Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Back to Comics - on and on and on...

Well, I think this blog peaked about two months ago with a readership of something like 5 people, its been downhill ever since. No complaining though, I continue undeterred as this is more for me and my thoughts than anything else (until Sam returns and we get the whole back and forth thing going again: Sam The Man is busy doing other things in the Big Smoke, but will return as and when work schedule permits I hope).

Wanting to break into the comics industry is -as with so many things in life - somewhat of an oxymoron. No-one wants to hire an unpublished writer, which somewhat limits ones opportunities to get published. The answer is: self publish. This is all well and good for a comic author, but if you are like me and you have less artistic ability than a mid-seizure epileptic who has run out of Temazepam, than you are going to need to find someone to handle the art chores.
This can really help speed things up if aforementioned artist has already broken into the industry, but if he hasn't, then all you are is a team of unproven commodities.

Finding the right artist for the right project is an art form unto itself; would Preacher have worked with John Bryne on art duties? Would anyone have bought Bite Club (not that many did) if the cover was adorned with the masterful strokes of Rob Liefelds pencil?
Thankfully on this front I am fairly lucky, I happen to know a few very good artists, two of which are extremely talented (albeit slow in one case) and unpublished. Now although earlier I said this can be a disadvantage, in the case of these two artists its definitely advantageous, as they can be considered to be a visual secret weapon for anyone's pitches, so impressive is their work.

There are a few projects that I have on the go at the minute with various artists, but with a few of them its a case of waiting for the art to come back. I will happily write a first issue and a plot outline for an artist / project, but I refuse to sit down and write a 50 issue epic if there is no guarantee that anything is going to happen with the finished project. Anymore than a couple of issues worth of material for a project that has no final destination is just a waste of time and resources. Lets face it, if you were an editor at Marvel, Ait/PlanetLAR or 2000AD and someone sent you through a 50 issue epic, there is no way you would have time to read it, you would probably pass for smaller, contained pitch with a few pages of sample script and artwork.
The main reason why its so hard to get noticed as an unpublished comics creator is quite simply this: most wannabe comic creators aren't very good. It remains to be seen if I fit into this group or not. I am not trying to have a superiority complex here, and there is some very good fan fiction out there, but there is also a lot of arse too, heck, there is an awful lot of arse that actually MAKES it to print.

Now, as I stated earlier, I cannot draw, not even if a bus full of promiscuous college girls was hanging in the balance. For this reason I am incredibly jealous of people like Bendis, Brian Wood and Willingham who broke into the industry drawing their own stuff (apparently Morrison is a deft hand with a pencil too), only to eventually stop the artwork and concentrate on the writing front.
So what can a writer do whom has no artistic ability?
I have spent the last few years reading as much as I can, not classic Byrne or Stan Lee, but people like Huxley, Orwell, Iain Banks, Thompson, Hemingway...
The reason for this is simple: If you only read comics as your creative research, you may bring one or two new and original stories to the field, but pretty soon your work will start to look very insular and inbred, this often happens when writers fall back on writing stories which reference stories they wrote (Claremont is a sucker for this) for nothing more than a pay check (more on this later).
By studying the form and structure of storytelling in detail and experiencing different forms and styles of writing in many different genres, you will learn far more than you would from reading a bunch of X-Men. This is in no way besmirching comics as literature, if anything its expanding upon the idea of comics as a legitimate form of storytelling, because any new idea about form or structure imported from a different genre will help push forward the credibility of comics. Some people might call this plagiarism, but there is a school of thought that every story no matter how diverse can be boiled down to one of seven simple story structures.
The tactics Brian K Vaughn employed were different, and in some ways extreme, he took as many disparate jobs as he could, such as working in a nut-house, he also took training as a Police Officer to learn about correct procedure. This harkens back to the old saying: Write what you know.

Coming back to an earlier point: You have to question the integrity of the industry creators who write comics purely to pay their mortgage. This is why, if I ever become a comic creator, I don't want it to be my only form of income. If you look at a writer like Brian Wood, he is an awesome writer but only seems to write when he has a story to tell or something new to say, this is what makes me scour the AiT/PlanetLAR every month for signs of new work from the man, I know it will be original, entertaining and have a point.
(Of course, this is not a slur on the people who do this for a living and do it well, more power to them, I just don't think I would like to get to the point where I resent comics as I am struggling to think of a story to tell.)

Hopefully, this is going to be the year I make the big push and get something published, I feel better about the stuff I am writing now than I ever have before in a way that makes me very glad I never tried to push into the industry earlier, before I was ready. I have my sights set on getting a variety of works published through a few different companies, so fingers crossed, and, of course, if anything does come about, this blog will be the first to know.

Ignoring my earlier advice, if you really want to get into the comics industry as a writer, it might help to change your name to Brian.


Pete said...

I don't think there are many comic fans out there who at one time or another haven't thought about doing something in the industry. When I was a kid I dreamed of being a comic artist and later on even started to write a Superman story. Now though I'm happy being a fan and letting other people do the creative stuff.

Sid, your gonna make it as a writer, there is no question in my mind about that. You have the passion, the drive and the knowledge to be a sucess. There is nothing I would like more than to see your name on a comic no matter what the book or company.

Like you said, the hardest part of things like this is the first step in getting yourself noticed and your work put into print. It will happen though and once it does there will be no stopping you. The fans lists will read Johns, Millar, Bendis, Loeb and Beckett!

Sid said...

I am touched, don't know what to say, other than thanks Pete!