Actor shocker: Writing comics is HARD!

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2002 abe Actor shocker: Writing comics is HARD!Among its many interviews with nerdlebrities enamored of the wonderful world of comics, MTV’s Splash Page caught up with James Marsters, formerly of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, who had his run-in with comics writing TEN years ago. But the experience was so traumatizing that his resentment has simmered to this day, eclipsing such things as Smallville, Torchwood, and DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION…

“I thought that if I wrote a comic, I’d have ultimate power over everything,” said Marsters. “It was a rude awakening to find out how little power writers have.”

The real bone of contention was with Dark Horse’s choice of artist Ryan Sook, who drew everything in a dark, gothic style that, while he liked the art, Marsters insists just wasn’t right for his story.


The actor goes on at some length to vent about Sook’s unseemliness..,so long, in fact that Dark Horse felt compelled to respond: explaining that it was Buffy omnilord Joss Whedon himself who approved Sook!

“The artist James was referring to was Ryan Sook, and he was someone Joss really liked,” explained Dark Horse Senior Managing Editor Scott Allie. (The artist was misidentified as inker Keith Barnett in the original post.) “When James expressed his concerns about Ryan, Joss talked to James for me, and told him this was how he wanted the book handled. I talked to Juliet about this recently, and she had no problem with any of it — she’d seen the book and thought it was fine.”

“Looking back, I wish I’d been more sensitive to James’ feelings at the time, but the main problem was a difference of opinion about the tone of the book,” added Allie. “To Joss and me, it was a horror story, focused on two of the best villains from the show — this was before Spike’s redemption. We wanted it to feel like a horror comic.”


Reading of Marsters’s “rude awakening,” one can’t help but recall the words of Alfred Hitchcock: “I never said all actors are cattle; what I said was all actors should be treated like cattle.”

PS: If you go over to Sook’s website you’ll see tons and tons of art, and after a few clicks, you get the feeling he may know more about making comics than your nerdlebrity on the street. (Above, a painting of HELLBOY’s Abe Sapien.)

Comments

  1. To be fair to Marsters, he says Sook’s art was very good — he just didn’t feel it fit the story he was asked to write. And recalling that special, yeah, Dru and Spike were drawn in full vamp-face horror a lot of the time, which would make them a little appealing for a dark romantic story.

    Of course, it turns out that the story he was asked to write was not what he thought it was, so Sook did a better job of sticking to the directives from Whedon than Marsters had.

    Just a failure of communication, basically. It was not a bad story as I recall.

  2. “I thought that if I wrote a comic, I’d have ultimate power over everything,”

    Well, there’s his problem right there.
    If he truly wanted complete power over his work he needed to write it, draw, ink & color it AND self publish it.

  3. He can’t possibly have meant that comment literally – it’s a licensed property, for heaven’s sake. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he meant he expected to have more say over the style of the art.

  4. Well, television writers have a considerable amount of power in the industry, although they have to answer to the network’s whims. As anyone who’s familiar with Whedon’s relationship with Fox over the years is well familiar with. Certainly, writers trump actors in the pecking order.

    So maybe Marsters had overblown expectations as a writer, where he saw Sook as the “actor”, essentially. Or probably, he didn’t really know what he was getting himself into.

  5. Robert Morales says:

    You know, I don’t see anything unreasonable in what Masters said – he sincerely had different expectations, but he wasn’t a dick about it. Everybody has a different learning curve.

  6. jimmy palmiotti says:

    ryan is brilliant . tv writers…well, yeah…duh.

  7. Dan Slott says:

    As someone who’s worked, enjoyed working, and hopes to work with Ryan Sook again…

    I read this article and said, “Whaaaa?!”

    Ryan is one of the most talented artists in the industry. He is VERY receptive to ideas and has a great line of communication with his collaborators. At least that’s how it was when the two of us worked on Arkham. He is so NOT a my-way-or-the-highway kind of guy.

  8. I hear ’round the way that Mr. Marsters thinks very highly of himself: of course, until this weekend, I’d also heard that he was pretty cool to his fans. He’s a prolific actor, for sure, & I haven’t seen his comic book writing. I’m not surprised he found it harder than he thought.

    But your timing on posting this is funny. Over the weekend, at a convention, I had a young mom stand before my table in tears. She was crying because James Marsters, who charges $40 for his signature instead of the usual $20 at cons, who she drove with her family (husband & handicapped young son) some four hours to meet, wouldn’t write “Happy birthday (her name here)” on his picture. He was brusque about it too.

