By Jim Zub April 17, 2012
Last blog post I showed you a sample of a comic strip script for Sky Kid so you had a better understanding of the format and approach I take when explaining to the artist what’s required. For Sky Kid my scripts need to inform and create a picture in Jeff’s mind while still giving him the flexibility to add extra visual flare and expand upon my initial narrative ideas. Comic creation, with a separate writer and artist, is a collaborative effort and both sides of the equation, both words and pictures, need their moments to shine.
Working on a comic strip, like the stories here on Shifty Look, is quite a bit different from the writing I’ve done on 20+ page comic issues. The format is, forgive the pun, really “stripped” down. When you’re working with only 3-6 panels at a time there isn’t an ounce of fat. Every single panel needs to move the story forward with character development or action. It’s a unique challenge and one I’m still learning about as I go through the first season of Sky Kid. With my first draft of each strip script I tend to over write, putting in more dialogue than is really necessary. Then, usually after Jeff has sent along his rough panel layout drawings, I go back through and mercilessly cut redundant text to tighten it up. Sky Kid is action-oriented and that means the text should get right to the point and give Jeff lots of room to show-off airborne adventure.
When it comes to dialogue, I have to make each line distinctive and punchy. Comic strips don’t have enough space for rambling or unnecessary dialogue. Max’s distinctive “voice” has to come through in the short lines he’s given. His quiet and contemplative nature is built to instantly contrast against Red’s boisterous banter filled with contractions and witty improper grammar. Even if you only read one or two sentences of each character, their personality comes through loud and clear by design.
After I’ve written the dialogue, I generally read it out loud to myself. Typing lines on a screen is one thing, but actually hearing the lines properly spoken in sequence gives me the clearest understanding of how they all work together. Saying the words aloud and making minor adjustments afterwards gives me a feel for their cadence, pacing and clarity. It’s the final polish before I send the script along for approval.
Now you know some of my comic writing secrets! Use the knowledge to create your own spiffy comic stories online or in print.