Sunday, December 26, 2004

Moving from other media into comics is a misunderstood transition

Now, basically, I believe that, if you're a good writer, you're just a good writer, no matter what the genre is.

However, I think people totally underestimate the difficulties of moving from one medium to another.

For instance, we do not automatically think each good screenwriter will be a good novelist, do we?

Or vice-versa.

Yet there seems to be this belief WITHIN THE INDUSTRY ITSELF that any good writer from another medium can just come in and write a good comic book.

Which I do not think is the case.

The whole "Mark Verheiden taking over Superman" is a great example of this thought process. Verheiden WROTE comics, for years! And he was never particularly acclaimed (I can barely remember his work, and I know that I read it...never a good sign)...but he has sucess as a screenwriter, and suddenly he's more capable as a comic book writer?

I don't buy it...and I think it marks a severe misunderstanding of the writing process of comic books compared to other media.

There ARE those that don't have trouble making the transition, like Whedon (who, even if you dislike his work, it is not for his inability to tell a story in comic format) and JMS, but for the most part, it seems to be a long transition before the writer is comfortable writing comics, and I guess I'd just like to see an understanding of that besides the current approach of "if you can write for TV, you can write a comic book!"


Blogger Michael said...

I suppose some of the thought behind this might be that they're both visual media, and that extensive TV/Film experience involves storyboarding, which is kinda like a comic. But you're right: it's not a transition everyone can make.

12/26/2004 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

"I don't buy it...and I think it marks a severe misunderstanding of the writing process of comic books compared to other media."

I disagree (frigging shock!). I think it's mostly evidence of a desire to attract attention-- at least with the name talent. However, there's also a good number of people in Hollywood who've always wanted to be comic writers. And if you're an editor, a phone call or pitch letter from an established pro in another writing-related field will catch your attention faster than one from a fry cook with a passion.

Breaking new talent is always a risk. Might as well hedge your bets a little.

12/27/2004 08:21:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Michael...I think it's a bit more than just a transition that some people can't make, but rather, I am more impressed when the person in question DOES make the translation.

Bob Gale did it, Sam Hamm didn't.

I don't think either Kevin Anderson or Stephen King have pulled it off.

Chris Kipiniak didn't, but Aguirre-Sacassa seems to have been able to make the transition (both playwrights).

I think Ron Zimmerman made great strides towards the end of his writing tenure at Marvel, because he DID learn the differences between comics and other media, something that most writers don't bother to do.

They almost look at it as "comics? yeah, I can write that."

But as you mention, screewriters (and playwrights) are both visual artists, but I think they all fall on the crutch that is the actor.

Get Kraven was almost IDENTICAL to Action, except it didn't have Jay Mohr to tell us when lines were jokes, etc.

And therefore, it was much worse.

That's something that JMS and Whedon have attuned to.

12/27/2004 08:53:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

James,I don't get it...what are you disagreeing with?

Do you think that screenwriters, playwrights and novelists do NOT have a harder time making the crossover into comics?

12/27/2004 08:55:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

Umm, sorry I wasn't clear. Okay, I understood "it marks a severe misunderstanding" to be refering to "this belief WITHIN THE INDUSTRY ITSELF". And what I meant was I don't believe anyone in the industry labors under that misunderstanding.

Not enough people so it'd matter anyway.

I think it's primarily a marketing thing-- get a name that'll make some people sit up.

The other reason I brought up was that editors have to pick from *some* group. So they're at least skipping several levels of crap by going with people who've proven they can write professionally-- even if it's in another field.

12/28/2004 12:26:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Ah...I see what you're saying now, James.

I think where I differ is that I remember Quesada speaking of Zimmerman when he first started, and using his success on Action as a specific reason as to why he would be a good comic book writer...but when the books came out, Zimmerman DIDN'T appear to be a good comic book writer (although I believe that he eventually got there, but by then, no one cared).

So I could only imagine that Quesada was basing his
"he's a good writer" stuff on the fact that he thought Zimmerman was a good screenwriter - and I think that misunderstands the nature of comic book writing.

12/28/2004 03:45:00 AM  

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