Caption Boxes #028 – I left my heart in Baltimore… / by Frank Gogol

Man, between my Advanced Comic Book Writing course and Baltimore Comic Con, it’s been a hell of a week. In a good way.
A confluence of events and circumstances this past week have really put into perspective for me just how much I’ve advanced in a lot of areas of this comics writing journey. My writing is so much stronger than it used to be and it's getting better all of the time. My network is ever-growing, too, and now includes a handful of publishers.

And I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.

Over the weekend I attended Baltimore Comic Con, and I have to say it was probably my favorite convention of the year. At the very least, it’s tied with Chicago Comic Con for the top spot, but I think it’s got a slight edge.
This was such a great show because of the quality of it all. Like most of the conventions I went to this year, the creator lineup was on point. Many of the people I’ve been networking with all year long were in attendance, so I was able to continue connecting with them. Beyond those people, though, Artist Alley was massive. I met lots of new creators and found lots of new indie books. These things alone would have been worth the price of admission.
What was a pleasant surprise, though, was the number of publishers—big and small—who were in attendance. As I move into longer, more complex stories, I’m starting to get my hooks into smaller publishers and even into some of the larger ones (where I have some connection already) for the future. I’ve been impressed with, and continue to be impressed with Source Point Comics as a business and a publisher. Their books are killer. I was also introduced to Scout Comics this past weekend, and I think they’ve got a strong future in the industry.
All in all, this was a great show, and if my 2018 plans/goals are met (which I’m confident they will be) I think I’d definitely want to table at this con in 2019.
Did I mention that the plan is to start tabling in 2019? 

Unless you’re deathly allergic or are keeping Kosher, you CANNOT go to Baltimore and NOT eat some crabs. You just can’t. I found this pretty great place call LP Steamers. If you’re in town, give it a look.


