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Writing for Comics

jacripejacripe Registered User
edited July 2008 in Graphic Violence
Hello, I've been writing short stories and poetry for a while now, but I've never really written anything requiring visuals before (ie. scripts, screen plays, comics). I was wondering if anyone had some advice on how to write for a comic. Me and my brother have a couple of projects we'd really like to do, but I'm having an interesting time trying to figure out how to write this... Any suggestions?

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  • DarkPrimusDarkPrimus Registered User regular
    edited June 2008
    There's plenty of ways for you to get a peek at how people script comics. Marvel Comics often does "Director's Cuts" versions of their comics which include the full script of the issue, and trades and hardcovers sometimes contain scripts as well.

    It varies depending on the writer (and the artist) but you have to know how many panels you want on a page, the shape of the panels, and what goes on in each of the panel. It's like a movie script, in a way, where you have a description of everything and then the dialogue.

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  • jacripejacripe Registered User
    edited June 2008
    Well a couple of issues for me:
    1) I'm in Iraq. My access to comics is severely limited.

    2) My brother is doing the art and I'm trying not to step on his toes. I was more controlling with the visuals earlier on and that got us no where. Now, I'm trying to just tell the story and leave the panels to him. Should I just try to write it like a script or something, explaining the visuals and motions of the 'actors'?

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  • KVWKVW Registered User regular
    edited June 2008
    http://www.darkhorse.com/company/submissions.php

    Click that link and pick the writing pdf file. It'll give you the guidelines they use at Dark Horse (which is similar to most publishers I'd imagine). There's also a sample script for MS Word or in pdf form. It'll show you the format and how they do their proposals / scripts. Your brother would benefit from the artist guidelines as well.

    KVW on
  • Robos A Go GoRobos A Go Go Registered User regular
    edited June 2008
    Sweet, KVW.

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  • wwtMaskwwtMask Registered User regular
    edited June 2008
    Writing for Comics by Peter David is a great book on the subject.

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  • CatrelStevensCatrelStevens Registered User
    edited June 2008
    There's no set format for comic script writing. It all depends on the work relationship you have with your artist, or how controlling you want to be of the final product. You could go as far as to storyboard every panel yourself. But seeing as you've stated you want to let your artist run free with the paneling, then a movie script format would work fine.

    You can use a script writing program to format it like a film script. Or the media project manager Celtx is going to have a comic book template when it gets a full release (in Beta now, but I love it). For maybe a little guidance, PM me and I can email you the rough draft for the first issue of one of my characters' backstories, I wrote it using Celtx.

    What would normally be a scene heading (with things like "EXT. - Main St. - Dusk") becomes my page heading with how many panels and their basic proportions I want. Then, where the scene's action is normally described, I write a description of the individual panels. Dialogue and Captions are handled in the same way as a film script.

    You can pretty much write it exactly as a film script. With the process you're doing with your artist, it's up to him to determine what each panel should depict and how to size and shape them.

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  • TravisLeggeTravisLegge Registered User
    edited June 2008
    You can even go as simple as giving your artist plots, having them actually draew the pages, then you go back in to add dialogue. worked for Stan Lee.

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  • Calamity JaneCalamity Jane That Wrong Love Registered User regular
    edited June 2008
    it can't be stressed enough, but read actual books

    reading comics to become a comic writer is never a good strategy

    and get you some thesauruses

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  • KVWKVW Registered User regular
    edited June 2008
    Anjin-San wrote: »
    it can't be stressed enough, but read actual books

    reading comics to become a comic writer is never a good strategy

    and get you some thesauruses

    A dictionary to spell thesauri, too. =p

    KVW on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited June 2008
    wwtMask wrote: »
    Writing for Comics by Peter David is a great book on the subject.

    Skrull'd for truth.

    Another one that's good, though I've no idea if it's still in print, is Writers on Comics Scriptwriting. Bunch of interviews with guys like Neil Gaiman, Chuck Dixon, and Garth Ennis. A few :?: choices on the list (Dan Jurgens? Really?) but overall definitely worth the money.

