Pam Harrison is one of the first and best known CGI artists in Independent Comics. Her work with the historical fiction series House of the Muses earned her the 2008 Prism Comics Queer Press Grant for Outstanding Series, and she continues her storytelling in a gripping sci-fi space opera adventure, A Deviant Mind, that far transcends its original LGBT audience. Her work has also appeared in ALPHABET Anthology, Dark Mischief horror anthology, Voices Against Bullying and more. 2008 Prism Comics Press Grant Award winner Pam Harrison has been credited by Comic Book Resources’ Brian Cronin and veteran comic legend Sergio Aragonés as “THE best CGI comic artist EVER”.
I’ve been writing for literally 40 years now. My creative influences came to birth in 1977, the year that Star Wars burst onto the scene, firing into existence my love and passion for Space Opera and the dream of creating a saga of my very own. There was plenty more going on in 1977 but Star Wars overshadowed most everything. I would go on to create a number of stories over the years from the award-winning House of the Muses, which is shortly about to re-debut in a larger graphic novel format, to my current science fiction space opera series, A Deviant Mind, which was created back in 1980 but waited 30 years for its independent comics debut. So if you’re worried that it’s too late to jump into the game, you’re wrong. It’s never too late. Grab a pen or a tablet or jump on your computer and start writing. When you’re creating a story, the first challenge is collecting that one big idea in your head and laying it down in a format people can follow. When you’re working with other artists, they have to be able to take your pages and your direction and lay the art in a clear linear fashion that not only tells your story to the readers, but excites, inspires, and leaves them wanting more.
Not every writer creates their stories the same. Some of us doodle in notebooks or notepads. I lay out my stories in blocks on Dramatica Pro 4.0, but I’ve been using that program for years. I freewheel quite a bit. Other writers like clear outlines and templates to lay out their story from start to finish. In comics and movies, stories are first laid out in storyboard format. This gives all the creators involved a clear idea of the story ahead, what it’s expected to look like, outline visual cues for the artists, and lay the groundwork for the epic. The idea in your head is the prologue for the story you want to tell. Always have a clear idea of your intro, your start, your story and your finish. If you need to visualize your script in storyboard to get a good grasp of how to tighten that up, I have some suggestions. I’m going to enclose some templates to give you a solid roadmap on how to write a tight script. Explore all of these and use the final script template for your finished product, and let me know how it goes. Go forth and be awesome.
If you need storyboards to start fleshing out your story, grab this template, along with several other script writing templates, from http://www.storyguide.net/gear/script.html
The most time-honored way to increase your expertise in writing is to pick your favorite writer, study what they do, how they do it, and write, write, write. You are only going to get better with practice.
Don’t forget to grab all the info you can from this article by veteran comic writer Fred Van Lente. Have more questions? Use the Comments section on this page and we’ll turn this resource into a seminar panel.
Fred Van Lente is the #1 New York Times bestselling, award-winning writer of comics like Archer & Armstrong (Harvey Award nominee, Best Series), Action Philosophers! (American Library Association Best Graphic Novel for Teens), and Cowboys & Aliens (with Andrew Foley), the basis for the feature film.
He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, the playwright Crystal Skillman, and some mostly ungrateful cats.
how to format a comics script
I’ve been very flattered over the years to be complimented on the way I format my comics scripts. I started developing this style when I was a teenager and discovered an unpublished Howard the Duck script that one of my heroes, Steve Gerber, had uploaded to CompuServe — this very script in fact, that a reader tracked down for me. I modified Gerber’s format considerably, particularly under the guidance of Lee Nordling, my supportive editor at Platinum Studios, when we did Cowboys & Aliens together. There have been a few tweaks since then, helped, if I remember correctly, by Nate Cosby while he was an editor at Marvel.
I was inspired to add this page to my site by lettering maestro Nate Piekos, who wrote a great article for his personal site talking about why he likes my format and the logic behind its layout.
So — keeping in mind there is no “right” or “standard” way to format a comics script — here’s templates on how I do it. This is what I think is the easiest-to-read and the most efficient format for the pencillers, inkers, colorists, letterers and editors to get the information they need to complete an issue.
