Sunday, August 14, 2011

My Comic-Writing Process

I've only been in the comic-writing game for a short time, but I thought I'd run through my process for anyone else who might be starting out and is having trouble finding their feet. I was unable to find this information anywhere else, and pretty much pieced it together as I went, so I hope someone somewhere out there finds it useful.

Story Plan...

Obviously the first thing you need is an idea, but I can't really help with that aspect, so I'll skip right to the next step. Once you have your idea, you need to break it down into issues. Even if you are planning an on-going series, you should at least do this for your first arc. The number of issues is really up to you, but I've found that a standard length for a single story is 4-6. Next, I've found that listing each issue helps to lay out the plot. To do this, I write up the following in a notepad:

Issue #1

You repeat it for as many issues as you feel you need, though you can always add or delete an issue if necessary. The "Plot" is just a one-line description of what will happen in the issue, while the "Hook" is how the issue will end--the "I need to know what happens next" moment for the reader.

Issue Plan...

Once you are happy with the overall story progression, you need to flesh out the first issue. I do this by simply writing a list of 1 to 22 in a notepad and writing a single line for what will happen on that page. A good idea, I've found, is to draw a line between double-pages so you can visualise the layout of the comic, like this:


Pages 1 and 22 will always be on their own, but the rest will be paired. This comes in useful if you want a shock reveal, as it will have more of an effect if placed on an even number because the reader will only discover it after flipping the page. Another benefit of this layout is for the placement of double-page spreads.


Once you have each page of the issue planned out, it's time to start writing them. This is where my method differs from that of other writers I know. Because I'm a very visual person, I like to sketch my layouts before writing them. This gives me a rough idea of what the page will look like before I put the time into dialogue or description. Here is an example from a project I'm currently working on:

As you can see, it's nothing overly detailed, just the layout of panels and positions of objects and speech-bubbles within them. From this, I then begin writing. There are many different methods of formatting a comic script, but the essence remains the same: Page, Panel, Description, and Dialogue.

One of the biggest mistakes, I've found, is not writing enough description. The first panel of the page above could be written as, "A car is driving through a city," but unless you want the artist to just have free reign, this is not much of a description. Instead, you would be better writing, "An aerial view of a car driving down a city street. It is night, so its headlights are on. There are other cars parked along the side of the road." You could even add more specifics than that, if needed, such as the make of the car or the name of the street (if it should be based on a real one).

If you are writing your comic for submission to a publisher, chances are that you will only need the first 5 pages scripted to give to your artist, but if you feel so inclined, there is no reason not to write the entire issue.


I have written plenty of comic scripts, but it wasn't until recently that I actually found an artist for one. This, in my opinion, is the hardest part of the process. First of all, you need to find an artist whose style suits your comic. Every artist has a different style, so this is actually a lot harder than it sounds. There's no point in contacting an artist for your gritty, noir story if their style looks like Scott Pilgrim.

This also brings up another issue: contact. When you do find the perfect artist and throw them an email, you'll find that many don't do comics, or want to charge crazy page-rates, or simply don't reply at all. I think the only solution is perseverance. You need to keep looking, and keep asking.

To Be Continued...

So there you have my little summary of the initial stages of comic-writing. The next step, where I am currently residing, is playing the waiting game as your artist draws your pages. Once you have your sample pages, you can then begin the submission process. I've heard this too can be particularly gruelling, but again, I think perseverance is key.

Just as a matter of closure, here is a preview of pencil-work my artist has sent me for the page I sketched above:

Sunday, August 7, 2011

My Top 10 Comic Characters

Every comic reader has their favourite characters and I think you can tell a lot about a person from who they are. Here are mine:

10. Emma Frost

This slot was actually tied with Ms. Marvel. While both are sexy, powerful woman, Emma won out because she also commands authority, which is a huge plus when working in a team such as the X-Men.

9. Rocket Raccoon

I'd never heard of Rocket until my recent foray into Guardians of the Galaxy, but he quickly grew to be a favourite. His role is purely comedic--he's witty and smart-assed with a serious case of short-man syndrome. This is also played up by the fact that he often totes massively-oversized guns. He's just an overall fun character.

8. Beast

Beast (along with Gambit) is one of those characters that I've liked since watching the X-Men cartoon all those years ago. He is primarily a man of science--one of the Marvel universe's smartest people--and yet possesses great strength and ferocity, which he only uses as a last resort. It's this contrast of brains vs brawn that make him an interesting character to me.

7. Daredevil

The fact that Daredevil is blind automatically makes him unique, but then you add in his enhanced senses--including an extra radar sense--and you've got yourself one interesting character.

6. Hawkeye

Besides being really good at firing arrows, there's nothing "super" about Hawkeye. Sure he can hold his own in a fight, but it's his array of "trick arrows" that make him interesting to me. The only limitation to their variety, is the writer's imagination.

5. Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange is capable of almost anything with his magic, which many people see as a negative due to its deus ex machina implications. However, this is not a flaw of the character, but rather his writers. A decent writer will write their story to serve his powers, not the other way around.

4. Man-Thing

Man-Thing is only a recent addition to this list, after having read the latest iteration of Thunderbolts. What makes him cool? Well, for a start, he's practically immortal. He can be destroyed, but as long as there is plant matter around, he will just reform (I haven't read any of his older stuff yet, but I believe that even if he did "die", he would just be resurrected back at his swamp). The thing I most like about him though, is his stoic nature. You never know what he's thinking, which is intriguing, and despite his monstrous appearance, he always does what's right.

3. Spider-Man

Everyone loves the web-head, and for good reason--he covers all the bases. He has unique and interesting powers, he's witty, but more importantly, he's flawed and makes mistakes. This makes him both relateable and exciting.

2. Hulk

Hulk was the character that lured me into reading comics. It may sound strange, but I can relate to him. I won't go into the details here, but let's just say that there are many times I've just wanted people to leave me alone.

1. Moon Knight

Despite Bendis completely ruining the character that is Moon Knight, his past ventures are enough to keep him as my favourite character. It was Huston's run that caught my attention, and is still the best to date. R.I.P. poor Moon Knight. Hopefully once Bendis is through with you, a better writer will resurrect you to your former glory.