    This was not the first complaint about Mr. Marsters I heard that same day. One fan walked away carrying a tall James Marsters-as-Spike dolll, but couldn’t believe it cost him $250. It had some of Martsers’ DNA in the paint. (What??) A second fan, a slim, short young man, had dressed himself up as Spike, completely. Dyed/slicked back his hair, had the outfit, maybe he was 22 or 23. James wouldn’t personalize his photo, either, though, he’d driven all day to meet his idol.

    I found both of those things kinda..eh, so what, too bad, sometimes famous people believe their own hype..but when this sweet, sad fan #3 started weeping on the show floor on Sunday afternoon, I was pissed! I told show management about it; they professed surprise. Who knows, maybe he was having an off day.

    But ya know: few people are famous forever. I’ve seen long lines for Marsters & short lines for Adam West. What goes up must come down. & if one is a *smart* celebrity, one bears in mind that everyone on the other side of the autograph table pays your freakin’ rent.

    I hoped I cheered the birthday girl up a little; I gave her some comics & a ring I’d been wearing, we hugged, etc. But her feelings about whatever she liked about Mr. Marsters are now changed; so are those of mini-Spike & possibly the guy with alleged Marsters DNA doll.

    IMDB says his popularity is down 26% this week. Good. Rude thing. If you charge twice as much as Elvira & every other celeb, at least take the time to write out your fans’ goddamn names.

  9. Pia Guerra says:

    I’d be very interested to see what his script looked like. I’ve worked with writers new to the medium of comics and it’s always interesting to see how they think on the page, overwriting in some areas, not enough in others, multiple actions in single panels that can’t possibly be drawn and generally a lack of understanding of the collaboration involved. There may be some ego issues going on here but more likely it’s just unfamiliarity with the language of comics, a dialect that can be challenging to even to the best mainstream writers of prose.

  10. Eva, Marsters has a condition in his left hand (due to having broken it in his youth) that makes it actually ~painful~ for him to do long autograph sessions. If he personalizes the autograph for one person – no matter how cute the kid is – he’s gonna have to do it for everyone, and if he personalizes the auto for everyone, there’s gonna be a lot more disappointed people when he can’t do autos on the second day, or if he has to cancel his concert because he can’t play.

  11. cooljacque says:

    Very true May. I have two personalized autographs, but I got those at special events with limited attendance and personalized autographs were given to everyone as part of a package deal. It would be better if fans would find out before hand what James will do or can do, so they don’t expect more than is possible. The autograph is not the important thing, we are really paying for the few minutes time when James gives us his complete attention. Although he probably won’t remember us after this encounter -and why should he -, we remember it and it is well worth whatever we pay for it. He is an actor and singer, that is his job, and to expect him to give away his time for little or nothing is not resonable. If one feels that $40 is too much, don’t get an autograph. There are plenty of us who are quite happy to pay that much.

  12. Dingbat says:

    James was mostly upset because he felt he had to apologise to Juliet Landau for being part of a project in which her character was portrayed as ugly and grotesque

    Here’s what he said in 07 at the Fangoria convention

    “I took Spike and Drusilla, wrote them as far apart as I could, to the point where Spike is trying to kill Drusilla and then got them back together. That is a classic romance. Nobody that knows storytelling could look at that story and say that’s not a romance. But, Dark Horse had wanted to make a gross, how do I call it, ugly kind of comic book. Which is totally cool and totally ok with those two characters, but not with the story I made. . As a writer I was just incensed. The thing is I had to call up Juliet Landau and explain what I’d done. She’s looked at the comic book, at these drawings they’d made of her, and they were so ugly. And she’s asking me, “why did you do this to me?” And she’s my acting partner, she’s the one, I’m supposed to protect her and she’s supposed to protect me. And I totally screwed her. And I thought that I had control. And that’s just a lesson about adulthood, about control, that I NEVER have control. Ok. ”

    As to personalised signings it was clear both from the event website and a sign in the signing area that James doesn’t personalise. He’s explained this often

