There comes a defining moment, creatively, for many comic book characters. Yes Steve Ditko defined the essence of Spidey’s look, but who defined him in the modern era? Same with Daredevil, Batman, Arrow, Punisher, Flash and countless others. These characters have been around for decades, some working on their three fourths of a century. While ALL of the original creators should get accolades for creating the comic book characters in yesteryear, it wasn’t until many years later, decades upon decades, half centenaries later, a character ‘broke out’ of that campy, dull, droned, apple pie storytelling. Let’s not get things twisted here either, the Sal Buscema’s and Paul Levitz’ (and WELL before them) of the day absolutely brought it every single week. These pioneers deserve every single ounce of respect for giving fans the best art and storytelling ever.
EEvery comic fan has their favorite superhero/comic. Many of today’s readers do not even realize the transition that took place within their favorite character many years before that proceeded to the character they read now. Let’s randomly discuss a few examples of creators changing the discourse of a comic book character. Everyone knows and loves the greatest lawyer of all comicdom. That lawyer is none other than Matt Murdock. Daredevil was created back in 1964’s Daredevil #1 by Bill Everett, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Many fans loved this odd fellow with his unique abilities. Sales were sparse, but the book continued to press on. It wasn’t until Daredevil #158 (1979) things will start to turn around a bit for the character. This issue is the first time writer/artist Frank Miller lays his hands on this title. Daredevil #168 (1981) marks the first time that Miller takes complete control of the writing and art. Things will never be the same from here on out. As said in the InvestComics Frank Miller creator checklist from 2015, ‘The character is forever marked with the Miller touch…..everything you see on paper or on a screen is a direct result of Miller. That is all.’ The Daredevil character is who he is today because of Frank Miller.
Frank Miller is truly a special creator. He’s written and drawn countless characters and morphed them into something so relatable, it forever changes that particular character…forever. Another character Mr. Miller had a profound effect on is Batman. Yes of course their were so many writers and artist before Miller that brought amazing transformations to the character. We can go on and on for a little bit here, but Neal Adams, Norm Breyfogle, Jim Starlin, Bernie Wrightson, Scott Synder, Greg Capullo, Jim Aparo, and so so so many have done a tremendous job in making the Batman character so beloved over the years. So many visually stunning and written stories for this character it’s quite hard to list all of the modern era creators without forgetting someone without any merit by this writer other than simply slipping by at this very moment. So no disrespect toward anyone we didn’t list in the mini-list of Batman creators, it’s simply too many to list and I inadvertently didn’t pencil them in. With all that said, Frank Miller was a turning point within the Batman character lure back in 1986. A mere seven years after he first started laying down the groundwork to forever change the Daredevil character, Miller delivers the Batman gamechanger; Batman The Dark Knight Returns. Yes, this was THE Batman book that started everything. Everything.
Let’s not even get into Frank Miller’s Wolverine (1982)……yes Claremont, but that limited series though.
The same said about Batman can be said about Spider-Man. The Spidey character has so many creators over the years that have defined him in certain ways. Dating all the way back to Steve Ditko of course. Yes we all agree, without Steve Ditko, there is no Spider-Man. Let us fast forward to the spring of 1988 shall we? Amazing Spider-Man #298 turned the comic book world on its collective head. Well actually it was two issues later, but this issue was the first comic Todd McFarlane came on board and started the all new visual of Spidey the world has never seen before. It was the Amazing Spider-Man #298 issue that set the way for every single artist, even till today, to emulate. Every artist has been chasing Todd since 1988. Todd McFarlane’s webs, disproportionate body angles and overall style is a Spider-Man gamechanger.
The Thor character has seen many changes over the course of his history since first being introduced by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott in Journey Into Mystery #83 (1962). I recall the snowy day in Brooklyn (New York) on new comic book day seeing Thor #337. It changed every single thing for that character and series. No doubt about it. The reverberance of that issue is felt with the character we see on the big screen and before the whole Jane Foster taking the mantle within the comic books. Walt Simonson stepped in to write and draw the Thor comic up until issue #382 (300 Anniversary issue). It was a run for the ages. How long before we see Beta Ray Bill show up on the big screen? Beta Ray Bill is the equivalent to Amazing Spider-Man #300 for Spider-Man. The introduction of these characters will forever be etched within the fabric of the comic book readers world.
Bob Layton started his Iron Man run with issue #116 (1978) as the writer. It wasn’t until 2 issues later he would get his first crack to pencil ol’ Shellhead. Bob Layton’s run lasted a historic 47 issues before returning to the title; Iron Man #215. That run lasted 40+ issues. Iron Man was introduced in Tales of Suspense #39 (1963) by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Don Heck. It was Bob Layton who truly put Iron Man front and center in the Marvel Universe. Don’t believe it? Just ask Marvel Studios how much of an influence Mr. Layton had on developing that character for his on screen debut. Yes, Kirby influence there a bit, but all Layton throughout all of his solo films.
There are so many different creators that have brought so many characters to that proverbial ‘next level’. Claremont’s X-Men run, John Byrne’s Superman, Hulk, She-Hulk, X-Men, Fantastic Four runs, Neal Adams Green Arrow, Green Lantern, so many, so little time! Of course the few mentioned in this blog should not be taken as the most influential, or more important than others. It’s just a few names that popped in this writers head and BAM there it is. It’s all subjective too.
So what modern day creators pop into your head? Do share! InvestComics LLC is the number one speculative/entertainment comic book source on the internet.
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Bio: Jay Katz, a comic book collector since 1983 and is the owner/creator of InvestComics LLC since 2005. InvestComics LLC was originally a magazine in 2005 before the website launched in 2005.