DC Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis, who is currently penning a number of comics at DC Comics including Superman, Action Comics, Scarlet, and more, gave his fellow comic book creators some much needed advice in how they tell stories.
Tom King relayed one of his fears about Heroes in Crisis and how readers might see it:
“My fear is that the story itself should be the driver and not the themes. I don’t want anyone to come to [Heroes in Crisis] and say “Ugh, this feels like great homework, I give it an A.” I want people to come to it and be like “Holy crap what just happened, I want to find out.”
That’s when Bendis responded and made King’s fear a much broader piece of advice to his fellow comic book professionals:
“No, don’t lecture. I feel like I want to go online every day and tell everyone, “Don’t lecture.” Everyone’s getting a little close to lecturing in their work.”
King would echo Bendis’ advice:
“You can make a point without lecturing.”
Bendis would then drive his point home:
“No one wants to be lectured to. I forget who said this… ‘People who agree with you want to be lectured to less than people who don’t.’ I try to remind people, you can have a great point but please don’t yell. I feel like Twitter is getting into people’s narratives. ‘I’m going to tweet my story’ and I’m like ‘No no, tell your story. Tweeting is yelling, tweeting is lecturing.'”
King would go on to discuss how he doesn’t want to include secret messages in his work:
“I don’t know if I’m right, but I never want to have a message in my work. I don’t want to be like ‘Aha, you guessed my secret message!’ This is about how everyone should care about each other or something.”
Bendis would continue :
“But it’s there, which is all the more haunting, because when you don’t focus on your message yet it shows up so strong, you’ve got to go “Ooh, I am, I am working on something.”
I’ve done this, too, when you’re writing and the message keeps revealing itself. To me it feels like Heroes in Crisis — might be like, it could be — your big statement, your final statement on this part of the human psyche that you’ve been writing about.”
This is fantastic advice from Bendis and King, and it echoes what many comic book readers and fans have been saying for quite some time now. They don’t want to see messages bluntly put into comic books. They don’t want their comic books to feel like lectures in a classroom. There is plenty of space for messages, but it shouldn’t come across as “yelling” or “lecturing.” It’s fine to have a message, but the focus should be on the story and the moments that create the story first. It’s why so many people love Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and Punisher Max. There are obvious messages in those books, but the story is paramount to those messages.
What do you make of King’s and Bendis’ discussion about putting messages in comic books?