    This from Dragoncon

    “For autographs, in general, I like to get to as many people as possible. I also like to just kind of be able to say, “Hi” to everybody and really kind of mean it. Yeah, one person laughing. So, I wish I had time to personalize every autograph but that kind of doubles the time and I get to half the people. So, what I like to do is just sign the name and really kind of look at you in the eye and say Hi and have a moment that’s real to remember. Pictures are fine. Flash away – my eyes are long ago scarred. But if you could catch the pictures as they happen in real life as opposed to waiting to pose – you get a better picture better that way anyway – and frankly, again, it makes more time so that when you … dudes, man, thirty extra seconds for everybody means that a lot of people don’t get anything. Does that answer your question. So, flash away but I don’t want to pose for the flashes. No personalization, but if I’m not sincere, spank me. ”

    The quotes come from here http://www.jamesdb.com

    Eve you gave three examples of people who wanted personalisations and were upset because they didn’t get them. If James had made an exception for those three how many others would have been upset that he didn’t do the same for them? And if he’d personalised for everyone who asked how many people wouldn’t have got an autograph at all.

    Plus that broken hand

    “9-07 Television Without Pity) Oh, I almost punched the preacher, man. This guy interrupted…we were doing a Sam Shepard and a Joseph Chaikin play — Joseph Chaikin’s a great playwright who suffered from aphasia, and Sam went to him as he wrote these plays to try to be a kind of therapy for Joseph. It’s about an angel who falls to earth and is disoriented [“I believe it’s called The War In Heaven: Angel’s Monologue” — CB], and it’s very emotional — the angel gets caught by a cop and everything, and the good old pastor comes in and sits in the front row right next to me! I’m playing the angel and there’s the other actor, and we’re playing a scene where we’re about to kill each other, and we stop and we’re like, “Ed, what is it, is there a fire, an earthquake, what?” “No, I’m just watchin’.” “Well, Ed, you can’t interrupt rehearsal. We’re going to have to go back forty-five minutes to get this.” [George W. Bush voice] “Well, you know, just carry on. I ain’t leavin’. I’m the pastor here. You act, now.” And, you know, I finally got him out, but as soon as he left, I punched the floor and I totally broke my hand and I had no medical insurance. So I talked the hospital into treating me because I was a service to the community! [both laugh] But the doctor just kept re-breaking the bone — they wouldn’t pin it because that was like, too much money, so they just kept re-breaking it every couple weeks. They say I’m gonna have pretty bad arthritis later. It sucks ass.”

  13. Be that as it may, he didn’t have to be rude about it.

  14. Deanna says:

    What James Marsters has said about the comic in the past is that his biggest problem with the art is that it portrayed Juliet Landau, through her character, as being hideously ugly, even when unvamped, so he was upset on her behalf. But the story wasn’t really a “horror” story, just slightly twisted, yet the art completely tried to sell it as horror. The tone of the art was a complete mismatch with the story being told, and didn’t look anything near the tone of the TV show. If vampires are supposed to always look ugly in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, whether biting people or not, why did Joss hire good-looking actors? The show never portrayed Spike and Dru anything like the way the art in that comic did.

    Marsters has complained about that for the last ten years, whenever anyone at a convention or in an interview brings up the comics. Why is this suddenly newsworthy?

    The $250 “doll” is a Sideshow Collectibles 18″ Premium Format figure. ALL the PFFs sell for $250, but James Marsters was personally autographing them at the convention. That’s what the “DNA” remark was, just that he had personally handled it. So all the other PFFs that are sold for $250 are fine, but for Marsters to dare to autograph it for FREE is somehow a horrible act of greed?? Huh?

    And is it really so much better for him take the time to personalize every item, even if it leaves him with less time to actually talk to the person and wears out his injured hand to the point that he has to cut the autograph line off early, so everyone else gets nothing?

  15. Hey, I know y’all

  16. (SORRY FOR DOUBLE POST, weird..)

    Hey, I know y’all dig him, fine, if he was sticking up for Ms. Landau (who I met over the weekend & she was so gracious!) bully for him. I didn’t know about his injured hand, but all my earlier comments stand.

    Even if we were to agree that he should never ever personalize items, which I don’t agree with, obviously the amount of time those fans purchased for their $40, especially the girl with the birthday, didn’t get her money’s worth.

    Listen: we’re all entertainers. Everyone’s gotta have their limits, but each & every person who chooses to spend their energy, time & money pursuing your work, above someone else’s – that person should have thier five minutes of eye contact with you, where they feel that your image registered with the actor/musician/artist, even if it didn’t. I’ve met plenty of people on the way down from fame, at cons, in elevators, who used to be so famous they couldn’t go anywhere for being mobbed, who now lugged thier own bags to the Motel 8: I bet they personalize their pictures.

