Writing is one of the most underestimated skills in the modern era. Of course we are still awed by poets, literary figures, playwrights, and although rapidly fading, we still hold a healthy measure of respect for journalism. Every once in a while we are dazzled by a well-written film or TV series, which invariably becomes massively popular or even a classic. Comic books are no different. I’ve been in comic book conventions where people brag about: “we desperately needed a writer for the series, so [whatever the name was] from marketing stepped up and wrote the story.” I’m paraphrasing an actual quote, but I sat there shocked at the fact that a guy who admittedly had no writing training was tapped to be the writer of a series. Training doesn’t equate talent, of course, but sadly this wasn’t the case. No wonder writers like Moore, Gaiman, Ennis, and Miller are so popular. Aside from their obvious talent, they have the slight advantage of being writers. Trained or not, they know how to tell a story with words.
The fact that a person can put words together in sentences doesn’t make them a writer. Most people in the 21st century can read and write, and word processor software has made the task even easier. So really, the ability to write doesn’t make you a writer. Perhaps the quintessential illustration of this idea comes from the Robert Altman film “The Player,” in which studio executives browse through the newspaper in search for story ideas, since the screenwriters were on strike. Personally, I think a writer is a person who has a way with words, i.e. Shakespeare and Cervantes to show the pinnacle of this skill. These are people that have such a command of their language that can convey timeless stories. I, for one, see myself as a storyteller, not a writer.
To the chagrin of most people who want to break into the comic business as writers, the doors are tightly closed. Like fictional spies, we search for the one chance we can find to “Machiavelli” our way into the impregnable fortress that is the publishing business amidst an endless army of clone-writing, half-baked producing, rip-off adapting, unoriginal-typing, nonsensical-scribing people. I’ll see you in the page.