Thursday, April 14, 2011

Episode #171 Part VI: MegaCon 2011 The Many Faces Of Mark Waid Panel!

The Mark Waid panel was the third panel I attended on Saturday, March 26, 2011. Mark didn't spend any time talking about himself. He said that at similar panels in other conventions he always did a question and answer session, and opened the floor to questions.

Someone asked what made Mark want to return to the title Ruse. Mark said that after Disney bought the rights to the CrossGen titles, including Ruse, then Marvel, he was called to see if he was interested in returning to the title he had created. The characters' voices returned to him quickly, and it's been fun.

Another question was what appealed to Mark about comic book writing? He said that it was the dynamics of comic book storytelling, which is different from movies. Mark said that the most important thing was to think visually. While at Boom! Studios he would receive scripts about men in suits talking for three pages. Comic book writers need to write visually. Tell the story as concisely as possible in a limited number of pages. If a scene takes more than four or five pages it's probably too long for an average comic book issue. Every line of dialogue must have a purpose, either to advoance plot, develop character or both.

He was asked why he liked the Legion of Super-Heroes. The group seemed hard to write for, with the number of characters. Mark said that it was his favorite team book since he was a boy. The problem with the Legion after the Superman reboot was that the foundation of the Legion had been removed. Rebooting the Legion after the Zero Hour event mini-series didn't work, because DC was retelling old Legion stories, adapted to a new audience.

The Legion has a reputation for being inpenetrable, Mark said. When he did his reboot with Barry Kitson around 2003 - 2005, new fans loved it but old fans hated it. The title still earned okay sales. But the Justice League Lightning Saga story threw a wrench in their plans, and their version of the Legion was relegated to an "imaginary story." Mark kept wanting to use Superboy, but the legal battle over the character prevented that, so Supergirl wound up being used instead.

Mark gave some tips on writing comic book scripts. Write one page of script to one page of comic book art. Don't complicate life for the artist by concluding a comic book page on a second script page. It's natural for an artist to assume that the entire comic book page will be on one script page. When writing a comic book script, don't try to impress your audience, but keep your focus on communicating the story to the artist. Don't treat the artist like a robot, leave room for the artist to contribute to the story, and allow him to cut what he feels is excess description that takes away from the scene.

Someone asked Mark if he read mythology. He answered that he was a science kid; mythology didn't impress him. When he wrote Kingdom Come, that came out of 20 years of reading comic books and absorbing the culture.

A fan of Mark's Boom! Studio title Irredeemable said that he loved the title and asked Mark if the title has an ending. Mark said that he did have an end point, but he didn't know when he would get to it. He considers it as an open ended series, although he originally thought it might last about a year. The title still sells at first issue numbers, which is rare, and the trades are doing well also. That has put the ending off further.

Another fan asked Mark about the implications of digital publication on comic books, a subject that touched on a number of panels at MegaCon. Mark thought that the digital publishing had a great potential for the comic book industry. He compared it to the new version of the old newsstands, which, in its time was the cheapest and most efficient way to get magazines to a mass audience. It has the potential of tapping into an audience that has been ignored for 20 years. Mark didn't think that digital would kill comic books. The industry seems to be doing a good job of killing itself.

He also wasn't interested in killing the comic book retail business. The challenge is to drive the audience to the material. Presently, the four major metropolitan areas of the country contain a little over half of the comic book stores in the nation. Mark does feel that half of the present number of comic book retailers will go out of business in the next few years, and the rest will become pop culture stores. He sees digital as a way to distribute content to an audience cheap enough to cover production costs and break even, then print in whatever form suits the material. Digital can become a reliable revenue stream.

I asked Mark about his relationship with Julius Schwartz. Mark said that Schwartz was the greatest comic book editor ever. He had been Ray Bradbury's and Lovecraft's literary agent, and was one of the founders of science fiction fandom. Mark has to credit Julius for developing much of his writing style. Above all else make sure page 1 has a hook to draw the reader into the story.

Mark first met Julius Schwartz in 1984. The greatest day of Mark's life was when he sold Julie, as Schwartz was called, his first comic stories in 1985, for Superman. Mark described Julie as gruff, easily bored and impatient, but kind. Waid liked the fact that Schwartz never forgot that he was a fan as well. He took pride in bringing new fans like Mark into the industry. Julie took new writers who showed potential under his wing, and never looked at fans as beneath him. Mark credited Schwartz with reinventing comic book in the 1950's, so, according to Waid, if not for Julie the comic book industry possibly could have become extinct. Mark reiterated what a huge debt of gratitude he owed Julius Schwartz.

Mark also discussed his upcoming run on Daredevil. He hopes to make Daredevil more of a swashbuckler, a little more of a lighter character even though the world around him will remain dark. Mark wasn't interested in writing a dark Matt Murdock, but also didn't want to return to the goofy silver age Daredevil.

Next episode: MegaCon 2011 The Art Of The Cover Panel!

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