Remember, save them to the “My Templates” folder in your Office Library or they won’t show up in Microsoft Word’s Project Gallery.
For more information on writing comics — not to mention drawing, inking, coloring, lettering, editing, pitching, publishing, and marketing them — pick up Make Comics Like the Pros by Greg Pak and I.
Click here for THE TEMPLATE WITH INSTRUCTIONS. (*.dotx)
Click here for a CLEAN TEMPLATE WITHOUT INSTRUCTIONS. (*.dotx)
Click here for a TEMPLATE FOR 1997-2004 MICROSOFT WORD. (*.dot)
UPDATES! The joy of open sourcing: Writers Michael Patrick McMullen and Rob Marland modified my template in useful ways. Michael made one for the Scrivener word processing program (which I highly recommend). Rob added fields to automatically add lettering and panel numbers. I am not a fan of auto-numbering but I also type about 90 words a minute (the joys of being an ex-temp) so manually adjusting the numbers is not a big deal for me. You, however, may feel differently, so here are his templates:
Click here to download MICHAEL PATRICK MCMULLEN’S SCRIVENER TEMPLATE. (*.scriv + related files)
Click here to download ROB MARLAND’S TEMPLATE WITH AUTO-NUMBERING FIELDS. (*.dotx)
Click here to download ROB’S AUTO-NUMBERING TEMPLATE WITH INSTRUCTIONS. (*.dotx)
Don’t email or tweet me for technical help. I’m not qualified to come to your aid. Fair warning!
Some completed scripts so you can see the format in action.
Hi…Jerrie here…Jay to my friends. Welcome to my new review spot…I like blogging about comics I am absolutely STOKED about!!!!! Ya hear me…STOKED! (Um…that picture isn’t me, by the way, but that’s what I’m using to represent me. it was made by Pam Harrison of one of my comic characters. Pretend it’s me. I AM a big black guy that smokes an occasional stogie…so the picture isn’t that far off to the real Jay.)
I will be going through my collection of independent comics…and I got a lot…talking about the series, why I love them. Hopefully I can get an interview with the creator on his /her thoughts about their work…hopefully, you’ll go out there and cop a copy of their comic for yourself (You can’t have my copy…GET YOUR OWN!!!!).
I meant to do this years ago. My wife got sick, and things went crazy. I just didn’t have the time, or the desire, really, with all that was going on in my life at that time.
But…BUT!!!! Now…Things are better, and I’ve been given a new chance to blog here about great independent series…that you guys NEED to be reading!!!!! So…get ready… JAY IS HERE!!!!!
A few things….
1…My reviews are totally biased…if I like it…I write about it. I don’t talk about work I don’t like. I HATE it when reviewers trash folks’ work. What’s the point? I don’t read stuff I don’t like…and not only that…whether I like it or not…that artist worked HARD on their book. Hours. Days. Just because I don’t like it…doesn’t mean it isn’t good work. I am a guy with an opinion. That’s it. Others may love what I hate…and hate what I love. I’d rather spend my time ranting on stuff I love and want others to check out!
2…If you submit a comic to me…and I don’t talk about it…please don’t be offended…I have three years back log on ICC books I wanna rant about. If I like yours…I WILL get to yours. I promise it will make its way into my numerous rants.
3…I like doughnuts. It has nothing to do with comic reviews…um…just thought I’d throw that out there…
Contact Pam Harrison if you are ready to be a Comic Review Editor, and you’ll get your own account here at ICC so you can create some magic. If you have any questions, any at all, contact me and we’ll get you rolling. Let’s get out there and Make ICC Rock!!!
