Saturday, February 05, 2005

Is One Writing Method Better Than The Other?

On the kickass blog, Fanboy Rampage, Graeme links to the following interview with Alan Moore.

Among the things discussed in the interview is Alan Moore's disdain for the so-called "Marvel Method" of writing comic books, which allows for the writer to give a fairly undetailed plot to the artist, at which point, the artist draws the comic based on the plot, gives it back to the writer, and the writer scripts what the artist has drawn.

Moore, on the other hand, writes the full script method, where the writer basically tells the artist what to draw. Moore is known for being on of the most detailed writers in the business in this regard.

It is an interesting topic of discussion, so I put it to you folks, do you think either method is better than the other? If so, which one do you think is the better method?

The "Marvel Method," which allows for the artist to have more freedom in what to draw (and therefore, increases the amount of participation the artist has in controlling the story)?

Or the "Full Script Method," which allows the writer to express to the artist exactly what kind of ideas s/he is attempting to express in the work (and therefore, decreases the amount of participation the artist has in controlling the story)?

What do you folks think?

15 Comments:

Blogger Jake said...

Doesn't it entirely depend on who the artist is? I mean, the Marvel method was developed just because Stan Lee was writing so many comics, and he had absolute geniuses like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko to help him out.

If the writer has a really specific vision, the full script method is obviously preferred, but if the issue is basically a fight scene and you've got a really good artist, you should just let the artist run wild.

So, both have merits, but it just depends on how good of a storyteller the artist is. I wouldn't trust Chris Bachelo with the Marvel method, but I would trust Frank Quitely.

I don't have a favorite, both are good in certain conditions, but I think the writer should always use full script as a default.

2/05/2005 08:21:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Well, for starters, no one writes the way Stan Lee did anymore. (For that matter, Stan Lee never wrote the way Alan Moore thinks he did; I've seen reproductions of some of his plots, and he at least gave an outline of the entire story.) "Marvel Style," or "Plot First" scripting today is basically the writer giving the artist a rough outline, anywhere from "they do this for x pages, then this for y pages" to a panel-by-panel breakdown without specific angles or dialogue. And detail varies from writer to writer; one might write a panel as "Hulk punches Abomination, whose teeth go flying out of his mouth" and another might write it as "Close-up shot of Abomination's face as the Hulk's fist slams into it, knocking loose several bright green teeth." And the artist has a degree of creative freedom to play with the angles, decide what to make prominent in each shot, and so forth. So let's just make sure we all understand this.

Now, as to which is better, the obvious answer is: neither. It depends on the writer and artist, their relationship, personalities, and styles. Full script obviously works better for Moore's style of writing, and if sticking to that method means he keeps putting out work like Watchmen and LoEG, more power to him, but that's just one guy. Heck, I know of writers who use different methods on different projects. Of who've used different methods at different times in their careers.

Just because the Mona Lisa is oil on wood doesn't mean that's the only way to paint. Just because Bach's piano solos are brilliant doesn't mean that the piano is the only instrument worth playing. And just because Alan Moore, or anyone, writes full script doesn't mean that full script's the only way to go.

The best method is the one that allows the writer and artist to the best of their abilities. Period.

2/05/2005 08:40:00 PM  
Blogger Ali Choudhury said...

Full-script.

Marvel method just adds more stuff the artist has to think through.

2/05/2005 09:27:00 PM  
Blogger Ian C. said...

I think I tend to agree with Michael's comments. Both writer and artist would hopefully bring visions to a particular work, and should bring the best of their respective abilities to the book. From a full script, the artist would know what the writer has in mind. But perhaps the artist would have a different take on the material and bring his own thoughts to it. Ideally, where the ideas come together is where the really good material is created.

2/05/2005 10:46:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

"The best method is the one that allows the writer and artist to the best of their abilities."

To *tell the story* to the best of their abilities.

I swear, I don't typo much, but when I do, it's big.

2/05/2005 11:01:00 PM  
Blogger MarkAndrew said...

Michael >> (For that matter, Stan Lee never wrote the way Alan Moore thinks he did; I've seen reproductions of some of his plots, and he at least gave an outline of the entire story.)

Possibly true in *some* cases, absolutely not true in other cases.

There was a "Comics Journal" interview with John Romita Sr. (Who's about the biggest Stan Lee booster you can find.)

QUOTE******

I felt like a contributor, but I didn't plot the story from scratch. Stan would always come up with a thought. There were times when I got very little, and then built on it. There were times when we would have a 15-minute conference and we would be interrupted, and I would never get back to Stan and I would be stuck with a very skimpy concept that I would have to flesh out. Those are the ones the family did when we were in the car traveling, because I would have a beginning and an end but nothing in the middle. When Stan started to give Jack Kirby plotting credit --

****

And Gil Kane confims this, in a seperate Journal Interview...

*********
"Stan, on the other hand, would give you very little. I remember in this particular sequence that I think had to do with Gwen Stacy, he told me: 'I'd like you to draw a character like Broderick Crawford as the villain.' But that was about it. So I put together what I could from the material we had done before. I mean, there's a kind of continuity that gives you at least a direction for the material, from what preceded it.

"I'd build it up and bring it in, and he'd take a look at it: 'Yeah, yeah, yeah... Oh, geez, I don't like this at all.' And although I didn't say it to him, I'd think in my mind: 'Well, why the f*** don't you write it yourself? You're getting paid for it!'
**********

And, remember, John Romita and Gil Kane, *vastly* talented artists though they may be, were certainly not the creative geniuses that either Kirby or Ditko were.
And here we've got Stan Lee's comments in one of his more lucid phases...

*****
"I don't plot SPIDER-MAN anymore. Steve Ditko, the artist, has been doing the stories. I guess I'll leave him alone until sales start to slip. Since Spidey got so popular, Ditko thinks he's the genius of the world. We were arguing so much over plot lines, I told him to start making up his own stories. [...] He just drops off the finished pages with notes in the margins, and I fill in the dialogue."
*****

2/06/2005 04:40:00 PM  
Blogger Lyle said...

Overall, I think "the best" scripting method depends on how the writer/artist communicate. The "Marvel method" requires the comic book equvialent of completing each others sentences and can work with a duo that can find the right level of communication. Overall, it's a communication style in a collaborative work, so it varies by team.

2/06/2005 09:51:00 PM  
Blogger MarkAndrew said...

Michael>>>>Now, as to which is better, the obvious answer is: neither. It depends on the writer and artist, their relationship, personalities, and styles. Full script obviously works better for Moore's style of writing, and if sticking to that method means he keeps putting out work like Watchmen and LoEG, more power to him, but that's just one guy. Heck, I know of writers who use different methods on different projects. Of who've used different methods at different times in their careers.


....

Although I agree with the above completely.

2/07/2005 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger Joe Rice said...

Reality is never a strict duality. Answers shouldn't be either.

Also "poop."

2/08/2005 02:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you've got a shitty artist go full script, if an awesome artist let him play around and suggest some things. With this in view take in mind that most comic artists are shit. About the only artists I'd let fool around would be Neal Adams, Geoff Darrow, and Simon Bisley. Keep everyone else on a tight rein. Including Quitely.
(Refer to the silent issue of New X-Men he and Morrison did. The panel of Jean Grey going into Professor X's head and Xavier's dreamscape world were both shit.)

2/11/2005 11:09:00 AM  
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