Writers Vs Artists In Comics Breaks Out One More Time On Social Media

I remember this breaking out back in the days of rec.arts.comics.misc on USENET around three decades ago, and nothing much has changed in nuance, insight, or understanding. But the great "who is more important in a comic book, writers or artists" debate kicked off online again. Here are a few… I mean, I resist using the word highlights, but it's all we've got. It began with the news that Substack was looking to hire comic book writers, and it expands beyond journalism into fiction and comic books for something called Substack Pro. They have hired Amazing Spider-Man, Morning Glories, and Secret Empire writer Nick Spencer to recruit other comic book writers with advance-payment deals to comic-book writers. Which led some to ask – what about the artists? Were they not part of such a deal? It seems that they were regarded as a subset of the comic book writer, to be paid out of the money handed to the writer, to allow them to hire artists and a small production team, but own the rights. And then it kicked off and diverged fast. And old battle scars were reopened… here is just a smattering.

  • Trung Le Nguyen: Wait, how… is substack expecting to expand into comics without hiring artists?
  • PJ Holden: suspect substack have just hit well known writers first, I'll be interested to see how the writers then turn around and pay/share the copyright given this model…)
  • Cully Hamner: Yet another example of this weird default setting that identifies only comics writers as "creators" and comics artists as merely "hired by the writers." It's gone beyond the offensive and into the boring at this point… I can't draw a comic *w/out a story*. A story can't *be* a comic w/out an artist to realize it. There's no comic w/out it being both written & visualized. This is inarguable. Considering only one half of that equation as a "creator" is a staggeringly ignorant position to inhabit.
  • Kurt Busiek: Yeah, that seems baffling. They're recruiting comics writers to do…what? If it's to do comics, then there gotta be artists involved!
  • Cully Hamner: As @Philjimeneznyc has pointed out, why nt also consider cutting deals with well-known artists, who in turn hire writers and fill out their production teams?
  • Joe Illidge: Substack Comics Imprint that leaves editors out of the equation and has writers hiring artists. I'm leaving the planet. Everyone take care.
  • Darick Robertson: I deal with this a lot. People who describe my work as "working for _____" as opposed to the co-creation we did.
  • Christos Gage: I like the part where you're working for me but I don't have to pay you.
  • Peter Krause: Howard Chaykin said that the artist's job is to "make the writer look good". Howard also said that if there were no writers but only artists, there would still be comic books. I'll let you draw your own conclusions.
  • Eric Jones:  This one drives me nuts. My partner @LandryQWalker and I have been collaborating for 30 years. We always conceive of and execute every project *together*. By no fault of Landry's, ALL our books are routinely attributed to him as the writer while I'm frequently omitted entirely.
  • Doc Shaner: It's settled then. Artists, we take the writers at dawn.
  • Mark Brooks:  Step 1- writer writes a script in various stages of tightness/looseness. Step 2- artist draws story making creative decisions to convey/enhance story. Step 3- Writer rewrites script/dialog based on what they see from the art. Both are the creators. It's collaborative.
  • John Reppion: In 13 years of writing comics I've rarely, if ever, been asked or allowed to do Step 3 here, unless there has been some kind of problem.
  • Mark Brooks: An artist should never go massively off script without communicating with the writer. Adding a panel here or there, visual points of interest, or changing angles to make it more interesting should be expected. We're storytellers as well.
  • John Reppion: The weird thing about the Writers vs Artists thing is that so many people try to explain exactly how comics works, and none of them ever describe the same thing. Almost as if it's different for everyone…
  • Ande Parks: This writer vs. artist crap is so tiresome. Everyone knows it's the inkers that count! Just look at the Eisner noms!
  • Ben Templesmith: Writers vs artist war. This is all I'll say.
Writers Vs Artists In Comics Breaks Out One More Time On Social Media
Photo by Ben Templesmith
  • Ben Templesmith: This whole "writer vs artists" thing happens all the time but what never happens is the tagging of journalists so these folks actually stop being so ignorant & start giving equal credits. It's a rare person in the media who treats creators with respect when reporting on adaptions
