You simply don’t make comics without desperately wanting to do it. It’s not an especially glamorous or lucrative field even at its upper echelons. It’s because of this fact that comics represent some of the most passioned and earnest storytelling available to modern audiences. To make comics today is something of a barbaric yawp. In 2012 we couldn’t help but notice the call of so many storytellers invested in trying something new, striking unfamiliar chords, and making this medium their own. Today we celebrate the voices that rang out the loudest, the writers who offered the most compelling additions to our weekly hauls.
Azzarello’s Wonder Woman remains one of the strongest ongoings in DC’s New 52 stable, continually surprising us with fresh, thoughtful interpretations of the character’s rich mythological heritage. In the hands of lesser writers, contemporary spins on the Greek pantheon are often especially hokey. That’s not even a hypothetical. It happens all the time in other properties. Azzarello has the sincerity and hutzpah to make chicken-footed Hermes a thrillingly tragic character without descending into melodrama. That same treatment extends to the newly re-imagined New Gods, characters we’ve been both pining for and dreading since the inception of the new line. But what really cemented the writer’s place on this list was the thoroughly addictive challenge presented in Spaceman, a bleak and frighteningly possible futureworld with a language all its own.
As one of the great writers of our time, Grant Morrison reminded us in 2012 just exactly what makes him so great. Continuing his New 52 defining Superman story in Action Comics, we’re beginning to see the grand scope of a larger story being told. With the return of Batman, Inc., Morrison picked up on the momentum he started with Chris Burnham in his corner of the Bat-Universe amazing us with every issue (Bat Cow? ’nuff said). And rounding out the year with his latest entry into creator owned comics with Happy! from Image Comics, teaming up with Darick Robertson to give us a grim and gritty Christmas story with a abundance of heart, and a flying, talking horse. No comics read like Morrison comics, and 2012 was a stellar year for Grant.
Given its heritage, Prophet was an unlikely prospect for revival. Then a pod unearthed itself from its sanctuary warren and gave us the steadfast and taciturn John Prophet. Since our hero rarely spoke for himself, writer Brandon Graham has served as our matter-of-fact tour guide through the strange, grotesque, ethereal world of a stolen planet. There’s something really cool about Graham’s presentation, his ability to so casually, so lucidly, describe the impossible. That clarity combined with a tremendous imagination took us to some pretty wild places with little to no hand-holding. That’s confidence. That’s exciting.
Corinna Bechko & Gabriel Hardman
Prior to 2012, we knew that Gabriel Hardman could illustrate the best gorillas in the business, but it was this year that he and Corinna Bechko really got their primate on and went to town on a licensed property like it was a piece of American Tourister luggage. That property was, of course, Planet of the Apes. Though they’ve teamed before on projects like the black-and-white bayou horror story Heathentown, minis like Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes and Exile on the Planet of the Apes will be remembered as their triumphant arrival as comic book storytellers with keen eyes for political intrigue. They’ve made better use of the franchise’s mythology than most of the Apes sequels, and we’re pretty damned eager to see them turn that same level of invention to Star Wars and a handful of all-new concepts in 2013. An auspicious and chest-pounding start to a thrilling creative partnership.
Brian Wood’s output this year was staggering. We were heartbroken to see the likes of original series like DMZ and Northlanders bow, but Wood wouldn’t settle to simply stick the landings. He tucked and rolled, swiftly replacing those projects with new titles, tonally similar to those previous works. Fans of Northlanders could find that same berserker rage and poetry in Conan the Barbarian. DMZ vets found the same socially conscious, politically charged science fiction in The Massive. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg given Wood’s other projects at Marvel and the fanfare surrounding his pending Star Wars title. Wood’s prolific output wouldn’t be half as compelling if he wasn’t also an accomplished script writer, capable of high adventure and forward-thinking commentary in equal measure.
2012 was the year that the rest of the world caught up with the greatness that is Mark Waid. Finally, Waid won his first and multiple Eisner awards for his work on Daredevil, which won us over in 2011, and continued to wow us into 2012. By teaming up with Chris Samnee, Daredevil has moved from the lightness that we loved, into a darker world with no change in quality and continues to be a must read. But he didn’t stop there. Waid and Samnee continued to be the team to beat with their mini-series, The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom, which was almost more fun than we could handle. To round it out, Waid’s entry into Marvel NOW! with a new take on banner in Indestructible Hulk was one of the early bright spots of the new Marvel line of books. And if all that wasn’t enough, he put his money where his mouth is, sold his comic collection and launched his own digital comics initiative with Thrillbent and the comic Insufferable with Peter Krause. Waid continues to be one of comics best writers and strongest supporters.
The juggernaut that is Robert Kirkman continued to even newer heights in 2012. With Invincible approaching it’s 100th issue, he continues to deliver one of the best superhero books in all of comics. He’s continued to keep his son and other kids entertained with Super Dinosaur and not only launched a new crime series with Thief of Thieves, but also was able to sell it to AMC to begin development of another TV Show. And he did all that, while also serving as a writer and producer of the #1 show on cable TV, The Walking Dead. Oh, and speaking of The Walking Dead…that hit issue #100 too and became the highest selling single issue comic book since the late 1990s with over 380,000 copies sold. Kirkman’s dedication to his comics and creator owned comics in general, while being successful in Hollywood but staying tue to his comics work.