    I’m sorry for James’ hand, but really, once this woman started crying, I would have made an exception for her. Fer fuck’s sake. & if all your other fans are so patient & understanding, surely they can see, waiting in line, what the story is.

    People can charge whatever they want for a doll, a photo, a comic book. But it’s the interaction with the person, that moment they bought, that will stay.

    As mentioned initially, I have always heard nothing but goodness from the James Marsters fans previous to this. I am only telling you all he musta had an off day.

    Fans still pay the rent, but, you don’t have the same level of that forever.

  17. Susan says:

    Whether or not someone got their money’s worth is relative, isn’t it? What Marsters’ future at cons will be remains to be seen, but for the moment, his lines are ridiculously long, and attempting to give each person five minutes is insanely unreasonable. The rules were stated plain, and no amount of crocodile tears were going to change that. Tough titty.

  18. Tucker says:

    Eva,lovely that you had a chance for a bonding moment with the weepy lass but that doesn’t mean she should get exceptional and unique consideration from James. I presume that the conditions of signing were known or knowable by her such that if she was unlikely to be satisfied she could have foregone the autograph. Meanwhile, seems that you may have been oddly occupied collecting negative stories about Mr Marsters at the con.

  19. Stephen Salchli says:

    As a Marsters fan for 12 years, I really don’t want it personalised. It’s more about the face to face time than anything else. The only thing I’d really want personalised would maybe be a Photo-op of the two of us. Anything else, why do I need my name on it? I’m not in the photo/item.
    As for the $40.00, it’s my money, if that’s what I feel it’s worth, so be it.
    And I agree with my fellow fans and above posters. And like it’s said, if James doesn’t do it for all, he shouldn’t just do it for one person.

    Also, back in the days when he did personalise, not everyone who wanted to meet him got a chance because James loves to talk to everyone. As a self-admitted sci-fi geek, he just likes hanging around with us.

  20. Deanna says:

    Also, the one time that I got something personalized from him, back in the early days of Buffy, he misspelled my name, even though I told him how to spell it. Other people had the same thing happen. He apologized profusely, but the truth remains that even though he’s an intelligent guy who will start talking about string theory, underlying themes in Shakespearean plays, or a million other topics, he just can’t spell worth a damn. So I think part of it is that if he can’t take the time in a quiet environment to make absolutely sure that he gets the name spelt just right, he doesn’t want to “ruin” an item by accidently misspelling the person’s name.

    I don’t know the situation with the crying woman, but he IS only human, and it is possible to catch him at exactly the wrong time. Maybe the person before her said something that got him grumpy, or maybe Crying Woman was just too pushy. Either way, it’s hardly proof of any great honking character flaw that proves he’s a bad person, or that his complaints should be ignored about not being consulted about the artwork on the comic he wrote. If Sarah Michelle Gellar had written a story for Dark Horse, would they have refused to let her have a say about the art, or how she and her fellow actors were drawn?

  21. Deanna says:

    …And I still don’t know about the situation in the autograph line, whether James Marsters was brusque or not, but here’s some video from his autograph line at that convention, if that gives any indication as to the general mood:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GaDL_nxDWpk
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ej1kix1VjcY
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmGepioLMtw

    And here’s the comic art that Marsters objected to:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/buffy/ecomics/spikeanddru/red_one/01.shtml

  22. Hey, I didn’t seek the stories out. They came to my table (set up w/ Joe Linsner/Dawn, other end of the hall from where the autographs were). I liked Mr. Martsters’ character in Buffy, & these stories didn’t please me. I didn’t look for bad stories any more than I looked for the good ones that I heard earlier. It is what it is, folks. I could give a rat’s ass one way or the other. I just think it can’t be too hard to not make your fans cry.

    They weren’t crocodile tears, either.

    What a cynical crowd.

  23. Susan says:

    Well, you said she was “weeping” (though you didn’t reveal why or specifically how she started crying). “Crocodile tears” is nothing but an adjective. Do you have a better description? Maybe a reason for the tears?

    And were they stories, or actual incidents you witnessed? Which is it?

    As for making someone cry or not–some are more emotional than others. If one person out of many cries at the drop of a hat, I’d think it reflects more on them than it does on Marsters.

  24. For not giving a rat’s ass, you sure have posted enough arguments about it!
    Sorry, but I have met him several times, seen him interact with others and end up feeling very lucky to have ended up a James Marsters fan. He is consistently beyond kind an generous. He’s a lovely human being.

