One Fan's Trials: DC's Artist-Writer Rebirth with Scott Kolins, Tony Daniel, David Finch, Aaron Lopresti & more

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Although DC does have a new creative trinity in place now with Dan DiDio and Jim Lee as Co-Editors-In-Chief and Geoff Johns as Chief Creative Officer, despite Jim Lee announcing new DC digital applications recently, I imagine much of the creative direction at DC right now is still pretty much resulting from Dan DiDio’s decisions from several months ago if not over a year ago in his previous senior executive editorial role.

I’ll likely check in on this new trinity in a future column, but I did want to take a few moments to look at the current state of the DC Universe and tip my hat to Dan since, despite some concerns that can raised, DC’s actually in pretty good shape.

This is the first part of my look at what’s going right for DC.

The Return and Rise of the Artist-Writer

One of the big surprises over the last several months has been a creative renaissance at DC with a new cadre of double-threat creative forces taking on high-profile or experimental DC projects. While DC has had Artist-Writers in its employ in the past, I think they have been termed “Writer-Artist” because the writing was the dominant feature despite having great art chops as well.

Jack Kirby's Fourth World

The likes of Jack Kirby, John Byrne, Neal Adams, George Perez, Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Phil Jiminez and others have worked on many high-profile DC projects and given them a credibility and attention based on their abundant creativity. Their tenures at DC have been marked by extended stays on Superman projects by most of them, visits with Wonder Woman by a few, and other projects as well including the Fourth World titles, Booster Gold and the Power of Shazam featuring Captain Marvel.

Power of Shazam by Jerry Ordway

Among that list, Dan Jurgens and Neal Adams seem to the ones currently doing double-duty at DC currently utilizing their well-rounded skills on books like Time Masters: Vanishing Point and Batman: Odyssey respectively, with a handful of new Artist-Writers emerging at DC recently.

These “newbies” (all of whom are artistic veterans of the industry) have fandom buzzing and pleasantly surprised by their output or the prospects of their dual output.

This new wave of Artist-Writers at DC includes Scott Kolins, Tony Daniel, David Finch, and Aaron Lopresti.

Scott Kolins

Scott Kolins is probably most well known for his partnership with mega-star writer Geoff Johns on Flash back when Wally West was THE Flash in the DC Universe. Kolins distinguished himself with a unique art style that was dynamic, evocative, and full of energy; a perfect choice to bring to life DC’s premiere super speedster.

In recent years, Kolins has ventured into writing and drawing his books. His work on Solomon Grundy was purely amazing. It started with a collaboration with Geoff Johns in Faces of Evil: Solomon Grundy that lead to the eight issues of Solomon Grundy with the last two and a half directly tied into DC’s mega successful Blackest Night.

Solomon Grundy tpb by Scott Kolins

His six issue Solomon Grundy mini-series, and 2-issue follow-up in Superman/Batman 66 and 67, were fun and action-packed reads. It was clear he did a lot of research. Every issue of Solomon Grundy seemed to trump the previous issue in terms of guest stars. Some guests were what I would call fanboy dream team-ups with Grundy like with Bizarro and Frankenstein, others were expected yet cool in the Golden Age Green Lantern and the Phantom Stranger, and others were surprises like Poison Ivy and Amazo. This pacing and build up was a pleasant surprise for someone not known for his writing skills. Now, I’m sold. Kolins is a serious double-threat.

His current Artist-Writer output includes Magog 11 and issue 12, shipping this week.

Magog 12 by Scott Kolins

In addition, his next assignment is on Justice Society of America as artist alone, and he’s also doing a few pages of art as part of the DC Legacies maxi-series chronicling the the history of the DC Universe. While these are on my pull list, hopefully we’ll also see more of his Artist-Writer work at DC.

Tony Daniel

DC is put a lot faith in Tony Daniel by giving him the keys to Batman universe. While Grant Morrison seems most associated with the creative direction of the Dark Knight recently, Tony Daniel has distinguished himself by delivering the writing and art on the very editorially-directed Batman: Battle for the Cowl which led to a stint as Artist-Writer on the Batman proper comic book. Grant returned for a stint as writer with Daniel on art, but DC had such confidence in Daniel’s Artist-Writer chops that he was recently named to succeed Grant on the book on the writing side too.

Now, Tony clearly knows the Batverse. He touched on all corners from heroes, accomplices, and villains in Battle for the Cowl after Batman was felled by Darkseid in Final Crisis. That 3-part mini-series led to Dick Grayson, the original Robin, assuming the role of Batman, with Bruce Wayne’s son (with the daughter of his arch enemy Ra’s Al Ghul) as the new Robin, and Tim Drake (Bruce Wayne’s last Robin) becoming Red Robin (inspired by a similar character in Mark Waid and Alex Ross’s classic Kingdom Come).

