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A version of this story first appeared in the Dec. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
1. Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead
In its fifth season, AMC’s zombie hit, based on Kirkman’s long-running series, ranks No. 1 among the key adults 18-to-49 demographic. The 35-year-old’s other projects: a Dead companion series, likely a prequel, which is casting for 2015; a Cinemax adaptation of his exorcism title Outcast, with Patrick Fugit starring; adaptations of Thief of Thieves at AMC and Clone at Syfy; and Air, a sci-fi feature with Dead‘s Norman Reedus, at Sony Pictures Worldwide.
2. Geoff Johns, Justice League, Superman
With five TV series in production — NBC’s Constantine, Fox’s Gotham, and The CW’s Arrow, The Flash and iZombie (plus 10 movies in the works over the next six years), DC Entertainment’s 41-year-old chief creative officer, who also writes for the Justice League and Superman comics, is a very busy man. Richard Donner‘s former assistant says he stays focused on what’s important: “At the core, the DNA of the characters and the properties [TV and print] is the same — it has to be.”
3. Brian Michael Bendis, Ultimate Spider-Man
“Walking around the Powers sets was pretty freaky,” says Bendis of the series (co-owned with Michael Avon Oeming) debuting in December on PlayStation Plus. Bendis, 47, also has Alias, which Marvel is adapting as part of its five-series Netflix slate for 2015-16. While working on his first original series for Fox, he writes comics — from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy to his own Scarlet. “I love making TV, film and games, but comics is my lifelong passion,” he says.
4. Mark Millar, Kick-Ass, Civil War
The 44-year-old creator of Wanted, Kick-Ass and February 2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service believes in saying no: “Writers try to please too much, and it makes people take them for granted.” His 2015 slate includes the 2006 hit Civil War serving as the basis for the third Captain America movie, with recent deals for Starlight — about an aged space hero — and action-comedy Chrononauts proving Hollywood can look beyond the superhero.
5. Chris Claremont, Uncanny X-Men
For two decades, Claremont, 63, was the sole writer of Marvel’s best-selling Uncanny X-Men. The legend’s take on the characters remains at the core of Fox’s X-Men franchise. For Gambit, Fox sought a treatment from Claremont himself. His secret sauce? “You don’t have to play to the cliche of folks in skintight suits,” he says. “You can present conflicts and characters on personal levels meaningful to a mainstream audience.”
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