DC comic books
Photo by Jeremy Nelson
Northfield writer (and sometime Minnesota Monthly contributor) Benjamin Percy recently landed what he calls “a childhood dream come true”—a gig writing Green Arrow for DC comics. He tells us what it’s like to pen stories in the big leagues.
1. Persistence pays off
Percy grew up reading comics, and initially pitched his story Red Moon as a comic series, writing it as a novel after it was turned down. He kept sending ideas to DC, which eventually accepted a two-part Batman story. “I knew it would serve as my audition for the industry,” he says. “So I put my whole heart into those scripts.”
2. It’s a group effort
When Percy writes a story for Green Arrow, he includes panel-by-panel descriptions of action, settings, lighting, and angles. “It’s like an aggressive form of screenwriting,” he says, adding that the artist is then free to riff on, or reinvent, the visuals.
3. Think of the readers (but not too much)
“Being a comics writer on social media is a little like playing baseball in a giant virtual stadium,” Percy says. The readers are passionate and involved, and weigh in with commentary both good and bad after every issue drops—the trick as a writer is to stay focused on storytelling.
4. Look to the future
Percy says DC is supportive of its writers’ creativity, and he talks on the phone with his editor about each multi-issue storyline he comes up with. DC has re-launched all its titles with an initiative called “Rebirth,” which acknowledges the superheroes’ backstories while taking them in new directions.
5. But know your characters
Percy describes Green Arrow as a Robin Hood–like character who fights for social justice with his hyper-advanced archery skills and fighting knowhow—taking on the bad guys without any superpowers such as those of Superman or the Flash. Like those characters, every superhero comes with a built-in mythology. “Green Arrow can’t suddenly become Teal Arrow, get fat, and retire to Maui,” he says.