Top 5: Enigmatic Comic Creators

5. Grant Morrison

Morrison is very hard to pin down by description. He's obviously the most active person in comics today on this list, but the more I think about it, the harder Morrison is to get ahold of. He's cultivated this incredible persona, and yet, he's a major mainstream comic book writer. He's thought of as being completely out there, but has done his share of very accessible work on household names like Batman and the X-Men. Then there's the speech above where he tells us with sincerity that he's traveled to alien worlds.


4. Jack Cole

He's primarily known today as the creator of Plastic Man, but that's selling Cole a little short. A master of all styles, he could draw funny or he could draw serious. He's also the originator of the Playboy cartoon style, appearing in the 5th issue of the magazine and imitated every since. From the late 30's through his death in 1958, Cole worked on dozens of comic book titles, and was a very well regarded artist. Then, in 1958, he told his wife he was going to pick up the paper, drove off, bought a gun, and shot himself. He mailed a suicide note to both his wife and Playboy publisher, Hugh Hefner, and the contents of those letters have never been disclosed. His wife never spoke about it, with his family, or Hefner, and remarried a year later.


3. Dave Sim

No one did what Dave Sim did. He started a comic book on his own, Cerebus, ostensibly about a barbarian aardvark, self-published it, declared it would go for 300 issues, and followed through. Along the way, he became known as one of the most talented cartoonists working, creating a massive volume of critically acclaimed work, and then things got a bit odd. At a certain point, Sim's oddly anachronistic views on women, politics, religion, and more took over. To people who came along later, Sim became a bit of a one note joke, but the story is much more interesting than than, and discounts what is a monumental acheivement in comic book creation. These days, Sim is back to self publishing the singularly enigmatic series, Glamourpuss. Since it's hard to even give adequate context in this space, I recommend you read this if you want to know more.


2. Alan Moore

Alan Moore changed mainstream superhero comics in such a way that nearly 30 years later, no one has been able to keep up, or surpass his legacy. Responsible for more "Comics Aren't for Kids Anymore" headlines than anyone else in comics, Moore was able to create comics that both pressed all boundaries, and resonate with audiences for decades. But he's also become a bit of a puzzle to newer readers, who dismiss him as the cranky guy who calls himself a Wizard; a weird guy who's been working on some unfinished novel for a very long time. Moore hasn't helped that vision of himself very much, giving cranky interviews, and holding massive (if not somewhat justified) grudges against both Marvel and DC, and publicly declaring himself done with them several times. None of that changes the fact that comics have been chasing Alan Moore's success for a very long time, and have yet to catch up.


1. Steve Ditko

It's not that Steve Ditko is so odd as much as the fact that we just don't know, because he won't tell us. The co-creator of Spider-Man, Ditko is a proper comic book legend. Moving on to create Doctor Strange, and several other less known characters, Ditko has assured his legacy in the comic book world. It would be great to hear what he thinks about all of it though, wouldn't it? Maybe, but he's not talking. Long ago, Ditko declared that he doesn't do appearances or interviews. His work stands on its own, and that should be enough. The only image of him is a self portrait of him sleeping at his desk from a Marvel comic he did in the 60's. It's oddly honorable, really, but at the same time, makes him into such an anomaly that people don't know what to make of it. Ditko actually worked in mainstream comics up through the late 90's and for quite some time has also published all sorts of work based on his views on objectivism, as espoused by Ayn Rand, such as his Mr. A comics. He wants nothing to do with any of the Spider-Man success, and we will probably never know why.


  1. I’m a little suprised James Robinson isn’t on the list given his exceptionally odd interview with Josh from a few years ago, but I don’t know who he could replace.

  2. Alan Moore…WOW, you just knew he was made for this list!

  3. I love that Moore’s “Comics Aren’t for Kids Anymore” perspective is mentioned. Thing is they were never “just for kids”. Granted, kids were a big part of the business. I was one of them. But Moore ushered in this current position that forgets the kids (outside of some watered down superhero books and a few other books). There’s one reason comics’ sales decreased.

  4. @stuclach  He’s not really that odd. Certainly not to the calibur of anyone else listed here.

  5. @keith7198  That’s slightly simplified. For one thing, the early 90’s were a time of incredible sales preceding the decline. Also, it’s not Moore’s fault as much as it is the fault of people chasing his legacy.

