The Top Ten Greatest Superman Writers

Hey guys! To follow up on my top ten artists list from last year, it was only natural that eventually I do a top ten writers list as well.

The same disclaimers apply for this one as well- this is a list of my favorites, not most influential, most prolific, best selling or anything else (although I do feel I have an informed opinion 😁). Art is subjective, anyway, and we see that at work here.

With that said, enjoy!

Honorable Mention: Robert Venditti

If this list were being written 5-10 years from now, I think it’s very likely that Robert Venditti would be on it. A relative newcomer to Superman, Venditti wrote a phenomenal miniseries in 2020 that DC released in Walmart stores and was later collected as Superman: The Man of Tomorrow. The well-received series mostly dealt with standalone stories that had an overarching subplot, and wasn’t particularly heavy on continuity so as to appeal to the casual reader. It was a lot of fun and demonstrated a clear understanding and love for the character.

Rob has followed that up by writing the Christopher Reeve/Richard Donner love letter Superman ‘78, and he recently completed a great, royal family-esque drama miniseries, The World of Krypton. And, while not a Superman story, he utilized the Cyborg Superman to great effect as the baddie in his Freedom Fighters maxi series a few years back as well. It’s gotten to the point that if anything with Superman and Venditti is announced, DC has my attention. I can’t wait to see what he does with the character in the future.

Honorable Mention: Jerry Siegel

How can anyone rank Superman’s creator himself, who developed the concept and origin story, right down to suggesting the cape to Joe Shuster!? Lois, Perry, the Daily Planet, Luthor, kryptonite (aka “K-Metal”), Clark Kent, Superboy, Smallville and so much more…! Siegel wrote countless stories about Superman both in comics and newspaper strips of the Golden Age- without a ghost writer that we know of- then returned in the Silver Age to write countless more!

Even if one sets aside the creation of the character and much of his established world, the fact that Siegel completely reinvented himself when he returned to DC in the 1950s is impressive on its own. He seamlessly fit right into new styles of stories with the Man of Steel, as well as writing some of the most popular Legion and Supergirl stories ever. The Silver Age Death of Superman imaginary story is perhaps the greatest to come out of the era, in my opinion, which is no small feat.

As good… nay, LEGENDARY as all of this is, the simple stories of comics’ early years never appealed to me personally as much as the more layered, complex graphic novel or long form story approaches of the decades to come. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, when books were geared for the comic store, not the newsstand.

But this is no knock on Siegel’s work, nor any other writer of his generation. It’s just an admission that styles and tastes have changed. Still, this could easily be a list of one, with his name on it!

10. Jerry Ordway

It’s difficult to separate the hive mind of creatives that was “The Triangle Era” of Superman in the ‘80s and ‘90s, of which Ordway was a key part. One could just as easily include that entire cadre of writers at #10, and I think it would be accepted. Still, as difficult as it can be to sift out who contributed what at times, some nevertheless stood out a bit more than others.

Admittedly known more for his artwork on Superman, Jerry Ordway did write a good deal of books himself as well, beginning with the main title after the departure of John Byrne and continuing with Adventures of Superman. While doing so, there were a number of key story contributions he made.

The Ordster created a number of additions to the Man of Steel’s supporting cast, including Bibbo and Professor Hamilton (both with Marv Wolfman), and Ron Troupe. It was also his idea to have Clark propose to Lois, which took place in his book, and famously (almost humorously) his idea to do a death story when the Supes books needed something splashy.

For that alone, and his part in executing that story, his name gets a spot on my list!

He hasn’t done a whole lot in comics lately, but I would be interested in anything he does and would love to see him back on a Superman title.

9. Peter Tomasi

I wasn’t a huge fan of Tomasi when he first made the transition from editor to writer. As time has gone on however, and as he has started working more and more with big name characters, I’ve since changed my mind. His Batman run was impressive enough, but doing Superman Rebirth was what really pushed his status into the stratosphere.

Tomasi, along with co-plotter Pat Gleason, more than held his own opposite the legend that is Dan Jurgens from 2016-2018, blending stories nicely while also maintaining his own distinct voice. The cinematic action moments were always there in awesome universe/multiverse spanning adventures, but writing Superman and his family also showed, much to my surprise, that Tomasi could also write personal stories with a ton of heart.

