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Cronin Theory of Comics – It Is a Lot Harder To Move From Another Media To Comics Than Is Given Credit

I did a bit on this in 2004 before I started doing the “Theory of Comics” shtick, so I thought it would be nice to rewrite it as a “Theory of Comics” bit. In any event, , I believe that, if you’re a good writer, you’re just a good writer, no matter what the genre is. However, I think people totally underestimate the difficulties of moving from one medium to another. For instance, we do not automatically think each good screenwriter will be a good novelist, do we? Or vice-versa. Yet there seems to be this belief WITHIN THE INDUSTRY ITSELF that any good writer from another medium can just come in and write a good comic book.

Which I do not think is the case.

The inspiration for this particular version is the writing of Reginald Hudlin. His first few issues of Black Panther, I believe, were pretty poor. Forgetting his use of Black Panther continuity (as it would not be sporting to judge him on that level), the stories themselves just weren’t all that good. Not awful or anything, but not good. However, as he has progressed on the title, I believe that Hudlin’s writing has greatly improved. It reminds me of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who I think had a bit of a problem adjusting to comic writing, but developed into one of the better mainstream comic book writers.

This belief that being a good TV/Film/Play writer means you will be a good comic book writer is just so silly, and almost makes me think of it as a self-esteem issue (if he’s good enough to write for TV, he MUST be good enough to write for comics!!) of the industry.

The big difference, really, is that TV/Film/Plays have actors, and therefore, the writer can always depend on the actors to deliver tone and feeling. In a comic, it is pretty much all on the writer (yes, the artst helps a good deal, but in terms of dialogue, it is alll writer).

There ARE those that don’t have trouble making the transition, like Joss Whedon (who, even if you dislike his work, it is not for his inability to tell a story in comic format) Damon Lindelof and JMS, but for the most part, it seems to be a long transition before the writer is comfortable writing comics, and I guess I’d just like to see an understanding of that besides the current approach of “if you can write for TV, you can write a comic book!” Because, from the perspective of the industry, it gives us too many bad comics as the writer adjusts and from the perspective of the readers, it gives too many writers a poor reputation in comics which I do not think is deserved, as when the adjustment period ends, most of the writers are pretty good (for instance, I think Ron Zimmerman’s last comic book project was really quite good, but by that point in time, he had already been written off as a comic writer because he was one of the biggest examples of ‘not adjusting to the change in media’).

2 Comments

How about the obvious problems so many TV writers have with comics’ deadlines? I still feel sorry for those poor souls who bought ULTIMATE HULK VS. WOLVERINE #1. (Because they’re still waiting for the conclusion, not because it was bad. Which it may have been; heck I didn’t buy the freakin’ thing. I got kids to feed.)

I do think it’s a little sad how excited the industry gets about some hot novel/film/TV writer signing on to do a comic. I mean, not all that many people out there in the real world have any idea who JMS is, but when he first came to Marvel it was treated like the Second Coming. Same with Orson Scott Card on ULT. IRON MAN and just about anyone else you might care to mention. It really plays up the insecurity of those in the medium, in my opinion.

Mychael Darklighter

July 29, 2012 at 12:47 am

agree w/everything said here, especially the self-esteem issue, + i love all your columns, brian, but;
singular = medium.
plural = media. =0)

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