Creators worth following from book to book

Any true die-hard comic reader knows: you don't follow the character, you follow the writer and/or artist.  A great character is only great while in competent hands.  Like a good director being able to get a good performance out of a bad actor, a good comic writer can make you care about characters you never gave notice.  Likewise, a bad writer can take a beloved character and churn out some terrible stories that will be reviled for years to come (see Chuck Austen's run on X-Men, Daniel Way's Wolverine: Origins, etc).
 
So here are my picks for talents worth following.  Trying to focus a bit more on talents who are still active, but definitely with an eye on some who only pop up every once in a while.

List items

  • I was picking up American Vampire and Snyder's run on Detective Comics for my girlfriend, who likes vampires and Stephen King (double points for American Vampire volume 1), and then decided she liked Batman. And for ages I was just buying them for her without reading them myself. But then I was noticing the consistently stellar reviews on his Detective Comics work, and I read the whole run in the course of a few days, and was waiting anxiously for his relaunch on Batman. Blasted through American Vampire as well; outpacing my girlfriend who's a few months behind in her reading. I'm now all about this guy. Picking up Swamp Thing and Severed as well; and even picked up his sole Marvel work to date, Iron Man Noir. He's got a great feel for characters and period detail, and has turned out quite possibly the best Batman work since Dark Knight Returns. Best work: Detective Comics, Severed (in the making. Too soon to say but it's amazing so far)

  • So I finally picked up T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents 3 issues in after noting the consistently phenomenal reviews, and I was not disappointed. The book continues to thoroughly impress me 5 issues in, as does Spencer's Infinite Vacation. I followed these with checking out Morning Glories once it released its first trade, and I got hooked there too. Based on the strength of these projects, I was super excited for Iron Man 2.0... which has only been so-so thus far. I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt based on the stellar quality of his other works, and also picked up the collected run of his Jimmy Olsen backup features. Once money's not so tight or when I've got amazon gift cards to blow come Christmas/birthday, I'm eager to check out his earlier image books. Best work: T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents.

  • "The Mad Argentinian", early collaborator Warren Ellis called him when they were doing Hellstorm and Druid for Marvel in the mid 90's. I fell in love with Manco's art then, and it's got me eager to fork over money for the new "Hellraiser" book now. The first issue wasn't great by any stretch of the imagination, but the artwork IS. If Manco is there, I am there. Best works: Hellblazer, Apache Skies.

  • Joe Casey is the quintessential comic book [indie] rock star. He's not a rock star in the fame sense, though he does get the occasional primo gig, but he IS a rock star in the essence and integrity of his sometimes shocking, near-always thought provoking, ALWAYS "marketability be damned!" style. My absolute favorite stuff by him seems to get canceled pretty quick ("Automatic Kafka", "The Intimates") but occasionally his stronger works get to continue ("Godland"). It is very refreshing to see a comic book writer who can get work at Marvel who chooses more often than not to just do his own self contained stuff over at Image. And yeah, Alan Moore and Warren Ellis do this too, with Avatar... but I really feel Casey's got the most original voice. Psyched for his new Image series, "Butcher Baker". Best works: The Intimates, Godland.

  • I've yet to read a Jeff Parker comic that hasn't thoroughly entertained me. He's not putting out high art, but what he IS putting out is utterly honest superhero content that has a strong voice, a great understanding of its characters, and no illusions of being something it's not. For pure old school superheroics with none of the bad (90's era) excess, give me Jeff Parker; one of the best, if not THE best superhero comic writers of our time. Best work: Thunderbolts.

  • I adore Ted McKeever. I'm a huge fan of bizarre stories and unique, otherworldly art styles, and at both these things McKeever is second to none. I don't always understand his work, but it's always gorgeous (and hideous), and something that only he could put together. While I wasn't a huge fan of his latest book, "Meta4", I was super psyched that there was new material from him and I'm eager to give it a second chance in one sitting; maybe it just didn't work out so well as single issues on a bimonthly schedule. Best works: Plastic Forks (never collected in trade), Metropol.

