The Master Collaborator: A Birthday Tribute To Mark Waid
Born on this day in 1962, Mark Waid is one of the most prolific and consistently relevant comic book writers of the last three decades. His storied career has taken him through pretty much every major publisher at one time or another, and as well as being a phenomenal writer and editor, Waid also has a reputation as one of the best collaborators in comics.
When you think of the classic Mark Waid stories, you never think of them in terms of just Waid’s contributions, because they are always a team effort. In 1992, he began his first of several defining runs on iconic characters when he took over The Flash, and spent the next eight years defining Wally West and his world to the point that for many, Wally West is The Flash.
It wasn’t just Waid that made Wally definitive, though, it was his work alongside co-writer Brian Augustyn, and artists like Greg LaRocque, Angel Unzueta, and of course the late Mike Wieringo. Together, Waid and ‘Ringo defined the look and the world of The Flash for the next decade, and created the instantly iconic Bart Allen, AKA Impulse, whom Waid then spun off into his own series alongside Humberto Ramos.
It was Mark Waid and Alex Ross that created the world of Kingdom Come, which changed the very way that people looked at and thought about superhero comics. His run on Captain America with Ron Garney from the late-90s is one of the most underrated takes on the character, and something people should definitely revisit now that Cap is an established major motion picture star.
In the early 2000s, Waid and Wieringo reunited for what, to many, is the greatest run on Fantastic Four this side of Stan Lee & Jack Kirby. Once again, Waid redefined classic characters, and their “Unthinkable” arc is one of the greatest Reed Richards v Doctor Doom stories ever told.
Just as important as his partnership with Wieringo are his frequent collaborations with Barry Kitson, with whom Waid went creator-owned to tell Empire, the story of a world where the supervillains have already won. Waid and Kitson also worked together on the Legion of Super-Heroes in the early '90s, reinventing them in their post-Zero Hour incarnations, and re-invented them again in the “Threeboot” era circa 2005.
Throughout his career, Waid has been a tireless champion for the entire industry, whether through his stints as editor-in-chief and chief creative officer of Boom Studios, or as head of the digital comics platform Thrillbent, which provides a platform for creators to fully take advantage of the digital medium and the unique storytelling opportunities therein.
It’s a shame that, for one reason or another, we never got a full Mark Waid run on Superman, one of his favorite characters, although we did get the excellent Superman: Birthright with Leinil Francis Yu in 2003, which gave us a modern origin for the 21st century. Often overlooked is Waid and Peter Krause’s Irredeemable, about a Superman analogue gone rogue, which is essentially a giant love letter to the Man of Steel.
Waid returned to Marvel Comics in 2008 as part of the Amazing Spider-Man team of writers, which at the time was taking a writer’s room approach to its storytelling. In 2011, Mark Waid relaunched Daredevil and once again redefined a decades old character by eschewing the grim and gritty noir stories that have followed him since Frank Miller’s run in the '80s. Alongside Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin, Waid turned Daredevil into a high-action, high-drama superhero book again.
It was on Daredevil that Waid first teamed with Chris Samnee, and together they showed what you can achieve when the writing and art compliment each other perfectly. They worked so closely together that they abandoned the titles of “Writer” and “Artist” and instead shared a single “Storytellers” credit, not wanting the false dichotomy of split credits to get in the way of their collaboration.
Waid and Samnee's collaboration alongside colorist Matthew Wilson and letterer Joe Caramagna continued in 2016 with a relaunch of Black Widow, one of the most dynamic books to launch out of All-New, All-Different Marvel. He also oversaw the acclaimed relaunch of Archie with artists Fiona Staples, Annie Wu and Veronica Fish.
With more than thirty years in the industry, Mark Waid has provided a wealth of great work through every means and channel available to him, and always in tandem with other great talents. So today, in recognition of his work, we wish him a very happy birthday!