Thursday, August 27, 2009

An Item of Interest

So, as I have been talking about writing comics, I figured it couldn't hurt to put up an excerpt from the first issue of "The Dreamers' Daughter" which I am working on with Charlie Harper. These will be the first page of our first issue, right now tentatively numbered "0". If you're really feeling adventurous, you can go to Charlie's site where he has posted the first few illustrated pages, and match the two for a full comic reading experience. Now, without further ado:

The Dreamers’ Daughter
Issue 1
Life is Beautiful Part 1 of 5: A Family Divided
Written by Jeremy Whitley
Created by Jeremy and Alicia Whitley

Page 1: (6 panels)

Panel 1: We open inside of a house in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The house is abandoned but clearly not empty. The remnants of a family’s possessions are still here. It looks as if the residents left in a hurry. Everything is covered in a layer of ash. The results don’t look as if the house itself has been on fire, but like ash had taken the place of dust. The windows are soot stained. A voice echoes from somewhere outside, accompanied by the sound of metal clinking against metal.


Clink, clink, clink

Ats right, ease it in just lak dat.

Panel 2: A desk lies abandoned. It too is covered in ash. A newspaper lies open. A partially covered headline reads: “Wildfire Fallout Sweeps Northward”. There are a number of books on the desk concerning race and politics as well as a book titled: “The Last Dreamers”.

Oh, come on, it ain’t dat damn complex.

Panel 3: A teen’s bedroom. Decorated primarily in yellow and black. Style should imitate as closely as possible (without copyright infringement) the styles of the Pittsburgh Steelers or Pirates. The bed is unmade and the room is left in a dirty state. There are clothes strewn about on the floor and bed. The floor is littered with books, papers, and toys.

I say na lak dat, ya dumb gull. Get outta da way, lemme do it.

Panel 4: The living room. The whole room is covered in ash. The couches are covered in plastic.

Good laad gal, ya’d think ya’d neva picked a lock in ya life. It’s ga-damned simple.

Panel 5: The front door, which leads into the living room, is being unlocked.

Do exactly what I tell ya ta fuckin’ do

Panel 6: The door pops open, the voice is coming from just outside the door. The arm of a hairy white man is opening the door.

And voila, the damn door opens itself.

Page 2: (1 panel)

Panel 1: Two figures stand in the doorway looking in. One of the figures is a white man with heavy body hair. He is dressed in a tank top, shorts, boots, and a gas mask. Voice 1 belongs to this figure, Terry Oliver. The second figure is a female who appears to be roughly sixteen years old. This is Lil. She wears a gasmask, a black hoodie, a skirt, and long black boots. Her skirt is worth particular mention as it is a patchwork of several different materials. The materials are collected scrap and contain things such as a piece of blanket, straps of cloth bed linens, and even a large piece of tin. She stands cowed and uncomfortable. The man is exasperated.

Page 3: (2 panels)

Panel 1: The man holds his arm out impatiently, indicating that the girl should enter.

What now, ya wanna damn invitation? What is with you today Lil? Ca’int ya do nothin’ without ma help.


Page 2: Terry looks around the house, as if surveying the ocean from the deck of his ship. Lil is opening a large burlap sack.

Yeah, dis is good. Cain’t believe all dis shit’s been sittin’ here ten years just waitin’ fer someone ta open Pittsburgh back up.

Where do we start?

Page 4: (5 panels)

Panel 1: Terry looks back at Lil.


Panel 2: Lil demonstrates with a sweep of her hand.

Where do we start?

Panel 3: Terry grabs the sides of his gas mask.

Damn it, hold on.

Panel 4: Terry removes his gas mask revealing a balding man in his forties. He looks irritated and uncomfortable. His face is red.

Oh, thank God. I gotta say Lil, of all da shit you come up wit, dese gas masks is da dumbest. It’s ash. It ain’t even in da air. Now what’d ya say?

Panel 5: Lil is still wearing her mask, but her head is hung extra low. She looks as if Terry were physically bullying her.

I was just asking where to start.

I’m startin in the kitchen. You start at the end a dat hallway, far away from me.

Page 5: (5 panels)

Panel 1: Lil pokes her head around the corner into the office.

Won’t be long now fore the Initiative starts hittin’ all the houses in Pittsburgh. Public servants ma ass!

Panel 2: Lil is dumping pens and office supplies into her bag wholesale.

The government tells em to clean up Pittsburgh, make it livable again. I ga-ron-tee ya; they’ll treat the whole damn city like a yard-sale.

Panel 3: Lil unfolds the newspaper. The headline is fully revealed as well as a lower headline that says, “Black American Movement holds rally in North Carolina”.

And dey’ll have da nerve ta call us thieves and gypsies while air own people do it rat unda dair noses.

Panel 4: Lil takes off her gas mask to read the paper.

It’s a damn shame ya’ cain’t trust the government no more. Reagan and Bush never woulda let it get lak is.

Panel 5: We get our first look at Lil’s face as she pours over the newspaper. She is a cute thin sixteen-year-old girl with dark hair, dark eyes, and vaguely Hispanic features. At least, she would be cute if she didn’t look so glum most of the time. She looks happiest when she is reading. She pours closely over the paper.

Ah swear, sometimes a don’t know who’s worse. Da government or da niggers dey’re supposed to be protectin us against.

Page 6: (6 panels)

Panel 1: Lil tosses the paper in the trashcan next to the desk.

Ya even lis’nin girl?

Panel 2: Lil picks up the book, “The Last Dreamers” from the desk.

