Never Standing Still: Celebrating The Career of Ann Nocenti
Since she entered the industry in the early ’80s, Ann Nocenti has been a mainstay of the comics world, known for her distinctive voice, keen ear for dialogue, and her knack for constantly incorporating fresh ideas into her stories, and pushing her work in new directions. From Spider-Woman to Daredevil to Catwoman to Klarion, she’s worked on many of the medium’s most memorable characters, broken down boundaries, been nominated for the industry’s highest honors, and written some of the finest stories of the last four decades.
Born January 17, 1957, Nocenti first found her way to comics in 1982, when she answered a Marvel ad in the Village Voice. After penning a short story for the black-and-white title Bizarre Adventures, she wrote the final three issues of the flagging Spider-Woman title, and joined the staff as an assistant editor.
Nocenti’s first couple years as a Marvel employee saw her assigned to series including The Defenders, The Incredible Hulk, Marvel Fanfare, Star Wars, New Mutants, and Uncanny X-Men. After writing fill-ins for various books and making a few guest appearances on fellow editor Mark Gruenwald’s public access comedy show, she took on her first major gig as writer of the X-Men spin-off miniseries Beauty And The Beast.
Her next move was to co-create one of the breakout heroes of the ’80s, the genetically-engineered alien Longshot, whose self-titled 1985 miniseries raised Nocenti’s profile substantially, set co-creator/artist Art Adams on the path to stardom, and would lead to the title character joining the X-Men and becoming a fan-favorite.
In 1986, Nocenti followed Frank Miller as the regular writer on Daredevil, stepping onboard with issue #236, and quickly establishing her own take on the character by grounding Matt Murdock in a New York that looked and felt real: a city filled with skateboarding kids, junkies, street performers, drop-in-centers, dive bars, and garbage-strewn streets.
Her stories addressed social issues, including government corruption, animal rights, feminism, and economic policy, and constantly experimented with form and tone, following ground-level narratives with sequences that pushed into far more hallucinatory and impressionistic territory.
Nocenti would stay on the title through issue #291, and worked with a number of notable artists including Barry Windsor-Smith, Greg Capullo, Mark Bagley, Todd McFarlane, and Lee Weeks – but the high point of her time on the title has to be the two-year partnership with penciller John Romita Jr. Their run, despite being sporadically derailed by crossover events, told a series of stories that ran the gamut from heartwarming to gut-wrenching, taking the character from Hell’s Kitchen to middle America to the actual Hell of the Marvel Universe, and introducing one of DD’s greatest villains along the way; Typhoid Mary.
In 1988, Nocenti wrote a pair of original graphic novels: a full-length Inhumans standalone, and the critically-acclaimed psychedelic fantasia Someplace Strange, featuring art by John Bolton. After finishing her run on Daredevil in 1991, she worked on scattered projects for Marvel, and produced fourteen issues of a well-recieved Kid Eternity series for DC/Vertigo. After that, she stepped away from comics to focus on her filmmaking and journalism projects, producing only a handful of stories between 1998 and 2012, when she was announced as the new writer on DC’s Green Arrow.
Since that time, she has remained an active and vital presence in the industry, penning an acclaimed run on Catwoman, launching the New 52 Katana series, and turning out a brilliant (if sadly short-lived) new take on Jack Kirby’s Klarion concept with artist Trevor McCarthy.
To mark this past weekend’s anniversary of her birth, we at ComicsAlliance wish to celebrate the life and work of Ann Nocenti. Here’s to many more years of great stories!
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