10 Comic Book Writers Turned Prose Pros

This week sees the release of <em>The Fictional Man</em>, a prose novel by Al Ewing, a writer better known for his work on <em>Judge Dredd</em> and <em>Zombo</em> in <em>2000AD</em>, Dynamite's <em>Jennifer Blood</em> and the "Age of Ultron" tie-in issues of <em>Avengers Assemble</em>. <p>Ewing is far from the only writer to have made the leap from funny books to "real" books, however. For almost as long as there have been comics, there have been writers graduating from the medium to prose (after all, many a writer have branched out from comics to novel, going all the way back to Jerry Siegel). Here are some of our favorites. <p>(Note: For the purposes of this list, we're concentrating on writers who got their start as comic book writers, and <em>then</em> moved into prose. So, if you're wondering where Greg Rucka, Paul Cornell, Chris Roberson, Charlie Huston or Marjorie Liu are… Well, they did it the other way around.)


Wilson first came to people's attentions as a Vertigo writer, working on both the <em>Cairo</em> graphic novel and <em>Air</em> ongoing series with M.K. Perker, before moving into superheroics and fantasy with DC's <em>Vixen: Return of The Lion</em> mini and the revival of Crossgen's <em>Mystic</em> over at Marvel, respectively. <P> At the same time as these comics were being published, though, Wilson was making a name for herself with her 2010 memoir <em>The Butterfly Mosque</em> and her debut novel from last year <em>Alif The Unseen</em>, the latter of which is <a href=http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/mar/13/hilary-mantel-womens-prize-for-fiction>nominated for the Women's Prize for Fiction</a>.


In many ways, it feels as if it took until <em>Fables</em> for Bill Willingham to finally find the success and recognition that he deserved after decades of work in the comics industry. <p>Fittingly, it was also <em>Fables</em> that brought him into the prose world, via his 2009 <em>Fables</em> novel <em>Peter and Max</em>, published by Vertigo. His second prose work, the young adult <em>Down the Mysterly River</em> wasn't related to <em>Fables</em> in any way, but firmly established the writer as a novelist in addition to the man who controls the ever-growing world of the <em>Fables</em>.


Steve Englehart's writing re-defined Captain America and Batman for a generation in the 1970s before going on to write for television and video games and even more comics (I'm particularly partial to his <em>Green Lantern</em>/<em>Green Lantern Corps</em> run in the mid-80s, personally). <p>But in the mid-70s, he quit comics to write a novel called <em>The Point Man</em>, about an evolved magical being in a world that was anything but. Even though that novel disappeared without trace at the time, it was reprinted recently, along with three sequels: <em>The Long Man</em>, <em>The Plain Man</em> and <em>The Arena Man</em>, offering uncut Englehart beyond what comics could handle.


For seventeen years, the X-Men defined the face of superhero comics, and Chris Claremont defined the X-Men. No wonder, then, that many wanted to see what Claremont could do outside of the House of Ideas. <p>The answer was the <em>First Flight</em> trilogy, about a female astronaut, as well as a series of novels that continued George Lucas' <em>Willow</em> movie, and an additional fantasy called <em>Dragon Moon</em>. While they never quite gained the same level of success as his merry mutant saga, fans of his work on the X-Men are likely to find a lot to like in these books.


There are times when it feels as if Paul Tobin is one of comics' best-kept secrets, despite his Eisner nominated series <em>Bandette</em> and work on the <em>Marvel Adventures Spider-Man</em> series. (Hey, back issue fans: He did issues there with Chris Samnee. You'll want to check those out.) <p>Luckily, the world of prose proved to be a little more receptive with the release of <em>Prepare To Die</em> last year, a novel in which a superhero is left facing his own death, and given time to get ready for execution by his arch-nemeses. With critical acclaim from the likes of Kurt Busiek and Publishers Weekly, the novel demonstrated that there was more to Tobin than his comic work had demonstrated (despite his comics including <em>Banana Sunday</em>, <em>Spider-Girl</em> and <em>Colder</em)>.


A writer who seems to enjoy a parallel existence in both the worlds of comics and prose, David's lengthy runs on comic series like <em>The Incredible Hulk</em>, <em>Supergirl</em> and <em>X-Factor</em> have been matched by his novel series <em>Star Trek: New Frontier</em>, <em>Knight Life</em>, <em>Sir Apropos of Nothing</em> and a whole host of books adapting movies and television shows (In the last few years alone, he's done the novelizations of <em>Battleship</em>, <em>After Earth</em>, <em>Transformers: Dark of The Moon</em> and all of Sam Raimi's <em>Spider-Man</em> movies). <p>These days, he's also publishing his own fiction digitally, courtesy of Crazy 8 Press, the imprint he created with Robert Greenberger, Howard Weinstein and friends.


As the comic writer most likely to be compared to a prose novelist, it's hardly surprising that Alan Moore would end up writing a novel or two at some time. <p>Right now, that "novel or two" estimate is entirely correct: Although his first novel, <em>Voice of the Fire</em> was published in 1996, his second, <em>Jerusalem</em>, remains unfinished, in large part because of its reportedly mammoth scale (it may be as long as half a million words, according to some reports). <p>It's been in the works for somewhere close to a decade now, but in recent interviews, the writer has suggested that he may be just a few months away from finishing it. As you might hope, it's appropriately epic in scope, despite being entirely set in Northampton, the city in which he was raised.


Unlike other writers on this list, Morrison's first big prose project wasn't a novel, but a work of non-fiction that happened by accident as much as design. <p>The 2011 <em>Supergods</em> book started life as a collection of interviews that the <em>Invisibles</em>, <em>JLA</em>, and <em>Action Comics</em> writer had given throughout his career, before Morrison realized that all of the material he was selecting had to do with the history of the superhero genre, and that he could always just try and sit down to write that book properly. <p>The result was part industry overview, part memoir and all Morrison. Think of it like a really long Grant Morrison interview, only without anyone else needing to be involved.


Since his earliest days in the industry, Warren Ellis always seemed to be looking to find out what <em>else</em> he could do. Not in a bad way, but in the way that pushed him to temporarily renounce the superhero genre in favor of creator-owned work, launching a graphic novella imprint with Avatar publishing devoted to new creations, or offer up a couple of webcomics for free just to play with the medium. <p>That he'd then move into another medium entirely came as no great shock, and his 2007 novel <em>Crooked Little Vein</em> proved to be one of the most Warren Ellis-y projects that he had come up with yet. This year's New York Times-bestselling <em>Gun Machine</em> has cementing his reputation as a novelist to watch, even as he prepares to relaunch Marvel's Original Graphic Novel line with the upcoming <em>Avengers: Endless Wartime</em>.


With numerous best-selling, award-winning prose works under his belt — amongst them, <em>American Gods</em>, <em>Anansi Boys</em>, <em>The Graveyard Book</em>, <em>Neverwhere</em>, <em>Stardust</em> and <em>Coraline</em> — there's an entire fanbase out there utterly devoted to Neil Gaiman's work that has never read any of his comic book output, strangely enough, despite it including the groundbreaking <em>Sandman</em> series. <p>2013 looks set to see the writer have more of a comic book presence than he's had in years, with both <em>Guardians of The Galaxy</em> co-writing chores and <em>Sandman Zero</em> underway, so perhaps some of his prose fans will find themselves sticking a toe into the comic book pool after all.

10 Comic Book Writers Turned Prose Pros

Date: 08 May 2013 Time: 08:25 PM ET