18 January 2005

Review: Writers on Comics Scriptwriting 2

Comic book writers are a special lot, even among creative types, fitting somewhere between performance artists and mimes in mainstream perception. Whereas Mark Salisbury's excellent first edition, published in 1999, featured many of the Modern Age's future Hall of Famers - including Warren Ellis, Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller and Grant Morrison - Tom Root and Andrew Kardon tap the current crop of writers dominating the industry, including Brian Michael Bendis, Andy Diggle, Brian K. Vaughan and Bill Willingham. Unfortuntely, like its predecessor, it sees fit to only include one female and not a single writer of color in the bunch.

Interspersed with script samples and highlights of specific titles they're best known for, the real meat of the book is the interviews themselves where the writers discuss craft, inspiration and the business of comics, while offering - not always purposefully, I think - glimpses into their personalities and motivations. At times these glimpses can be turnoffs, and other times they can uncover a previously unknown and interesting layer.

Mark Millar: I'm very interested in a career in politics, maybe, at some stage when I'm older and fully grown-up. [Millar is 35.] Most people who've been reading this book probably have a real job in the real world but read comics in their spare time. Because these fictional realities are where I spend ten hours a day, reality has essentially become my hobby... You might be daydreaming about being Superman or Batman, but I'm sitting here daydreaming about pushing a Private Members's Bill for a fairer welfare system through Parliament.
While many of the writers have achieved mainstream success at various levels, there's a few purely independent creators like Dave Sim and Jill Thompson represented, too. Several of them are also successful beyond the world of comic books, having written novels and screenplays - and, in Kevin Smith's case, directing well-known movies - making this a great resource for aspiring writers of all types.

Bruce Jones: Movies, TV and comics have a lot in common, in that it's a collaborative effort and you're always working with someone else. When you're working on a novel, you're kind of alone. That's got its good side, because it's all yours, but then when it bombs you really look bad!
The honesty of the writers is often refreshing, like Ed Brubaker admitting that "sometimes it gets tiring writiing a company-owned character when you have ideas for them and the company tells you no." Or Greg Rucka admitting his Elektra series "feels like a failed experiment."

Overall, its continued lack of diversity aside, Writers on Comics Scriptwriting 2 is another strong volume from Titan Books and I only hope there's not another five year wait for the next edition. Surely there's more women and at least a few people of color on the writing side of the business, though. Right? Right? Bueller?

Writers on Comics Scriptwriting 2, by Tom Root & Andrew Kardon (Titan Books, August 2004)

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