For my Thanksgiving Day blog post, I was going to write about "things for which this writer is grateful." And there are many including this amazing community.
But I’ve decided to focus on a writer whose work I admired – Stan Lee. If you only know Lee for his cameos in the Marvel movies, you may not know that he was first and foremost a writer. Before there were graphic novels there were comic magazines. By the 1950s Lee was writing a variety of comics including romance, Westerns, humor, science fiction, medieval adventure, horror, and suspense.
How does this impact us? When he got the chance to premier a line of superheroes, he introduced something never before seen, flawed heroes who were just a human as they were heroic. We employ this technique whenever we create a heroine who has a flaw.
Three years ago, my husband and I took the MOOC “The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact on Pop Culture.” Led by the Smithsonian, it was offered through EdX and included guest lectures by Stan Lee. Yes, I saved every single one of those lectures. What impressed me most was his enthusiasm.
In Lee’s mind, comic magazines weren’t a lesser literary form. They reflected the values and sensibilities of the larger culture. They gave people a chance to explore the same themes found in novels and film. All that differed was the delivery. Writers who think they could whip up just anything for a comic magazine reader had another thing coming. “If you figure that ‘anything goes’ in a comic magazine, a study of any recent copy of Daredevil Comics or Bat Man will show you that a great deal of thought goes into every story; and there are plenty of gimmicks, sub-plots, human interest angles, and the other elements that go into the making of any type of good story, whether it be a comic strip or a novel.”
That quote comes from an article he wrote that appeared in Writer’s Digest in 1947. In “There’s Money in Comics!,” he gave a lot of writing advice that applies to all writers even today. Grab your reader from the start. Make sure your story has a logical flow from scene to scene. Your dialogue has to be solid and realistic. Don’t write down to your reader. Study your markets because what one finds exciting another will consider too fanciful.
Even today I’m grateful that I took the opportunity to study the evolution of the superhero. Have a written a superhero? Not yet but I am playing with an idea. Graphic novels fascinate me because I’ve seen how they pull young readers in as if by magic.
There are so many things that have influenced my writing. I hope that you too have the chance to learn from someone who makes you think about ways to improve your work and your world. To quote Stan Lee - Excelsior!*
To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey. Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins January 14th, 2019.