  • Chris Shehan: A comic can be sequential art without a script, without dialogue, without a writer, and it's still a comic. But a script and dialogue without sequential art is not a comic. To not credit an artist is ridiculous. To treat an artist as any less than a writer is ridiculous. Stop.
  • Jed McPherson: The artist writer binary really doesn't tally with the way comics are actually made. Artists do so much more than "just" draw what the writer says. There's a really weird impulse to have one author be responsible for a book and it's always dumb.
  • Chris Shehan: When this happens, a lot of people go after writers, but it's rarely their fault. Publishers need to do better, publisher PR needs to do better, journalists need to do better, and readers knowing how comics are made and what goes into them is important too.
  • Cully Hamner: This is what I keep trying to get at, but it never fails to devolve into pointless writer vs. artist squabbles and more pointless "if comics are analogous to film…" arguments (note: they aren't). It becomes about control rather than understanding and it's super-frustrating.
  • Andre Kenji de Sousa: Readers don't need to understand this more than people eating in restaurants must understand how a kitchen works. But journalists have no excuse.
  • Darick Robertson: Almost never does the writer pretend they did it alone.
  • Will Schoech: Blame this on Image. Those artists who became Superstars at Marvel in the 90s and then left to form Image scared the bejeebers outta Marvel. So much so that they are methodically preventing artists from becoming Superstars ever again. Or I'm wrong. Both equally possible.
  • Sandra Hope: We shouldn't be fighting amongst ourselves. Publishers should credit the penciler (at least) along with writers. I get that 50 contributors on a promo doesn't work. Artists/pencilers make a HUGE contribution, and are starting to get left out or pushed aside.
  • Tom Ward: My favourite bit when comics writers vs artists kicks off is undoubtedly when someone chimes in with "Well it only takes me 20 minutes to write a script."
  • Mitch Gerads: I think this particular bout of writer v artist got misconstrued along the way. This wasn't originally writer v artist, it was weird random new publisher saying writers are the author/creator and everyone else is just art of the factory.
  • Ram V: Lol – writer, artist discourse is back. Drama ensues.
  • Joe Illidge: I think it's already over, this time. One day, the community will stop reacting to it and Groundhog Day will finally be over, forever.I think it's already over, this time. One day, the community will stop reacting to it and Groundhog Day will finally be over, forever.
  • Ilias Kyriazis: Makes you think… artists obvs agree on the essential importance of art in comics, almost every writer I know agrees too… so who's on "the other side"? Because there *is* a reason this debate keeps happening and artists are being undervalued in specific ways
  • Lane Lloyd: You know, I'm honestly surprised the writer/artist discourse is back in full swing again. I feel like we only went about two weeks before it started. We're getting quicker and quicker
  • Erik Larsen: Artists are forever changing scripts from what can't be drawn to what can be drawn. Many writers don't think comics when they write–they're thinking screenplay and imagining motion. Artists have to draw individual images–there is no movement.
  • Chris Shehan: I never said anything about making a comic without a narrative. I said sequential art without a writer and without a script is still a comic. There can be narrative without a script or writer. But there can't be a comic without sequential art. Sequential art is a narrative.
  • Fraser Campbell: Writer v artist? Let's spare a thought for the people who do the REAL work in comics. Charity Shop workers, who have to find a spot for your book in a shop already overflowing with stuff folk actually have a use for.
  • Comic Book Yeti: OK, if the discourse is writer v. artist now, that means next week should be…comics piracy?OK, if the discourse is writer v. artist now, that means next week should be…comics piracy?
  • Joe Glass: So apparently the discourse is writers vs artists again on Comics Twitter, but I'll be honest I have not seen a single bit of it. And for that I am thankful

Joe Glass is the winner everyone!

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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