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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Witing for Comic Books

Have you ever wondered why so many successful authors write stories for comic books? For the money, of course. But beyond the regular and ample paychecks for cranking out words, there is a certain satisfaction writers get from visualizing their works.

                Many well-known writers wrote for the comics. It’s no secret that Mickey Spillaine penned stories for Timely/Atlas/Marvel. Manley Wade Wellman wrote for the pulps, paperback publishers, and penned Blackhawk for Quality and Captain Marvel Adventures for Fawcett. Frank Belknap Long had a similar career writing for pulps, paperbacks, and comics. Otto Binder (half of the Eando Binder team of Earl and Otto) wrote tons of stuff for Fawcett, and he became better known for his work on the Marvel Family than for his amazing Adam Link or John Jarl stories.

                Ray Bradbury’s stories were so naturally visual that Al Feldstein adapted any of them for EC Comics.

                It’s no secret, either, that modern writers like Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Joe Hill, and many others do comic book work. My good friends Mort Castle and Wayne Allen Sallee love the graphic novel format as much as they love to write short stories and novels.

                I’ve written a couple of stories for comic books myself. I grew up reading everything I could get my hands on, and that included pulps and comic books. It seemed only natural that I would try my own hand at writing a story or two. “Bug House” appeared in Horror: The Illustrated Book of Fears and was reprinted in Best of Northstar. “Better than One” came out in J. N. Williamson’s Masques from Innovation and was recently reprinted by IDW.

                I recently read Joe R. Lansdale’s work for Vertigo’s Jonah Hex comics. Like all of Joe’s writing, they are lots of fun to read.

                And Bill Willigham’s Fables (also from Vertigo) is more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

                So why do writers love to write for comic books? Because they are fun. Also, and almost importantly, the lead-time between conception, writing, and appearance in print is so much shorter than waiting for a short story to appear in a magazine or a novel to roll off the presses.

                Some of the most imaginative writing appears first in graphic format. Gardner Fox’s and Ed Hamilton’s science fiction stories for DC and others were cutting-edge at the time they appeared, and their ideas influenced so many other sf writers that those ideas now seem commonplace. I loved (and still love) Otto Binder’s King Kull and Mr. Worm characters. I loved (and still love) Bradbury’s stories from EC, especially “The Small Assassin” which scared the crap out of me as a kid.

                So, be a little kid again. Read a comic book today.

                And, if you’re a comic book writer, be proud of the fact. You’re in good company.

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