Between 1966 and 1985, a generation of writers emerged who changed not only the face of comic books, but also the kind of stories that were told in comics. Some were the first wave of fans to become writers (Denny O’Neil, Gerry Conway). One was a popular and award-winning television and science fiction writer who only occasionally wrote comics, but who influenced comic book writing – Harlan Ellison. One would redesign the X-Men and create the new versions of that old team (Len Wein) that would enrich Marvel’s coffers and dominate the industry. Another would guide these “All-New, All-Different” X-Men in such a way that the book would define comic books for most of a quarter century (Chris Claremont). Still, one would come from across the ocean and turn comic books on its collective head, becoming the most revered writer of the last 20 years – Alan Moore. And still another was the Alan Moore of his day (Steve Englehart).
These writers who gave new life to comics, bring in influences from film, modern literature, and European comics and graphic novels, as well as from manga (Japanese comics) were all interview subjects in
The Comics Journal at one time or another. Picking the best and/or most relevant of those interviews from the years 1975-1985, Fantagraphics Books has collected them in Tom Spurgeon-edited THE COMICS JOURNAL LIBRARY 6: THE WRITERS. Including the comic book writers mentioned above, this book also has interviews with Steve Gerber, the late Archie Goodwin, and Marv Wolfman.
The interviews cover how these writers broke into the industry, their careers, their creative processes and techniques, their aesthetic values, their conflicts within the industry, whom they respect, and what they love about comics. The Eisner Awards may not show the Journal love, but the venerable magazine has published and continues to publish some damn good interviews, and the interviews here come from the Journal’s first decade when the editors and writers still believed in superhero comics enough to focus on its best practitioners.
And if you want to get freaked out, you must read Len Wein’s 1985 interview, in which he talked about what he thought was wrong with the industry at the time and what it must do to ensure its future. Two decades later, what he had to say is so dead-on and accurate about the current state of the Direct Market that I can only describe it as prophetic. I would burn Wein at the stake for being a witch, but where he lives might be a death penalty state.