Writing for Comics – Successfully Making The Transition from Prose to Pow!

A favorite personal topic for debate is the employ of novelists and noted personalities for writing comics; Marvel, DC, Image, and Dark Horse have brought them in to mixed success. It would seem that some writers are more gifted when adapting to the challenges of the medium, while others apply a one-size-fits-all approach. A script is a script is a script, they think; a story for a comic is the same as a story for a book.

It isn’t surprising when they fail; it’s more surprising when they succeed.

The question is, why? A story is a story, and comics are close kindred to novels; shouldn’t there be a higher rate of crossover success?

The answer lies in how a writer approaches a script.

A published writer, tackling a comic for the first time, will struggle with the format. They should be used to aspects of visuality; after all, a principle of solid writing is “Show, don’t tell”. But comics are at the halfway point between novels and cinema; the writer must then become part cinematographer, and rely less on the text to carry things. Far, far less.

That brings us to the second potential problem: textual overload. I’ve written before on the proper synergy of word and image. I’ll say it again:

Don’t fight the images. Compliment them.

People will buy comics for the art when the writing is terrible; rarely is it the reverse. A former DC/Marvel editor who I’ve been corresponding with said -and I quote – “It’s really all in the service of memorable artwork.” If you want to be an effective comic writer, don’t overload your panels with text unless you can do it in a powerful, non-distracting fashion. Even when you think it’s absolutely necessary – take a step back. You know it’s not. There’s always another way.

So, in summary? You may have built the car, but you’re not the one in the driver’s seat. The artist is.

It’s your goal as a storyteller to make an impact, but it’s your job as a writer to make sure that car of yours holds up and lets them push the limits of what they can do.

-Ryan

Questions, Suggestions, and So On? E-Mail Me (RyterRyanAtGmailDotcom), or Tweet me!

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