Friday, February 3, 2017

I Write, part 2

If you haven't read "I Write, part 1" then I suggest you do that because this post will not make any sense to you (it barely makes sense to me, and I wrote it).

Where did I leave off? That's right, I was talking about screenwriting. After realizing no one wanted to make my magnificent movies (assholes), I decided to write a novel about the Berlin wall. In fact, I had a trilogy in mind. (actually, my Berlin wall story started as a screenplay). I plotted that story and started writing it when life got in the way, and that novel now languishes on a thumb drive (I think I know where it is...). I had a few other stories in mind (this is important for later) but my self-diagnosed OCD wouldn't allow me to start on those before finishing the first one.

Wait, I need to rewind a little here. In the '90s, while living in Germany, I had a coworker who was deep into comics, something I hadn't thought about since I was 13. He introduced me to a different world than I remembered of DC and Marvel and a new company called Image. Spawn #50
Spawn #50was being released and this was a big deal to everyone I met at the comic shop I started frequenting. I read it and was hooked on Todd McFarlane's dark anti-hero (and Greg Capullo's rendering of him). Fast forward about 20 years when issue #200 of Spawn was released. As I read it I really admired McFarlane's ability to take a character he had conjured while in high school and translate that into a multi-million dollar company (comics, movies, television, toys, etc.) I sat wishing I had such an idea for a story and a character. It dawned on me that I did (remember those ideas I mentioned). I had the basic outline and I shared it with a friend of mine who was a huge comic book fan and an artist (that Murad guy I keep mentioning). We've been working on it for a few years, hammering out a compelling story and developing unique characters, which we hope, one day, will make it into reader's hands.

Here's where all the different types writing I've done over the last 30 years payed off. I quickly noticed a comic script is like a movie script. I didn't need to spend too much time figuring out the structure, which I thought was easy. What wasn't so easy was breaking up my thoughts and descriptions into panels that make sense. A comic page is made up of panels, which are static, so, any movement of the characters has to be translated onto multiple panels. For example, a character swinging on a web at one end of the city to the other end can be written in a movie script as one sentence: Spider-Man swings across Manhattan. That description makes complete sense and it translates visually to a movie screen. However, on a comic page it takes, at a bare minimum, 2 panels to show that progression and many more for it to seem fluid. And I was writing single panels with lots of movement, leaving Murad the daunting task of creating page layouts (something he excels at) with many little panels to express that motion. He sat me down and said stop it, I was making the pages too busy. So, now I have to make a conscious effort when writing to focus on what's happening in the panel as if it's a photograph. I describe what I want him to draw and he draws it (mostly).

So, why comics and not screenplays or novels? Well, why not? It's all storytelling, it's about conveying what's in my head out into the world in a form I find entertaining as well as artistic. Denny O'Neil wrote, "Comics are a narrative form using a system of signs and images combined with conventional written language." I write comics because I want to apply the skill sets I've learned in collaboration with a great artist to produce a story that entertains as well as evokes emotion from the reader. I write because, no matter the medium, I have something to say. I write because it feels exhilarating to create, to use my imagination, and to share it with others. I write.

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