Superman Rebirth was a special time for the character and one I remember very fondly, and the heart Tomasi wrote into those stories was a huge part of it. His down time stories are some of my favorites from that era, and in my entire time reading Superman. Jurgens may have gotten the ball rolling on Superman’s family as a concept, but Tomasi certainly did his part.

Oh, and he also wrote the popular animated adaptation of the Death of Superman a few years ago as well.

8. Mark Waid

Mark Waid is a prolific writer whose career never seems to lose steam. He has written just about every character for Marvel and DC and continually done amazing stories for a lot of them. While probably most famous for his work on Flash and Captain America, he has written some memorable Superman stories as well.

Although written primarily as a DC universe story, Kingdom Come is widely regarded as one of the best Superman stories of all time. In it, Waid’s Man of Steel picks up the pieces of his life after incredible tragedy to once again be an inspiration to the world and prevent its destruction. It’s pretty much all you could ask for in a Superman story, and the amazing artwork by Alex Ross makes it absolutely unforgettable.

Waid has written Superman a number of other times in team books and crossovers and does a fine job there as well. His Superman: Birthright maxi series is also a fan favorite, and while personally didn’t care for it that much, it really did influence every Superman story since, by bringing back a lot of the Silver and Bronze Age elements of the character. The series also influenced a lot of what eventually went into Snyder’s Man of Steel. Waid has done a great deal with the character and deserves a spot on this list.

7. Paul Dini

What can I say? I love Superman: Peace on Earth so much that even if it’s basically the only Superman book the author has ever written, he gets a place on my list!

I’ve written extensively about how much I love this story, so I won’t go into it again here, but essentially Dini and Ross succeeded magnificently with their entire line of tabloid size DC comics they did together from 1998-2003. Dini said that in each book their goal was to distill the characters’ essences into stories that a first time reader could pick up and enjoy.

Certainly, it was a case of mission accomplished.

Although most associated with Batman throughout his career- and rightly so- Dini’s success with Superman makes him one of the greatest writers ever for the Man of Steel too, in my book. He did work a lot on the Timmverse Superman and (to a lesser degree) Justice League cartoons as well, so he is hardly a stranger to the character. All I can say is if you like inspirational stories about the goodness of Superman and have never read Peace on Earth, just go read it.

Right now!

6. John Byrne

It is difficult to understate just how influential John Byrne’s reboot of Superman in 1986 was, and still is to this day. Not only was it a coup for DC Comics to hire Byrne, a superstar by that time, but to effectively be the centerpiece of DC’s line-wide, post-Crisis revamp of all their books was immense.

Byrne set out to revamp Superman by brushing off the excess grime and clutter that had accumulated over the years and bring the character closer to his roots. Along with Marv Wolfman, Jerry Ordway and DC editorial, a new world was created for the Man of Steel which was far more grounded and less fantastical. Gone was Clark Kent, news anchor for Galaxy Broadcasting, and Clark Kent, reporter for the Daily Planet, was back. Clark was less socially awkward, his parents were both alive, he had never been Superboy, and he had not grown up with Lex Luthor. He was also the only survivor of Krypton, which made the character much more relevant from that angle as well, yet despite that, he primarily saw himself as an Earthman.

There was a wonderful freshness that Byrne brought to Superman, and although I wasn’t reading comics quite yet when it was first published, you only have to read one or two Bronze Age comics beforehand to understand. While many wonderful stories were written, most notably the fantastic “World of Krypton” miniseries with Mike Mignola, I think Byrne demonstrated his mastery as a writer with the reboot itself. It produced many parts of the character’s mythos which we now take for granted, like the Death and Return story and many cartoons and tv shows, right down to the Krypton series of a few years back.

He has written Superman many times since then in various specials and miniseries as well, but it all started with his monumental effort back in 1986.

5. Jeph Loeb

I recently wrote about how much I enjoyed Superman For All Seasons, a book that just seems to grow on me more each year that goes by. Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale had almost a psychic rapport that allowed them to produce brilliant work, and their collaboration on Superman’s early years was nothing short of amazing. The book had a ton of heart, and worked on so many levels, especially as a Clark Kent story. A Superman who is unsure of himself and ridden with angst may not work that well for present day, but does for an origin story quite nicely. Loeb and his collaborators produced one of the most read Superman graphic novels ever.

