A Career Full Of Highlights: A Birthday Tribute To Walt Simonson
For any other creator, Thor would've been enough. It's a four-year masterpiece, one that I've frequently called the single best run of superhero comics of all time thanks to its perfect blending of comic book action and the high fantasy of Norse mythology, and that's not a really difficult argument to defend. There are issues with bone-shattering larger-than-life battles, and there are issues that hit so hard emotionally that I still get a little choked up thinking about them, and there are issues that do both at the same time. Thirty years later, it still holds up as an unparalleled high point of the genre, and for any other creator, that would be enough.
For Walt Simonson, born this day in 1946, it was just the tip of the iceberg.
That's one of my favorite things about Simonson's career: There's just so much great stuff. You start talking about Thor, and then you get onto his amazing run on Orion from the 2000s that's almost a spiritual sequel, and then you start thinking about what he did on Fantastic Four, and how everyone remembers the hilarious, almost parody of the era that he and Art Adams did with the great "New Fantastic Four" storyline, and then you think about how beautiful RoboCop vs. Terminator looked, and then there's Star Slammers, and oh jeez, did we even talk about Manhunter with Archie Goodwin?
All of those are great comics, and that's the short list. Going through the list of everything that he's done, every great story he's had a hand in, and every character that he's either created or helped to define would take us a long --- and very enjoyable --- time.
Simonson came to prominence in a time that was marked by a the rise of several phenomenal writer-artists, a time full of names like Frank Miller, John Byrne and Howard Chaykin, many of whom Simonson worked alongside and even collaborated with in the '80s and '90s. That's a tough crowd to stand out in, but he not only managed to stand out but to become arguably the most vital and consistently amazing, all the way up until today.
Because the thing about Simonson is that you can't ever talk about his work in the past tense. Thor might be the high point and the thing he's best known for, sure, but it's not just that he kept going and did more great work, but that he's still doing stuff that's standing head and shoulders above just about everyone else.
In the past few years, we've seen Ragnarok, a return to the mythological Thor along with frequent collaborator John Workman --- whose lettering supports and blends with Simonson's art with a synergy that only the best teams ever come close to --- is amazing, and The Judas Coin, where Simonson follows one of Judas's thirty pieces of silver throughout the history and future of the DC Universe with each segment drawn in a different style, was one of the best graphic novels of the past few years, hands down.
There's a lot of variety in what he's done, but every project has that same commitment to storytelling, that perfect understanding of what superhero comics and adventure stories can be, all the thrills and emotion that come along with them. But if you still need convincing that he's one of the all-time greats, consider this:
The man's signature is a dinosaur. How great is that?