A Trip to the Comic Shop Helps Me Write

I went to the comic shop like I do just about every week and got my stack of books. I noticed something… different this time around. Here’s what I grabbed the latest issues of:

  • Usagi Yojimbo – the story of a samurai in feudal Japan. Except all the characters are anthropomorphic animals. It’s actually a great story, and as of today I’ve made the switch from the collections to the single issues. Oddly enough, it’s also incredibly historical. There was one issue all about the tea ceremony, and it was riveting reading.
  • Scales and Scoundrels – a new comic detailing an actually unlikely collection of individuals making up an adventuring party in a neat fantasy setting. It’s tongue-in-cheek, which I enjoy, but the characters actually break a lot of the cliches, which isn’t the easiest thing to do in a fantasy setting.
  • Power of the Dark Crystal – a comic series based on the unfilmed screenplay for a sequel to the 1980’s movie The Dark Crystal, an old favorite of mine. Fantasy of a very different sort with magnificent creature design and an epic scale. I love the moral quandary set up in the very first issue that’s still playing out almost a year later.
  • Archie – Yeah. That Archie. The comic “rebooted” about two years back to be a comedy-based romance drama, and… it works. I’ve really enjoyed it.
  • Captain America – And last but not least, a good ol’ fashioned superhero!

And here’s what I notice about that list: it’s pretty varied. We’ve got a semi-historical comic about feudal Japan, an epic fantasy, a movie sequel, romantic comedy, and superhero. All told in comic book form, sure, but it’s all over the place for genre and setting.

By the way, most of my weeks look like this – I pick up very few superhero comics these days. I get some sci fi, some horror, some… odd stuff (Lookin’ at you, Doom Patrol).

Why am I sharing this with you?

OK, other than to reveal the level of my nerdiness. 

Because stories are so varied… and it’s good to read a lot of different things. Every genre can host so many different types of stories, and every story is a little bit different in every genre. It’s good to take a bunch of it in.

I remember when the Serenity RPG came out, and a lot of people were flailing about to figure out what kind of stories to tell in that setting. Firefly (the TV show associated with it) hadn’t been around enough to really show what the setting held. At the time I was pretty active on the boards, and many of us pooled resources to come up with plots.

If you don’t know Firefly, fix that, or this man will cry. 

I ended up adapting a plot from a Don Rosa Uncle Scrooge comic.

By changing the setting, it became an entirely new story… and it worked.

Now, I’m not recommending lifting plots from one thing you read and recrafting it in your own setting. At least, not on purpose. But by checking out different settings and genres, you learn new ways of telling stories, new kinds of character interactions, and it can be a lot of fun.

So let me encourage you: Don’t get bogged down in one genre. Check a bunch out, and in a bunch of different storytelling styles: Prose, comic, television, movie, opera. See how the stories are told, and learn what works and what doesn’t.

It’ll help your storytelling, too.

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