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*He is not a secret agent. Not at all.



While the strike is on, there are writers writing. No, not breaking strike rules, but as was said in that great classic of cinema, "Writers write. Always. " When the strike of 1988 was over, it was apparent what those writers had been doing with their time, as it basically created the spec screenplay market.

So some writers are going home from the picket lines and writing novels, spec pilots, features, what-have-you.

Some are writing comics.

Some are doing it badly.

I'm no professional comic writer, but I am not without various levels of experience with the form having, from time-to-time, tried to hook up with an artist and get something produced. I have written for various comics coverage entities (most recently and currently CBR) and interviewed many a comics writer. One of my best friends has been plying his writerly trade on intermitten issues of The Batman Strikes! (and even killed me in an issue of Batman Secret Files, my claim to fame). Even now, I've been engaged in producing a pitch proposal for a series based on my King Vs. Queen pilot.

By the way, while I'm working with the talented Marc Arnull on King Vs. Queen, I have other projects I'd like to get off the ground. Are you artist? Do you know one? Contact me!

The thing about comics is that it is a unique form. It is not like TV or film and it is a form of collaboration (unless you're a writer and artist) unlike the kinds you'll find in most other media.

Comics has peculiarities that can at first confuse those attempting to get into the form. The first one is the lack of a standard format. Unlike screenplays, there is no wrong way to write a comics script. Some do it screenplay style, others do something more akin to a play format, others use a a kind of column-like format. As I said, no wrong way.

Doesn't mean there aren't rules.

I've read graphic novel scripts by those converting their screenplays into the form and the most common rookie mistake is presenting someone undertaking a series of action in one panel. Nothing moves, people (but a good comic feels like it does). So your hero cannot turn a key, open a door and step into a room in one panel. In fact, you might consider if you need to show every step in that sequence.

Less obvious is a screwed-up sense of pacing. Just because you're screenplay is well-paced, doesn't mean your comic is. A comic is odd in that your control of the timing is based on an entirely different set of perceptions. You can manipulate it though panel size, placement, image repetition, etc.

I'm not here to provide the lesson though. Jeff Parker has helped out in that regard, thus I point to his two-part posting "Writing For Artists"

The best advice I have is to remember that, unless you are an artist, you are not an artist. Be fluid in your sense of control because a good artist is going to be better at making the page work than you are. Listen to their ideas, a lot of them will be better than what you had in mind. Especially if you have a heavy dialogue scene. They'll keep it from turning into a bunch of talking heads. See the 22 Panels That Always Work for ways to avoid David Byrnism(Get it? talking Heads? Hah!) . Keep the communication lines open.

Writing a comics script is a lot easier when you have an artist in place. You're not writing a script to be used by a cast and crew of hundreds. It's going to be used by anywhere from one to four or five people. Don't write it for them...write it to them.

I may not have the lesson, but I have examples.

In this link, you'll find Fell #1. A detective drama by Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith.

In this link, you'll find the script to Fell #1.

His script are generally concise, but occasionally he steps out of the "all business" mode and speaks directly to the reader/artist as needed. I think it's a fine example for someone looking to get their feet wet.

Also noteworthy is that Ellis is very careful about layout and Fell uses a nine panel grid as basis and when things get violent, to reflect the chaos, leaves that format.

Here's another thing to consider. It turning graphic novels to films, many changes are often made to suit the new medium. Don't think it doesn't work the other way as well. (Though, honestly a lot of changes from source material to silver screen in comics movies are stupid. I'm sorry, I still consider Tim Burton's Joker to be an abomination for reasons I will expound upon only if so requested).

Lastly, here's some books to check out, if you're interested.

©2024 Michael Patrick Sullivan
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