Saturday, March 06, 2010

The Issue of Really Good Stories in Comics

I've just gone back through my collection and read the Dark Rein series by Marvel comics. I've had the good fortune of being intimidated by Jim Shooter back in the early 80s when I was slated to work on an avengers fill in. I was warned about how crazy he was but he was after all, one of my heroes when he worked on the Legion of superheroes for DC comics. I sat in his office and he tossed me a pad and pencil and began to dictate the story to me. Now this is the old marble when you can get away with crap like that because you're dealing with geniuses.

So I worked on the plot synopsis and began penciling the pages in the Marvel style. There were lots of superheroes in the story and I was pleased as punch to get to work on something "above ground".

Most of the work I've been doing was for DC comics in their merchandising division which paid very well but had no notoriety. After 24 pages of pencils I brought the material into Jim's office. That was when genius turned to madness... he railed at my lack of finesse. Now, I've been working at DC for over a year at that point and they had a very specific way of doing things. Marvel did too. Jim for some strange reason wanted all the scenes shot at three-quarter length which was not the Marvel Way. Just pick up a copy of Drawing Comics the Marvel Way and you'll understand what I mean.

I went to the editor after being chewed out and he had some choice words to say about the way things were moving under Jim's rule. He gave me a choice of either redoing the panels or dumping the assignment, so I dumped the assignment and went back to work on penciling the Superman Sunday pages for DC comics. What I found in that life lesson was it is better to be paid well and remain in the shadows than to work with a pain in the ass for the publicity and notoriety.

Years later, when I got to work on a project for Valiant, I had a do-over with Jim Shooter which went extremely well. This time we were both on the same page. Our job was to create a comic book out of a new character that hit the gaming scene; Mario. I thumbnails every shot and faxed it to him and he didn't change a thing. Do I miss the days of working in comics for geniuses and assholes alike? Maybe.

What I do miss it terribly is the collaborative creation process. Being able to bounce ideas back and forth actually makes things better after a heated argument. When you're stuck in your own universe there is a tendency to think that your butt smells like roses. Good stories come out of the conflict of creation just as much as they need conflict within the plot to succeed.
Stop by the graphic novel website for more on Jax and the Hellhound my 20 year old comic resurrected for the new millennium. I've added more pages this week.

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