Monthly Archives: April 2013

Sometimes I feel … like lunch with Stan Lee

Okay, so I don’t really feel old…but sometimes I feel old.

Let me ‘splain.

Recently one of Brittany’s teachers asked me to come talk to some of her classes about comic books, their production, etc. Her classes were graphic design classes so it was all relevant and I certainly never mind talking about comics! However, as I was talking, I mentioned one of my highlights at MarvelBu was a lunch with Stan Lee (Yes, it’s true! Me and several of the Malibu editorial crew got to have a long lunch with him. WAY cool!). The entire class of about 20 high schoolers did not respond in the “I’m impressed” fashion I usually get…so the next words out of my mouth were “you know who Stan Lee is, right?”

With the exception of my daughter, not one of them knew Stan Lee.

Not one.

And I could tell it wasn’t because they were shy or didn’t want to speak up—you can just tell. They did not know his name.

What?

Really?

What planet am I on?

How can you not know who Stan Lee is? How can you not know him from his name plaster all over every Marvel comic for more than 25 years? How can you not know him from his voice was on all the Marvel cartoons in the 70s and 80s, exclaiming his trademarked “Excelsior!”? How can you not know him from his cameos in just about every Marvel movie? Or does he just become “that old guy who’s in all the superhero movies?”

For people of my generation, Stan Lee IS The Man! Even the people who aren’t comic nerds know him. This is the man that is partially responsible as creator or co-creator for all the characters in current pop culture that is dominating the film industry (Marv Wolfman is a close second, of course!). HOW CAN YOU NOT KNOW WHO HE IS?

The sad thing is that most of them know who Elvis is. Aside from the face that Hound Dog was a song in Lilo and Stitch, for some reason, they just know. Oh, it’s not that I’m dissing Elvis, he certainly has his place in pop culture. But we’re talking Stan Lee. In 100 years, no one will know Elvis outside of a history book. Spider-Man, and possibly other Lee characters, will live on in the literary and pop culture worlds for generations. And really, there is no comparison of Jailhouse Rock to The Avengers.

See? Now you know why I feel old…but don’t really feel old.

I’m through ranting now…move along. Nothing more to see here.

Don’t know who Stan Lee is! Sheesh!

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Write a love letter to your artist

I wrote about comic writing for a Full Sail blog…thought I’d share it here as well, especially since it is about writing!

Writing for comics and graphic novels requires a ninety degree turn in thinking. In Full Sail Creative Writing programs, we emphasize writing visually, which, boiled down to the very basic idea means to write knowing that what you write will be translated to pictures of some sort, so watch the talking heads. Unlike prose writing, which requires readers to imagine the pictures in their head, Visual Writing means the writer’s words will be interpreted by someone not the writer and brought to life. Screenwriters are taught just to tell the story and to let the director determine what it will look like.

Not so for comics and graphic novels. Graphic novelists are to be specific in the images the artist will put in each panel. And because comics, like all forms of visual entertainment, are such a collaborative effort, and because most writers do not generate their own art, it is imperative the writer communicate not only the images, but the feel of the story.

While directors certainly interpret meaning in a script, it isn’t unusual that he seeks opinion of the brilliant people he’s surrounded himself with (lighting, camera, etc.). Not so for comics. The interpretive art is generally handled by a single artist.

Comic scripts feature two main parts: that part of the script which will be lettered onto the pages and read by the reader (dialogue, captions, and thoughts); and that part of the script which will only be read by the artist (and approved by the editor). Thus, it requires a lot of time and effort creating something that will be read—and is intended to be that way—by one person.

So it is imperative for the writer to communicate exactly what he sees in his mind’s eye. That’s not to say the writer should describe every single detail—only Alan Moore can get away with that. But instead, the writer wants to communicate mood, tone and emotion! It helps if the writer knows the artist, but this isn’t always the case. However, when the artist is known, it is very acceptable for the descriptive part of the script (the panel art descriptions) to be informal. Oh, sure, a lot of writing teachers don’t like this but ultimately they aren’t the audience (correction: they are if you are writing  for them for a grade!). You want the artist to cry on the sad parts and laugh at the funny images you’ve caused to be conjured in their heads. You want the artist to know what to draw, yes, but you also want them to feel what you feel when you’re writing the script.

This is why I always say, that part of the script which describes the art on the page should be a love letter to the artist. The rest is just the details.

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Why don’t I focus?

Some who’ve stopped by here have suggested I write more about writing. And I can appreciate that. I know that it can be frustrating to those of you who don’t know me that well to see me posting about my daughter’s tennis and college trials or my son’s band and baseball achievements. But I thought I’d take one of my blogs to explain my thinking…ya ain’t gotta like it, but at least I’ll try to make some sense for you.

When I first started blogging, my intentions were pretty simple: I wanted a way to keep my friends and family posted on the goings-on of me and mine. It seemed we were moving quite a bit, making some dear friends in each place. Keep in mind, too, that this was in the days before facebook became what it is today. I also wanted to use the blog as an outlet to continue to keep my writing muscles exercised and to feel like I had to do something. I’d enjoyed the weekly columns I’d gotten into the habit of writing for the Piggott paper (now the Rector paper) and the feedback I’d gotten from the community was favorable so it seemed like a good idea.

After some time I found myself without a job and in graduate school. It became a good opportunity to share some writing thoughts as well as some reviews of the books I’d read. I’m not big on reviews, but because I read a lot of superhero fiction, I thought those who had an interest in sci-fi and/or superhero books might get a little something out of the reviews.

Then, I had new work hitting the stands with Huckleberry Finn and Wizard of Oz graphic novels…and of course, my first novel. The blog became an opportunity to promote those things. I hate that idea on my blog, though, because I sometimes feel like I’m “pushing” my work to my friends and family…who would probably be interested in it anyway…but still. I know it’s one of those things that I have to do and I try to think that things like the recent blog hop is a necessity to get more people familiar with my work.

As I started finding myself speaking at writer’s conferences and leading writing workshops more and more, the blog became a way to talk about those experiences, too. Then I was fortunate to land myself back in the classroom…even if it was virtual…where I talk about writing all the time. SO, hopefully you see where this is headed…I find that I spend a lot of time talking about writing so much that I don’t feel like blogging about it too much. Yeah, I’ll do it some when something really calls out to me that needs sayin’, but I spend so much of my time talking about writing that I’m not motivated to blog about it. I know that’ll irk some of you who come here for pearls of writing wisdom…but I’ll apologize to both of you profusely!

So…there it is. And see, I’ve broken yet another rule in that this blog is 521 words.

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