30 in 30 - Day 13: Trees vol. 1 by Frank Gogol

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Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival holds a special place in my heart. Too often, science fiction does not live up to its potential to be more than just dystopias, aliens, and giant robots. So when Arrival came along and told a beautiful, tragic story about one woman’s experience when humanity makes first-contact, I fell in love.

Prior to the release of Arrival, friends had tried to sell me on Trees. But with so many good books coming out all of the time, Trees always fell to the wayside. Then Arrival happened, and it became the instant comparison for Trees, which sold me immediately. And while this books doesn’t quite live up to  Denis Villeneuve’s masterpiece, it’s a pretty great invasion story.

Synopsis

Title: Trees vol. 1
Storytellers: Warren Ellis & Jason Howard
Publisher: Image Comics
Year of Publication: 2015
Page Count: 160

Ten years after they landed. All over the world. And they did nothing, standing on the surface of the Earth like trees, exerting their silent pressure on the world, as if there were no-one here and nothing under foot. Ten years since we learned that there is intelligent life in the universe, but that they did not recognize us as intelligent or alive.

SPOILERS FOR TREES VOL. 1 BELOW

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Writing

Like Brian K. Vaughn with Pride of Baghdad, Warren Ellis is a master of characterization in Trees. The opening of the book moves like the opening scenes of a typical Hollywood disaster movie. The reader is introduced to different people in different places. Quickly, these characters reveal information about the alien invasion that occurred 10 years ago (getting the reader up to speed) and give their unique feelings on the situation.

Through varying devices and strategies, Ellis is able to introduce his cast while building his work. Masterfully, he does so simultaneously while bouncing the reader around the world.

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Art

Stepping away from interior art for a day, I’d like to talk about Howard’s covers for this series. They’re simple yet striking, well-designed, and like so many Image series they make incredible use of white space.

For the first issue, in particular, Howard captures the essence of the story visually, without detailing plot points or even showing a character. One of the titular Trees extends upward from a city skyline, while below the Earth its roots dig deep and are designed to create the foreboding image of a skull. Howard shows a potential reader everything he or she needs to know about the series: Aliens have come. They’ve planted these massive “trees.” And there’s danger.

Recommendation: B (Entertaining, worth a read)

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30 in 30 - Day 12: Pride of Baghdad by Frank Gogol

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Like so many books this month, Pride of Baghdad is one that I waited far to long to read. And like so many books this month, Pride of Baghdad is both masterful and wonderful. Who knew a story about a few lions escaping from the zoo could be SO powerful?

Simply put, this book blew my mind.

Synopsis

Title: Pride of Baghdad
Storytellers: Brian K. Vaughn & Niko Henrichon
Publisher: Vertigo
Year of Publication: 2008
Page Count: 136

Lost and confused, hungry but finally free, the four lions roamed the decimated streets of Baghdad in a desperate struggle for their lives. In documenting the plight of the lions, PRIDE OF BAGHDAD raises questions about the true meaning of liberation - can it be given, or is it earned only through self-determination and sacrifice? And in the end, is it truly better to die free than to live life in captivity?

SPOILERS FOR KILL OR BE PRIDE OF BAGHDAD BELOW

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Writing

My biggest takeaways from this book, by far, is just what a talent Vaughn has for characterization on multiple levels. On one level, he is able to differentiate and characterize the different animals not only in their cadence but also in the frame of reference for talking about certain things. The bear character makes comparisons that make sense for a bear. The lions make comparisons that make sense for lions. Further, Vaughn writes each of the four main characters, who are lions, uniquely from one another. Every character has a unique voice that captures and projects his or her personality and point of view, and as a result, each character is memorable and discernable from there the others.

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Art

Like in Frank Quietly so masterfully achieved in WE3, Henrichon uses visuals to characterize the cast of Pride of Baghdad. Each of the lions has his or her own aesthetic, but also a unique body language. Safa, the one-eyed older lioness, for instance, is slower and more lumbering than the younger lioness, Noor. It’s little visual queues like this that help further differentiate characters and that make the reading experience smoother for the reader.

Recommendation: A (Must Read)

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30 in 30 - Day 11: Star Wars vol. 1 – Skywalker Strikes by Frank Gogol

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When I’d heard that Marvel would be taking over publishing Star Wars comics and that the entire extended Universe would be thrown out, I said, “This is why I don’t invest in franchise comics.” Flashforward two years to when I’m writing my own comics, and I feel pretty much the same. What’s different, now, is that I’m interested in how books based on properties get written.

Shifting gears quite a bit from yesterday’s Kill or Be Killed vol. 2, today I read Star Wars vol. 1- Skywalker Strikes. I have to admit, too, that it was more enjoyable than I’d imagined. And Aaron and Cassaday understand what makes an accessible comic book.  

Synopsis

Title: Star Wars vol. 1 – Skywalker Strikes
Storytellers: Jason Aaron & John Cassaday
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Year of Publication: 2015
Page Count: 296

The greatest space adventure of all returns to Marvel! Luke Skywalker and the ragtag rebels opposing the Galactic Empire are fresh off their biggest victory so far — the destruction of the massive Death Star. But the Empire’s not toppled yet! Join Luke, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO, R2-D2 and the rest of the Rebel Alliance as they fight for freedom against Darth Vader and his evil master, the Emperor! But when a Rebel assault goes wrong, Han and Leia must think fast to make their escape — while Luke comes face-to-face with Darth Vader! In the explosive aftermath, a humbled Luke returns to Tatooine to learn more about his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Meanwhile, Leia and Han undertake a vital — and dangerous — secret mission. But can they succeed without Luke? Plus: the menace of Boba Fett!

