Marvelman has left a new comment on your post “And So This Is Christmas Plus More Sex <http://www.jimshooter.com/2011/12/and-so-this-is-christmas-plus-more-sex.html
It’s a small world. I came on this blog to recommend that Jim take a look at Azzarello & Chiang’s Wonder Woman. I highly recommend it. However, I’m not sure that each issue contains as much exposition as it should. I think it’s possible a new reader would find herself lost. Which brings me to two questions…
1) Jim, how do you feel about the “what has gone before” pages which are now printed on the first page of many comic books?
2) Do you think it is alright for some books in a line to be directed at a general audience and others to be intended for comics-savvy readers? Or, would that just lead confusion about what a brand (e.g. Marvel, DC…) represents?
RE: “…how do you feel about the “what has gone before” pages which are now printed on the first page of many comic books?”
I guess they’re better than nothing, but some of the ones I’ve seen are badly written and do as much harm as good. They usually shouldn’t be necessary, in my opinion, though occasions may arise that warrant them. I used introductory text pages in “Alpha and Omega,” the serialized Solar: Man of the Atom #0 story published by VALIANT. In most cases, a writer should be able to get across the essential information very briefly, in a caption, perhaps, or a bit of dialogue. Then, as the story progresses, in organic and inobtrusive fashion provide more introduction of characters, situations, etc. I think I did a fair job of it in Turok Son of Stone #2, the script for which we have just made available for download.
Things often go wrong with those introductory texts. Unless they’re written by a skilled writer, they often contain not enough information, too much information (becoming long-winded and tedious) or irrelevant, confusing information. The intro text for Captain America and Bucky #624, for instance, says this:
“1941. ORPHANED AFTER THE LOSS OF HIS FATHER, JAMES “BUCKY” BARNES BECAME THE MASCOT AT FORT LEHIGH AND GAINED A REPUTATION AS A NOTORIOUS TROUBLEMAKER (my italics for emphasis). AS WORLD WAR II LOOMED, BARNES WAS SELECTED FOR A ONE-OF-A-KIND SPECIAL ASSIGNMENT WITH THE ARMY: TO BE THE NEW PARTNER FOR STEVE ROGERS, AKA CAPTAIN AMERICA. AFTER SURVIVING COUNTLESS HIGH-RISK OPERATIONS, BUCKY WAS ULTIMATELY LOST, PLUNGING INTO ARCTIC WATERS AND PRESUMED DEAD…”
As I read the story, somewhere in the back of my mind I kept wondering when Bucky’s troublemaker past would be a factor. Turns out it wasn’t. So why mention it?
Ah, but the main problem with those intros is that too often the writer of the story relies on it to provide all the information necessary, and therefore doesn’t even make an attempt to communicate things we need to know to understand the story. Which inspires the intro writers to be even more long-winded and tedious.
RE: “Do you think it is alright for some books in a line to be directed at a general audience and others to be intended for comics-savvy readers? Or, would that just lead confusion about what a brand (e.g. Marvel, DC…) represents?”
Again, that shouldn’t be necessary. But, since weeding out the unskilled comic book writers (somebody used the term “professional fanfic writers”) isn’t something that the major companies are likely to do soon, maybe giving them a playpen of their own and getting real writers to do the heavy lifting on cornerstone titles would be worth a try. It’s an idea. I can even imagine DC or Marvel trying it. Good one. But…how sad that things have come to the point that quarantining the professional fanfic writers and letting them do stories aimed solely at readers steeped in the lore seems reasonable.