Funnybook Babylon

January 6, 2009

FBBP #85 – Pushing Fifty

Filed under: Podcasts — Tags: , , , — Joseph Mastantuono @ 9:58 pm

Hey, did you hear? We’re in a recession! How the will the coming year’s financial turmoil affect you? We don’t care about your mortgage or 401K, we want to know how this will affect your comic book habit: The FBB Symposium on The Future has convened!

And to keep you occupied in these austere times, we present a thought question: what is the best anglophone superhero/genre comic book/run done by a creator over the age of fifty? We don’t wish to draw any rash conclusions about super hero comics being “a young man’s game”, but it’s something to discuss. Here’s a helpful list to start out with:

Creators Who Have Written Things Over the Age of Fifty and When They Turned Fifty:
1967 – Jack Kirby – b. 28 August 1917
1972 – Stan Lee – b. 28 December 1922
1977 – Steve Ditko – b. 2 November 1927
1989 – Denny O’Neil – b. 3 May 1939
1990 – Roy Thomas – b. 22 November 1940
1996 – Marv Wolfman – b. 13 May 1946
1996 – Walt Simonson – b. 2 September 1946
1997 – Steve Englehart – b. 22 April 1947
1998 – Len Wein – b. 12 June 1948
1998 – David Michelinie – b. 6 May 1948
1999 – John Ostrander – 20 April 1949
2000 – John Byrne – b. 6 July 1950
2000 – Roger Stern – b. 17 September 1950
2000 – Chris Claremont – b. 30 November 1950
2001 – Jim Shooter – b. 27 September 1951
2002 – Gerry Conway – b. 10 September 1952
2002 – Paul Levitz – b. 21 October 1952
2002 – Keith Giffen – b. 30 November 1952
2003 – Bob Layton – b. 25 September 1953
2003 – Steven Grant – b. 22 October 1953
2003 – Alan Moore – b. 18 November 1953
2004 – Chuck Dixon – b. 14 April 1954
2006 – Peter David – b. 1956 September 1956
2007 – Frank Miller – b. 27 January 1957
2009 – Jeph Loeb – b. 29 January 1959

My apologies and no slight intended if anyone thinks I left off a big name, I was just going off the top of my head for people who are often cited as having “definitive” runs on titles.

And some prominent young bucks under fifty, if anyone’s interested:
33 – Matt Fraction – b. 1 December 1975
35 – Geoff Johns – b. 25 January 1973
38 – Garth Ennis – b. 16 January 1970
39 – Greg Rucka – b. 29 November 1969
39 – Mark Millar – b. 24 December 1969
40 – Warren Ellis – b. 16 February 1968
41 – Brian Michael Bendis – b. 18 August 1967
45 – James Robinson – b. 1 April 1963
46 – Mark Waid – b. 21 March 1962
47 – Fabian Niceza – b. 31 December 1961
47 – Christopher Priest b. ???? 1961
48 – Grant Morrison – b. 31 January 1960
48 – Neil Gaiman – b. 10 November 1960
48 – Kurt Busiek – b. 16 September 1960
49 – Dan Jurgens – b. 27 June 1959

Pontificate away!


  1. That is truly a list of comics to be excited about… you left off League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, However. First 70 pages of the next volume are due to hit in stores in April apparently.

    Of course, you might not be quite as fanatical about that series as I am, but, hey, new Alan Moore!

    My mindless spies tell me that the Morrison, Quitely Batman collaboration is for real

    Comment by Zom — January 7, 2009 @ 7:49 am

  2. Howard Chaykin shuld surely be added to the lsit, as he wrote American Century after his 5oth birthday- probably his best writing since the 1980’s. And he’s still producing lovely art (particularly the recent Garth Ennis series War Is Hell: The First Flight of the Phantom Eagle).

    I don’t know his exact age, but Pete Milligan is surely pushing the fifty mark at the moment as well (based on his contemporary, Skreemer artist Brett Ewins being 53).

