Saturday, February 9, 2013

Why It’s Better To Be A Comic Book Artist Than A Writer

Flicking through the latest batch of DC Comics releases, I came across the ads for Paul Pope’s upcoming graphic novel. While I’d read some of Pope’s work in the past, I’d never seen a picture of him. Well, as it turns out, he looks less like a “comic book artist” than an artiste – one could imagine him spending days in his loft in NYC working on abstract pieces to be exhibited in nearby trendy galleries.

This cemented something that I’d suspected for some time – comic book artists are just cooler than comic book writers. Look at this group of major comic book artists, and compare them with the group of major comic book writers below.

Which group would you be more likely to party with? With the artists, you could chug beer, pick up hot women (or marry them), go surfing, ride motorbikes, mingle with rock bands, and play poker all night. In contrast, if you hang out with the writers, while you would probably have some intelligent conversations, you’d be living in fear that you’d end up bald or beardy or both.

More than that, just talking in pure comic business terms, the artists have it made. Image Comics was formed when seven artists gave the middle finger to Marvel, and went off to form their own company and become multi-millionaires. Can you imagine seven writers getting away with the same stunt? No, because the writers can’t draw the characters they create – they are always reliant on someone else to bring their properties to life. More than that, the big companies really only need about six or seven writers to pen most of their titles, whereas they’re always on the lookout for artists (relatively speaking). The odds become even tougher for writers when Hollywood big guns like Joss Whedon and J. Michael Straczynski drop by and take over the major books.

Alan Moore is the greatest comic book writer ever, and this is the advice he has for aspiring writers:

1.     Don’t

2.     No, really don’t

3.     DEFINITELY don’t — I mean it.

4.     Whatever you might be imagining about a life of writing, it’s not like that.

5.     OK, if you’re going to anyway, if you’re going to be a writer of any quality, you will have to commit yourself to writing — which is something that, when you’re young and idealistic, sounds incredibly easy to do, but you should commit yourself to writing almost as if you were some ancient Greek or Egyptian commiting yourself to a god.

If you do right by the god, then the god may, at some point in the future, reward you. But if you slack off and don’t do right by your talent or your god, then you are heading for a world of immense and unimaginable pain. If you have a gift that you choose to pursue, then you have to pursue it seriously. Don’t be half-assed about it, but realize what that commitment means.

Committing yourself to writing will mean, to a certain extent, your writing will become the most important part of your life — and that’s a big thing to say. It can have a distancing effect upon other relationships. It can be sometimes quite a solitary life. If you’re committed to your writing, you’re going to spend most of your life indoors in a silent, empty room, concentrating on a pen and a piece of paper or their equivalent. Be prepared to take it seriously and be prepared to follow where it takes you, even if that takes you to some very strange places.

This is by no means the most glamorous profession.

Don’t say that I didn’t warn you.
Heed the words of the occult master – pick up a pencil instead.

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