SPOILERS FOR KILL OR BE STAR WARS VOL. 1 – SKYWALKER STRIKES BELOW

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Writing

As I mentioned, this is an accessible book. Aaron, smartly, writes both an interesting story that highlights the recognizable characters, but also one that doesn’t conflict with the established canon of the movies. This series, set between Episodes IV and V, looks and feels like a Star Wars story, buy treads new enough ground that it doesn’t feel derivative or unrelated. Just like The Force, Aaron seeks balance in this series.  

What’s more, there are fun little Easter eggs in the writing that also act as foreshadowing, like Darth Vader recognizing Luke’s lightsaber. Aaron’s approach to this is that less is more, so the handful of references have more impact.

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Art

Part of the appeal of publishing Star Wars comics for Marvel is that it’s got a built-in audience that’s not necessarily traditional comic book fans. With that in mind, Cassaday opts for gorgeous, but simple art. The layouts are uncomplicated, often relying on stacked widescreen panels (likely to mimic the aesthetic of a movie). The benefit here is that non-comics readers who pick up the book won’t be turned off by harder-to-process pages that veteran comics fans could read with ease. The result is a good-looking, but easy-to-read, comic book that will please new and old fans alike.

Recommendation: B (Entertaining, worth a read)

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30 in 30 - Day 10: Kill or Be Killed Volume 2 by Frank Gogol

I was in New York City one night after New York Comic Con waiting to get dinner with some friends when I picked up Kill or Be Killed volume 1 just for fun. I’d read only a bit of Brubaker’s work before—his Captain America run and The Fade Out (also with Sean Phillips). But I’d heard such good things about Kill or Be Killed (just like with Morrison and Quietly’s awesome WE3), so I read it. It was immediately engrossed. The structure, the layouts, the characters—it all sang. It was easily one of the best comics I’d read all year.

So, when I made the last-minute decision to do 30 in 30 this month, I knew Kill or Be Killed volume 2 would be on the list. How could it not?

Synopsis

Title: Kill or Be Killed vol. 2
Storytellers: Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, & Elizabeth Breitweiser
Publisher: Image Comics
Year of Publication: 2017
Page Count: 176

Brubaker and Phillips' best-selling series keeps on hitting, as our vigilante hero goes deeper into the darkness, and the NYPD begin to realize there's a masked man killing bad guys all over town. Both a thriller and a deconstruction of vigilantism, KILL OR BE KILLED is unlike anything this award-winning team has done before.

SPOILERS FOR KILL OR BE KILLED VOLUME 2 BELOW

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Writing

In the intro, I mentioned structure, and for good reason. Brubaker is a master. In the first volume and into this second volume, Brubaker plays with the structure, specifically regarding the order of events. He regularly starts in the middle, just back to catch the reader up, and then shows how the rest plays out from where an issue began.

What’s so amazing, though, is how he’s built it into the storytelling. The narrator and protagonist, Dylan, is a crappy storyteller, often starting in the middle, and then having to jump back to give some context and lead up. It’s a unique take on the unreliable narrator Dylan’s unreliability is not about whether he’s being honest, but rather that he can’t be depended on to just tell the story. He forgets parts, and then remembers them and inserts important information in the middle. It’s a great technique for creating and answering questions for the reader that keeps them invested and interested.

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Art

With all of the Sean Phillips books I’ve read, I’ve always been in awe of his art. It’s moody and expressive. What I noticed this time around, and especially in issue #6 of KoBK, is his layouts. The way he uses borderless establishing shots that seamlessly bleed into another borderless panel at the bottom of the page and insets the other panels on the page between them is stunning and effective. And the way he varies on this layout format keeps the book visually interesting. I guarantee that with closer inspection, each unique variation of the layout enhances the story on that page, too.  

Recommendation: A (Must Read)

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30 in 30 - Day 9: WE3 by Frank Gogol

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After a week of checking out graphic novels I had been wanting to read, I started taking recommendations yesterday beginning with very enjoyable Hellboy: Seeds of Destruction. Continuing with the recommendations today, I tackled a graphic novel that has been overwhelmingly suggested to me over the last couple of years: WE3.

Over the years, I’ve really enjoyed Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly’s collaborations—especially All-Star Superman—because, at their cores, the stories always have a ton of heart. And WE3 is no different.

Synopsis

Title: WE3
Storytellers: Grant Morrison & Frank Quietly
Publisher: Vertigo
Year of Publication: 2014
Page Count: 144

With nervous systems amplified to match their terrifying mechanical exoskeletons, the members of Animal Weapon 3 (WE3) have the firepower of a battalion between them. But they are just the program's prototypes, and now that their testing is complete, they're slated to be permanently "decommissioned," causing them to seize their one chance to make a desperate run for freedom. Relentlessly pursued by their makers, the WE3 team must navigate a frightening and confusing world where their instincts and heightened abilities make them as much a threat as those hunting them - but a world, nonetheless, in which somewhere there is something called "home."

SPOILERS FOR WE3 BELOW

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Writing

In the first issue of the story, there are two extended scenes that have no dialogue. Together, these pages account for half or more of the issue, and it’s an interesting approach to telling this story. A couple of things sprint immediately to mind. First, Morrison and Quietly must have an excellent working relationship. There’s a trust between a writer and an artist that is necessary to pull something like this offer. Second, in terms of this story, the quiet enhances the stealth aspect of the first scene and makes the later scene when you find out the animals can talk have more impact.

