Writing for comics: how much is too much or not enough?

I don’t talk a whole lot about my day job here; I spend the day doing it, so it isn’t something I feel that inclined to write about. Oh, I love my class. In fact, I’m not shy to tell students it’s the best class in the program. Of course, I’m biased, but I get to talk about comic making all day! What’s not to like about that?

Teaching comic writing in a primarily moving picture program can be tricky. Most of our students want to write for film or television (though we have a growing number of students who want to write novels—which I find funny, because we’re not a program geared to teach that…guess they should do better research!). What they’re taught in those classes—and know that I’m not contracting what they’re taught in the classes that teach moving pictures, I just don’t have that experience—is to write very little “directions” for a director, and of course, write nothing that can’t be filmed.

They often bring that thinking into my class and it’s frustrating to try to convince them that what we’re doing in comics doesn’t negate what they do in moving pictures, it’s just a different “gear,” a different kind of writing.

I’m in several “creator” groups on Facebook and recently a thread went around about details in writing for comics. To sum up, most of the artists complained that the writers don’t give them enough details…and then complain when the art is done that something is “wrong,” or “missing.” I place that blame completely and fully on the writers.

And yet, comic companies often suggest in their submission guidelines to “write only a sentence or two” for each panel’s description. While that may be possible, as noted in the paragraph above, it often isn’t enough.

Comic writers can’t be vague in the writing and expect artists to read their minds or know their intent by words they haven’t written. Comic writers have to give artists all the information needed, and then some. Comic writing can be less than formal; in fact it can be very conversational because the writer and artist are partners in producing.

So how much is too much and how much is too little in a comic script?

My suggestion is always write with the idea that the artist has no idea what you’re talking about and that you’ve never worked with that artist before. Not only do you want to describe to them the (single) action that is happening in the panel, but you can tell them the mood of the panel overall, the mood of the characters in the panel, the tone you want in the panel (and on pages).

Always remember, the comic artist is your collaborator, not your audience.

 

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Happy New Year? And Florida Pop Con!

The question mark comes because we’re 30 days into 2018 and I’m just now writing those words here. ARGH. Okay, I’ll take my abuse now—bring it on.

But, while you’re doing so, watch this video (made on time, but I’m giving you the link late) and enjoy well wishes from my family!

2017 was a good year, but man did it fly by! It marked an entire year since my daughter moved out of the house and to La-La Land. L Hush. That’s just dust in my eyes!

But we’re deep into 2018, so let’s roll!

I had Auburndale CityCon on my calendar for January, but multiple emails to them have gone without a response…so I guess the convention is no more?

This weekend, though, I’m a comic guest at FLORIDA POP CON, an inaugural show that isn’t that far from me! It isn’t “just” a comic con, it’s got a little of everything. There will be actors there from The Walking Dead…if you’re into that kind of thing. 🙂 I’ll also have something new at the show (read on!)

In April, I’ll be a comic guest at the one and only Daytona Comic Con. One of the very best in the area, it’s jammed packed with comics, always a good thing for the comic fan. I know I always walk out with near as many comics as I walked in with! If you’re a comic fan, make the drive and attend this show!

In August, I’ll be returning to the Pikeville Comic Con in Pikeville, Ky. This will be their 2nd annual show, and the first one was so much fun and so well organized. It was hard to believe it was the first one. But I’m looking forward to a return trip!

In November, I’ve got an informal invite to be a comic guest at ComicConWay, a show I’ve been itching to get to for several years now. They’ve had quite a few of my comic making pals there, and they all rave about what a good show it is. Plus, I just love Arkansas.

While the date isn’t set yet, I’ll be appearing at the Altamonte Springs Collect-A-Con, another great show very local to me (I always tell my comic reading students they should go!)

Hoping to add a few more to the calendar and am hoping to add shows in GA and SC. Just hoping to hear positive things back from the organizers of those shows.

Hoping this year is good to me for creative work, too. This weekend, I’ll debut the collected version of TINY! Deonna has a full time gig now that she’s done gone and got herself graduated…but I keep the bug in her ear to do something else.

We’re about halfway done with Cat & Mouse #1. I’ve got to say I’m super-stoked to be working with such a great art team: Dean Zachary, Barb Kaalberg, and Kevin Gallegly are really turning in some superior work. Here’s page 1 just to whet your appetite! We’re…VERY close to launching the Kickstarter for it, so I’m telling you now to sock away a few bucks for it so that you can help us out.

While I can’t exactly talk about the project yet, I’m working with longtime pals and spectacular artists Jaxon Renick and Chuck Bordell. Really close to getting a colorist lined up…but he hasn’t confirmed yet (maybe he’ll do so when he reads this! Haha)

There are a few others…but probably too early to talk about them.

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Defending the First Amendment

Because of the racist idiots in Charlottesville, VA several weeks ago(and if you’re not sure what I’m talking about—where the heck have you been?), I’ve seen dozens of posts about “hate speech” and free speech and the First Amendment. I’ve seen people—some that I like a lot—suggesting that “hate speech” isn’t protected by the First Amendment.

