INTERVIEW WITH JOHN ROGERS, PART 1 - Complications Ensue
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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

INTERVIEW WITH JOHN ROGERS

As you know from reading John Rogers' blog, Kung Fu Monkey -- you do read Kung Fu Monkey, right? -- JR not only writes big Hollywood movies where things go boom, he is also a comics fan. He was all set to showrun Global Frequency, based on one of Warren Ellis's relatively cheery and utopian comics (and if you know Ellis's work, you know the term "relative" is doing a lot of heavy lifting there).
Now, he's writing comics. He started with a few of his own Zombie Tales, and now he's writing Blue Beetle with Keith Giffen.

Now, a comic that sells 5000 copies is not doing badly. The biggest comics series sell 100,000 an issue. A movie that sells 100,000 tickets is an unreleasable catastrophe that was only put in theaters to satisfy a clause in a contract. (Or, a mainstream Canadian release. But that's another post. Probably one on Denis's blog.)

So what is John doing writing comics when he could be writing more TV and movies? Is it wealth beyond the dreams of avarice? A need to procrastinate? The angst of the inner fanboy? He was kind enough to agree to another interview.

(NB: I'm going to get all the lingo wrong, so just point out my bads in the comments below and bear with me.)

CTVW: So, what are you writing comics for?
JR: Well, you can make ... fives of thousands of dollars. No, it's that you can get a story into production. In comics the line to production is straight. You write the story, the artist draws it. It's as close to TV as you can get, with the same attractions. You get to arc characters out, build great episodic moments with longer stories. And you're not restrained by budget. It's like the old radio plays.
CTVW: But you could be writing TV instead of the movies. Movies are sort of a one-night stand for the writer, aren't they? All that work to get them into bed and then "bye, gotta go."
JR: Movies have their own allure. It's the difference between writing novels and short stories. Each one has its own charm. There's something attractive about the very form -- the challenge of sketching out a character in that lenght of time. You have basically 15 pages [in a movie] to get everyone up and running, set up the world, create the pace of the world.

On the other hand, yeah, there is the frustration of "Am I still writing this movie??? How many drafts has it been?" Even when you write a sequel, and you love the characters and the world, you still have to let them go. Very few movies go on to be franchises.

They are two distinct styles. On the other hand on TV you start making compromises from the very beginning. There are fewer production compromises in movies. [I.e. in the movies John's writing!] At least, not before shooting. Until then, the movie is the movie, while in TV you always have the budget in the back of your mind. Can this be shot in 8 days? In a movie, you can blow up the world.
CTVW: To what degree do you direct camera in your comics scripts?
JR: Well bear in mind that I have very limited experience. I've worked with like three or four guys. Some of them can nail stuff without my having to mention it.
CTVW: But you call the shots.
JR: Yeah, you have to call the panels. That's one of the challenges of comics. You're basically doing a final edit in the script. Of course, many times the artist will have ideas about that. I get a call from Cully Hamner, the artist on Blue Beetle: "Can I pull this panel from this page onto that page?" or, " I really want to make this a bigger moment -- I want to do this page in 3 panels instead of 5." And sometimes it's, "Can I condense this page?", and I'll say, "No, I need the smaller panels." But usually they're dead on.
[To be continued...]
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1 Comments:

Actually, 5000 copies is only OK if you own the book outright. Usually anything under 20,000 at the major publishers meets with quick cancellation, unless you're talking about Vertigo and they have a different system in place.

By Blogger Justin Gray, at 9:12 AM  

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