Why do writers matter? As long as the book stars Batman, it’s good right?
Wrong! (I wouldn’t write this article otherwise.)
Characters, plot ideas and art mean nothing to a story without proper execution. So next time you look for a good read, pay attention to the writer(s) credited.
But what names should I look out for, you ask? There are so many writers out there and opinions vary. Here are 3 of my favourites most others can agree with. I think you’ll like them too.
Neil Gaiman is a well-known writer of many mediums other than comics, such as books (novels, short stories and poetry), TV, audio theatre and movies. So it’s safe to say, this guy knows his way around a pen and paper. You may have heard of his books American Gods (which I’m currently reading) or Coraline.
He writes children’s stories, horror, superhero stories and, occasionally, Doctor Who. In my opinion, he especially excels at fantasy. He makes characters and wild ideas believable and heart-felt.
His most famous fantasy, The Sandman, made me want to go to sleep… but not out of boredom! Sometimes after reading a chapter, I would jump into bed and take a nap mid-day just to visit The Dreaming. Is that a weird thing to do? Er, yeah, but that’s how believable Gaiman’s writing is. He really fleshes out this realm we all visit between waking hours. It’s vast, imaginative, and it acknowledges all that nonsense logic we experience in dreams. You know what I’m talking about. One minute you’re at school in your PJs. Next, you’re falling through the floor of an Aztec ruin. That kind of nonsense.
He’s one of the most influential writers in comics, adding sophistication and realism to the medium since the 80’s. Nowadays, Alan Moore is a little bitter towards the comic book industry and superheroes in general. We won’t see many new mainstream comics from him any time soon. However, his past work shows a man who loves the medium and really knows how to use it. He still writes continuations to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, like Nemo: The Roses of Berlin.
By the way, don’t judge his books by the movie adaptations (Watchmen, V for Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). He does not approve of them and is not involved in their creation. I read Watchmen before seeing the movie and, honestly, the movie really missed the point. It was more of a gore-fest than the deconstructionist superhero story he intended.
I can’t quite put my finger on the exact reason why I love his work. At his best, I’m not even aware of Moore’s hand in the story. Whether it’s a romantic plant monster, an apathetic god of science, or that famous maniacal clown, I’m right there with them. He makes the darkness feel real. I guess that’s what makes a great writer.
Grant Morrison is a chaos magician and a user of psychedelics. He infuses his beliefs and experiences into his work, resulting in some of the most trippy, yet intelligent, comics of the Modern Age. He’d incorporate aliens he met, sigil magic, nuclear apocalyptic imagery (his dad was an anti-nuclear protestor), his post-mortem summoning of John Lennon, stuff like that. Whether you believe him or not you’ve got to admit he’s pretty interesting.
You need to open your mind to really enjoy his stories. They take some unconventional turns, especially when they’re not about Marvel/DC Characters. But when you do open up, he shows you everything in a new, fascinating light. Check out what he learned from his alien abduction:
Honestly, I did not like his All-Star Superman at first. I heard that it is the greatest Superman story of all time, winning seven comic book awards. It’s about Superman’s last days on earth, so I read it, waiting for the conventional shock and realism which did not come. In retrospect, I regret not reading the story for what it was: A weird love letter to Superman as the embodiment of our ideals.
Earlier this year, I heard about his delightfully weird run on Doom Patrol. So, I borrowed the entire series from the library and embraced the story for what it was. I saw a gorilla and a brain in a jar fall in love; chair people; a sentient, teleporting, transvestite street named Danny; pentagon officials riding children’s hopping balls; and a parody of The Punisher called The Beard Hunter. It was joyful, dark and fantastic.
And despite all the strangeness, he roots his stories into the human experience, making them strangely relatable. That’s the magic of Grant Morrison.
There are still many other great books from these guys, but I’m sure you’ll like my recommendations based on my own experiences. I look forward to reading the rest of their work in time.
Do you have a favourite writer? What are your favourite stories from him/her? Let me know in the comments!