Part four of my interview with John Rogers (Blue Beetle, Zombie Tales, oh, and some movies and tv shows too) on transitioning between screen and print.
CTVW: How'd you learn to write comics?
JR: I wrote them, sent them to friends till they stopped sucking.
CTVW: You started with Zombie Tales
JR: A bunch of us were sitting around talking about why zombie movies are so popular. Zombies are a metaphor for this, they're a metaphor for that. And my friend Ross realized, all these takes on zombies are an anthology. That's why Boom! did Zombie Tales
. And it was a challenge. You've got eight pages. Five panels. Try writing a short story in 40 sentences. As soon as I started writing my first comic, I called all my comic writer friends and said, "I am so sorry - this is the hardest writing I've ever done." You have to do all the work yourself, too. You don't just write the dialog. You have to say how the artist should draw this. Essentially you have to be the writer and
the director and
CTVW: And the editor.
JR: And it's amazing what someone can do in that time if they're good. That said, screenwriting is good practice for writing comics. By the second run at the thing, I started to get it right more or less. But there are still things I write where the artist comes back and, "there's no way you can do it in that many pictures." You can't do it in one panel.
CTVW: How do you not read a comic in 5 minutes? The thing that I find difficult is you buy a comic, and it takes maybe 5 minutes to read it, and you're done. Okay, maybe your local library has the trade paperback. But how do you slow down the read?
JR: I have an eye for the art. I think, "that's an interesting way to get that in the page." But they're meant to be consumed in bite sized chunks.
CTVW: In other words, you don't slow down the read.
JR: The big boom in comics was the GI's during World War II. They had maybe 5 minutes to kill. It's a matter of enjoying that as it goes.
CTVW: What stories lend themselves to comics?
JR: Well there are genres. True life. Confessional. Soapy story. The capes. Indie crime. Monster stories. But you can also become your own genre. Steve Niles created 30 Days a Night
and now there are people who are just looking for the next Steve Niles.
CTVW: Why so much with the big mythic stories? Is it just because you can destroy the world for nothing on paper?
JR: I think that's partly the tradition in comics.
CTVW: But okay, then, why did it become the tradition? What is it about comics that lend themselves to the big myth?
JR: It's a cultural thing. I have British readers on my website, they just don't get the capes. They like Judge Dredd, 2000AD
-- spy stuff, cop stuff, sf stuff. Superman learning to love again? Ugh. That's entertainment?
JR: Okay, I think you just come to different media with different expectations. Comics sell a hundred thousand copies max
. That's a tenth of a ratings share. Comics readers want to see something out of this world. That said, there are shows that have the big mythos. Buffy
was magnficently mythic.
[CTVW: And Joss is a huge fanboy and writes comics.]
JR: A lot of people are desperate for a big over the top metaphorical story. Look at Lost
[CTVW: Also written by fanboys]
JR: —and Desperate Housewives
is about sin, and fantasy fulfillment. Comics are our modern myths. For every gritty story you can tell, there are more illuminating ways to tell it with a fantastic bent. [And comics make it easy to show something fantastic.] Look at Bill Willingham's Fables
, watching him unfold the story and reference something that you think, "I should know what that is!" until you figure out what it is
. As many people I know who have had transcendent religious experiences, I know at least that many who were genuinely moved by the idea of the Global Frequency.
Okay, kids. That was John Rogers, speaking to us about the comics writing experience. Now get thee to Meltdown and buy thee a couple of issues of Blue Beetle
, so John can get his fix ... of story telling.