Comics Alliance Best of 2015: Outstanding Writer of 2015
Our judges have adjudicated; our readers have voted. We’re proud to present to you the outstanding writer of 2015 — and four great runners up.
Runner Up: Tom King
What a year Tom King has had! Coming in as a co-writer on Grayson, this former CIA operative was new to comics writing at the start of the year, but ended 2015 as a prominent writer for DC, Marvel, and Vertigo.
His comics show a sense of importance that readers relate to, as he prefers to take what’s weakest about them and use that to fight back. He and Tim Seeley took Dick Grayson’s fears about identity and put them into the forefront of a dashing spy series which freshened up the character; he took the Vision’s uncertainty about what humanity is and built a family at Marvel; and most noticeably, he used the Green Lanterns as a launchpad to explore cosmic politics as part of The Omega Men. Throughout, he’s kept an eye on the wider scale of comics, dropping short experimental pieces in various Vertigo anthology projects before, last month, launching an ongoing Vertigo series with Mitch Gerads, Sheriff of Baghdad. His writing feels honest and real, without growing stale, and 2016 is going to be a fascinating one for him. [Steve Morris]
Runner Up: Kieron Gillen
Whether he's working in the mainstream on cultural icons, or independently with his own creations, Kieron Gillen is able to personalize everything he writes. He's been putting bits and pieces of himself into his fiction since his emergence with Phonogram, and in 2015 he penned two of the most fascinatingly personal books of the year. Even without the honest and revealing backmatter provided by Gillen, it was apparent that The Wicked & The Divine explores a coming-to-terms with age, death and loss, therapy in the form of pop fantasy. In Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl, lead character Emily Aster sold half her personality for power years before, and now has to deal with the consequences; an entertaining metaphor for the personalities we try on and abandon, the lives and friends we leave behind as we grow.
Even in his licensed comics, you get a sense that Gillen relates to his characters; that he finds a connection that infects the book. Darth Vader, in addition to being the most vicious and unpredictable Star Wars comic of all time, is bursting with an apparent joy. Some writers, you could remove their byline and not be sure whose work it was. I have a feeling we would always know Gillen being Gillen. [John Parker]
Runner Up: Jason Aaron
Jason Aaron’s easily one of the best dialogue writers in comics today, but his sense of humor and strong character work set him apart even further. Aaron is as versatile as they come, able to find the ridiculous humor in work like Secret Wars: Weirdworld, and the genuine emotion of wasted lives and missed opportunities in Southern Bastards, and both series remain recongizably and distinctly Aaron.
Aaron's writing is clever without being detached. He doesn't let jokes and genuine moments of ridiculousness get in the way of the emotional weight of the characters. His characters might revel in macho, action movie-style solutions to problems, but Aaron’s commitment to story means that actions have consequences, and violence has weight; even in a world where dragons and swamp monsters exist. [Ziah Grace]
Runner Up: Brian K. Vaughan
Raise your hand if you're glad Brian K. Vaughan isn't writing for TV anymore. Since returning to comics full-time, Vaughan has gotten back into the rhythm he held in the mid-2000s, turning out one engrossing project after another. In 2015 he continued on the ubiquitous Saga, and that book alone is enough to cement his status as one of comics' premier writers, but he also concluded The Private Eye with Marcos Martin, and kicked off three new series: Paper Girls, We Stand On Guard, and Barrier, again with Martin. And between all those comics, there hasn't been a single uninteresting panel.
While Vaughan's concepts are always simple and compelling — war between Canada and the U.S.; paper girls discover a time invasion; Romeo and Juliet in space — those ideas are just mechanisms to write about things that actually matter. American imperialism, our changing relationship with privacy, parenthood, immigration, war... Vaughan has always been praised for his dialogue and his characters, but the most impressive aspect of his writing is how he uses them to actually say something relevant. [John Parker]
Winner: James Roberts
A great comic can come from anywhere, even a property built to sell toys, which has been through enough reboots to make DC Comics go “well, hold on now.” Nothing is better proof of this than Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye, a comic canonized as a minor miracle by Pontifex Prime (what the Popemobile turns into) due largely to its writer, James Roberts.
Roberts humanizes the Transformers like never before, keeping every detail of their massive backstory alien without being alienating, spinning a story where a minor detail from three years back can snowball into a revelation today, and unafraid to be funny, sentimental or heartbreaking, with breathtaking skill at all of these. That this is his first professional work is stunning, and I hope it’s far from his last. [Charlotte Finn]