The Five Brians
I don’t really write about comic books too much on here. I think the reason for that is that I’m quite far removed from having what I would consider to be a truly informed opinion on them.
Maybe it’s because I was so informed for a long period of time that now that I’ve just been a casual fan/lapsed reader for five years I have a little imposter syndrome is I start trying to talk about them much.
I haven’t read a lot of new stuff since I left the shop but I still love the format and believe it to be one the the best forms of storytelling, for the right project.
When I was running the comics department at the shop I would always try and not just stay on top of what was going on in the industry but make tailored recommendations to people based on what they read and enjoyed.
Then there were to displays, just general groupings of comics and graphic novels to attract the eye and get people buying.
Displays I made were always specific and curated and I took a lot of pride in them.
One of my favourites was the ‘Wall of Brians.’
In the late two thousands into the early twenty tens a bunch of the biggest and best names in comic book writing all happened to be named Brian, or in one case Bryan. It was a fun coincidence that I fully took advantage of.
I’m going to revisit it today and write a little bit about each of the Brians I had featured in that display. They’re all still working and I recommend checking any of them out if something sounds interesting.
Brian Michael Bendis - Bendis ruled the Marvel universe throughout most of the two thousands and into the current decade. He’s currently making waves doing the same thing over at DC but it was on Ultimate Spider-Man, The Avengers and later the X-Men that kept Bendis at the forefront. Even if he wasn’t the credited writer, his fingerprints were all over every big universe spanning cross over and event. A lot of the characteristics and tone the world is familiar with now as part of the MCU comes from Bendis' work.
But Bendis got his start writing gritty crime stories and always tried to go back to his routes when scheduling allowed him to. Powers, with friend and co-creator Mike Omeing May have ended on a whimper but may still go down and Brian Bendis’ opus.
Bryan Lee O’Malley - I’ve talked a lot about the Scott Pilgrim books and while Mal may not have had the deepest body of work in my time at the shop, only Lost at Sea and the six volumes of Scott Pilgrim in fact, his work had a profound effect not just on me but I would argue an entire generation. Since I’ve been out of the game his follow up Seconds came out and he is now scripting the series Snot Girl at Image. Hopefully he releases another book he has written and drawn at some point in the future.
Brian K. Vaughan - BKV is now most known for the incredible series Saga but he has been putting out some of the best books in the industry for over fifteen years. Y: The Last Man is still an all time favourite of mine and one of the seminal Vertigo series ever. Ex Machina took the concept of a superhero in the real world without powers and did it better than a lot of people who have tried it before or since. He also wasn’t afraid to play in the Marvel universe where he created the teen super hero team, Runaways.
There was a time when it looked like BKV might leave comic books to write solely for TV but thankfully that doesn’t seem to be the case as he continues to publish works like Paper Girls and The Private Eye, the latter of which was distributed at a ‘pay what you choose’ level on the platform he created panelsyndicate.com
Brian Wood - Brian Wood has always been a rebel with a cause. He often takes a high concept idea and dives into it with a very street level perspective. That’s most evident in his Vertigo series DMZ but can also be seen in the Viking anthology series Northlanders and small mini-series Supermarket. Wood is a writer who is happy to take his work all over the place and seems like a truly independent creator. Some people find elements of his work preachy as there is often a political stance or statement to his work, The Massive from Dark Horse is a good example of this, but I’ve always felt it to be quite punk rock politics more akin to Public Enemy or NWA.
Brian Azzerello - Azzerello is the grittiest of the Brians I have listed. His work is often dark and brooding and usually has a strong element of crimson story telling to it. He’s most famous for his long running 100 Bullets series from Vertigo but that shouldn’t take away from other works such as the Joker graphic novel that was released after Heath Ledgers portrayal of the character in The Dark Knight or the Wolverine Noir mini series that was published both in colour and in very crisp black and white tones dripping with style.
When I left the shop he was in the middle of a highly regarded Wonder Woman story line which had been a big surprise for a lot of readers as the style and tone was a big departure from his usual output, proving