Emma Beeby tries to explain what it is she does for a living, and why the aspiring writer shouldn’t dismiss comics as a career path…
Here’s the typical conversation I have when trying to explain that I write comics for a living to strangers.
Comics! Really? So… you draw the pictures?
Oh no. I think folk would generally prefer a comic not composed of stick figures! I’m just a writer. The artist draws it, you see.
Ah, right. So you do the words in the balloons.
No. Well, okay, YES. It’s a bit more complicated than that. It’s harder to write comics than people think.
Come on. Comics? It’s all ‘Biff! Pow!’ It’s got to be easier than writing [screenplays/stage-plays/novels/blogs/tweets]...
Eh, no. Take your favourite scene from your favourite movie, reduce it to five freeze frames with maybe twelve lines of dialogue which have to be printed over those images, still make sense, and also not occlude the lovely visuals. That sound easy peasy to you? DOES IT?
Okay… but… it must be nice, y’know, just writing for kids?
You get the idea. Comics are not well understood. I have a theory that many writers who
work on film, theatre or novels might find comics to be a path worth following, but it has never occurred to them.
I had been reading comics for many years, but the process by which they were created was something of a mystery even to me. So I never saw a role for me there until I met a couple of comics creators who pointed it out to me.
There is also a certain snobbishness about comics in general.
Comics sometimes have a reputation of being insular, simplistic or even immature, composed of one-dimensional superheroes and their unlikely shaped female sidekicks with outfits apparently made of paint.
But if you take a closer look, comics have as many kinds of stories as any other medium, from the literary to the pulp. For me, it has provided a place to write even more, and more kinds, of stories than film, plays or games had offered me. With comics I’ve written household name characters and my own characters; comedy, satire, action, superhero, sci-fi, crime; and for audiences across different parts of the world.
It’s also a lovely and welcoming community to be a part of. (And no, I’m not the only woman working in it!)
So while it’s not a well-understood industry, it is a huge and prolific one, with hundreds of titles being published every week.
And it always needs new writers.
Emma Bebby is delivering a class on writing graphic novels and comics at Skriva Writing School on the 4th and 5th June. Details & booking: http://www.skrivawriting.com/#!graphic-novels--comicbooks/cyhz