MIKE GOLD: Look Who’s Writing Comics Now!
There’s an exciting new trend in comics these days. Comic book writers are actually being hired to write comic books.
Recently, we’ve seen guys like Jim Shooter taking on The Legion of Super-Heroes, Marv Wolfman on sundry Teen Titans and the newer-still Vigilante, Tony Isabella told me he’s got a full schedule of assignments and our own John Ostrander is writing the new Suicide Squad mini-series. Go figure.
We’ve gone through a fad of hiring novelists and movie writers and directors. Some of these folks have turned in some great stuff. Others, not so great. Most, not so on-time. There’s nothing wrong with this. In fact, back in 1981 I brought on a playwright named John Ostrander under the belief that his training and background would inure to the benefit of the medium. In all modesty, that was one of my better decisions, I think.
Since then, John’s gone on to become one of the top writers in the medium. I know this because he’s writing three or four major projects for ComicMix while juggling his Star Wars and DC commitments. That’s because John devoted his full resources to the craft of writing comic books. It shows.
Comic book writing is not a part-time job. It requires discipline, experience and skill. In order to make a career out of it and remain fresh and innovative, comic book writing requires thought and enormous effort. Novelists and movie folks do not have the time to prioritize this medium. Movie folks in particular have to turn down stupid money to write for this medium which, by the way, pays pretty well if you’re fully employed.
Stan Lee, bless him, made it sound so easy. Back in the day, he frequently said anybody could write comics. That’s true… if you happen to be Stan Lee. A great many writers of the 1950s went the other way, from comics to “Hollywood” (movies and teevee), seeking what was then greater stability, better compensation, and a stronger sense of legitimacy during a time when society put comics creators on par with child pornographers. By and large, most found their storytelling skills inhibited by the commercial demands of these media, and they returned to the comics world.
A half-century later, the tables have turned. The comics medium has greater legitimacy than ever before, and writers who grew up reading the efforts of the comics masters wanted to get a taste. Like I said, some of this stuff is great. But little of it is as good as the scripting coming from those who have devoted their lives and their livelihood to the craft.
Never one to shirk from strong comment, Shooter recently said he thought the quality of comic book art was at its height but the level of writing lagged seriously. True to form, he then jumped back into the fray. Good for him. Whereas I haven’t been a big Legion fan since I was about 10, I’m looking forward to seeing him put his money where his mouth is. Besides, the Legion hasn’t made sense since Crisis on Infinite Earths and its continuous reiterations turned its continuity into an M.C. Escher etching.
The comic book storytelling medium is a synthesis of words and pictures. Unlike illustrated fiction, one cannot survive without the other – even in stories without dialog. I welcome the efforts of the “outsiders,” but I treasure the commitment made by the full-time professionals.
Mike Gold is editor-in-chief of ComicMix. Yes, he would probably purchase a script from Martin Scorsese.