  • Not all of his graphic novels have been great. All have at least been good, and memorable in at least SOME way. He's got a strong voice in both his writing and art styles, and is absolutely one of the best creators to ever work predominantly in the "all ages friendly" zone. Best works: Creature Tech, Ghostopolis, Black Cherry.

  • Jason is one of the most unique voices in the history of comics. He is also perhaps one of the best. Not just among who is still active... but EVER. His work will haunt you to the point of obsession. Best works: I Killed Adolf Hitler, The Living and the Dead.

  • Ennis is one of the best writers working today, one of the most fun, and absolutely the most shocking. His warped mind can turn out material to make you cringe and feel a bit sick, and then laugh at how absurdly over the top it is. And he can also make you cry. Easily the best comic writer of all time in terms of gratuitous ultraviolence, he's also a master of gritty realism; it all depends on his mood. His best work has always been with his creator owned stuff, (Though his long run on "Punisher" is pretty darn fantastic too), but it's always worth taking notice when he picks up the occasional brief run or miniseries on an established property... because you know that, while it surely won't be the greatest thing he's ever done, he WILL leave his mark in some unpredictable, twisted way. Best works: Preacher, War Story, Enemy Ace: War in Heaven.

  • He hasn't done much in the comics field in some time, but when he resurfaces, I'll be there. His last work I'm familiar with is inking Marvel's Black Widow miniseries by Richard K. Morgan in the mid 2000's. And while he was inker, NOT penciler, you could still tell this was him involved. Sienkiewicz has one of the most distinctive art styles in the history of comics, and it is gorgeous to behold, whether it's penciled or painted like in Elektra Assassin. I highly recommend picking up "Essential Moon Knight" volume 1 to see his early marvel work in black and white, where he really got to experiment with and define his style; it's gorgeous stuff. Best Works: Daredevil: In Love & War, Elektra Assassin.

  • One of the great though largely unsung voices of early DC Vertigo (much of his early work for the imprint has never been collected in trades), Milligan is a very talented writer who can seemingly do practically any subgenre in the comics medium no problem. While his latest work, Marvel's "Five Ronin" 5th week event miniseries wasn't great, I'm still glad I tried it out. Milligan's a bit hit and miss like that, but when he's good, he's actually great; so much so that I'm game to try pretty much any new book that bears his name. Best works: The Extremist (FINALLY reprinted!), X-Statix.

  • This is a difficult one to have on this list as his output is really just one series, "Amelia Rules". But "Amelia Rules" is one of the best comics on the market. Pretty much every story has made me both laugh and cry, and has left me in the end with a hugely satisfied feeling. So if he ever tries his hand at another book, I'll be there. And his one earlier work, "Shades of Gray" is available in trade, so there's at least one other thing to follow him through. Best work: Amelia Rules.

  • His works are few and far between, but they are all worth a look. After reading his vastly acclaimed "The Golem's Mighty Swing" and his Eisner Award winning "Fantastic Four: Unstable Molecules", I was itching for more; but for the longest time there was no more. His 2 acclaimed earlier works were out of print for some time, and there was nothing new. Then, finally, Drawn & Quarterly re-released his two earlier works in a deluxe hardcover edition WITH Golem's Mighty swing, and they were glorious. THEN, he released a new graphic novel finally! And that... well, that, "Market Day", was just okay by comparison to his earlier works. It didn't wow me like the early stuff, but I'll still be absolutely signed up for whenever he puts out another book. Best work: The Golem's Mighty Swing.

  • This man is a RIOT. One of the more inventive minds in mainstream superheroics today, hands down. He's got a very clear voice all his own that I'll gladly follow throughout the Marvel universe, and perhaps even into DC if he ever makes that jump. Nothing by him's topped my "best comic going right now" listings, sure, but they've never failed to be highly entertaining. He got me picking up Iron Man Legacy (sadly canceled) and two "new" Power Man minis, and I'm glad to have picked up on him. Best works: Super-Villain Team-Up: MODOK's 11, Incredible Hercules.

