Justin Gilman

WE TALKED WITH COMICS WHO WRITE COMIC BOOKS TO FIND OUT HOW AND WHY THEY DO THAT [Fast Company]

Justin Gilman
WE TALKED WITH COMICS WHO WRITE COMIC BOOKS TO FIND OUT HOW AND WHY THEY DO THAT [Fast Company]

Scott Aukerman, Taran Killam, Paul Scheer, and the hosts of The Flop House explain their path to writing comic books and how comedy fits in.

  • Despite the deceptive title, not too many comic books are comic in nature. That's why aficionados often prefer to call them graphic novels, a phrase more reflective of the alternately grim and whiz-bang goings-on within. It might come as a surprise to some of these fans, though, that a lot of graphic novels are now being written by comedians.


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Deadpool, for instance, is the rare superhero who's actually frequently funny. The book can count among its recent writers Jason Mantzoukas, the screenwriter and world-class improv performerBrian Posehn, the stand-up and former Mr. Show alumnus, and Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon staffer,Mike Drucker. The comedic talents of this group would seem to befitDeadpool's dirty one-liners, but perhaps there is something about the instincts of a professionally funny person that also complement the particular rhythms of telling a comic book story.

In order to find out, Co.Create recently spoke with Scott AukermanTaran KillamPaul Scheer, and the hosts of The Flop House podcast, to talk about these comedians's path to writing comic books, and whether with great comedic power comes great graphic novel responsibility.


You've seen Paul Scheer in a bunch of movies and shows, and you may have heard him on his podcast How Did This Get Made? or seen his recent comedy special, Crash Test, but the comedian is also a prolific writer of comic books. Starting with Aliens vs. Parker, which he cowrote with Nick Giovannetti, Scheer has since gone on to write a Deadpool biannual, and several other Marvel titles.


Ambitions To Write Comics

I’ve been a comic book fan for a long time, but I only thought of actually working them after I'd written this certain screenplay and hit a wall. Everybody I talked to was, like, "Oh, that's too expensive. You can't do a space movie. You're never gonna be able to make it." And I come from this background where I’ve been lucky that most of my ideas I’ve been able to execute on some level, or at least there's some movement. And it just felt weird that I could write this script and it would just die on the shelf. So I thought maybe I could do it as a comic book instead.


When Did That Seem Possible

I met with the guys at Boom!, which is very much the independent world of comic books. They were awesome. They liked the idea and they agreed to support me and get an artist for the book. It was a really fun experience translating the screenplay into a comic.


What's Different About Writing Comics

Anything that I've ever done, you write it and then you hear back and rewrite it a little bit and it's actually better. And then you cast people in it and then you maybe improvise a little bit on set and it gets even better. And then you edit it and then it's changing again and then it's the final product. With comics, it’s like you're writing, acting, directing ,and producing. You're kinda seeing it all in one moment and creating this finished product. But I like that idea. And what I specifically like is Nick and I have figured out this system where when we get the first pass of the word balloons, which is the very last pass, we do a lot of rewriting. Because at that point you're finally reading it like you're reading any other comic book.

We've learned what we need to tell a story to get the artist to do it, and what they bring to your stuff too. Like, "You don't need these two panels, you need this." And so it's always a collaboration but then when you get to that end, that's always the most fun 'cause then you're just kind of writing dialogue for these amazing storyboards. You can hit jokes better. We do a lot of jokes in our books so it's like "How do you get that joke to read?" If you put it all in one bubble it may not hit as much as it can. You want to kind of make the audience surprised, and so you have to figure out how to do that without shots and angles.

What I love about doing these Marvel books is it's exactly what I never have the option to do, which is work with the biggest budget imaginable, get to do everything I want. Like everything that I do in my career, TV and film and stuff, the question is always, how can we bring down that budget? So it's figuring out how to compromise your vision to what you can afford. And comic books allow you to blow it out. When we wrote Alien Vs. Parkerwe're doing like aliens and space fights and you have this limitless palette. So getting to explore a voice I never really have access to because you can also have the scope of something so big feels like writing a hundred million dollar movie. So as a comedy writer, it lets me make all those movies I love to watch in the theatre but usually never can make myself.