HE DID WHAT?1 of 12
Ta-Nehisi Coates is, by pretty much any measure you can find, a Big Important Person.
The Atlantic correspondent has a fistful of best-selling books under his belt, and recently landed a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant (and the $625,000 that goes along with it).
And with the announcement that Coates will write Black Panther for Marvel Comics this year, he joins the ranks of Big Important People who have written comic books.
Some of those People are well known and well remembered in the comics book field. Kevin Smith has a large footprint, and Joss Whedon visits the neighborhood now and again. But many…you might have forgotten. Here’s a look at 10 Big Important People you might have forgotten have some comics work under their belt.
ULTIMATE WARRIOR2 of 12James Hellwig gained fame as the WWE’s Ultimate Warrior, but guess what? Wrestlers seldom own even their own names. So in 1996, Hellwig wrote five issues of just plain Warrior.
The books are pretty damn crazy, a mixture of Warrior’s “you can do anything” self-help philosophy and bizarre, hyper-violent fight scenes. Hellwig tried very hard to get traction in the comic book market, but the content was too crazy, even for the ’90s. The final issue was printed in black-and-white only, with very limited distribution.
REP. JOHN LEWIS3 of 12
They’re recent, but seeing as they’re outside the Marvel-or-DC-norm, you might have missed March books 1 and 2, written by Georgia Congressman John Lewis.
The 2013 and 2015 Top Shelf Productions releases are part of a trilogy (the third volume still unscheduled) that tells the autobiographical tale of Lewis’ own involvement in the Civil Rights movement.
And bonus points for best (non-) panel ever: Rep. Lewis was at the 2015 Comic-Con International: San Diego, where he reenacted the famed 1965 Selma to Montgomery March.
RICHARD DONNER4 of 12Now 37 years later, many will tell you that no one but no one does Superman like Richard Donner.
Donner was the director of the much-beloved 1978 Superman film, but he took a second swing at Big Blue in 2006-7 with “Last Son,” a six-issue storyarc in Action Comics. Donner co-wrote the arc with DC staple Geoff Johns, who previously worked for Donner Productions.
And yes, as you might imagine, “Last Son” brought the Phantom Zone villains from the Superman movie— Zod, Ursa, and Non — into the DC Universe again.
MARK HAMILL5 of 12The immortal star of Corvette Summer has many geek notches in his belt with The Simpsons appearances, that Joker voice, Star Wars, and so on. But Hamill, a lifelong comic book fan, also created The Black Pearl, a 1996 mini-series from Dark Horse.
The series follows Luther Drake, who becomes an overnight celebrity when he saves a woman from being abducted. The resultant media frenzy drives Drake into vigilantism in a moral drama of tabloid culture and media responsibility.
JOHN CLEESE6 of 12One of the co-founders of Monty Python has one comic book credit as well — Superman: True Brit.
The one-shot DC graphic novel from 2004 was co-written by Kim “Howard” Johnson, and in true DC Elseworlds fashion, it answered the question, “What if baby Superman had landed in England instead of Smallville, Kansas?”
Many silly things happen, and the book is peppered with Cleese’s trademark black humor. Of, if you prefer, “humour.”
WILLIAM SHATNER7 of 12The man who was Captain Kirk and sold us Promise margarine is also…no lie, a bestselling author. Shatner’s Tek War novels were never critical darlings, but name recognition helped sell millions of copies.
And in 2009-10, Shatner and co-writer Scott Davis brought The Tek War Chronicles to Blue Water Comics. The series followed ex-con Jake Cardigan through a new adventure in Shatner’s futuristic Tek world.
ROSARIO DAWSON8 of 12The Men in Black II and Sin City actress took a spin as a comic book writer with Occult Crimes Taskforce, a 4-issue series form 2006-7 that followed a group of New York cops who patrolled magic users. Dawson also lent her likeness to Sophia Ortiz, the main character in the series.
The series was co-written by David Atchison, and like many actor-written vehicles, yeah, the hope was an eventual TV show. The TV rights were parked at A&E as recently as 2012, and remain “in development,” as they say in the biz.
NICOLAS CAGE9 of 12Virgin Comics burst on to the scene in 2006 as a partnership between entrepreneur Richard Brandon and author Deepak Chopra. The company spun out properties from authors, musicians, and filmmakers including…Nicolas Cage.
Cage’s book, Voodoo Child, was co-created with his son, Weston, and comic book vet Mike Carey actually did the writing. The series lasted six issues, focusing on a voodoo spell that originated in 1860, and revisited itself upon modern-day New Orleans.
JENNA JAMESON10 of 12The easiest way to make a comic book when you don’t know the first damn thing about a comic book is to put the words “Shadow” or “Hunter” in the title.
Beloved thespian Jenna Jameson doubled up on this wisdom with Shadow Hunter, a 2008 mini-series from (in this case, hilariously named) Virgin Comics.
The main character was named Jezzerie Jaden (not a typo), and looked a lot like Jameson, and that’s really about all you need to know. There was also a past life and a war throughout time and stuff if you need to know more.
JANE WIEDLIN11 of 12No lie: Jane Wiedlin played with L.A. punk legends the Germs for about 20 minutes before helping found the Go-Go’s. Almost as short-lived: The rocker’s stint writing Lady Robotika.
The Wiedlin-created character lasted just two issues in 2010 before—welcome to rock-’n’-roll—other gigs got in the way. The books had some crazy-cool art by Bongo Comics’ Bill Morrison and jack-of-all-trades Tone Rodriguez, but Lady Robotika left the stage quickly.
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