Mark Waid.

He is an incredibly prolific, Eisner-award winner.  He part of the trailblazers who are breaking new ground in the work of digital comics, taking real risks and spearheading new ways to tell comic book stories in both the creator-owned area of Thrillbent and for Marvel.  He’s written seminal stories on just about every major hero: Superman.  Flash.  Spider-Man.  Hulk.  The JLA.  Green Lantern.
In short, I can’t even pretend to have read everything he’s written.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t have ten favorites!

Hit the break to get your trade paperback buying list for this great comic author!
The thing that makes Mark Waid special—and almost unique, actually—is that he knows what he is good at, stays with it, and doesn’t venture far off.  He’s a solid, dependable workhorse in the area of superhero comics—and he’s unashamed of that.  Even when he ventures into creator-owned books, he tends to stay with capes and tights.

And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Other people can write about criminals and zombies: The bread and butter of the comic book world always has been superheroes, and

we need people like Mark Waid who know how to construct a tight, creative, character-driven narrative.

Plus, he’s a hell of a nice guy to fans at conventions.

Here’s my list:


11.  The Caveats: I haven’t read the following celebrated Waid books:
Most of his Flash/Impulse run: I don’t really like the Flash family.  I’ve read a few of Waid’s stories from these runs, and it didn’t change my opinion.

  • His Legion of Superheroes-related books.  Again: Not a big fan of the characters.
  • DC’s “52.”  The trades are waiting for me, I just haven’t had time.
  • Captain America.  I read his “rebirth” stuff about 10 years ago and didn’t care for it.  I want to give it a second chance, and still have the TPB lying around somewhere.  It’s on my “some day” list.

10.  Potter’s Field (2010, Boom!)

And here I eat the words I just wrote up top.  This is not a superbook, it’s a crime book about NYC’s graveyard for the poor and imprisoned.  This is a pulpy, noir-y mystery about a guy named “John Doe” who is furiously working to find the identities of everyone buried in the mysterious cemetery.  Waid and artist Paul Azaceta told the tale in just three short-issues (and a one-shot), this book never really got the time and space it needed to breathe.  But the fascination with redeeming the dead reappears in Waid’s current Daredevil run, during which Matt Murdock’s father’s bones are dug up, stirring memories and introspection…I easily could have seen this book turning into a saga along the lines of 100 Bullets.  I was very sad that it did not continue.

Consider my words eaten.

9.  Strange: The Doctor Is Out (Marvel, 2010).

A four issue miniseries about one of the hardest Marvel characters to write for: Doctor Strange.  I can count the number of good Dr. Strange comics on one hand, and this would make the list—and all of them depend heavily on a good artist.  Here,   Mark Waid teams up with Emma Rios for a truly inspired story about Doc being expelled from “Sorcerer Supreme” status.  He goes to a children’s Miss Universe contest, a baseball game, becomes a father(ish) figure…It’s a slice of life book with terrific character writing.  Sadly, it’s out of print.

8. Fantastic Four #60 “Inside Out” (2002, Marvel)

Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo’s run on Fantastic Four is definitely a good one—and eventually I get to it on my other blog–but it’s not at the top of my list.  This issue, though, the famous “9 cent” issue designed to pull in new readers, was top notch.  It re-tells the team’s origin in a fun, light way—and reveals that Reed Richards chose the name “Mr. Fantastic” as a marketing ploy.  Who knew he was so saavy?]

7.  “24/7” from The Amazing Spider-Man #592-594 (Marvel, 2009)

At a time when The Amazing Spider-Man was really running on all cylinders, and had a rotating creative team of legendary talents (including Zeb Wells, Dan Slott,  and Chris Bachalo), Waid teamed up with Mike McKone for a story with a great premise  Spider-Man goes on a mission to (finally) prove J. Jonah Jameson wrong by being the hardest working, highest profile hero in NYC.  Too many Spider-Man stories lately put him in big cosmic battles or “important” arcs against powerful villains.  The best Spidey stories are now, and have always been, where the wisecracking Webhead takes on some ridiculous fool with a lightning-bolt starfish mask or the ability to turn into dirt and saves “regular” people from getting hurt.  In this one, the villain is a new, bloodier Vulture—with an awesome costume redesign—but the real story is JJJ and Spidey, confronting their beliefs about each other.  Perfect Spider-Man comic.

6.  Justice League of America: Divided We Fall (2000, DC)

Yes, Waid’s run on JLA was good.  Yes, Tower of Babel was great.  But this story was better.  Everyone knows how in Babel, Batman’s secret files were used against the team.  The team saw this as a betrayal, but every non-super-powered, rational comic book reader thought it made perfect sense for Batman to have a plan in the event of a super-powered rebellion.  This story is far more creative and interesting.  Rather than simply wrap up the Babel story and return to business as usual, Waid showed the heroes dealing with the repercussions: What to do about Batman now?  How have relationships been shattered?  The conversation between Superman and Batman is worth the price of admission alone.

