Creating Comics, my way, part 2

Last time ( I talked about the genesis of a new idea called INSTINCT, how the basic idea formed, the initial script, the artistic genius of Sami Kivelä, and the first page of roughs of the artwork.

Sami also started to work on a rough idea for a cover image:

The main character, the diabolical evil genius named Dominic Arch, has an obsessive compulsive personality, especially regarding his clothing. While in prison, Arch has been deprived of his suit, which plays a large role in how he defines himself. And so, in return for his assistance, Arch negotiates the return of his suit. One of his main character tics will be the constant adjustment of his white gloves. Hence, this cover.

As far as covers go, I’m a huge fan of “less is more”. I’m not a big fan of the type of generic comic book cover where you see headshots of all the characters. I love the covers you see on Invincible. For my Long Gone GN, the cover was designed to look like an interior page, complete with panels and gutters and all. I like covers that look different, that will stand out on the shelves next to the other hundred-plus comic books.

Another continuing idea I want to incorporate here is the pitch. The pitch from the first part of this little series wasn’t very good, and I know that. Writing a pitch is hard work, probably the hardest thing about comics. How can you distill a huge idea full of intricacies and subtleties into a short paragraph? It’s tough, but it’s one of the biggest and most important things you can do for your comic.

For Long Gone, I worked for a long time to get the pitch right. I eventually came up with a tagline and the pitch, which were printed on the back cover of the book.

“The Meek Shall NOT Inherit the Earth”

“When the world’s superhumans band together to wipe out all of humanity, only old Abraham Connelly survives. Armed with experimental weaponry and a heart full of rage, Abe goes on a suicide mission to take down as many of the superhuman monsters as he can before they get him.”

That’s still not the best description, the best distillation of the book, but it worked, the publisher was happy, and I was able to stop bleeding from my ears whenever I fought to get it written.

So, Instinct: the pitch, take two.

“Dominic Arch is the world’s smartest and most dangerous villain. Or he was, until eight years ago, when he was captured and locked away for good in a secret government prison, never again to see the light of day. But when another dangerous, insane killer escapes from government custody, they have no choice but to unleash the Monster and send Arch into the world to bring the killer down. But will their solution be worse than the problem?”

That’s still not there. Still not perfect, but it’s getting closer to where I think it should be. And I don’t want to give away too much of the story here. I’d like you to read it and be surprised and excited about it. So not too many spoilers here.

I got some feedback from the editor, Andrew, where he said Instinct has a “Silence of the Lambs” vibe, and that hit the nail right on the head. That’s exactly what I was going for. You know what a high concept is? When you say “the story is like Bigfoot meets Men in Black (Proof)”, or “what if all the men died? (Y: The Last Man)”. It’s meant to be something you can pitch in 30 seconds. (Note: Brian K Vaughan is a master of the high concept idea. He’s also the master of the cliffhanger. Read Y, or read Ex Machina, and see for yourself.)

The high concept for Instinct, at this time, is “Silence of the Lambs meets (Steven Soderbergh’s) Contagion meets The Joker.” Or something to that effect.

And just as another example from my own work, Long Gone’s high concept was “The Walking Dead with superhumans instead of zombies.” See how that works? The high concept is actually a lot of fun.

So in conclusion to this second part of “Creating Comics, my way”, I just want to say that what I do and how I do it is by no means the right way or the only way. It’s the way that works for me, and it took me years (no joke) to get to the point where I was comfortable with all the various moving parts of comics to not struggle with the building blocks. Everyone works differently. Everyone writes differently. That’s another one of the great things about creating comics: there’s no one right way. If what I’m presenting here can help a creator with some of the process, that’s fantastic and I’m very happy about it, but make sure you make it your own. Put your spin on it. Figure out a way to work that works for you.

Next time I hope to have more artwork to show. I’m not rushing Sami, but I’m on the edge of my seat here…

Go do yourself a favor, and watch “Looper”. It was fantastic.

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