Every comic book fan knows that writin’ them there funny books is actually pretty hard work. All those story-lines and continuity to keep straight while still trying to entertain your audience is a tall order, but which books are more challenging than the rest? After racking my brain, I’ve come up with five titles that must be absolute murder on their creators. To even come up with a list like this, I had to set myself a few ground rules:
1. Only the big names, the ones even your grandma knows. Part of what makes these books hard to work on is the prestige that comes with the name. These are household names, which only makes it worse if a writer goes and fucks it up.
2. Only one team book for each of the Big Two. Having a bunch of characters does not automatically make a book hard, it only means you have to manage it differently. Only what I consider the hardest team book to write for Marvel and DC respectively made the cut.
3. Minus the team books, each character on this list has to have their own current ongoing title.
With that out of the way, let’s get to it!
#5. Captain America
Writing for the Star Spangled Avenger is one hell of a job. The book is politically charged by its very nature. While other books can run off and not deal with reality, Cap is and always has been a reflection of America psyche at any given time. How America feels about itself is how we write our Captain America stories, from full of patriotic pride to totally disillusioned with everything, and every point in-between. All the highs and lows America goes through, Cap and whoever is writing him have to ride that wave clinging on for all that their worth. With a character that can so easily fall into being lame, corny, boring, and/or pretentious when mishandled, writing entertaining Captain America stories is an intricate, ever-evolving dance.
#4. (Teen) Titans
The Teen Titans only barely make this list as their current ongoing is coming to an end a short time from now, one of the more botched offerings from the “New 52” relaunch, the book never really found its feet. Part of what makes writing the Titans so hard is the fan base. A book that is supposed to be a gateway drug to other DC titles for new younger readers, the Titans have such a rich and celebrated history and vocal older fans that want stories tailored to them. Titans fans are some of the most obsessed and vocal fans of all DC Comics devotees. I don’ think even writing for the Justice League is met with such fan scrutiny. More than any other book in mainstream comics, the Titans title is about finding that perfect balance to keep both the old and new fans happy.
#3. Wonder Woman
Despite being the most well known female superhero ever and a feminist icon, writing stories that make people invest in Princess Diana as a character is tough. So many writers have gotten lost in the iconography. It has gotten to the point where most of the world thinks that it is the entirety of Wonder Woman’s character. Any writer taking on the book has to be able to show that Wonder Woman is more then just gender politics, all while not betraying those same gender politics. Even in this enlightened age, getting readers to see Wonder Woman as a person they care about (and thus want to read about) and not just her imagery is a herculean task.
#2. Fantastic Four
The Fantastic Four is arguably the most unique team in all of mainstream comics, and that is only because it only barely qualifies as a team. The FF are a family first, and family is… complicated. While other super teams are bound by a goal or ideology, the Fantastic Four don’t have that. Sure they fight bad guys and protect people, but not due to any team code or being ordered to do so, but because they think it is the right thing to do. The FF are way more a family of explorers than they’ve ever been super heroes. They live at the very edge of possible and then go beyond. So you have a super hero team book about some people who aren’t really a team, and only occasionally could you call them super heroes, who can pretty much go anywhere and do anything. Do I even have to keep explaining why this is hard?
#1. Action Comics/Superman
I’m sure this pick doesn’t surprise many of you as it is well known that writing Superman stories today is seen as some of the hardest work in all of comics today. Action Comics has to be an especially stressful gig as it is the book that launched the age of super heroes. Many of the problems I’ve outlined on the other titles on this list are here in full force when it comes to Superman. Another part of the problem I think is that so many writers try and fix Big Blue, but I don’t think Superman is broken and their attempts often end in muddled messes. Take the recent Man of Steel movie as a perfect example of what I mean. With all his power, Superman is the superhero most seen for what he doesn’t do. He always chooses to do the right thing, no matter how easy it would be to do otherwise. Superman is our best and brightest, and making him shine like he should is the ultimate task for any comic writer.
So what do you think of my list? Are there some other mainstream comics out there that you think are harder to do than the ones I’ve listed here? Let us know in the comments below!