After viewing a tweet recently wondering who the best writer in comics was this year, I realized I didn’t necessarily have a definitive answer, in part because it’s early in the year, and in part because comics have been on a virus-impacted hiatus for nearly two months. My stock-in-trade response has unquestionably been Jonathan Hickman since House of X, but now that East of West is concluded, Black Monday Murders is on a long-term hiatus, and Decorum is only getting started, it’s worth exploring whether that answer holds up.
I made a list of names I thought had a chance at the crown, but rather than simply rank them by feel, I decided to score each creator through a series of simple criteria (things like how I’d rate their current work, whether the writer’s an “auto pull” at my LCS, etc). The biggest challenge was effectively how to deal with weighted bonuses for quantity of output, aka the Jeff Lemire Rules. In any scoring system I set up that gave bonuses for quantity of output, Lemire wins hands down every time. The writer/artist’s rate of output is absolutely incredible and deserves its own award.
I’m also attempting to rule out creators with only one annual work to their name, no matter how excellent I find it. For example, N.K. Jemisin would definitely be up for consideration for work on Green Lantern: Far Sector, but it’s the only comic from the superb novelist this year (at least at the time of publication!). Same goes for Grant Morrison (The Green Lantern), David F. Walker (Bitter Root), or Stan Sakai (Usagi Yojimbo).
As always, the list is of course limited to comics I’ve read, meaning there are countless creators who deserve recognition but are simply off my radar (hopefully just for now – I’d love to hear names you think belong!).
Below you’ll find the short-list (seriously, just the short-list!) of contenders in alphabetical order (last name), and my mid-year pick!
- Giant-Size X-Men
I’ve been a super fan of Hickman’s comics writing for years now, as anyone reading our best comics of the decade recap can attest. I’m also plugged into Hickman’s work more than any writer in the medium, given my standing “please pull anything by him” order at my comic shop, and my obsessive theorizing on the Krakin’ Krakoa podcast and Youtube series.
At the end of the day, Hickman’s master plan for Marvel’s X-Men is the thing in comics I’m most excited about, but admittedly we’re still in the pretty early stages of what is hopefully a long run.
- Berserker Unbound
- Family Tree
- Gideon Falls
- Skulldigger & Skeleton Boy (Black Hammer)
- Joker: Killer Smile
- The Question: Deaths of Vic Sage
As you can see from the comparative output, Lemire’s body of work is staggering. I’m all-in on the Black Hammer universe, and keep up with each new issue of Family Tree, but I’ll admit the remainder aren’t instant must-reads for me (although I certainly find time to binge chunks of all of them eventually). Again, in any system that weights a high quantity of very solid comics, Lemire is the runaway winner, and deservedly so. He maintains a staggering level of quality across so many different works!
W. Maxwell Prince
- Ice Cream Man
- Quarantine Comix
- King of Nowhere
I’ve said it before, but pound-for-pound, Ice Cream Man is the best ongoing comic book of the year, and probably has been for even longer than I realized. Every new issue is a truly exciting test of comics’ limitations, and there’s no comic I eagerly jump at the chance to read faster. Prince also gets credit this year for the excellent, charitable continued release of Quarantine Comix during the pandemic, and his strong BOOM Studios launch of King of Nowhere with Tyler and Hillary Jenkins.
Gene Luen Yang
- Dragon Hoops
- Superman Smashes the Klan
- The Terrifics
Yang’s comics career is already extremely impressive with works American Born Chinese and Boxers and Saints winning plenty of accolades. The cartoonist’s 2020 is something else, though, with the 1 and 1a standalone graphic novel picks of the year in Dragon Hoops and Superman Smashes the Klan. Yang’s DC work on The Terrifics is a more uneven affair, but that title has never been more interesting, and the choose-your-own-adventure issue #25 with incredible artist Dan Mora is one of my favorite single issues of the year.
I don’t know how I could land on anyone but Gene Luen Yang. Even his Instagram mini Q&As are some of my favorite reading. The only argument working against him is that most of Superman Smashes the Klan technically came out in 2019. I’ve already ranked both Dragon Hoops and Superman Smashes the Klan among my favorite 100 comics of all time, which makes it pretty easy for me to say Gene Luen Yang is my favorite writer in comics this year!