34+ Actors, Musicians and Other Talented Types Who Have Tried Their Hand at Writing a Comic Book
(Editor’s note: So I wanted to end my special Salute to Celebrities Month with this list last week, but you know, life, kids, etc. Anyway, enjoy.)
As if starring in our movies, TV shows and gossip magazines wasn’t enough to slake their thirst for fame, some celebrities have taken to writing comic books just to show the rest of us how much better they are at everything. So suck it, commoners!
No, not really. Fact is, a lot of celebrities are actually huge comic nerds who are thrilled to have a chance to write their own comics, while others in the fame game see comics as a fun way to flex their creative muscles (while at the same time create media properties they might turn into lucrative film and TV deals down the road). And then you’ve got the old-fashioned reason for seeing a star’s name on a book: “Aw hell, let’s just stick a celebrity’s name on the front and see if their fans will buy it.”
Below is a list, by no means exclusive, of celebrities who have taken the plunge into comics in recent years:
1. Emma Caulfield
Best known to TV watchers for her roles on Beverly Hills 90210 and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in 2012 she co-wrote Contropussy, a comic about a streetwise cat and her animal acquaintances (one plotline featured a Kill Bill-inspired sequence with a sword-wielding bunny rabbit).
2. John Cleese
And now for something really different. The English actor and comedian who first found fame with Monty Python received a co-author credit for True Brit, a 2004 tale from DC that asks “What if baby Kal-El’s rocket had landed in Somerset, England, instead of Kansas?” Anyone expecting a serious answer with Cleese in the room is in for a surprise.
3. Glenn Danzig
The singer-songwriter, musician and founder of The Misfits has been involved in music since he was a child growing up in New Jersey, but in recent years he’s focused more of his time on his Verotik line of adult-oriented comics. “I don’t really want to tour,” he told an interviewer in 2007. “My reason for not doing it is because I’m bored of it. I like being onstage, but I don’t like sitting around all day doing nothing. I could be home, working.” For him, that means more time working on violently erotic (or is that erotically violent?) books like Death Dealer, Satanika and Jaguar God.
4. Rosario Dawson
With roles in such films as Sin City, Men in Black II, and 2001’s Josie and the Pussycats, you might think Dawson was some kind of comic geek… and you’d be right. In 2006, she co-created Occult Crimes Taskforce, a four-issue mini-series about NYPD officers who patrol a district of New York populated by practitioners of magic. Last I heard, it was being considered for an ongoing series on the A&E network — and if it means less time for reality shows, then I’m all in favor of that.
5. Richard Donner
The director behind such classics as The Omen, The Goonies, Scrooged, and all the Lethal Weapon movies — as well as a little film in 1978 called Superman — returned to the Man of Steel with a series of stories in Action Comics in 2006. Together with Geoff Johns, his former assistant, Donner brought many of the elements from the original Superman films to the comics, including the Phantom Zone’s Zod, Ursa, and Non.
6. Mike Doughty
The singer/songwriter who founded the band Soul Coughing in the 1990s contributed a story about Aquaman at an open-mic night to DC’s Bizarro World compilation.
7. Tyrese Gibson
The R&B singer-songwriter also has rapper, actor, television producer, fashion model and MTV VJ on his resume, so why not add comic book writer to the list? Gibson is credited with co-writing Mayhem, a 2009 Image mini-series about a masked hero who battles gangs and drug dealers in Los Angeles.
8. Brea Grant
The actress best known for her role on the TV show Heroes co-created the IDW zombie comic We Will Bury You (2010) and Suicide Girls (2011), a book in which the publishers promise “tattoos, piercings, and a whole lot of butt-kickin’ girls and burlesque.” So… just like later seasons of The Golden Girls, then?
9-10. Bill Hader/Seth Meyers
The Saturday Night Live co-stars teamed up in 2009 to write a Spider-Man one-shot titled The Short Halloween (an obvious send-up of the Batman mini-series The Long Halloween). A plot synopsis, courtesy of another website: “Spidey is chasing down Fumes of the Furious Five but things get complicated when everyone on the street is dressed for Halloween and another, much drunker, Spider-Man enters the picture.” Works for me.
11. Mark Hamill
The actor best known for playing Luke Skywalker is a longtime comic fan and a frequently employed voice actor on the superhero cartoon scene, so finding out he’s into comics isn’t that big a surprise. Along with co-writing the 1996 Dark Horse series The Black Pearl — a series in which a man accidentally becomes a vigilante and media sensation — he also authored “Catastrophe In Substitute Springfields” in Treehouse of Horror #7, a tale in which Professor Frink creates a machine that creates a “flawed” clone of Homer. Come to think of it, what would a flawed copy of Homer Simpson do? Not strangle his kids and drink Duff in moderation?
