Thursday, July 11, 2013

Mine or Yours: The Comic Book Edition

Well, we did this last week with prose writers, so this week let's run the same roundtable -- but instead from the comic book side of the fence.

I chose these writers specifically because not only do they have the goods of writing corporately owned characters (Erik Burnham on TMNT, Ghostbusters, and now Scarlet Spider, Chuck Dixon on Robin, G.I. Joe, Punisher, and nearly everything under the sun, Dan Jolley on Voltron, Vampirella, Angel, and more, and John Jackson Miller of Star Wars and Iron Man) but they also seem to have a lot of fun playing off each other during interviews. You'll see what I mean. Just keep reading.

Do you prefer to write new adventures of existing characters, or would you prefer to create new characters outright?

Chuck Dixon: Both are cool. But that depends on the existing character. I rather take a job at Arby's than write an issue of Firestorm.

Erik Burnham: Shucks, Chuck said exactly what I would. Except having seen my local Arby's, I'd probably opt to write Firestorm.

Chuck Dixon: But with Firestorm there's no free fixin's!

Dan Jolley: Given my love of jamocha shakes, and having spent a year writing Firestorm, yeah, I think I'd work at Arby's.

Erik Burnham: Seriously, I agree with Chuck on this. I really have no preference for one over the other. That sounds like a weak answer, I know, but I'll find a joke for whatever set of circumstances the character I'm writing has to face.

John Jackson Miller: Yeah, they're just different kinds of jobs. In one case, you're free to figure everything out and there's work involved with that; in the other, there's a little research involved. (Which doesn't mean you can't make changes to a character or his or her characterization, but it helps to know what the audience expected before you start moving things around.)

What are the advantages and disadvantages of each that you've found?

John Jackson Miller: I agree that doing your own thing has its benefits -- but also, doing someone else's character can be fun if there's a good relationship with the editor and/or licensor and there's something in the character and world that appeals to you.

Chuck Dixon: Again, depends on the character. But most times you can fall back on their history. Plus, being established, they already have an audience prepared to be entertained.

But creating your own characters and universe is like free falling.

Erik Burnham: I suppose the advantages comes down to time. Less people to say yea or nay to any given idea. That can be a big advantage, however.

Dan Jolley: Writing original characters is a much greater risk, definitely, but you get to make up your own rules and you don't have to worry about accidentally duplicating or contradicting a storyline from the 70's. Original characters take it for me by a wide margin.