The Big Two’s Company Men (and Woman)

In the war over talent that came about in the late 90s due to the rise of Crossgen comics and their exclusive agreements, Marvel and DC have carved a thick line between “ours” and “theirs”. While creators in most cases remain free to do creator-owned work, these exclusive agreements make it so the one place they can’t work for is their chief competitor.

But even before that, there have been a number of talents who for one reason or another have remained Marvel men or DC dudes for the entire course of their career. We look at some of the top loyal creators and the few times they did cross sides.

DC Comics:

Cliff Chiang: Many of today’s top comics writers once worked as editors at comic companies, but Chiang is one of the few artists who made that transition. A Harvard grad, Chiang worked as an editor for DC’s Vertigo imprint in the mid-90s before turning into a full-time creator around the turn of the century. For the past twelve years he’s been DC exclusive in name and in contract, although there was a brief moment where he submitted art for an issue of X-Men Unlimited that never saw print. Much like Ron Richards said here previously, I think Cliff Chiang would be tailor-made for a run on Uncanny X-Men or pretty much any title he’d want at Marvel.

Francis Manapul: Coming up into the spotlight via Image and Top Cow, Francis Manapul turned a corner when he drew Superboy in the pages of Adventure Comics. From there he went to The Flash, and that’s where he’s stayed. The closest thing Manapul has been to working for Marvel was a cover for the Ultimate Spider-Man 100 Project back in 2007 and numerous fan commissions.

Chris Sprouse: Sprouse got his start with comics in 1989 at DC comics, rising to fame with the sci-fi series Legionnaires. After that he bounced around the independent scene before partnering with Alan Moore on Supreme and later Tom Strong.  In that time Sprouse also did a handful of pieces for Marvel, from some X-Men work to drawing part of the Marvel/Malibu crossover Battlezones: Dream Team 2, but nothing quite the level we’d expect now from him. Since then Sprouse has continued to work in the Wildstorm/ABC imprint of DC but with the shuttering of that in 2010,he’s begun to pop up again in the DCU. The publisher just announced Sprouse as  as the cover artist for the new Legion of Super-Heroes title, with more projects to be announced. To me Sprouse has always seemed like the ideal artist to draw Fantastic Four (or whatever they call it these days), but for now he’s DC through-and-through.

Peter J. Tomasi: Tomasi has been a DC man going all the way back to 1993. It was then he started working at DC as an editor, which he did for the next fourteen years before joining the freelance ranks as a writer. Tomasi was quickly signed to an exclusive by DC in 2007, and has remained there ever since. One wonders just what Peter’s thoughts on Marvel are and if there are stories out there he’d like to do at the House of Ideas.

Nicola Scott: Nicola Scott has been the subject of much talk amongst fans for several months now as people speculate where she’ll land in DC’s New 52, but one of the least likely places would be across town at Marvel. Hitting the scene in 2004, Scott joined DC after a year or so of doing licensed comics work and has become one of the publisher’s most stalwart artists.

Dustin Nguyen: One of many artists who got their break at Jim Lee’s Wildstorm imprint, Dustin Nguyen has continued to stay true to DC since he started in 2000.  For the past few years he’s been a Gotham resident working on a variety of Bat books, and DC will be announcing a new project by him at NYCC this October that Nguyen says he should be finished by the time its announced.

Rags Morales: Graduating from the Kubert School in 1988, Morales did a handful of indie work from Valiant to other small companies before getting hooked into DC in 1999 to do Hourman. Since then he’s remained true blue, hitting the pinnacle of his career so far with the 2004 series Identity Crisis but looking to best that with the upcoming Action Comics with Grant Morrison. Morales’ rare Marvel work consists of a few covers for Avengers and X-51 back around the turn of the century, but it’s a blip on the radar compared to everything he’s done at DC.

