Friday, April 10, 2009

building a story pt. 3


the plot
this is where i really sit down and start to do the work--plotting the plot. we want to give clear and concise descriptions about what each panel should contain to tell a very smooth and not too complicated story. tom defalco is an absolute master at this, spinning fun and exciting visuals for his artist using, usually, single sentence steps.

i tend to be a little...wordy.

i think that's because the first authentic comic book script i ever saw was for the watchmen and alan moore is, well...insane.

so i always start out with a disclaimer, apologizing to the artist, whether i know them or not (with these marvel adventures spider-mans, for example, i didn't know who would be assigned to which issue), and explaining that none of it is written in stone, that i tend to describe the story the way i'm picturing it in my head, camera angles and all, and that, as the artist, they should feel free to let the story unravel the way they see it.

now i, personally, love to work "marvel style." that is, the writer writes out a plot for the artist to follow and then scripts/dialogues it with the art in front of him. i feel that that tends to be a much more collaborative process and brings the art and the words together in a much more meaningful and effective way. these days, however, in an attempt to cut down on time and traffic, marvel requires full-script and so that's what i do. i still write the plot first and then go back in and dialogue it after, but it's so much cooler--and more fun--if you can SEE the action, the characters, the drama. (when mike and i worked on sensational spider-man, and later on tellos, we would try to trick each other to keep it fun and new. i'd tell him what the story of that issue would be and then, in the plot, try to surprise him with how the story would unfold, what twists and turns i would throw in there to get to that end. he would then get real creative with layout and camera angle, trying to surprise me with how he told the tale. it was just a joy to see the acting that he'd put on the faces, the emotion. sometimes it would change the way i was planning to word the dialogue or drop it altogether.)

so, here are the first 7 pages of just plot, my hopefully clear and concise descriptions of what I'M seeing in my head. i try to keep it down to three or four panels per page, remembering that these stories are usually collected into digest sized paperbacks and the artwork and dialogue will be considerably reduced.

if you're following along in the comic book, see how sanford chose to interpret the script.


As a copy of today’s DAILY BUGLE is thrust into our face by a smiling/snarling J. JONAH JAMESON as he lectures the off PETER PARKER (us) about taking pictures for the Bugle! The paper features a photo of a surprised PROWLER clinging to a wall outside the open window of an upper story apartment building! He has been caught both by the camera and by Police spotlights and looks guilty as hell, his purple cape billowing out behind him as he clutches a file folder stuffed with blueprints in his other hand! The headline reads; MYSTERIOUS PROWLER EVADES NYPD! (Please leave room above for character blurb, “Bitten by a radioactive spider...” and below for title and credits. Thank you!)


Panel 1
Wide panel as we now see a view of JONAH’S office, big desk, walls lined with framed front pages of the Bugle, each one touting Spider-Man as a Menace! JONAH is tossing the paper on his desk as he raises his hand in the air to punctuate his point, railing at PETER about photojournalism.

Panel 2
Medium on JONAH, gesticulating ask he lectures, telling PETER that he needs to broaden his horizons, explore new subjects... (Room for caption to introduce JJJ...)

Panel 3
On JONAH’S hand as he gestures to several of the Bugle front pages enlarged and framed on the wall, each one showing Spider-man in some compromising position. One of them shows SPIDER-MAN in exactly the same position, almost the same shot, as the front page featuring the PROWLER.

Panel 4
On PETER, looking small and a little dumbfounded as he stands beneath /next to a poster with a grainy close-up of SPIDEY reading “WHO IS SPIDER-MAN?” (Room for caption to introduce PETER/SPIDEY...)

Panel 5
Wide as JONAH escorts PETER out of his office, pointing to one of the journalists working at a nearby desk, several photos laid out for his inspection.


Panel 1
Closer on PHIL SHELDON as he answers his cell phone as JONAH continues to sing his praises from off. We can see a sign on his desk with his name plate.

Panel 2
From outside JONAH’S Office as JONAH slams the door on a defeated PETER, who is left now in front of BETTY BRANT’S desk, BETTY looking up sympathetically at PETER.

Panel 3
On PETER and BETTY as PETER confides in her that he needs to sell some pictures, needs to help Aunt May out with the bills, etc. if JONAH doesn’t want anymore Spider-Man...BETTY reassures him that JONAH will change his tune--he always does.

Panel 4
From over PETER and BETTY’S shoulder as they watch PHIL leaning into JONAH’S open door, yelling into JONAH that he just got a call from his source, someone’s spotted that PROWLER character again--he’s on his way!

Panel 5
From over PETER’S shoulder as he watches PHIL grab his coat and camera as he races out of the newsroom, room for his thoughts as he worries that PHIL might be heading for some real trouble and that maybe he should go along to watch out for him...


Panel 1 SPIDER-MAN!!! BIG Panel; as we see our favorite, friendly neighborhood SPIDER-MAN swinging gracefully above the streets of Manhattan! This is December and it is twilight, early evening, and people are rushing to get home! The streets are filled with cabs and buses and trucks...

