Too Many Cooks – A Ramble

2015 Artwork Too Many Cooks Article sketch

Although this is a (slightly rambling) article about writing and comics, I’m going to start by talking about computer games and TV shows for a while. There’s a good reason for this and I’m not just rambling about games and television just for the sake of it.

Anyway, a while back, I ended up watching this Youtube video about “Doom”. If you’ve never heard of “Doom” before, it’s a classic computer game from the early-mid 1990s that is one of the most timeless and well-designed FPS games ever made (and, yes, I know, I haven’t reviewed a “Doom” WAD in ages…).

The Youtube video was about why “Doom” is still better than most modern games in the same genre. One of the interesting things that the guy in the video mentioned was that, unlike modern computer games, the team that created “Doom” was relatively small.

He pointed out that this meant that each member of the team had more of a say in the development of the game – so, the game has more of a “personality” to it than most modern games do.

The same sort of thing is true for television shows too – as much as I love shows from the US, I often like shows from my own country (the UK) slightly more for the simple reason that they often aren’t “written by committee”. Yes, British TV series may be a lot shorter than their American counterparts, but they often tend to have more of a personality because they’re only written by one or two people.

But, before anyone thinks that I’m criticising American TV, if you want a good American example of how only having a small number of writers can improve a TV show – then take a look at a 1990s sci-fi show called “Babylon 5“. Although the show had a few guest writers, most of the episodes were written by J.Michael Straczynski and this gives the show a lot more atmosphere and more of a novelistic story structure.

It’s like the old saying that “too many cooks spoil the broth”. The more people that are involved in a creative project, the less unique and interesting the end result will be.

And this, in many ways, is one of the strengths of the written word. Although novels may sometimes have co-writers, most novels are just the work of one person. What this means is that it’s easier for a novel to be unique and ground-breaking than it is for a computer game or a TV show. A novel is a window into one person’s imagination, rather than a diluted mixture of several people’s imaginations.

Seriously, there’s really no such thing as a “standard” novel. Like their writers, ever novel is a unique thing. Every writer has their own slightly different narrative voice and every writer has their own unique imagination. What this means is that, even if two writers are telling the same story – their two stories are still going to be noticeably different in many ways.

Likewise, I only usually find non-superhero comics (with a few rare exceptions) interesting for the simple reason that the writers have more creative freedom. In major superhero comic franchises, all of the characters are pre-designed by other people and the comic’s story has to fit into a set of pre-defined rules that have been made by other people.

Whereas, with comics that have been created from scratch – one writer (and possibly an illustrator too) has total control over who the characters are, where the story goes and what kind of a “personality” the comic has.

Likewise, with webcomics, comic creators don’t have to get the approval of a publisher before they start publishing – so, comics on the internet can be even more unique and interesting than professionally-published comics, for the simple reason that there are fewer people involved.

Yes, democracy may be the best (or at least the least worst) way to run a country – but, when it comes to doing anything creative – autocracy is almost always the best policy.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

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