EDIT IT AND DESIGN IT
Welcome back! Okay, okay, you’ve made it this far. You got an artist. You got an idea. You wrote the script. I bet you feel like a superhero, right?
Did you just write one go at the script and think you’re done? Nuh uh, honey! You better sit down and read that comic script out loud to yourself.
Did you catch some weird sounding dialogue? Or some descriptions that completely confused you? Or maybe you accidentally wrote more pages than you had meant? Welcome to the world of editing and rewriting.
Did your character just say WAY more than anyone in real life would say? Does everyone talk the exact same way? Right down to the vocabulary and slang? Then there’s a problem, and its right in front of your face.
But it can be fixed, gentle creator! By adding some slang, some different words, and even pacing of dialogue. And here’s some fun exercises you can do: GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. That’s right, grab a night out with yourself or friends (preferably friends) and listen to them, like any good friend would do. Listen to how your friends, and other people talk. How they explain something. How they express their emotions. Some people are calm and sparse with words. Some are loud and talkative. You got smart people who cuss a lot. You got sweet little kind people that love to have heated debates about politics.
My point is that all people are different. So make sure your characters are as well. You could have a hard-line military general who is also a vegan. Some aspects don’t affect how someone behaves, but they are part of them. You might have a lawyer who defended the man that murdered her husband in court. Or a gardener who’s allergic to dirt. Weird combinations in a person can force you to figure out your character. To see how they tick, and how they talk.
And never skimp on describing pages and actions, unless you’ve already made a deal with your artist that they can do so without too much input from you. Always communicate, especially when editing not just your words, but THEIR art, which can be very delicate. Remember, your artist spent HOURS, if not entire days, of their life on the art they drew for you. Be respectful, be clear, be reasonable, and be SURE. Little changes won’t bother them, but a whole bunch of little changes can be a waste of their time. Any big changes you want them to draw better be for a damn good reason, and absolutely necessary.
Otherwise, if it seems that the pages keep coming out wrong, it could be that they aren’t reading your descriptions correctly, or they just aren’t on the same page as you. This can be tricky, but can be corrected. It also could be your fault. Maybe you’re not writing your descriptions clearly enough, or expressed how important certain details are. Leave no secrets from your artist, they need clear communication. Try and work out any problems like these as best as you can.
And now we come to the cover for the comic book. This is a different animal from just a little script annotation. You need to work with your artist to convey the right image. You can just leave it up to your artist, with a few notes from you. For example, take the X-Men cover above. It could of been up to John Byrne, the artist, with the writer, Chris Claremont, simply saying “John, I want a cover that has a feeling of being hunted with no escape in sight.”
Simple. But leaves a lot up to the artist to do. I would have said “This issue’s story is kind of focusing on Wolverine and Kitty Pryde, so I’d like them on the cover. And this is set in a apocalyptic future, so add that element, with years added to both Wolverine and Kitty. And if you could find a way to show that the other X-Men are dying out, that would be cool. Maybe with tombstones or something like that.” Still up to the artist, but with some more info, at least with a direction in mind.
Take some other great covers, and I would show how I would describe them close to it.
In this issue, Allen the Alien and The Immortal fight it out, so we need them on the cover. Since they do fight in space, maybe throw that into the mix?
Children are being brainwashed to become killers, so I’d like some angry, dangerous kids on the cover. Allude to maybe Batman having been killed, but no body.
The action is ramping-up in this issue, so throw something dynamic at the reader, while still showcasing our two lead characters, in way that shows they’re working together. The enemy is mostly Dragon Tooth soldiers, so maybe put them on the cover somehow as well.
This is more of a day-in-the-life story, starring Allen the Alien. Its also a little bit of a more light-hearted issue. Have Allen on the cover, but not doing anything too action-packed, if at all.
Wonder Woman is fighting against a new threat, that some readers may already know who they are. So keep some mystery, tension, and action on the cover.
All these examples give an artist something to work with, while leaving plenty of room for personal flair and input. Also, if they need more or less guidance, that’s up to you and your artist. Work it out, and always be enthusiastic!
Now that you’ve got the script finished, drawn, as well as the cover, you need to do yet one more step…
Which will be Part 04 of “So You Wanna Make a Comic Book?” next week! I’ve decided to push the printing process to next article. Stick around!