What Does It Mean to Write a Comic Book? – Part 1

Mark Evanier is one of the most trusted names in TV and comics writing, with a list of credits longer than most people’s total, um, memories.

Dood doesn’t just know his stuff, he’s the best at most of it. Which means that whether or not you’re interested in writing for comic books, we believe wholeheartedly that you’ll be interesting in what he has to say about doing just that. And applying it to your field of choice. Therefore:

What Does It Mean to Write a Comic Book?
by Mark Evanier

I’m not sure how many parts this is going to run but I think this is necessary and way overdue. As I read various forums on the ‘net, I see a lot of arguments over who wrote a certain comic book or created a certain character. What often strikes me about these debates is that the various combatants are using very different definitions of the word “write.” If you and I are going to have a constructive discussion on any topic, it helps if we’re kinda speaking the same language.

Anyone who has worked in the TV and movie business has seen these arguments about writing and odd claims about what constitutes writing. For instance: When I was working on the old sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter, a woman who worked in a non-writing capacity on the show casually suggested that we do an episode in which Gabe Kaplan’s character shaves off his mustache and everyone treats him differently. That was all she had, or intended to have, but when the producer said, “Hey, that’s not a bad idea,” she let it be known that should would expect the writing credit on any episode in which Mr. Kotter was sans facial hair.

She wasn’t going to write an actual script…and even if she had, every word of it would probably have been rewritten by the show’s producers and story editors, along with changes by the cast. That happened with almost every script, even the ones we ourselves wrote. But as far as she was concerned, she had already written whatever episode would be written. Lest there be a problem with the lady and any lawyer she might engage, the idea was never used.

This happens a lot…people thinking that suggesting a line or idea constitutes writing. It doesn’t. It’s not nothing but it usually isn’t enough to be credited as the writer or to receive some billing that dilutes the credit of the person who did most of the work on the script. In TV or in movies — in any collaborative medium, in fact — “Written by John Doe” doesn’t mean Johnny wrote every word and had every idea.

I’ve occasionally given a joke or suggestion to a friend who’s writing a script or vice-versa. I don’t go around telling people I was the unbilled co-author, nor does that friend when he or she gives me something I use. Even if you sell a novel to a big publishing firm, you’ll probably have an editor who will suggest things and help shape and polish your novel…but you’re not about to share the credit for it with that editor. Making a suggestion is not the same thing as writing. Rephrasing a line of dialogue is not writing….

Read it all at NewsFromME