Also needed: Art and Artist Spotlights, ICC Presents: (Which will give members an opportunity to present their comic, tell us a little about it, promo artwork and more), Video podcasts, Comic Convention Coverage and Updates, Upcoming Projects, How-To articles. Have some great suggestions on how to run a Kickstarter campaign? Want to share your expertise with DAZ Studio CGI techniques, Wacom tablets, Photoshop or Manga Studio? You will find an audience to share your wisdom here. When we get our Editors set up, you will have a point of contact for each area to submit your ideas and writing to.All comic book reviews must follow a standard format for maximum impact, and if this is your first time stepping into the world of comic review, there are many resources for inspiration to be found. Artwork, Photography, Video, Music, Poetry, Movie Making, Design, Cosplay. Whatever you enjoy doing, SHOW us. Tell us. This is a group dedicated and focusing on people as Individual Creators. The Talent is out there, we all have it. Let’s share it and also you can visit us on the web at http://www.independentcreatorsconnection.com/ Be sure to also visit our YouTube channel. Same rules apply as in the Independent Creators Connection Facebook group: If it’s a bad review, keep it constructive and polite. No bashing, no hate speech either in the review or the comments sections.
Why Review? To InformTo draw attention to good books — especially if they’re not as well-known as they should be — and to warn people away from bad ones. Although writing a bad review is easier than writing a good one, the best reviewers spend more time talking about good books than bad. It’s more productive in the long run, too.To Educate – To analyze the craft of creating a comic. To dissect how a good comic works or explain why a bad one doesn’t. To teach readers what lettering adds to a comic, or how panel layouts help or hinder the story, or any of a myriad other skills necessary to build a good comic book.To CommunicateTo start discussion or provide an alternative point of view. Beware, though, this may work against writing a good review, if the reviewer winds up discussing plot and characters too fannishly just to get responses. Also, reviewers shouldn’t cop an attitude just to get noticed. Attitude is cheap; content is rare.
To Develop Craft – To learn discipline and improve one’s writing and thinking.
To Get Free Stuff – If you’re good, and consistent, and build an audience, people may want to give you material in the hopes you will talk about it. However, it’s a mixed blessing: it’s great to get a chance to check out something you wouldn’t have bought for yourself, but review copies are a large responsibility, and the best material isn’t generally given away, so you’ll find a big range of quality in what you get (particularly if you’re starting out). For more on this topic, see How to Get Review Copies.
To Be Discovered – Please note that this is a bad idea, but some reviewers have this as a goal. Building a name for oneself cuts both ways; for everyone impressed by the comments (or opinions), there will be someone who takes it personally and holds a grudge. Plus, writing for comics is a different skill from writing about comics, so an aspiring creator had better be working on developing both abilities.
Comics journalism isn’t taken seriously in part because of this reason. It’s seen as a stepping stone instead of a craft in itself. Some professionals accuse critics of being jealous… and some critics are, but there are many more who aren’t. Many things are easier for competent writers to do instead of reviewing, and with most of them they’ll be better respected and maybe even paid. The medium needs intelligent criticism to continue growing and be taken more seriously.
Writing a Good Review: What to Cover
Ideally, reviews should be written of complete stories, chunks that provide a satisfying experience to a reader. Possibilities include graphic novels, trade paperbacks, complete miniseries, single-issue stories, and complete story arcs within a continuing series.
Reviewers covering monthly comics piecemeal should avoid assuming everyone read the previous issue. Coming up with something new to say about chapter 3 of 6 after reviewing parts 1 and 2 is challenging, but it can be done. Also, a reviewer might be criticized for not waiting until the end of the story to criticize it (especially if the comments are negative). It’s perfectly valid to review anything that’s offered for sale to the public, but it’s hard to evaluate the overall story without an ending.
Reviews should express an opinion about a work and say something interesting and unique. Online reviews should not go on longer than the reader wants to scroll. Also, short paragraphs are better; densely packed text can look daunting and unreadable on a computer screen.