    Any of Will Eisner's books about comics and comics storytelling would also be, I'd say, essential. Eisner forgot more about comics than most people ever learn.

    Jacobkosh on
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  • jacripejacripe Registered User
    edited June 2008
    Thanks for all the input. I think I'm going to try working with a loose script-based method. The Dark Horse stuff, in particular, was very helpful. We've got a good chunk of the plot worked out, so now I just got to sit down and touch the pen to the paper. Thanks again.
    Josh

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  • CatrelStevensCatrelStevens Registered User
    edited June 2008
    Wanna spill the beans on what it's about? I'm in the middle of writing my own series, and hearing other people's is always helpful. I'd post a summary of mine, but I've been working on the actual comic too much to finish the summary yet. I can put it up here when I do.

    Oh, and just Celtx released their 1.0 version with the Comic Book script template. It's very useful. Helps make everything look neat and crisp, ordered, formatted, with auto-completing character names, and all sorts of other features. When you see a professionally-formatted chunk of script that you wrote, it gives you that "Wow, I'm a writer!" feeling which can be inspiring. =P

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    DHS Odium wrote:
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  • jacripejacripe Registered User
    edited June 2008
    It's a philosophy comic. It's about 4 different guys who each pursue "truth" along a different path. The story isn't so much about what happens to them, it's more a medium for expressing various philosophical ideas and influences of mine and my brother's searches for truth. I don't know how hush hush my brother is trying to be (it's his idea) so I can't really list any details at the moment. We've got many ideas for it, but I still need to sit down and get my ass in gear. I keep getting distracted writing other stuff these days.

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  • TravisLeggeTravisLegge Registered User
    edited June 2008
    It's easy to get caught in the distractions trap. Happens to me all the time.

    Though there are worse fates than having too much to write about, ya know?

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  • jacripejacripe Registered User
    edited June 2008
    No joke man.

    Alright, I finally started writing and my bro likes the stuff I've got going so far. I also wanted to try telling each of the 4 different characters through a different medium. Like one guy is inner dialogue, another is told through his journal and notes, another is normal and the last is primarily visuals. Just my idea, still trying to figure out the notes and visuals more though. It feels really good to actually have something down though. Now I just have to keep the story moving (or get it started).

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  • jacripejacripe Registered User
    edited June 2008
    Wow. Things are getting interesting. Me and my brother have started having differences with the characters, and I'm doing a lot of compromising with him because it's his idea and the new suggestions are mostly really good. But he keeps trying to turn this one character into a sociopathic insane mass murderer. I keep trying to tell him we can make him more aggressive without him resorting to a joy of killing. To me, the character is out for physical perfection and fighting is a means of that. Emphasis on the fighting and not the killing. My brother keeps making him all excited to be killing people when killing doesn't do anything spiritual. It's supposed to be about the physical exertion, I think. I'm trying to be cooperative and everything, but I really, REALLY don't like what he's doing to this one character. What the hell do I do now?

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  • CatrelStevensCatrelStevens Registered User
    edited June 2008
    3 Options:

    1.) Compromise.
    2.) Tell him to do it your way.
    3.) Get another artist.

    It's up to you to decide.

    So here's my (lacking) overview of the (way too large) comic project I'm trying to undertake writing, tentatively called Indivisible:

    It's 1890, and the United States is a land divided.

    The Northeast - "Traditional America's Safehouse," whatever that means. They hope if they continue society as best they can, somehow they'll help the rest of the country.
    The Midlands - An overinflated and crippled agriculture market is slowly giving way to nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyles.
    The South - Slave labor, the resource hoarding of war, militia mentalities, a failing economy, long-standing indoctrination, and property monopolies are culminating into a system of feudal states run by brutal, wealthy merchants.
    The West - Where the bizarre wastelands are slipping into monstrous legends and crazed realities.

