Finally: A Post About Comics

They say it takes a big man to admit his mistakes.

Keep watching. I’m about to become huge.

The other day, I received a FedEx package from Marvel Comics containing two copies of *The Essential Tomb of Dracula*, Volume 4. The book includes two stories I wrote for the black-and-white *Dracula Lives!* magazine, circa 1973.

One of these stories, “A Death in the Chapel”, is a truly beautiful art job by Gene Colan. (It suffers a bit in this volume, unfortunately, from being reproduced at a smaller size than intended.) The story has a clever premise, too. Seeking an ancient manuscript that may contain a cure for vampirism, Dracula sneaks into the Vatican library — and then can’t get out, because everywhere he turns there’s a crucifix staring him in the face.

My other offering in this volume is titled “To Walk Again in Daylight”, with art by Rich Buckler. The art has its moments.

But from a writing standpoint, both stories blow.

No, wait — let me rephrase that:


Both scripts are grossly overwritten. The prose is a shade of purple so garish it would embarrass Prince. The dialogue is light years beyond corny; it reeks of ethanol. And such drama as there is consists largely of characters shouting “NOOO!!” in jagged burst balloons.

Both of these stories were written near the very beginning of my career and fall under the category of on-the-job training. I think — hope, anyway — I was capable of better work than this, even during that awkward learning period.

It’s too bad that comics as an industry, and too many comics readers, value the novelty of a new name and the raw energy of youth above any other quality a work might possess. It’s equally a shame that other readers are so mired in nostalgia that the progression of a writer’s style becomes irrelevant to them; only the comics of an idealized past are worthy of their attention.

It’s a shame, because these Dracula stories illustrate one principle rather vividly:

Writers, at least those with a functioning self-critical faculty, do improve — drastically — with age and experience.

I’m very happy not to be the writer I was in 1973.

4 Responses to “Finally: A Post About Comics”

  1. Thyme Says:

    Though probably the opposite of what you intended, your post makes me curious enough to want to read those stories that BUH LOOOOW. *laughing*
    On my part it wouldn’t be for nostalgic purposes, but viewing the evolution in print would be interesting. It sounds like you found it insightful! ;o)

  2. gordon kent Says:

    Imagine that! Practicing your art helps you Improve your abilities! Quick, someone tell the entertainment industry.

  3. Paul Dini Says:

    Yeah, I recently did a filmed piece commenting on some cartoons I wrote in the mid-eighties. I don’t know why the decision was made to put these cartoons onto DVD rather than burn them because, like you with the DRACULA stories, I was NOT happy with my writing on them, either. I learned a lot more about writing, to say nothing of animation, design and timing in the 20 years that followed. Still, at the time it was either get writing experience doing what was offered and make the best of it, or else sell my body for sex, and frankly back then I wasn’t all that cute.

  4. Mike Loughlin Says:

    I don’t know if we comic book readers value the novelty of a new name and youthful energy above other qualities a writer posesses. If that were the case, I doubt Brian Michael Bendis would write half of Marvel’s books, and Chris Claremont and John Byrne would be out of a job.

    In general, comic readers value consistency to a fault. Comic X must be as good as we remember it from child-/adolescent-hood; any aberration from previously established characterization is BAD, and reaffirmation of what made the characters appeal to us since our first issue is GOOD. In other words, stagnation rules, new readers be damned.

    Young creators don’t give us our meat-and-potatoes super-hero comics like the old pros (unless they write our favorites “traditionally”), and new comics are not as good as our established favorites. We will buy change-for-sake big events(e.g. New Avengers, Identity Crisis), regardless of quality, but only so we can bitch about them until the big reset button is pushed.

    Sorry to go on and use your blog to post _my_ frustrations. I’m a big fan eagerly awaiting Hard Time vol. 2.

    Re Dracula stories: While you may be embarassed by your earlier work, we fans get to see hundreds of pages of gorgeous Gene Colan art we’ve never been privy to. As a longtime Colan fan, I’ll take a few scripts that Buh-loooooow over never seeing those pictures.