  6. It says something about the weirdness of creators that Neal Adams and his expanding earth theory can’t knock any of these guys out of their slots.

  7. @josh  I remember what some have called “the comics crash”. The incredible sales were followed with pretty hard times for the industry. Sales initially jumped through the use of all kinds of gimmickry such as variant covers, foil covers, trading card inserts, etc. Problem is they were flooding the market with this stuff which descreased their value (collecting was still a big thing then). Comic shops in this area were left which huge inventories of these books which hurt their bottom line. Where there was once four comic shops, there became one as some of the stotres closed their doors.

    And you’re right, it’s so much his fault as it is the industry’s. But Moore really promoted that strongly.

  8. @josh  Meant to say it’s NOT so much his fault as it is the industry’s.

  9. Just finished Ditko docu yesterday. Freaky that it’s the topic. Anyway, I wonder how he looks like now. Although it took Jonathan Ross and Neil freakin’ Gaiman before you can shake his hand. He inspires me more to becoming a recluse.

    “Nerdy recluse crushed by bookshelves.” – Ron

  10. On the Ditko thing, although he doesn’t grant interviews he writes extensively essays in several of his self-published works throughout the late ’90s and early 2000’s regarding his feelings on Spider-Man, character ownership, appropriately applying the credit for the creation of Spider-Man and Dr. Strange, etc. Most, if not all, of those boks that reprint his essays are still in print.

    He occasionally contibutes to Robin Snyder’s The Comics fanzine/newsletter as well, where he lends similar thoughts.  

  11. Geniuses tend to be extremely enigmatic. Te smartest people I’ve ever met have also been the strangest. I’d definitely call three of those creators “geniuses” (sorry, but I’m not all that familiar with Cole or Sim). I’d also put Morrison, Ditko and Moore at the top of a list of the best creators to ever work in the industry, so being wierd counts for something I guess 😀

  12. Can’t argue with those selections but no Robert Crumb?  

  13. @mikegraham6  I know a lot of people are goo-goo over Morrison but I have a love/hate relationship with his work. You have his really good stuff (X-Men) and then his really crappy stuff (R.I.P.). I know I’m in the minority but I really like some of his work and roll my eyes at other stuff he’s done. But it’s interesting, I always seem to buy his books. Maybe that’s more telling than I realize.

  14. I can’t get over Sim’s sexism. Sorry, can’t do it. I know I’m missing some great work in Cerebus from before that, but too bad. I love me some equality much more, and I can’t support him.

  15. Josh, this is a great little piece.

    The Moore and Morrison video’s are very interesting.

  16. @keith7198 Morrison hasn’t written a bad comic in my opinion. Even his subpar stuff is far and away better than your average comic book. In a medium were i rarely re-read the majority of the material i buy, Morrison’s stuff only gets better the more you read. his work is the most layered writing in comic books today. Also, couldn’t disagree more on the R.I.P. comment, i think its the best Batman story since Year One. Again, re-read his entire run as a whole and you’ll see the amazing meta-story he’s been crafting over the past few years.
    That being said, he’s not for everyone, that’s for certain, but for those of us who really like to dissect and mull over our comics, it doesn’t get any better than GMo

  17. @zack  Yeah, but what does he *look* like?! 😉

  18. I think that is the worst part about Morrison fans, being told to read it over again because we don’t “get it”. No, I get it. I just don’t like it as much as other stuff. I got it the first time around; however, it’s not my taste. I don’t mean to start a kerfluffle, I just get told that all the time. I like to mull over my comics; I like details and continuity and call backs. Still, Grant Morrison’s writing is mostly meh to me.

  19. @dennisnahas hence the “not for everyone” comment 😉

  20. @mikegraham6  That’s a good defense of your guy. And that’s what’s cool about comics, different creators speak to different people in different ways.

  21. I will concede that when he hits the right note, it can be very sweet. I am a huge fan of Arkham Asylum.

  22. Watching the Morrison and Moore videos are just tooo funny!

  23. @josh  That’s good to know.