That scares me so much it gives me chills just to type it.

For quick reference, The First Amendment reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Y’see, that’s the beauty of the First Amendment: it gives you the ability to express any ideals—regardless of how idiotic I find them to be—freely and openly. So, yes, Nazis have a right to stand in the public and spew their anti-Jewish Aryan nation hate. And yes, BLM has the right to yell they smell bacon and death to pigs. I don’t like or agree with either of those opinions, but the First Amendment does give them the right to say those things even though the over-whelming majority of us (and I’m assuming most everyone reading this) find those opinions deplorable.

My dad and I have had the discussion about flag burning. His dad (my grandfather) fought real Nazis in WW2 and it really bothers him to see people burning and/or stomping on the flag. It bothers me, too—I don’t like to see it. But where Dad and I differ is he suggests that it might should be illegal to do that (not strongly, but it’s something he’s kicked out as a response to it). As repulsive as I find flag burning, I don’t think the act should be illegal. Now, if you grab MY flag and burn it, then that is both theft and destruction of property that is not your own—you should go to jail! But if you want to spend your own money and buy a flag just to burn…well, that’s your right to do so.

The same is true for “hate speech.” The First Amendment protects the right for people to talk hateful. No, I don’t like it, and I don’t agree with the speech, but I do know the First Amendment protects it–and it should. I think people who want to take away the right of free speech are very scary people. The problem is, as always, where does it stop and who decides what is “okay” speech and what is not? We can’t agree on that—so it’s best to let everyone expression an opinion. Because, after all, WHO determines what “hate speech” exactly is. I know that I don’t want some people making that determination, and I’m sure there are many who wouldn’t want me making that determination. After all, I think any anti-comic book speech is hate speech! Thankfully for those comic book haters, the First Amendment protects you.

The exception to the First Amendment is, of course, something like yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. But that’s not “expressing an opinion,” that’s “yelling wolf” (if you don’t know that reference, look it up). There’s a big difference.

The beauty of the First Amendment is that it is for everyone, not just the people you agree with. Believe it or not, I’m willing to fight for your right to say you hate me and to call me a bigot, homophobe, hillbilly, cracker, Southern redneck or whatever else you desire.

But the First Amendment is about SPEECH. The minute your fist hits my face, the First Amendment is no longer under consideration.

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Hurricane Irma Diary part 3

If you missed the earlier parts and want to read them, you can find part 1 here and part 2 here.

From the back porch, we could actually see across the big open field behind us (it’s a community park) and see lights on. None of the homes around us had light, but about a quarter mile away or a little more, the community there had power!

There was a curfew in place, and since both Full Sail University (where I teach) and Oviedo High School (where Brett attends HS) were closed, we just hung out at the house. We didn’t really have anywhere to go.

Tuesday was hot, and so Brett and I hopped in the truck to go get gas and maybe a burger. I wasn’t sure how long I’d need to run the generator and I didn’t want to lose the contents of the freezer and fridge. With the generator going, at least we could dive in to the contents some. If it wasn’t sandwiches, I grilled what we ate.

Tuesday night was so hot it was miserable. So much that I got our box fan and sucked some of the power from the generator to run it hitting me and Brett (I was on a mattress in the living room floor, Brett on the couch beside me). Neither one of us got much sleep, and going outside really didn’t do us much good, either.

Power began to flicker on and off on Wednesday. It’d come on and we’d cheer…wait a few minutes…then it’d go off. Faked me pretty good once as I even unhooked the generator…then it went back off.

It finally came back on to stay around 6pm, one hour shy of a full three days.

OHS had gone ahead and cancelled school for the rest of the week…as did Full Sail. So Brett and I filled the rest of our week playing games. We still didn’t really have anywhere to go…so we didn’t go.

Probably a bit of a letdown for part 3, I guess, but really, the “exciting” part was during the build-up and the actual storm itself.

Next week I’m going to rant about Free Speech! Yeah…I got worked up a little.

 

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Black Friday through Cyber Monday sale on some of my work!

I decided to a Black Friday – Cyber Monday sale on a few things. If you’ve been wishing you could try something out that I’ve written, now is the time!

Obviously, TINY is the new one. Regularly $6 each, you can get both issues for $7.50 (plus shipping). If you’re a digital fan, you can get them for .99cents each, or $1.98 for both of them!

Next are the graphic novels KREY and DEMON’S TAILS. Regularly $15 each, you can get both of these for $7.50 each (plus shipping). Once again, If you’re a digital fan, you can get them for .99cents each!

While my Switchblade mini-series isn’t available digitally (yet—I’m working on that!), I’m working through the last sets to make way for the collection. You can get all three issues for the paltry sum of $1!

Lastly, if prose is more your thing, you can pick up the print copy of my novel Buying Time for $5, or digitally for .99cents!

Simply follow the link to my online store, find the above mentioned titles and select them. When the pop-up window comes up, you’ll see “select an option.” That’s when you’ll see the BLACK FRIDAY deals!

