I hope this isn’t a silly question, but what differences do you see between comics writing and writing for TV or movies? Would you say that comic book story structure is less rigid and formulaic?
Writing for television means adhering to many strictures and limitations — things like building in a hook before each commercial break, obligations to performing talent, sticking strictly to the bible and staying within strict conceptual parameters. And more. The money is bigger, the stakes are higher. Therefore: There is very little tolerance for inflated egos and self-indulgent prima donnas. The supervision is rigorous and exacting. The people who write TV, almost without exception, know their craft and are skilled professionals. For most shows that accept pitches you have to be qualified and approved before you’re even allowed to pitch.
All of that said, there are, of course, some writers who work brilliantly under those tight conditions and do great things, some who do impeccably structured, uninspired crap and many who fall in the middle. Knowing all the steps does not make one a great dancer, but at least TV writers in general know the steps.
So do film writers. The competition there is so fierce that unskilled writers fall by the wayside or, at best, sell a draft for the ideas in it, which is summarily rewritten by someone with skills. The problem with movies is that too often good scripts are weakened downstream by directors, producers, studios. The well-written screenplay for Dragonslayer, for instance, was eviscerated by studio execs who thought many more minutes of “action,” i.e., a rubber dragon flapping around would be “more commercial” than a solid story. Even William Goldman has many such horror stories.
The comic book industry is rife with writers who do not know writing basics, the sort of things Mark Twain cites in his “Nineteen Rules.” Supervision is usually lax and the supervisors often are clueless. So, there is more “freedom” in the sense that some can get away with more self-indulgent, amateurish garbage; and some who don’t have basic skills are allowed to fumble their way along blindly. It seems that the only skills the creative management at the two major companies require of writers are a knack for glib patter and “events,” or gimmicks. In an earlier comment, Marc Miyake hit the nail squarely — they seem to focus on STIMULI, not story. What’s the most shocking thing we can do? Break Batman’s back! Kill Thor! Make Hal Jordan a villain! Then throw it all away and start over with Ultimate or New 52 so there are new opportunities for shocking stimuli. That seems to be all the companies care about.
And P.S., too many artists these days can’t tell a story even if given a good one. But, they’re given carte blanche, as long as they’ve got some dazzle.
Seems to me that’s a good way to kill an industry.
All of that said, there are some writers who actually do have a clue and do some brilliant work. Too many do work that is craft-less, clueless uninspired crap or mediocre at best.