Mount Rushmore.
Most know it as a big rock in South Dakota’s Black Hills with the unfinished busts of four significant U.S. presidents carved into its granite face. To some, like those who have actually visited the spot, it’s an overrated tourist attraction. To others, it’s used as a metaphor for greatness.

You may have overheard, or been in on, a conversation where a participant says something like, “LeBron James absolutely belongs on the NBA’s Mt. Rushmore,” or “The Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin, and The Who are the Mt. Rushmore of rock ‘n’ roll bands.” It’s basically an analogous way of naming your top four in a respective field, be it professional boxers, standup comics, NFL quarterbacks, Jamie Kennedy movies, what have you.

It’s also a futile purely subjective exercise, since there’s no true consensus on greatness in most fields. Statistics and championships mean a lot when comparing athletes, while awards and impact can sway opinion when debating entertainers. It can be a maddening endeavor to whittle a large number of incredible talents down to a measly four, but it can also be a fun one, or if nothing else, a good conversation starter.

Examples from the stupid Internet

Examples from the stupid Internet

This week I found myself pondering who would grace the Comic Book Mount Rushmore. My near-immediate next thought was, “Well, I’d have to split that into artists and writers.” Sure, there are dozens and dozens of folks who pull double duty some or all of the time, but I’d say most are identified with one craft more than the other. Either way, here I am with my two “Mount Rushmores” of the funny book industry.

Now, I’m personally of the mind that, when ranking creators, influence on both their successors and the direction of the medium means a ton. Barrier-breaking, trendsetting iconoclasts will get the nod over those who emulated them, even if an argument can be made that said emulators may have surpassed their predecessors. It’s why, say if I made a film directors list, I’d give John Ford the edge over Kurosawa, or Hitchcock a spot over Spielberg, because the latter of each cut their teeth mimicking the former.

With that rationale in mind, you’ll understand why modern masters such as Jim Lee and Geoff Johns aren’t represented here. Only time will tell if they, or any of their needle-moving contemporaries, should bump an all-time great out of the elite “fab four.”

Alright, let’s get to it.

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The Mount Rushmore of Comic Book Writers

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The faces, from left to right:

Stan Lee
Thanks in no small part to his cameo spots in more than 25 big screen adaptations of Marvel properties, all but two of which feature at least one character he had a hand in creating, Stan Lee is easily the most recognizable name and face in the industry. “Excelsior!”

Notable works and accolades
— Co-creations include Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, The X-Men, The Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Black Panther, and their respective arch-nemeses and worlds
— Figurehead of Marvel Comics for decades
— Challenge of the Comics Code Authority led to censorship reform
— National Medal of Arts recipient, 1984
— Producers Guild of America Vanguard Award recipient, 2011
— Will Eisner Comic Book Awards Hall of Fame inductee, 1994

Marv Wolfman
The man behind The New Teen Titans and John Carter: Warlord of Mars, Marv Wolfman was also instrumental in incorporating minority characters into the medium, and maybe just as important, minority characters who were NOT caricatures or stereotypes.

Notable works and Accolades
— Co-creations include Deathstroke, Lex Luthor, Nightwing, Tim Drake (Robin III), Cyborg, Starfire, Raven, Bullseye, Nova, Black Cat, Hannibal King, Blade
— Penned the epic DC crossover event “Crisis on Infinite Earths”
— Highly-regarded runs on Batman, Detective Comics, Daredevil, Tomb of Dracula
— Challenge of the Comics Code Authority led to writers receiving name credit
— Will Eisner Comic Book Awards Hall of Fame inductee, 2011

Roy Thomas
Thomas, who would later succeed Stan Lee as writer on The Amazing Spider-Man and X-Men and as Marvel’s editor-in-chief, resurrected many World War II-era characters for both Marvel and DC, and introduced Conan the Barbarian to comics.

Notable works and Accolades
— Co-creations include Vision, Ultron, Ghost Rider, Iron Fist, Carol Danvers, Banshee, Man-Thing, Morbius, Red Sonja, Doc Sampson, Adam Warlock
— Penned the “Kree-Skrull War” story arc during his memorable Avengers stint
— Long, highly-regarded runs on Doctor Strange, All-Star Squadron
— Launched Marvel titles like The Invaders, The Defenders, What If…?
— Will Eisner Comic Book Awards Hall of Fame inductee, 2011

Alan Moore
One of the most influential and decorated writers in any medium, Alan Moore may not be a household name, but you’re sure to have seen one of his legendary stories adapted to film in V for Vendetta, From Hell, Constantine, or Watchmen.

