Aug 5 2010 12:41pm

From Comics to Cosmic, Part 4: Comics Make You a Better Writer Faster Than Anything Else

“From Comics to Cosmic” is a new series from noted comic book writer/artist Steve Englehart. Read about the intense and often unbelievable ups and downs of his experience working in the comic industry. Check back daily for more of his exploits! Previous installments of “From Comics to Cosmic” can be found here.

The great thing about writing comics books is the fact that they’re monthly. That means that you have to come up with a complete story every month for every book you’re writing. A working comics writer will often write four a month, so that means that you have to come up with a complete story every week.

And since comics are published about three months after they’re written, you get feedback very quickly. Settling into the writer’s life, you live in a continuous loop of creation and feedback, learning very quickly what works and what doesn’t. I’ve got to say, I have always been very glad I didn’t start off as a novelist or a screenwriter. Creating, then waiting—for a sale, for an editor’s notes, for a publication, for reader reaction—there’s no way you can develop your craft as quickly as a comics writer. And before you reflexively retort “It’s just comics,” please recall how many times you’ve heard “It’s just fantasy.” Writing is what you make of it.

But then again...

The terrible thing about writing comics books is the fact that they’re monthly. That means that you are on a treadmill, and if you stay on that treadmill, you will burn out. As much as I loved writing comics, I figured out soon enough that I couldn’t do it endlessly, so after becoming the lead writer for both Marvel and DC, I walked away, took a year off...and wrote a novel (The Point Man). I’ve got to say, it was a shock to step into the of novel writing, and I’ll have more to say about that in a later installment.

But in tomorrow’s installment of this little space-filler, I want to point out the glittering exception to everything I’ve just said. That would be Stan Lee, who wrote pretty much continuously for thirty years, and at one point was writing thirteen books a month...

Steve Englehart is a novelist, comic book, film, television, and video game writer known for his work on high profile titles, including Marvel’s Captain America, The Hulk, The Avengers, Dr. Strange, DC’s Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, and many more.

1 comment
Rob Hansen
1. RobHansen
Yeah but, as you know, at the time Stan was knocking out thirteen comics per month he was doing them in what used to be called the 'Marvel method'- ie. Stan would discuss the plot with an artist, who would then go away and draw the requisite number of pages based purely on that discussion, and Stan would then add dialogue to the pencilled pages. Still an impressive output, but thirteen comics a month done 'full script' would've killed him, if in fact it was even physically possible.

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