    Comment by Lee — January 7, 2009 @ 11:24 am

  3. Just remembered another writer who should surely be praised for originality and continuing output even though he’ll be 60 this year: John Wagner, co-creator and continuing head writer of 2000ad’s Judge Dredd- at it’s best, still as relevant today as it was thirty years ago.

    Comment by Lee — January 7, 2009 @ 11:28 am

  4. Lee,

    I didn’t know that Wagner still wrote Judge Dredd. Do you think 2000 A.D.’s still worth checking out?

    Comment by Jamaal Thomas — January 7, 2009 @ 11:36 am

  5. Considering he’s probably its oldest writer, Wagner is the one with the best understanding of the craft and structure of writing weekly six page stories, in my opinion.

    I’m based in the UK, and have a continuing love/hate relationship with 2000ad, wishing it would live up to the reputation it carved during its glory years and then being let down and not reading it again for months at a time. My advice is to check out the reprint trades- Wagner’s Judge Dredd: Origins is definitely worth checking out from his recent output, featuring a bleakly comic look at a future US’ decent into nuclear war and dictatorship, via a President not a million miles away from a certain George W Bush.

    Wagner doesn’t write every Dredd story anymore, but his take is the most readable, especially considering that Dredd is being aged for each year that the strip has existed, resulting in a slightly more reflective, and possibly forgiving, character than he started out as.

    Comment by Lee — January 7, 2009 @ 1:15 pm

  6. Very cool. I went through a pretty long Dredd phase in late junior high/early high school. I’d love to revisit it. I always loved the fact that the book was deeply cynical and surprisingly touching at the same time.

    Comment by Jamaal Thomas — January 7, 2009 @ 2:22 pm

  7. […] -Funnybook Babylon have asked if there are any great comics creators who stayed great over 50 (excluding Kirby, Moebius, and Tezuka because that would kill the argument). I can think of Chaykin, Gerber, Aragones, Dave Gibbons, Campbell, Otomo, Herge, Darrow, Mezieres, and Sienkiewicz. Then again, that’s a list of greats so it might be cheating. I think Brendan McCarthy and Peter Milligan are both over 50, but I can’t verify that. Also as they point out, Alan Moore completed Promethea before he did and Miller on turned 50 two years ago. Near as I can tell, Steranko hasn’t done sequential work since the mid-80s. Wasn’t Kurtzman working (and doing good shit) well into his 60s? I never liked that Sick Boy logic, anyway. Sure, lots of people lose it when they get old. But there’s always a Scott Walker, a Miyazaki, a guy who maintains a standard throughout their career, sometimes getting better. […]

    Pingback by links « supervillain — January 7, 2009 @ 3:22 pm


    Comment by Kyle Baker — January 7, 2009 @ 4:18 pm

  9. Kyle, that’s not fair. Artists keep their mojo much longer than writers do, and even though Kubert does write, he’s always going to be seen as an artist first.

    Comment by Pedro Tejeda — January 7, 2009 @ 5:08 pm

  10. Is there really any answer to “What is the best run by a creator over 50” that isn’t “Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Saga”?

    I mean, I think any other answer is definitively wrong.

    Comment by David Uzumeri — January 7, 2009 @ 6:18 pm

  11. I buy 2000AD every week pretty much just for the John Wagner Dredd stuff. He’s achieved something rather grand and rare in Anglophone comics, masterminded this 30+ year narrative of a single comic book character, and it just keeps getting better and deeper and richer.

    Comment by Mark Kardwell — January 7, 2009 @ 7:06 pm

  12. Why should Toussaint’s victory be placed in quotation marks? Because he was technically taken back to France to rot while Dessalines completed the revolution? Because the country has limped on in economic dependency ever since? It was a just a little thing you mentioned, but I’m curious. I mean, the masters were expelled and Toussaint became an important symbolic figure in later anti-colonial struggle.

    Oh, and I agree: the game is rigged if you reject Kirby’s Fourth World at the outset!