12. Jennifer Love Hewitt
Yeah, this one kind of surprised me, too. The actress created a 2009 IDW miniseries titled The Music Box, a fanciful sci-fi series in which the aforementioned music box causes strange things (like time travel) to happen to the people who possess it. Sure, why not?
13. Samuel L. Jackson
Is there anything that man can’t do? The actor and very public comic fan created and co-wrote the series Cold Space, a 2010 four-issue series from Boom! Studios. As reported by Comic Book Resources, “the series finds an outlaw named Mulberry — ‘played by’ Jackson — stranded on a planet torn by civil war. But rather than pick sides, Mulberry looks to turn the situation to his advantage and profit from the chaos.” Hmm, I know just the person to fill that role if anyone decides to make a movie out of it…
14. Thomas Jane
The man who has played the Punisher, Mickey Mantle and a well-endowed male prostitute once said he was “hopped up on Vicodin” while recovering from a car accident when he had a series of fever dreams that contained “horrible alien death spiders.” Those dreams formed the idea for Bad Planet, a 2005 series he co-wrote and formed his own studio (Raw Studios) to produce. He also used his studio to release Dark Country, a graphic novel based on the 2009 film in which he starred and made his directorial debut.
15. Rashida Jones
As if we couldn’t love our Ann Perkins enough. The star of The Office and Parks and Recreation also co-wrote 2010’s Frenemy of the State for Oni Press, a fun story about a socialite who agrees to work as a spy in order to stay out of prison. Jones sold the screen rights before the first issue was even published, but she once told an interviewer she would be too old to play the title role. To which I can only say: girlfriend, please.
16. Eriq La Salle
Best known for his role on the long-running medical drama ER, the actor/director/author (he published his first novel, Laws of Depravity, in 2012) also created and co-wrote a 2010 mini-series called 25 to Life. In a nutshell: the three-issue series introduces an experimental FBI division that (shades of The Silence of the Lambs) partners agents with incarcerated criminals to solve high-profile cases.
17. Michael McMillian
The actor is co-writer for the IDW ongoing series based on HBO’s True Blood — which isn’t surprising when you consider he’s also one of the regulars on the show (he plays Reverend Newlin, the anti-vampire Christian crusader who gets turned into a vampire). He’s also the creator behind Lucid, a magic-themed 2009 mini-series published by Archaia Studios Press.
18. Tom Morello
The guitarist with Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave and Nightwatchman known as much for his political activism as he is for his music has also written Orchid, a 2011 Dark Horse series set in a post-apocalyptic future and starring a teenage prostitute who comes to learn she is far more than the role society has imposed upon her. So… not a romantic comedy, then?
19. Patton Oswalt
Anyone who has heard one of Oswalt’s stand-up performances knows he wears his comic geek cred proudly on his sleeve (his brilliant bit about Jesus’s audition to join the X-Men comes to mind here), and anyone who read his book, Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, or follows his blog knows he’s a pretty good writer, too. Along with penning 2003’s JLA: Welcome to the Working Week one-shot, he has contributed stories to Batman, Treehouse of Horror, The Goon and Marvel’s Criminal. He was also chosen to write a fitting farewell to Hoban “Wash” Washburne in Dark Horse’s Serenity: Float Out one-shot, following that character’s death in 2005’s Serenity.
20. Jada Pinkett Smith
The actress who made one of her earliest film appearances in 1993’s Menace II Society also conceived the comic book Menace, a production of Rob Liefeld’s Awesome Studios that told the story of… yeah, I don’t really need to give you much more detail than that, do I? Suffice to say, it lasted only one issue, features every Liefeldian trademark you can think of, and probably represents the closest Liefeld ever got to Hollywood. This blogger did a very funny takedown of the book, complete with images of the interior art that must be seen to be believed, so go check it out.
21. Brian Posehn
The actor and comedian with a slew of TV and film credits (including many appearances on Mr. Show with Bob and David) lets his love of comics and metal music shine through in his work. In 2006, he co-wrote The Last Christmas, a fun mini-series about a slightly mad Santa’s survival in a post-apocalyptic world; he returned to the “last crazy guy standing” motif with co-writing duties on an ongoing Deadpool series for Marvel in 2012. Oh, and he also did a story for Treehouse of Horror, which I’m starting to suspect is what every self-identified geek in Hollywood is required to do sooner or later.
22. William Shatner
The man, the legend, the guy who found a way to tell his nerdiest fans to “Get a life!” and ended up more beloved by them for it — it’s hard not to love the guy. When he wasn’t busy playing Captain Kirk, writing novels, breeding horses or adding some pizzazz to Canada’s national anthem, Shatner penned the TekWar series of sci-fi novels, which was later adapted into a video game, TV show and comics. The 1992 comic series, TekWorld, was written by Shatner’s ghost writer, Ron Goulart; in 2009, Bluewater Productions released TekWar Chronicles, with scripts by Shatner and writer Scott Davis. To the best of my knowledge, Shatner has not written a Star Trek comic, but his Star Trek novel Ashes of Eden was adapted into a comic in 1995.
