Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Read a comic book.

That's my advice for the day to aspiring writers. Anyone interested in crime fiction should check out a comic book or graphic novel, even if comics weren't part of your cultural landscape growing up. Imagine creating a character so memorable, so resilient, and so compelling that it could remain fresh not just for the length of a novel but over the course of decades. That's what comics do, create characters that can somehow maintain their integrity despite being written by dozens of different authors over the years.

Read a classic hero turned contemporary dark knight and pick up Batman. Want something edgier try The Punisher. Like crime fiction, then check out 100 Bullets or anything by Frank Miller (Sin City). There are as many different comics as their are sub-genres, from strong heroines to vampires to romance. Even Archie and Jughead can teach us a few lessons about making characters quirky, distinct, and yet somehow fascinating enough to hold your attention and compel you to buy the next issue. No small feat in today's disposable culture.

A great American art form too often taken for granted, comics have changed the way we watch movies and defined some of the only heroes we have left in an all too cynical society.

So think about your characters drawn in frames with balloons of dialogue next to them, moving through your story, and then ask yourself if you'd buy the next issue. It's a great catalyst for learning from a two-dimensional medium just how to create three-dimensional characters.


Mark Terry said...

I would, but my mom won't let me. I have to hide them under the mattress.

Jess Lourey said...

I actually have a comic book collection. And I pick my nose when I drive (sometimes). And I like the taste of caribou.

OK, only two of the above are true. I'm not telling which two, but here's a hint: I used to have a crush on Reggie (not so much Archie--the bad guys were so much more charismatic).

Keith Raffel said...

Hmm. Did reading all those comics as a kid (Superman, Batman, Fantastic Four, Green Lantern, Flash, etc.) send me down the road to writing crime fiction?

Jess, you think Reggie is a bad guy? As compared to the Joker, Lex Luthor, etc? Pretty tame.

jbstanley said...

Tim you are a man after my own heart. I collected all of Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics in college and thought the man was a genius.

There was also a super cool comic series made after Anne Rice's The Mummy. You cannot beat a half-dead, yet beautiful woman murdering people.

G.M. Malliet said...

Veronica Lodge is still my hero(ine).

Jess Lourey said...

Keith, I was living in Hawick, Minnesota. I was scared of dancing with boys. You don't know from pretty tame.