Archive for the 'Comic Book Teams' Category

Dec 02 2011

Writing More Realistic Violence

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

Here are some points I took away from this article on violence.

1. Very few people are actually prepared for a life-or-death, organ-stabbing fight.  “Herein lies a crucial distinction between traditional martial arts and realistic self-defense: Most martial artists train for a ‘fight.’ Opponents assume ready stances, just out of each other’s range, and then practice various techniques or spar (engage in controlled fighting). This does not simulate real violence. It doesn’t prepare you to respond effectively to a sudden attack, in which you have been hit before you even knew you were threatened, and it doesn’t teach you to strike preemptively, without telegraphing your moves, once you have determined that an attack is imminent.”

 

2. All other things being equal, I would imagine someone that’s pretty mild-mannered and hasn’t been in many fights would probably have quite a learning curve as a superhero.  Most violent criminals (e.g. supervillains!) are used to violence that most people could not fathom.  In a savage fight, it is very possible that a superhero’s mental/moral hesitations and inhibitions and unfamiliarity with violence could be disastrous.  Superhero organizations might want to have new recruits fight nonpowered criminals in relatively low-stakes cases until it looks like they might be mentally and physically hard enough to survive a psychotic killer like Mr. Freeze or a death camp survivor that mentally ripped a foe’s tooth out of his mouth… back when he was a protagonist.  And, let’s be honest, it’s not likely that every would-be superhero can successfully make that transition.  (If you’re writing a larger organization like the Justice League, what does the group do about heroes that are so ill-suited for combat they will probably get themselves killed?  For example, maybe some get retrained as crime-solvers and partnered with ace combatants and maybe others get let go and maybe still more take on important support roles like medic or scientist or whatever that might involve some exposure to violence but aren’t as intense as actually being a combatant).

 

3. Although I think the author discounts the potential benefits of bravery, I agree it definitely has potential costs.  I don’t think we see very much of that in most superhero stories.  For example, violence for Spider-Man is sort of Disney-fied–virtually the only permanent costs of violence (Uncle Ben’s death) are caused by not being brave.   For most superheroes, I think the violence is heavily romanticized.  Being a superhero is more or less fun and games except when a (usually secondary) character dies and, let’s face it, he will probably come back anyway.  On the other hand, I personally don’t enjoy deep-R violence and would feel uncomfortable including it in something primarily meant as entertainment.  (For example, in Kickass, a gangster gets crushed in a car-compactor–it’s decidedly unpleasant and I’m sort of annoyed it was a laugh-line for the audience).

 

4.  It might be dramatic to make a hero choose between his pride and other goals.  For example, if 3+ muggers have guns drawn on Bruce Wayne, it’d be pretty banal for Wayne to flawlessly disarm the criminals and walk away completely unscathed–pretty much every superhero would do the same in that situation.  It might be more interesting if the character allowed himself to be robbed, walked away and got his revenge later.  How much is his pride worth?  Alternately, if the character does decide that his pride is worth risking serious physical injury and/or revealing that he has superpowers, have him pay something for it.  (For example, the first sign to Gary that something is not right about his coworker Dr. Mallow is that Gary witnesses several men rob Dr. Mallow, taking among other things a cherished personal memento.  Over the next several weeks, all of the assailants end up in mysterious accidents and the good doctor has his memento back.  Mallow could have just let it go, but trying to protect his property even after the fact bears a cost for him).

11 responses so far

Jun 29 2010

Some tips on dealing with unpleasant-teammate situations

I saw this today on LinkedIn:

I paid a name artist five months ago in advance for a pin-up for [series name].  In fact, I’ve had several artists, mostly old friends… all consummate professionals.

Just this one artist, who seems to be a bad actor. At the time he said contact him in two weeks and he’d give me an update on the status. Two weeks later I emailed him — nothing. I’ve been emailing him every few weeks very politely at first. Still no response at all. My last couple of emails were more strongly worded and in my last one I told him I’d be telling everyone I know on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and on our blog about it and name him by name. Hell, I’m thinking I’ll put out a press release, too.