Marvel Comics:

John Romita Jr.: Arguably one of the hardest working artists in comics, he’s also one of the most loyal. Although he’s done a handful of creator-owned work for Image and other publishers, when it comes to the Big Two he’s always called Marvel his home. The closest thing he’s done to DC has been some work on the Marvel/DC crossovers of the 90s and a piece in a special MAD magazine book. But imagine if you will, Romita cutting loose on Justice League at DC.

Brian Michael Bendis: Bendis has settled in as the defacto chief writer of Marvel Comics in the past few years, and he’s done that by knowing the characters from the ground up and knowing how they’d work together – even when they don’t. The sole DC work Bendis has ever done was an Elseworlds story in Batman Chronicles #21 early on in his career. Bendis has openly pitched for a Daredevil/Batman crossover, but that was shot down rather quickly by DC executives. Be that as it may, Bendis plus Batman seems like a match made in heaven, so I think it’s only a matter a time before he gets his chance – although you might be waiting for a while.

Chris Bachalo:  Chris Bachalo has had one of the most diverse careers any artist can have. After rising through the ranks doing a distinctly non-mainstream style in Shade: The Changing Man and Death: The High Cost of Living, he did just that, with his work on X-Men, Spider-Man and the Avengers. During his time working on his creator-owned book Steampunk Bachalo did do some small work for DC on a Batman issue and redesigning Catwoman with Stan Lee, but DC seems to have missed the boat at giving Bachalo a big chance in their playground.

Who'd we miss — who are other DC or Marvel loyalists, and what characters would you like to see them jump ship for to work on?


  1. Darwynn Cooke – has done great work at DC (and creator owned work), but I’d love to see him do a New Frontier-like story for the Avengers. A Cap project wouldn’t be bad either.

  2. @BCI I have said that for so long. New Frontier is my favorite DC story(I don’t read much DC) and since reading that I have wanted Darwynn Cooke to take that style to the Avengers.

  3. @BC1  – I agree. I kind of get the feeling that Samnee is the Darwynn Cooke of Marvel. He is pretty new to mainstream, so you cant include him here.

  4. Man that JRJR Batman/Punisher crossover was balling. I want a dark knight story from JRJR and Snyder

  5. Has Frank Cho ever worked for DC.  I would like to see what he would do on a Superman Book.  Also, Wonder Woman, Power Girl, Catwoman for all the wrong reasons.

  6. Darwyn Cooke did work for Marvel on several occasions a few years back, but after a falling-out with a staffer there he hasn’t done any work for them since. He did a great Spider-man story, and a pair of X-FORCE stories during the Milligan/Allred era.

    Regarding UnknownChall’s mention of Frank Cho… you’re right! He’s only done a little short in Superman & Batman: World’s Funnest years ago, and he would be ideal for the DCU. For a sec, I thought the shaded cover to ACTION COMICS #1 might be Cho but it wasn’t.

  7. @AmirCat- I would go with Marcos Martin or Paco Medina as the Marvel answer to Cooke. Much more cartoony retro-style like Cooke. @ChrisArrant- what Spider-Man did Cooke do? Would love to read it.

  8. um… Shade, the Chaning was a DC book for years before it was a vertigo book. And even then Vertigo & Wildstorm are/were pretty much DC. Bacholo did return there for both The Witching Hour for Vertigo and Steampunk for Wildstorm in the early part of the last decade.

  9. @unknownchall  Cho is writing an Image book just now, which kind of knocks his one-company-man credentials.

    It’s 50 Girls 50, for reference. 

  10. @stubbleupdate  Did you read the first paragraph? This was more about Marvel/DC, not independent creator owned books.

  11. Has Joe Madureira ever done any DC work? He would be great on something with the bat-family

  12. I’m pretty sure we can add Steve McNiven to the Marvel list. Ivan Reis to the DC list as well.

  13. Batman Chronicles is not Bendis’s sole DC work. He drew a page in a Transmetropolitan one-shot around 99/00.

  14. Cliff Chiang on Fantastic Four? That would be ideal.