Category Archives: resources

Need help writing your comic?

Are you writing a comic book? Here are the websites and links that helped me. I adapted my play into a comic book by reading tutorials that others posted online. I love the internet!

But it all starts with the story. If you don’t have a story, you have nothing.

Perfecting your story

 

Robert McKee; I talk about McKee in depth in this book because I found this work extremely useful, I highly recommend checking it out: http://www.amazon.com/Story-Substance-Structure-Principles-Screenwriting/dp/0060391685/

 

Screenwriting 101 by FILM CRITIC HULK! on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Screenwriting-101-Film-Crit-Hulk-ebook/dp/B00H0NQE7S

 

HULK’s blog: you should seriously spend some time reading his blog posts, he blogs here: http://birthmoviesdeath.com/author/film.crit.hulk

 

Writing an episodic story; comic books are long form storytelling. Not many articles deal with this. Here’s one about TV storytelling: http://storyfix.com/the-key-to-writing-an-inherently-episodic-story-effectively

 

Sample comic book scripts; Scripts & Scribes has many other resources as well: http://www.scriptsandscribes.com/sample-comic-scripts/

 

Writing for comics, 5 rules by Joe Edkin: http://revista-comics.blogspot.com/2011/10/writing-for-comics-by-joe-edkin.html Joe’s web articles about writing for comics are fantastic. His site is down, but some of his tips are archived on other people’s blogs.

 

Outlining your comic book by Joe Edkin: Joe’s resources are the best there are, unfortunately his page is down. This is a saved snapshot of a page from his website about outlining and page breakdowns: http://archive.is/vWv5

 

Plot points; The Script Lab has lots of resources that are handy. Check out this page and many others for help with story and plot. You can see that the movies that have weak plot points tend to be weaker movies overall. Click on your favorite movie and look at the plot points. This will help you look at your comic book story: http://thescriptlab.com/screenwriting-101/screenplay/five-plot-point-breakdowns#

 

mtvU Sand In: Trey Parker and Matt Stone talk about getting rid of the ‘and then’ moments and making sure your story is full of ‘but’ and ‘therefore’: http://storyfirstmedia.com/storytelling-tip-the-principle-of-buts-and-therefores/

 

Dialog; sometimes I just get stuck on dialog. When that happens, I reread this article by Chuck Dixon. I can’t find it on his site, but it has been reposted here: http://apologiesdemanded.blogspot.com/2006/08/chuck-dixon-teaches-dialogue.html

 

How to give your character some flaws: http://scribemeetsworld.com/2012/screenplay-writing/six-things-need-fixing-definition-examples/

 

Making a good bad guy; Chuck Dixon has many worthwhile articles, you can start with this one and then check out his other posts: http://dixonverse.blogspot.com/2015/05/once-twice-three-times-bad-guy.html

 

Comic book scripting, 10 short and simple words of wisdom from Chuck Dixon: https://dixonverse.wordpress.com/2015/01/28/the-ten-commandments-of-comic-book-scripting/

 

From plot to script: Cullen Bunn always had the best posts about plotting and scripting. His site isn’t always working, but try this link or find him on social media: http://www.cullenbunn.com/process/plot-to-script/

 

How a comic book page works; this is a fantastic, must-read article about how panels work and how action takes place in comics: http://www.adamgeen.com/guest-post-the-write-stuff-writing-comics/

The History of the Graphic Novel

 

In 2005, Time Magazine compiled an unranked list of the 100 best books from 1923 – 2005. Among these 100 books is WATCHMEN by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986), a graphic novel.  Placing WATCHMEN within the ranks of 99 other literary greats proves that graphic novels are becoming widely accepted in mainstream literature despite the humble beginnings on the American comic strip. Here’s a quick history of the graphic novel, enjoy! (all images are from Amazon)

A graphic novel (a phrase coined by the great Will Eisner in 1978, who was trying to distinguish his book A CONTRACT WITH GOD from the superhero comics that dominated the market at the time and put his work in bookstores) is simply a comic book that is the length of a book. A comic book is sequential art, told with panels of illustration instead of with prose. Agraphic novel is more durable than a floppy comic book, and tells a complete story. But getting from the early forms of cartoons to Time Magazine’s best books was a long journey.

In the early 1900’s, American newspapers printed comic strips along with news, sports, and editorials. Although originally they were humorous, comic strips quickly came to encompass all genres including fantasy, adventure, action and science fiction. These comic strips were wildly popular, so popular in fact that in the 1930’s, newspapers began to reprint collections of old comic strips and sell them on newsstands as separate items. These were the early comic books, which quickly gave way to new titles and characters that were totally independent of the newspapers altogether. The landscape of comics changed forever in 1938 with the roaring success of Action Comics #1 featuring Superman.

For decades afterwards, comics were printed for newsstands. These comic books were very inexpensive, only about 20 pages long, printed on thin paper, and the stories continued for only a few issues before moving on to a new topic. As Americans grew up, they left their comics behind and went off to college. Thousands of boxes of comics went out with the garbage. They didn’t seem to be of any value to anyone, and were lost, but not forgotten.

