A blog post from my old Marvel blog about the difference in value between a basic idea and the eventual execution of that idea.
You hear about it all the time as you speak to people at conventions, or on message boards, or web-sites devoted to breaking into the business: the Big Idea. The concept that a young, unknown creator has that’s so perfect, so revolutionary, so magnificent that when he eventually gets it published will change the industry forever and rocket him to super-stardom.
And to be fair, it’s not impossible that such a thing could be true. Look at Siegel & Shuster and Superman for a concrete example. But it’s also not incredibly likely either–especially when it’s coming from somebody who’s still on the outside trying to break in, and who doesn’t seem to have made much headway in that regard.
Part of the reason, I think, is a misunderstanding of the Currency of Ideas. In my estimation, it’s not enough to have one brilliant, all-powerful idea–you need to be able to have a dozen of them, even if they’re not all of the same, shining, sterling quality. Because in this industry, the guys who are most successful throw ideas around like they were nothing. Because the ideas themselves are only half of the equation–it’s what you do with the idea, how you execute it, that really matters. We can all point to any number of high-concept Hollywood blockbusters that have a strong, simple high concept but were crummy films–this principle in action right there. So while our writers don’t devalue their ideas, they’re also not super-precious with them–there’s an underlying belief that, tomorrow, they’ll be able to come up with some more ideas that’ll be just as good.
And this goes for the editorial staff as well. Not a day goes by that each editor doesn’t throw off some idea for a story, or a scene, or a bit of business–some of them good, some of them lousy, and some of them picked up and run with by the writers. And the same thing is true of the artists, most of whom contribute story ideas as well as the visual choreography that goes into making these ideas into something of lasting value.
Ultimately, I feel a bit sorry for the guys who come up to the booth, speaking about their grand masterpiece in hushed whispers, and trying to impress people with how long they’ve been working on it. Because that’s the point at which I can be 99 44/100% certain that I’ll never see that story in a published form. Because writers write, and move on to the next thing.
So value your ideas. But don’t be so precious with them that they don’t do you any good.