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Creator / Christopher Priest (comics)

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Christopher James Priest (born James Christopher Owsley, June 30, 1961), is a comic book writer. He's famous mostly for things that have very little to do with his comics (namely, his race and various inter-office pissing contests), which is a shame, because as far as the people who read his work are concerned, he may be one of the very best the industry has ever seen.

He first came to fame as a writer and editor on Spider-Man, a position he took at the age of 22 and according to him, was something that in retrospect should never have been given to him. He often clashed with regular writers like Tom Defalco and others but Peter David credits him for taking chances and encouraging more realistic stories, such as "The Death of Jean Dewolff". Priest also wrote the famous Spider-Man vs. Wolverine #1 one-shot which among things is known for featuring, controversially, a scene where Spider-Man accidentally kills someone, as well as for being the first time that the caption at the end of Amazing Fantasy #15 was mainlined into the pages, when Peter says that his Uncle told him "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility", which subsequently has become a permanent part of Spidey's mythos.

His most famous works are Quantum and Woody (about two dysfunctional best friends turned superheroes), Power Man And Iron Fist (about two dysfunctional superheroes turned best friends), The Ray (which was Invincible ten years before Invincible, only with lots more Time Travel and Gambitting), and perhaps most famously, his Black Panther relaunch, considered by many (if not most) fans to be the definitive take on Panther, and is largely credited with legitimizing the character beyond being "that black guy in the back of the Avengers team photos".

He also worked on Deadpool, Steel, Justice League Task Force, other books in the '90s Valiant universe (particularly Solar and the aforementioned Quantum and Woody), and other, less popular/successful characters and teams (including his doomed-from-the-starting-gate epic, The Crew.) He never really got a crack at writing Batman, Superman, or any other A-list character. Reports of how bitter (or not) he was over this vary. While a lot of his fans like to claim racism is responsible, Priest himself has always taken the high road, focusing more on just exactly how difficult it is to truly break through in the industry, particularly if your first or second project isn't an enormous success, and the tendency of DC and Marvel to give their flagship books to flagship talent.

In a neat bit of irony, when he returned to comics in 2016 to write Deathstroke, he was a flagship talent, even garnering an Eisner nomination. As a result, in 2017 DC made him the main writer for Justice League until the Justice League: No Justice anyway.

He's been a notorious victim and/or perpetrator of Executive Meddling.

His work is known for non-linear storytelling, snark, meta-commentary, snark, deconstruction of the genre, snark, subtlety, snark, verbosity, snark, pith, snark, character driven plots, and snark. Or, if you prefer, Anachronic Order, World of Snark, Lampshade Hanging, Leaning on the Fourth Wall, Sarcasm Mode, Deconstructive Parody, The Snark Knight, Vitriolic Best Buds, Wall of Text, Deadpan Snarker, Wham Line, Snark-to-Snark Combat, Character Development, and Better than a Bare Bulb.

The absolute king of the Beat Panel.

His more recent works include Deathstroke and Justice League for DC Rebirth, as well as Inhumans: Once and Future Kings for Marvel. Currently, he's writing a run on Vampirella and a five-issue U.S. Agent mini-series.

For the British science fiction novelist, see Christopher Priest (novelist).

Tropes associated with Christopher Priest:

