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“… the sentiment he’s complaining about is invariably the oldest one there is: ‘The first issue has to give me a reason to buy the second issue, and it didn’t.‘ Yeah: that’s not a ‘trend’ or a ‘meme’ or a ‘fad’— that’s the job. That’s always been the job. That ‘trend’ started at the dawn of the enterprise.”
John Rozum lets readers take an in-depth look at his process in a recent post on his experiment at writing a comic script using the Marvel Method. For those unfamiliar with the term, the Marvel Method is the approach developed by Stan Lee during the early days of Marvel in which Lee would provide brief outlines of the events in a comic book issue (as opposed to a full script), let the artist draw the whole thing, and then come back and add dialogue over the finished panels. The advantages of that format include letting the artist have a lot of creative input, while also requiring less time from the writer (meaning that someone like Lee could write a ton of books at the same time).
In writing, once a gender is established … it’s often best to leave it alone. A woman does not need to walk to the door with a decided roll to her hips that a man would not have. She just walks to the damn door. Likewise, a man does not need to reach out for a cup of coffee, all the time grunting, thinking about football, about how hard it is to follow a map, and how much he believes he could beat a tiger in a knife fight …
— Paul Tobin, discussing the depictions of gender in fiction, but especially in reference to women in superhero comics. He talks about specific traps that comics creators fall into (including an observation about drawing breasts that’s both hilarious and sad) and how female characters should be written.
Retailing | Rumors have begun to swirl that online retail giant Amazon plans to open a brick-and-mortar store in Seattle within the next few months to help gauge the profitability of a chain. The store reportedly won’t just sell e-readers and tablets, but also books from Amazon’s newly launched publishing division. [Good E-Reader, Gawker]
Publishing | Japanese publisher Shueisha Inc. released the 65th volume of Eiichiro Oda’s pirate manga One Piece last week with a first printing of 4 million copies, tying the record set in November by the previous volume. [The Mainichi Daily News]
Retailing | Howard Ackler writes about the final days of Dragon Lady Comics, the Toronto retailer that closed last week after 33 years in business. [National Post]
2011 was a great year for writer Sam Humphries; he and artist Steven Saunders self-published and self-distributed a successful one-shot called Our Love Is Real, which sold out several times and eventually was picked up by Image Comics. From there, he teamed up with artist Dalton Rose for a six-issue, self-published and self-distributed series called Sacrifice. The first issue came out last month and told the story of Hector, a time traveler/Joy Division fan who finds himself in the middle of the Aztec empire. The comic includes not only references to Aztec culture, but also pop music and the culinary delights of Rancho Peñasquitos.
Humphries has guest-blogged with us several times in the past, so when it was time to send out invitations to the big Robot 6 birthday bash, I put him at the top of the list. He brought gifts, too, in the form of a rundown of the various references included in the first issue of Sacrifice, a look at the Jade Edition cover variant of issue #2 by Wonder Woman artist Cliff Chiang and critical information on the healing powers of tacos. You can pre-order a physical copy of the second issue through TFAW.com, or you can find it at several comic shops. The first issue can be downloaded now via Graphicly or comiXology.
Now let’s hear from Sam …
Comics | Calling Tintin a “Catholic hero,” the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano took strong exception to the decision by U.K. publisher Egmont to sell the controversial Tintin in the Congo with a protective band around it — or, as the paper says, “wrapped up like a pornographic magazine and consigned to the adults-only section” of bookstores because of its portrayal of racial stereotypes. If you’re going to do that, the editorial argues, why not ban Boy Scouts, which were founded by notorious eugenicist Anthony Baden-Powell? “But then, he was English,” the paper snidely concludes. [Agence France-Presse]
Digital | ComiXology confirmed Tuesday that the Comics by Comixology app will be available for Amazon’s Kindle Fire when it goes on sale next week. ComiXology CEO David Steinberger said the company is prepared for the smaller screen size the Fire has, compared to the iPad: “Ah, well we’re lucky there, because our Guided View reading technology was designed first for a very small device — the iPhone — long before tablets became the norm. A great comics reading experience is one of the core reasons we’re so successful, and it translates great to all devices, from small to large. The Comics by comiXology reading experience is the same on all platforms, so it’s going to be very familiar to our fans. You can toggle in and out of Guided View with a simple double-tap. The Fire has a great screen, and for those pages that have lettering a little too hard to read, Guided View is a fun way to get in there and see the details.” [Chicago Sun Times]
Comics | ICv2’s latest report on the comics market shows a mixed picture for monthly comics and graphic novels. While DC’s New 52 reboot has helped push comics sales, the graphic-novel versions of those comics won’t be out for months — and Amazon is gobbling up a larger and larger share of graphic novel sales, especially at the high end. And this is interesting: “Digital sales are growing as a percentage of the market, but apparently not at the expense of print sales. Retailers interviewed by ICv2 do not feel they’re losing sales to digital competition on DC’s day and date titles.” That seems to be more anecdote than data, but you would think retailers would be the first to notice a drop in sales. The report also includes lists of the top 10 properties in various categories. [ICv2]
Many who have been following this blog know I’m a fan of both Image’s Skullkickers and Oni’s The Sixth Gun. So when I saw that the two creator-owned books were having a mini-crossover of sorts — or, to be more specific, an ad swap — I thought it might be fun to see if Skullkickers writer Jim “Zub” Zubkavich and The Sixth Gun‘ writer Cullen Bunn might be up for interviewing each other.