Don’t delay! The print copies make GREAT Christmas gifts! I’ll even sign them to make your gift complete!

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Hurricane Irma Diary part 2

The roof started to leak on my comics!

Brett wants snacks

Got the comics away fro the windows!

So, I’d expected the power to go off somewhere around 1-3am Monday morning, but not 7pm Sunday night. That actually made me a little more worried (I hadn’t been that worried) thinking it might be worse than anticipated.

The roof was leaking early in the storm, right on top of my comics—so I moved every single box of them away from the leak and from the windows. Yeah, most of them are bagged…but not all of them. So I wanted to move them just to be safe. Plus…comics!

(video: since the power would be out for a while, Brett wants snacks!)

My truck up next to the front windows

One mistake I made was not having a portable radio. I had a couple of flashlights, but I had no idea what was going on—I couldn’t just on weather.com to see! So—since I don’t have a cellphone—Brett spent time on his cellphone back and forth with BJ. She had gone to Mississippi to be with her dad who was about to have surgery and was monitoring it all from afar. She’d try to send us screenshots of the radar down here, but connections were very spotty for Brett.

BJ stayed up as long as she could…but I needed to hear that radio! So, because I was still a little afraid of something coming through the front window, I went outside and pulled my truck up right next to the house. I figured it something hit my truck, it’s old and I could get insurance to cover most of it. If something came through the window, it wasn’t just “stuff,” Brett and I were both in there!

I listened to the radio some on and off, running back and forth to the truck, and Brett and I pretty much spent the rest of the night watching the storm. We’d stand out front and watch, then go to the back porch. We actually didn’t stay on the back long because, well, the sound back there was pretty scary, especially later. It’d come up a really strong wind and I thought the trees were gonna come over on us—so we stayed off the back porch. Oddly, we really didn’t get that much rain after the initial rainfall, it was mostly just high winds. Water never went over the entire street in front of the house like I expected it to. It’s done that before during really heavy rains. I tried to take some video from the front porch—and I’ll put it here, but you can’t see much when it’s dark.

Once the sun came up and we knew the worst was over, I got the generator going to keep the refrigerator and freezer going…Then the power came back on, so I shut the generator off. Cranked the AC up and got the house cooled down…then the power went off again. But it was cool enough that we hit the sack. I can’t be sure of the time (remember, no power), but probably around 10ish.

We both slept a good bit of daylight hours. The house was still cool because it was overcast and very windy. When we got up, we started putting the house back in order. We ate our sandwiches on the back porch (no trees fell! Yay!) And that’s when we noticed some fences down across the street.
(Never tried to include any videos before–hope they work)

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Hurricane Irma Diary part 1

So, I decided to write a bit about my hurricane experience. I know that it’s been two months, but never having been through a hurricane but having been through an earthquake (a major one—I’ll talk about that later), I thought I’d just make notes, for me if for no other reason.

Keep in mind, I live in the Orlando area and we weren’t hit near as hard as many of the folks to the south and west of us. So nothing you’ll read here can even compare to what many of them—and then later (and a different hurricane), Puerto Rico.

The positive thing about hurricanes today is that you can see them coming days in advance. After it hit the islands, we decided it would probably be a thing of concern. BJ (the wife) left to go spend a few weeks taking care of her dad who was having a surgery, so it was just me and Brett. All predictions showed it hitting us in the early morning hours of Monday, Sept 11. (Ugh, what a day to pick, right?)

Freezer is loaded with water/ice!

On Wednesday, Sept 6, after class, I had decided to stop and pick up some supplies and fill up the gas tank. I first stopped at CostCo, which is right by Full Sail. No water! And the gas line was crazy stupid, so I figured that far out, I’ll just get gas and such elsewhere—surely there would be more shipments, right?

I chilled on Thursday and watched the news as thousands of people clogged the roads trying to get out of Florida. Stories of people sitting on the roads for hours not moving, people running out of gas in North Florida…and then into Georgia made me decide to just stay put. We’re inland and not in a low area prone to flooding. Figured we’d lose power a bit, probably at the height of the storm in the wee morning hours, and figured I would have to keep an eye on the trees.

Friday I made the rounds to the grocery stores. I’ve never seen stores so bare in all my life. It looked like videos I’d seen of grocery stores in Russia! I managed to snag a few cans of Vienna Sausage, some bread, and some gas. No water, still.

Table wedged up against the window in the living room.

Went back out on Saturday looking for a few other things (we like potted meat—so sue me!)…was surprised at how many places had already closed up shop. None of my neighbors, many who have been here for quite a few years, had boarded up or anything. Cool.

Sunday, I spent the day filling all plastic containers in the house with filtered tap water; we filled up milk jugs, coke bottles, etc., putting a lot of the smaller plastics in the freezer to try to make sure we’d keep the food in the freezer frozen. Then I peeked outside. Uh-oh. Quite a few of my neighbors had suddenly boarded up their windows.

So I started shuffling things around in the house, getting books away from windows and away from the known leaky spot in the house. I propped closet doors against the windows…just in case.

And then the power went out at 7pm.

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