  • Affably Evil: A lot of Panther's foes fall into this, as does Vandal Savage.
  • Affectionate Parody: Quantum and Woody is this to superhero comics in general.
  • Affirmative-Action Legacy: Played straight occasionally, but mostly played with. For example, (white) Everett K. Ross is forced to briefly assume the mantle of the Black Panther.
  • All There in the Manual: His website functions as this for a lot of his work that was either unfinished or changed on account of Executive Meddling.
  • Alternate Company Equivalent: Marvel's Sentry is basically Triumph, minus all the flaws and conflicts that make Triumph interesting. This was apparently an improvement, as Sentry was a much, MUCH more popular character than Triumph.
    • Priest's self-published superhero novella series 1999 features a couple of characters that should be instantly familiar to fans of his comics work, including Even Dwyer, who's a lot like Kasper Cole.
  • Anti-Villain: About half of Panther's rogues gallery. Also Vandal Savage.
  • Author Filibuster: Mostly averts this. His works frequently comment on race, poverty, international politics, gender, and a multitude of other issues but he manages to keep it from ever feeling like a lecture. He wrote a whole issue focused on American gun violence during his Deathstroke run that explores the complexity of the problem with far greater nuance than most other writers could manage.
  • Bash Brothers: Power Man and Iron Fist. To a lesser extent, Triumph and Ray or Quantum and Woody.
    • Panther's Dora Milage are Bash Sisters.
  • Batman Gambit: Villains like to try this on Panther. It never, ever works. Triumph likes to try this on bad guys. It works occasionally.
  • Beat Panel: Arguably the Trope Codifier for modern comics.
  • Because Destiny Says So: Used a lot to manipulate Ray but never actually true.
  • Better than a Bare Bulb: Constantly, especially in Quantum and Woody, Deadpool, and Black Panther.
  • Betty and Veronica: Done in The Ray, with Jenny as Betty and Black Canary as Veronica.
    • And again in Panther, with Monica Lynne as the Betty and Storm as the Veronica.
    • Came up a second time in Ray, with Jazz as the Betty and Gaelon as the Veronica.
    • Gender flipped in Quantum and Woody. Quantum was Betty, Woody was Veronica, and Amy Fishbein was Archie.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Lobo learns this the hard way with Ray.
  • Breaking Speech: Death Masque loves giving these, but they come off kind of forced. Vandal Savage, on the other hand, is a pro.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Deadpool, even moreso than usual. To elaborate, in his first Deadpool story, Deadpool is admitted to a retirement community, in which all the other residents are the protagonists of other Priest titles which had been cancelled. They assure Deadpool that he'll be cancelled as well. Priest's run ends with Deadpool murdering Priest and throwing his body in a tar pit, accompanied by the cheers of all of Priest's old characters.
    • The same run also included repeated references by both Deadpool and Loki along the lines of "None of this is really happening... there is a man... with a typerwriter."
  • Brick Joke: Occasionally.
  • Butt-Monkey: Triumph. Love him or hate him, the guy gets screwed over more than just about anybody else in comics.
    • To elaborate: Would have been, basically, what Superman became (Earth's most famous/recognized hero), only his first mission (during which he founded the JLA) went wrong and he was kicked out of the timestream. Ten years later, he comes back, having missed ten years of his life and relationships, only nobody remembers him. His old teammates are Earth's mightiest heroes, while he's relegated to, essentially, the training team. Then he gets his back broken. Then, tired of having his authority challenged, his team leader (and former subordinate), Martian Manhunter, beats him to within an inch of his life and fires him from the team, effectively isolating him from his only friends in the world (Ray and Gypsy, whom he essentially considered family). Then the Devil shows up. THEN Triumph swallows his pride, and apologizes to J'onn, who still won't let him back on the team. Triumph is about to sell his soul, but Ray and Gypsy show up, tell him how much they care about him, and it looks like a happy ending... until Ray accidentally sells Triumph's soul, which has the side effect of removing his powers and erasing him from history AGAIN.
    • Later writers made it even worse, particularly Grant Morrison, who implied that an unseen adventure into the microverse left Triumph with permanently reduced... powers.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: Priest LOVES this trope.
    • In The Crew, the Call knows where you live, and will show up there with a couple of dangerous renegade superheroes in tow.
    • In Black Panther, the Call dresses up in a kitty suit and runs the most powerful country in the world. And will come and get you, even if you get reassigned to Antarctica. Even if you'd rather stay in Antarctica.
      • It was a really hard decision.
    • In The Ray, the Call knows where you live, and will lie to you about who you are, who your parents are, and which parents (fake or otherwise) are dead or alive. Also, there is another Call who not only knows where you live, but will threaten and/or murder your loved ones until you answer it. And that Call is coming from inside the house.