In terms of writing scenes like this, the panels have to do all of the work, which means the burden is on the artist. Writing a scene like this calls for absolute clarity in the panel descriptions as well as that trust I mentioned earlier.

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Art

The second quiet scene is one of the most interesting sequences I’ve ever read in a comic, much to Quietly’s credit. Each page has 18—yes, 18—panels that (seemingly) randomly cut between a handful of other scenes. At first glance, it’s overwhelming and hard to follow. But as is the case with Morrison’s books, you have to work a little for a big reward. Quietly, in how he cuts from one scene to the next, lingers in certain images, and varies his shots and angles creates immense tension. And if you pay attention, the scene(s) makes make total sense. It’s masterful.

Recommendation: A (Must Read)

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Caption Boxes 11/08/17 – Could you read 30 graphic novels 30 Days? by Frank Gogol

I’m just two and a half weeks from my cross-country move to California from New Jersey. Needless to say, there’s still way too much to do. But, for some reason, I thought it’d be a good idea to commit myself to reading 30 graphic novels in 30 days this month. More on that in a minute.
 
***
 
They say—for novelists—that you have to write 1 million words before you write anything good. I think I believe some version of that, and I think that there’s probably a comics equivalent. Probably a page count. But what is it? A million pages?
 
A buddy of mine, Justin Jordan, challenged himself to write 1000 pages in 2017, and as of this writing, he’s well ahead of schedule. Every day he posts a daily and yearly total—7/789 for example—and I’ve been doing something similar to track my weekly progress. For instance, rewriting AFTER THE STORM this week, I’m 5/17/22 (today/total so far this week/goal this week).
 
But I want to get better. So, I’m thinking maybe I’ll challenge myself to write 365 pages next year, or about 17-18 single issues worth of stories. I already know there are a couple of ~4-issue miniseries I want to get the ball rolling on, so if I knocked those out I’d be halfway there already.
 
A page a day seems reasonable, right?
 
***
 
[Working Title]
 
The latest draft of AFTER THE STORM is really shaping up. Whereas I had once seen a story to tell, I now feel like I can see the complete package of the entire book. It’s so vivid in my mind and a little bit experimental, which has me even more excited about creating this book.
 
On the SUBURBIA ROBOTICA front, I’m still waiting for that last round of feedback from Andy Schmidt. I should have that soon, and so long as there’s nothing crucially wrong with the script, it’ll be ready to move into production by the end of the year. I’m just locking in the members of the creative team this week. More info on that when everything is finalized. If all goes according to plan, this is going to be a good-looking book.
 
***
 
The Read Pile
 
For the entirety of November, I’m reading one graphic novel per day (30 in 30). If you’ve been reading this newsletter for a while, you might remember I did something similar back in May of this year. This time around, though, I’m documenting my reading journey with write-ups about what I’m learning about writing and art with each book read.
 
So, in lieu of my regular “here’s what I’ve been reading” schtick this month, I’m going to use this space to link off to the micro-blogs I’ve been writing. The books I’ve been reading have been goldmines of craft, but these posts are only quick little notes that focus on one or two things. Honestly, I’d rather take away one or two things, understand them, and start applying them than scour each book for everything it’s got to offer (that’s what re-reads are for). Anyway, follow along at home if you like:
 
30 in 30 - Day 1: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 11 vol. 1
30 in 30 - Day 2: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 11 vol. 2
30 in 30 - Day 3: Nailbiter vol. 1
30 in 30 - Day 3: Promethea - Book One
30 in 30 - Day 5: 4 Kids Walk into a Bank
30 in 30 - Day 6: V for Vendetta
30 in 30 - Day 7: Battlefields - Dear Billy
30 in 30 - Day 8: Hellboy - Seeds of Destruction 
 
Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll keep the links coming for those of you who might find these interesting/entertaining.
 
***
 
That’s it for this week. I’ve got boxes and boxes to pack.
 
See you in...six.
 
(That’s right. We’re heading back to a Tuesday-released newsletter. The stars are just aligning that way.)
 
***
 
After Credits Scene
 

Did you guys go check out STAIN THE SEAS SCARLET last week? If you’re still on the fence, I’ve got a great interview that I did with Ryan about the book, and his writing in general, that’ll be up on Outright Geekery in the next couple of days. I’ll include a link with next week’s newsletter for your consideration. But you should probably just go ahead and have a look at the project in the meantime. Just in case 

30 in 30 - Day 8: Hellboy—Seeds of Destruction by Frank Gogol

Hellboy is one of those comics that had always recommended to me, but that I never had quite gotten around to reading. But after reading Battlefields—Dear Billy yesterday, Hellboy’s connection to World War II, coupled with my growing interest in the topic, made Seeds of Destruction a fine choice for today’reading.

Synopsis

Title: Hellboy—Seeds of Destruction
Storytellers: Mike Mignola & John Byrne
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Year of Publication: 1994
Page Count: 128

When strangeness threatens to engulf the world, a strange man will come to save it. Sent to investigate a mystery with supernatural overtones, Hellboy discovers the secrets of his own origins, and his link to the Nazi occultists who promised Hitler a final solution in the form of a demonic avatar.

