I received an email this morning from the editor of our upcoming comic book project.  He informs me he’s looking into artists and wondered whether Paul and I were a) familiar with scripting for comics and, if not, b) required what he referred to as a “comics writing 101” he could send our way.  I told him that we already had a script for the one hour television pilot (which will form the first two issues of the opening four-issue arc), but had yet to decide how best to proceed.  From the two books and several articles I’ve read on the subject, it appears that there are two approaches to comic book scripting, one excruciatingly detailed in its panel by panel breakdown, the other so frustratingly general and wide open it comes across as more suggestion than direction. Personally, I would prefer something that falls something in between the two, a scripting style detailed enough to tell the story but broad enough to allow the artist – who I view as the comic book counterpart of the film/television director – to lay it out as he sees fit.

Anyway, the timing is perfect.  With my (probably) last script for SGU’s second season out of the way, my weekends and evenings have finally opened up so I’m free to shift gears and focus on something else.  Like a comic book project.  Or a marathon viewing of Space: Above and Beyond.  No, a comic book project.

Awwww, shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.  Between the moment finished the last paragraph and the instant I started this one (three hours in my time, micro-seconds in your time, approximately two and half days in dog time), I received an email from our editor informing me that we’ll have to go with the mendokusai full script style meaning we’ll have to do the directing ourselves, breaking down every page into panels and guiding the artist.  ie:

PAGE ONE (five panels)

Panel 1: Medium shot of LAMONT TREMAINE standing by an open window in a tweed jacket and blue slacks.  Handsome and fit, his predilection for growing his salt and pepper hair long and keeping it in a ponytail makes him look much younger than his fifty-some years.  Also it makes him look like  a bit of a doofus.  Hands in pocket, he stares out, eyes shut, allowing the breeze to tousle his over absurdly bushy eyebrows and cool his sun-dappled face.

LUISA (OP): Lamont, you can’t deny it.

Panel 2: Close on Lamont, turned slightly so that he is in profile.  Out the window, in the background, an owl relieves itself on a low-hanging tree branch.

LAMONT: Don’t do this, Luisa.  Not here.  Not now.

Panel 3: Over the shoulder shot of Lamont in the lower right corner foreground, turned to face Luisa, his half-sister (late thirties, beautiful, sporting pantaloons, a pink blouse, and the type of conical hat usually reserved for young princes and dunces).  She looks desperate as she appeals –

LUISA: But he’s your turtle, Lamont.

LAMONT: I have no turtle!

LUISA: But the pet store is quite strict about it’s no return policy.

Panel 4: Closer on Luisa, mouth aquaver, a lone tear tracking down the side of her left cheek.

LUISA (thought): Ooooooh daaaaayaaaam.  I’m wanna slap him silly.

Panel 5: Two shot of the siblings facing one another, Luisa downcast, head lowered, Lamont eyes narrowed, scratching his chin as he considers…

LAMONT: I say, Luisa, this does put me in a spot of trouble.  Perhaps if I…

PAGES TWO AND THREE (one freakin’ glorious panel!  SPLASH PAGE!)

Panel 1 and only: A hot air balloon crashes through the wall behind Lamont.

SFX: Crash!

Two heavyset twin eight year old boys in matching striped shirts clutch each other in sheer wide-eyed terror as the bottom of the wicker basket they are in clips Lamont, decapitating him.

SFX: Thunk!

And the rest writes itself.

Wow.  Writing like that, you can fill up 22 pages in no time.

Best dig up that pilot script and start thinking about how I’m going to transfer it to comic book format.

Yep, just as soon as I find that pilot.

Er, anyone happen to remember where I filed it?

19 thoughts on “August 24, 2010: That comic book project!

  1. WEEEE!! Looking forward to your comic book…in the 2018!! WOOOO!!!

    You should pick up a couple director’s cut issues – those usually have the script in the back. But I think you’ll do just fine, and mebbe Gail could give you a pointer or three. Not Bendis, though…he’s too busy playing with his Twitter. 🙄

    Are they giving you a choice of artists??


  2. Woohoo! Comic book! I don’t mean to be critical, but I think maybe you should ask for the beginner’s guide the editor mentioned. And I’m sure das will be able to give you plenty of pointers.

  3. I think the pilot is between the ‘Big Book of Reasons SGU Didn’t Kill SGA’ and ‘How to Resist Dog Hypnosis’. Or Carl swiped it.

  4. You probably put the pilot somewhere really safe. Like with the script you “misplaced”.

    Also, just how does someone “stare(s) out, eyes shut”?

