Mark’s Remarks – West Coast Avengers #16 (January 1987)

In last month’s IRON MAN, I began to run off at the mouth a bit about a problem I had recently trying to read certain comics. In a nutshell, I complained that by the end of the story I still couldn’t figure out who the main characters were and why they were doing what they were doing. I figured that the creators of the comic must have assumed that everyone in the world who read that particular issue read all of the issues before, so they didn’t bother introducing the characters sufficiently. Well, I hadn’t and I couldn’t figure out what I was reading–me, with a quarter century’s worth of comic reading experience! Well, with that out of my system, I’d like to address another problem I’ve had reading comics lately.

This one is directed primarily at comic writers. What’s the big reluctance to use transitional captions these days? You know, those little blurbs that verbally establish a change of scene and or a lapse of time?  Sure, I can see leaving such a caption off if the scene change or time change is visually explicit – for instance, we see an establishing shot of a building with a sign in front that says “Daily Bugle” or a shot of a clock on the wall so we can see an hour has passed. But if it’s not as explicit as that, what’s the harm of putting in a transitional caption to make it abundantly clear? Or is it a sign of “sophisticated” writing to be unclear these days?

Now look, I’m not saying I know everything about the art and craft of comics writing. But I sure know when I’m merrily reading along and suddenly stumble over a hazy transition or an inadequate introduction of a character. My feeling is if these basic storytelling elements are not clear, the writer is not being artsy but amateurish. Here at Marvel, we take pride in the fact that we give you the basics of good storytelling each and every time you plunk down your money. (We also think we give you a lot more than the basics, but if the basics aren’t there, you won’t be able to find them!)

Incidentally, I sample comics by a lot of different publishers in order to keep abreast of what’s happening in the field. And these problems I’m complaining about don’t happen all that often, but that they crop up at all makes me scratch my head and wonder. How about you?

–Mark Gruenwald­­