Monday, July 7, 2014

Writing Comics – So You Want to Copy Someone?

It may strike you as odd that I would immediately suggest that whatever comic you have planned is a work of shameless plagiarism.

Get used to the idea, and feel okay with it. Really. It’s okay.

Writing comics, especially superhero comics, is problematic. There are very few “original” ideas left. Those that may seem original are really just reiterations of older ideas most of the time. Again, this is okay. We all steal from our heroes. Comics are nothing different.

The key to writing a good comic that draws on worn in material is understanding that, while there are always heroes with capes and mysteries with surprise antagonists, there are always variant mythologies that develop from the original stories. Superman, Batman, and Captain America have been rebooted many times, but every story has a fresh take, or a different philosophy. How different this take is will enhance or detract from the finished product. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how this is possible, but I can give you a tip or two to get you along.

When working off the template of a genre, it is important to understand that genres exist because they are schemas (blueprints) upon which conventions have been catalogued and archived. Science Fiction generally involves the fictionalization of science, spaceships, aliens, philosophical ramifications of human advancement, and so on. Likewise, were you to write a sci-fi graphic novel with spaceships and aliens I doubt anyone would give you a literary prize. How you tweak the universe will decide whether your story is hit or miss. Putting in a philosophy that is strung through the storyline would be a start.

The same can be said almost about character driven stories, especially superhero tales, only with a subtle caveat. Consider the leading protagonist. Usually dull stories place the hero inside a world that serves as a sounding board for his opinions and thoughts. Consider the opposite: make the hero espouse an ideal or understanding of the world. Make the reader see through the eyes of the hero, in other words. How the character interacts with the world will create a complex narrative where the question will be positioned: “Who is this person? How do they view the world?”

Consider this a first step in writing good comics. Stay tuned for next week!


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