SPOILERS FOR HELLBOY: SEEDS OF DESTRUCTION BELOW

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Writing

What’s so interesting about this Hellboy book is that it doesn’t follow that standard comic book story routine. Rather than a write conceiving the story, writing the script, and then working with an artist to bring it to life, it’s the artist’s brainchild. Not that this a revelation to me, but this book highlights that those relationships exist in comics. It’s hard to tell where Mignola’s story stops and Byrnes expert scripting kicks in, but fascinating to think about where that divide does actually occur. 

It’s impressive how this entirely new mythology—that’s couched in this WWII-paranormal pseudo-historical story—is sprinkled in and incorporated into the story. By that same token, the pacing is on the money, too. In spite of the large info dumps that occur at least once per issue, there’s always more fast-paced scenes to break it up. 

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Art

Again, it’s hard to know where Mignola ends and Byrne begins, but because this universe is Mignola’s, I think it’s safe to say the artistic side of things is almost exclusively his design. And what’s so incredibly apparent is the mood that he was going for. This book feels dark and moody, a perfect match for that occult-focused angle the book leans so heavily into. Because this book was created out of the sort of standard comics creation model (beginning with the writer), the look and feel of the book probably existed very early in its conception. 

The look and feel of my stories isn’t always something that I think about until the scripts are done. But there’s value in having those ideas fleshed out. Hellboy works, in part, because it looks exactly like it should. 

Recommendation: B (Entertaining, worth a read)

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30 in 30 - Day 7: Battlefields—Dear Billy by Frank Gogol

Considering that the Governor’s election is taking place here in New Jersey today, I almost feel as if I should have held off on reading V for Vendetta. What’s done is done, though. So, in keeping with all things British (instead), today I read the very surprising Battlefields—Dear Billy by Garth Ennis and Peter Snejbjerg.

I’m not a big war story guy or even necessarily the biggest Garth Ennis fan, but this quick miniseries came at the suggestion of Paul Allor. And when Paul recommends a book, that miniseries jumps to the top of my read pile.

Synopsis

Title: Battlefields—Dear Billy
Storytellers: Garth Ennis & Peter Snejbjerg
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Year of Publication: 2009
Page Count: 88

1942: In the tropical splendor of the South China sea, as the Second World War spreads across the far east, a young woman finds herself in paradise ... and then in hell. Nurse Carrie Sutton is caught up in the Japanese invasion of Singapore, suffering horrors beyond her wildest nightmares — and survives! Now, she attempts to start her life anew, buoyed up by a growing friendship with a wounded pilot, only for fate to deliver up the last thing she ever expected. Carrie, at last, has a chance for revenge ... but should she take it? In the midst of a world torn apart by war, you can fight and you can win, but you still might not get the things you truly want. More incredible stories from Garth Ennis (The Boys, Preacher) as his Battlefields series continues exclusively from Dynamite Entertainment! For this second mini-series — Dear Billy — Garth is joined by artist Peter Snejbjerg and cover artist John Cassaday for a haunting tale of wartime in 1942!

SPOILERS FOR BATTLEFIELDS—DEAR BILLY BELOW

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Writing

Up until this book, off the top of my head at least, my only experience reading Ennis has been his Punisher MAX stuff, which I’ve enjoyed. What always struck me about his Punishers stories is how he added some depth Frank Castle by putting kids in danger. In his own way, Ennis likes to write about horrific experiences and create stories with emotional stakes. Given the ultraviolence nature of his writing, this sometimes gets overshadowed, though.

What stood out about Dear Billy is how at the forefront those emotional stakes were. From the first scene through the end of the series, there’s a tragic, and ultimately deadly, weight upon the protagonist, Carrie. And it feels real, given the wartime setting of the story. If I learned one thing from reading this story, it was a reaffirmation that character is always first and foremost when building a story, and Ennis has a knack for doing just that.

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Art

Snejbjerg’s art is a masterclass in what can be achieved through simplicity. While the golden standard in the comics industry seems to be artists with realistic lines and lots of detail, Snejbjerg’s art is gorgeous in how simple it is. Big moments and quiet moments alike feel as if they’re given great weight because the focus is squarely on the character, rather than how realistically rendered the character or setting is.

Recommendation: A (Must Read)

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30 in 30 - Day 6: V for Vendetta by Frank Gogol

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After reading the amazing Promethea—another of Moore’s works—and some darker books earlier this month, I’d opted to read 4 Kids Walk into a Bank yesterday. I had needed something a bit more lighthearted to keep things interesting. But seeing as the 5th of November was upon us yesterday, I back-peddled into the darkness and read a favorite of mine—V for Vendetta.

Remember, remember, the 5th of November…

Synopsis

Title: V for Vendetta
Storytellers: Alan Moore & David Lloyd
Publisher: Vertigo
Year of Publication: 1988
Page Count: 296

In a world without political freedom, personal freedom and precious little faith in anything comes a mysterious man in a white porcelain mask who fights political oppressors through terrorism and seemingly absurd acts. It's a gripping tale of the blurred lines between ideological good and evil. A powerful story about loss of freedom and individuality, V FOR VENDETTA takes place in a totalitarian England following a devastating war that changed the face of the planet. 

SPOILERS FOR V FOR VENDETTA BELOW

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Writing

This book is one of Moore’s masterpieces, so I read it regularly. This time around the competing symbolisms stood out to me—the symbolism of freedom and the symbolism of oppression, One of the ways comics differ from novels is that they are visual, and Moore writes his symbols for the visual. A revolutionary in a Guy Fawkes mask blows up Parliament, one of the most iconic government buildings in England. Having come up with a creative writing Master’s degree with a focus in prose, my instinct is to try and make symbols part of the writing rather than the visuals. But in a medium like comics, where the main vehicle for information is visual, it’s important (and more subtle) to evoke symbols and meaning via the art.