  24. For people interested in more Morrison and Moore kookiness i totally recommend two documentaries about them and their work. The Mindscape of Alan Moore ( focuses a lot on Moore’s beliefs and spirituality. I was a little disappointed with the fact that it doesn’t really dig into his work in great detail but it definitely shows what Moore is all about, it’s interesting enough.
    Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods ( i found to be the stronger of the two documentaries. While it does delve into Morrison’s beliefs in magic, aliens and whatnot, it’s also a biography and details his rise to comic fame and devotes a part for each of his comic works. This is definitely worth a watch and totally worth it’s $15 price tag

  25. You know Jack Cole has the greatest legacy of all of them. He left the world with a mystery that nobody can solve. A story with a beginning, a middle, but no end.

    I guess enigmatic is the correct word.

  26. @muddi900  I looked it up to double check that it fit before I posted.

  27. “I don’t like Morrisson’s work”
    “I do”
    “I don’t and that’s my opinion”
    “I do and that’s my opinion”.

    WTF is the point of ANY of that?  Is there any there at all that brings somethign to the table?

    Oh–oh… I know the answer before some douche says it:
    Its a free country.

    Yeah, great.  I love pointless statements.

    With that said… most comic writers are nut jobs anyway.  I guess with true talent comes insanity.


  28. @josh: this is such a cool article. More content like this, please.

  29. I just watched Talking with Gods and that Disinfo GMo talk. Great great stuff. I love the way he thinks and can’t wait to read Supergods.

    Paul posted a great quote on his tumblr about how Alan Moore is a missionary imposing his views on comics and Grant Morrison is more like an anthropologist.

    I can’t find the post on Paul’s tumblr directly but here’s a reblog

  30. So does the guy ever find Steve Ditko?

    Alan Moore seemed much nicer and jovial in the interview. Probably because they weren’t discussing films made from his books! He still creeps me out.

    Grant, lay off the dope. Seriously.

  31. Oh, and if you haven’t seen them, go to youtube and watch the Harvey Pekar appearances on David Letterman. Classic! Dave didn’t know how to handle him!

  32. @kennyg  Have you seen American Splendor? i think it’s possibly the best movie based on a comic book ever made.

  33. Robert Crumb

  34. You know, I don’t find Crumb enigmatic at all. Especially after the documentary. He’s weird yet, but not much of a mystery. The dude puts all of his being right in his cartoons. It’s all there on the page, honest and strange.

  35. @dennisnahas  Really? Have you watched Mad Max or Chinatown? 

  36. Cool list and hits on a few of the right notes that should be mentioned,3 I would’ve like to see James Robinson for the diversity in his body of, his seminal run on STARMAN and simply how long he’s been at it. Also, Warren Ellis is somewhere between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison with me, and love all 3 of those guys works (most of it). Last, Mike Mignola for his plethora of content in his Mignola-verse, from Hellboy,B.P.R.D.,Baltimore, Witchfinder, The Amazing Screw On Head and Other Stories to the BPRD spin offs like Lobster Johnson and Abe Sapien’s solo stuff, its all pretty awesome and definitely original. I’m sure many were considered for this list with the abundance of talent out there and rich history, and look at younger talent like Ben Templesmith,Steve Niles,Robert Kirkman and even Geoff Johns. These guys may have a solid chunk of material under they’re belts but are for the most part younger than the 5 on the list and see why and like it. Moebius is another classic enigmatic talent too. My piece,late.

  37. I might add Bill Watterson to the list, he’s always been EXTREMELY private.  I don’t think I’d bump anyone up there for him, but he’d definitely be in my honorable mentions.

  38. @JohnVFerrigno  No, but I’ve heard nothing but stellar things about it. I need to rectify that!

    Pekar obviously wasn’t enigmatic or secretive – his work was so autobiographical, he pretty much told it all. But the Letterman appearances are hilarious. Right up there with Crispin Glover and Brother Theodore.

  39. @kennyg Yes, he (along with N. Gaiman) find Ditko. Ross and Gaiman morph into a state of child-like wonder after meeting him. It’s sincerely lovely.

  40. @JSAkid  I say this with no disrespect, but I believe you’re confusing the term “enigmatic” with the word “prolific”, because I wouldn’t classify any of the people you just named, great creators all, as enigmatic.

  41. Great article.

    Out of curiousity, what do you guys think of Warren Ellis? can he fit into this catagory?

  42. @WTarkington  Warren Ellis is like the opposite of enigmatic. He is a very public persona.