Robot 6

John Rozum on writing Marvel-style

John Rozum lets readers take an in-depth look at his process in a recent post on his experiment at writing a comic script using the Marvel Method. For those unfamiliar with the term, the Marvel Method is the approach developed by Stan Lee during the early days of Marvel in which Lee would provide brief outlines of the events in a comic book issue (as opposed to a full script), let the artist draw the whole thing, and then come back and add dialogue over the finished panels. The advantages of that format include letting the artist have a lot of creative input, while also requiring less time from the writer (meaning that someone like Lee could write a ton of books at the same time).

But, as Rozum points out, there are disadvantages as well:

I went into it thinking it would be freeing and allow the artist a bigger hand in determining the choreography of the action sequences and interesting ways to depict the more normal day-to-day life sequences. What happens, and this is by no means the fault of the artist, is that the story comes back looking fantastic until you sit down to the dialogue for the art. Expressions and body language are wrong for supporting the proper feelings being conveyed in dialogue, characters are on the wrong side of panels (or even missing) disrupting the flow of speech between them, the panel that requires the greatest amount of text will be the smallest on the page, as often ends up happening to the panel which should be the largest and most dramatic. Important props end up missing, etc. This happened even when I provided a plot that actually broke everything down page by page and provided an overview of the emotional character arcs and thematic nature of the story.

Instead, Rozum prefers to give artists all the information they need to understand the story and has found that this is surprisingly liberating for many of the artists he’s worked with. “For a long while I felt guilty, like I was micromanaging everything and not letting them have as much input, but my guilt was erased when no artists complained and often would commend me for putting so much thought into the script that it would often trigger ideas of their own and that they felt like they had more room to explore how they want to depict the story.”

He adds, “Something I always emphasize with any artist I work with is that even though my scripts are detailed and broken down panel by panel, they should feel free to reconfigure that if they think they can do it better in fewer panels, more, etc. This usually works marvelously (no pun intended).”

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Comments

15 Comments

Damn for a second I thought that he was going to Marvel.

Simon DelMonte

May 21, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Who still uses this method? Is it still the preferred approach at Marvel

@Simon

I don’t think many writers use it, but I do know that the current Defenders book by Fraction is currently using The Marvel Method.

marvel style

is to

take a

short story

and decompress the hell out of it for trade paperback, putting maybe the meat of the story into a single issue.

I do use that method. But then, I’m both the writer and the illustrator, so it’s a bit easier.

@Squasha
Maybe Rozum should’ve supplied a decent script to Orson Welles when he was doing that frozen peas commercial.

And I swear, if I had taken over DC or Marvel a couple years ago, I would’ve booted the ‘decompressing for the trade paperback’ policy out of the building faster than you could say “Rosebud”.

Acer and Squasha: While some Marvel books are still wildly decompressed (and thus boring as hell), there are plenty that have tightened up to a more classic, 1980s-and-prior model, with 1-2 issue story arcs connected by subplots that gradually build up during one arc until becoming the main basis for the next one. Y’know, the way ongoing comic books *should* read. I’m thinking specifically of Mark Waid’s Daredevil, Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man, and Peter David’s X-Factor, all of which are solidly entertaining books I’d recommend to anyone.

I will say for the record that I think Dan Slott-written books never read as though they are decompressed, even though they are paced for trade.

Jason Aaron’s recent AvX: VS story was written using the Marvel Method.

Fraction’s been experimenting with it, as mentioned previously.

Joe Casey uses it for some of his creator-owned work.

Dan Slott’s scripts, from what I’ve seen, are almost like regular prose, with the panel breaks left up to the artist and only placeholder dialogue available.

Oh, and Lobdell definitely writes using the Marvel Method as well.

Not sure if DeFalco still does, but that wouldn’t surprise me. Ditto Mackie.

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