Want to be a comic book writer? Stop being a fan, says Marvel’s Daniel Way

Wolverine, X-Men, The Incredible Hulk – as a Marvel comics writer, Daniel Way has written stories for some pretty major characters.

Oh and, as well as writing Deadpool comics, he also penned the recent Deadpool video game from Activision. Completely different medium? No sweat.

More on Way’s foray into virtual worlds another day, but for now a couple of pointers for any aspiring comic book writers from a man who’s been scribbling words for one of the biggest companies in the biz for the best part of 12 years.

According to Way, if you want to make it as a comic book writer, the first thing you need to do is “stop being a fan”.

“That’s not to say you can’t enjoy comics; hell, I love ’em,” he tells me. “But you have to divorce yourself from that fan perspective if you want to tell an engaging story. Otherwise, it’s just fan-fic.”

Breaking into comics is perhaps a bit different to making it as an author or a TV script writer in that, if you’re approached by one of the big publishing houses, they’re unlikely to be looking for the brand new character you’ve scrawled over a napkin.

A company like Marvel will pick up new writers and set them to work on one of their many established, super-popular superheroes.

There are a lot of things you could take from Way’s succinct starting tip, but my first thought is that comic publishers are always grasping after fresh ideas. Being able to move away from a character and instead change your focus to what makes a good story – regardless of who’s behind the mask, at least to begin with – is valuable.

In other words, you might have a whole mental vault of original one-liners that would fit Wolverine perfectly, but your childhood icon is only as good as the story you put him in. To come up with the best overall package, you have to be smart and critical – not stoked and ‘just so happy to be here thank you very much’.

At least that’s my interpretation.

Here’s a bonus tip from Daniel Way, and one that I think applies to every creative profession when it comes to getting your foot in the door.

“If you’re good, you’ll get noticed…if you’re out there, producing work.”

Don’t sit around wishing you could become a comic book writer. Marvel’s headhunters don’t know where you live, so they can’t find you. You either have to go to them or get them to notice you.

And don’t fall into the trap of talking to your friends about your half finished TV script/novel/comic book/Obama speech and lap up their praise after they’ve read the first line. It might be a good start, but it’s all just practice until you get it out there in front of audiences and, hopefully, someone who can help you with the next step.

How do you do that? Well, keep reading this blog for starters.

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