View Single Post
Old 01-14-2011, 12:58 AM   #1
W.West's Avatar
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Detroit,MI & LosAngeles, CA
Posts: 36,662
Blog Entries: 69
Send a message via AIM to W.West Send a message via Yahoo to W.West Send a message via Skype™ to W.West
Default Ordinary Man, Extraordinary Situation

The following are selected excerpts from an excellent column written by former Green Lantern writer Ron Marz. The excerpts focus on Kyle Rayner, but the article should be a must read for any aspiring writer or interested reader.

I’ve spoken or written those exact words – “ordinary people in extraordinary situations” – countless times when asked about writing. That’s what works for me as a writer.That’s what works for me as a reader, or as an audience for film or television or even music. For me, story always comes from character. Superman stopping a bank robbery is a very different story than Lois Lane stopping a bank robbery. For me, the Lois story is probably more interesting, because she would be far more challenged, and in far more danger, than Superman in the same situation. That’s why Superman stopping a bank robbery is worth a page, and Superman stopping Darkseid is worth an entire arc.

Anytime I take on a new assignment, the first thing I do is try to figure out what makes the characters tick, what motivates them. So many comics are single-protagonist stories, you usually end up focusing on, for lack of a broader term, the hero. What does your hero want? What is the hero willing to do to get it?

When I was offered the opportunity to take over “Green Lantern,” with the caveat of writing Hal Jordan out of the lead role, the most enticing factor was the chance to create a new character to inherit the lead role. I knew we were going to have eyeballs initially because of Hal’s fall from grace and the promotional buzz. The trick would be keeping those readers, and in my mind, the only way to do that was to make them care about the “new guy.”

“Ordinary people in extraordinary situations” was very much on my mind when we created Kyle Rayner. One, because it’s what appeals to me in a story, and two, because I wanted create a character who would be, not Hal Jordan’s opposite, but at least a different sort of heroic archetype. Hal is, let’s face, a hero even without the ring. He’s a test pilot, cut from the same “Right Stuff” cloth as Chuck Yeager and the Mercury 7. If Hal was being supplanted, it didn’t make sense to introduce a character who had much in common with him. So I mined the Everyman archetype, embodied by characters like Chaplin’s Little Tramp, Roger Thornhill in Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest” and, yes, Peter Parker.
That’s what I wanted with Kyle, someone in whom readers could recognize themselves, or at least recognize as a “real” person. I wanted what he did out of costume to be as interesting to the audience as what he did in costume. A few years ago I had conversation with Geoff Johns up at the DC offices. He made the observation that he thought Kyle was the only “Marvel-style” character who had really worked in the DCU. That’s still the best shorthand description of what we tried to do with Kyle
We made up Kyle from whole cloth, with an amount of creative freedom that would be rare today. But not a lot of comic gigs – at least the paying ones – afford you the opportunity to just create a lead character from the ground floor up. More often, you’re taking over a long-standing character whose personality and motivation are long established. But the job is the same: building story from character. The opposite, of course, is building story from story, resulting in the kind of continuity-driven storytelling that wallows in the past and fills the spaces between issues, or even between panels. Those aren’t stories so much as they’re checklists,
My own mantra is “character first.” It’s the way I do what I do, because that’s the way my mind works. But it’s not the only way to approach telling a story. There are a lot of character-driven comics on the stands, but there are also a fair number of idea-driven comics. Superheroes are by their nature iconic, especially long-established ones. That lends itself to painting with a big brush on a broad canvas. The most obvious example of a “big idea” writer is Grant Morrison.

My own favorite of Grant’s work is one of, if not the most character-driven of his stories. And the characters aren’t even people. I felt more for the animals in “We3” than I do for virtually anybody in tights and a cape. That doesn’t mean “We3” is a better story than “All-Star Superman.” It doesn’t mean character-driven stories are better than idea-driven stories. It just means that’s what works best for me. And for Stephen King too.
For your own benefit: Read the full article HERE
W.West is offline   Reply With Quote