Thursday, April 11, 2013

Finding Neil

Before Neil Gaiman had 1.8 million twitter followers, New York Times bestsellers, and shelves full of Hugo and Nebula awards he was a comic book writer, writing 75 issues of The Sandman, one of the best comic stories of all-time. This got me thinking… who are some of today’s comic book writers that could make the transition to best selling novelist? These three immediately came to mind:

Jason Aaron – Currently he is absolutely crushing Marvel's Thor: God of Thunder, a story that connects events in three different periods in Thor's life: when he was a young man not yet worthy of his hammer, the present day as a member of the Avengers, and in the far future as an old man sitting on the throne of destroyed Asgard. But as great as this Thor story is Aaron made his bones with Vertigo's Scalped, a comic that follows FBI agent Dashiel Bad Horse, a Native American who has returned to the reservation where he was raised to try and take down the criminal organization ran by Lincoln Red Crow. Unlike superhero comics Scalped is as real as you can get and over the course of Scalped's sixty issues Aaron takes you on an emotional roller coaster. It’s easy to imagine him sitting down and busting out something like No Country for Old Men.The only thing more gritty than Aaron's writing is his beard.

Ed Brubaker – While Brubaker has had great runs on both Marvel and DC superhero books he really excels with his criminal fiction comics and the way he mashes them with other genres. Incognito brings together the criminal noir and superhero worlds, Fatale the noir with Lovecraftian horror, and an unforgettable arc of Criminal brought noir together with Archie exposing the seedy underbelly you always knew had to be present in Riverdale.Think of the worst possible ending to Archie, Betty, and Veronica's love triangle. It's still better than what Brubaker does to them. Obviously Brubaker would be great at writing a Hard Case Crime type of novel, but where he could really succeed is bringing in elements from other genres…something like a better version of Stephen King’s The Colorado Kid.

Jonathan Hickman – After a very long and successful run revitalizing Marvel’s first family The Fantastic Four and pitting Isaac Newton against Leonardo da Vinci in S.H.I.E.L.D, Hickman had been handed the reins to arguably the most important Marvel book: The Avengers. Before Hickman hit it big at Marvel he rattled off a string of titles that broke the mold of the sort of stories you could tell in comics. He burst onto the comic scene with The Nightly News (he was both the artist and the writer) and I remember being blown away by the way he used his graphic design expertise to tell the story. Hickman freed us from being trapped by boxed panels and word balloons. His use of data charts, huge chunks of text, and transcripts all made The Nightly News a truly innovative way of telling stories in comics. He followed that with Pax Romana, in which we learn just what would happen if The Vatican discovered time travelHINT: Bad things. You can read the first issue here.. In addition to his Marvel stuff Hickman has an ongoing series with Image called Manhattan Projects, which envisions a world where The Manhattan Project was just a cover story to hide all the cooler stuff Einstein, Oppenheimer, and Feynman were working on. Hickman’s comics are already so close to novels in terms of their scope that it’s a no-brainer for him to try his hand at one. I fully expect that when he does he’ll proceed to break all the rules of novel writing and the results will be mind-blowing.

So what about you? What comic writers would you like to see take a shot at novels down the road? Who do you think would be great at it? Who would struggle?

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