Loeb went on to write the Superman ongoing after For All Seasons in the waning years of the Triangle era, which were enjoyable and decent enough. What caught my attention again, however, was his work on Superman/Batman a few years after that. The stories that he wrote over the course of the first 25 or so issues of the book were done with excellent artists, but the standout quality of the book for me was Loeb’s wonderful ability to juxtapose Superman and Batman. Their inner monologues narrating the story from two different perspectives was great fun.

This technique was something Loeb didn’t originate (that was probably Dave Gibbons in his work on World’s Finest), but he did excel at it. The plotlines of the stories centered around conflicts that Superman and Batman often disagreed on. Loeb wrote their dialogue very believably and by putting the characters right next to their polar opposites, the stories showcased and celebrated the two heroes’ personalities. It was a very enjoyable technique that made for some fun comics.

The combination of these two works- Superman for All Seasons and Superman/Batman (the final arc with Ed McGuinness notwithstanding), land him on this list.

Hoping I get to meet him this year at FanExpo SF!

4. Geoff Johns

Geoff Johns is one of my all time favorite comic book writers and probably my favorite DC writer ever. The guy just has such a deep and abiding love for the characters and the universe and a complete mastery of writing them. It isn’t a stretch to say that he is the architect of the modern DCU.

Johns has a LOT of famous runs under his belt that have endeared him to fans- JSA, Green Lantern, Flash, and lots more- and his Superman was one of them. While not as prolific with the character as with others, there is a strong body of work that he has produced that have all become classics: “Last Son,” “Superman and the Legion of Superheroes,” “Brainiac,” and “Secret Origin” for sure. Geoff has several other Superman stories and one shots on his resume as well, including the fairly recent “Doomsday Clock.”

Johns’ career started in Hollywood, working for Richard Donner, the director of the classic Superman movie of 1978. It’s unclear if his love for the character started there, or was just enhanced, but either way, he has said that Richard Donner is his mentor, and writes a Clark and Lois that resemble Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder. Like the Donner film, his Superman has a big heart and is also a tough protector when he has to be. Johns’ stories weave both in beautifully.

I like Geoff because he gets Superman and has an enormous amount of knowledge of the DCU. His books also read like graphic novels, so they are generally very accessible to readers new and old alike. Hopefully he can make that success at some point pay off in Hollywood!

3. Alan Moore

It’s amazing how Alan Moore made a big name for himself in comics starting in the 80s, lasting for about a 15-20 year span, yet consistently remaining on the top of so many people’s lists of comic book writers. The man has had genius ideas and written great stories throughout his career. Unfortunately, he has tapered off ever since and just written smaller profile indie books or prose novels, but not before he left a huge mark on Superman.

Moore only wrote three stories about the Man of Steel that I’m aware of, outside of guest appearances in other books, and one of those stories is arguably more about Swamp Thing. The other two, however, have cemented their places in Superman lore as some of the greatest stories of the character ever.

“For the Man Who Has Everything” is one of the best standalone comics ever written, and an incredible story about the inner workings of Superman’s life. It also featured the first appearance of the Black Mercy, which has been used many times in DC Comics ever since, and is probably the best Mongul story ever as well. The power of Superman- and by extension, we the readers- experiencing his greatest wish, only to have it ripped away to come back to reality, was heartwarming and heartbreaking all in the span of a single issue. The solid art from Moore’s Watchmen collaborator Dave Gibbons just adds to the strength of the comic. I had it on my top ten list of Superman stories a few years back, and a case could certainly be made that it’s up there for the best of all time.

Moore’s other story, “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” is also beloved by fans as it put a bow on the Silver and Bronze Age of Superman before the post-Crisis reboot. While I was never invested in the Silver and Bronze Age and so it doesn’t resonate the same way, I fully respect that is was a wonderful love letter to the era. A definite classic.

What strikes me most about these stories is the ease in which Moore discards his trademark dark, horror, often bleak writing style to write charming, comic book-ie stories like these. Although they definitely contain darker themes as well, I’m sure they worked just fine with the regular Superman reader back then.

Moore also wrote analogues of Superman in indie comics tremendously as well, after his relationship with DC deteriorated. His most notable such works were probably Supreme and Mr. Majestic, so one could also count this as part of his great repertoire. It’s all part of one huge demonstration of his writing prowess and fantastic grasp of the character.

