by Roger Ash
One of the things I really enjoy about comics is the collaborative effort involved. Often it’s a group of people (writer, penciler, inker, colorist, letter, and editor) working together to put out the best comic they can. But there are times when the combination of writer and artist produce something magical; something that is more than the sum of the two parts. Today I’m going to talk about a few of my favorite writer/artist teams.
Before I go any further, I want to say that I am well aware that there are numerous outstanding comics where the jobs I mentioned above are done by only one or two people. There are many fine writer/artists whose work I enjoy including Walter Simonson, Stan Sakai, Carl Barks, Terry Moore, Bob Burden, Matt Wagner, and Darwyn Cooke, just to name a few. (Though there is some collaboration there too as I can’t think of Simonson’s work without the contribution of letterer John Workman, for example.) This column is not by any means meant to say one way of working is better than another. Not at all. I simply want to spotlight some of the classic teams who have brought me reading pleasure over the years.
The classic writer/artist team, and the one many people judge others by, is Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. While they both did wonderful work with others (and Kirby on his own), the comics they did together are my favorite. There was a period during their classic run on Fantastic Four when they were just firing on all cylinders and month after month they introduced characters who would become major players in the Marvel Universe including Galactus, the Silver Surfer, the Inhumans, and the Black Panther. What they did together – the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, and so many others – was pure comic book magic.
In my early days of comic collecting, one of my favorite comics was Marvel’s X-Men and a big reason for that was the creative team of Chris Claremont and John Byrne, along with inker Terry Austin. There are many who look at this period of time as the classic period of the All-New, All-Different X-Men – and with good reason. While the team was introduced by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum in Giant Size X-Men #1 with Claremont taking over scripting duties over Wein’s plot in X-Men #94 and full writing duties in #97, it was the Claremont/Byrne era that defined these characters for years to come. Byrne’s art captured perfectly whatever Claremont’s scripts required, whether super-heroic action or quieter character moments. But X-Men wasn’t their only work together as a team. They also provided memorable stories in Marvel Team-Up (including the first appearance of Arcade) and Iron Fist (where Sabretooth debuted), as well as other comics. Something about their collaboration just clicked and produced something special.
Another classic team that came together around that time was Marv Wolfman and George Perez. While I certainly enjoyed the comics they produced with others, their coming together on New Teen Titans was a revelation. For someone new to DC Comics like I was, the only character I knew in the series was Robin and that was from the Batman TV show. Wolfman and Perez introduced me to the “real” Robin as well as other long-running DC characters I knew nothing about (Kid Flash, Changling/Beast Boy, Wonder Girl) and told me all I needed to know to enjoy their adventures as well as introducing well-rounded new characters (Starfire, Raven, Cyborg). It was a great introduction to the DC Universe. Their comic Crisis on Infinite Earths set a standard for event crossovers that has remained untouched and their History of the DC Universe was required reading for DC fans for years.
One of the more fun teams to come along was writers J.M DeMatteis & Keith Giffen and artist Kevin Maguire. They ushered in the “Bwah-ha-ha” era of Justice League where humor met superheroic action head on. Part of the reason the book worked so well in my opinion was Maguire’s art. So much of the humor depended on the character’s personalities, body language, and facial expressions. Maguire was able to make the characters act which is more difficult to do than you might think. There seem to be very few people on the fence about their collaborations; people either love how they infused humor into the comics, or they hate it and think it somehow lessens the heroes. The fact that people still talk about their work together on Justice League today and that they did two follow-up stories (a story in JLA: Classified and a miniseries) and one special with the characters I think shows that many more people feel the way I do about their work together than don’t. Their work on Marvel’s Defenders and DC’s Metal Men is also great fun and has the same tone as their work on Justice League and is also worth seeking out.
There have been other great writer/artist collaborations over the years, but these are some of my favorites. Now it’s your turn. Who are some of your favorite creative teams? Comment below and join the conversation!
Now, go read a comic!