  • A tad bit hit and miss but REALLY good when he hits, Greg Pak is a very interesting voice in the comics market. I've still yet to read any of his run on Hulk, but I know I probably should. I know him through his acclaimed and excellent work on The Incredible Hercules, as well as various odd job minis, and have more often than not been quite impressed with him. If you get the chance, check out his earliest Marvel work, a 4-issue "Warlock" series that was promoted as a new ongoing, but was downgraded to a mini based on abysmal sales. It was REALLY good. His name got me picking up the current Silver Surfer mini. Best works: The Incredible Hercules, Warlock.

  • I love Warren Ellis, but he's so prolific that I just can't keep up with his constant output of standalone works at Avatar. I actually haven't read much of anything he's done in some time. I'd like to, sure; I just kinda forget these Avatar books are out there. He's got a great voice, a great vision, and you absolutely have to respect his grim determination to avoid the mainstream much as the mainstream would love to have him. Best works: Transmetropolitan, Nextwave, The Ministry of Space, Global Frequency.

  • There is no other mind in any creative medium quite like Grant Morrison's. The man is quite simply a genius and there is practically nothing he can't do. That being said, I really wish he'd break away again from superheroics and get back to the uber complex stuff he does best. Best works: Seven Soldiers of Victory, The Invisibles, We3.

  • One of my favorite artists in the history of the medium, hands down. I've been thrilled that he's been as active as he has this past decade. While Hellboy work is an excellent fit for him, I'd check him out on pretty much anything. Marvel could relaunch their Barbie comics from the 90's with him and I'd check it out. Actually, that'd be pretty hot. Best works: Den, Cage, Hellblazer.

  • He's been sadly absent from the comics scene for a very long time. Nobody really seems to know what he's been up to since Storyteller. His writing is solid and his art FANTASTIC, and the absence of both in the comic world saddens us all. If he were to ever resurface, put it on my pull list; whatever it is. Best works: Weapon-X, Rune.

  • My love for oddball storytelling has me firmly embedded in Sam Kieth's camp. I adore the Maxx and I've loved most, though not quite all of his various Wildstorm/Homage and Marvel minis of the past 10 years. His art style is utterly unique in the medium, and his voice as a writer both whimsical and deep. Sam Kieth is a treasure, even when he's only being used as the artist on a book. Best works: The Maxx, Four Women, Wolverine/Hulk.

  • Between 100 Bullets and his run on Hellblazer (my personal favorite run on the title EVER), Brian Azzarello easily earns a spot as one of the most important comic writers of the modern era. Even though 100 Bullets didn't end THAT great. Even though his superhero output is usually just so-so. When he sticks to what he does best, very few writers can touch him. Best works: 100 Bullets, Hellblazer.

  • Peter David is a true pro. He can take any assignment and make it worthwhile; it might not be the best book ever but it will likely surpass your expectations. He's that rare writer who can take a b-list character (or a whole team of them), give them their own book, and make you really and truly care about each and every one of them. His output of late hasn't been fantastic, as X-Factor is perhaps losing steam, but he can successfully launch established books in new directions and create whole new books, and keep them running STRONG for about 5 years before the concept starts running a bit thin. That's where his best works since his 10 year run on Hulk all seem to die out. Pretty much any new project he tries his hand at is worth at least checking out for the first story arc, and more often than not, they hook you hard. Best works: Captain Marvel, Fallen Angel, X-Factor, Hulk: The End.

  • Most of Lutes' work has been concentrated into his one heavily researched and sloooooowly released (about 2 issues a year if lucky) title, "Berlin". Which is an EXCELLENT book. Lutes' writing is strong, and his art is incredibly clean and very distinctive. His other work to date, "Jar of Fools" is one of my favorite books of all time. Once in a blue moon he contributes a short to an anthology here or there. He's one of the great talents in the comic medium, but his output is so slow that there isn't much following him that can be done.

