Creating Comics, my way, part 1

This week starts a new idea for me. I’m going to share in the process of creating a comic, from the basic idea through the artwork and beyond. We’ll take this here little journey together, what do you say?

Creating comics is a strange beast, because, unless you’re extremely talented, you generally don’t do it all by yourself. You have to be open to collaboration, which, in my opinion, is the best thing about creating comics.

As a writer, I’m always generating new ideas. My brain literally cannot help it. Everything I read, everything I see, everything I experience during the day all start to congeal into story ideas.

So that brings me to the newest idea I’m working on, called INSTINCT. Instinct is a story that generated from a few different places (don’t ask me to remember where those places were, though, my brain doesn’t work that way), some different ideas came together and boom…I had what I thought was a great story.

Here’s the elevator pitch: Instinct is the story of the world’s smartest, most dangerous, and most unpredictable villain, Dominic “The Monster” Arch, incarcerated for the rest of his life, is used by the government to interrogate other prisoners. When one of these other prisoners is slated to die by lethal injection, a small cadre of intelligence officers realize they need some information from him before he dies. That’s where Arch comes in.

Okay, that’s not the best description of the story, but I’m still working on it. Anyway, armed with that seed of an idea, I started scripting. I knew the opening scene, what I wanted to cover, what needed to be included. I generally will write an 8-page opening sequence for a story. I think 8 sequential pages is a pretty good indicator of what the story will be like, and eventually, look like.

Here’s a snippet of what my scripts look like (some is in Russian, as the guy sentenced to die is…well, Russian.)

Page One

3 page-wide panels

1/ Overhead shot: VASILY ROMANY (see separate character description) is lying on an operating table. He’s strapped down heavily, completely incapacitated. He has a band across his forehead as well, and a device is attached to his head that forces his eyes open, like little spider legs preventing him from closing his eyes. He has a maniacal smile on his face.

VOICE (off-panel): Are we rolling?

VOICE (off-panel): We are. Go ahead.

VOICE (off-panel): Vasily Romany. Can you hear me?

2/ Close-up on Romany’s face, his wide eyes all bloodshot, a few days worth of beard growth on his face, all patchy, his mouth open in a rictus kind of grin. He’s got bad teeth.

ROMANY: Я на Луне. Я твой Бог сейчас.

3/ Pull back to show Romany’s table is in the middle of a cage. There is nothing else in the cage except for a large light over the table, shining down on Romany. Outside the cage stand three men, two in ill-fitting suits, one in a lab coat holding a clipboard. The men in suits are smoking. These are AGENT FAYNE and AGENT AMBERSON. The man in the lab coat is DOCTOR WELLINGTON (see separate character descriptions).

FAYNE: He’s out of his goddamn mind, Doc. I thought you said he was better.

WELLINGTON: He was quite lucid earlier, Agent Fayne. I don’t know what to tell you.


That’s the first page. I like to set up opening pages with as few panels as possible, which is why I go for the page-wide shots. I like to draw a reader in gently, rather than hit them with 6 or 7 panels on page 1, but I’m also not a huge fan of the opening page splash. So this is what I do.

I wrote the 8 pages, proofed them, thought I was in good shape, and then started the hardest part of the process for a writer: finding an artist to create them. I possess very little artistic talent (I can draw you a picture of Batman, and have been known to do up a pretty decent Darth Vader for my kids), so I need to find artists to illustrate my stories. In all of my previous posts, I extol the virtues of the artists I work and partner with. I’m a very lucky guy to be surrounded by such talent. I discussed this story with a frequent collaborator, but he had other work going on (and he and I have at least three other stories in the works), so I decided to start the hunt.

The hunt started at Digital I used to have a much bigger presence on that site. A good 90% of the artists I’ve worked with in the past, I found through that site. It’s never let me down as a way to find new talent to work with, so I went back, posted the basic idea, what I was looking for, and waited for the emails to come rolling in.

And I didn’t wait long. I got an email from a talented Finland-based artist named Sami Kivelä, who recently illustrated the Markosia GN “Dark Lies, Darker Truths”, and I recognized the name right off the bat. Sami was interested, we discussed it, and came to an agreement to create the 8 page opening sequence to use as a pitch package for publishers.

So that part was taken care of. My next step was to get in touch with Andrew Brinkley, the man who edited my “Long Gone” graphic novel. Andrew really helped to shape LG and the way it turned out, and I really wanted Instinct to have that same type of tight, locked-down pace. Andrew dug the script, and agreed to edit. So three pieces of the puzzle were done.

Sami hit me with the roughs for the 8 pages. Here is page 1, compared with the script sample.

Pretty badass, no? That’s it for this post. Once I get the inked pages from Sami, I’ll do the second part of this little series of posts.

In the meantime, go check out the new Grizzly Bear album, “Shields”, as it is awesome.


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