But in a good way...
Comics is one of those rare mediums that require multiple skills to accomplish- which is what makes it so challenging as a medium, and so hard to do well, (and also so much damned fun to wrestle with). Comics are indeed stories first and art pieces later, but that doesn't mean they should always be seen as separate parts adjacent to each other. Even so, when we critique a book we tend to speak primarily in terms of the writer as the fulls story-teller and the art more or less as decoration for delivering that story. It's not from nowhere that we're taught to think this way, and it's sometimes entirely applicable. But we do need to start seeing that the medium offers varying approaches and teams to bring the story to you, and not all are alike in how we should talk about them. The medium of comics are stories told in pictures, not with pictures, and that requires an integration of those mediums, and as such requires us to integrate how we talk about them too.
|Image via Gabriel Rodriguez (@GR_comics)|
And yes, many artists are not inherently interested in being storytellers and need complete hand in glove guidance from their writers to do their jobs. Those I think, and hope, are fading fast. There are many artists who find that writing their own stories just isn't in their wheelhouse, and surely there are those who do who probably could use a writer even if they think they can. It's important to think towards the goal of unification, to pair the write sort of writer with the right sort of artist- not just for what the artist can do to bring pictures to your already crafted story, but to help tell the story. We need and want artists to learn more about telling stories as much as we need our writers to likewise come to a greater understanding of how to tell a story visually. Both sides will only get better at their jobs in doing this, and in the end the story is better for it too. And really, that's the whole point anyway, right?
As scripts are not the movies they intend, neither are comics scripts the comics they want to become. While I do love reading a comics script, I don't at all prefer them over actual comics. But a comic stripped of it's writing leaving us only the art can still be read. and frankly the better it's told the better it will read this way, and the better it will read when the words are included. The artist in comics possesses then a strength and responsibility as a result, and those that talk about credential comics, should share in that responsibility. One doesn't talk about a Ginger Rogers/Fred Astair musical by ignoring either of the dancers... so why does it seem a decent idea to do this to comics? Habit and stereotyping. That's the culprit.
In my case with INDEH, which is to date in my own experience, unique. The partnership with Ethan has been total. Together we might be able to dissect our different roles, but really that's not our baseline approach. Though he did not draw it, he is in each drawing. Though I did not initially write the screenplay upon which we based this book, I am in each word of the script we crafted together to create. INDEH is a baby born of two parents and requiring both in the same way actual babies require a mother and a father. And this is moreso true in this particular case than even in your normal walk a day comics work I have done with others, be they Freaks of the Heartland, Conan: Born on the Battlefield, or even the Matrix Comics that I wrote myself. None of those alt comics tales from the Matrix universe could have been made without the close creative partnership with my good friend Spencer Lamm. The reason I'm getting into these particular weeds is because if you're someone who plans on diving into comics, as a artist/writer on a creator-owned book, or working as an artist to a writer, or the reverse, you need to understand how to get the most out of these dances. And even if it's all you, it's never only you. The Lost Boy is my baby and was developed over ten years largely on my own... but the book is the result of a partnership between my editors at Scholastic in David Saylor and Adam Rau as much as it lies at my own feet. It would have never come together without them, and I could neither cleave them from the conversation about the book anymore than I could call myself a whole person after removing an arm and a leg and an ear. We shouldn't then want or perpetuate the idea that comics in general are created in a vacuum either.