Thursday, July 28, 2005

Whose job is harder?

I thought of something this morning while vacuuming the store. Thought I’d put it out there and see what other people’s opinions are.

Here it is: whose job is more difficult, a comic book writer or the comic book artist.

This whole thought started because I was thinking about how some main-stream authors have been signed on by both Marvel and DC to write comic book stories. Then I thought it must be easier to write comics, since its so much less writing – mainly bubbles over heads and a bit of narrative here and there. Sometimes I’ll even see a comic where a full page or two go by with no writing at all. But then I realized that usually the writing is done in stages, where the writer jots down a basic story, then develops something similar to a script, detailing what’s happening in the story as well as the dialog. Then he/she writes the specific text for the comic and probably hands it off to someone else to letter and off to the artist to draw. So, maybe it’s not quite as easy as doing bubbles over character’s heads. But is it as much work as writing a novel? In most modern comics the story is conveyed over an “arc” that often goes up to 6 issues, sometimes more. Often an arc is what a chapter would be in a novel, a good place for a break, but not the end of the story. So, is it like doing a novel writing a comic book? And what about the guys who have to start in on a book that someone else did before them? They have to take that person’s writing and ideas and incorporate their own, so that it (hopefully) flows from where the one ended and the other started and the main ideas, characters and concepts are carried over into a new writer’s arc. Most novelists start and finish their own work, they don’t hand the book over half way through to someone else. Does it make it easier or harder for the new guy to write when he has someone else’s ideas to work off of?

What about the artist? Depending upon skill and technique, it can take from moments to days to do a page of art for a comic book. But does the time commitment necessarily make it a harder job? They usually go off of the writer’s script to create their part of the story, helping convey the writer’s verbal concepts in visual form. So, they don’t necessarily have to come up with ideas and process it into a coherent story. The artist can take someone else’s idea and make it into a story in picture form. Sure, it takes longer, but is it harder than writing? (I was recently reading Sean McKeever’s blog and he was having a banter with artist Mike Norton about how long it took each of them to do a specific page of an upcoming issue of the comic book they’re working on together, Gravity. Norton said it had taken him most of the day for this page, while McKeever bragged a bit about how it only took him 20 minutes to write it.) In today’s modern comics artists are often expected to do highly detailed work, not the simple straight line drawings of the past. But on the other hand, they often just draw and someone else does the inking and coloring.

How about those talented folks who do both the writing and art? Do they have it easier or harder than those that do it separately? One thing’s for sure, the artist side probably has an easier time taking the verbal concept to visual because they know what they’re thinking and trying to convey. In fact, the writer/artist probably doesn’t have to write quite as much either, because they can just convey the story in art form right off the bat, going from a basic written or even sketched out concept straight into the story. Team work is easier if it’s only you on the team, right? Sure, you have to carry the whole load, but there’s little chance of you not seeing eye-to-eye with yourself. But you also have to be really good at both in order to make a good comic book. I’ve seen some comics that have had just awe inspiring art, yet the story just doesn’t grab me. And I have read a few books where the story is cool and the concept is great, but the art is not my cup of tea. If you have a great writer and a great artist on a book, it has a higher probability of being great itself than if the writer and artist are the same person, doesn’t it?

OK, so that’s my “geeked-out” ramble for today. Talk amongst yourselves, OMAC project #4 is calling me, and I’m afraid I simply must answer. Oh a quick note, (those who are reading from other stores are welcome to do this too) be sure to check out this week’s Onion, we’ve got a cool ad running—and this issue has a comic book feature in it that you might want to read, toward the middle in the AV section.


La Bona said...

Uhmmm got me thinking about that huh?

Nice blog … Keep it up.

By the way, do you think Christianity is a cult?

If you have an opinion on the subject, please do email me. Alternately, you may want to check it out at the forum


Anonymous said...

I think the artist has a tougher time, or works harder. I think that the writer can think about concepts of stories all day long. Driving in a car, eating, sleeping and dreaming, etc., etc. While this does count as work, it seems that you can do this at any moment of the day and may not be to "time consuming" while tha artist has to actually set out part of his day to actually, physically do the job. Harder? Maybe not... only in the sense that it may take up more time.

But then again, that makes me think of an old boss. Does the concept of "work" have to be something that can be quantified? An old boss thought so, and if you could not "see" what someone has done, then they did not do any work which is bullcorn.

So a writer could potentially be working non stop for days, but have very little to show for it.

Alright, now that I went on and on... and in my own ramblings, I have come to the conclusion that the writer works harder. They have too much continuity to contend with and pleasing the editors nad publishers. But when they have an idea for a story line, things just start to flow and it may seem easier...but it is just not.