    • In Quantum and Woody, the Call will force you to live within 12 hours of the person who annoys you most in the world, or else you die.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Poor Ray has to do this every other issue or so. It's rarely effective.
    • Woody tries to do this to his father, but it doesn't quite work.
  • Character Development: Turned Black Panther from the token black guy in the Avengers into, basically, Marvel's Batman, only smarter and cooler. And he did it without messing with continuity or throwing established characterization under the bus.
    • Triumph's journey was fascinating, and ultimately turned him into a very deep and relatable (still flawed) character.
  • Companion Cube: Achebe's hand-puppet, Daki. Woody's guitar.
  • The Cowl: A running theme in Priest's work is that it's basically impossible to actually be this. Quantum tries, but can't quite pull it off. Panther seems to, but deep down is one of the most caring and compassionate men on the planet.
  • Creator Thumbprint: At least as of his Black Panther run and onwards in other comics, he likes to use Title In panels with black backgrounds and white letters with the same font.
  • Darker and Edgier: His truncated run as Spider-Man editor tried to push the line in this direction, most famously with the "Death of Jean Dewolff" storyline.
  • Death by Origin Story: Occasionally, most famously with Quantum and Woody's fathers. Memorably played with and eventually averted in The Ray.
  • Die for Our Ship: Malice attempts to enact this in-universe.
  • "Die Hard" on an X: Priest pitched, described, and wrote his Deadpool run as "Seinfeld with supervillains".
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Happened to Mystek, as Priest didn't want other writers screwing up the character's backstory.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Quantum has this bad for Amy Fishbein. Ray has it for Black Canary. Kasper has it for Okoye. You get the idea.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The story "Ray gets shot in the head."
  • Expy: The Red Lion from his Deathstroke run is basically Black Panther if T'Challa were a violent warlord-dictator rather than a superhero.
  • Femme Fatale: Malice. Tempest (the one from Ray, not the one from Quantum And Woody). Malice. Titania (spoiler: actually Copycat). Malice. Fang. Malice. Have we mentioned Malice yet?
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Everett K. Ross is the narrator for most of the Black Panther works, which have superhero Black Panther as the main character.
  • First-Person Smartass: Ross from Black Panther.
  • Five-Man Band: Justice League Task Force
  • "Freaky Friday" Flip: Happens in both Quantum and Woody and Black Panther.
  • Gambit Pileup:
    • Most Black Panther stories, and a lot of the Justice League Task Force stuff. Quantum usually thinks this is going on, but he's never right.
    • The Crew has a decently epic one, as well, although we never really get to see it play all the way out on account of the book being too good to last.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: A trend in his works is that, rather than swear (or even Symbol Swearing) characters will use euphemisms in their place. In the latter end of his Black Panther run, New York City Police officers all repeatedly say "spit" instead of "shit", which at first could be mistaken for NYC police slang, but then you notice that characters in his Justice League work say it, too, along with "Blast it", "azz", and other similar euphemisms.
  • Happy Dance: Ray does a memorable impersonation of James Brown, accompanied by hard-light constructs to facilitate Brown's "cloak" bit, across the Washington skyline after bedding Black Canary.
  • He's Back!: Priest returned in 2014 for a Quantum and Woody miniseries, subsequently going on to do a Deathstroke ongoing in 2016.
  • Hope Spot: Ray gets one of these every once in a while. They never last.
  • Invincible Hero: Priest gave Ray a really, really versatile and diverse power set, and avoided this problem by giving Ray problems that couldn't just be solved with a fight scene, and focusing on his inexperience and doubts. Part of the reason other writers very rarely use Ray, or conveniently forget half his powers, is because he's no longer inexperienced and it's hard to consistently come up with problems that can challenge somebody at Ray's power level.
  • Jerkass: Loads, but ESPECIALLY Triumph. Woody also qualifies (but mostly only to Quantum).
    • Most of the cast of Deathstroke are awful people at the very least, title character included.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Triumph eventually ends up as one of these. It's played with a bit, as his cynicism and snark sometimes alienates him from other heroes, to the extent of making them less effective as a team.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Often, in everything, but especially in Black Panther and Quantum and Woody.
  • Lawful Stupid: What Ross thinks of Wakandan customs and tribal laws that let things like Killmonger becoming Black Panther happen.
  • Legacy Character: Ray, Kasper Cole (for two different legacies), Steel (kinda), the second Woody, Killmonger (kinda).