What to Write
Pick a format and style and use them consistently. Include all the relevant pieces of information (creators, dates, titles) to identify the work being reviewed. Here’s one example:
COMIC TITLE: Subtitle (or #Issue Number(s))
Creator Credits, as printed in the work, one per line
US release date, if known, or cover date, or year of publication
Publisher, format (page count, binding, color or black-and-white, whether digital), price
[And don’t forget the website link to show people where to buy the comic. –Editor]
Tell readers something of what the comic is about, but keep it brief, and use spoilers as sparingly as possible. The plot of many standard-length comics can be summed up in a sentence or two. It may on occasion be impossible to discuss a story without revealing elements of it, but that should be a rare occurrence. Recommendations for or against a work should be based on the reviewer’s opinions and criteria, not the events of the story. A reader should be given enough information to determine whether or not she would find the comic interesting without her reading experience being ruined.
In the main body of the review, a reviewer should discuss what she liked and what she didn’t in regards to writing, art, plot, character representation, storytelling, and entertainment value. Comments should be balanced; there is always at least one thing in any comic that was well-done, and one thing that could be improved. Give examples. The reader should understand the basis for the reviewer’s opinions. I shouldn’t need to say this, but avoid personal remarks. Discuss the work, not the creator.
All comic reviews should contain art criticism; one doesn’t have to be an artist to describe what one sees and give opinions on it. Do items and characters look like what they’re supposed to be? Do the panels flow smoothly, supporting the story? Is the reader’s eye led in the right direction by the layout? Do the word balloons fit into the composition? Think about how the words and pictures work together to create the story. A reviewer who doesn’t cover both art and text is reviewing a plot, not a comic.
The tone should be informed and intelligent, but not superior. Readers may be ignorant of the work, but they aren’t stupid. Keep it friendly and entertaining. Readers are interested in the reviewer’s reactions and opinions, and some personal information may be necessary to understand the reviewer’s perspective (if she’s never read a comic in that genre before, for example, or if she previously worked with the writer), but reviews are not about name-dropping or unrelated life anecdotes.
Ratings are not mandatory. Some critics sum up their reviews with one, but other people find them unnecessarily simplistic. Regardless, they should match the comments given. The reader shouldn’t be left wondering why the rating is higher or lower than the rest of the review suggests. The scale should also be obvious and understandable, and the rankings should be consistent across reviews.
Try hard to get an overview of the entire medium. While it’s economically understandable that hobby reviewers can’t afford to spend that much money, reviewers who stick only with what they’ve already decided to buy are doing their readers (and themselves) a disservice. Be creative in finding ways to expand coverage. Many reviewers cut deals with their local shops to borrow comics in order to read more widely, for instance. Reviewers also owe it to their readers to be familiar with the best-known and -respected works of the medium (not just the superhero genre).
Given the bizarre nature of the comics industry, be sure to include information on how to obtain the book at the end of the review. If it’s a small press title, include the publisher contact address and/or website. If someone wants to read the reviewed book, let her know how. Also, be sure to state whether you received the comic for free for review.
Risks of Reviewing
Just because someone’s working in comics as a professional doesn’t mean they’ll have a professional attitude regarding criticism. People who should know better sometimes take comments purely about their work personally and respond on a personal level. No one’s handing out maturity with comic book work; sometimes a reviewer has to laugh and move on. In return, the critic’s behavior must be mature enough that people aren’t laughing at her, either.
There are also many people out there who identify too closely with the published work. With creators, at least it’s understandable; the fans, though, can be scary, especially the ones who take a negative comment on the latest superhero book as a personal attack. If fans become too pushy or threatening, take necessary precautions, such as using a post office box instead of a home address for review copy submissions.
Critics have to put up with being evaluated and reviewed themselves. No matter how bulletproof a review (in terms of pointing out flaws with copious examples; keeping the discussion about the work, not the creative team; and clarifying with terms like “in my opinion”), there will be immature people who will take a differing opinion as an excuse to question the critic’s intelligence, sex life, and general worth as a human being. Be prepared to ignore immature responses, no matter who they’re from.
On the other hand, don’t be one of those people who rank being right over being a decent human being. Keep the work in perspective. A bitter reviewer can be fun to read once or twice, but not long-term. People can be entertained by or find useful information from criticism even if they disagree.
