Writing a Comic Strip vs. Comic Page
Hey Gang, As Pete and myself get back to posting on a more regular basis, I wanted to start us off with a bang. I wanted to post the mini adventure strip Michele and myself did that was featured in Savage Dragon #226. You can check out Part 1 of 4 below, along with a little behind the scenes walkthrough of creating a comic strip verses a traditional comics page.
Now I know I’m biased, but didn’t Michele and Ed do an amazing job? I love the art in tandem with the colors. It’s a great action packed scene that ends on a cliff hanger, just like the old newspaper strips. But being that it’s a strip and not a traditional comic page, there was some things we had to do differently. Things I was unaware of until writing one. For starters, a strip is shorter than a traditional page. So, both myself and Michele had to get everything out, story and character wise, in a smaller amount of real estate. Plus, each strip has to have a definite beginning, middle, and end to it. Yes, there’s some truth to that in a comic page, and you want to end on a panel that is a page turner, but a strip must have all those factors clearly defined. First, we came up with the story premise, of a cabby who was touring a couple newspaper reporters around. Michele created a great character in the form of 13 year old Takezo “Take Away” Urasawa.
This way, a new reader unfamiliar with Rum Row, could have a fun filled action story and get to see a bit of our world. As you read the strip, we had to introduce and set up everything pretty quickly, without bogging down the action. Instead of writing it the way I traditionally write scripts, with each panel having a fully written description, we decided to write plot or “Marvel Style”. I gave Michele a small synopsis and let him panel it himself, like this: Part 1: We open on Take Away and two reporters (one a journalist and the other a photographer) being shot at by machine gun fire in his cab - the Yellow Hornet. They’ve flown right into the middle of a turf war between the Fenians and the Apaches. The journalist is screaming at Take Away that this is not what he meant by a tour of the Row. The photographer doesn’t seem to mind, and is taking pictures the entire time. During their argument, on the last panel we see the cab in the crosshairs of one of the bi-plane’s machine guns. To Be Continued… You see? By doing it this way, it allows Michele to panel it in the space provided at his own pace, without trying to cram all my panel suggestions in. Adam, our letterer and production team member, gave Michele a template, and Michele did the layouts shown below.
Once we got approval from Adam, and both agreed on the panels, Michele moved to the pencils and inks.
Then onto the fantastic colors from Ed.
Now, since I didn’t do a full script with panel by panel dialogue, I went in after to complete that step. Normally I make tweaks to dialogue after seeing the finished art, because sometimes facial expressions are simply more effective than anything I could have them say. But this was starting from scratch. Finally, after that was completed, Adam added the modified logo and letters. He did a nice job of giving it that old timey strip feel in my opinion. All in all, it was a fun experience, and thanks to the entire team working together, I think it really turned out great. As writing as many scripts as I have and will continue to write, it can be nice to change up your process from time to time. Well that’s it for now, so I hope you enjoyed it. Make sure to join our Facebook pages for more weekly project focused updates for Rum Row, and for Aldous Spark. We have lots of great art to post coming soon. Best, Andrew