Top Ten Living Legends: Comic Book Writer/Artist/Creators WHO DO IT ALL

Welcome back to another Top Ten list here at The Splintering. Today, we’re spotlighting the top ten writer/artist/creators – essentially, those creators who “do it all.”  We’re taking everything into account on this one, including the creators’ writing, their artwork and their creations.  Read on and be sure to let us know who we may have left out in the comments below. 

#10 – Sergio Aragones

Sergio Aragones has been writing and illustrating since working for Mad Magazine in the 1960s.  He’s also worked on a variety of characters and projects; without a doubt though, his most famous work is his creation Groo the Wanderer which he first introduced in 1982. 

His unofficial title of “World’s Fastest Cartoonist” is one of the main reasons he has thousands of credits to his name throughout his seven decades of work.  His art style is distinctive and he never ceases to put a smile on the readers’ face. 

Notable Creations: The Groo the Wanderer Universe

#9 – Wendy Pini

Wendy Pini has worked for all of the major comic book publishers including Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, First Comics, and Comico, both writing and illustrating stories.  Her most famous work is also her most personal, creating the Elfquest Universe which she worked on with her husband Richard for over 40 years.  First debuting in an issue of Fantasy Quarterly in 1978, Elfquest has gone on to garner world wide attention and has built a loyal fan base. 

The most recent Elfquest series, Stargazer, was co-written by Ms. Pini and also features exquisite cover illustrations by her as well.  There was talk that Elfquest: The Final Quest would have been her final work on these characters, but there’s just no stopping her creative output.  We are all the better for it. 

Notable Creations: Elfquest Universe

#8 – Jim Starlin

Thanks to the MCU, Jim Starlin has had a heck of a resurgence the last few years.  The truth is though, Jim Starlin has been a steady contributor to the comic book medium over his entire career.  Mr. Starlin began working for Marvel Comics in 1972 introducing characters such as Thanos and Gamora. He also injected new life into long struggling titles such as Captain Marvel.  He brought his knack for cosmic storytelling to Silver Surfer, and then created the mythos of the Infinity Gauntlet and the following Infinity series of stories to the Marvel Universe. 

Don’t let it be said that Mr. Starlin wasn’t well rounded though, because he worked at DC on several of the Batman titles, including writing the Batman: The Cult mini-series, and writing the famous Death in the Family storyline, as well.  He also wrote the Cosmic Odyssey and the Weird, and created the prominent DC villain Mongul. 

Mr. Starlin has also had a very storied independent career, stemming from his own creations such as Dreadstar, Breed, and the Hardcore Station universe.  Jim Starlin seemed to have to wait a long time to get the recognition that was due him.  I am glad to see that day finally came. 

Notable Creations: Thanos, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Pip the Troll, Mongul, Dreadstar Universe.

#7 – Walt Simonson

When people think of Walt Simonson, they instantly think of his time on Thor.  It’s important to note that Mr. Simonson had over 10 years of professional experience before his first issue of Thor hit the stands. He worked on titles such as Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and even adapted the Alien movie into a graphic novel.  Even with all of this, it always comes back to Beta Ray Bill.  Walt Simonson’s run on Thor has been referred to as the definitive version of the character, an epic the likes of which has yet to be rivaled. 

Since his days on Thor, he has worked on countless other titles including X-Factor, the Fantastic Four, Orion, his creator owned Star Slammers and most recently Ragnarok.  His creative output has yet to slow down, both writing and illustrating projects close to his heart.  I’m looking forward to see what he has planned next.  Whatever it is, I know it’ll be worth reading. 

Notable Creations: Beta Ray Bill, Malekith the Accursed, Star Slammers

#6 – George Perez

Early in his career, George Perez studied under Rich Buckler and worked on a variety of Marvel titles, including the Fantastic Four and the Avengers.  It was his switch to DC and his work on the New Teen Titans which really made him a household name.  After Teen Titans, he penciled the ground breaking Crisis on Infinite Earths, though It was his next project that cements him as a member of this list. 

Mr. Perez’s long run on Wonder Woman not only brought that character to prominence, it also showcased his writing talent.  Yes, he co-plotted several issues of New Teen Titans with Marv Wolfman, but on Wonder Woman, he was able to showcase his writing without his longtime collaborator. George Perez would go on to work back and forth between Marvel and DC, either penciling or writing projects that appealed to him (including Avengers, and Silver Surfer) as well as some independent publisher projects.  It will always be that 10+ year span of Teen Titans, Crisis on Infinite Earths, and Wonder Woman that fans will remember as the pinnacle of this legendary creator’s career.

Notable Creations: Cyborg, Taskmaster, Monitor, Trigon

#5 – John Byrne

John Byrne began working at Marvel Comics in the mid 1970’s and was frequently paired with writer Chris Claremont.  Together, they would make the X-Men characters household names, and turn that franchise into the #1 selling title at Marvel.  Their run is still considered a high-water mark in comics to this day.  However, it was when Mr. Byrne left the X-Men title that his writing prowess began to shine. 

John Byrne had a five-year run on the Fantastic Four where he was both writer and penciller, where he brought the title back to prominence within the industry. Byrne has also written and illustrated books from Alpha Flight, Superman, Wonder Woman, and several of his own creations like Next Men.  When I think of John Byrne instinctively, I think of his artwork first.  When I sit down and actually give it some thought, I realize he belongs on any list of writer/artists in comics. 