Battle for the Cowl HC by Tony Daniel

Daniel’s stint on Batman also showed an adeptness in handling Batman’s rogues’ gallery namely Catwoman, Huntress, Penguin, Riddler, Black Mask and others. His run was a favourite of fanboys and has been rewarded with a return to Batman as Artist-Writer when Grant Morrison presumably moves over to Batman Inc.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Tony Daniel is a double threat since he did do both on his creator-owned work The Tenth, but his writing has certainly matured over the years. His work, like Scott Kolins’ work on Solomon Grundy, shows a tremendous amount of research, understanding, and respect for the creative outputs of predecessor creators who worked on the storied Batman property.

David Finch

In the “excited about their future Artist-Writer output” category are artists David Finch and Aaron Lopresti.

David Finch is helming a new Batman title called Batman: The Dark Knight. He has described it as a darker, street level book that will naturally have the titular character tangle with familiar rogues. However what has me intrigued about this book is Finch’s statement that: “The Dark Knight takes Batman outside what he knows, into a world of demonology, dark arts, and mystery. He’s the ultimate detective, faster, stronger and smarter than any villain, but now he faces creatures to whom logic and mortality don’t apply.” That seems promising.

David Finch interior art for Dark Knight

Finch is best known for his stunning art and cover work at Marvel and earlier in his career at Top Cow. However, he was Artist-Writer on a creator-owned book from Top Cow called The Ascension many years ago. I imagine he’s matured creatively particularly as a writer in the intervening years.

His recent cover art work at DC has been nothing short of breathtaking, particularly his Brightest Day covers. His expressed desire to work on Batman for some time will hopefully lead to some solid storytelling. He’s established on the art side, time will tell if the writing side is equally strong. DC must have seen something in him to give him this work so presumably, Batman: The Dark Knight will carve out a entertaining unique niche in Batman lore.

Aaron Lopresti

Aaron Lopresti will be working as Artist-Writer on a new Weird Worlds book from DC Comics. The book will be an anthology with 3 parts. It looks like Aaron’s contribution will be the Garbage Man a character who he hopes will showcase the monster as hero again for mainstream comics.

Aaron Loprest's Garbage Man for Weird Worlds

While his comics résumé includes an extended stay at Marvel on art chores, he is probably best known as artist on Wonder Woman during Gail Simone’s epic run.

However, what we may not have been aware of is that Aaron is also an accomplished book author having released Fantastical Creatures Field Guide where we wrote and drew the project.

Aaron is also an artist on the Justice League: Generation Lost series, but hopefully Weird Worlds will showcase his writing skills to such a degree that he may headline his own book on all key sides of the creative process.

Promising Future

One can only hope that these 4 breakout Artist-Writer talents usher in a new era of creative boldness for DC Comics.

While Tony Daniel and David Finch have the most high profile projects pulling double duty on script and art for two Batman books, Scott Kolins is equally deserving of his own headlining in a dual threat showcasing book. Perhaps he’ll be the creative force behind next year’s Flash: Speed Force book featuring Wally West, Bart Allen and friends? I’m hoping so. It seems like a natural fit. I’m also excited to see more of Aaron Lopresti’s Artist-Writer work and hope his Weird Worlds title does well and allows him to gain further double threat work.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I’m enjoying veteran Artist-Writer Dan Jurgens work on Time Masters: Vanishing Point. It’s no surprise that I would as his recent Booster Gold was an exemplary run of fun, action-packed and accessible time-travel sojourns across the DC Universe with great new interactions and layers added to Booster’s mythos (a character he created in the 1980s).

Time Masters: Vanishing Point #2 by Dan Jurgens

It is too early for me to comment on Neal Adams Batman: Odyssey. It is a gorgeously drawn book, but the story is a bit jarring. However, as a veteran Artist-Writer stuck with the rest of us in an era of decompressed storytelling and writing for the collected edition, I hope that this will play out well. He has the capacity to make it a success. Issue #2 ships this week.

Batman Odyssey #2 by Neal Adams

As an aside, of note as well, while not at DC, John Byrne will be returning to John Byrne’s Next Men at IDW taking on all aspects of the writing and art process. DC really does need to bring him back. It is a shame that Byrne hasn’t had any significant output at the Big Two in years. However, I am super excited about more Next Men!

John Byrne's Next Men

That’s all for this week. So, what are your thoughts?

Cheers and thanks for reading.

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