What do you think? Does he get away with it, and I have a lesson learned, or do I go nuclear on his ass?

Don’t go public about backstage drama.  It can only make the situation worse.  First, verify what you can. Is he actually being delinquent? You would look like a damn idiot if you accused your artist of going AWOL and it turns out that he was actually in an emergency room after getting hit by a car. (It happens).  At the very least, do not stumble into a slander lawsuit until you actually know (rather than suspect) what is going on!

If you have an editor/publisher, address any concerns to them and discuss whether you need to replace your artist.  Unlike publically accusing your artist of fraud, replacing your artist does not open you up to a slander/libel lawsuit if it turns out his absence was totally innocuous.  If you don’t yet have an editor/publisher, make the determination on your own.  It will cost you time and money and you’ll probably have to scrap most of the work by the original artist.  It’s highly bothersome and usually unprofessional for an artist to go missing for several weeks, but switching to another artist may well be a cure worse than the disease.

Finally, besides getting back at your original artist, going public doesn’t actually help you in any way.  It certainly doesn’t make it any likelier that he’ll come up with the art for you.  It may raise questions about your professionalism and will probably make you look inept.  (Don’t give yourself a reputation for workplace drama).

Some other general ideas to minimize problems with your teammates:

  • When you work with freelancers, pay no more than half upfront and the rest on completion. This increases the artist’s incentive to complete the job.  It also limits the amount of money you lose if everything goes to hell.
  • Work out a schedule ahead of time. I’m not sure what the case was above, but making your expectations clear is usually helpful.
  • Maybe exchange phone numbers. You may be uncomfortable asking for this if you’ve never actually met your freelancer.  However, when you’ve committed yourself to paying somebody thousands of dollars, I think your business relationship is strong enough to justify this request.  (At the very least, as a matter of customer service).
  • Business etiquette: when should you call (rather than e-mail) your freelancer? Since a call is more intrusive than an e-mail, I would only call if your artist hasn’t responded to an urgent e-mail within 1-3 weeks.  For example: the artist misses a deadline by more than a week (without explaining why) and doesn’t respond to an e-mail requesting a status update.  If you call your artist, politely remind him about the schedule, ask if there’s anything you can do to help*, and ask about when he thinks he can have the art in to you.  *Unless he needs clarification, there probably won’t be, but offering is still friendly.

One response so far

Apr 22 2010

If you want a good artist for your comic book script, paying on-spec is not realistic

I saw this today on a comic book forum: “searching 4 artists who want to draw my comics’ covers. its NOT be a paid Job, but ur name will be mentioned with the artwork, and yes, it will commence our long term professional relationship.”

Artist: “Umm, how about you commence our long-term professional relationship by paying me? Also, why would I want to work with a writer that writes worse than I do?”

Continue Reading »

2 responses so far

Feb 09 2010

How to Find an Artist for Your Comic Book

1.  Most artists won’t work with authors that write worse than they do. When you post your job listing on a website like DeviantArt or LinkedIn, you will be judged on the quality of your writing.  I’d recommend proofreading it. Avoid extraneous details that won’t matter to an artist.  Also, list your published works, if any.  (Experienced partners are usually less risky).

 

2.  The more specific, the better. “John has adventures” says much less about the art you want than “Haxley is a barbarian that has to mangle his way to the throne.”   If you have a two-sentence synopsis, use it.  For more advice on doing two-sentence synopses, please see this.

 

3.  What exactly do you need from the artist? If you’re doing a color comic with just one illustrator, you need pencils, inks, colors and letters.   How many pages do you need?  If you’re looking to put together a sample for publishers, you’ll probably want around 5 pages and possibly a cover.  Check the submissions guidelines for each publisher, of course.  If you’re self-publishing, you’ll need the entire issue, which will probably be 22+ pages per issue.

 

4.  Describe the sorts of characters and creatures you’ll need illustrated. Just regular humans?  A superhero whose power sets him on fire?  Supersoldiers in powersuits?  Fantasy creatures like griffins and dragons?  Werewolves and vampires?  Angels and demons?  Hydras and Zeus? Eldritch horrors?  Eldritch horrors tanning on the beach? Before you hire an artist, make sure he’s comfortable with every major character and the mood of the work.