So the duo hit Skype and had a long conversation that covered many different topics — how they pitched their books, their writing process, how they work with their artists, finding time to write and much more. My thanks to both Cullen and Jim for doing this, with an extra tip of the hat to Jim for transcribing it. Be sure to check back tomorrow for the second part of the interview.
Zub: So, let’s start right off with the big news. Did I hear correctly that you’re now writing full time? You quit your day job?
Cullen: I did. This is my third week as a full-time writer.
Zub: Awesome. What were you doing before that?
Martha Sperry has never written a graphic novel, but she has illustrated quite a few, and she is working with a writer right now to create Dawn Patrol, a graphic novel about the Battle of Britain. So when she explains the process of writing graphic novels, as she did recently for Beyond the Margins, it is from the perspective of someone who has worked with a number of writers, as opposed to “This is how I do it.” Her post is a good first look at the process, and she emphasizes the importance of collaboration, so that the finished work is not an illustrated book but truly a story told in pictures:
In my mind, the biggest challenge for a writer working with an illustrator is trusting the illustrator to help refine the visuals to better communicate the story. I perceive the greatest difference between writing a traditional novel and a graphic novel is learning how to exercise the skill required to “think in pictures.” The writer has at least as much responsibility for framing the images as the illustrator, and that means envisioning and examining the images to ensure that they tell the story the writer intends to tell. A writer who can move easily between the words and the images has already planted the seeds for a great graphic novel.
Feel like it’s perhaps time to drop some knowledge–or what passes for it at any rate–to young writers. I’ve run into a couple of moments this week where I’d swear, you guys don’t quite understand what your job as storytellers is.
Tom Rule #1: Know what your story is about. Not what the plot is, but what the point is. Why you’re telling it beyond collecting a check. If you can swap out your leads for other characters and it changes nothing meaningful, you story does not work. It’s all about characters.
Tom Rule #2: Do not try to impress me or others with Byzantine structures or pseudo-clever narrative devices. These tools all have their place, but they don’t in the slightest make up for not making me care about the characters. When in doubt, simpler is better. Start at start, as much as possible. Take the time to make me give a damn about these people.
While they’ve become industry standard, devices like “Dueling Narrators”, where two characters have a back-and-forth conversation over barely-related visuals is inherently confusing and pulls people out of the story. Clarity is your friend, and your job. Impress me with the conflicts your characters face, and the choices that they make. Don’t be overblown for it’s own sake.
Also, dropping a lot of references to old stories isn’t the same thing as making me care about people. By itself, it’s lazy, counting on good will and interest in the characters created by your predecessors. Your job is to make me care every issue. Emotional Truth!
Your mission is to tell your story directly, and well. In general, novices love technique, pros love content. Don’t confuse them. Remember, you’re asking readers to drop at least three bucks and twenty minutes of their lives for this experience. Earn it.
I will remember a story that touched me or moved me far longer than one that was over-clever in its execution. It is in no way passé or uncool to be direct.
Also, watch any episode of any television show and count how many times characters are named. Tell me your cast’s damn names! Every issue!