Notable works and Accolades
— Co-creations include John Constantine, V, Meggan, Promethea, Dr. Manhattan
— Definitive runs on Swamp Thing and Miracleman
— Penned the seminal Batman story “The Killing Joke”
— 9 time Eisner Award winner for ‘Best Writer’
— 7 time Harvey Award winner for ‘Best Writer’
— Will Eisner Comic Book Awards Hall of Fame inductee, 2014

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Before we move on to the artists, let me give an honorable mention to the immensely talented storytellers I left off my metaphorical rock. The handful who were duking it out for a spot get their own smaller monument, a “Mound Rushmore,” if you will. Those runner-ups are:

Chris Claremont  (The Uncanny X-Men, Excalibur)
Frank Miller  (Sin City, The Dark Knight Returns)
Len Wein  (Swamp Thing, Wolverine)
John Byrne  (The Fantastic Four, X-Men)


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The Mount Rushmore of Comic Book Artists

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The faces, from left to right:

Jack Kirby
The man behind the “Kirby Krackle,” Jack Kirby is regarded as one of the medium’s major innovators and among its most prolific and influential creators, developing countless A-list characters with the legends like Stan Lee and Joe Simon.

Notable works and accolades
— Co-creations include Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, The X-Men, Black Panther, The Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, S.H.I.E.L.D., The Inhumans, New Gods
— Drew iconic Marvel arcs like “The Galactus Trilogy,” “The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants”
— His style is arguably the most recognizable and mimicked in comic book history
— The Jack Kirby Awards and Jack Kirby Hall of Fame were named in his honor
— Will Eisner Comic Book Awards Hall of Fame inductee, 1987 (inaugural year)

Will Eisner
A pioneer of American comic books, Will Eisner continues to be an influential force on both the art and storytelling sides of the medium. Beyond popularizing the term “graphic novel,” his sequential layout style is still the standard for creators today.

Notable works and accolades
— Co-creations include The Spirit, Blackhawk, Uncle Sam, Black Condor
— Definitive run on The Spirit, noteworthy for its experimental content and form
— 7 time National Cartoonists Society Comic Book Award recipient
— Academy of Comic Book Arts Hall of Fame inductee, 1971
— Will Eisner Comic Book Awards named in his honor
— Will Eisner Comic Book Awards Hall of Fame inductee, 1987 (inaugural year)

Gil Kane
On top of successfully challenging the Comics Code Authority to update their content code, Gil Kane was an influential artist at the dawning of the “Silver Age” of comics, during which he helped redefine DC mainstays like Green Lantern and The Atom.

Notable works and accolades
— Co-creations include Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Guy Gardner, Sinestro, Carol Ferris, The Atom, Iron Fist, Tigra, Morbius
— Definitive runs on Green Lantern, The Amazing Spider-Man
— Drew famed Marvel story arc “The Night Gwen Stacy Died”
— 4 time National Cartoonists Society Comic Book Award recipient
— Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame inductee, 1997

Neal Adams
A longtime advocate for creator rights, name credits, and compensation, Neal Adams reinvented DC icons like Green Arrow, Two-Face, and Batman, taking the latter from campy to the dark and brooding detective as he’s known today.

Notable works and accolades
— Co-creations include Ra’s al Ghul, Man-Bat, John Stewart, Mockingbird, Merlyn
— Successfully lobbied for Superman creators Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster to receive a pension and due recognition
— Tackled controversial social issues like racism and drug abuse in mainstream titles
— Definitive runs on Batman, Detective Comics, X-Men
— Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame inductee, 1998

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Same deal as the writers, there were loads of great artists who did not make my big four. The top contenders who form my artist “Mound Rushmore” are:

Arthur Adams  (The Uncanny X-Men, X-Factor)
Steve Ditko  (The Amazing Spider-Man, Doctor Strange)
Jim Steranko  (Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Al Williamson  (Flash Gordon, Star Wars)


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Whew. That was a tougher exercise than I expected. Forgive me for not going gaga with the Photoshop and crudely pasting people’s mugs over the monument.

Before I go, I’d be remiss to not at least mention greats like Joe Simon, Carmine Infantino, John Buscema, Walt Simonson, John Romita Sr., Joe Kubert, Moebius, and Neil Gaiman as major players who were also considered. That said, I think I made a decent case for each of my picks, but if you feel someone got the shaft, let me know. And if you have your own Mount Rushmore of something—anything—feel free to share.

As always, gang, I thank you for taking the time.



And then, there’s this:

gljerk

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