Okay, folks, so I asked some people I know whose names might be familiar to you to ask Gail five questions (although, as you will see, some of them asked multi-level questions... those cheeky devils!) They are Carol Strickland, Robert Jones, Jr., Phil Jimenez, Erick Padilla Lizama, and Antony Coukos. I hope you enjoy reading these responses, and please feel free to discuss them!
Q1: CAROL STRICKLAND asked, “How much do you work with your artist? Do you turn in a script without consulting them, or do you discuss it with them as you initially structure your story, or perhaps when you get to a particular sequence? Does the editor act as intermediary? Do you ever set aside parts of your script for the artist to work more freely with the visuals (i.e.: "Then they have a big fight that lasts for five pages. It takes them from the edge of the solar system to the jungles of South America and then as Diana delivers the final wallop, Earth blows up.") and tidy up the script afterward? Do the artist's strengths and weaknesses affect the way you write your script?”
Hey! This is supposed to be five questions TOTAL. You guys are SO CHEATERS.
Hey, Carol. The fact is, regarding story itself, I am not hugely collaborative. I don't generally find that process very helpful, frankly. There are a lot of great writers, Mark Waid is one, who get a ton of input and make it work, but I like to go think of an idea and then carry it as far as it can go myself. I like to sit in a dark room, in the middle of the night, no noises, no distractions, no email, no music, nothing, and just write and write. The one time where I am okay with other people's input is at the idea stage, the very conception of the story. Other than that, I find that construction is so crucial to the comedy and the surprises that I can't just insert stuff from others very well. It becomes a lot less personal. When you're doing a crossover, it's a little different, you HAVE to make the beats fit and I do enjoy that, but it's a different kind of storytelling. The interesting thing is for the first time, I actually AM collaborating with someone and it's a lot of fun, so there might be more of that in the future.
One thing I DO talk about with artists is, I regularly ask them what they would LIKE to draw, and a story will often come out of that. Aaron Lopresti loves to draw monsters, so that comes up often. Nicola Scott hates drawing cars. She actually draws beautiful cars, but we do avoid them, mostly.
The editor watches over things, sure, but 'intermediary' isn't the right word--I nearly always get along very well with the artists I am lucky enough to work with, and we don't really need a referee. We communicate a lot just on our own. When you have an experienced artist you trust, you make a lot of suggestions as a writer, but you trust them to change those if they like. I will often say, "Okay, I think this will work best as a stack of rows, but feel free to go another way if you like." Aaron and Nicola know I completely trust them to make changes if they have a better idea. THAT part is truly collaborative.
I don't do anything like, "they fight for five pages, go wild." I think that is making the artist do my job. It's cheap and lazy. The artist can make it BETTER, but those beats are essential to the story. I had an artist say that he once worked on a book where the writer, a well-known guy, had a fight scene in one issue, then cut and pasted the entire fight scene for another issue, only changing the name of the villain. That's ridiculous. There is SO much character in the way the players behave during action sequences...it's what separates, say, DIE HARD from the latest crappy Steven Segal film.
I don't write Marvel style at all, it doesn't work for me. I kind of hate it. And yep, you're always writing, not just to an artists' talents, but also to their tastes and beliefs. It's a lot to consider.