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Art

The most impressive part of V for Vendetta’s art, for me, is how expressive Lloyd is able to make V in spite of the character almost always wearing a mask. Lloyd uses postures choreographs movements to express V’s emotions. Never once while reading this book did I feel like I didn’t get what V was feeling, even though I never saw his face. I’d love to write a some Big Two superhero stories one day, and thinking about how Lloyd was able to achieve so much without showing his character’s face will be helpful for characters like, say, Iron Man, whose face is hidden when in costume.   

Recommendation: A (Must Read)

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30 in 30 - Day 5: 4 Kids Walk into a Bank by Frank Gogol

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After the last few days of strong female protagonists and horror, I needed something a bit lighter. Don't get me wrong, I love the excellent Promethea or any of the other books. I did. I just wanted to switch up the kinds of books I’m reading for 30 in 30. Simply put, 4 Kids Walk into a Bank delivers a strong, emotional character story with loads of humor. So, the book hit all the right notes after four dark, dense days of reading.

Synopsis

Title: 4 Kids Walk into a Bank
Storytellers: Matthew Rosenberg & Tyler Boss
Publisher: Black Mask Comics
Year of Publication: 2017
Page Count: 192

4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK is the darkly comedic story of four burgeoning child criminals and their elaborate plans. When a group of bumbling criminals shows up in her father's life looking to pull one last job, young Paige has two choices - let her father get caught up in their criminal hijinks or enlist her three best friends to do the job first. Paige picks the bad one.

SPOILERS FOR 4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK BELOW

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Writing

The humor in 4 Kids Walk into a Bank comes from many places. Repeat panels that include a small change from the previous version subvert expectations. More times than not, it’s hysterical.

This falls into a grey area of the creative process, though. It’s hard to tell if these beats were written in or drawn in for effect.

At any rate, an example: In the first issue the four titular kids are rushing toward the front door. In the next panel one of the kids, Berger, is straggling behind while the other 3 kids have stopped dead in their tracks and have surprised looks on their faces. The next panel is a repeat of the previous panel, but Berger has caught up and is now having the realization the other kids were having just a second before. It’s funny because the late arrival characterizes Berger, who says, “Holy tits!,” which on its own is kind of funny coming from a kid. It’s also funny because the setup from the previous panel would have a reader think that Berger might stop dead in his tracks too, and though he does, it's not quite in the expected way, subverting expectations.

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Art

The art in 4 Kids Walk into a Bank elevates the humor in this book. Like with the repeating panels that subvert expectations, though, it’s hard to know whether these things came from the script, or were added during the drawing phase of the book. Since Rosenberg and Boss are such close friends, it’s likely a combination of the two.

That said, some of the best elements of the book are the sound effects. Often times, visual aspects, such as a chemical concoction of “truth serum” being tossed in a character’s face, will have the sound effect hand-lettered into the visual. In the case of the truth serum, lettered into the visual of the airborne liquid is the sound effect “TRUTH!.”

There’s a meta aspect to this, but also a comical one too. Rosenberg and Boss create an almost literal translation of the action as a sound effect, as if the character is literally throwing “truth” into the other character’s face. There’s humor in highlighting irony and in self-referencing, if done right, and Boss and Rosenberg do it right.  

Recommendation: B (Entertaining, worth a read)

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30 in 30 - Day 4: Promethea Book 1 by Frank Gogol

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Being a big Alan Moore fan, I’ve wanted to read Promethea for a while now. At the same time, I’ve known that reading Moore requires a reader’s full attention. The attention to detail, the density of the art—it all plays such a crucial role in the reading experience. To sweeten the deal, J. H. Williams III’s art on the book elevates the story it portrays. This book hits all of the right notes, and how could it not with such a killer creative team?

Synopsis

Title: Promethea Book 1
Storytellers: Alan Moore & J. H. Williams III
Publisher: America’s Best Comics
Year of Publication: 2000
Page Count: 160

Sophie Bangs was a just an ordinary college student in a weirdly futuristic New York when a simple assignment changed her life forever. While researching Promethea, a mythical warrior woman, Sophie receives a cryptic warning to cease her investigations. Ignoring the cautionary notice, she continues her studies and is almost killed by a shadowy creature when she learns the secret of Promethea. Surviving the encounter, Sophie soon finds herself transformed into Promethea, the living embodiment of the imagination. Her trials have only begun as she must master the secrets of her predecessors before she is destroyed by Promethea's ancient enemy.

SPOILERS FOR PROMETHEA BELOW

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Writing

I don’t need to tell anyone Moore is a mastermind or that for every one thing I learn from a book of his, there are going to be two things I missed. Still, like Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Promethea is a goldmine of craft. 

Thinking as a writer while I read this book, it was hard to not try and see the story machinery moving behind the scenes. Almost every line of dialogue appears both throwaway but also integral. This might be a side effect of having read Moore’s work before. The seeds of future stories are sown in here, though, and knowing that I already have a sense of completeness of story before I’ve finished the series. Much like yesterday's amazing Nailbiter volume 1, it reads like there’s a plan. 

And as  I start planning and writing my own longer-form stories, Moore’s writing is definitely informing how I go about setting up plot points and payoffs. 