23. Gene Simmons
Marvel writer Steve Gerber convinced a reluctant Marvel to publish a black-and-white KISS story under its Marvel Super Special banner in 1977; a sequel was ordered up when the first issue smashed sales records. The band appeared in a few limited-run series and specials with a few publishers over the years; Simmons, an avowed comic and sci-fi fan, moved from comic star to comic producer in 2007, creating characters and plotlines for his own line of limited-run comics with such titles as Zipper, Dominatrix and House of Horrors. Fun fact: his son, Nick, wrote his own comic, Incarnate, which the family promoted on their reality show titled, er, Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels. Classy.
24. Kevin Smith
This is probably the least surprising name on this list; the director of Clerks and Mallrats is also owner of Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, a New Jersey comic shop, and he’s made no secret of his love of comics and superheroes. His first forays into comics were books based on characters from his movies; by the time he was tapped to write the first eight issues of the new Daredevil comic in 1999, he had already won a Harvey Award for Best New Talent. He followed that with a 15-issue run on a relaunched Green Arrow, then stints on Batman and Spider-Man titles, as well as scripts for Dynamite’s The Bionic Man, a 2011 series based on a rejected film script Smith wrote up for the 1970s action hero (“more like a comic book than a movie,” said a Universal executive, probably right before all the movies turned into comic books).
25. Milo Ventimiglia
The actor most TV watchers would recognize as that guy from Gilmore Girls or as the suitably alliterative Peter Petrelli from Heroes is also credited with co-writing 2008’s Rest, a series about a white-collar New Yorker who becomes addicted to a drug that prevents him from falling asleep. Funny, I thought that was called “having kids” (rimshot!).
26-27. The Wachowski Brothers
The dynamic directing duo best known for the Matrix trilogy wrote comic stories for Marvel’s Clive Barker’s Hellraiser and Ectokid before hitting it big in Hollywood. Following their film success, they co-penned Doc Frankenstein and Shaolin Cowboy, titles they released under their own imprint, Burlyman Entertainment.
28. Gerard Way
First finding fame as the lead singer for alt-rock band My Chemical Romance, Way initially sought a career as an artist in New York City and credits 9/11 for making him see that he had to “get out of the basement” and experience life. That desire led to a songwriting and musical career with his band, which announced its break-up in early 2013. In 2007, he started writing Dark Horse’s The Umbrella Academy, a critically acclaimed series about a group of disbanded heroes who reunite after the death of their adoptive father.
29-31. The Wayans Brothers
The comedy family behind TV’s In Living Color and the Scary Movie franchise brought their lampooning sense of humor to comics with Super Bad James Dynomite, a 2005 series co-written by brothers Marlon, Shawn and Keenan Ivory. The title character, a former cop who is “the coolest cat in New York,” is based on Marlon’s appearance, and draws heavily from film’s blaxploitation era for laughs. No surprise, it was optioned in 2007, though if it ever got made into a movie I haven’t heard of it.
32. Joss Whedon
The guy behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly and The Avengers is probably a little busy these days to do much in the way of comic writing, but that’s totally okay. Along with producing many fine hours of televised entertainment for our pleasure, Whedon has written the “Gifted” storyline from Marvel’s Astonishing X-Men, much of which ended up in the plot for the third X-Men movie. He has also (no surprise) contributed to several comic stories set in the Buffy and Firefly universes and even had a brief but enjoyable stint on Marvel’s Runaways after series creator Brian K. Vaughan left the title. Asking him to do any more than that might push back the date of the next Avengers movie (ULTRON! YES!), so everyone just give him space to do his thing, ‘k?
33. Rob Zombie
Born Robert Cummings, Zombie first rose to prominence as lead vocalist for heavy-metal band White Zombie in the 1980s, but he’s since branched out into directing, acting and (no surprise) the occasional comic-writing gig. Rarely straying far from the over-the-top excess that’s become his trademark, he’s worked on such titles as Spookshow International, The Nail, Bigfoot, Whatever Happened to Baron Von Shock? and The Haunted World of El Superbeasto, which he turned into an animated film in 2009.
34+. Various actors in the Star Trek franchise
As I said earlier, to the best of my knowledge William Shatner has yet to write a comic set in the Star Trek universe, but that hasn’t stopped a few other actors in the Trek franchise from taking a crack at it. As I noted in a previous list, a handful of Trek alumni have lent their literary talents to various Trek comics over the years, including Walter “Chekov” Koenig, Wil “Wesley Crusher” Wheaton and Jon “Q” de Lancie. Would it be a little too geeky of me to say I’m glad that someone in the comic business told them to “make it so” and “engage” readers with their stories? It would? Okay, I’ll… I’ll just show myself out.