Friday, March 17, 2006

Writers don't matter

At least for the majority of superhero books. I was thinking about this while reading the One Year Later Nightwing. It struck me how it didn't really matter who was writing this book, the direction was laid out and the writer did little more than add word balloons to the artist's pictures.

Isn't that true for a lot of these books? The editor is really the one telling the story and the writers seem to be interchangable cogs. Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir fill in for Greg Rucka and it's not even noticeable. J.D. Finn, whoever he is, finishes for Chuck Austen and everyone thinks it's still Austen. The writers don't matter, no wonder they all want all these new-fangled special editorial positions.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Alan Moore might agree with you. He says as much in the Heidi interview.

Personally I think editorship (I won't say "editing", that's just the action, after all anybody can edit poorly) is a talent the same as writing or drawing is. Lotta talented people who were painfully matter-of-fact about it in the old days, "just businessmen" or something, they would've called themselves...but standards, I think, have dropped since then. Show me a knowledgeable editor now, a good editor, an experienced and talented editor who makes things better! Go on, show me just one! If they're good, we should know their names, shouldn't we? I can name lots of editors whose work I admire from before about 1990, but just about none from after that period. Maybe two or three. Maybe not even that many.

It's a problem.

3/18/2006 07:16:00 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

I don't think you're right in all cases. Certainly, at DC, it's been the editors (and the Unholy Three) who have been driving the stories for the last couple years, but that's more the effect of the Gigondonormous Crossover Syndrome than anything else; I suspect the pendulum there will swing back to the writers' side post-OYL.

Really, it's a give and take thing; sometimes the writer comes up with the idea full-bore and the editor says "That's friggin' great!"; sometimes the editor tells the writer there's this crossover going on and the writer sees an story opportunity for the character; and sometimes the editor calls the writer and says "Your part in the crossover is to get Detective Chimp and Firehawk to have sex. Get me a five-issue outline by Friday."

Bottom line being, if you think any day working in comics is exactly like the next, I laugh at you. Ha ha. There, me laughing.

And I don't think it's any sinister secret why a writer would prefer an "editorial consultant" gig: They do pretty much the same work, but it's a salaried position with benefits. Same reason creators like signing those exclusive deals: "It's the money, stupid."

3/18/2006 09:38:00 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

And also, it goes without saying that the amount of power you carry as a writer is directly proportional to how big a name you are. Who's writing Nightwing now? I can't even remember. Yeah, that guy probably has to play ball to get his paycheck. Welcome to the jungle.

3/18/2006 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger Aditya Bidikar said...

I kinda noticed this in Countdown to Infinite Crisis (I hope I'm right). There were three writers, and I only noticed that when I tried to find who wrote it. It turned out pretty good, though.

3/19/2006 02:41:00 AM  
Blogger Avi said...

I disagree. Look at series like Y: The Last Man or Infinite Crisis. The writers may have input from the editors, but it is the writers that shape everything into a coherent whole, and put their own spin on things. If Y was written in a homogenous way, it would not have the appeal it does. Writer Brian K. Vaughan is a fan favorite because of his unique writing style.

3/20/2006 11:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Overworm said...

Of course writers matter, if by "writers" you include plotters. It's just that with mainstream comics often seem like they are plotted by the editor.

The editor has a vision for where he wants the storyline to go for the next year. The editor lines up a writer and artist he feels are suitable to carry out his vision. He reviews the writer's work to ensure said vision is being carried out properly before passing on the script to the artist.

That's why I've largely given up on franchise characters. After reading comics for 30 years, I simply don't care to read the latest roster change in the Avengers. I don't really care if Clark Kent has shared his secret identity with Lois, married Lois, or is screwing Lois' cousin from Gotham. Who cares about the latest teen who joining the cast at the OC ... er, X-Men. And really, who can keep up with all the reboots to the Legion???

Where the actual writer still matters are in the non-mainstream comics. That includes most Vertigo titles. That includes most independent comics, even most of the spandex ones.

If you want truly original work that emanates from a writer's heart, seek it. If you want an editor's vision of what a top-10 comic should look like, read one of the long-running characters from the major companies.

3/21/2006 11:57:00 AM  
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Blogger Angela Dixon said...

I really like your writing style. Such a nice Post, Can’t wait for the next one.

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