Nearly every Wednesday, Damon Lindelof plays hooky from his 70-hour-a-week job co-producing "Lost," the ABC series he created with J. J. Abrams, and heads for the comic-book store to pick up his weekly fix of graphic fiction. "I can say without doubt that if it weren't for comic books, 'Lost' would not exist," he said. "J. J. and I were both steeped in the serialized nature of comic books where a story would span the course of a year, or two years, or even three years," Mr. Lindelof said. "When you bought an issue of 'X-Men' or 'Justice League of America,' you never knew which superhero it was going to focus on because you had these vast ensembles that let you track characters with complicated individual histories interconnecting with each other."
Now, he is returning to his fanboy roots by writing six issues of Marvel Comics' "Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk" (below), set to make its debut on newsstands Dec. 21.
He is just one of several TV talents channeling their inner geekdom by moonlighting as comic book auteurs. Reggie Hudlin ("The Bernie Mac Show," "Everybody Hates Chris") writes "Black Panther" when he is not serving as entertainment president of the BET channel; the creator of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," Joss Whedon, writes "Astonishing X-Men"; Allan Heinberg, a writer for Fox's "O. C.," furnishes snappy dialogue for "The Young Avengers" and D.C. Comics' "Justice League of America"; and Daniel Knauf, creator of HBO's "Carnivale," recently began outlining a six-episode origins story for "Ironman," to be published next year.
"TV guys fit well with the way we do storytelling," said Dan Buckley, the publisher of Marvel Comics, "because they think visually, they write episodically, they know how to write cliffhangers and they understand how to build characterization running through 6 to 12 issues, which is the same thing that happens during a TV season."
One big difference between the two forms: Telling stories on TV is expensive. Comics are cheap. Mr. Lindelof said he welcomed the chance to unleash his imagination without regard to the budget overruns, recalcitrant actors and uncooperative weather. "In television, if I write that Matthew Fox flies up around the island so he can see how big it is, we have to actually shoot that," he said. "In a comic book, you write it, somebody draws it and there it is. No budget, no actors. That frees you up to really do some outside-the-box storytelling."
Mr. Buckley said he was more than happy to offer an outlet where TV moguls can cut loose. "Damon's opening-page splash for his first episode has the Hulk ripping Wolverine in half," he said. "That's fun. You'd never rip anyone in half on a TV show."