2. Kurt Busiek

Kurt Busiek doesn’t seem to be as huge a name among comics writers as he should be. It honestly floors me, since I’ve read a ton of his work, and I really can’t remember anything that was bad. Busiek has probably shown the most range of any writer that I’ve ever read, from straight superhero (Superman, Avengers) to fantasy (Conan, A Wizard’s Tale), to indie POV stories (Marvels, Astro City). In fact, the only other writer who has a range that comes close to his is Alan Moore, and that’s saying something. Busiek is one of those writers who, whenever he touches something, it feels fresh and new.

He has worked with established characters for the Big 2 beautifully, created his own, and has written countless stories for both that are amazing. His run on Superman, first in tandem, then concurrently with Geoff Johns, was just fantastic. There are great standalone stories and overarching arcplots, which deftly navigated delays in the other Superman books at the same time. It features storytelling that is pretty conventional but nonetheless impressive, which I believe is tough to do given how many decades Superman has existed. From big concepts with Supes- such as his Elseworlds story “Secret Identity”- to small touches like Superman’s caption boxes looking like old newspaper, Busiek has always made the character fun.

He has crafted compelling tales with great villains and new challenges, which is something many writers have tried but have failed to do. If you haven’t checked out any of his Superman work, as it doesn’t get a whole lot of attention, please do yourself a favor and get to it! 1. Dan Jurgens

On this list are several writers who have written a handful of stories about Superman, some of them brilliant. Dini, Loeb, Waid, and Moore are such writers.

Then there is Dan Jurgens, who has written the character for now going on four decades!

I don’t know how many Superman stories Dan Jurgens has written (does anyone?), but I do know he has written them consistently well throughout his marvelous career. Jurgens joined the Superman team around the “Exile” storyline, and remained for nearly the entire Triangle era, a span of over a decade. Along the way, he was an integral part of basically every story published given the collaborative format at the time, with many standouts. This included Superman’s wedding and the Death and Return stories, for which he himself created Doomsday and the Cyborg Superman.

Even if we were to stop there, he would find a spot on this list.

Over the next decade or so, he was involved with the character off and on again, mostly with miniseries or fill-in assignments, as Jurgens had moved to Marvel for several years (as comic creators often do). During this time in his career, Dan did a tribute series to the Death of Superman called “Day of Doom,” utilized the character in his great Booster Gold Vol.2 run, and even surfaced a few times to work on him during the New 52. I enjoyed the occasional project Jurgens was doing, but by this point just assumed that his days with Superman were behind him, and that the industry was moving on from him to new tastes and styles.

Little did I know!

Jurgens returned to the books in a big way- again- when he almost single-handedly ushered in the traditional Superman in a seemingly inconsequential mini series in 2014. Set during the company wide Convergence, the story is about Clark and Lois having a son, Jon Kent, in a parallel reality. Although it was a mere two issues, it nevertheless proved popular enough to lead into the highly enjoyable Lois and Clark series, which was a breath of fresh air during New 52, and then into his run on Action Comics during DC Rebirth. It was a return to form for Superman, now in a new chapter of his life as a family man, but more importantly, for many it was also the return of Dan Jurgens.

Amazingly, Dan demonstrated during this three year span that his writing style had evolved since the ‘90s, and could compete with anything today as well. A highly impressive feat in its own right, it was well received by fans and Jurgens has never left.

When it was announced that he would be doing a sequel Lois and Clark series in 2023, I leaped out of my shoes I was so excited. Then I caught myself, noticing that a guy who started writing the character in 1989 still is eliciting that reaction from readers today. While other writers may be more technically gifted or have written that one magnum opus, if not much else, Dan just gets good stories done consistently.

I’m sure there have been many writers who have written Superman over a span of decades, but none whatsoever have had the impact to me as a fan that Dan Jurgens has. His contributions to the overall mythos of the character have been huge, and people love the guy. I don’t know who else you can say that about when talking about a career of nearly forty years.

Simply put, I look forward to anything he does with the Superman. For all these reasons, that’s why he’s my number one. Thanks Dan!

I appreciate you guys sticking around with this article until the end! I’d love to hear your thoughts or questions, and whether you agree or disagree. Either way, I hope you guys enjoyed it as much as I did. More Superman top ten lists coming soon!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s