META: Plot vs. Character

Tom Russell milos_parker at
Mon Sep 4 22:23:02 PDT 2006

jvdsteen wrote:

> characters are the reason why the reader keeps coming back. That's why
> comic book readers frown at soap operas on TV but love the adventures

Ahem.  That's why *some* comic book readers frown at soap operas on TV.
 As for me?  I'm just psyched that Laura's back on General Hospital.

> For example, I first picked up the original New Warriors comic because
> of the concept: kind of a Teen Titans for the Marvel Universe. A book
> featuring a new superhero team seemed exciting to me. But the reason
> that for the first 20 issues or so it was my favorite book was the
> characters. I loved the macho Nova, the love story between Firestar and
> Marvel Boy, the tragedy of the Night Thrasher character. I started to
> care about the characters and wanted to find out what happened to them.

Fabian Niceza (sp) is a very under-rated writer.  Sometimes his
dialogue is a bit shakey, but he's a top-notch plotter with a very
strong feeling for characters.  It's a shame that he hasn't gotten the
respect he deserves.

As far as unjustly-maligned Marvel teams with strong character work and
smart plotting go, I think that SILVER SABLE & THE WILD PACK was a
terrific book.

... I know I'm pretty much alone in this. :-)

> It's the reason I didn't get into the Avengers, as cool as their
> stories were. However, a comic book needs a good plot to. It prevents
> you from getting bored by the characters (like for instance what
> happened after the first season of Melrose Place of what happened with
> the New Mutants). I kept enjoying it every month because anytime when I
> was getting a little bit bored by the characters there would be a trip
> to the Inhumans or the return of Terrax.

Well, you need some kind of plot in order to properly show off your
character work.  Scenes of the characters just kinda hanging out can be
fun, but don't really tell you as much about them as a good plot does.
A good plot highlights the virtues of the character, shines some light
on the vices, and in the best of instances, absolutely *defines* the
character in the space of a good scene or chapter or even a few good
panels.  Check out the conclusion to the Spidey-Goblin fight in the
Lee-Ditko ASM # 17, for example, or the famous final chapter of the
Master Planner saga: everything you ever needed to know about
Spider-Man is contained within less than a dozen panels.  And this
definition, this streak of white hot characterization, certainly
wouldn't be present if it was just Spider-Man talking about Big Macs in
France. :-)

> Plot and character (should) go hand in hand. In Godling I try to make
> you excited about the wonderful world the hero inhabits. I wanted to

Especially when a character is extremely powerful, world-building is
very important.  Really, Superman's not as interesting as his world--
which is why, in general, the post-crisis Supes has held less interest
for me (Busiek seems to be on the right track, though).

> grab you and take you for a wild ride with dangerous villains,
> cliffhangers, gods and monsters, grab your attention. Then, with issue
> 3 I started to focus on the characters more and more. More and more I
> will try to keep you coming back not just because you want to find out
> what supervillain will give Godling a hard time this issue but also to
> find out how Quentin Alexander deals with his loneliness, or how Marcus
> Walker learns to be a hero.

Looking forward to it.

> ===Jochem


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