Shelf Life: Leftovers

Thu, December 1st, 2011 at 2:58pm PST

Comic Books
Ron Marz, Columnist

A Heaping Helping of Leftovers

Everybody has leftovers after Thanksgiving. Some turkey, some mashed potatoes, some stuffing, probably some turnips in the back of the refrigerator that nobody wants to eat. Today's column is full of leftovers -- or maybe it's a bunch of appetizers: thoughts that don't warrant a whole column, but have been bouncing around in my head anyway. So here's a helping of semi-random observations:

The time you spend writing comics for a living is inversely proportional to the time you spend reading comics for pleasure.

I've come to enjoy reading collections much more than single issues. And I'm much more likely to buy a hardcover than a trade paperback. So, yes, I guess I've turned into a trade-waiter.

There was some first-hand evidence that the CrossGen offices were haunted. Or at the very least, had some strange, unexplained goings-on in the evening hours.

I'm much more likely to pick up a comic because of who drew it, rather than who wrote it.

As a freelancer, you know there is always, always someone willing to do your job cheaper. As a writer, there's almost always someone willing to do your job for free.

To properly do your job as a comics writer, you need to know the workings of all the other jobs: pencils, inks, color, letters. You need to understand what everyone does, and how they do it, so you can put them in a position to deliver their best work.

A lot of people get into this business to play with the toys that are already here. But once they've done that, most creators want to make their own toys.

I believe the overall level of writing in comics is better than the overall level of writing in movies and television.

I've met a couple who named their son "Kyle Rayner," which is both awesome and a little crazy.

The character "Kyle Rayner" was named after Kyle Reese in "The Terminator," because I liked the way that name sounds. I chose "Rayner" from a list of Irish surnames faxed to me by my editor.

I wish more people fully appreciated the art in comics.

I wish I could draw.

Please don't value imaginary people over real ones. The characters are never more important than the real people who create their stories.

I'm more excited for the "John Carter" movie than I've been for any superhero movie, ever.

When my wife was pregnant with our third child, I tried to talk her into naming him "John Carter Marz." I was only half-serious -- but if she had agreed, I probably would've done it.

I'd rather work with a great artist on a lousy character, than on a great character with a lousy artist.

I love the format of the recent "Hellboy: House of the Living Dead" hardcover: a 56-page package for $14.99, closer in concept to a European album, but dimensions that are friendly for the American market. I think I'd like to do something in that format.

It pains me that I never got to shake Jack Kirby's hand, and thank him for making my livelihood possible.

I haven't quite gotten used to reading comics digitally. I still prefer print. But digital is, without question, the future.

It takes me longer to write an issue now than it did at the beginning of my career, because I know more about what I'm doing ... and a lot more about what not to do.

I've written almost everything in my career at the same desk. It's one of the first purchases I made with the initial money I earned from writing (the first was a set of golf clubs for my father). My desk has been in more houses than I care to remember, in both New York State and Florida. One of these days I have to clean out the matching filling cabinet. There are stories going back 25 years in there, including some prose short stories. Maybe I'll dust a few of those off and see if they're worth publishing.

Yes, please, more comics featuring women.

Yes, please, more comics by women.

Inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard and Tolkien, and later Stephen King, I wanted to be a novelist. I never wanted to write the Great American Novel, I just want to tell stories. Give me King over Franzen every time. Someday I want to get back to writing prose.

I work to music, all the time. Silence distracts me.

I love writing short comics stories, maybe eight or ten pages long. That length allows a writer to focus on a singular idea or theme, and in theory construct a polished gem of a story. But the market is notoriously unforgiving to anthologies. One of my favorite stories ever is one that not many people have read: a black-and-white Daredevil story I wrote that appeared in the first issue of "Marvel Shadows and Light," masterfully drawn by Brian Stelfreeze. Afterwards, Brian gave me all 10 pages of the original art, still one of my prized possessions.

Spidey got married at Shea Stadium with Stan Lee officiating

Dogs are better than cats. They just are.

Work-for-hire comics are a job. Creator-owned comics can be a career.

Chuck Dixon is a writing machine. On more than one occasion at the CrossGen offices, I saw Chuck go into his office around 9 a.m., close the door, and then emerge between 3 and 4 p.m. with a full script for a 22-page issue. Amazing.

I need to drop some money on those Jesse Marsh "Tarzan" hardcovers from Dark Horse.

Two characters I've always wanted to write: Doctor Strange and Doctor Fate.

The truth is, you make some different career decisions once you have children, because providing for your kids trumps everything.

Anybody got an extra copy of the recent "Superboy's Legion" reprint? I had copies of the Prestige editions, but they disappeared from my bookshelf at the CrossGen offices, never to be seen again.

I loved writing "X-O Manowar" for Valiant, despite having only a brief stint on the book. "Conan in Iron Man armor" is a great concept, but I had to give up the book because the twice-monthly schedule didn't leave enough room for other projects.

Interesting to realize how many writers have failed out of comics to find success in other venues.

What's your desert-island comic? Meaning, if you could take one issue with you to a deserted desert island, what would it be? Mine is the "Uncanny X-Men/New Teen Titans" crossover. At least, that's my answer this week.

My kids have had drawing lessons from Terry Austin, Nelson Blake II, Lee Moder and Matthew Dow Smith. That's pretty cool.

I happened to be at Shea Stadium, covering the Mets game for a newspaper, the day Spider-Man and Mary Jane got married at home plate, with Stan Lee officiating. I didn't bother to watch, because I was listening to Rusty Staub tell stories in the press dining room. I heard they split up later anyway.

Years ago there was a show on PBS called "Meeting of Minds," created by and hosted by Steve Allen, that fascinated me despite me being too young to really get it all. The concept was four historical figures around a table, with Allen moderating, having a discussion. As much as possible, the scripts used actual quotes from the guests. So you might have Martin Luther, Voltaire, Florence Nightingale and Plato embroiled in a discussion. Or Francis Bacon, Socrates, Emiliano Zapata and Susan B. Anthony. One episode featured Shakespeare and some of his most famous characters. So if I could invite any four comics creators to such a gathering? My picks would be Jack Kirby, Frank Frazetta, Will Eisner and Alan Moore.

"The Spirit" #17 is a must-read book

You need to go find a copy of "The Spirit" #17, the last issue of the most recent series. Three black-and-white short stories drawn by Bolland, Garcia-Lopez and P. Craig Russell. Simply sublime. I forced Nelson Blake to buy the last copy at Earthworld Comics in Albany the last time he was in town.

Standard page rates in the comics industry haven't gone up in years. In some places, they've actually been rolled back. That's the reality of being a freelancer in a floundering market.

Yes, my wife reads almost everything I write. She's not much of a superhero fan, so she's more drawn to stuff like "Witchblade" and "Shinku" currently. However, "Samurai: Heaven and Earth" remains her favorite. Mine too.

And finally, last holiday season I offered signed copies of "Artifacts" #1 to raise money for Toys for Tots. I'll be doing so again this year, but with a few different issues offered (after some Twitter feedback gave me a sense of what people wanted). So far, I've got copies of "Shinku," "Green Lantern Retro," "The Magdalena" TPBs and some CrossGen titles ready to go. Look for the announcement on my website within the next few days.

Ron Marz has been writing comics for two decades, and thinks it's pretty much the best job ever. His current work includes "Artifacts," "Witchblade" and "Magdalena" for Top Cow, "Voodoo" for DC and his creator-owned title, "Shinku," for Image. Follow him on Twitter (@ronmarz) and his website, www.ronmarz.com

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