I read a great quote from Grant Morrison the other day. “I was inspired by what came before me. Hopefully I can inspire you. And then you can inspire the next wave.” I’m paraphrasing, since I can’t be bothered to go look it up again, but I really like that idea. The idea that maybe something I’ve created can inspire someone to want to create comics, there’s really no better thought.
With that in mind, I wanted to run down who/what inspired me, and who/what continues to inspire me.
First and foremost is Warren Ellis. I first found Ellis’ writing from his original run on the Authority. From there I back-tracked, read his Stormwatch run, went back further to Lazarus Churchyard. His Transmetropolitan ranks among my top five favorite comic books of all time. His ideas are mind-blowing, I love his pseudo-scientific outlook on everything. How everything can be described by science. But my favorite works by Ellis are the more recent books he did at Avatar. Where it felt like he truly cut loose. Doktor Sleepless, No Hero, Black Summer. These are my favorite Warren Ellis comics. Black Summer and No Hero especially get constantly re-read. Ellis also single-handedly brought me back to comics after I stopped reading for a while.
On the topic of Warren Ellis, I can’t not mention Planetary. Planetary holds the distinction of being my second-favorite comic of all time. The characters, the stories, the re-purposing of old comic book ideas into something new and fresh is just stunning.
Next up is Garth Ennis, who wrote the unmatched Preacher (which is my all-time favorite comic book), which has the distinction of opening my eyes to the types of stories comics could tell, and made me decide to give up on being a comic book artist and focus on being a comic book writer. Preacher was such a different book than what I was used to at the time (I was still highly caught up in the Image boom at the time). Here was this smart, mature, bloody, funny-as-hell, emotional and sophisticated comic (excluding the chicken-fucking scene, of course) that didn’t pander. It didn’t talk down. I was hooked. This was the kind of comic I wanted to write. I haven’t, yet, but one day. Ennis also wrote the amazing Hitman at DC, and recently the original Crossed series at Avatar, which is still disturbing to read.
Then we have Brian K Vaughan. His series Y: The Last Man also ranks among my most favorite comics. Any time I want to recommend a comic to anyone who has never read a comic, I go with Y. It’s the epitome of the smart comic. But Vaughan’s Ex Machina is actually my favorite work by him. I’m a big superhero guy, and while this take on a “real-world” (in the context of the comic) hero retiring to work in politics may not sound too interesting, it truly is. It’s one of the greatest comics I’ve ever read. And Vaughan is the absolute master of the cliffhanger ending. I recently started reading Saga by Vaughan, and am blown away all over again.
Grant Morrison’s Vertigo work is also high on my list. I first got into Morrison through The Invisibles, which still bends my mind into weird shapes when I think about it. He took everything I thought a comic book could be about and blew it up. The ideas just explode off of every page. From there I found his Animal Man series, and the Doom Patrol. Another of my favorite books of his is The Filth, which defined a lot of my writing during the time I was reading it.
Then we have a guy like Mark Millar, whose Wanted still remains a favorite to this day. Ed Brubaker and his Sleeper and Incognito. Joe Casey’s Automatic Kafka, and Butcher Baker: The Righteous Maker. Brett Lewis’ The Winter Men. The Programme by Peter Milligan. Absolution by Christos Gage. The list goes on and on. And on.
Outside of comic books, I love the works of Stephen King. In fact, my yearly re-reading of The Stand is coming up soon. I love crime fiction by the likes of Andrew Vachss, Joe R Lansdale, Robert Crais, and George Pelecanos.
In truth, I love reading. If I don’t spend at least a little time each day immersed in a book, be it a novel or a comic, I feel cheated. I strive to write things that hopefully one day will cause someone to write a list like this of their own.
But at the end of the day, my biggest inspiration are my boys. I love to experience things through them, including the love of reading. Them and my number one fan, who knows who she is.
Do yourself a favor and go read any of the books by any of the authors I mentioned. You won’t regret it.