    The Civil War almost broke the nation. It took staring over the edge of a near-irreversible economic downfall to get a ceasefire signed, but the war is, technically, still going. The Union began to pull itself around with help and business from Canada and Europe. The rest of the country, however, had already started to... change. The Mason-Dixon was walled up, and New England tries to continue on with its fingers in its ears.

    Now, these stories of people are starting to spring up. The papers, the populace, and the politicians are calling them "Esoterics." People that can supposedly do incredible or impossible things. Some are amazed, others terrified. A few, a very select few, know that Esoterics have always existed, but are only now rising to noticeable numbers. But no, they do not know why. Not much has changed because of it, since there's still no known evidence that any of them even exist. The U.S. Secret Service, however, has a respectable amount of unknown evidence. In a meeting during the bitter February of 1890, they are about to hand it all over to the seemingly most capable Esoteric around: The Revolutionary, and as a result, America will never be the same.

    In 1891, under the supervision of the Director of The Service, the first "super-group" forms: The Assembly. Dedicated to stopping crime in The Northeast, they work diligently to clean up the streets and restore societal order. But as super-heroes begin to rise, so do super-villains. The Assembly gains significant fame and overwhelming financial support from the government, but they are naively, or decidedly, ignorant of the real threat of other Esoterics. As The Assembly deals with normal crime, the threat of the more amoral Esoterics grows and becomes painfully apparent to the nation during the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.

    One of the largest industrial conglomerates remaining is Lucian Mechanical Works, supplying venture, staff, equipment, and supplies to businesses in dozens of industries and fields. Owned by Lucian M. Scott, L.M.W. is rumored to be engaged in an alarming array of unethical and disturbing dealings. Of particular interest are the frightening Esoterics currently in undisclosed employment direct from Mr. Lucian.

    The prisoners of the maximum-security reformatory in Elmira, New York have seized control of the entire administration through a long plot of slow bribery and infiltration. It didn't hurt that Warden Zebulon Brockway has pretty much lost his marbles over Esoterics. Now, Elmira's Inmates run themselves like a crime family, and have begun hunting and murdering Esoterics, in an effort to wipe them out.

    With all this and more, even parts of the "last stand" Northeast appear to be rotting at the seams. Philadelphia is a waste bin of political corruption, but an important buffer between New York and Washington D.C., which has festered into such a cesspool that they up and moved the capital to New York City. But hope is far from lost. The heavily-policed Chicago has shown much progress and improvement in recent decades, lowering crime and increasing quality of life. Boston has become the "super-science Mecca" of America. And New York City is damn near thriving as the capital.

    In the long run, no one knows how we'll end up, but it will take a hard-drinking, tough-as-nails, crack P.I., a mysterious sheriff infused with a Haitian god of death, a 5000-year-old sorcerer with memory problems that has to camouflage himself in human skin, and a cast of dozens of extraordinary Americans to give our way of life a fighting chance.

    Cast so far:
    The Lost Lawman ; Nathaniel Blanche, P.I. ; The Impostor ; The Revolutionary ; Lucian Scott ; A.L. Drummond - Director of the U.S. Secret Service ; Double-Take ; Splitbone ; Pneumatta ; The Agent ; Doc Seismic ; Mortar ; Oversight ; Pore ; Red Cloud ; Mandible ; Nikola Tesla ; Arsenal ; Current ; Drillbit ; The Expanding Man ; Dak Stiles ; Riswald Creenus ; Thomas Edison ; Akhumte Nawit ; Zipline ; Zebulon Brockway ; Theodore Roosevelt - President of the Board of NYPD Commissioners ; Akhumte Nawit ; The Grey Man ; Crave ; The Determined Sir William Alcott ; Baron Cimetière ; Baron LaCroix ; Baron Samedi ; Axis ; The Sole Hashshashin ; Abraham Lincoln ; President Benjamin Harrison ; The Acrobat ; Sammy "The Stomper" Stragolla ; The Gun Moll ; Light Foot ; PROJECT: Angel ; Xiao Lo ; H.H. Holmes