Yes, dad.

Panel 3: Lil thumbs it open to the title page. It reads: “The Last Dreamers. A novel of hope. By Jonothan Wallace”.

Den speak da hell up, why don ya? It’s important ta know where ya’ come from. Damn niggers chased us right out a’ house and home.

Panel 4: She flips to the next page. There is a dedication. It reads: “For Zuri: The Dreamers’ Daughter”

We’ll get those niggers someday, Dad.

Panel 5: Lil closes the book and rolls her eyes. She’s clearly skeptical of Terry.

Damn raat, we will Lil. Don’t nobody take from Terry Oliver. Especially dat nigger Esau King. If I e’er see dat head nigger…

Panel 6: Lil drops the book into her bag as she exits. On the wall next to the exit is a poster. The poster has a picture of Esau King in multiple tones. His name is displayed across the bottom, with the letters BAM at the beginning. At the top it says: “WAKE UP!” Below that is a family picture of the family that owned the house, they are black and well dressed.

The dreamers’ daughter…

So there that is, the first 6 pages and the introduction to our story. There is more on the way in the near future, so keep an eye turned to both my and Charlie's pages OR join us at the Baltimore Comic Con to get the first look at the finished product.

Till then homies,

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How to write a comic book

So, I've titled this post overly ambitiously on purpose. Having worked on a couple of projects, this is really just going to be a matter of tips and hints for the ne'er do well who aims to follow.

1) Have a story. There is nothing more paralyzing than getting halfway through a script and realizing that you don't know what comes next. Trust me, I do it all the time and it rarely goes well.

I'm a rebel when it comes to outlines, I hate the little creeps, but some amount of outlining is necessary. Comics, like music and comedy, have an element of dynamic timing. Don't believe me? Go back and look at some of your favorite books and see what the writers and artists do. The big daddy of them all is the flip page reveal:

Character 1 says, "And it'll take hell to stop me". Someone off panel says, "Why don't you try me first." In the next panel, character 1 sees who it is and shouts "You! You were supposed to be dead!" End of page.

This is a time honored tradition both in comics and television. While tv has the option of revealing before or after the break, comics have to make you pull the next page. BOOM! ADD! Or reveal, you know, one of those. Real experts at this are Brian K Vaughn, Brian Michael Bendis, and Joss Whedon.

2) Setting - this is one of the most commonly overlooked pieces to the comic puzzle. So many writers take it for granted. The first thing you should remember is that your artist doesn't have that luxury. More often than not, things happen somewhere. If you don't say where it is, they have to assume. Some big books can get away with this. For example: a ridiculous number of things in Marvel happen in either Times Square or Central Park. Real New York writers and artists feel more genuine. They know where things happen. When Peter Parker has to go from Flat Iron to Soho, they know how long that'll take.

If you're good and careful enough, your setting will reward you by being a character all its own. For an example of this try either DMZ or the classic The Sandman. DMZ takes on the real New York as an urban battleground. Where things are is of the utmost importance. One could argue that in this book Brian Wood's main character isn't fly by the seat of his pants reporter Matty at all, but NYC herself. In the case of Gaiman's "The Sandman" I never cease to be amazed. Gaiman has fashioned a world so complete and full that it becomes an exterior extension of a hopelessly inward looking character.

3) Get to know your artist: Every comic is different, some stories are different, and artists (as a whole) are different. Beyond that, artists are also different from one another. You need to know where your artist's strengths lie. You can't write the same thing for every artist. A lot of layout and panel structure will be up to your artist, but be sure to give them something they can work with. Some artists live for the splash pages. Some live for details. Some just like a challenge. Let's take two great and well known artists: Jim Lee and JH Williams III.

Jim draws in mostly blocky boxes. He does exaggerated figure and heavy crosshatching. Jim is ideal for drawing the dark, the gritty, and the violent. Jim's look dominated comics for a while, but he has nothing on JH for what JH does best.

JH Williams III is currently working on Detective Comics and has a huge amount of buzz around himself and Batwoman. Williams makes beautiful superheroines and painfully normal real people. He is also a master of page composition. You will rarely see just one picture on a page from Williams, even if it is a two page splash. His panels will be strangely shaped, his characters reaching from one panel to the next. While Jim is a master of the image, JH is a master of the page. You may not see as many giant posters with Williams' art on it, but open to any two pages to Detective Comics and you'll feel the electricity.

If all else fails, ask your artist what they want to do. If they read your scripts (assuming they like them) there are bound to be a few things they'll be excited about drawing. Figure out what they need and give it to them. Check out Jeph Loeb's stuff. He has a larger hater base than almost any writer I've seen, but he's still in business because he gets the best artists and lets them do what they do. It is a team sport after all folks.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

On the Verge

Alright, finished "Vol 1" of New West, needs to be loved a little bit by the hands that edit, but there is time for that. That, after all, is the book without an artist. Alicia is worried it will offend people...I am too. I sorta hope it will, but not in the punch in the mouth kinda way, more like a solid shove. I've done my best to tell the story from the point of view of a man who knows that he is right in a world full of sides that know they are right. I feel love for it, but I wonder will it ever see light of day.

I haven't written in my Dreamers' Blogs in two weeks. That is unfortunate as they are important to me, but at the moment I feel no drive to do that. My mission now, I feel, needs to be to get the books ready for convention. I want to work up a good package for both books. Right now, I need to figure out where I'm going. I'm feeling a little listless and I need to reel myself in and concentrate on my pieces and stop being befuddled by the big picture.