Panel 2
From above the swinging SPIDEY as he watches PHIL get out of a cab in a warehouse district, a Police car or two can be seen nearby!

Panel 3
And from over SPIDEY’S shoulder as he sees PHIL talking with a POLICEMAN, beyond them, we can see a Police Van and car and several OFFICERS crouched down, ready for action as a pair of search lights scan the rooftop of a warehouse. A huge section of the corner of the warehouse looks like it’s been caved IN!


Panel 1
Wide shot; As PHIL focuses his camera, a POLICE OFFICER points to the hole in the building where we can see a small figure scrambling out, creeping along the wall like a bug.

Panel 3
The POLICE are yelling from below as he springs/hustles up onto the roof, keen to escape--

Panel 4
From over the giving-chase SPIDER-MAN as he swings above and behind the fleeing PROWLER who is tearing across the long and wide rooftop (it has few features rising up here and there; several big metal vents and air conditioning units, etc.), looking back over his shoulder---but not up...!


Panel 1
As the PROWLER races toward the camera, we can see an ominous SPIDER-MAN diving down from above--

Panel 2
--And make the tackle as the two tumble and roll across the flat, football field sized rooftop and into one of the aforementioned vents, WHAM!

Panel 3
Reflexes flexing, SPIDEY regains his feet quicker, crouching atop the dented vent and thwipping a wide web-net over the momentarily dazed PROWLER.


Panel 1
Close on the PROWLER as he holds one of his pointy-fingered gauntlets up in front of his face--

Panel 2
Same panel; as four, diamond-shaped, razor-sharp fletchettes, a satisfied look on his face--

Panel 3
Wide; as he swipes the blades across SPIDEY’S webbing, tearing it to shreds, as SPIDEY leaps back a little, impressed with the villain’s resourcefulness.

Panel 4
Wide; as SPIDEY jumps back a little farther this time, as PROWLER thrusts his other glove before him, where a cloud of think white smoke creates some cloud cover for the PROWLER to get away!

more on monday...!


and to make an already long post longer...
here are your "five for friday!"

1. fried up with garlic and salt, what delicacy is also known as the "caviar of cambodia?"

2. what 1984 movie, featuring scenes of a knife-wielding mom, prompted the MCAA to create the PG-13 rating a year later?

3. what movie about the beginning of world war III was the first to bear the PG-13 rating in 1985?

4. what (jazz)singer/songwriter wrote the monkees #1 hit "i'm a believer?"

5. what is the name of the green lantern who looks like a squirrel?

have a great weekend!
smell ya later!


Matt Wieringo said...

Oh my God! I'm a movie buff and an 80's kid and the only answer I know is that the squirrel GL is Ch'p. The only WWIII movie from that time that I know of is RED DAWN and I don't remember a knife-wielding mom movie except maybe FATAL ATTRACTION and that came out later when I was in college.

This is a really cool thing you're doing, Todd. Very informative. It would be a nice article for Newsarama or somebody.

I remember the first typed-up plot I ever saw. Peter David was selling them at my first Heroes Convention for, like, twenty bucks. I looked at the thing (about 8-10 pages, no dialogue) and said, "You're kidding, right?" Damn, I wish I'd bought that thing.

I'd been writing my own fan scripts for a while, based on sample's I'd seen in COMIC SCENE magazine when I first saw Moore's WATCHMEN script pages so, yeah, I knew he had to be OCD! But Mike sent me copies of Mark Waid's FLASH scripts to study when he was done with them and I still have them around here somewhere. Great stuff. I loved that he was so conversational in his description of the "business" he wanted Mike to draw. Fun, fun, fun.

Heywood Jablomie said...

Nice posts this one and the last. Like Matt said VERY informative and fun as all hell. Thanks again for doing all this for us Todd.

And since Matt got the only answer I knew I'm going to go hang my head in shame that I can't figure the others out...

Christian D. Leaf said...

As Matt wins on comments this time round I can only add:

Neil Diamond penned that tune for The Monkees. Uhn!

Brian said...

Neil Diamond is the only one I got this week.

Adam Hutch said...

I really liked the series of posts this week. I think it's funny that you say Marvel requires full script now to "cut down on time and traffic." They're the ones that invented MARVEL style to help give Stan and the rest of the bullpen get all their comics out in a timely manner.

The only five fer I know for sure is:

I thought the PG-13 rating was invented due to Temple of Doom? That's what my older brother always told me anyway. ;)

Shana Jean said...

I know the squirrel GL is Ch'p, but the rest I don't know!

I've been really enjoying this building a story thing. I've seen various comic scripts before, but never the step-by-step process like this. So thanks!

Colin said...

1. Cobra testicles

2. Friday the 13th

3. Red Dawn

4. Neil Diamond

5. Ch'p