The three F's of action-oriented comics

edited December 2013 in The Toolbox
The three Fs of action-oriented comic book writing:

1. It's funny. 
2. It has fights. 
3. It's fucking well drawn. 



  • Doesn't have to be funny. But it's good to have it if you can.
  • I think a bit of humor to break up the seriousness is absolutely essential. Look at SAGA or the movie DIE HARD. The funny bits absolutely sell the violence of the rest of it.
  • edited December 2013
    I agree with the funny angle -- IF we're talking specifically about action-oriented stories.
    Mainly because everyone likes a few good funny one-liners in a fight.

    But then... perhaps the first discussion should be to define "action-oriented."

    Also... "well drawn" is subjective.  (so is "funny" but I think drawing style has more width for subjectivity than humor).
  • Action-oriented: A genre comic that's not talking heads, autobio or strictly humor.

    Funny: Not necessarily joke a minute. Can be gallows humor.

    Fights: Needs to be visual, physical conflict.

    Well drawn: Competent enough to match or exceed the best books on the shelf.
  • Shouldn't the writing also match or exceed the best books on the shelf to be considered well-written? I think we can come up with more useful definitions.
  • I'd consider, for instance, Lazarus to be an action comic and there's almost (not quite no) humor in that book and it's quite good.

    Now I do have humor in...well, everything...but I don't think it's essential. Helpful yes.
  • I believe a writer can do a great deal to make the artist look better on the paper, but I yet to see a script directly improve anyone's ability to draw. . . .

    You might want to rephrase the third 'F'.

  • Exceeding the best is more than a little difficult. :)
  • Comedy, I think, helps an audience relate to a character and makes them easier to identify with. Thor had a lot of humor in the first flick - most of which was Funniest Home Videos inspired, with him getting hit by cars and whatnot - and I think it made the character enjoyable. He's no Tony Stark - he's not wise cracking and talkative. He's a man of action.

    The opposite of that, you get John McClain in Die Hard who's trying to make the best of a terrible (and from his perspective, impossible) situation. He's a sarcastic jackass, and he's purposefully pissing off the bad guys.

    Now, if you were to do that with Batman, for example, I don't think it would work as well. That's not Batman's personality. That said, even in the movies they gave him a few funny lines ("I'm not wearing hockey pants") - but they were usually after the action had ended.
  • Shouldn't the writing also match or exceed the best books on the shelf to be considered well-written? I think we can come up with more useful definitions.
    Yes, but well-written is implied by the other two F's.
  • edited December 2013
    While I agree with the comments regarding the film examples, I'd like to switch focus to the comic book side of creation.  Films, especially the examples so far, are blockbuster films made to get as many people into the theater as possible.  They are crafted by an army of people to appeal to a wide range of demographic groups.

    However, books tends to have more focus -- especially when it comes from a single creator.  This is why I often roll my eyes when people compare movies to books.  One is made by hundreds of people, all who have cool ideas to add to the story, whereas the other is a *single* person with a *single* vision of how to execute it.  Often what the writer / creator does can't even be translated to film.  Film is just the next best thing to the source material.

    So... the Three F's in comics?  As originally pointed out at the top of this thread?
    I do agree that those factors help a lot -- in different degrees depending on the book.

    If the creator sees it helping the core story and engaging the audience, then sure -- especially if it used on a specific character (i.e., the comedy relief).  The twist, as I see it, is that if a comic book is funny then it gets a pass, but when a movie tries to be funny it can fall flat.  The recent Lone Ranger film is an example of film falling flat.  It tried to be funny in the midst of seriousness and death.  Audiences didn't know how to react.  The Lone Ranger is a clear example of *too many chefs in the kitchen*.

    In comics, (action-based fighting comics) I expect humor and sharp one-liners because the space is so finite.  A single panel can only hold so many words.  Most writers don't exceed 40 words per panel.  So getting right to the point is important, and often clever one-liners are the short cut to find that goal.  This, in my mind, gets comics closer to the humor side of the scale. Even when trying to be serious the nature of the panel-per-writing-combined-with-art lends itself easily to humor.  Even unintentional humor.  But I give it more weight because it is often written by a single creator.  At least in most indy-focused publications.

    Marvel & DC have editors who will add lines and rewrite entire scenes.  THAT is when it gets more like a Hollywood production and less of a singular work.  Again, this is my opinion on the matter.  You said discuss, so there ya' go.
  • Sorry Steve, I don't see where

    1. It's funny. 
    2. It has fights.

    equates to "Competent enough to match or exceed the best books on the shelf."

    I'll grant you that writing genuinely funny material is a real talent; as is inventing novel, engaging "visual, physical conflict." But you didn't ask for that and there is a qualitative difference in these simple requirements for writing (as you've stated them) as opposed to those for the drawing (as you've stated them).

    But rather than harp on the point, lets see if we get get to the gist, and re-state in a better way.

    Essentially, you want engaging, inventive humor, fights, and art, true? Does it have to be as good or better then the best that's out there? That's a worthy aspiration, we should all aspire to that. But might not an action comic be note-worthy if it is merely average at two of these things, but excels at one? Brilliant humor, but stock fights, and competent art might still make for a hit. Inspiring art can bring sales and attention to a so-so story with typical fights and a few yuks. Original, inventive conflict might overcome pedestrian art, and a few wince-worthy jokes.

    Or how about simple competence in all three areas?

    I leave the argument currently raging over the importance of humor to others for the moment :)

    Good Thread.
  • @marvinmann - I'm with you on this one.  However, I guess the competence depends on the body of work.

    I can understand if it a sole piece of finite work.  Then I could put a solid checkmark on a particular book.  We can all judge it.  But very, very, very few books hit the mark (in all three areas that you outline) from issue #1 to issue #50.  At some point there's gonna be a lull, a drag, a hiccup.  All of which won't match or exceed Steve's "best books on the shelf" requirements.

    At this point, I think the *three Fs* are a little too vague.  Haha!  But that's *my* opinion.

  • My only thought to add to this is that when I think of drawing in comics as far as story goes, both the writer and the artist need to illustrate what is going on for the audience. Therefore, it would need to be fucking well illustrated rather than using the word drawn.

    But that's just me. I'm enjoying this thread.
  • I haven't seen Pirates of the Lone Ranger, but my impression from others' reactions was that the problem wasn't just that it tried to be funny, but that it didn't integrate the funny with the serious properly.  Or just didn't do the funny well at all.  A comic that makes the same mistake probably isn't going to be successful either.
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