Benefits of Reviewing
Everyone has their own list, but mine includes the intellectual joy of figuring out why I liked or disliked something, and the pleasure of expressing it well. I’ve met a lot of interesting people through comic fandom, and this is my way of giving something back.
Even if you disagree with me, please think about the issues I’ve raised. You may come to different conclusions, but you ought to be able to answer these questions:
- What approach should reviewers take?
- What’s their perspective?
- What are their criteria for “good” and “bad”?
- Are they able to distinguish “good” from “what I like”?
Reviewing is an art, like any other form of writing. Support the good, avoid the bad, and keep encouraging improvement.
It’s super easy to advertise on Independent Creators Connection!
Bidding with Project Wonderful is fast and fun: your ad can be up on Independent Creators Connection in seconds! Bid whatever price you’d like, for as long as you’d like: two days, a week, a year – it’s your choice, and you’re only charged for the time your ad is shown. You can also set hard expense limits on your bids, so you never get charged more than you expect. Find out more about the auction process here!
Here we’ve collected all sorts of information about this advertising spot on Independent Creators Connection. Look around — and when you’ve seen enough, you can enter your bid under that big “place your bid” header below!
About the Writer: Winston Jordan is the writer and creator of Dragon Trio under his brand, Inkpot Comix. Buy his comics and collaborations on IndyPlanet.us!
One thing I’ve always been told is that I am good at pitching and marketing things. It’s not that hard to do, just think from the consumer’s point of view. Here are two main No-No’s for independent comic book creators when it comes to marketing your product:
1. It’s not enough to simply say ‘Go buy my comic’. All that’s going to happen is your post will simply get looked over. You need to tell me why I can’t live without this book and why I’m making the biggest mistake of my life by not checking it out. What sets Fartman and DooDooBoy #1 apart from the other 75 gazillion comic books out there? Why should I buy it and not the one sitting next to it? Sell me the damn thing. Did you really go through the trouble of producing an entire comic…raising money and paying a creative team if you did not do the work yourself , printing costs, to Simply sell the product with ‘go buy my comic’? If that’s the case I certainly hope the book is better than your advertising prowess. You should put as much passion into the advertising and marketing as you did into the creation. Now is not the time to get lazy. And that’s okay if all you want are friends and family purchases. But what convinces a complete stranger to buy it?
2. When pitching your comic in a short paragraph. One of the biggest mistakes that you can make when asked to describe it is to compare it to other properties. I hate to see someone write a pitch for a book and they say ” It’s Star Wars meets Battletoads” or whatever. That’s a cop out and it’s a very lazy way to describe your property.
Harsh realities. Okay, Cupcake, you’ve got a comic book out now the real work starts. No one can buy it if they don’t know it’s out there.
Here are some Google links to help you research what makes a real comic book pitch, and get the word out there.
Oct 25, 2012 – Comic Revolt offers up tips and examples on successfully pitching your comic book to editors.
Join us on July 1st 2017 in Cocoa, Florida as we celebrate the Third Convention for ICC! Join and meet some amazing and wonderful Independent Creators, Artists, Writers, Cosplayers, Film Makers, Actresses, Photographers and more as we show you how it’s done! Walk throughout the convention center to see a ton of display and vendors doing their thing! There will be contests, panels, movies showing and more! Our Con will have everything you want at a Con and more! Here is the facebook event page with full BIO of all our vendors and guests
WHEN: JULY 1ST 2017, Doors open 10 AM! WHERE: SPACE COAST CONVENTION CENTER, 301 TUCKER LANE,COCOA, FL 32926
This one you don’t want to miss! ICC knows how to throw a Party and a CON! ICC will house a variety of vendors and booths to showcase many multi talented individuals! Contact Terance Baker @ 352 260-5779 for any questions you have!
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TO READ THE FULL BIO OF EACH OF OUR GUEST CLICK on this link at ICCON3 EVENT PAGE
and EVEN MORE GUESTS COMING SOON !!!!!!!!!!
VERY IMPORTANT MESSAGE!
Here is our third YouTube movie from One cool studio! I want to thank all the cast members who did an outstanding job on this film with no rehearsal time!
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