    Groups & Organizations so far:
    The Assembly ; Lucian Mechanical Works ; Elmira's Inmates ; The Service ; The Edison General Electric Company ; Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing ; The Church of the Silver Wings ; The Daughters of the American Revolution

    CatrelStevens on
    DHS Odium wrote:
    Oh god, I think I saw that clip. The eels flew out of her...
  • 28682868 Registered User regular
    edited June 2008
    KVW wrote: »
    Anjin-San wrote: »
    it can't be stressed enough, but read actual books

    reading comics to become a comic writer is never a good strategy

    and get you some thesauruses

    A dictionary to spell thesauri, too. =p

    Both are acceptable. If you would have consulted your dictionary you would have seen this.

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  • fullyautomaticfullyautomatic Registered User
    edited July 2008
    Eh, I can tell you from experience that JUST leaving the writing to the writer and JUST leaving the art to the artist will get you nowhere. Me and my boyfriend are currently juggling a few projects ourselves and it's hard finding a balance between my art and his writing but cooperation and involvement is important. That's what all the hotshots will tell you - just look at Moore and Lloyd with V for Vendetta.

    Also, as my boyfriend would probably tell you, few comic book writers are just comic book writers - they write scripts for shows and movies, they write books and so on before actually entering the comic book scene. At least that's been the trend lately.
    Meaning, you don't ONLY have to practice writing in a comic script format - it's healthy to experiment and just write. Also, as some people here have said, reading novels is good, watching shows, etc. I think for now you should focus on the idea rather than the format. But yeah, as has been mentioned, often in comic books creators will have added Director's Cuts at the end, showing the printed script and sketches. You can probably find those online (and I refuse to believe there's not a comic book shop in the entire of Iraq :( )

    fullyautomatic on
  • jacripejacripe Registered User
    edited July 2008
    Well not a comic book shop we can get to. Or at least not one I can get to. They sell like a random 3 different comics each month at the PX and never have the ones I'm into. More so, they don't carry trades. Lately, I've been writing more stories, poetry, experiments and essays. Need to get my ass back to the script and so does the bro. We talk about art styles and ideas a lot, trying to keep info flowing both ways, you know. Still haven't seen pages yet though. How long does your bf normally take to do a page?

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  • fullyautomaticfullyautomatic Registered User
    edited July 2008
    Well, it depends on. I mean if he has a clear idea of what he wants to do, and depending on if it's primarily dense action or dialogue it can take him anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes. He tends to put in a lot of visualization as well, which makes it easier for me to draw the page. That takes a bit longer though... depending on the script and us discussing what (if anything) should be changed, it could range from a few hours to a day (if it's non-stop working, which really, it never is).

    So, if you want your brother to get his ass in gear, consider offering clear guidelines in your script and keeping communication open. In my experience of both writing and drawing, it always takes much longer to draw, so give him a break - but not too big. Giving him deadlines to follow might also help since we artist tend to be quite lazy if left to our own devices

    fullyautomatic on
  • Mark Andrew SmithMark Andrew Smith Registered User
    edited July 2008
    You should grab as many books as you can about comics and comics writing and read all the ones you can on the subject if you're serious about it. Then also check out books on screenwriting as well and read a lot of free screenplays online. You can write in a lot of styles for comics.

    Mark Andrew Smith on
  • jacripejacripe Registered User
    edited July 2008
    How can I give my brother a deadline for his own comic?

    He said he's supposed to be coming up with some storyboards soon though. I'm finally realizing how long this shit takes.

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  • The Lovely BastardThe Lovely Bastard Registered User regular
    edited July 2008
    easy

    just give him a damn deadline with consequences if he doesn't finish

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  • DouglasDangerDouglasDanger PennsylvaniaRegistered User regular
    edited July 2008
    before you get too serious, ask yourself if this comic is worth starting a big feud over

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  • jacripejacripe Registered User
    edited July 2008
    Why I wasn't throwing him any deadlines.
    It's his comic, it'll be done when he wants. Also, he's been making a lot more progress on this one than prior ventures he underwent by himself. I think that may have something with me throwing new shit at him all the time.

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