On Writing For Comics

25 years ago (ulp) I edited a project for Marvel called OPEN SPACE, a shared-universe science-fiction anthology written by established SF prose writers and drawn by comics artists. It didn’t last very long, but it was very enjoyable (and stressful) to do, and brought me in touch with talented people I’m still working with today, including Alex Ross and Richard Starkings.

Because I was working with writers who, for the most part, had never written comics before, I had to teach them. I didn’t have to teach them how to write a story, since they already had plenty of experience at that—I had to give them the basics of the comics format, so they knew what to think about in telling a story visually and writing a comics script.

So I wrote a memo about it, and sent it around. For years, that memo was on the ‘net, at a site that’s long been closed down, and I just now finally got around to putting the text up here rather than saying, “Hey, I should really do that someday.”

So here it is, for whatever interest it is to others. It’s pretty basic stuff, but I can remember a time when pretty basic stuff would have been very welcome to me, so it might be helpful to others. Plus, one of the writers who worked on OPEN SPACE, Garfield Reeves-Stevens, went on to write animation, and invited me at one point to write for a show he was story editing. I told him I didn’t know how to write for animation, and he told me, “Are you kidding? You’re the guy who taught me to write animation; it’s pretty much the same stuff you told us for OPEN SPACE.” So I must have done something right.

A couple of notes:

This was written in 1988, and comics have changed a lot since then. In the memo I make assumptions about static panels, hand-lettering and other things that would make people laugh today. But hey, take it for what it’s worth.

At the time this was written, the series was called AD ASTRA. By the time it came out it was called OPEN SPACE. To this day, Bob Wayne probably thinks we changed the name because he constantly referred to it as ED ASNER when we’d meet on the commuter train, but it was actually a trademark issue. Sorry, Bob.

At the end of the memo, it mentions a couple of attachments. These are, of course, not attached. But it wouldn’t hurt, if you’re interested, to get a copy of DAREDEVIL: BORN AGAIN to see how Frank Miller used the various techniques, and, since you don’t have the sample script I gave the OPEN SPACE writers, to get a copy of PANEL ONE, edited by Nat Gertler, which shows a variety of script by a variety of writers.

In the opening remarks, it says you can call me with any questions. If you really need to, please call me at the Marvel offices in the late 1980s. I’m sure I’ll be very helpful.

Memo begins after the break. Continue reading