Archive for the 'Common Mistakes of Comic Book Teams' Category

Feb 09 2010

How to Find an Artist for Your Comic Book

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Jan 14 2009

Another Five Common Mistakes of Comic Book Writers (#6-10)

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Jan 06 2009

Five Common Mistakes of Comic Book Writers (#1-5)

1.  The story fails to hook readers in the first three pages.
The easiest way to do this is to show a likable character facing a serious problem.  It doesn’t have to be a life-and-death threat, but that helps.  Another method is to establish that the writing style is particularly compelling.

2. The plot lacks urgency.

A character walking from his door to his car is not very interesting. Running to his car to make it to work on time is better. Running to his car to avoid gunshots? Even better. To make the plot more urgent, I recommend making giving the characters goals that are time-sensitive and high-stakes. If John doesn’t make it to work in ten minutes, he will be fired. If Captain Carnage can’t find and defuse the bomb in ten minutes, the building will explode. Etc.  The goal doesn’t have to be life or death, but it helps.

3.  The writers rely too much on exposition (particularly narration and dialogue) to tell the story.

Try not to tell your audience things that they should be able to see in the picture. For example, check out these two versions of one of our panels.

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