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Art

Williams III always delivers, and there’s a reason for that—design. He gets it. Like Victor Santos, Jonathan Hickman, but in his own unique way, Williams III both knows how to draw sequential art AND design a page. And while I’m not (usually) the artist on the stories I write, thinking about the design of a page as I write it suddenly feels more important after seeing what it can accomplish. 

Moreover, Williams III’s designs repeat patterns and motifs, which enhances and builds upon on the central ideas of Promethea—the idea of legacy and repetition. 

Recommendation: B (Entertaining, worth a read) 

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30 in 30 - Day 3: Nailbiter vol. 1 – There Will Be Blood by Frank Gogol

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Recently wrapped-up, Nailbiter by Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson never quite made my radar while it was being published. Honestly, I didn’t know much about it other than it leaned toward horror. After tackling Buffy Season 11 over the couple of days, though, I was in the mindset for it.  And I have to say, this book excels in a way many books do not. It seamlessly combines familiar and beloved elements of serial killer stories. Everything from Twin Peaks to Scream, from Zodiac to Se7en influences this book, and to the book’s extreme benefit.

Synopsis

30 in 30 - Day 3: Nailbiter vol. 1 – There Will Be Blood  
Title: Nailbiter vol. 1 – There Will Be Blood  
Storytellers:  Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson
Publisher: Image Comics
Year of Publication: 2014
Page Count: 144

"Where do serial killers come from?" and why has Buckaroo, Oregon given birth to sixteen of the most vile serial killers in the world? NSA Agent Nicholas Finch needs to solve that mystery in order to save his friend, and he'll have to team up with the infamous Edward "Nailbiter" Warren to do it. Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson deliver a mystery that mixes Twin Peaks with the horror of Se7en!

SPOILERS FOR NAILBITER BELOW

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Writing

In truth, Nailbiter is a goldmine, so it’s hard to narrow down what I learned on this first read-through. The use of sound in the first issue, though, really stuck with me. The book opens with a heart-racing standoff between The Nailbiter, a serial killer, and the police. Throughout the scene, Williamson employs a “thump” sound effect over and over. This has the effect of suggesting a heartbeat. That same sound effect comes back around at the end, again to suggest something, though more sinister.

Circular storytelling is such a great device in general. When a story comes back around, though, and shows a particular aspect of the narrative or art in a new light, it feels extra satisfying and keeps readers on their toes. I this instance, there’s an extra air of creepiness, too.

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Art

Mike Henderson is a talented artist and Nailbiter’s art really pops, especially when it matters. Perhaps the most interesting thing, to me, about his art is how diverse his camera angles can be during talking-head shots. The panel framing varies, never settling on an angle used previously on the page.

Talking-head shots are practically unavoidable, and the chore of keeping them interesting largely (exclusively?) falls on the artist. Henderson does an incredible job of keeping the camera moving and keeping these shots from getting flat.

 Recommendation: A (Must Read)

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30 in 30 - Day 2: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 11: One Girl in All the World by Frank Gogol

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After tackling the excellent Buffy Season 11 vol. 1 yesterday, I finished off the series with Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Season 11 vol. 2 - One Girl in All the World today.

As has been the case with Buffy books over the last few years, Gage and Issacs knock it out of the park. Gage ramps up the stakes masterfully and Issacs' images bleed emotion and character in both content and form. 

Synopsis

30 in 30 - Day 2: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 11: One Girl in All the World
Storytellers: Christos Gage & Rebekah Issacs
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Year of Publication: 2017
Page Count: 160

As residents, it didn't take long for Buffy, Willow, and Spike to find that there was something more behind the internment of the magical population in the government's "Safe Zone" in the Grand Canyon. So when release becomes possible, Buffy and Willow grasp the opportunity despite the incredible risks they will be taking: relinquishing their magic and becoming "normal" humans, and . . . leaving Spike behind. The pair reunites with Dawn, Xander, Riley and Sam Finn, and the Slayer Faith. When Buffy reveals to the crew that the true purpose of the camp is to bring about the elimination of all supernatural powers worldwide, the Scoobies begin their mission. They will manufacture a great escape from the camp and follow the obscure trail of the Big Bad to its end. Extraordinarily, the trail seems to lead higher and higher in the ranks of the US government... 

SPOILERS FOR BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER – SEASON 11 BELOW

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Writing

This volume acts as the second half of the larger story being told in Buffy Season 11, and as such, it ramps up the…stakes. In all seriousness, Gage masterfully scales the danger and the stakes up in this arc, especially in the final three issues. There’s a great bait-and-switch (if such a thing exists) regarding the Big Bad for the season, and the storm dragon from issue #1 comes back into play. The final showdown is split into two fronts and then dovetails back together as an even larger threat right at the end.

Gage paces the finale gracefully while keeping it interesting and giving Issacs plenty of great stuff to draw. It never feels like chess pieces being moved around, either. The action and scale are all inherently linked to the Big Bad’s motivations and the character arcs of the season.

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Art

In the second issue of this arc, Buffy, now depowered (and rightfully frustrated) fights a much larger and strong man. Though she takes her fair share of punches, she fights smart and turns the fight in her favor. There comes a point when the fight is over, but Buffy, frustrated, continues to wail on the guy. Issacs’ art on this page starts as a tier with three panels of Buffy knocking the guy around. Then, the art dissolves into a second-tier close-up shot of Buffy punching. Issacs draws the final panel’s boarder as a jagged line cutting across the page that, rather than a sound effect, suggests a crunching noise.

Issacs captures Buffy’s frustrations in her facial expressions, of course. But the design of the page layers the frustration on with nuance and suggestion.

