Take any “great” writer, Hemingway, Homer, Miller ( of the crucible not Civil War) or even mass market/mediocre ones , Dan Brown, CLive Cussler,etc and one common themes to all is thier abillity, and neeed to be able to create vivid images using only words.
Comic book writers on the other hand have neither the opportunity ( in the comic book medium) nor the need to do so.
The reason being they have a (usually) very talented artist to create the imagery for them. Yes, they still need to construct the plot, the dialogue, find their characters voice etc, but much of the job of a writer in prose is done for them by the artist. Given that a Comic book writer isn’t required to create a mental image through his skillful use of words, can we really consider comic book writers as “real writers”?
That’s one of Byrne’s fans asking. Can you guess what John Byrne’s own response is?
Some are, some aren’t.
Put it like this: In 1988 my novel “Fearbook” was nominated for a Stoker Award for “Best First Novel”. I got to thinking about that, wondering if it was really fair to the other nominees, since I had, at that point, spent about eight years writing what were, effectively, serialized “novels”.
It’s probably best to look at it all on a case by case basis. Nobody is good at their job 100% of the time — there will be days when writing in comic books will be as good as, or even better than, “real” writing…
But he’s not done with the subject:
First, we’re talking about comic books, and minus the pictures, what you have is not a comic book. It is the pictures that make a comic book a comic book, not the stories.
Second, there are many writers who like to perpetuate the myth that it is they, and only they, who must “face the blank page”. This is not true when the books are done “Marvel Style” (plot, pencils, script), and it is not entirely true when they are done full script. In the case of the “Marvel Style” books, the artist is most often an equal partner in the transferring of the story to the page. Sometimes s/he is more than equal, especially if the writer is working with a talented artist who can be trusted to do the most important part of the work (as when I worked with John Romita Jr., for instance). Even when the books are done full script, the artist still has a sizeable task in translating the writer’s panel descriptions into pictures. I have made the point many times that very few writers really think in pictures… Sometimes the writer operates in a vacuum, writing his plot without any contact with the artist. Sometimes without even knowing who the artist is going to be!*
In many instances, however, the writer and artist work together in concocting the plot. Chris and I used to do what we called “phone plots” on UNCANNY. We’d talk for hours on the phone, hammering out details, while I made notes. Then I’d call the editor and tell him what we had planned. Then I’d draw it, and Chris would dialog it.
And let us not forget the legendary (and probably apocryphal) 4 word “plot” Stan is supposed to have given Jack for the first Galactus story: “Have them fight God.”