  • Let's You and Him Fight: Uses this one a lot, particularly in Black Panther and The Ray. Ray is particularly guilty of it, as the first issue of his second series ends with him killing Superboy.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Oh boy. Black Panther, Triumph, Vandal Savage, White Wolf, Achebe, Killmonger, Happy Terrill, Neron, Woody (but only to Quantum), War Machine, Triage, Blackjack, Death Masque, Loki...
  • Mighty Whitey: Subverted masterfully to create the Panther villain White Wolf.
  • Mistaken for Gay: "We're not a couple!"
  • Noble Demon: Much of the drama in later issues of The Ray comes from the question of whether Vandal Savage is this, pure evil, or an Anti-Villain. All of the above.
  • No Holds Barred Beat Down: Triumph takes one so severe that it breaks his back. Kasper Cole takes one from Killmonger.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Henry Peter Gyrich is the Government, Mister!
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Death Masque to Ray, White Wolf to Black Panther, Killmonger to Black Panther, Man-Ape to Black Panther...
  • Only One Name: On occasion, he'll be credited simply as "Priest".
  • Phlebotinum Overload: A constant concern in Quantum and Woody. Comes up occasionally in The Ray as well.
  • The Plan: Black Panther and most his enemies LOVE these. Vandal Savage in his DC work is as good as anybody. Triumph (from Justice League Task Force) thinks he's good at these, and he's right... sometimes.
  • Put on a Bus: At one point, Queen Divine Justice literally puts The Incredible Hulk on a bus to get him out of the story.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Triumph's whole character concept is this, only nobody remembers him... but they should.
  • Running Gag: Constantly.
    • We're not a couple!
    • Master Planner/Tuna Sandwich.
    • I was assigned to watch the Black Panther for four days. Four days. That was X years ago.
    • There is a man... with a typewriter.
  • Screw Destiny: Queen Divine Justice tries, and fails, to get out of her role as a member of the Dora Milaje.
  • Self-Deprecation: In one of the last issues of his original run of Quantum & Woody, several pages are devoted to a comic book Eric happens to read, which is a blatant parody of Priest's Black Panther run, right down to making fun of his own creative tics.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Ray finds himself having to do this a lot.
  • Stable Time Loop: Ray is responsible for his own father's becoming a superhero and passing his powers on to his son. There's another, more complicated one involving Gaelon as well.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Galleon to Ray... because she's his girlfriend from the future, come back in time to make sure he doesn't turn into an evil jerk.
    • Quantum to Amy Fishbein.
  • Status Quo Is God: Priest went out of his way to avert this whenever possible, whether he was changing the origin of the Justice League, or killing off his own main characters. Or making one of them look like Tom Cruise against his will.
  • Stealth Parody: Did it to himself, scripting a Quantum and Woody story that spoofed Black Panther.
  • Strangled by the Red String: This seems to be about to happen to Ray and Gaelon (in-universe) thanks to Gaelon messing around with time travel, but the book got cancelled before the plot could be resolved, so we don't know.
  • Take That Me: Woody at one point reads, and eviscerates, an issue of Black Panther.
  • Techno Babble: Constantly, especially in books involving Triumph, Ray, or Black Panther.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: Both The Ray and Black Panther had a lot of super-complicated time travel that mostly makes sense. Mostly.
    • There IS a letter that never gets written in Ray. It's given to him by Gaelon in the future, then he delivers it to her in the present, then she delivers it to him in the future, etc. It's even explicitly stated that it's in his handwriting.
    • Triumph's relationship to time and paradoxes is just an unholy mess altogether, and it only got worse after Priest stopped writing him. Eventually, somebody wrote a story that pretty much said "Time and Triumph don't get along, and his continuity is pretty much fluid because of it." Weirdly, they bothered to do this about ten years after he stopped appearing in anything.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Power Man And Iron Fist, Captain America & The Falcon, Quantum and Woody, Quantum and the other Woody, Ray and Triumph, Deadpool and Constrictor... Priest likes this trope.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: In The Ray.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Neron likes to pull this. It ALMOST works on Triumph.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: There's an AMAZING Justice League Task Force story that does this with Dracula of all things.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Happens occasionally in Priest works. This possibility is brought up repeatedly with regards to Triumph, though it never reaches fruition under Priest. Grant Morrison eventually picked up the plot thread, though.
  • Wretched Hive:
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Quantum, almost constantly. Triumph, even more often than that.
    • Ray's whole character is basically this, as he was locked in his apartment for the first eighteen years of his life, and just about everything he knows about the world he learned from watching TV.