Alan Moore is incredibly talented. He can break the rules, because he knows how. You are not Alan Moore. Not yet. Walk first, then run. There are a million ways to write a comic book, but nobody enjoys being baffled, or uninvolved, or just plain bored.
And that’s one to grow on.
–Marvel Senior VP-Executive Editor Tom Brevoort, in an epic Twitter “rant” (his word, not mine — this is way too reasonable to constitute ranting) last week. Who says you have to be “stupid and provocative” to get on Robot 6, Tom? (Although the tweets did apparently trigger a miniature stampede of creators concerned Brevoort was talking about them…)
… the Antony Johnston way! After all those aspiring-writer Don’ts from Sara Ryan, Ron Randall and Dylan Meconis we linked to yesterday, I figured a few Dos would be much appreciated. Fortunately, Wasteland and Daredevil writer Antony Johnston has posted a lengthy essay in which he walks us through his writing process, from his first scribbled notes through outlines and pitches to his final polished script.
Johnston’s quick to point out that the best way to write is to find out what works for you and then do that, rather than slavishly aping what someone else does. “But you have to start somewhere,” he accurately notes, and getting a good look at the soup-to-nuts process of a professional writer like Johnston is as good a place as any.
(via Andy Diggle)
Attention, aspiring comics writers and weary comics artists: Sara Ryan and friends are about to make your lives much easier. On her blog, Ryan and a few of her comics-making chums are offering advice for writers on what not to do when writing comics scripts for others to draw.
Ryan — who’s currently wrapping up the script for her upcoming DC/Vertigo graphic novel Bad Houses — kicked things off by reminding us that it’s awfully hard to have a character do more than one thing per panel, even though it comes naturally to us to rattle off several actions in the course of a sentence.
Next up is Supergirl artist Ron Randall, who among other things notes that telling an artist to “impress me” with a particularly memorable scene or sequence is a roundabout way of insinuating that he or she otherwise isn’t all that impressive. And finally (for now), Family Man‘s Dylan Meconis offers seven tips, warning against everything from the overuse of film jargon to telling rather than showing to the dreaded words “Have fun with this!”
(Via Hope Larson)
Scalped, Wolverine, etc. writer Jason Aaron will be at Local Heroes in Norfolk, Va. tomorrow signing comics and talking to fans; if you’re in the area drop on by, not only to see Aaron, but also to check out the shop. Based on the pictures on its website, it looks like a very inviting, fun comic shop (that red couch and New Frontiers artwork gave me an Isotope Comics vibe, the very friendly San Francisco comic shop owned by James Sime).
No doubt Aaron will not only be signing comics, but I’m sure, if asked, will also offer advice on becoming a comics writer. Like he did recently on his blog, when he shared a lengthy post about his craft, talking about everything from how he outlines a comic to where he gets character names.
“I suck at coming up with character names,” he wrote. “I’ve reused lots of the same names, usually of people I know. When I was in college I would always flip through CD liner notes to find good names, but these days all my CDs are packed up in boxes in the basement. I try to keep a list where I jot down interesting names I encounter. The sheriff in SCALPED takes his name from a road sign I passed years ago in Ohio for the town of Wooster. I used to also keep a notebook for jotting down interesting bathroom graffiti, though I’m not sure anything useful ever came of that.”
Dealing with a bad case of writer’s block? Looking for that perfect plot for your upcoming 24-hour comic project? Brad Tibbils and Michael Avolio have just what you need — Plotboiler, a random generator of more than 40,000 individual storylines, with lists for characters, actions, genres and locations. You can even create your own plot or nominate a particularly good one to the “hall of fame.” (via)
She’s an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, an actress who has appeared in films such as Dazed and Confused and Waking Life, a former singer in an all-girl rock band, a creative writing teacher and an Anaïs Nin scholar. And now Kim Krizan can add “comic book writer” to her resume, having contributed three stories to BOOM! Studios’ Zombie Tales anthology that are being collected into one volume.
I spoke with Krizan, who wrote the films Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, about Zombie Tales 2061, which comes out in July.
JK: When you wrote the first short story that kicked off this trilogy, did you know you wanted to do more with it beyond that initial tale?
Krizan: I wasn’t thinking of anything beyond the first story, but I just naturally create dramatic endings, so I guess “Spring 2061″ lent itself to having a sequel and BOOM! asked me for one. I wrote another story and then Boom! asked for ANOTHER sequel, so I guess this could go on forever!