Superstar writer Tom King may let his editors choose the characters for his stories, but everything after that is tightly controlled by the former CIA operative. King took to Twitter Tuesday to reveal that he doesn’t know how to write comics “Marvel style,” apparently something he’s put in the notes of his comics for a certain “comic creator hero” artist.
Nervous notes you put in your script when you're writing for one of your comic creator heroes.
"I know you dig marvel style and you do it better than anyone since Kirby, but, sadly, I suck and I don’t really know how to write like that. At least not yet. I’ll work on it."
— Tom King (@TomKingTK) June 11, 2019
Marvel style, of course, is a method of comic book writing pioneered by Stan Lee, where Lee would stroll into his office at Marvel, fire off a sentence like “What if the Fantastic Four fight Doctor Doom this time?” and Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko would go off and create an entire comic out of that and give it back to Stan to fill in the dialogue. The method evolved over the years, with Chris Claremont explaining it, in comparison to modern “full script” writing of the type King is used to, as such:
I think, from a purely technical standpoint, in the 80s, there was more variety and freedom in that the artists we had available to us were far more fluid and relaxed storytellers. We dealt mostly with presenting the story to the artist as a plot and we trusted the artist’s ability to tell stories, to break it down into panels and pages. This was how Stan worked with Jack Kirby. This is how I worked with John Byrne, how I worked with Salvador Larroca, among the many many many many others. And from a creative standpoint, it’s a lot of fun. It’s a synergy. The best ideas of the writer teamed with the best ideas of the artist. The artist’s talent inspires the writer, the writer’s talent focuses the storyelling of the artist.
When you do a full script, it’s much easier from the editor’s standpoint because you’ve got the whole story in front of you. But when you’re dealing with a gifted storyteller, like for example Bill Sienkiewicz, to me, it’s waste of time. Telling him what to do panel by panel by panel denies the opportunity to watch him strut his stuff and then exploit that. In a way, doing a plot first and evolving the story is like listening to jazz players jam or rock players jam.
We’re just following the music and improvising. Whereas full scripts are totally structured and it’s all locked in from the start. It will come out looking brilliant sometimes, but it loses, to me anyway, that element of freedom, of effervescence, of inspiration that I, as a reader, loved. That’s the kick that got me hooked with FF 48 back in the dawn of time and I kept coming back because the synergy of Jack Kirby’s brilliant storytelling and Stan Lee’s ability as writer to hone it all together into a coherent finished product was just irresistible.
Well, when you put it like that, you can certainly see why King would want to learn how to jam.
Of course, there are certain times that full script must have its advantages. When you’re writing Superman imagining the horrific death of Lois Lane over and over, you don’t want to leave out any details. Or when you have several pages in a row of Batman saying “Cat” and Catwoman saying “Bat” over and over again. Not even Kirby himself could have pulled that off as well as King can.