The British Invasion

May 23, 2013 — Leave a comment

Extra Credit Assignment for my History of Comics Class

Although a lot of comics were covered I don’t think enough attention was paid to the improved writing in comics starting in the 80s and moving forward, partially as a result of the contributions of the wave of British writers that brought their dystopian visions of a Thatcherite future to American comics. In 2006 Comic Book Resources vote for the top three favorite comic writers were all British – Alan Moore, Grant Morrison and Neil Gaiman.

Alan Moore was the ‘first comics writer living in Britain to do work in America.’ Moore built a reputation for himself in the UK writing for Marvel UK, 2000AD and Warrior. While at Warrior, he was responsible for a number of titles including Marvelman, later changed to Miracleman for legal reasons and V for Vendetta; which has become one of his best known works. V for Vendetta was influenced by Moore’s pessimistic feelings about the Conservative government at the time. Moore’s work in 2000AD brought him to the attention of DC editor Len Wein who brought him onboard to revive the flagging Swamp Thing title. Moore’s run on Swamp Thing from 1984 to 1987 brought commercial and critical acclaim to the title, revived a number of other flagging supernatural DC characters including Deadman, the Demon, the Phantom Stranger and the Spectre as well as introducing John Constantine who would be spun off into his own Hellblazer comic as part of the Vertigo Imprint. This success brought on a second wave of British writers including Jamie Delano, Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison.

Grant Morrison gained the attention DC with his deconstruction of the superhero genre in Zenith for 2000AD. Morrison proposed a reworking of marginal character Animal Man, which proved successful enough for him to be handed the reigns for Doom Patrol starting with issue 19. Morrison’s Doom Patrol was known for surreal elements including dadaism and the writings of Jorge Luis Borges. Morrison also continued writing for British indie titles including an anti-Thatcher comic called St. Swithin’s Day for Trident Comics. Morrison was instrumental in the launch of DC’s Vertigo Imprint by having several of his creator-owner projects as part of the launch.

Neil Gaiman was a friend of Alan Moore and started writing comics with Marvelman after Moore’s run was finished. Gaiman wrote three graphic novels with long-time friend Dave McKean that attracted the attention of DC comics. Gaiman’s first title for DC was Black Orchid, this impressed Vertigo comics head Karen Berger so much she offered him the job of rewriting an old character – The Sandman. Gaiman’s Sandman  had a 75 issue run from 1988 – 1996 and featured work a number of artists. The Sandman run also included specials comprising of seven short stories and illustrated prose text.

The British influence on American comics continued in the 90s with Warren Ellis. His creator owned work Transmetropolitan is one of the most successful titles for Vertigo. He also brought British success in the 90’s to Image Comics Wildstorm imprint with writing stints on Stormwatch, The Authority and another creator owned series Planetary.

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