  • It's been a LONG time since Bendis put out anything whatsoever that rocked my world. We all know he's capable of it, with his early crime work and his run on Daredevil. But for ages, his work has largely just been so-so. It's not bad, just nothing special. Still, you can try any new title he's on, and you know it's at least in capable hands. It won't be bad. There will be strong dialogue. And maybe, just MAYBE he'll get back to doing something great one day. I've actually got high hopes for his upcoming "Moon Knight". Best works: Goldfish, Daredevil, Powers

  • You know... the original run of "The Tick" was actually pretty darn good. As has been much of the TV work he's done. He hasn't had any comics output in ages, but if he were to return, I'd probably check it out. If he were to return to his creation, The Tick, I'd probably check that out; I haven't read any Tick in ages. But I'd be more interested in seeing him maybe try some work for Marvel or DC.

  • I was terribly stricken by Gerber's passing. So clearly one can't follow his output anymore... but they CAN track down his diverse output of material, practically all of which of stellar quality, though much of it not readily available. Some work must be done to track down the either never-collected-in-trades or collected-but-OOP works of this genius of cerebral storytelling. I wish you luck in your hunting! Best works: Howard the Duck, Hard Time.

  • I'm not old enough to have been one of the many comic readers to have waited the 10 year long haul for Burns to finish "Black Hole", but I did get to read it in its eventual collected edition, and it was AMAZING. I'd have gladly been one of those who patiently waited 10 years to get the series in its individual issues. I eagerly snapped up his latest, "X'ed Out", and anxiously await the followup volumes, though they will surely be a while in coming. In the meantime, he's got earlier graphic novels I've never really heard of to check out whenever I've got Amazon gift cards to blow. Best work: Black Hole.

  • This guy's art is gorgeous, just gorgeous. The assignments he's given aren't always that great, but they're pretty much always worth at the very least giving a flip-through on the shelf, and are usually worth taking home with you for the art alone, even if the story itself is lacking. Best work: Loki

  • DeMatteis has written some amazing things (Moonshadow, Brooklyn Dreams, Kraven's Last Hunt). He's also written some stuff that, while pretty, goes WAY over my head. He's absolutely a writer who follows his own muse, sometimes to extremes. It's been a long time since he's written anything I've considered to be worthy of his great works of the mid 80's and early 90's, but I'm almost always willing to give him a chance, just certain he's got another masterwork in him somewhere. Best works: Moonshadow, Greenberg the Vampire.

  • I'm ashamed to admit I still haven't checked out Scalped. I actually haven't read that much Jason Aaron, period other than "The Other Side" and all his Wolverine work (I've got the Ghost Rider omnibus but haven't started in on it yet). The Other Side impressed me, but more for Cameron Stewart's art. His work on Wolverine, however... I hate him for. Wolverine is such an overexposed character that I really don't want to care about him at all. Solid reviews and morbid curiosity made me take a look at the first five issues of Wolverine. Blew through them. Then all 16 issues of Weapon X. Now I eagerly await new issues of Wolverine as, much as I loathe to admit it, it's one of Marvel's best books going right now. Damn this man for making me care about Wolverine. And I'm sure people felt the same about Ghost Rider. I eagerly await to see who he can make me care about NEXT (and I do intend to check out Scalped one day as well...) Best work: Wolverine: Weapon X vol. 2, Punisher Max.

  • His art style has its haters, but I for one really love it. Enough to eagerly pick up the new "Xombi" title without any attachment or familiarity with the original 90's series. Put him on a book and I take notice. Best work: Seven Soldiers: Klarion the Witch Boy.

  • Chaykin's been around for quite some time, but I've only recently truly discovered him for myself, and at the moment I'm REALLY into his art style. He's not the best writer ever, but his better works are when he's serving as writer and artist rather than just laying down the art for somebody else's story. His style is really unique and if he's working with established characters in an earlier time period (like right now in Avengers: 1959), I'm there. Best Work: American Flagg