9 Celebrities Who Have Written Comic Books

Dia Dipasupil, Getty Images
Dia Dipasupil, Getty Images

A career onscreen or in music doesn't necessarily translate to talent with a pen, but the comic book industry is a great place for celebrities to indulge their creative ideas or cut their teeth as writers. Here are just a few of the names that have graced comic covers to the surprise of everyone.

1. MARK HAMILL

Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

If you don't know Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, you know him as the voice of the Joker from the DC Animated Universe. And if you don't know him from that, then you know him as the proprietor of one of the greatest Twitter feeds known to man. But if you don't know him from any of those place, you probably remember him as the guy who wrote The Black Pearl for Dark Horse.

2. RASHIDA JONES

Rashida Jones is a student of the Carrie Fisher school of being beloved onscreen, but doing far more behind the scenes than anyone realizes. The former Parks and Recreation star is a prolific screenwriter and editor who made her comic book debut with Frenemy of the State under the independent Oni Press label.

The story, which follows a CIA agent who uses the guise of a tabloid celebrity to complete her missions, was optioned for a movie deal by Universal in 2009. While Jones is on board to write the script, there's been no real development news on the project in the last decade.

3. AND 4. BILL HADER AND SETH MEYERS

Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

This Saturday Night Live dream team may have parted ways on television back in 2013, but they're remained good friends and regular collaborators. In 2009, the pair teamed up to make a Marvel one-shot, Spider-Man: The Short Halloween.

A riff on Batman: The Long Halloween, the story they wrote involved Spider-man being knocked out of commission in a Greenwich Village costume parade, leaving a drunk reveler in a Spider-man costume to take his place.

5. WILLIAM SHATNER

Even since Star Trek star ​William Shatner wrote the TekWar novels, he has made it a hobby to personally expand the franchise and universe through more books, television movies, a trading card game, and, yes, a comic book tie-in series that Shatner himself penned. It's about as crazy as a comic written by William Shatner sounds.

6. JOHN CLEESE

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If there's one thing that Brits do better than any other culture, it's cultural self-deprecation. The entire style of British comedy is based squarely on disillusionment with their own environment and an inability to take any of it all too seriously—an attitude that was clearly evident in the rambunctious lads from Monty Python.

John Cleese, a core member of the group, brought this style and sense of humor to Superman: True Brit, a comic that pondered what Superman might be like if his rocket had landed in the British countryside instead of rural Kansas. The result: Superman rarely uses his powers because "What would the neighbors think?"

7. KEVIN SMITH

Clerks creator Kevin ​Smith has never made a secret of his love of the comic world, which is part of what has helped him become a geek culture icon. Using both his celebrity status and legitimate writing talents, Smith has had a prolific career in comics both as a regular and guest writer.

The Fatman on Batman host's biggest accolades include Batman: The Widening Gyre, Batman '66 Meets the Green Hornet, and a slew of titles tying into his View Askewniverse including the fabled Bluntman and Chronic series.

8. GERARD WAY

Cory Schwartz, Getty Images

Gerard Way, former lead singer for My Chemical Romance, has had his hands in the comic book industry since 1993, when he was credited with the creation and writing of the short-lived On Raven's Wings. He wouldn't try his hand at the medium again until 2007, when he released the critically-acclaimed The Umbrella Academy series.

After his big break in the industry wheelhouse, Way has been courted by DC and Vertigo and, in 2014, began writing for Marvel's Edge of the Spider-Verse.

9. PHIL "CM PUNK" BROOKS

Phil "CM Punk" Brooks may have burned all his bridges with the WWE, but he's still one of the most accomplished and experienced wrestlers in the world. With professional wrestling essentially being live-action comics, it makes sense that he'd be able to translate his in-ring mic skills to a side job writing comics.

He penned 2015's Thor Annual #1, where Loki makes the God of Thunder wrestle Hulk in a luchador mask, and has continued to periodically partner with Marvel since.

