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   Paul D. Storrie

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Great Expectations

I guess the best place to start is with introductions.  Like the byline says, I’m Paul D. Storrie.  For those of you who don’t recognize my name (and I’m willing to bet that there are a fair number), I’m a writer, primarily of comic books.  And, yes, I come by my last name honestly.  It’s not an affectation.  It’s Scottish.  So, was I fated to become a writer?  Not likely.  My brother and sisters have shown no such inclination.

Those of you who do recognize my name are probably thinking, “Hey, aren’t you the guy who writes those DC “Animated” books?”  Never mind that I’ve written fewer of those than I have other comics.  Say, my first series -- ROBYN OF SHERWOOD.  One of the blessings and curses of working in comics is that fans tend to remember you for your most recent work or their favorite work that you’ve done.  

That tendency is what I’m here to talk about.  I guess it’s a lot like typecasting in Hollywood.  Pigeonholing.  A tendency found in editors as well as fans.  The tendency to associate a writer or artist with a certain kind of material.  It’s partly why readers are jazzed about Steve Gerber doing HOWARD THE DUCK again, even if they didn’t look twice at his Vertigo series NEVADA.  It’s part of the reason why readers flocked to THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN but didn’t necessarily pay any attention at all to Frank Miller’s 300.  It’s one of the reasons I thought long and hard when Moonstone Books suggested I write a Robin Hood series for them, because I had already written one for Caliber Comics.  I was worried that readers and editors might dismiss me as only writing Historical Adventure or only wanting to write Robin Hood.

Sure, it can work in your favor.  My work on BATMAN BEYOND certainly helped when I pitched a JUSTICE LEAGUE ADVENTURE story.  Both helped me land my next DC series, GOTHAM GIRLS.  After all, if somebody displays a facility with a certain kind of work, you can expect that person to show it again when doing that kind of work the next time.  At least most of the time.  

It can also be a millstone around your neck when you want to try something new.

For example, I’m an avid mystery reader.  I love hard-boiled detective fiction.  I’d love to try my hand at doing a hard-boiled comic.  Thing is, readers and editors alike aren’t predisposed to that kind of range.  Part of that can be chalked up to tastes, particularly on the part of readers.  The folks who enjoy an All Ages romp in BATMAN BEYOND aren’t necessarily going to be folks who’d enjoy a noirish, semi-pulp adventure full of moral ambiguity, broken bones, body counts and ‘bad’ language.  

Even if they do enjoy both those extremes, they aren’t necessarily going to assume that I can make the jump.  They may look at what I’ve done and assume that’s all I can do.  For editors, that includes looking at what I propose and assuming that it’s going to be similar, in execution, to what I’ve done in the past.

Rather than thinking, “This guy is a good writer.” people tend to think more along the lines of “This guy writes All Ages books well.”  

The flip side of that tendency is the expectation that whatever a writer or artist does next will be exactly the same (or pretty darn close) as what he or she has done in the past.  That can lead to some serious backlash if the frustrated reader feels like he or she has been had.  Those expectations can make a simple shift in style or subject seem like a bait and switch to some readers, even though it isn’t.

So, what does this all boil down to?  

Expectations can be dangerous. .  Kind of like the old, “When you assume...” joke.

I’m not saying that everyone should try everything, or even that everyone should buy or like everything “good”.  Individual taste will always play a part in what a reader likes (or what an editor needs).  

What I am saying is this: Keep an open mind.  If you like someone’s work in a certain genre or sub-genre, and you see that he or she is trying something different (and that something different sounds like something you might enjoy), take a risk and give it a try.  The underlying talent and craftsmanship that you admired might very well translate better than you could ever expect.


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