Mike, you ignorant slut.
Well, there he goes again. Mike W. Barr wrote a similar letter in DC Comics Shop Talk and l still disagree with it. At DC, until pretty recently, the writer *did* get the same royalty as the penciller and that is grossly unfair.
Consider that most writers write considerably more than a comic book a month, and many do so while holding down a full-time job as an editor. Most artists can barely do a comic book a month. Many aren't *that* fast, and if they inked their own work as well -- there wouldn't be many monthly comics, that's for sure.
The inequality in pay that Mike mentions is a joke when the time it takes to produce said work, is considered. If l drew a comic book in the time it takes a "real" writer like Mike Barr to write it, it'd be a pretty sorry-looking comic book to look at. The fact that most artists spend 10 to 12 hours a day plus most weekends every single month to produce what a writer who labors over his work can produce in a week shows where the real inequality lies.
As for the writer being the only one who begins with a blank page, that's most often not the case. A look at any of the many comics out there will show you where the writer's looking: at other comics! As much as artists get belittled for swiping, it's wonder more writers don't get the same grief. Most of the stories are recycled from previous issues and recent movies. It's been years since l read any real stories that require the writer to do any real research other than thumbing through his collection to find out what The Scorpion did last time so he can simply rewrite the same tired plot again and again. Batman hasn't been a detective in decades; a good punch to the nose has replaced any real investigative work on his part. Is it any wonder that artists are waking up and deciding to do it themselves? Our point is a simple one: We're saying to the Mike Barrs of the world that *we don't need you* and, more than that, *we don't want you*.
I overheard an inker moaning because the artist whose work he'd been inking for years suddenly decided to start inking himself. He didn't see thatthe penciller may be looking for more creative control or that he's gotten bored just pencilling and needed a creative change to give his work more vitality. The inker may even feel smubbed that maybe the penciller might not be that fond of his inking or at least have grown tired of it. He saw it another way: He wants all the money, is how he saw it.
Mike may be feeling the same way -- as may others. They're becoming obsolete. What bothers me more, though, is that Mike dosen't consider that maybe the artist-writer has something to say. Maybe he can't create working with a writer who's happy to rehash old stories and bring back that old villain for his 30th bout with the hero. Who knows how many Silver Surfers, Demons, New Gods, Deathloks, Ambush Bugs, Cables, Shatterstars, Ferals, Elektras, Mr, As, Ronins, Shrapnels, Termanuses, Alpha Flights, and many others aren't being created, because artists are being overshadowed by lazy writers?
l know that when l'm illustrating a story by most writers l'll get the same thing that writer's been churning out for the last 15 years -- no suprises -- the *same* thing. Meanwhile, l'm getting better, introducing new characters and concepts and coming up with stuff guys like him can and will rehash for years come while all the while complaining about guys like me.
Mike mentions that he feels he should get some art back (even though he never actually *had* the physical piece of art in the first place). In the letter in DC's Shop Talk Mike says it's unfair that the artist gets back pages to sell and that all the writer gets to keep is his scripts, and there's no market for them. Well, why not? Why can't a writer sell his plots and scripts that were the beginning of the story in the first place? Certainly the mountain of fans wanting to break into the business could use them as a guide on how to do it.
Most writers work on computers and could print out countless copies. Sure, they probably won't sell for the price of some original art (although much art, it should be pointed out, dosen't sell even from top guys in the field, and the bulk of art out there is fairly undesirable and dirt cheap) -- they do have the advantage of being able to run off as many copies as they can move.
There's something else Mike may not consider: Artists are getting so tired of so little original thought in writing that they *won't* work with many of them any more. Those artists would rather do any other comic book where they can write and draw the work than work with another "real" writer any more.
Editors know this and they also know that a well-drawn comic book with so-so writing will always sell better than a well-written comic book with so-so art, simply because the reader dosen't read it before buying it; he can only look at it. How would Mike possibly control this? If it's a choice between keeping a bad (or simply uninspired) writer and not having a decent artist stick around or giving the comic book to that same artist and having him stay around and try to pump life into the series?
A writer who's good, whom artists and fans support will always find good, talented guys to work with because they'll seek him or her out. There are still many artists who have no desire to write and many who do but would still be more than willing to draw somebody else's stories if they liked their writing.
More artists writing won't spell the end of good comics, just as it didn't when Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko started doing all their own scripting. What it may mean is that fewer mediocre writers will find themselves with work or decent artists to work with -- but then the repetitous, rehashed, reworked hackwork of these tired writers is likely to drag this industry down, anyway.
It's really kind of an eye-opener to walk around the offices at Marvel and DC. Editors are forever griping about how badly other editors write, yet are continuing to give that person plenty of work. Writer-artists are getting talked down and up from either side of editors' mouths, and old-time writers are making unreasonable demands and ultimatums on silly things that nobody cares about.
It's sure nice to see more editors who are really trying to work with people to produce a better product and fewer trying to do favors for each other so that they can get more work for themselves in the process.
When a kid comes up to me at a show and wants a break as a writer, l always give them the same advice" "Learn to draw -- or get a job as an editor."