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Design Safe/Designer Face Covers/Its All Goods
Design Safe/Designer Face Covers/Its All Goods

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How 8 Famous Writers Chose Their Pen Names

Comic book legend Stan Lee signs copies of his work.
Comic book legend Stan Lee signs copies of his work.
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

Some pen names are fairly well-known for what they are. Most people know that Mark Twain was the alias of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. The outing of Richard Bachman as a pen name used by Stephen King was well-publicized and inspired King’s novel, The Dark Half. But not all authors go by obvious aliases. Here’s the story behind how eight famous writers chose their pen names.

1. Lewis Carroll

While Lewis Carroll might sound delightfully British to American ears, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson is even more so. Dodgson adopted his pen name in 1856 because, according to the Lewis Carroll Society of North America, he was modest and wanted to maintain the privacy of his personal life. When letters addressed to Carroll arrived at Dodgson’s offices at Oxford, he would refuse them to maintain deniability. Dodgson came up with the alias by Latinizing Charles Lutwidge into Carolus Ludovicus, loosely Anglicizing that into Carroll Lewis, and then changing their order. His publisher chose it from a list of several possible pen names.

2. Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad, 1904.George Charles Beresford (1864–1938), Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski is a bit of a mouthful, and when the Polish-born novelist began publishing his writing in the late 1800s, he used an Anglicized version of his name: Joseph Conrad. He caught some flak for this from Polish intellectuals who thought he was disrespecting his homeland and heritage (it didn’t help that he became a British citizen and published in English), but Korzeniowski explained, “It is widely known that I am a Pole and that Józef Konrad are my two Christian names, the latter being used by me as a surname so that foreign mouths should not distort my real surname … It does not seem to me that I have been unfaithful to my country by having proved to the English that a gentleman from the Ukraine [Korzeniowski was an ethnic Pole born in formerly Polish territory that was controlled by Ukraine, and later the Russian Empire] can be as good a sailor as they, and has something to tell them in their own language.”

3. Pablo Neruda

Ricardo Eliecer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto had an interest in literature from a young age, but his father disapproved. When Basoalto began publishing his own poetry, he needed a byline that wouldn’t tip off his father, and chose Pablo Neruda in homage to the Czech poet Jan Neruda. Basoalto later adopted his pen name as his legal name.

4. Stan Lee

Stanley Martin Lieber got his start writing comic books, but hoped to one day graduate to more serious literary work and wanted to save his real name for that. He wrote the comics stuff under the pen name Stan Lee, and eventually took it as his legal name after achieving worldwide recognition as a comic book writer.

5. Ann Landers

Ann Landers was the pseudonym for several women who wrote the "Ask Ann Landers" column over the years. The name was created by the column’s original author, Ruth Crowley, who adopted it because she was already writing a newspaper column about child care and didn’t want readers confusing the two. She borrowed the name from a friend of her family, Bill Landers, and made an effort to keep her real identity a secret.

6. Voltaire

Voltaire had a fancy pen name and fancy hair.Workshop of Nicolas de Largillière (1656–1746), Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

When François-Marie Arouet was imprisoned in the Bastille in the early 1700s, he wrote a play. To signify his breaking away from his past, especially his family, he signed the work with the alias Voltaire. The name, the Voltaire Foundation explains, was derived from “Arouet, the younger.” He took his family name and the initial letters of le jeune—“Arouet l(e) j(eune)”—and anagrammed them. If you’re left scratching your head, the foundation helpfully points out that I and j, and u and v, were typographically interchangeable in Voltaire’s day.

7. George Orwell

When Eric Arthur Blair was getting ready to publish his first book, Down and Out in Paris and London, he decided to use a pen name so his family wouldn’t be embarrassed by his time in poverty. According to the Orwell Foundation, the name George Orwell is a mix of the name of the reigning monarch, King George VI, and that of a local river.

8. J.K. Rowling

Joanne Rowling’s publishers weren’t sure that the intended readers of the Harry Potter books—pre-adolescent boys—would read stories about wizards written by a woman, so they asked her to use her initials on the book instead of her full name. Rowling didn’t have a middle name, though, and had to borrow one from her grandmother Kathleen to get her pen name J.K. Rowling.