Let me be clear right off the bat here: I do NOT want to write comic books for a living. That hasn't always been the case, but I'm fairly certain it's not the type of thing I'd enjoy.
I've mentioned numerous times over the years how I've loved comics as far back as I can remember, and REALLY became enamored with them when I turned 11. And I think, like many kids who love comics, I decided I wanted to be a comic book artist as soon as I realized that was an actual profession. But I realized a year or two before high school that I wasn't good enough to compete as a professional comic artist.
Sometime in my late college years, it occurred to me that I could write. For whatever reason, it never really struck me before then, but I'd had a number of people say that they thought I was a really good writer. I took a couple of writing courses as electives, but I was kind of digging the graphic design thing by that point and didn't want to give up a reasonably decent career before I'd even started it. So writing remained a sideline thing. An interest, but not even really a hobby.
A year or two after college, I started my Fantastic Four website. Originally just as a resource for myself, but it increasingly became a reference for others as well. Part of my own interest was sorting through continuity and doing research on obscure Marvel arcana, and I would write articles for the site that basically summarized my findings. Those were often well-received, and I got some nice compliments for them.
So I thought, "Well, maybe I could write comics?"
I knew that unsolicited scripts sent to publishers generally didn't get a more than a passing glance, so I started a campaign of sorts to make sure my name was recognized. And what was most assuredly going to get read in the comic offices? Fan mail. I started doing some letterhacking and started getting published in the backs of various comics. I had about a year, I think, where I was getting a letter published every two weeks on average. It made me something of a celebrity in my LCS at the time.
After I'd been doing that for a bit, I started sending off stories to Marvel editors on a regular basis. Proof, I thought, that I had more than one story in me and that I could maintain a regular schedule. I even managed to convince Paul Jenkins to read through and critique them.
But I came to a realization during that experiment. Two, actually, but they're very related. First, I'm pretty decent at the basic craft of writing. Using the English language, using punctuation and grammar properly, etc. But I'm not that great at making up stories. Not good ones that have sub-plots and clever foreshadowing and all the bits that make it more than a simple fairy tale. Secondly, the types of things that I want to say, as an alleged writer, are better expressed without the metaphors of fiction overlaid on them. I'd rather write about how Jack Kirby came up with the concept of O.M.A.C. than pen an actual tale about the character.
These two ideas mean that, not only should I not pursue a career writing for Marvel or DC, but that I should generally avoid writing fiction altogether. I can still write and I can still write ABOUT comics, but I'll do a better job of it than if I try writing a Hulk story. Or even something entirely of my own creation.
This afternoon, I stumbled across some pieces I wrote just before I decided that wasn't the direction for me. Some complete, some abandoned part-way through. They not the worst things I've ever read, not even the worst things I've written, but they're not all that great either. And it's only been SINCE then that I've focused on the more non-fiction/op-ed/journalistic end of the writing spectrum.
I've had considerably more success in that realm and, I think, I'm happier and more proud for it. It's always sounded kind of awesome to be able to tell people, "I write Spider-Man" -- and it'd certainly be a lot easier than trying to explain what I do write -- but if I'm honest with myself about my real interests and my real skillsets, that's not what I should be trying to do.
Now, I don't want to discourage anyone who genuinely DOES want to write Batman comics for a living and has a knack for that type of writing, but I suggest you take a moment to see if that's really the gig for you. Because I've known people who worked towards that goal for decades and never made any real headway, and I think it's a shame to have seen talented people spend so much time pursuing what seems to be somebody else's grail.
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