For a number of reasons (waaaaay to many to talk about here), the comic book market changed drastically starting in the late 1960s.  By the 1990’s, the industry was unrecognizable. Comics were no longer sold at newsstands; they were sold primarily at specialty shops. Each character had not just one title, but many titles and spin-offs and events. The cover price of comic books doubled, and doubled again, and doubled again. DC suffered a financial meltdown, what is now called an ‘implosion’, in 1978. Marvel saw a steady decline in sales starting in 1968, imploded in 1993, and finally went bankrupt in 1996. But people still wanted comics. And those who read comics as children wanted to re-read the comics from their youth.

Marvel and DC both began to reprint those beloved comic books in softback and hardback form. Marvel and DC would collect six issues of an old series and reprint it with a sturdier cover. Marvel and DC already owned the art, and readers were desperate to rediscover collections that were impossible to find otherwise. These reprinted editions, called trade paperbacks, helped keep those comic book companies alive, and helped comic book stores survive tough financial times. WATCHMEN is actually a reprinting of a twelve-part comic book series that DC Comics released in comic book shops between 1986 and 1987.

WATCHMEN was never meant to be an ongoing series like Batman and Superman. After the twelve issues were printed, DC Comics collected the issues and marketed them as a graphic novel, drawing the attention of bookstores, libraries, and book reviewers. This, along with the collection and marketing of BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS (a collection of four comic book issues) and the collection of The SANDMAN by Neil Gaiman (a collection of issues 1-8 released in 1991) is a definite turning point in the history of graphic novels. This was a distinctly different sales and marketing strategy from the earlier reprinting of ongoing series by Marvel and DC.

In a few instances, an artist and publisher would collaborate to produce a graphic novel that never went to comic book shops as single comic book issues. They might go directly to comic book shops and bookstores as a complete book. And now,graphic novel genres are as diverse as the early comic strips from the newspapers. Fantasy, science fiction, adventure, thrillers, romance and drama are all represented. And while Time Magazine, in 2005, made a separate list of the ten best graphic novels, we’ve come a long way since then.

The most notable and stunning graphic novel, also from 1986, is MAUS by Art Spiegelman (Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History: 1) MAUS I and II is a touching father and son epic, and a tale of the Jewish Holocaust as remembered by people who lived through it. The nationalities are anthropomorphized – the Jews are mice, the Nazis are cats, Americans are dogs, the Poles are pigs. This visual element, turning humans into animals and even beasts, magnifies the fear and vulnerability the characters faced while trying to survive Hitler’s genocide in a way that only a graphic novel can.

Batman: Year One and Batman: The Killing Joke remain two more of the most popular graphic novels of all time, but graphic novels are much more than just superheroes. Persepolis, Habibi, American Born Chinese, Ghost World, From Hell, 300, and Pride of Baghdad, The Underwater Welder (and a ton more that are being released all the time, too many to name!) are examples of excellent graphic novels that steer clear of the superhero genre altogether and cover drama, horror, historical fiction, and more. And two of the most popular comic book series right now are not superhero, The Walking Dead and Saga , and they collect their individual comic books into trade paperbacks shortly after the individual issues come out in comic book stores. So even if you don’t have a comic book shop near you, you can keep up with all the latest comic book series in collected forms.

I hope you pick up some of these great books. I’ve also written about the difference between comic books and graphic novels, which is a painful and needlessly convoluted discussion. The final word – buy comics! — Damian Wampler

Selling your comic book

I never intend to write a how-to book. I don’ t think of myself as someone who’s an expert at anything. But it turns out, I’m fairly darn good at a wide number of things, and that resulted in my current comic book series Sevara. I was able to teach myself how to pitch my script to companies, put together an art team, and raise money. So here I am, writing a how-to book. I’m writing it because I think that you should be selling your comic book idea if you’ve got some nagging concept banging around in there. You just need an instruction manual, and that’s what I’ve written.

So where do you start selling your comic book idea?

In the world of comics, your options are to write a single-issue comic book, a mini-series, an ongoing series, or a graphic novel. Publishers, distributors and comic book stores all want something different, which puts you as a writer in a difficult position. Imagine that you’ve just told someone about your idea. As soon as you finish your amazing pitch to a comic book company, their going to ask you, ‘is this a single issue, ongoing series, or one shot graphic novel?’ In the words of the great Admiral Ackbar, ‘it’s a trap’.

This is what happened to me a few years back. I didn’t understand the world of comics as well as I thought, and began writing a script for my comic book. I think I scripted ten issues. I then put those on the back burner and perfected one single issue, a zero issue, that I hoped to sell as a stand-alone story. When I approached comic book companies, it was a failure, and here’s why.

Making a single issue of a comic book is like making a TV show pilot with no series attached to it. No company will want to market a single issue, period. There’s no profit in it. And a single issue isn’t long enough to tell your whole story anyway. If you do produce it, readers will finish reading it in 20 minutes and search for the next issue. And because it takes months to produce a single issue of a comic book, you can’t make one issue, and then wait for the art team to start working on the next issue. Comic book distributors have timelines too. For both print and digital distribution, there’s a submission and approval process that takes months. So your #2 issue could come out a year after your #1 if you didn’t plan properly. That’s not good. By that time, the momentum of your #1 issue and all the press it generated is totally gone, and your readers have moved on.

This is all coming from personal experience. I’ll blog more about my journey as I produced Sevara. If you want to buy the book, go ahead and pre-order it now, it’s only $0.99 cents.