Uncompromising Visions: Celebrating The Career Of Greg Rucka
Greg Rucka was born on this day in 1969, and over the course of his career in comics and novels he's made his name as one of the go-to authors for gripping and tense thriller stories, as well as bold statements on the nature of superheroes, and careful and nuanced examinations of iconic characters.
Rucka first rose to prominence through a series of thriller novels starring bodyguard Atticus Finch, including Keeper, Finder, and Smoker. The series displayed a keen sense of how to manipulate tension within a narrative, while also featuring engaging character work, both of which would become hallmarks of his comics work on superhero books and on his creator owned titles.
Rucka made his comics debut through the Oni Press series Whiteout with artist Steve Lieber, a murder mystery set in an Antarctic research facility. The series was nominated for a number of Eisner awards, and in 2009 it was adapted into a feature film starring Kate Beckinsale in the lead role of Deputy U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko.
Rucka came to DC Comics with a run on Detective Comics that expressly focused on Batman's detective skills, making the book tonally different from his colleague Ed Brubaker’s work on sister title Batman. The two writers and artist Michael Lark launched the critically acclaimed Gotham Central, focusing on the lives and cases of the GCPD, with Rucka and Brubaker splitting characters and storylines.
One of Rucka’s most celebrated creator-owned works is the espionage franchise Queen & Country, which focuses as much on the personal costs of modern spywork as it does on high-action set pieces. Queen & Country concluded as an ongoing comic in 2007, but there have been several spin-off miniseries, as well as a number of novels by Rucka set within the same universe.
In 2003, Rucka began work on the superhero character perhaps most associated with him, Wonder Woman, first in the original graphic novel Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia, and then as writer on the monthly ongoing. Rucka’s Wonder Woman brought Diana of Themyscira into the 21st century in new and interesting ways, with the character playing the role of a diplomat as well as warrior.
Rucka became one of the main architects of DC Comics in the mid-2000s. After the mega-event Infinite Crisis he worked with Geoff Johns, Mark Waid and Grant Morrison on the year-long weekly series 52, which saw the debut of another character heavily associated with Rucka, Batwoman.
The intention was to launch a Greg Rucka/JH Williams III Batwoman series almost immediately out of the gate following 52, but the series was long delayed, eventually launching in the pages of Detective Comics in 2009. It starred Kate Kane, a military veteran forced to leave the army due to the now repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell laws forbidding gay people from serving. Rucka and Williams’ passion for the character, plus Williams’ innovative and groundbreaking layouts, made the run a hit, and cemented Kate Kane as an important figure in the DC Universe.
Rucka left DC Comics for Marvel, where he provided his own spin on The Punisher, but he soon parted ways with the publisher, expressing his frustration with the way Marvel and DC take advantage of creators.
Rucka switched his focus back to creator-owned work, launched a webcomic with Rick Burchett called Lady Sabre and the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether, a steampunk adventure title that was eventually collected into print via Kickstarter. He also wrote the crime thriller Stumptown with Matthew Southworth at Oni Press, and launched two titles at Image Comics; the dystopian thriller Lazarus with Michael Lark, and small-town supernatural detective series Black Magick with Nicola Scott.
In 2016, DC Comics made the surprising announcement that Rucka would return to franchise superhero comics with a new run on Wonder Woman alongside Liam Sharp and Black Magick collaborator Scott. The run traded issues between a present day story fixing the continuity of New 52 Wonder Woman, and a Year One story establishing her official origin.
Over the course of his career, Greg Rucka has made his name as a writer of uncompromising vision, who refuses to be pushed around by the big corporations. There are few people that can write a mystery or a thriller as well as him, and he still manages to pack every comic he writes with some of the most engaging and three-dimensional characters you’ll find anywhere in comics.