Through the Mail Slot

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So, I seem to have been neglecting the blog. Sorry about that. Since last I posted, we’ve done Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’ve spent a week in L.A. pitching a movie, a week in Florida visiting relatives, written a mess o’ comics, read a ton of graphic novels and three quarters of a ton of novels, gotten very productive, gotten sick and unproductive, and now I seem to be getting productive again.
But anyway, let me answer some of the mail that’s stacked up, at least, and I’ll feel a little less neglectful. For a week or so, maybe.
From VICTOR:

I apologize if this question is at all out of line or a sore point and I’m even more sad I missed the opportunity to talk to you last weekend at Mid-Ohio, but I’ve been wondering if you felt any kind of way about Marvel’s use of your story beat from the Confessor arc of Astro City as the general concept for the Secret Invasion event from two summers back? As a fellow writer, I wholly subscribed to a “my ideas are for the world to use and explore,” but I know I’m in the minority on that one. Was this something that you were addressed with before or is it possibly another happy-accident of creative synergy?
Thanks in advance for taking the time to read this and I hope I get to make your acquaintance on the con-circuit come next year!
I’ll confess to not having read Secret Invasion, but I expect what you mean is that there were shape-shifting aliens infiltrating humanity, right? If so, the idea wasn’t original to me—Skrulls have been disguising themselves as human at Marvel for years, going back to Fantastic Four #2, when they disguised themselves as the Fantastic Four. And of course, the trope goes back to stuff like They Live, The Invaders and Invasion of the Body Snatchers as well.
I’ve also seen people suggest that Marvel took the Superhero Registration Act in the Civil War event from Confession, but that too has predecessors—the Mutant Registration Act at Marvel, the “Last Days of the Justice Society” events at DC, where the JSA heroes were pressured to reveal their identities to the government, the Keene Act in Watchmen, and of course they’re all inspired by real-world examples like the 1940 Alien Registration Act or the Nazi registration of Jewish-owned property, and so on.
What matters isn’t whether ideas are new—most aren’t, after all—but how they’re used. And I’m reasonably confident that Secret Invasion used its ideas rather differently from what happened in Confession.
From MARK:

No question, no inquiry, no request.
Just wanted to say thank you for writing great stories that I really enjoy reading and coming back to again and again.
Reread Astro City Vol 1 again and felt compelled to tell you how much I enjoyed it, again.
Very glad to hear it, sir!
CLICK THE LINK BELOW FOR LOTS MORE…

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Do A Good Turn Daily

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Ordinarily, I resist e-mails that fall into the category of “Can you answer these questions for my school report,” on the general principle that writers shouldn’t be doing students’ homework for them, and the idea of the questions was probably to get the student to do their own research.
However, when I was asked if I’d answer some questions for a ten-year-old Girl Scout working on earning a badge in “Comics,” I had to make an exception. My one specification was that I’d answer the questions here on the blog, so I’d have it to hand to point others to, if similar questions arise.
Anyway, here are the questions, from Breena, along with my answers:
1. What did you like about comics that made you start writing comics?
A lot of different things.
I liked the way comics are a combination of words and pictures, so the right line of dialogue, or caption, or even the right sound effect, combined with the right picture, can be more powerful than either of them alone.
I also like the way the superhero worlds of Marvel and DC Comics were sprawling, interconnected world where characters from one series could meet characters from another series, and a long ongoing history full of lots of different characters had been developed and could be explored.
But the thing that first got me to want to write comics was that they were short. I knew I wanted to be a writer, but writing a whole novel seemed like so much work, particularly if you got to the end of it and found out you weren’t very good at it. Comics were a lot shorter, so I thought it would be easier to try to write comics and find out if I was any good at it without it taking so long.
So I did, and it turned out I really liked doing it.
2. How long have you been writing?
I started writing and drawing comics with my friend Scott McCloud in 1976, for fun and to get practice at doing it, and I sold my first professional script in 1982. So I’ve been writing comics professionally for twenty-eight years, and for fun for thirty-four years.
3. Do you have fun making new characters when you get to?
Usually. Creating characters is work, too, and if I’m trying to crate a character to fit a very particular role in a story, it can be a lot of work, but usually it’s fun to come up with names, powers, costume ideas, personalities, histories and that sort of thing.
4. Are you just a comic book writer or do you write books too?
I’ve written some short stories, co-wrote a novel, and written articles and interviews and things, and I’m working on a novel now. But mostly, I’ve written comics.
5. Do you have a favorite character to draw or write about?
I always like writing Hawkeye, and there are other characters I have a great time writing, like Green Lantern, Thor, the original X-Men and some others. But I like writing my own characters, too. I like variety, so I wouldn’t want to write any one character all the time, and whoever I’m writing, I can usually find something about them that makes me have fun writing them.
6. Do you have a worst character to write or draw about?
There are some characters that I don’t enjoy writing, either because they have a funny speech pattern that I can’t get right in my head, or I just don’t enjoy reading about them so it’s hard to get excited about writing about them. Probably the top of that list would be Gambit of the X-Men. There are lots of readers who like him a lot, but I’m just not one of them.
7. Do you draw or just write?
I just write. I used to draw my own comics, when I was learning how to write comics, and I think it helped me a lot because I developed a sense of how much space there is on a page, and what would be too much stuff to try to fit onto it. I can also sketch well enough to how someone what I mean in a tricky page layout, or suggest costume designs. But I don’t draw well enough to want to do it professionally.
8. Did you enjoy comics when you were little?
My parents didn’t let my sisters and me read superhero comics when we were kids, but we had other comics, like Asterix and Tintin and Pogo and Dennis the Menace in books, and I’d read the comics in the newspaper, and I liked those a lot. But I didn’t start reading regular American comic-book type comics until I was fourteen. I liked them a lot then, though!
9. Do you write with other people to make good ideas?
Sometimes. It’s good to be able to bat ideas back and forth with someone else. Even when I’m writing by myself, I try to talk with my editor or artist to make sure I’m able to test out my ideas and get their opinions as I go along.
10. Do you ever do comic book signings?
Yes. Just last weekend, I was at the Emerald City Comics Convention in Seattle, and I was signing comics there. And I’ve done comic book signings as far away as Spain, Australia and Singapore, and as close as a comics store in my home town. I like meeting the fans and hearing what they think about the comics.
EXTRA: My dad thinks Aquaman is the BEST. What do you think?
I like Aquaman, too. There are a lot of other heroes I like, so I’m not sure I’d say “best,” but he’s a very good character. I even wrote Aquaman in his own series for a while a few years ago, and in other series like Justice League of America and Superman as well.
Hope that helps!