Monday, January 02, 2006

Building Strong Writer Bones

I am a writer. (And an editor, which is really just a writer who can be pickier about assignments.) I write all kinds of things: reviews, articles, captions, headlines, screenplays, Christmas cards, occasionally thank-you notes and, now, blogs.

But the hardest thing I’ve ever written was a comic book.

See, I’ve been reading comic books for more than twenty years; ever since my father made the ill-conceived decision to buy me a Savage Sword of Conan comic, complete with gratuitous violence and mostly naked women. Since then, I’ve been a constant reader (not counting those four years in the early ‘90s when Marvel pissed me off and went X-Men fucknuts). And, like every constant reader who can’t draw, I wanted to write comics. Badly.

While I was working at Starlog magazine, it was sort of a given that the exit strategy was to go to DC Comics as a young editor. It had happened to the three people who’d previously held my job, so I figured it was only a matter of time til I got behind the walls that Superman built and was able to try my hand.

It never happened. (And, come to think of it, it was never adequately explained to me why.) So I took a job at a weekly entertainment magazine...let's call it Fun Periodically (so I don't get into too much trouble with the folks who sign my check. Hi guys!). Some consolation prize, I know.

When I came to FP, I found some like-minded brethren and eventually launched our comic book review section. Before long, I was dipping my piggies in the comic book professional pool: lunches and dinners with editors and publishers, drinks with artists and writers (including one night that would’ve made my high-school dweeb head explode, where I sat at a small restaurant table with Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, Bill Sienkewicz, and Kyle Baker), the heady smells of the San Diego Comic Con.

The more people I met, the more frequently I was asked the question: “So, ever think about writing comics?” And my answer was, invariably, “Yeah, since I was 12. But as long as I review them, I can’t write them.” Stupid professional ethics.

But last year I decided to make a change. Maybe it was fatherhood, maybe it was lethargy, maybe it was some misguided need for a challenge. Regardless, I stopped reviewing. And took up publisher Larry Young on his offer (as he was the first guy to ask me that question).

And quickly found out that writing comics is harder than it looks. Exponentially harder. In the words of screenwriter John Rogers: “nut-crushingly hard.” As my writing partner and longtime friend Adam (who has a similar history with comics) and I quickly learned, familiarity doesn’t breed facility.


Jodi Davis said...

Yeah for you - it's so hard to leave your comfort zone to do what you want to do.

Bill Cunningham said...

Welcome to the blogosphere. Wear a cup...

Drew Melbourne said...

Good luck, Marc! Hopefully you can expand on WHY comics are so hard to write in future entries. (I mean, I know why comics are hard for ME to write, but I'd be interested in hearing your perspective, coming from what seems like a mostly non-fiction, non-comics writing background.)

Anonymous said...

This reads like the intro to a much longer article. Maybe one that would answer the question: why would you expect writing comics to be easy?