Comics creators – Mike Carey

This is the first in what will hopefully become a feature on this blog – an appreciation of some of the finest writers in comics. I figured a good place to start would be one of the most under appreciated writers in the field – British writer Mike Carey.

Carey writes two ongoing series for DC's Vertigo imprint. Both are spinoffs, and may well be the best spinoffs ever.

The first was Carey's first series for a major US publisher. Lucifer is one of many, many, many Sandman spinoffs and offshoots. But it is the only one which is ongoing, and certainly the only one that is destined to become a classic. In Gaiman's series Sandman, Lucifer quits his job as lord of hell and turns over the keys. Lucifer explores what he does after that, and it is a huge story, with gods and angels and great forces at work, but also with some excellent "regular" characters. The series has one major Achilles heel – the first few issues, collected as the first trade paperback collection, Lucifer: Devil in the Gateway, aren't very good. They're not horrible, but they're a bit muddled, and certainly not brilliant. This makes Lucifer a really hard sell. If you're an honest shop owner, you basically have to tell your costumer: "Buy this, it isn't very good, but it gets amazingly better, and you HAVE to read this to understand what comes later."

And it does get amazingly better. It IS worth spending your time and money on a mediocre collection, because the overall story (which still isn't finished) is staggeringly good. It's certainly the best fantasy comic I read, and I would say it's the best American fantasy comic on the marker (I don't really read manga, but Raz may comment on what he feels to be the best fantasy comicbook out there, and I know it won't be an American one).

Carey's second ongoing is one he was handed after several illustrious names have had their runs. Hellblazer started out as a spinoff of Alan Moore's Swamp Thing, and has gone on to be the longest running Vertigo series by far (currently at 204 issues). Carey took over the series at issue #175, at the end of Brian Azzarello's controvesial run. He's been spending most of his time beating up on John Constantine, protagonist of Hellblazer and Vertigo's top anti-hero. It's been a very solid run, with some remarkable highlights (#200 was a brilliant issue). Recently, Carey wrote a Hellblazer OGN (original graphic novel) called Hellblazer: All His Engines, which showed that he definitely CAN write a strong Constantine. IMO, AHE has been the highlight of Carey's involvement with the character (and reading it was the incentive to writing this post). I certainly look forward to seeing the character be written this strongly in the ongoing series.

Last year, Carey took a break from the gloom of Constantine and the epic drama of Lucifer, and wrote a three part mini-series, My Faith in Frankie, which was a romantic comedy, with demons, a dead guy, and a god with one follower. This was a delightful series (and is a delightful tpb), which showed Carey can bring the funny as well as the scary and epic. The story of Frankie and her personal god Jerivan is funny, warm hearted, and very recommended.

One thing Carey can't seem to do as well as fantasy and horror is straight superhero fiction. He recently wrote a mini series for Marvel, set in Marvel's Ultimate universe, called Ultimate Elektra. It was better than Marvel's previous series, Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra, but was still nothing more than ok. Much like Fables writer Bill Willingham, Carey seems to be much better at writing Vertigo style fantasy than "regular" superhero stuff.

Carey was scheduled to start writing another superhero book, Wetworks, for DC's Wildstorm imprint, but I haven't heard anything about that in a while, so it's possible that it was quietly cancelled. He also has a teen fantasy series set in Salem due from Marvel, an upcoming movie (currently in prepduction), and a book deal. This guy is definitly going places.

For more information about Mike Carey, you can read Matt Peckham's excellent Lucifer Morningstar blog.

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