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Business of Comics #6: Writers

Welcome to issue 6 of my Business of Comics. Today, we’re going to look closer at writers. I’m Terrio Jenkins and I write Favor of Athena, but I’ve also written comic book scripts for several clients. I also have a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Full Sail University. Comic book writing is fun and challenging, but what does a comic book writer do, that screenwriters or novelists don’t? Well, a movie can’t be made without a script. A novel can’t be published without a writer. Comic book writers are essential to a good comic, The comic book writer has to take into consideration the other positions. We’re going to look at the different styles of writing comics. The elements of writing a comic. Lastly, we will look at the life of a comic book writer.

First, there is no one way to write a comic. If you pick up Panel One and Panel Two, various professional comic book writers have different styles. However, if the goal is to work for a specific company, like Marvel Comics, then a potential comic book writer may have to submit their script in accordance with the company’s guidelines. Currently, Marvel and DC no longer accept writing submissions. Dark Horse has a sample of how they want the comic book script formatted.  One way of writing a comic book script is the “Marvel Method.” This is writing the script in prose, like a novel or outline. This is how Stan Lee was able to write many of the comic books in the early years of Marvel Comics. The Marvel Method gives the artist/penciler more freedom and then Stan would go and add dialogue. This is a great method is you only have a general idea of your story and trust your artist in their storytelling. In the professional industry, this doesn’t seem to be the norm anymore. However, as an indy writer, you have the freedom to do so. The other major style is Full Script. In this style, the writer controls everything. They must convey every detail to the penciler, colorist, and letterer. Most professional writers choose this method. Full Script is similar to screenwriting, so picking up a screenwriting book would help a novice writer.

When writing the actual script, writers must have a good understanding of three elements. Those elements are plot, story, and characters. Think of the plot as your outline. The plot should have a beginning, a middle, and an ending. These are Acts and help move the story along. In each Act, there are beats that should be met. Plots usually are similar enough that they can be classified into different genres. For example, most mystery plots are the same but are different from romance plots. In a mystery plot: someone commits a crime, the detective follows clues, the detective catches the criminal. Romance plots would be: Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. The story is the second element, this is what draws the reader. The story usually has a theme. Forgiveness, love, or responsibility, are examples of themes. Conflict plays an important part in the story. Without conflict, the story is flat and could turn readers off. Characters are the third pillar. They help move the story along, some characters will provide the conflict and represent the theme. There are many resources on all three elements.

Life as a comic book writer means being the captain of the story. This is especially true if you are writing your own comic book. In the industry, editors are the captains. Don’t expect to be popular, it’s an artist market, so the artist will make or break your book. However, if you hone your craft and be consistent, you will gain popularity. The salaries of professional comic book writers can total anywhere above $100 per page ($2,000 per issue/month), and with the more popular ones, even higher. You can look at issue 4 of Business of Comics for the breakdown of page rates.

Writing is hard, but comic book writing can be rewarding. Once you find your loyal readers and network, you will succeed. Take time to study those who you admire and even read comics that you don’t like. Read books on writing, but don’t forget to actually WRITE. Your style will come to you over time, just like with anything else in life. Now stop reading, leave a comment, if you’re watching hit the bell to be notified of new videos Go WRITE!

Writing Comics Guide #6: Whydunnit

Everyone loves a good mystery. When it comes to tv dramas, people watch shows like Law & Order: SVU, CSI, and Criminal Minds religiously. Mystery novels by James Patterson always sell out. Comics, manga, and webcomics are no different. What makes us love these types of stories? It’s not only putting together the puzzle but also learning the evils of WH

Someone committed the crime. Whydunnits come in a variety of flavors. DC Comics published Identity Crisis. Most Batman storylines are whydunnits. There are three components to a whydunnit. A detective, the secret, and a dark turn.

The first component of a whydunnit is the detective. The detective can be an amateur with no law enforcement training but is trying to solve the crime. They can be from law enforcement and assigned to a case. The detective doesn’t change throughout the story. Their reason for taking the case vary, but, they will dedicate their being to solving it.  Batman is one of comics’ greatest detectives. In every story or case, Batman pursues it with, you know, reckless abandon. The detective HAS to care about the case in some capacity.

The secret is another component of a whydunnit. The detective wants, and in essence, needs to figure out the secret. The secret is what grabs the reader and is usually introduced in the very beginning. Murder is usually a crime, but almost anything could be used as a secret. Often, there will be a case within a case. This means that while trying to solve the main case, we learn about something or someone else. In Identity Crisis, someone murdered Sue Dibney. The superhero community tried to find the murderer. The main suspect is Dr. Ligh. In a brilliant “case within a case”, he raped Sue in the past and the Justice League wiped his memory. When revealing the secret, the writer has to be fair when “turning over the cards.” Readers will feel cheated if the secret doesn’t make sense.

The last component of a Whydunnit is the dark turn. While in pursuit of the secret, the detective usually has to commit a dark turn. This can be anything. Breaking an order to stand down by a commanding officer. Sleeping with a suspect. The dark turn is a result of becoming so engrossed in the case, that the detective loses track of themselves.

So, is your story like the manga, Case Closed? Maybe it’s more serious, like Batman? Make sure you have your detective, a secret, and a dark turn that makes your readers want to solve the puzzle. Get out your magnifying glass, call your partner, and get writing your whydunnit!

Day 2: Set Your Goals

Short Term Goals:

1. Promote Angel Protocols

2. Develop new relationships with other comic creators

3. land 2 new patrons.

Long Term Goals

1. Record issue one as a podcast

2. Have scene 1 animated

3. Reach $20,000 on Patreon

4. Start producing more comic series

5. Win teacher of the year

6. Learn a new technology or language skill