Recommendation: B (Entertaining, worth a read)

***

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Caption Boxes 11/01/17 – The Belated Halloween Comic Edition by Frank Gogol

It’s November! Where the hell did this year go?
 
***
 
It’s also (today) the tail-end of the 5-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, which had affected me in no small way. It wasn’t until this year that it sort of hit me just how changed I am because of the storm. A lot of that has been coming out in my writing in surprising ways.
 
Writing FLOODS, and then rewriting it as STORMS, and rewriting it again, now, as AFTER THE STORM has been a bit revelatory for me about the ways I have been affected. It’s not something I have a complete grasp of just yet, but there’s something to it.   
 
***
 
Yesterday was Halloween, and since I did a short comic story last year, I wanted to do it again this year and try to make it a tradition. This year’s story got dark and was one of those pieces of writing that has me examining myself after Sandy—specifically my relationship with water.
 
Anyway—with art by Tiffany McLeod, colors by Luca Bulgheroni, and letters by Nikki Powers: The Drowned.

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***
 
[WORKING TITLE]
 
I finished up my Advanced Comic Book Writing course last Wednesday evening. I’m still waiting on my final feedback for SUBURBIA ROBOTICA, but I’m feeling really good about the script. At this point, I’ve written a handful of one-shot (~22-page) scripts and I’m comfortable developing stories at this length.
 
So, what’s next?
 
I’ll keep writing. I’ve got a few notebooks worth of story fuel for stories of this length and looking over them, a lot of them are pretty good.

I’m also thinking bigger these days.
 
The next logical step is for me to write a small miniseries—something 3-4 issues. I’ve also got a handful of ideas that I think would translate to this length—THE BLACK FRACTAL and THE NINETY-SEVENS are a couple that I’ve talked about here before. So, I’m studying up on structure and looking at about how much story makes for a good miniseries. Right now, the jump from one-shot to mini feels less daunting than the jump from short story to one-shot. Here’s hoping that stays true.
 
 
***
 
Stain the Seas Scarlet is on Kickstarter starting today! This is a very cool looking sci-fi revenge story from by buddies Ryan Lindsay and Alex Cormack.
 
Check out STAIN THE SEAS SCARLET here

***
 
A few people wrote back to me after last week’s newsletter to say that they’d definitely be interested in an Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Writing Comics, so I’m going to do it. Now, it’s about how…
 
***
 
The Read Pile
 
I really enjoy talking about the books (and sometimes TV and movies) I’ve been liking in this section of the newsletter, but the format of the section really hasn’t clicked for me. One of the things I’m trying to be conscious of is the length of Caption Boxes, and I sometimes get caught up in talking about the books I’ve been reading. So, I’m shooting for succinct. Let’s see how that goes.
 
Promethea by Alan Moore and J. H. Williams IIII – Only one volume in, but I’m enjoying it. It’s got a great take on mantle characters, myth, and the power of storytelling.
 
Captain America #595 from Mark Waid and Chris Samnee – Not that I didn’t love Spencer’s take on Cap, but this feels like a true return to form for Cap (and Waid in some ways). It cuts to the core of what makes Cap great and I want more. Five issues just won’t be enough.

Strangers Things 2 on Netflix - I loved the first season, and I loved this one, too. If I had to choose, I think Season 1 would edge out Season 2 for which I liked better, but both are excellent. The structure of Season 2 is something to behold, though. The way each episode makes you need to watch the next is masterful. 
 
***
 
That about does it for this week. Now that we’re in November, my big cross-country move is upon me and it’s all very real suddenly.  There are many boxes to pack (50+ for my books alone) and many, many arrangements to be made still. Wish me luck!
 
See you in seven.
 
***
 
After Credits Scene
 
Normally, I’d try to write something of substance for this part of the newsletter, but today’s is my dog Waffle’s 3rd birthday, so here’s a picture of her instead.

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30 in 30 - Day 1: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 11: The Spread of Their Evil by Frank Gogol

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I’ve been looking forward to reading Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 11: The Spread of Their Evil for some time now. I watched my first episode of Buffy the vampire slayer in 1997, long before I ever read a comic book. In fact, I’d argue that if not for Buffy, I might never have become a comic book reader. But I did become a comic fan, and Buffy, after its television cancelation, became a comic book.

The Buffy books from Dark Horse have, historically, tended to read better when collected. With the Season 11 having just wrapped up, I’d been planning to dive into the series soon. So, I figured what better place to start 30 in 30 than with my first love—Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Synopsis

Title: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 11: The Spread of Their Evil
Storytellers: Christos Gage & Rebekah Issacs
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Year of Publication: 2017
Page Count: 160

Buffy and the Scoobies weren't ready for this kind of disaster to strike San Francisco. When a tsunami and an enormous dragon of storms devastate the Bay area, the supernatural folk in the world--witches, demons, and the like--are blamed as if they deliberately caused the catastrophe. In the midst of San Francisco's ruin, the team is surprised by the action taken by the government: restrictions are placed on the supernatural in the name of safety. Never one to balk at slaying evil demons, Buffy knows that not all demons are evil and in this case, it isn't clear who--if anyone--was behind the disaster…But she has to find out. Buffy must choose a side, find a way for herself and her friends to survive, and not lose who she is in the process.

SPOILERS FOR BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER – SEASON 11 BELOW

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Writing

Whereas past Buffy series slow-burned their way toward big revelations, the overarching plot explodes in the first issue of Season 11. Christos Gage, after a couple of years working with these characters, introduces them all seamlessly in just two scenes. By the end of the second scene, the massive event that acts as the inciting incident for the season arrives. And because of Gage’s quick, strong introductions, the plot moves at a brisk, entertaining pace.

