Denver Comic Con Spotlight:
DC Comics Writer, Christy Marx
Help! My Daughter Wants to CreateComics for a Living!
Honestly, Christy Marx should have been paying attention to her elementary schoolteacher. Wisdom was being shared. Life skills. Maybe even math. But young Christy was otherwise occupied.
It seems a previous student had left a copy of DC Comics’ Challengers of the Unknown #19 in her desk. What was a third-grader with an active imagination supposed to do?
“I ignored the class and read the comic,” she laughs. “I was hooked. I spent my childhood riding my bicycle from store to store, spinner rack to spinner rack, avidly buying comics.”
Christy’s superhero distraction probably didn’t improve her grades, but it certainly helped her career. Today she’s a successful comic book and video game writer with numerous credits to her name—including her current stint as the scripter for DC Comics’ premiere female superhero team, Birds of Prey.
At Denver Comic Con, we cornered Christy and asked her to share a little wisdom with parents raising imaginative young women (like her!) who aspire to create comics. Here’s what she had to say:
Christy Marx on “Fangirls” and the Comics Community
It gives me much joy to see more and more girls and women diving into comics and its associated pop culture. What a change from when I grew up! I can only make guesses at what has opened up this area of comics. One is that girls today are more empowered. They have more options, more choices, more freedom. A second factor is that it’s become cool to be a nerd or geek.
A third factor is that there’s a thriving market in material being made specifically for the female young adult audience. Some of that spills over into comics from other media, such as Dr. Who, anime, Twilight, Hunger Games.
And a fourth factor is generational. My parents were brainwashed into thinking comics were degenerate and worthless. But a couple of generations have grown up reading and loving comics and are happy to pass that along to their children and grandchildren. I adore going to cons and seeing a 5-year-old girl wearing a Batgirl costume with a tutu.
On Comics as a “Boys’ Club”
The honest truth is, I’ve never worried about it. I grew up with a passion for comics and it never occurred to me that I couldn’t do them. This is in spite of the fact that when I was growing up, the acceptable careers for women (other than wife and homemaker) were schoolteacher, secretary or nurse. Or if you were really talented and daring, maybe model, stewardess or ballerina. But I didn’t want to grow up to be a ballerina; I wanted to grow up to be Batman.
When I wrote to DC Comics as a child about my desire to work in comics, they responded with a letter addressed to “Mr.” Marx. But the thing was, they answered and they sent me this wonderful, informative little booklet about how comics were made. That booklet was the only thing that registered with me.
I grew up so isolated in my love of comics that I didn’t become aware of fandom or letters pages until I was an adult. I had no consciousness of it being male-dominated. When I had the opportunity—no, when I made the opportunity for myself to break in—I never once stopped to think about being female or that there might be barriers. All I knew was that I wanted to write comics and it never occurred to me that there was any reason I couldn’t or shouldn’t do it. I simply got out there and did what I wanted to do and didn’t worry about my gender.
Decades later, I’m more aware of how and where comics are male-dominated. What I like the least is how so many women characters are physically portrayed and hypersexualized. That needs to change. That aspect of comics remains juvenile.
What I like the best is the vastly increased range of comics available, the new formats and methods of delivery, the accessibility of the web for breaking into comics, the great indie comics creators. There is so much potential out there now that didn’t exist before.
On Writing Birds of Prey (and Other Comics)
The process with DC involves working out the rough plots for issues about six months in advance. That goes through an approval process, then I work with my editor on any extra details...
I do most of the visualization of the story in my head before I start writing. I “see” it. Then I sit down and work out what the major story beats will be for each page, to make sure I have the pacing right and am not trying to cram too much onto any one page. Finally, I work from the story beats and write the script. The script goes to the editor. If there are notes, I write a revised draft.
For Birds of Prey, the script goes to Scott McDaniel who does breakdowns, meaning loose rough pencils to establish the panels and general visual flow of the story. That goes to Robson Rocha who does beautiful tight pencils using the breakdowns as a guide. Then it goes to the inker, colorist and letterer in that order. The very last thing I do is proofread the lettering and make any last minute fixes...
There’s much more detail about the crafting of writing comics in my book, Writing for Animation, Comics and Games.
When Your Daughter Wants to Create Comics
To parents, I’d point out that the visual storytelling medium of comics is as pertinent and valuable any other art form. Its potential is unlimited. Your daughter may be the one to raise it to new heights.
Five Tips for Daughters:
Tip 1: Writing is work. It isn’t easy. It isn’t something that magically happens. It isn’t the result of raw talent. It’s both an art and a craft. And like any art or craft, it takes hard work, dedicated work, and years of work to become good at it. The same is true for art. Be willing to spend years getting the training you need. Put in the time and get your fundamental art skills up to a professional level. Remember that there are many different roles in creating comics. You could also become an inker, a colorist, a letterer, an editor and so on.
Tip 2: Stay true to the stories you want to tell. Don’t produce work simply because you think it’s commercial or will sell. Stories that come from the heart and soul are those with the most worth.
Tip 3: Be thick-skinned. Don’t take rejection personally. Keep working on your craft. Be determined and persistent. As the old saying goes, success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. Writing is rewriting. Be prepared to do many drafts of your work.
Tip 4: If you want to be a writer, you must read. Read tons of fiction, from the classics to what is trending today. Read tons of non-fiction to learn about history, cultures, religions, politics, languages, economics, and how people think.
Tip 5: Finally, get life experience under your belt, so that you’ll have it draw upon. Travel, ride a horse or a motorcycle, hang-glide, scuba-dive, sail a boat, fly a plane, play a musical instrument, go hiking, study martial arts, join a cause, volunteer for a charity—whatever it is that expands your personal horizons.
Christy Marx on the Most Important Thing in Life—and Comics
I don’t try to preach with my writing because that’s a sure way to either bore the reader or drive them away, but I want to write characters that somehow embody one or more of the qualities embodied in the Golden Rule:
People who are flawed, but who try to do the right thing; people who make mistakes, but learn from them and try to better next time; people who care about other human beings and the other sentient creatures with which we share this world.
All product-related graphics in this article are standard publicity/promotional shots and are owned by their respective publisher.