It’s also worth noting that Waid’s run followed Grant Morrison’s run, which redefined the comic and was all about ACTION in big, capital letters.  Morrison’s JLA was a lot like Warren Ellis’ Stormwatch/Authority: Heroes taking on huge problems and reshaping the world.  Waid, on contrast, was more intimate.  Rather than try to follow Morrison by copying him, Waid defined his run in opposition to the greatness that preceded him.  He did the same thing when he took on Daredevil (see #1, below).

So, that’s why this book appears on my personal top ten instead of Tower of Babel.

But Tower’s good too.  Great, actually.

5.  Superman: Birthright (2003, DC)

I was so excited when I heard that Zak Snyder’s reboot of Superman in the Man of Steel movie will be based in part on Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu’s 12-issue series.  This is my absolute favorite Superman story ever (yes, I like it more than Alan Moore’s Superman tale), largely because it’s so different.  Yes, it’s another take on an origin that even people who hate comic books are intimately familiar with; but before this story, nobody really talked about the internal struggles that Clark Kent had, from being an orphan to being the last survivor of his race, and how those internal conflicts turned him into a hero.  Plus, the opening scenes in Africa are just fantastic.  True, it ignored the whole Superboy part of the story—but that part was always dumb, anyway.  Superman didn’t become a hero until he came to Metropolis.  Everything else is just marketing and rebranding.

It’s also important to remember, in context, that it wasn’t until after Birthright that the practice of retconning origins became standard.  This was groundbreaking at the time.

4.  Kingdom Come (1996, DC)

Yes, Kingdom Come has to be high on the list.  It’s the best—and the only truly great—DC “Elseworlds” story, and the art by Alex Ross is some of the best of all time.  Everyone has read this, everyone loves it, so I don’t really need to say more.

3.  “Unscheduled Stop” from Amazing Spider-Man #578-579 (2009, Marvel)

Another book from the “One More Day” era of Spider-man.  In this one, Waid and future Daredevil artist Marcos Martin tell a claustrophobic story of Spider-Man trapped during a subway tunnel collapse.   It’s not something we haven’t seen before: Dramatic scenes of Spidey lifting a heavy weight so others can scramble free, the tunnel slowly filling with water, but it was done so well.  It’s like, I love “bank hostage” episodes of TV shows.  I’ll watch them no matter what the show is, even if I don’t know the show, because I love the situation.  But most are never as good as the one from Nolan’s second Batman movie.  This comic is like that: A great, great version of a similar story.
Plus, the villain is Shocker who is usually pretty lame—but Waid made him terrific.

2. Irredeemable (2009-12, Boom!)

Mark Waid’s creator-owned tour-de-force about a world attacked by a Superman with daddy issues.  Through most of its 3-year run, the book’s quality was among the best superhero books around.  Most writers can’t sustain three consecutive months of great work—let alone three years.

It also represents a fully decompressed, single story that never stops being shocking.  True, the first arc is like that plane crash in episode one of Lost: It created a blood-curdling, epic moment whose momentum couldn’t possibly be sustained.  But the title didn’t have to keep going at a breakneck pace.  That wasn’t the point of it.  Instead, it told the tale of how the world probably would end up if we had superheroes—and it wasn’t great.  But the best thing about Irredeemable was that it had a definite ending.  A great, wonderful ending.

The side-series, Incorruptible, was also good—just not “top ten” good.  It told the opposite story: Where Irredeemable was about good going bad, the other title was about bad going good.

1.  Daredevil Volume 3 (2011-present, Marvel)

Mark Waid’s work on Daredevil has been nothing short of magnificent and brilliant.  You can see how all the years he’s had in the business have led him to this project.  He clearly understands how to partner with great artists—and adjust his style when he’s writing for someone like Paolo Rivera versus Marcos Martín—and his understanding of the need for a fresh take on a dark, stale character was clear.  Before Waid, DD’s character arc was basically this: Frank Miller spend several years turning him from a B-list swashbuckler to a dark, tortured, corruptible soul who loses a lover, goes down deep, and gets his secret ID exposed.

It was a brilliant, industry-changing run that established Miller’s reputation in the field.  Then, the character drifted back into obscurity.  Next, Brian Michael Bendis took Daredevil on a years-long epic during which Daredevil was a dark, tortured, corruptible soul who loses a lover, goes down deep, and gets his secret ID exposed.  Then, Brubaker took Murdock through prison, showing the character as a dark, tortured, corruptible soul.  Then, Diggle took over and tried to take Murdock even lower than being an ex-con but only managed to make him a joke in Shadowland.  It was so bad, Black Panther kicked DD out of his own book.  The time was ripe for a new take, and Waid brought it.  In spades.  This is a Daredevil we haven’t seen before.  He’s still tortured, but for the first time there is an optimistic feel to the title.  This is the first comic I can recall in a very long time to tell a story about a character going “up” the downhill slide, as opposed to the opposite.

Follow up: For a more definitive list based on the views of hundreds of comic fans, go here.