BookCon 2018

Left to Right: Lorraine Cink, Charles Soule, Brandon T. Snider, Rainbow Rowell

On Sunday at Book Con Marvel Writers Rainbow Rowell (Runaways), Charles Soule (Daredevil, Hunt for Wolverine) and Brandon T. Snider (Grow Up, Ant-Man!) joined in conversation with moderator and author Lorraine Cink (Powers of a Girl) to discuss their work and creative processes.

Rainbow Rowell is author of notable YA books like Eleanor & Park and Fangirl. As a fangirl herself, she says making the switch from novels to comics was easy:

“It’s been a real delight for me. I’m a longtime comics reader, if you’ve read my books you know that comics often show up in my books because it’s been an important part of my reading life and Runways was my all time favorite Marvel comic.”

Chris Soule on the other hand is longtime comics writer and has a novel coming out later this year, The Oracle Year. So on moving in the reverse direction as Rowell (writing a book without pictures) he said:

“I always wanted to write a novel for a long long time and it’s something I did alongside the many comics I’ve been lucky to write for Marvel. The main difference I would say is no pictures, and what that means is I have to make all the decisions about the reader’s experience in a way that I don’t when I’m working on a comic. You get to describe exactly how you would describe this room full of wonderful people watching us on stage which might not be the way an artist would decide to draw it. It’s a big responsibility and you don’t wanna screw it up.”

Rowell and Soule agree on the main difference between comics and books, comics is a team sport:

RR: “There are so many wonderful things about [Runaways artist Kris Anka], his art is incredibly expressive. So I don’t have to tell you what the Runaways are feeling I tell Chris and he’s like yeah I can do that. Sometimes I’ll put in the notes ‘ummm Gert is feeling’ and there’s like a paragraph and I’ll say can you draw that on panel? And he’ll be like ‘Yes I can.’”

CS: “[Artist David Marquez] and I have known each other for a long long time but our careers have always circled each other but never connected. You work with a Marvel artist and they’re unbelievably talented, I had some description to it (on his panels) but then I said ‘or you can do whatever you think would be cool’, and that’s what we got.”

It’s a visual medium and every style choice is deliberate. Rowell and artist Anka worked really closely together to create the feel of Runaways.

RR: “[Kris] also really likes clothes and I really love clothes so we both agreed that clothes are important part of the character. I wrote the first arc without an artist, so with Kris coming on we kinda had to work backwards together building the visual feel of the characters and me learning what he likes to draw and how he draws. But probably like three months in now I’m just on the phone having text conversations…I’m kind of scared to write another comic because this has been so great.”

RR: “If you take a look at what Gert is wearing this arc there’s some heartbreaking story behind her outfits for the first six issues.”

Apparently bouncing ideas off each other made its way into the story too:

RR: “We’re both really into angst, we both really like breaking people’s hearts. A lot of our text messages are like wouldn’t it be devastating if this happened?”

With Marvel it’s not just about making comics, you’re also working with characters that often have a decades long history attached to them. So how does a writer work with preexisting characters:

RR: “I’m clearly writing fan fiction [laughs] it’s not that hard. I love these characters…and I take care of things I always wanted to see happen…so if you love a thing keep working until you can write that thing and you can make all of your fan dreams come true”

CS: “You lean into the idea that people know who Kingpin and Daredevil are at minimum because hopefully they didn’t pick up the comic if they didn’t. So you think you’ve at least got that and then you get into the premise immediately and get into backstory and details as they come up organically as you go. a huge info dump isn’t fun to read. You’re painting the story as you go.”

How they ended up finalizing arcs and story choices:

CS: (For the landmark 600th Daredevil issue) “The idea was to do the worst thing to both Matt Murdoch and to Daredevil. Now Wilson Fisk is the mayor of the city which means Kingpin is the mayor of the city. When you’re writing Daredevil the key to it- in an issue, an arc, a run, is to give him his worst nightmares realized and then try to figure out how’s he gonna get out of it.”

RR: (on her first Runaways arc) “[When it started] the characters were all in different places so it was about getting the band back together. The arc is really about [the characters] asking ‘is this my family?’ Spoiler alert: it is.”

Brandon Snider on writing his young reader Ant-Man book:

BS: “It’s a cute story I’ve gotta say. I hope that word doesn’t turn anyone off but it’s cute. Basically it’s Cassie just harassing her dad it’s a father- daughter tale. My dad was one of those embarrassing dads- or in my mind as a kid embarrassing- who would sing in the car or do things in front of my friends that I would just cringe so this is sort of Cassie warning her father about growing too big and her father not listening because he wants to impress her and say look how big I can grow. It doesn’t end well.”

Snider comes from a pretty different background than either Rowell or Soule. Here’s what he had to say on bringing his comedy background into the superhero world:

BS: “I’ve always been a fan of comic books and superheroes for as long as I know and humor for me has been something that helps me heal from things. Managing sort of dark and light, pain and joy, has been something that I’ve learned to do over time. So with superheroes and specifically with Ant-Man I don’t like to shy away from emotional moments. And with this we can do some superhero fun stuff, the avengers make cameos, but I like, within the humor- while you’re laughing- I like to maybe punch you little bit in the gut to remind you of your humanity.”