10. Jeff Lemire
There has yet to be any hockey in Animal Man. That in itself seems to merit some inclusion on the list. Quite seriously, 2011 was the year we saw Lemire’s work and his range blossom. From the breakout Animal Man to Frankenstein, as well as continuing the adventures of Sweet Tooth, Lemire keeps showing us that he’s got something new in the bag of tricks, and it’s always a surprise.
9. Robert Kirkman
While Bobby Hollywood is off making some of the most popular television on cable, he’s also continued to write 3 continuing, creator-owned series. Invincible is a superhero book. The Walking Dead doesn’t need to be explained to anyone any longer. And Super Dinosaur is an incredibly fun all-ages book. He’s hit the point where we expect a level of quality, and don’t talk about it as much anymore, but all three of his comics were excellent all year. Still! That’s sort of amazing.
8. Mike Mignola & Partners
Whether it’s with John Arcudi on B.P.R.D. or Christopher Golden on Baltimore, or by his lonesome on Hellboy, Mike Mignola’s world made big shifts in 2011, and must be recognized. Over at the Bureau, Hell is literally on Earth. Hellboy ended whatever part of his story we’ve been reading for over a decade, and Lord Baltimore killed a hell of a lot of monsters, and that was with just one leg. This was one of the strongest years for the Mignola-verse in some time, and the prospects of the future are very enticing.
7. Jeff Parker
Jeff Parker made me care about comics I had no business caring about. My apathy on the Hulk knows no bounds, but Jeff Parker’s Hulk issues were jumping with gamma infused fun and imagination. Meanwhile over in Thunderbolts, Parker weathered the storms of crossover hell, and managed to make this supervillain-doing-good team even more fun than it was before. Somehow in the middle of that, he manages to keep doing the bizarre and twisted Bucko webcomic.
6. Jonathan Hickman
Jonathan Hickman does not doubt his abilities, and after this year, he has very little reason to. He broke new ground with the Fantastic Four, making it a must read for the first time in as long as I can remember. He took on the high profile, high action team over in The Ultimates, and still put out the creator owned Red Wing, as well as jump started several creator owned projects at Image, besides. Oh yeah, and he writes Leonardo Da Vinci in the Marvel Universe.
5. Brian Azzarello
I’m not going to say with certainty that 2011 was Brian Azzarello’s second act, but it was his strongest year in a long time, and backed up why his name is so valued on a comic book cover. He released a new series from Vertigo with his 100 Bullets collaborator, Eduardo Risso, doing a sci-fi story that is so far impossible to explain, but even harder to miss. He then made a giant impact in the mainstream world by taking over Wonder Woman, of all characters, and making her readable to a bigger audience. That alone deserves some sort of special Eisner category.
4. Rick Remender
Normally, when you take a team of characters that include Wolverine and Deadpool, and promise that they’ll be a badass killing team, you’ll sell a lot of books and make a big splash. What Rick Remender did, that defies historical logic, was make Uncanny X-Force very good, and who saw that coming? Likewise, Remender went and started a Venom series. Venom! Again, it was unexpected, and turned out to be full of heart and excellent. What Remender does, besides write his ass off, is understand how important art is to comic books, and he make sure he’s got the best, if not necessarily the most popular, artists he can get. The guy understands comic book art, and he’s picking out tomorrow’s superstars as his collaborators today. Finally, he put a closing on Fear Agent, one of my most beloved creator owned series, and he did it with aplomb and panache. As always.
3. Mark Waid
Mark Waid is testament to the value of doing your own damn thing. For reasons we may never know, things got very frosty between Waid and DC, so he bolted, leaving him with time to keep making Irredeemable and Incorruptible into the great series they are, sustaining their quality after several years, and really pushing the boundaries of what they originally seemed to be in 2011. They should be “must read” titles for anyone who’s a fan of serial superhero fiction. Then he gave Matt Murdock the most needed facelift in comics in Marvel’s Daredevil, reviving the character from a deep hole, and making a lot of readers very happy. Waid continues to be one of the most enduring talents in comics, and this year, he showed everyone why in a big way.
2. Jason Aaron
It is my contention, and the contention of many others, that Scalped is the best comic book being produced in issue form today. It’s an intuitive masterpiece of characterization and plot. If Jason Aaron only wrote books with the same tone as Scalped, he’d be one of the best guys out there. But that’s not even close to all he does. Over the course of 2011, Aaron penned Wolverine, and even some of those issues were different kinds of Wolverine stories than others he’d written. He took Logan over to lead the school in Wolverine and the X-Men, introducing another kind of writing in his bag. Incredible Hulk? Completely different kind of superhero book. Earlier in the year, he finished up Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine, which was a delight to all who read it. He also wrapped up a wonderful arc on Punisher MAX. The guy can do funny, dark, action, and anything in between. In 2011, Aaron released 55 single issues of comics. He’s also a hell of a hard worker, it would seem.
1. Scott Snyder
A whole lot more people know Scott Snyder’s name today than they did a year ago. With the announcement of the new 52, it was clear that DC was going to bet big on Snyder for their future, and he carried the hell out of that banner. I’ve written an alarming amount of Pick of the Week reviews on Snyder books, and it’s getting harder to find another way to say he’s very good. It’s fair to say that Batman is one of the most popular books of the relaunched DC Universe, and even more than his acclaimed Detective Comics run, it’s made the guy a superstar. He backed that up with reinventing Swamp Thing for a new audience, which no one has ever been successful with since Alan Moore. Meanwhile, if American Vampire was the only thing he was doing, he’d still be one of the best writers in comics. Then, just for good measure, he’s doing some creator owned hobo horror with Severed at Image Comics. It was a banner year by all measures for Scott Snyder, and it still feels like he’s just getting started. In all these projects, he’s been lucky enough to work with some of the best artists in the industry, and to his credit, he hasn’t wasted them at all. He knows the value of those guys, and knows where to let them shine. Finally, he brings more enthusiasm and passion to the job as anyone I’ve met in comics, and that’s really saying something in an industry that runs almost completely on passion.