Rising up from the independent comic book scene, Rick Remender made even a bigger name for himself at Marvel Comics in 2012 as he continued his series defining run with Uncanny X-Force, one of the shining spots of the X-Books at Marvel. Bringing the series to a close at the end of 2012, Remender delivered 35 issues that will be looked back upon as one of the best runs of a title of this era. Along with Uncanny X-Force, Remender inherited Secret Avengers and continued his way towards super stardom, culminating with the launch of the Marvel NOW! flagship title, Uncanny Avengers. Tasked with bridging the gap between Avengers Vs. X-Men and Marvel NOW!, Remender was the top choice to kick off Marvel’s publishing initiative. And to cap things off, we finally got our hands on volume 1 of the Fear Agent Library Editions, allowing for some celebration of his sci-fi epic creator owned work.
There is no finer talent in all of comics than Darwyn Cooke, and in 2012, he reminded us why. One of the names at the center of one of the most polarizing publishing decisions with DC Comics’ Before Watchmen line, Darwyn Cooke showed us with his writing and art on Before Watchmen: Minutemen and co-writing Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre (teamed up with co-writer and artist Amanda Conner) that you could take the revered source material of Watchmen and create addition stories that stand on their own as well as enhance the Watchmen mythos. Cooke delivered his Before Watchmen work with maturity, respect and an attention to craft that should silence any critic of the project. All the while, he continued his career defining work with the latest volume of the Parker series, with Parker: The Score, continuing his streak of outdoing himself on the previous two volumes with this third book in the series. Cooke is not only a talented artist, but a legendary storyteller who’s writing work in 2012 was among some of his career’s best.
Ever since he burst on the scene with The Nightly News, we knew Jonathan Hickman was one to watch. 2012 marks the year that everyone joined us in watching him as he exploded with creativity. By finishing up his run on Fantastic Four, he’s completed a magnum opus that brought Marvel’s First Family back to the forefront in both quality and sales. Redefining what it means to be “fantastic,” we enjoyed the final lap around the Baxter Building, knowing that once Marvel NOW! was announced, it would lead to his taking the baton from Bendis on the Avengers line of books. With 2 issues out of the gate, Hickman has showed us a completely different take on the Avengers and it’s exciting to see where it will go from here. But that wasn’t enough. In addition to his Marvel work, Hickman was one of the huge names leading the creative charge at Image Comics with his launch of The Manhattan Projects and Secret. Now, while Secret has fallen into the land of delays, The Manhattan Projects has broken out to be not only one of the best new series of 2012, but one of the best ongoings, with each issue more entertaining than the last. What’s even better is, as great as 2012 was for Hickman, we get the sense that the best is yet to come as we look to the future of his Avengers and New Avengers run, and even more creator owned work from Image in 2013.
For Jason Aaron, 2012 has been a year of beginnings and endings. First with his excellent run on Punisher MAX coming to an end at the beginning of the year, then end of his run on the character he’s written the most at Marvel, Wolverine, and then later in 2012 the ending of his Vertigo series, Scalped. All three runs were critically celebrated with both Wolverine and Scalped career defining work. As part of the Marvel architects, he had a direct hand in Avengers Vs. X-Men event series, exploring it’s ramifications within the gem of his titles, Wolverine & The X-Men. As Avengers Vs. X-Men ended and ushered in the beginning of Marvel NOW!, Aaron gave us what looks to be one of the top titles of the relaunch, Thor: God of Thunder. With each title ranging in tone and setting and varying from dark and grim to light and humorous, 2012 has been a banner year for Aaron, who has shown versatility and a mastery of his craft.
No writer I’ve met is so deeply committed to delivering a great story as Scott Snyder. Though he’s long since arrived at the top of the pack at DC Comics, he retains the drive and hunger of a newcomer. He is the opposite of the jaded writer, and that enthusiasm and passion is readily apparent on the page and in his interaction with readers. He’s scared the bejesus out of us with Severed, American Vampire, Swamp Thing and even Batman this year, repeatedly topping himself with creepier and creepier villains and dramatic turns. We’re still not sure whether his most twisted creation is James Gordon Jr, Skinner Sweet, the Salesman, the Rot, the Court of Owls or his own particular take on the Joker. Simply put, there are few writers in comics with a more rewarding fascination with the human psyche. And with a high profile Superman project and a new creator owned series in the pipeline, the best may still be yet to come.
Brian K. Vaughan
You can come home again. A few years back we seemingly lost Brian K. Vaughan to television, and who could blame him? It was even thrilling for us. We’ll take our BKV in any medium. But as Saga has reminded us, there’s few things more addictive and alluring than a BKV ongoing in comic form. He’s our best writer of cliffhangers, and is able to shock our senses without it feeling crass. Even when it’s the appalling genitals of an extraterrestrial giant. Saga arrived on an impossibly tall wave of anticipation, but we were the ones that fell. Hard. And instantly. Marko and Alana and Hazel and the Will and the whole otherworldly cast just reeled us in on a tractor beam. Forget the new Star Wars movies on the horizon. BKV brought space opera back in a big way. Replete with romance and invention and larger-than-life characters. Hopefully there’s more where that came from.
And the Best Comic Writer of 2012 is…
This was a competitive year with an indomitable field to consider. When it comes down to it though? No one’s delivered as much and with such uncanny consistency and wild diversity as Jason Aaron. There are plenty of writers with a pie per finger, but few of the most prolific writers are willing to stray from their given zone. Aaron is wily though, next to impossible to pin down. Especially with the introduction of Wolverine & the X-Men which feels so little like Scalped or even Thor: God of Thunder. There are subtle things, shared tells, to illuminate their pedigree. But this guy’s the closest thing to a bearded chameleon we can imagine. And that he’s equally adept with screwball comedy as he is with scuzzy crime and eon-spanning, cosmic level murder mysteries is both infuriating and entertaining as all hell. More of this, please.