The Architect: A Birthday Tribute To Dan Jurgens
Born on this day in 1959 in Ortonville, Minnesota, Dan Jurgens is one of the most influential comic creators of the past three decades. As both a writer and a penciller, Jurgens has contributed a tremendous amount to the comics industry and was a shining light of creativity and fun in a decade that is often regarded as dour and serious.
Dan Jurgens first joined DC Comics in the early '80s, pencilling titles such as Warlord and Sun Devils, and made his writing debut on the latter series, taking over from Gerry Conway in 1985. It was around this time that he also debuted one of his most famous and enduring creations, the loveable scoundrel Booster Gold, a character that Jurgens has been associated with via either writing or pencilling throughout his entire career.
In the late '80s, Jurgens made his debut on Adventures of Superman as a writer/penciller, and quickly became the de facto head of the Superman family of comics. Switching over to the titular Superman series in the early '90s, Jurgens masterminded the epic "Death of Superman" event that saw DC Comics’ most iconic figure die in battle with the monster Doomdsay, another Jurgens creation.
With Jurgens at the lead, DC ran with the successful "Reign of the Superman" storyline that introduced four replacement characters, including Jurgens’ own Cyborg Superman who would go on to be one of the most iconic villains of the modern era. When the publisher needed to tidy its continuity yet again in the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths, it was Dan Jurgens who wrote and drew Zero Hour, which cleared up much of the confusion surrounding characters like Hawkman and The Legion of Super-Heroes.
In many ways, Dan Jurgens was the Geoff Johns of his day. Fiercely passionate about DC Comics’ characters and continuity, Jurgens’ stories often played the long game by seeding story ideas as background material and capitalizing on them much later on. While most of the comics industry was influenced by the “Image style” of the 1990s, Dan Jurgens led the way at DC with bright, fun superhero stories that also had real stakes.
In 1996, he began working at Marvel Comics as writer and penciller of the new Sensational Spider-Man series. Frustrated by editorial interference, and unable to bring back Peter Parker in place of Ben Reilly, he left the book after seven issues. He wrapped up his ten year run with Superman, and took over both Captain America and Thor (with John Romita Jr. on art) at Marvel, two highly underrated runs on some of the publisher’s most iconic characters.
Into the 21st century, Jurgens returned to perhaps his favorite creation as artist on Geoff Johns’ much lauded but often overlooked Booster Gold series, eventually taking over as writer following Johns’ departure. When DC Comics underwent a line-wide reboot, Jurgens was there from the beginning on titles such as Justice League International and Green Arrow, and later worked on titles including Futures’ End and Batman Beyond.
He remains a vital and relevant figure in the industry, and when DC Comics decided to bring back the classic Superman from before The New 52, the publisher called on the person who understands him best to do it. Dan Jurgens brought the original Superman back with Lee Weeks in the Superman: Lois and Clark series, and then later worked alongside Patrick Zircher in Action Comics.
Jurgens’ voice and art have been a constant presence in the comics industry for longer than many of us have been alive, and he’s so diligent in his work that the scale of his contribution often goes overlooked. Throughout all the trends and fads that have come and gone, Jurgens’ work shows us what is truly timeless about superhero fiction: Hope, excitement and most of all, fun.