29 August 2009

Neal Adams’s Contract with Readers

Neal Adams was the most influential artist at DC Comics in the late 1960s, creating the template for subsequent depictions of Batman, among other jobs. He later designed the second Robin costume.

Here are some of Adams’s thoughts on storytelling from a sidebar in The Insider’s Guide to Creating Comics and Graphic Novels, by Andy Schmidt, editor at IDW and proprietor of Comics Experience.

With comic books there's a contract with readers. And it works like this:

I'm going to tell you a story. If you will be good enough to read my story, I will not trick you, I will not slow you down, I will not give you something that you don't understand. Unless, we agree at this time, it's time not to understand something but I'll explain it to you later on. But I won't keep you in the dark for so long that you get bored.

So if you take my hand and read my story, at the end it will have a good ending and you will be happy, and you will come back next time and read another story.
The last part being an essential aspect of serial storytelling: you gotta bring ’em back for the next installment.


Sam said...

Could independent film directors be legally required to sign such a contract? With severe penalties for each infraction, please.

Rosepixie said...

The guys running DC right now should really read that statement and think about how they need to work on it. They get good ideas and then somehow make them boring or too confusing to be fun to read or somehow insulting to the audience. It's getting very old very fast and I'd bet they're losing readers over it.

J. L. Bell said...

To Sam, I think any artists who label themselves as separate from mass entertainment have already exempted themselves from these requirements. Caveat emptor.

J. L. Bell said...

To Rosepixie, Neal Adams’s pioneering comics work dates from before DC’s current emphasis on “decompressed” storytelling, which stretches what would once have been a single issue into two or three, and on complex crossovers. A superhero comics scripter today would probably agree on the basics of this contract, but apply it to a “story arc” rather than a single magazine. That is, of course, not the same experience.