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JUNKYARD ANGELS: How did we get here?

The Hybrids Are Coming

The Hybrids Are Coming

And we’re back, well almost.  Junkyard Angels resumes with new chapters on April 2nd.

It’s been a long hiatus, longer than intended, but  Zach, Andrew and I are working hard on the next chapters, and I think the wait will be worth it.  The schedule of a bi-weekly serialized adventure story is daunting and requires occasional breaks on behalf of the creative team.  All of which have full time jobs, social lives, and other responsibilities.

In lieu of this, Jody has asked me to do a quick blurb on how to write a comic, or rather how I‘ve been writing this comic.  Zach will also pitch in on some of his process doing the art and maybe we’ll hear from Andrew as well.

This project started out as a 6 page story, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not thrilled and terrified by how much we’ve done and how much we’ve yet to do.   Believe it or not, but there is a complete story we’re trying to tell here, with a beginning, middle and end.  Zach and I have a skeletal outline all set out that we try to follow.

By far the hardest part of writing a series like this is gauging the pacing of the whole thing. From planning out the overall arc, to determining how each 3-piece chapter is going to play out, I’ve been struggling with pacing since the very first day.  But it’s also very rewarding and we’re all learning a great deal about how to tell the story in a concise and compelling way.

Once I have the outline broken down into basic chapters, I write a loose script. This first draft looks like a very sloppy screenplay, with notes and detours on specific details.  At this stage I usually write in 2 or 3 chapter chunks.  Dialog is often clumsy and cursory, with the emphasis on overall flow rather than any specific line or speech.

Once this is complete, I start working on the actual formal COMIC SCRIPT for my artists.  A Comic script is a strange and technical beast. In some ways it has more in common with putting together a puzzle than it does to writing a story.  Using the loose script as the “pieces” I start to put the puzzle together by drawing out diagrams and sketching out the scenes.  Usually these drawings, called “Thumbnails” are not useful for anyone by myself. But what they do is allow me to clearly explain the events and images in my head for the artist to draw.

One of the biggest challenges when writing a comic script is writing in clear still images.  I usually think in terms of movement and moments, and yet, in a comic every moment (or even series of moments) has to be distilled into single still images. I have to ask myself, “what is the single most important moment in a series of events that will dramatically and clearly convey what’s happening to the artist/reader?”

I try to err on the side of clarity, and I lean heavily on my artists to take care of the dramatics when I’m lacking. But this is ok. If I’m clear in communicating the moments, that frees them to be creative on how to portray each moment with the maximum amount of drama and excitement.  To this end, I generally write in a 9-panel grid format. Which means, I base every page on a grid that is 3 panels across the top and 3 high.  Within this structure I can combine panels to make them double or triple wide as needed, but I know I can rely on this very stable structure to move the action along in a comfortable way.

The artist is only responsible for the images in the script.  They should be aware of dialog, and leave room for bubbles and captions, but they should not be drawing that on the page at this stage.

Sometimes I’ll get the art back and it’s quite a bit different than I imagined in my head (in one case the artist missed a full half page and completely made it up to fill in the blanks). Although this usually causes some panic initially, it’s almost always a good thing. The best I can hope for is to inspire the artists with my words, and then to be inspired back when I receive the art. That being said, hijinks occasionally crop up.

Clarity is key! What's missing from the panel on the left?

Since I am also the letterist, I often have the opportunity to rewrite dialog once again, at this stage, depending on what the art is communicating or if certain aspects need to be clarified. This is a great privilege for me as the writer. I have final say on what comes out of the character’s mouths before the comic reaches the reader.  This also carries a certain amount of responsibility. Often times the page is written 3 times from by the time the reader sees it.

Script to page comparison (Click for detail view)

Thanks for reading, we’ll have more articles in the next week, as we gear up for the relaunch on April 2nd!

-PK Eiselt

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