Every week CBD’s Editor in Chief Pete DeCourcy asks the question and the crew (and special guests) give their answers, we’ll be doing this for 52 weeks. Tip of the hat goes to the gang at Scans_Daily for the inspiration.

Today’s Question: “Who is the most influential person in comics today?”

Scott VanderPloeg (writer of CBD’s Bound Together column; his ramblings can be found blogged at eBabble.)

Kim Thompson from Fantagraphics: his influence is everywhere but it’s just under the surface. He’s co-publisher at Fantagraphics plus he translates European works for other publishers. The books being produced are top quality from creators outside the North American mainstream: Love & Rockets, Prison Pit, Jason. As well their line of classic reprints is going full bore with the likes of Prince Valiant, Captain Easy and Peanuts. Take a look at the books in 2010 that garnered attention from outside the comics world and you’ll see Fantagraphics and Kim Thompson shining through.

Anthony Falcone (Writer of Whosoever Holds This Hammer)

As much as I am loathe to admit it, Brian Micheal Bendis and Geoff Johns get the tie for most influential today. Don’t get me wrong, they are great writers, but they have too much gravitas in the biz.

They both have the power of an editor in chief and have crafted the shape of Marvel and DC respectively, essentially by making large maxi-series big event story-telling a mainstay of the industry and the only thing that sells…

I have written about it before and I don’t like it, but they hold way more sway over the industry than whatever “great stuff” is going on over at Fantagraphics. Sorry Scotty but the creative minds that came up with Blackest Night and Secret Invasion trump the guy who reprinted Captain Easy.

Scott VanderPloeg: Come on Anthony, that’s a complete cop-out picking two: make a choice and justify it. And I think you reinforced my statement “under the surface”. Fantagraphics provides diversity in complete contrast to what’s happening at DC and Marvel: yes Bendis and Johns are influential at their respective companies but is that doing anything outside the fan-boy group?

Anthony Falcone:  Now we are getting into it. The choices that Marvel and DC make shape comic books far more than choices made a small press companies. To say otherwise is disingenuous. I support small press, but Marvel and DC have such market share that they dictate where the industry is going. Picking both is completely legitimate. They are the same being. The super-writer that has gained de-facto editorial control.

Scott VanderPloeg: Come on, that’s fanboy tunnel vision looking at the comics world from a superhero comic collecting perspective. The choices Marvel and DC make shape Marvel and DC superhero genre comics. Yes they’re the two largest comic book publishers in terms of comics published but if you look at the sales charts Scott Pilgrim is the best seller this year and Walking Dead is getting close. Small publishers are selling boatloads of books to people who have never been in a comic store: perhaps the most influential person in comics is Brian Lee O’Malley.

Picking both is tepid. Let me reiterate that the question this week asked “the most influential PERSON” not persons or type or personality or generic make up.

Anthony Falcone: No. It isn’t fanboy tunnel vision any more than your choice is artsy-hipster tunnel vision. Superhero comic books are comic books. We can talk about how it is a great medium that can do great things but it is primarily scantily clad men and women punching each other in the face.
My choice stands with both Bendis and Johns. Would it make you feel better if I give them a Hollywood couple name? BeJo? Jodis? I like Bejo. They shape the way that a story is told, piece by piece, arc by arc. Long, long big event books that can be packaged in pristine coffee table hardcovers. They have the most influence in superhero books. Superhero books are the majority of the industry. Therefore they have the most influence in comics today.
Brian Lee O’Malley and Robert Kirkman are influential in that their single property has hit it big, so we will see many copycats, but Bendis and Johns are shaping a super-hero pantheon.
I don’t like it. I wish that it were different, but that is how it is.
This is not a cheer-ocracy. I am the cheer-tator.

Peter DeCourcy (Editor in Chief)
I partially agree with both of you on this. If only because at this point Geoff Johns has transcended from comic book writer to comic book voice of his generation. It’s not often that we see a comic book writer become a quasi-household name, but Geoff Johns is on his way there. Working at the store I have more people come in asking for Geoff Johns stuff than any other creator – including Alan Moore and Frank Miller. If you’re reading DC Comics right now you are reading Geoff Johns’ blueprint for stories that either a. he is writing or b. he wants to read.

However – is he there right now? Not really. Maybe in a few years we’ll see if he transcends DC Comics – but there’s a limited shelf life for superhero comic creators. I mean, I think we all remember a time when John Byrne was the official voice of the spandex crowd and now he’s little more than a footnote.

Paul Levitz did more for comic books in the long run than either of the above mentioned writers. I think the most influential person is someone who is doing something to educate and expose comics as a viable medium than someone who is just writing a big Flash crossover.

I’ll toss off one other name into the ring: Robert Kirkman. I’m not a fan of his writing, and while his mission statement concerning creator owned work kinda, sorta fell flat. He seems to have inspired a whole generation of up and coming artist/writers who are using his template (genre fiction with a twist!) for what types of stories they plan on telling.

Time will tell.

Greg Hyland (Writer/illustrator of the cult classic Lethargic Lad as well as Lego Star Wars)

The as-of-yet unknown person at Marvel or DC that will finally decide to stop printing monthly comic books and make monthlies 100% digital that eventually all get collected in trade paperbacks.

Kevin Boyd (Director of the illustrious Joe Shuster Awards Committee)

Stan Lee remains our industry’s greatest and most influential name. His characters still dominate the sales charts, they star in major motion pictures, video games, etc. Stan’s name on mediocre books from smaller publishers give the titles a huge boost. Stan’s name at an event brings people in the door.. His presence in a room electrifies the comics people in it. Stan’s company was an asset purchased by Disney to enhance their Marvel purchase. He’s the go to guy when people in other industries come looking for a comics person to work on their project (such as the NHL) as his name on the project gets people to notice. No one currently at Marvel or DC or any other publisher these days has that kind of influence on the public or the community the way that Stan does.

Considering the declining sales the industry is facing these days I’d be hard pressed to consider anyone actively working within it to be that influential. Sure there are many creators and publishers I admire (for example, I think IDW is doing great things) but I’d be more inclined to choose as my backup Steve Jobs, as the Apple iPad is currently revolutionizing a new delivery system for reading (and creating) comics.

That’s it for this week.

Obviously this is a pretty touchy subject and there is no right or wrong answer. Feel free to sound off in the comments below!