Writers

Honestly, I’m not even sure how valid my observation is this week. I’m doing it by feel, this is the way I feel about the subject and I’ve somehow morphed this feeling and lack of awareness into a full-blown summation of the marketplace.

Is there a collecting strain that revolves around writers? Comics are popular because the sequential art tells great stories, stories that we could not get enough of over the years. The formula involves some artists and always a writer or two. So why all the focus on the characters with their first appearances and their first cover appearances and why all the fuss around the artists with their first comic works and their first covers and why all the fuss around that classic cover that is so visually striking or appealing that you have to have it in your collection? I guess we know the answer to the whys above but I only ask to draw attention to why we as a collecting community don’t give more reverence to the writers.

Like I said above, writers are a key ingredient in the comic book recipe and if you really dissect it they are probably the most important ingredient, who wants to read a terrible story, who wants to read about a non-interesting and terribly contrived hero or villain no matter how nicely drawn and inked.

I know that often a writer and an artist collaborate on a creation and those creations don’t concern me as much as the ones that owe their existence to writers. Or am I wrong? Do artists automatically get co-credit for the creations just because they drew them?

Never mind about a writers first work, how about a writers opus work?

I know there are examples, Frank Miller Daredevil Elektra saga and his Dark Knight saga, though he did the art for those stories as well and the Daredevil run had a great first appearance in Elektra. Maybe Alan Moore’s Killing Joke is the best example, the value here seems to be solely story-driven.

Why can’t I think of tons more?

I’m trying to think of five books where the value comes from the celebrity of the writer alone. Captain America #3? Stan Lee’s first text in a comic? I think the value there is in Stan Lee the industry titan and pop culture icon versus Stan Lee the writer. How about that celebrated Master Race story from EC in the early 1950s? Master Race gets its accolades mostly from the Bernard Krigstein art though. How about Bone? Again here we have first appearances and Jeff Smith art. Fantastic Four #51 comes to mind, I think that stand-alone Stan Lee story has some legit market value from being a fantastic Ben Grimm story and thus we can hang most of the value of this book, above and beyond what a normal run issue of Fantastic Four in this era would get, on the writing.

My point is that we can off the top of our heads name dozens and dozens of books that derive their values from characters and from artists but most of us would be hard-pressed to name a handful of books that derive their value based on the writer’s participation.

Maybe this example will help me describe my thoughts, Batman may be the most sturdy and versatile hero of them all, no other hero has allowed so many creative teams to make a name for themselves as the Caped Crusader has. Scott Snyder, Tom King, Brian Azzarello, Paul Pope, Jeff Loeb, Frank Miller, Alan Moore and other greats have all added to the depth and texture of Batman while making a name for themselves as writers, but very few of us in the collecting community gravitate to the writers of these stories as the primary reason to grab the issues, the covers, the artists, the 1st appearances all get the early consideration.

Its not my most coherent argument but it is food for thought and I’d love to hear everyone’s take on this.

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Walter Durajlija
Walter Durajlija is an Overstreet Advisor and Shuster Award winner. He owns Big B Comics in Hamilton Ontario.
Articles: 1578

14 Comments

  1. I think that writers effect comic sales in the present far more greatly then after market. Yes there are writers who have been so good that the books they wrote are collected for them but not as much so as the art. Alan Moore and Frank Miller fit that category. While the art was fine on Saga of the Swamp Thing, its Moores writing that make the run collectable, same with Miller on Daredevil or Batman. While Lee was great on the FF, its hard to separate Kirby from the equation so I can’t say it was Lee alone.
    A number of years ago I collected the Flash because Mark Waid was doing a phenomenal job on the character… not because of the art which was clean and adequate. My guess that run isn’t fetching big bucks because of Waid… but at the time the book was selling great while he was on it! Once he left the book I was not far behind.
    If you page through the listings in the Overstreet… how many notations are placed on who was writing a book as opposed to who drew it? That is not to diminish a writers importance… obviously books with compelling story lines help sales… but for how long?

