper Girls’s Cliff Chiang. Can we expect the same astounding story and artwork that we encountered in the first Dark Knight book? I hope so. If not I’m hoping DC hires J.J. Abrams to do DK IV.
10. Jen Van Meter
If you haven’t been reading Valiant this year, you’re missing out on some of the best writing in comics. Valiant has always had an incredibly loyal fan base but this past year they’ve been putting a lot of emphasis on creating compelling female characters. Doctor Mirage is one of my favorite of the Valiant series, a woman who ventures into the underworld but also works in an environment that almost feels like a hard-boiled detective novel. Jen Van Meter has been on my radar since the incredible punk drama Hopeless Savages from Oni Press and it’s nice to add her, and Valiant, to this power list.
9. Max Landis
Much like making a good Superman video game, making a good Superman comic is incredibly difficult. Superman, especially as a young kid, tends to either be a goody too shoes that runs around saving everyone or an angst-filled pain in the ass that is off-putting to be around. Landis does an excellent job of making Kent human by giving him the ability to choose whether he would like to become a hero and detailing the ethical and moral ramifications on his life depending on whatever he decides. It’s an excellent superhero beginning thus far and a perfect time on jumping on what is the best Superman story since Scott Snyder’s Superman Unchained.
8. Greg Pak
If you title your comic Totally Awesome, well it just better damn well be totally freaking awesome. Good thing that Pak hits it out of the park with this incredible new interpretation of Hulk in the form of Amadeus Cho. Unlike Bruce Banner, Cho can seemingly turn on the Hulk power at will and he is actually happy at being the Hulk. Yes, we all see that problems will arise (most likely in the form of power and responsibility) but how refreshing is it to see a Hulk that isn’t struggling in the way Banner was. He’s cocky, yes, but he’s a hell of a lot of fun in a character that previously was focused on introspection. I don’t know where this Hulk is going to go after its debut issue but for right now Amadeus Cho certainly lives up to the title of Totally Awesome.
7. Robert Kirkman
Whenever you see a Walking Dead cover with Negan on it, you know you’re going to have an issue with a lot of….personality. Negan is the best villain in the Walking Dead series and perhaps the most enjoyable character to hear riff. The guy definitely commands attention like only a villain knows how to do and, as Rick doesn’t really have an answer to the whispers right now, Negan seems to be the only person that could possibly help. As issue 150 is coming we know that something is ready to go down in a serious way and, while this issue was more playful and fun at showing off Negan again than advancing the story, any Walking Dead fan would relish in that opportunity so it’s pretty gratifying. There’s a lot of expectation around issue 150, here’s hoping Kirkman coming through.
6. Warren Ellis
Are you reading James Bond? Oh my god you should be. While Warren Ellis is definitely a Hall of Famer by anyone’s standard it’s nice to know he’s not resting on his laurels and continues to bring out some of the most compelling and exciting stories each month. Also, with a new story arc coming from his darkly addictive series Injection coming in January, Ellis’s work looks to be hitting a really good rhythm in creating two very different series that are equally as exciting to see in your pull list. Is it weird that I’m strangely attracted to the description of the new Injection in which it says “detective Vivek Headland takes on a case that quickly invokes a murderous sandwich.” A murderous sandwich? I’m definitely intrigued and I secretively hope it’s a BLT.
5. Rick Remenber
Do you love comics? If you do, and I know you do because why on Earth would you be reading a power report on comic book writers if you didn’t, I would be amazed if you didn’t love the absolutely diabolical mind of Rick Remender. The guy is plain incredible and with Black Science returning plus a awesome Christmas gift in a new Deadly Class story arc coming next week, Rick Remender is showing how creator-owned comic books allow the writer to fully expand their creativity to its height. Plus with Devolution coming next month from Dynamite, who have been killing it lately, there’s definitely a lot to look forward to in 2016.
4. Scott Snyder
Finally we’re heading into the final act where Mr. Bloom and Batman are going to stop with the messing around and finally go at it. Bloom, with his long, piercing fingers and creepy mask, is both an achievement for Snyder and Capello as the artwork in this story has been astoundingly good. Capello has always done an excellent job at creating characters, none better than the Court of Owls, but Bloom has a spider-like quality that works perfectly in Gotham City. With this past issue, we see Bruce Wayne finally recognizing his true self in a psychologically compelling scene in the subway and Bat-Gordon shows he has more than a few tricks up his sleeve. There’s more than a few spoilers that are in this episode but it’s so action packed that it’s best to say the payoff looks to be even better than we hoped in this story arc, words that I frequently find myself saying in any series written by Mr. Snyder.
3. Charles Soule
There’s a big division in the comic book store I go to about Charles Soule. People either love him or look at him as creating b-grade stories, a substitute to swap in for Marvel’s first choice. For me, there’s no writer that works harder or as much as Soule with great consistency in his work and a strong focus on character development. I’m always comforted by seeing Soule’s name on any comic that the series will be strongly written with a purpose behind it. His Uncanny Inhumans has been a blast (double entendre totally intended), and his new Daredevil is such a departure from what Mark Waid did with the character and an excellent opportunity for anyone that wants variation from the Netflix show but also wants a darker side to the character. And finally, we got to see She-Hulk again in the Gwen-pool special which, let me say, made my entire month. Charles Soule, you’re top notch, keep up the good work.
2. Jason Aaron
Doctor Strange may be the most surprising reinvention of a character since Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. The amount of joy and humor that Aaron puts into each issue is a delight to watch and, in this social climate, this is the type of comic I tend to like best. Doctor Strange exhibits a world full of mystery and wonder that is traversed by a man who enjoys the absurdity around him. Add this to a Thor that is completely different, full of dark, and sometimes heart-wrenching, moments of how Jane Foster weighs the exhilaration of being one of the greatest heroes in the universe with the subsequent cancer that is eating away her life, and you have a comic writer that seems like he could do anything. Thor can be a gut-wrenching comic to read but it’s incredibly daring and smart in its approach. Combine these great issues with brand new Southern Bastards t-shirts and it’s a good Christmas time for comic book lovers everywhere, one and all.
1. Brian K Vaughan
December is a good month for comics and a main reason is the awe-inspiring work of one of comic’s greatest writers, Brian K. Vaughan. This month Vaughan has finished his incredible Canadian military series We Stand On Guard, released a brilliant issue of Paper Girls that gave more of an understanding of what is attacking the city (as well as a lot more questions), brought back a fun new issue of Saga (oh how we missed you), and finally released The Private Eye in print format (hello, Christmas list). Add that to a one-shot in the works for The Walking Dead and you have both a reason to celebrate 2015 and to be excited about what 2016 has in store. If you want to get anyone into creator-owned comics this holiday season, your best bet is to put some Brian K Vaughan on their bookshelf.