 

5.  Will you need unusual props? For example, if you’re writing military sci-fi set in the 23th century, your artist will do a lot of exotic vehicles and weaponry.  If you’re writing a romantic comedy starring me, probably not so much.   Except for the Pimpmobile.

Continue Reading »

15 responses so far

Feb 09 2010

Liz Argall has some advice about how to find an artist for your comic…

Check it out here!

No responses yet

Jan 29 2010

Some tips on checking your comic book’s art

When your team is putting together the comic book, you need to identify potential problems as soon as possible. If you decide that there’s a problem with the outlines but you’ve already gone to coloring, you’ll have to throw out some coloring work and probably some inking. Here are some problems that you need to spot early.

1. Check for continuity. Are the dimensions of the room consistent? Are the characters consistently portrayed? Are the characters as tall and wide as they’re supposed to be? Also, in the toning and coloring stages, please make sure that the lighting sources are consistent.

2. Character placement. Does the placement of the characters make sense? For example, if two characters are walking somewhere but only one of them knows the way, he should probably be in front. Does each character have enough space to perform his later actions? For example, we once had to redo a page because we were boxed in by the walls–it was impossible to have a superhero drop behind a character that was leaning against a wall.

3. Are the character expressions consistent with their lines of dialogue? One particularly tricky area here is when the character’s emotions change dramatically mid-panel. If your script goes something like this, you’re screwed.

Panel 1.
WIFE, annoyed: Your boss kept you late tonight. What gives?
HUSBAND: I got a promotion!
WIFE, excited: Hooray!

Since it’d be very difficult to show the wife being annoyed and excited at the same time, this panel is pretty much doomed.  This is a problem that you need to solve before the page goes to your artist.  For example, you could break this into two panels so that she can emote her annoyance and excitement separately.

4.  Is the amount of dialogue consistent with the panel’s pacing?  For example, if you’re doing an action panel of someone leaping at an enemy, giving them 25+ words of dialogue will damage the pace.  No one can plausibly say that many words in the span of a jump. Too many words will make the action feel slower and less exciting than it should be.   As a rule of thumb, the more intense and involved the action, the fewer words you should use.

5. If something changes, like a character drawing out a prop or something, is it clear where the change came from? For example, if John is unarmed in panel 1 and wielding a gun in the next, readers might wonder where the gun came from.   You could solve that by adding an intermediate panel of him reaching for the gun, or by using motion lines to show that his hand is moving from where his gun used to be.  Alternately, just show time passing or the scene changing.  For example, if panel 1 shows us a police officer driving with his gun holstered, it’ll make sense if his gun is drawn when he gets out to storm a building in panel 2.  We didn’t see him draw the gun, but the situation has changed–now he’s in a much more dangerous situation.

6. If a character has a prop or accessory, does it appear consistently? It’s really easy to lose track of what each character is holding.  Be careful.

Did this article help? If so, please submit it to Stumble!

7 responses so far

Oct 27 2009

Sketch your pages to make sure you’re not screwing your artist

After you’ve written the script for a comic book page, I would recommend doing a rough sketch of the page before you give the script to your artist for pencils.  That will help you identify staging problems early.  Here are a few examples.

1.  Will the panels have enough space to comfortably fit the content? As a rule of thumb, I think it’s especially important to check this if if the page has 7+ low-action panels or 4+ action panels.  (Low-action panels, like most dialogue, usually require less space because they don’t need to show as many things happening.  For example, a dialogue panel might just have a person’s head, whereas an action shot of two boxers going at it will probably include at least the upper bodies of two men).

2.  Will the panel’s perspective portray everything you want to show? For example, if two characters are facing each other, it can be quite tricky to show their expressions, particularly if you’re trying to focus on one.  90 degree side-shots get boring fast and have trouble emphasizing either subject.

Continue Reading »

No responses yet