Comics Creators

artists vs writers


Great writers can have a unique spin on any story they tell. Artists can bring an appealing aesthetic and visual storytelling. Would you follow a writer or an artist? I follow 3 writers (Alan Moore, Mark Millar & Joe R. Lansdale) but only one artist (Sam Kieth). That artist will get followed no matter what & the writers I usually pick and choose. What about you?



Longer reach, usually neerdowells with nothing to lose + they fight dirty.
Although theyre usually drunker than artists…

Its a tough one but ill go with my gut. Writers win.


I’m always about the writers. I realised this when I started reading comics. That’s why I gravitated towards DC Comics (especially the Batman titles - and of course, the JLI). The art was always secondary to me and despite how much Marvel was pushing the envelope graphically, I wanted a good meaty story to sink my teeth into. Once in a while the tides would be right, the planets would align and the gods would smile and I’d get both great art and a great story but that was rare.

These days, the chance of both happening simultaneously has improved substantially, especially from the big 2. I think it might be in response to the indie titles stepping their game up and of course, the maturing of the original childhood audience from years before.

In terms of writers, I enjoy:

  • Grant Ellis
  • Jonathan Hickman & Mike Costa as a pair on their current run of God Is Dead
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Mark Millar
  • Jason Aaron over at The Goddamned
  • Tom King on his current run of Vision

And yes, the art is still somewhat secondary to the story but there are artists who add to the story with their visual aesthetic like:

  • J.H. Williams
  • Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Jordie Bellaire (colour artist) are killing it on Vision
  • R.M.Guéra and Giulia Brusco are doing wonderful things in The Goddamned
  • Chad Hardin on Harley Quinn.

As an aside I find it interesting that Archie Comics have somewhat dumbed down over time, telegraphing and even explaining their gags these days. The older incarnations (around the 50s and 60s) actually had a more intricate setups.


When I started collecting comics (in the days of newsstand distribution), I didn’t know anything about the writers, but I knew which artists I liked. Anything drawn by Jack Kirby or John Buscema or Nick Cardy or Neal Adams usually ended up in my grubby hands. It took I while before I realized that, hey, the stories by this guy Roy Thomas, or that guy Denny O’Neill, are always my favorites.

These days, it’s all about the writers. I still appreciate and fawn over the work of certain artists, but I never buy a book based on who draws it.


It’s a bit of both for me, although it wasn’t always so.

When I first got into US comics it was mainly characters that I followed, especially Batman and Spider-Man, which led to Daredevil and eventually the rest of the Marvel Universe.

Then I looked a bit further afield than Marvel and DC and got into 90s-era Image and Wildstorm stuff, where I mainly followed artists as the visuals were the big draw for me.

Then as I started to appreciate the writing side a little more, I began following writers rather than artists, and found the majority of my reading from just a few favourites.

But now I’ve swung back towards artists a little, and I’m somewhere in the middle. I still largely buy books based on the writers involved, I guess (and would never miss a comic by any of the ‘three Ms’), but there are also some fantastic artists that I think are always worth seeing regardless of the writer they’re paired with: Frank Quitely, JH Williams III and Bryan Hitch among them.


When I got into comics, I was all about the artists. Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld were my favorites. There weren’t really any writers I followed. Now I’m a bit of a mix. Mark Millar is the only creator that I buy everything he writes. I will usually pick up most things that Frank Quitely, Joe Quesada, Jim Lee, Sean Murphy or Bryan Hitch draw though I tradewait some of it.


I think it has to be writers for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love and appreciate good artists, but at the end of the day, it’s a narrative medium. A good writer can carry bad art, but good art can’t carry bad writing. I like looking at pretty pictures as much as the next guy, but if there’s not a good story behind it, it may as well be a sketchbook. I would rather buy a comic written by Ed Brubaker and drawn by Livio Ramondelli (a terrible artist whose work is nigh-on unreadable and has marred many modern Transformers comics) than one written by Chuck Austen and drawn by Travis Charest.


To play devil’s advocate:

But it’s also a visual medium!

But without pictures, it would be a novel!

In all seriousness, while I take your point, I’m not sure that bad art is any easier to accept than bad writing. If something is meant to be conveyed visually and the artist can’t do so, it can be just as damaging as a writer who can’t convey his message.


I tend to find bad art is easier to accept that bad writing for me. It’s a nuanced thing though. I’d read any nonsense from Brendan McCarthy because he’s a visual genius and of course any works of great renown need both. There are no classic comics that had one without the other.

This was an interesting question raised on the iFanboy reviews this week and the piece we will almost never know. They gave Spider-Woman #3 pick of the week mainly because of some highly inventive pages. They didn’t know where that lay, with the artist or the writer being imaginative, and would love to see the script. Did Dennis Hopeless say to Javier Rodriguez exactly what should appear in those pages or just say “do what works”.

When Batman did the issue with the upside down and back to front panels that was 100% Greg Capullo’s idea, Scott Snyder has said as much. It has a narrative effect that all came from the artist.


Yep, a lot of the ‘writing’ of a comic goes far beyond the words that a reader sees.

It’s why it can be so hard to decide on who to credit for an idea like that - a clever layout or other visual trick. Of course, if you read enough of a creator’s work you start to get a sense of their style and the kind of things they’re likely to contribute to a book, which makes it a bit easier to pick these things out.


What of writer-artists?

People like Frank MIller, Walter Simonson, Colleen Doran, Bryan Talbot, Eric Powell, Stan Sakai - they tend to be a fairly select group but all cover both art and writing with deceptive ease.


That’s not true for all writer-artists though.

Look at someone like Todd McFarlane, who at the height of his popularity as an artist launched a book that showed him to be a pretty inexperienced writer.

Or conversely someone like Brian Michael Bendis, who started out as a writer-artist (to some reasonable acclaim) but only really hit his stride once he concentrated on the writing side and left the art to others.


Well, that’s why I was quite selective in the examples given!


How many creators that have made it as writers have we seen crossover into art though?


True, it doesn’t tend to go that way.


Millar’s the closest I’ve come to following a writer ever. And even then, some artists put me off (I haven’t read the Greg Land UFF run for example).

There are a bunch of artists whose work I’ll buy immediately, sight unseen, regardless of the writer, characters or story - but most of them don’t do much work these days (mainly 90s guys) - Whilce Portacio, Larry Stroman, Travis Charest, Joe Quesada, Mike Mignola (non Hellboy stuff), Stephen Platt, Mark Texiera, Joe Madureira, Adam Kubert, Sam Kieth, and Todd McFarlane. Then there are other artists whose work is so ubiquitous that I can’t be bothered chasing anymore - I loved Humberto Ramos’ work, but he’s so prolific that I feel like I don’t need to get everything. Ditto Jim Lee, Greg Capullo and JRjr.

A well written poorly drawn book I won’t bother with, but a poorly written well drawn book I’ll gladly buy and read. Bad art is a barrier to me even reading a book - why Grant Morrison, who’s one of the biggest writer names in comics, seems to settle for D-grade artists a lot of the time is beyond me. Ditto Alan Moore’s non-LoEG work. Millar’s done very well, I think I’ve only passed on one MW title.


They get stuck with crappy fill-ins sometimes on longer runs but otherwise the artists they work with tend to be among the best there are in mainstream American comics.


Moore’s artists are generally very good to great across his career. The problem now is he’ll only work for two publishers and one of them is Avatar. 'nuff said there.


Ha, good point. Jacen Burrows has stepped up a great deal for Providence, but I do still wish it was someone else on art duties.


Yeah Burrows is probably their best house artist but he would be a long way down on my dream list for those books.