I need to take a moment this week to talk about my buddy David Pepose. I’ve mentioned him more than a couple of times in this newsletter, mostly in reference to his (still) excellent book Spencer & Locke, but I’d like to give him a quick spotlight this week.
I met David back at Chicago Comic Con earlier this year. He’s a Comics Experience alum from back before I got involved, and I’d heard he would be at the show. So, I thought I’d go introduce myself.
Let me tell you what happened.
Within 5 minutes, maybe less, we’d struck up one of the best con conversations I’ve ever had. He’s warm and genuine and an all-around easy-to-talk-to guy. By minute 6, he’d looked up the GRIEF Kickstarter, mid-conversation, and backed it at one of the more expensive tiers. It was a sort of mind-blowing experience.
I’ve since kept in touch with David and have happily (and honestly) spread the word about Spencer & Locke.
Over the weekend, I was able to catch up with David at Baltimore Comic Con. In an unbelievable turn of events, he’s somehow gotten even nicer and more supportive since I met him.
I loved Spencer & Locked, and that’s why I try to get people on board. That’s who I am. When I care about something, I’m in 100%. When I don’t, I probably won’t waste my time even thinking about it. But David (and his collaborator Jorge) is a talented guy, whose praise I’ll sing until it’s no longer deserved. I don’t foresee that being the case, though.
So, I walk up to David—who is uber-talented and enjoying the first of what will be many, many successes in his career—and what happens? We spend 80%-90% of the conversation talking about me and my work. And it wasn’t that I’d commandeered the conversation and aimed it at myself. David was at the wheel.
He was interested in my work. He had great things to say about GRIEF that I believe he truly meant. When I told him about SUBURBIA ROBOTICA, it was because he’d asked.
David Pepose is a stand-up guy. Better than that, even. He’s a shining example of how tight-knit and supportive the comics community is. And I want to be more like David.
I've heard there’s some really cool stuff in the works for David. He’s a creator to keep an eye on over the next couple of years. But you can get a jump start on following his work by picking up that Spencer & Locke trade that just came out.
[Working Title]
Class is still going well. Better than well. The homework for this week was to take the synopsis for SUBURBIA ROBOTICA and break it down into page-by-page beats. Because the way I work is a bit of a back and forth process, I accidentally went a bit beyond the scope of the assignment.
Here’s what happened. It wasn’t on purpose, I swear.
So, I was taking my synopsis and breaking it down into the 20 pages like I was supposed to. But as I went, some of the panels for the pages were so clear in my mind that I plugged those in as I went. And when I was putting in panels where applicable, I plugged in bits of dialogue that had come to mind.
Then, when I’d finished the initial assignment, I looked at my homework and realized that I’d written about 85% of a complete script. In a sitting. In a couple of hours. And it was strong work.
Compare this to the nearly seven weeks it took me to write a complete first draft of STORMS.
I had a mostly done script at that point, so I went ahead and filled in the last 15% and had a complete script in a significantly shorter time and at a quality equal to or better than my last script.
I took a couple of things away from this. The first was that I’m getting more confident in writing longer stories. It’s feeling more comfortable. I remember this feeling from when I was working on the short stories from GRIEF. Each one was easier than the last, and then I wrote “Prayer” (one of people’s top two stories from the collection) in a single draft and in an hour.
The other thing I took away is that my longer work is getting stronger. I think that with the confidence and the comfort I have writing longer pieces now, I’m feeling more able to tap into the kinds of storytelling I was doing with short stories before. With my first longer scripts, I think I was a little gun-shy with trying new things and really putting my all into the stories because I was more concerned about sustaining the narratives over the 4x (or more) longer page counts.
Anyway, I’m two weeks ahead on my homework, so I figured I’d try a little experiment/challenge. If I could write a single-issue script in a day, I could write 3 in 6 days, right? We’re going to find out.
This week I’ve been breaking the story for a 3-issue miniseries I’ve been thinking about for a long time. The plan is to have all of the prep work done by Friday of this week so that I can start scripting on Monday of next week. I’m aiming for three 24-page scripts. With NYCC happening next week, I’m planning to knock out 12 pages day Monday through Wednesday, and then 12 more pages each day the following Monday through Wednesday. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be writing to you all about my finished first drafts two newsletters from now. Here’s hoping…
The Read Pile
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reading some Marvel series from the early 2000’s that I had put off for way too long—The Runaways and Punisher MAX. These could not be to more different series, either. The Runaways is an emotional teen dramedy and Punisher MAX is the story of one-man, no-holds-barred war on crime. One is about teen angst, the other is about ultra-violence. These are polar-opposite books, but they both work.
If someone were to tell me that Marvel as a publisher was struggling as of late, I wouldn’t necessarily disagree (though, I think that tide is turning. More below). I think it’s more complicated than most people care to understand, but I’ll admit there’s something off at the moment.
And while I’ve been reading these two series, I’ve had this nagging thought at the back of my mind: These books work, really, to me, because they’re essentially creator-owned takes on corporate properties. 
Then, I was reminded of other Marvel books that have been wild successes: The Vision by Tom King, New X-Men by Grant Morrison, New Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis, Planet Hulk by Greg Pak, Fantastic Four/FF by Jonathan Hickman.
The common thread among these books is that there’s a creator-owned sensibility. The concepts are revised (and even tossed out), the characters a given new life, and the stories are dialed-up to eleven.
Anyway, I’ve been reading The Runaways and Punisher MAX lately. Both are EXCELLENT, and if you’ve not read them, make it your business to check these books out.   
I also reviewed today’s excellent Marvel Legacy #1 over at Outright Geekery. You can check out that review here.  
I’m pretty sure I said that these newsletters would be getting a bit shorter while I was taking my class, but I think they’ve regularly been as long, if not longer, than usual. The best-laid plans and all that.
Next time on Captions Boxes: A look at the script for the first page of SUBURBIA ROBOTICA; Pre-NYCC planning; another newsletter that will run longer than I’d planned.
See you in seven…
After Credits Scene
Large panel. J2 lies beat and broken on a cement floor. He’s dead. 
            Caption:                                   Now.