Comics / Cult Favorite

Storytellers Weekend, pt. 8 of 8: Comics Today... and Tomorrow

By Philip Schweier
April 17, 2010 - 08:09

On Feb. 19 and 20, the Savannah College of Art & Design hosted Howard Chaykin and Klaus Janson, who presented a two-day seminar originally conceived for Marvel Comics. The purpose of the seminar is to introduce new comic artists and Marvel editors, some of whom come from an editorial background and lack the experience to effectively judge comic book techniques, to basic tools of effectively telling a story in the comic book form.

According to Howard Chaykin, most comic book writers of his generation were comic book artists who couldn’t draw, and became writers by default. “There are now professional writers within comics,” he says, “but very often you will get scripts that are shit, but you’re gonna learn something very valuable, which is that 75-85 percent of the writing in comics is going to be done by you.

“It’s rare to find an art-friendly writer. So what you have to do is learn your way around dealing with that script to make it work on your terms and his.”

Chaykin has worked both sides of the street, having been both an artist and writer. “The scripts that I write,“ he says, “whether for myself or other artists, are very anal retentive, because I don’t deliver pencils, I deliver finished pages. I am a brand, and the editor knows what he’s going to get from me. So I write full scripts because the editor has a right to know exactly what I’m going to be doing, and when I write for another artist, I give the as much information as I can.”

Marc Guggenheim
Chaykin says he resents not being given enough information as much as being given too much. “What has been called the Marvel style is a jerk-off wet dream for writers,” he argues. “It’s not for me. I like a full script. Marc Guggenheim is the most artists-friendly writer I’ve ever worked with. I’ve worked with (Brian Michael) Bendis, which is very difficult because he and I have different systems, but with Bendis I found a happy medium.”

“Howard is correct that it is now a writer’s medium,” says Klaus Janson. “We can expound on how that happened because it wasn’t like that 10 years ago, and frankly it pisses me off. The writers are in control, and as an artist I think any opportunity I have to wrest that control from the writer I will take. I will take that, and if it means that I will be the one who determines whether this is a grid or free-form page, I will exercise that power. I’m not going to give over that power willingly or quietly. I think you are the artist and you are responsible for the success or failure of that page, not the writer. The writer can give you the content, but it is up to the artist to make it work.”

But according to Chaykin, the business is dying. “The truth is comics are falling apart,” he says. “I think comics are going to go the way of the LP record. I think comics will survive in some form, but let’s face it: the comic book business exists primarily as a place to develop properties for TV and movies and video games.

“I live in a small town, and when the Iron Man trailer came out, everyone was going nuts. Nobody had any idea it existed as a comic book. None of them had ever read it, and never will. I love super-hero movies, but they exist on another plane. When people in my small town find out what I do for a living they’re like, “You mean you do that by hand?”

Just as the LP record was replaced by cassette tapes and compact discs, ever-changing technology will have a direct impact on how comic books are enjoyed in the years to come.

“I think there’s this general feeling in our culture right now that paper is threatened, and it will become extinct,” says Janson. “So whether it’s comic books or magazines or newspapers – The companies are excited about the various apps that are available for the iPad, and whether the iPad or something like it can and probably will revolutionize the way we read our comics and the way we have access to them. I think comic book stores are going to continue disappearing, because we’ll be able to buy them like on iTunes.”

While the delivery system may evolve, Janson is quick to point out that the art form will survive. “I don’t think the language is going to disappear, the theories, the concepts, the need for clarity aren’t going to go away just because they’re on an iPad. They are just as relevant, and we’ll just be looking at them in a different way.

“I think an example that is relevant is DVDs. Everybody thought that when DVDs came out that Hollywood would go bust and quite the opposite happened,” says Janson. “But I think the iPad can be like the equivalent of the DVD and I suspect that for people who are going to download comics on the iPad, there will be some people who will go out as a result of that and buy the comic itself, so I’m not worried.”

Last Updated: September 6, 2021 - 08:15

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