Markley’s Fevered Brain: Words

Wayne Markley

Wayne Markley


by Wayne Markley

I have long contended that comics are unique because they are a hybrid of prose and film, even though they predate film by many years. Comics force your brain to read the words and merge them with the images and fill in the differences between the two. This is not a natural process for everybody as I meet people all the time that tell me they cannot read comics because they just can’t figure out how to do it. At one time we had large comic strips that everyone read from a young age to teach us how to read this unique form of art. Also, at one time, the main consumer of comics were kids, who the books were aimed at, and in sales terms did far better than comics do today. In the mid to late 1960s, seven of the top ten bestselling comics were Archie titles. (Sorry, Marvel). A lot of the changes in comic sales over the years are due to circumstances that are best addressed in another blog. What this blog is about is one is about my pet peeves, overwriting in comics. A good comic uses words to move a story forward and to compliment the art, not cover up the art. A writer who is a prime example and is known for overwriting (even though in recent years he has gotten better) is Chris Claremont. I am not going to devote this column to raging against writers who overwrite, as we all know who they are. Instead I am going to write about two writers I think hit a perfect mix in their dialogue and their creative ideas for their stories.

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man


First off we have Tom Taylor. To me Taylor is the best (or one of the best) writers in comics today. He is able to tell original, and often moving, stories with a variety of characters and always hit a pitch perfect mix of story, art, and dialogue. He has written so many great books it would take multiple blogs to address all of them. So I am going to just point out a few. His run on Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man (2019) was fantastic. It is twelve issues (available in two trades from Marvel) with a mix of human suffering and superhero antics. The stories focus how Spider-Man affects his neighborhood. There are still the big name villains but they are mixed with small stories, such as one of the best Spider-Man stories I have read in years, issue six-Spider-Bite. I first noticed his writing in the pages of All-New Wolverine (2015-2018). This was a book I was so-so on and when it relaunched with Taylor writing it, it soon rose to the top of my favorite book list. Again, it was a mix of powerful storytelling with big adventures and human caring. Within his storytelling, which I consider as the best in comics, he is able to hit the perfect mix of action film and a tear jerking movie. All with the perfect use of dialogue that moves the stories along and allows the characters to sound natural, and each character he writes comes across as distinct voice with the minimum amount of words. There are six trades collecting all of Taylor’s work on All-New Wolverine.

DCeased

DCeased


One final note is Tom is currently writing the newest version of Suicide Squad from DC. While there are only two issues so far, is the best Suicide Squad I have read since the days of John Ostrander. I have not cared for this book in YEARS, and in only two issues Taylor has made this book a must read to me. He also has written a number of volumes of DC’s Injustice, based on the video game which I have not read but I have been told by a number of people how great it is. Plus, he is the writer of DCeased, a surprise hit of last year about the DC Universe version of Marvel Zombies, while being different enough to be well worth reading. (The only real similarity is the concept of heroes being Zombies).

The Flintstones

The Flintstones


My second favorite author at the moment is Mark Russell. Russell is another writer who is able to offer new spins on classic characters making them fresh and unique. He has written a number of books including Lone Ranger, Red Sonja (from Dynamite), DC’s Wonder Twins, and many others. The first book that caught my attention was his 12 issue (or two trades) of the Flintstones from DC. At first I did not read this book, but after a number of people told me how great it was, I gave it a try. It shows some of why Russell is such a great writer. He takes an iconic American property and makes it relevant in today’s world of social media and political correctness, yet stays true to the Stone Age sensibilities of original television series. It is a perfect mix of creativity and humor that won over fans and critics alike. He also did a wonderful miniseries with Snagglepuss which I loved, even though I did not care for the premise and I complained too much prior to the book coming out. Russell was able to take a concept 180 degrees different from the original character and end up with a perfect ending. Well worth going out of your way to read.

Second Coming

Second Coming


One of his most recent books is Second Coming from Ahoy Books. Along with artist Richard Pace, Russell was able to walk the fine line of religion and good taste telling the tale of Jesus Christ coming back in today’s world where he meets Sunstar, a super-hero. The story is perfect as it is respectful to the religious aspects of the Jesus story while exploring the good and bad of superheroes and villains. This book got a lot of flak early on because of the concept of Christ coming back to earth, but I learned with Russell’s Snagglepuss not to pre-judge his writing. Sure enough, he came through with a story that is perfect on every level. Once again he does this with a minimal amount of words. There are not a lot of words explaining what the pictures are showing you or what your really don’t need to be explained. As with Taylor, I would highly recommend anything Russell has written, particularly his overlooked Prez miniseries that has also been collected into one trade from DC.

The Complete Johnny Future

The Complete Johnny Future


Both of these writers are brilliant to me. I love almost everything they have written. In conclusion, I would also suggest if you are looking for great writing with minimal overwriting, you might check out almost any collection from Rebellion/2000AD. In England, the comic book format has almost always been short stories (4-8 pages) telling a long form story. Due to the short page count the British writers have learned to tell concise stories with a minimal amount of words. And there are some very creative and original stories. There is a broad spectrum of subject matter to pick from Judge Dredd to girl comics (Jinty: Fran from the Floods), to great war stories. I have discussed a number of these Rebellion collection in past blogs so I am not going to go any further than just letting you know if you want tight, good storytelling, this is a good place to look.

This is it for this time. I do wish more writers would learn from Taylor and Russell, who use words so sparingly, yet so effectively. I should point out that Ta-Nehisi Coates originally massively overwrote (which is understandable as he came from prose writing) but over the last few years he has adapted his storytelling to be very lean and word effective. A great change that I find makes his books far more enjoyable to read. What do you think? Do overly written books bother you as much as they bother me? I would like to know what you think. I can be reached at MFBWAY@AOL.COM or on Facebook at Wayne Markley. All of the words I have written here are mine and do not reflect the thoughts or opinions of Westfield Comics and or their employees. As always…

Thank you.

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