How to Write Comics; You’re Doing It Wrong

7 Jul
By Darryl Ayo

Here is my take and personal opinion. When I was first into it, I liked the idea of book-length comics telling one compete story each. But now, I look at regular comic books, superheroes and such and I part ways with all of that stuff. My big problem is that collections are a secondary market. They are collections and by definition, means they are comprised of previously “whole” parts.

My argument is–economic concerns of a given market aside (in this case, comics)–you create for the primary market. If you want a 120 page Superman comic, make a 120-page Superman comic. Don’t make it and send it out in pieces, ransom style. All of these superheroes today–the modern ones are written at 120-page stories, so they should just come to market as such.

However since the publishers prefer to bring these stories to market as 20-page magazines *first*, they should be aiming to put out the best 20-page magazines that they can muster.

X-Factor is (c) Marvel Entertainment

History of recorded music, as I understand it:

The single format dominated at first. Albums were collections of singles. Fine.
When the album format began to grow in popularity, recording artists began creating songs that were not radio-format friendly. It didn’t matter because singles were not the dominant paradigm at that time.
Then with downloadable music, both illegal and legal, the album format broke apart. People were picking and choosing which songs they wanted. For that reason, I see a slow turning of ship toward a course that resembles the old singles-format. Because the unified-album was no longer a pre-condition to buying and listening to music.

The work changes form when the formats at play change.

In comics, the problem has been that the modern editorial wants to put these stories out as books without considering that the primary market has not changed.

If form follows function, comics fail.

The primary function is to sell at 20 pages a shot, but they changed the creating format to such as like if it were being published as a continuous block.

And that is awkward and unsatisfying to read as that sentence was.

When I read most 20-page comic magazines, there isn’t enough substantial data  to stick in my brain. They don’t leave a lasting impression on me because there is not enough story to dig into me and grab hold of me. Despite that, they are pleasant to read in the moment. But if there isn’t enough substance, I might not remember what happened from issue to issue. I might not even remember to buy the subsequent issue; not out of malice but out pure lack of impression.

It is absolutely crucial that every comic book which first appears as a 20-page magazine (and not a 120-page book) be interesting and engaging in every last one of its serial installments. On the creative side, nothing could possibly be more important.

This does not mean that single issues /must/ include recap text nor does this mean that single issues /must/ be self contained. However it does mean that there needs to be enough meat on the bones that the issue comprises a sustaining meal. Preferably a meal with leftovers (ie, the desire to re-read said issue)

In my opinion, a comic book needs to be entertaining for at LEAST one month. In other words, I should be reading and re-reading that issue until the next one comes out. After that, it’s whatever. I’ll give it to my friend or something.

But this is all that I ask, on the creative side of comics.


2 Responses to “How to Write Comics; You’re Doing It Wrong”

  1. Greg Farrell July 7, 2011 at 10:40 am #

    This week I’ve been reading the astro city trades. The individual
    issues are tremendously engaging and have plenty of meat. I’m not sure what specific monthly titles you are referring to, if any, but I really think this is just a matter of quality. If the individual issues aren’t any good, how can you expect the collected volume to be any good? I’ve never been much of a monthly comics reader, but I’ve looked over some of your run of the mill green lanterns and such and can’t really see how they’d be interesting in any format. Is it possible that maybe you’re just reading the wrong comics?

  2. Caio Marinho. July 7, 2011 at 7:37 pm #

    But if there isn’t enough substance, I might not remember what happened from issue to issue. My biggest problem with monthlies.

    The individual monthlies ofTop Ten, by Alan Moore and Gene Ha were very packed with visual stuff – like Astro City. Our eyes could wander around the page and find things they hadn’t in a first read. That’s one of the more interesting things Mr. Moore discusses in the The Mindscape of Alan Moore documentary: if the reading speed is determined by the reader, then you can put lots of information in every panel and let the eye linger in every one of them. So that’s, I think, is a way of maintaining interest in individual issues.

    Of course is doesn’t have to be the only one. It might just be great, simple visuals, that convey a strong message. Like that exquisite X-Factor page on the post.

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