  2. Stan Lee successes pre- Kirby= nothing Stan’s post Kirby success also equals nothing…unless you count his ability to take credit and make money from his co creations. Equal consideration wasn’t given to his partners in crime. He paid the Romita and Buscema’s and Kanes and such…as they just generally rehashed early creations. I read they even got pensions and benefits. Not so Kirby, Ditko.
    Stan was a copy cat. See Kazar, Daredevil, Subby and Torch were revived. Kirby was brought in to create the Challengers, I mean FF. The phantom eagle, Capt Marvel, and on and on. Stan loved developing others creations. Even Spiderman is in dispute.
    Think of Roy Thomas. His best selling stuff was Conan and Star Wars….other peoples creations and adaptations. Stan and Roys writing the Marvel way, was terribly bad and really, the artist was the writer and creator of the comic. Luckily there were writers who wrote full scripts….
    Robert Kanigher ,Alan Moore and many many others. Only two Stan Lee scripts have been found to date, an 8 page outline of FF8 and another a paragraph or two long…both suspiciously produced as Stan and company were trying to defend creator rights form Kirby in the mid sixties
    http://zak-site.com/Great-American-Novel/challengers.html

  3. Good insight Gerald, writers tend to affect the consumers of current books and not so much for collectors years later.

    Dave, would all this make Kirby the Tesla of comics? Others used his talents to make money while he died a poor man.

  4. Methinks Jack worked hard and had a middle class American life style Walt….One house, a pool and maybe a vacation once a year for the kids. Enough for most. But most of us didn’t inspire millions through comic works, or inspire billions through those same works in Cinema.
    Tesla was a Serbian American Walt…..perhaps the first recorded Serbian genius in the history of history 🙂

  5. I can understand Dave’s defense of the artists whose input helped propel Marvel’s characters into stardom… however…
    You can’t underestimate Stan’s promotional abilities. Stan was constantly helping to cement Marvels place in the comic world thru his blurbs, Stan Soapbox, and letters sections! Those added to the excitement of the comics where DC was a bit more staid and dull in its letters and Direct Currents!

  6. I don’t think there is much of a _collecting_ strain just for writers, but there is certainly a _reading_ strain for writers. I don’t think there are or will be many actual comic books that are prized and valuable just because of the writer, but I think there are a lot of trade reprints that sell very well for decades because of the writers. You didn’t even mention Neil Gaiman, who is the first writer I would think of. Of course Moore (“Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”) and Miller. Harlan Ellison also did some comic book work. Also I would throw out more standard comic names like Denny O’Neill and Chris Claremont, and more recently Dan Abnett. The comic books are going to be collected and valued first and foremost for the character introduction and development, and secondly for the art, which is what distinguishes them from, say, pulps. The writers may play an integral role in both the character introductions/events and inspiring the artists to deliver, but just their involvement in a particular comic is not going to do much for its collectability regardless of how renowned they are.

  7. I was remiss not to mention Gaiman Chris! He is one that will sell both collected and some back issue books! I am sorry to admit that while I have read a-lot of his books, I have never read any Sandman.

  8. Since this is the comic collecting forum, and ComicCons are part of it I am wondering what this season will be like! Can the industry weather the fears of a pandemic looming over us? Will it even effect free comic day?

  9. I agree Gerald…. Stan was the ultimate promoter…but even his promotions were other peoples ideas…DC, ACG and harvey and Archie comics, not to mention Romance comics had letter and fan pages, long before Stan Did with Atlas and then Marvel. Stans soap box? Yup…a copy of Harveys comics Harveys news of the 1950s…disappointingly dropped in the 1960’s by the Harvey brothers. Stan had good judgement, and could promote the heck out of himself and Marvel. I use to think only Marvel displayed four or five mags ,advertising their own work, as I grew up in the 1960s. I naturally gave credit to Stan for creating this and for the letter pages and fandom. In the last 20 years I try to read every golden age title I can get my hands on. I’m surprised how many companies had fan pages and letter pages. I’m just as surprised not discovering the same in DELL comics…though they did have some fan clubs and such.
    Stan seemed to ensure letter pages were in every issue, with a picture of an earlier issues adventure. This totally enthralled me. When Roy Thomas took over managing and editing the line, letter pages mostly disappeared or were shortened, and schedules were almost never met…reprints and such. Stan was much better at it.
    No doubt Stan was a Giant. But he certainly wanted the most credit, and he certainly got the most money. Follow the money they say…

  10. I know that E.C. had letters pages as well as a fan club. Don’t know if the letters were real or a Gaines literation however.

  11. Ta Nehisi Coates’ recent work on Black Panther will surely mean those issues will become more highly valued in the future. (Sorry missed this excellent article when it appeared!)

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