Scott Snyder loves comics so much that training students who many would say are (but he would reluctantly call) his competition is a joyous experience. “If I do my job well, it’s the opposite,” he told io9.
Between raising a family and writing comics full time, Snyder still clears space to teach fiction writing. He’s stepped in classrooms at New York University, Columbia, and Sarah Lawrence College. He’s also lead the Writer’s Workshop over at DC Comics, which has graduated students who are now colleagues.
In conversation with Snyder at New York Comic Con late last year, we spoke about his latest work on Justice League and Batman, but we also touched on craft. What makes a good writing student, and how does he think the changes in the comic book industry happening right now will manifest into opportunities for new talent? The interview, which you can watch above, is transcribed below and been lightly edited for clarity.
Scott Snyder: You can only write the story today that you’d like to pick up and read the most. It doesn’t have to be the smartest, it doesn’t have to be the most action-packed, but whatever it is that would change your life today that you would pick up and be like, “I love this story,” that’s the one you have to go write.
So the thing I always looks for, honestly, is something to write about, meaning I want you to come in with something you love you to do—whether it’s political, whether it’s comedy, whether it’s personal, memoir, whatever it is. I want to find a voice. I want to see that you have something that you love to do, even if it’s just action. You have to come in with a passion for expressing something that you want to communicate to someone else. And that, I can help you translate, or at least that was my job, into the superhero story format, the superhero lexicon, you know what I mean?
So if you want to write a story about injustice in the world and a certain particular issue, we might not be able to talk about that issue in the comic that you are writing if you’re writing a character that doesn’t really coincide with that kind of thing. But I’ll help you figure out a way to create a villain that’s coded to be that thing or stands in for that thing in a way that makes it clear that you’re actually writing about the thing you’re passionate about without making it something that’s out-of-character for our books. So that was always the fun.
What I’m getting at is that I always thought, people would say to me, Greg Capullo would be like, “You’re training your replacement. Why’re you doing that?” And I was like, “If I do my job well, it’s the opposite,” because I’m teaching you how to express your unique voice through our characters and that means we’ll never be comparable, meaning that yours will be so your own that there’s no competition. There’s no worry that you’re replacing me ‘cause it’s just one more exciting voice out there in the world. So I always loved that about it and it keeps me young.
io9: How are comics changing?
Snyder: The way that I think we’re bringing in new fans through manga and anime, my kids are here today at the con and they’re 13, well, 12 and eight. And they’re here because now, they’re all about Funimation, Crunchyroll, Shōnen Jump, and it’s leading them into comics and they’re reading things like Swamp Kid or Raina [Telgemeier]. They’re reading all forms of young literature, graphic literature. So I think right now, the thing that’s so interesting is this young, literate population finding comics from new angles and how that’s changing the way that we think about how we tell stories and different avenues.
And I think the other thing as an adult that’s exciting about it is that everyone, this might be too business-y, but it’s exciting to me that all these different platforms are after new forms of story, that right now we consume entertainment in a way where we glut on things on Netflix or on this platform, that platform, and so all these different platforms are desperate for IP, for intellectual property. And it’s leading smaller companies in comics and independent companies to be able to draw creators in to do their own independent creations because there’s a second life for them now in television, film, or at least in terms of interest.
So it’s this exciting moment when all of these independent creators are able to be more visible with their work because there’s this kind of larger corporate interest I think in that way. So those two aspects, there’s a young population coming in fast that’s really excited about all kinds of storytelling and there’s a new level of interest from, I think, platforms and sort of media giants that are looking for new ways of expressing story. So I think we’re right in the middle of it, we’re caught in the middle of it, and it’s a very fluid, volatile, and exciting, evolving movement.
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