Tangled Web UK Review June 1999
File Updated: 30/03/00
Writers on Comics Scriptwriting Writers on Comics Scriptwriting by Mark Salisbury
pbk out May 99 (Titan Books) at £12.99
WRITERS ON COMIC SCRIPTWRITING is a fine idea for a book, but one which does not entirely deliver on its potential. Consisting of interviews with fourteen of the "best" comic book writers active today and supplemented with examples of scripts and storyboards, Salisbury endeavours to explore and detail the processes behind the production of comic books. The choice of interviewees and some dubious assumptions about aesthetic worth which underlie Salisbury's questions are unabashedly directed toward "mainstream", i.e. superhero comics. The result is a book which will be of considerable interest to anyone who has ever thought about trying to write such work, but which is not particularly edifying to those with a broader interest in the medium.
There is no denying that Salisbury has included most of the big names in mainstream comics, including Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller, Grant Morrison, Kurt Busiek, Peter David and Todd McFarlane. (Though could Salisbury not have included even *one* alternative figure, like Dan Clowes or Peter Bagge or Eddie Campbell? It would have strengthened the book enormously.) He asks his subjects largely similar questions concerning how they broke into the field, their working habits, how they develop stories and handle collaboration with artists, etc. As you'd likely predict from their work, some writers are more interesting and thoughtful than others. Although on average, the interviews run to fifteen pages, they are not the kinds of in-depth discussions commonly found in THE COMICS JOURNAL and don't get very far under the skin of the subjects. To be fair, the book has one very specific topic in mind and Salisbury certainly provides the reader with basic information about comic book writing which may not be readily found elsewhere. However, the supplementary material is underutilised and underexplained and serves largely as filler, as do a series of sidebars within the interviews which define and discuss related topics which will surely be familiar to anyone who is likely to have bought the book. And there is an unstated, essentially untrue premise which suggests that anyone can become a comic book writer - the industry has always fostered this illusion as part of its hook to avid fans. In fact, comics are an exceptionally difficult industry to break into, much harder than straight fiction, for example, and more akin to Hollywood. WRITERS ON COMICS SCRIPTWRITING isn't a bad little book, merely one which could and should have been something more.

( Jay Russell - one of the greatest talents the horror industry has produced for some time… (Black Tears))