    Comment by nick — January 7, 2009 @ 7:40 pm

  13. Wasn’t Will Eisner like 60 when he did A Contract With God?

    Comment by Bruce — January 7, 2009 @ 11:03 pm

  14. The Los Bros. are 50 and better than ever.

    Comment by chan — January 7, 2009 @ 11:18 pm

  15. Peter Milligan was one of the people left off the list because his age has been carefully scrubbed from the Internet.

    As for a lot of the other suggestions: I was trying to separate “superhero/fantasy/genre” work from “comics”, partially to cover my ass about Europe and Japan, and also to acknowledge a bunch of non-superhero people (Eisner, Los Bros, Deitch, Spiegelman, Crumb, Pekar, Clowes, Bagge, Burden, Seth, Campbell, Sim) putting out comics that are often as good or better than their ‘youthful’ output. But, this seems far more common on the “other side” of the axis from Marvel/DC/Vertigo/Dark Horse/Image/etc.

    Yes, I realize many of these people have/are working for those very companies, but I was narrowing the conversation completely arbitrarily. I also didn’t bother with people primarily considered artists because, well, arbitrary whim.

    But man, missing Joe Kubert… egg on my face!

    Comment by Chris Eckert — January 7, 2009 @ 11:55 pm

  16. I agree with you nick, as I said in the show, I don’t think that it should be placed in quotations.

    About the larger comics thing, I almost think that this could be a broader question. Who has produced vital genre/pulpy fiction after fifty? Could it be that genre fiction in general is a young man’s game?

    I think there may something about pulpy/superheroes/serial fiction, that makes makes it a young man’s game, because so much of it is about being a young man.

    Just a Hypothesis. (Could we call it the Lucas phenomenon?)

    Comment by Joseph Mastantuono — January 8, 2009 @ 1:08 am

  17. Joseph – Ian Fleming, Raymond Chandler, and Philip K Dick all produced great stuff after 50.

    Comment by Sean Witzke — January 8, 2009 @ 1:22 am

  18. If we’re including fantasy in genre/pulpy fiction, I think *most* recent popular fantasy authors (Jordan, Martin) were easily 50 or older.

    Arthur C. Clarke was 51 when 2001: A Space Odyssey came out, for Chrissake. Heinlein was 54 for Stranger in a Strange Land. I’d almost argue sci-fi is an old man’s game more than a young one’s.

    Comment by David Uzumeri — January 8, 2009 @ 4:48 am

  19. Nick, I primarily said that because of the latter. In my mind, the success of a revolution should be judged by its medium to long term results.

    Joe, was Lucas ever a good writer? I agree with Dave on the scifi/fantasy writers bit, but I also don’t think that sci-fi’s been pulpy for a very long time. I think there is a real difference between the kinds of stories published in the 20’s – 50’s and those now.

    Comment by Jamaal Thomas — January 8, 2009 @ 8:10 am

  20. As for sci-fi, Bradbury too… And Gibson’s latest is one of his best (although, interestingly enough, it’s no longer sci-fi). But could you make the argument that Neuromancer/Burning Chrome were the white hot game changers.

    If by Jordan you mean Robert Jordan, the Wheel of Time series is garbage. I don’t know Martin so well, but I couldn’t get through the first chapter.

    As far as Lucas, I think he was at one point a good editor. Just throwing some ideas out there.

    I think that this exercise is interesting, but I think it just means that good pulpy writing requires a certain vitality, that may lose the interest of the older writer.

    I also think it’s an interesting thing that this is such a boy’s world. I wonder if there’s a similar argument (or reverse?) to be made about women writers, or what that genre would be.

    Comment by Joseph Mastantuono — January 8, 2009 @ 1:40 pm

  21. I know Jordan’s garbage and I never got into Martin myself, but they’re probably the most successful pure, as Grant Morrison would call it, “turgid elf-ridden trilogy” fantasy writers I can think of from the past 10+ years.

    Comment by David Uzumeri — January 8, 2009 @ 7:43 pm

  22. Since you guys are talking sci-fi/fantasy authors now, out of curiousness I have to ask what the lists for European and Japanese cartoonists would look like.

    Comment by HitTheTargets — January 9, 2009 @ 11:47 am

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