“I knew what a movie script looked like, I’d seen them. But I couldn’t get my head around what a comic script was. And eventually, a marvelous comics writer, probably the finest writer of comics there’s ever been, a man named Alan Moore just showed me how to write comics. He sat down and said, ‘Right, right now, you write Page One, Panel One. And then you say everything that is happening in that panel.’ In this case, you know, you’d say, ‘Page one, panel one, Neil Gaiman and Tom Ashbrook are sitting in a studio, there’s paper all over the desk, there are great big microphones. Neil is talking, waving his hands around, doing an impression of Alan Moore. Tom is nodding sagely.’
It’s stage directions, and it’s a letter to an artist. And then underneath, you’d write Tom: ‘It’s stage directions’; Neil: ‘It’s a letter to an artist’ and those would be what would go into the word balloons. And Neil, thought balloon: ‘I’m so glad they got me that cup of tea.’ You put everything. As far as I was concerned, and still to this day, as far as I’m concerned a comic script is a 10,000 word letter to an artist. I would always get puzzled when people would say to me, ‘So you write comics! So you write the words that go in the balloons.’ And you’re going, ‘That’s absolutely the tip of the iceberg.’ What I’m doing is building the cake, and in those words I will tell the artist everything I want to be in the panel — the size of the panel, the shape. What you’re also doing is working with some of the most creative people in the world.”
— The Sandman writer Neil Gaiman, turning his interview with Tom Ashbrook for the WBUR radio show On Point into a comic script on the spot
Although prolific crime author and screenwriter Elmore Leonard didn’t have a direct connection to comic books, it’s clear from the number of tweets about his death today at age 87 that he influenced a number of comics writers. Of course, labeling Leonard a “crime author” undoubtedly does him a disservice, as he wasn’t restricted by genre; his earliest works were Westerns, like his 1952 short story “Three-Ten to Yuma,” which has been adapted twice for the big screen.
One of the things I’ve learned over the years of writing the strip is if something I’m writing makes ME uncomfortable, even only a little bit, it will probably offend other people as well, and I should rethink it. The times I’ve ignored that impulse, or told myself “no, it’s only problematic if you take an extremely narrow interpretation of the strip,” guess what: people got offended.
You as an author have control over the intent of your work, but you do not have control over how other people will interpret it. And if someone’s interpretation of your work differs from your intent, while you can defend your intent, it does not necessarily render their interpretation invalid.