  5. WOOO!! I was FIRST!!! 😀

    I should get a cookie, or somefin. 🙂

    @ Sparrowhawk – I already told Joe I want an a straight male character with albinism, long hair, and striking good looks. Oh, and he CAN’T DIE!!!!


    (One of these days I’ll get my wish, but I fear it’ll be me writing it. 😛 )


  6. The directing of your own comic sounds…..er….fun?? But at least you’ll have Paul’s help, so you won’t have to do it all yourself…. See I would have thought you would have storyboarded out the idea(s) already, for the concept to have been green lit, b/c the graphics are important too. See that just shows you what I know!!

    So I’ve been watching your sidebar… Holy Crap you read a lot!! Do you remember everything you read? If someone were to ask you about a book you read 5 years ago would you remember it?

    As for your pilot, you may want to ask Lulu, cuz the dog may have ate it!! I thought she had a haunted/funny look on her face yesterday, and maybe that’s why she needed a drink, it was to wash down the pilot!!!!

    Have a Good One!!

  7. Great to hear the comic thing’s progressing well. That script format does seem pretty irritating, though.

  8. OT knee update:

    Woke Tues. AM with knee not only ready to graduate from walker to cane, but also to hobble short distances without! Glad to have one or both hands free for carrying.

    Need any detail-minded proifreaders, Joe? 

  9. Oh, yeah, I have, like, 20 of these to write in order to graduate next year. Everybody wants two or more. Normal scripts, like the ones you do, and some of these director ones. Not to mention the thousands of commercials I’ve written… Hm, maybe I have to start writing soon…

  10. Yikes, that’s one heck of writing format. That sounds… tedious?

    I guess if you can both create dialogue and really really really really really detailed imagery in your head, no problem. Good luck to you good sir! And good luck finding that script as well.

    Question… is this going to be a comic/graphic novel like or something more manga like?

  11. Back in 1995, I took a course at the School of Visual Arts on writing comics with Denny O’Neil. Although you might prefer the plot-first style of writing a comic (as opposed to full-script, which apparently you’ve got here), plot-first really works best when you’re working closely with the artist. My understanding is that Stan Lee developed plot-first; he would describe the story in general terms for his artists in the bullpen, and then he would write all the dialogue and captions later.

    If you want to see some incredibly intricate scripting, take a look at any script by Alan Moore. He’ll routinely have three to five pages of single-spaced description for one page of comic.

  12. Joe, what’s up with the changes to the blog? What do those little StumbleUpon and Digg tags mean at the bottom of the column? And now people can LIKE the blog?

  13. Argh! Sounds punishing, you’d think you could just hand over the script and they could just whip up the panels, but with this level of detail at the very least you guys will have complete editorial say in how the comic looks and get the final product to your liking.

    Doesn’t sound fun tho, but like anything once you get rolling it’ll get easier, faster and in a few weeks you’ll reread this and laugh, laugh I say, at how simple it all turned out to be.

    Then I say, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step,” and you will reply by making a voodoo doll diorama of me being hit by a semi.

    I have a question that I hope Akemi can answer; what is the deal with all the sadness in Candy-Candy anime? I rewatched a few youtube eps (in Spanish, it was huge in Latin America) and it seems like everyone around Candy encourages her to be stoic and stop mourning Anthony; is it a cultural norm in Japan to not mourn publicly and set aside their grief quickly or was that just specific to that type of anime?

    In some countries they dubbed the show so that Anthony get’s “very sick” instead of dying, and I can’t blame them because looking back as kids we cried many salty tears over Candy-Candy troubles.

    Are all animes for kids in Japan as sad as Candy, or was it specific to that show? I can’t think of a sadder show aimed at kids around today.

  14. hey Joe, found this weird but cool blog about old books:


    as for the comic book, im definitely interested in the process so this post was informative in a way. all i can say is just have fun with it, dont just do an exact transfer because TV obviously can be limited compared to comics in some areas.

  15. That script was really funny. I’m thinking that’s not the script you’re writing for the comic book though.

  16. Yeah!!!!!the Comic will be here soon……Can’t wait much longer….what type of Super Heroe’s you and Paul comming up with? What is the story line going to be based on???

  17. just do it like the scott pilgrim comic author Bryan Lee O’Malley. he writes his script with screenwriting software. he basically writes screenplays for his comics. was funny to hear him say that in the recent creative screenwriting podcast episode on the scott pilgrim movie :D. should be kinda easy for you that way ;).

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