Notable Creations: Kitty Pryde, Alpha Flight, Hellfire Club, Silver Banshee, Next Men

#4 – Matt Wagner

Matt Wagner’s career defies logic.  Most creators come out and try to build a name for themselves, working for mainstream titles, and working their way up to finally launch a creator owned character or title.  Nope, not Matt Wagner.  He came out with Grendel and followed it up with Mage, two of the most successful creator-owned series of the early 1980s.  He used the success from those characters to carve an outstanding career working on top mainstream characters, including: Batman, Sandman: Mystery Theatre, Madame Xanadu, The Demon, Green Hornet, The Shadow, Zorro, and more.

Mr. Wagner has always gone back and revisited his own creations though, furthering their adventures and expanding their lore.  2019 saw the final issue of the Mage series hit the stands, and he’s currently working on Grendel: Devil’s Odyssey through Dark Horse Comics.  I’ve yet to see Matt Wagner’s creative output decrease throughout his career.  Now with his son Brennan Wagner coloring in the comics industry, we may see the Wagner name in comics for years to come.   

Notable Creations: Mage Universe and Grendel Universe

#3 – Stan Sakai

Stan Sakai began his career in comics in the early 1980s working as a letterer on titles such as Groo the Wanderer and Masters of the Universe.  However, with the introduction of his creator owned character Usagi Yojimbo in the obscure Albedo #2, a close to 40-year relationship with this character would be launched.  Usagi Yojimbo has appeared in hundreds of issues of comic books, in animation and crossover events with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, in action figure form, and countless licensing products.  As the years have gone by, the popularity of this character has seemed to continuously grow.  There’s even a planned Samurai Rabbit: The Usagi Chronicles series coming to Netflix. 

Yes, Stan Sakai has had a career outside of Usagi Yojimbo. I know he’s written and illustrated work for the Simpsons, and the Rocketeer, won awards for his lettering on Groo, but it’s with his Usagi Yojimbo universe that Mr. Sakai has created a legacy of art and storytelling.  Among his contemporaries, he’s looked upon with awe and reverence.  Among his fans, he’s looked upon as a living legend.

Notable Creations: Usagi Yojimbo Universe

#2 – Mike Mignola

Mike Mignola was everywhere in the 1980s, drawing covers and interiors for both Marvel and DC Comics in a variety of projects.  He came to prominence at DC with two amazing prestige format books, the four-issue Cosmic Odyssey series written by Jim Starlin, followed by the Gotham by Gaslight one-shot written by Bryan Augustyn.  Still, with all of these artistic ventures, no one could have predicted what was to come.

In the early 1990’s Mike Mignola debuted his creator-owned character Hellboy in issue #21 of the Next Men.  This seemingly random introduction would go on to spawn one of the most prolific and lucrative comic book franchises of the past 40 years.  Hellboy quickly became its own title, and spun off characters and titles such as: Abe Sapien, Lobster Johnson, BPRD, Witchfinder, and more.  The Hellboy character has been adapted into three live-action movies as well as two animated DVDs and three video games. 

Although not beginning his writing career until the 1990s, Mr. Mignola has flexed his writing and artistic muscle throughout the entire run of Hellboy and its various spin-offs, showcasing how he is among the top living legends of comic book creators. 

Notable Creations: Hellboy Universe

#1 – Frank Miller

Frank Miller came to prominence at Marvel Comics breathing new life into Daredevil.  Once a meager bi-monthly title, Miller turned Daredevil into one of the best-selling comics of its time.  He helped establish the mythos of the character that’s still portrayed today, along with introducing characters such as Elektra and Stick.  Frank Miller then moved to DC where he would forever change the legacy of one of DC’s flagship characters.

The Dark Knight Returns was released as a four issue prestige format mini-series in 1986, and instantly everyone knew it was special.  From the day issue one was released, the trajectory of the Batman character was forever changed.  Make no mistake about it, without Dark Knight Returns, there is no Batman movie, there is no Batman Animated Series.  Batman would still exist today, but would be a far different character if not for this groundbreaking phenomenon.  I feel the need to mention Mr. Miller also wrote Batman Year One as well.

Not one to rest on his prior success, Miller went back to Marvel to work on a few more Daredevil projects he had in mind, including Daredevil: Born Again and Elektra Lives, but eventually decided to create his own universe of characters.  Among his finest independent titles are Martha Washington, 300, and Sin City, the last two being franchises that also saw live action theatrical releases.  2018 saw Mr. Miller return to his world of 300 with the prequel Xerxes, and in 2019 Miller was part of Superman: Year One creative team at DC Comics. 

Frank Miller seems to spend time in both his creator-owned universes and those of his favorite mainstream books.  I’d like to think that it’s because he genuinely cares about those particular mainstream characters.  He’s certainly a creator who writes as well as he illustrates.  He has incredible creative ideas, and when he works on a corporate-owned character, he treats it with the same reverence and grace as he would a creation of his own.  There are a lot of amazing creative legends working in the comic book industry and we’re fortunate to have them all, but in my humble opinion, Frank Miller is absolutely #1. 

Notable Creations: Elektra, Stick, Sin City Universe, Martha Washington, Carrie Kelley (Robin)

Thanks for reading! Did we miss one of your own favorite creators? Be sure to tell us off sound off in the comments below! To read a previous Top Ten List, go here!

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