What I learned about Comic Book Storytelling in Art

Rebekah Issacs, now on her third season of a Buffy Universe book, uses panel layouts to enhance action scenes. Generally, Issacs sticks to the traditional page grid as characters are being introduced in first two scenes. As soon as the massive storm dragon arrives at the end of scene two, though, her layouts break the grid. Panels overlap and turn sideways, and the art takes on a more kinetic, fast-paced feel.

Recommendation: B (Entertaining, worth a read)

***

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30 in 30 - Day 0: Why Read 30 Graphic Novels in 30 Days? by Frank Gogol

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Over at the Comics Experience Creators Workshop, there’s an annual reading challenge: read 30 graphic novels in 30 days (in November). Comics Experience head-honcho Andy Schmidt introduced this initiative in 2012 (before I had joined the workshop) and it’s had a strong showing each year since then.

I’ve always got a backlog of books I’d love to read, so a challenge like this creates an opportunity to chip away at that small mountain. In fact, I set out to do something very similar earlier this year--A Trade a Day in May—and I enjoyed the experience. So, I’m in.

30 in 30 – How Does It Work?

As I mentioned, I read a graphic novel every day of May 2017, but my only documentation consisted of almost daily Instagram posts. 30 in 30 has an additional component, though—a write-up for each graphic novel. Each write-up is to consist of:

  • Title:
  • Storytellers:
  • Publisher:
  • Year of Publication:
  • Page Count:
  • What I learned about Comic Book Writing / Storytelling
  • What I learned about Comic Book Art / Storytelling
  • Recommendation:
    • A (Must Read)
    • B (Entertaining, worth a read)
    • C (Runs the Bases, nothing more, nothing less)
    • D (Poorly Done, but there is learning here)
    • F (Poorly Done, don’t bother)
  • Notes/Review/Synopsis

Andy had made this part of the format to encourage Creators Workshop members to reflect on what they’ve read. Members joined the Workshop to learn about how to make comics and documenting and analyzing that 30 in 30 helps ensure that that learning occurs.

Normally, members share these writes internally in a thread on the Creators Workshop forums. In addition to posting them there, I’m posting them here for a couple of reasons. Firstly, these write-ups act as mini-reviews and thus could be beneficial to others. And secondly, as I did with A Trade a Day in May, I’d like to keep a public record. I think this challenge offers an opportunity for learning. So, in the spirit of passing along mindsets, skills, and advice for beginning comic book writers I plan to share my experience.

(For the purposes of these micro-blogs, I'm going to modify the format just a bit. They'll look about 90% similar to Andy's format, though.) 

The next 30 days begin…now.

***

30 in 30 - Day 1: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 11: The Spread of Their Evil
30 in 30 - Day 2: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 11: One Girl in All the World
30 in 30 - Day 3: Nailbiter vol. 1
30 in 30 - Day 4: Promethea - Book One
30 in 30 - Day 5: 4 Kids Walk into a Bank
30 in 30 - Day 6: V for Vendetta
30 in 30 - Day 7: Battlefields - Dear Billy
30 in 30 - Day 8: Hellboy - Seeds of Destruction 
30 in 30 - Day 9: WE3
30 in 30 - Day 10: Kill or Be Killed vol. 2
30 in 30 - Day 11: Star Wars vol. 1 - Skywalker Strikes
30 in 30 - Day 12: Pride of Baghdad
30 in 30 - Day 13: Trees vol. 1 
30 in 30 - Day 14: Sweet Tooth vol. 1 - Out of the Deep Woods
30 in 30 - Day 15: Glitterbomb vol.1 - Red Carpet
30 in 30 - Day 16: Seven Soldiers of Victory 0
30 in 30 - Day 17: Seven Soldiers of Victory - Shining Knight
30 in 30 - Day 18: Seven Soldiers of Victory - Manhattan Guardian
30 in 30 - Day 19: Seven Soldiers of Victory - Klarion the Witchboy
30 in 30 - Day 20: Seven Soldiers of Victory – Mister Miracle
30 in 30 - Day 21: Seven Soldiers of Victory - Bulleteer
30 in 30 - Day 22: Seven Soldiers of Victory - Frankenstein
30 in 30 - Day 23: Seven Soldiers of Victory - Zatanna
30 in 30 - Day 24: Seven Soldiers of Victory 1
30 in 30 - Day 25: LoEG - Nemo: Heart of Ice
30 in 30 - Day 26: LoEG - Nemo: The Roses of Berlin
30 in 30 - Day 27: LoEG - Nemo: River of Ghosts
30 in 30 - Day 28: Spencer & Locke
30 in 30 - Day 29: The Dregs
30 in 30 - Day 30: Royal City vol. 1 - Next of Kin

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.

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***
 
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
 
PAGE ONE – 2 PANELS
 
1.1
Large panel. J2 lies beat and broken on a cement floor. He’s dead. 
 
            Caption:                                   Now.

Write Comic Books: 4 Tips for Formatting a Comic Book Script by Frank Gogol

There is no “right” way to format a comic book script. Cullen Bunn’s way will differ from Jim Zub’s way, which will differ from the Frank Gogol way. What’s important when finding a scripting style is that it’s functional for you as a writer. What’s equally important, though, is having comic book script format that is functional for your collaborators as well.

Read More