  25. Guys, really: lighten up. I didn’t say Mr. Marsters was the anti-Christ. I saw the woman weeping. She was weeping because James had been rude to her, she’d driven four hours to meet him as she idolized him, he wouldn’t write happy birthday on her $40 – autographed photo & she found it very disappointing, as according to her husband, he was the main reason they’d come to the show.. This was witnessed by her husband. I didn’t think to cross-examine them. It happened to be the third tale of Marsters I’d heard in one day. While minding my own business, at my own table.

    It seemed like an opportune moment to mention it, given that the above posted topic is about Mr. Marsters.

    I’m glad you all had positive experiences with him, that’s great, good for you. But that doesn’t mean that everyone has. I feel that public figures have a certain level of responsibility to their fans, & Mr. Marsters has met those responsibilities to those of you who have posted above. It’s okay if we disagree. No need to get all personal on me about it.

    BTW, to repeat, met Juliet Landau & she was awesome & very sweet. Ditto for Camden Toy, very gracious. I don’t think actors are all evil or anything. :)

  26. Tucker says:

    Was Mr. Marsters rude/brusque/dismissive to his fans in the autograph line that day to the point that he ruined several fans’ experience and made at least one of them cry? Perhaps; let us examine the available evidence regarding culpability. On the one hand we have several videos of the day (although not the alleged incidents) posted by Deanna that suggest a rather different (i.e., warm and engaging) atmosphere and style of interaction. On the other we have some second-hand stories from a con participant who was ‘at the other end of the hall’ from Mr. Marsters’ autograph line and nonetheless managed to receive unsolicited accounts of these negative experiences from the fans in question (amongst some other grumblings about Mr. Marsters and/or merchandise linked to him). Neither line of evidence speaks to the ‘fact’ of whether the disappointed fan did feel disappointed/cry; simply whether Mr. Marsters should be held accountable for this. I don’t think it takes a Henry Fonda (12 Angry Men allusion) to sort this one out.

  27. Eva, you tell of three tales of James Marsters being unreasonable at FX. If I understood you correctly, one fan complained about paying too much for a Spike doll. (A doll by the way, that Marsters was not selling. Sideshow was selling it at the same price that they sell it on their website.) And the other two disappointed fans ignored the posted signs saying that Marsters would not be personalizing the autographs. Did these two fans think they were special and deserved what others were not getting? All three of these complaints are bogus.

    As for Marsters supposedly being rude, I just don’t believe that. Should I believe one disappointed, weeping fan who didn’t get her way? Why should I, when I have so many eye witness accounts that refute that? Those YouTube vids that Deanna posted say it all. *That* is how he treats his fans. All of us. Even the ones who think they’re super special and want personalizations.

  28. OK, this is not important enough to me to discuss it further. I don’t think that woman made up her encounter, nor the other two people. But I didn’t make it up, folks.

  29. The Beat says:

    Yeah, peeps, we get it…James Marsters has a very loyal fan base, and he must have done something right to earn it. But please, no more.

  30. Back to the comic artwork

    It seems to me that the fault lies in poor communication. Obiiously a writer doesn’t have ultimate power but they should have the opportunity to see the work before publication and to comment upon it.

    Ryan Sook’s choice of style clashed with the writer’s vision of the story.

    I disliked the art work for this comic because it obscured one of the chief atrractions of Spike and Dru. They are beautiful predators, not gothic nightmares and in that contrast between their beautiful human forms and the evil that they do lies their enduring appeal.

    However James was reported as saying that since Juliet seems not to be upset about this any more he might finally get over it too.

    I hope so.

    Ten years is a long time to be angry.

  31. Oh dear, typo city and no way to edit

    Sorry about that :(

  32. Yes Eva, I get it. Two people didn’t think that the “no personalizations” restriction should apply to them. And the other person didn’t realize that James Marsters was not selling that doll, nor had anything to do with the price. I don’t believe you made that up.

    Sorry The Beat, but I thought it necessary to clear that up. I’m done now too.

  33. logan says:

    It happened to be the third tale of Marsters I’d heard in one day. While minding my own business, at my own table.

    Then you should practice what you preach Eva and stay at your own table and mind your own business or as you made it your business to slag James off without finding the out the facts maybe you should have gone and had a look yourself. There is always a sign up behind James saying no personalisations! These people obiviously can’t read. As for the weeping woman? Seeeeen way too many of them.

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