All posts by Tim Thiessen

08Sep/20

Craft: Scott Wakefield – Applying Research

Hello Silverline Family, today’s contributor is going to be very familiar for any follows of our weekly live-cast. I have the pleasure of working with Scott Wakefield every Wednesday on WHAM! so it felt natural to ask him for a piece here. Scott and I both share a passion for history and with his upcoming book focused on a subject he heavily researched, I asked him to talk about the process. So here is Scott Wakefield talking about how he applied research to writing comics.

Applying Research

I’ve seen many illustrations about an artist’s work behind the work the public actually sees. A good example is the image of an iceberg with most of its mass hidden below the water’s surface, or mountains of notebooks, or 3×5 cards beside the final piece. In almost every instance⎯a speech, painting, novel, anything ⎯ those images hold true. It’s rare for any dedicated artist to jump into their work without study, thought, planning, rough drafts, character sketches, or any manner of methods before their final creation. Everyone’s methods are as different as their art, but we can’t deny that countless hours go into making something beautiful.

In my case, I must admit to fighting off a neurotic desire to study every piece of the relevant history, because if I didn’t, I’d have a treasure trove of knowledge, but no actual story. As Rory and I create Steam Patriots we have mountains of material to draw from, and if we don’t curtail our zeal to include everything that tickles our interest, this story could very easily fly out of control into a useless collection of trivia. The American Revolution has been studied from every angle imaginable, and analysis continues to this day. We had to decide on specific events and people we wanted in our story, and not get distracted by every nugget of shiny history that caught our eyes.


We likewise decided at the very start that we wanted to include bits of lesser-known history and individuals who didn’t share much of the historical limelight. This serves two purposes for us: we’re able to inform readers about interesting US history that might have otherwise been left out of common lessons; and we have material at our disposal in which the details are sometimes slim, allowing a little leeway for creative interpretation of so-and-so and such-and-such. Real people did actual, truly heroic acts, and we never want to steal that from them with our fictional re-telling of the Revolutionary War.

That may sound a little silly, since we’re telling a story about steam technology, improved by Benjamin Franklin, being used in the late 1700s. Why not just throw real history out the window and write the darn story however we please? That was certainly an option, but Rory and I decided that the real story is so interesting that we didn’t want to overshadow it with our steamified whimsy.

After the initial kernel of our idea solidified, we then looked at establishing the big timeline picture. Our story would start at the Battle of Long Island in 1776, and end, well, at the end of the war in 1783, with perhaps some epilogue of sorts. Then, we needed important milestones along the way. Here we created a spreadsheet to begin logging our discoveries. Our fictional hero, Felix Ward, wasn’t going to flit about the continent participating in every key moment, so we limited events to those around New York, Philadelphia, and the northern campaigns. Wikipedia can be a great resource if you scroll to the bottom and use the sources of particular entries. Finding a timeline with hyperlinks started us down a rabbit hole of open browser tab after open browser tab.


This is why the spreadsheet has been an invaluable tool. With the story timeline as the initial goal, we were able to plug in information as we worked our way through research. When something caught our attention, and fit within our story parameters, we’d find out what happened and who was there, and as we built this collection of data, we’d see if and how Felix could be involved. Oddities and the obscure have been the true gems. Our goal then became finding out how much was actually known, with the hope that details were scant, which would allow us to lay claim to it, in a manner of speaking.

At the start, one key resource has been David McCullough’s 1776. As we read, we highlight and tab, while adding pertinent information to our spreadsheet. And as I mentioned at the start of this article, we discard most of it, including only the minutest fraction in the story.

In the world-building aspect, we looked to biographies and autobiographies of important figures to help us craft their character, and give us insight into the day-to-day particulars of late 18th-century life. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is a quintessential example of contemporary source material. Similarly, first-hand accounts of battles written at the time of the event are indispensable.

I wish, as most artists probably do, that consumers of our craft were able to see the effort that goes into creating, but it’s not feasible. Besides, while we think the background information is just the bee’s knees, not everyone wants to know how the sausage is made.

In the end, I hope the time put into the final distillation will shine through and prove a delight.

18Aug/20

Craft: C. Michael Lanning – Shapes of Things to Come

Hey Silverline Family! I was able to reach out to penclier C. Michael Lanning and ask him to tell us a little bit about how his brain works. He was gracious enough to oblige and decided to do me one better. In the following article, C. Michael explains why his brains works the way it does know. This is a great piece on not just how he crafts his art but why he crafts it that way! Please read on as C. Michael talks how he relearned how to draw and how that affects his character designs in comics.

Shapes of Things to Come

Constantly, Facebook groups are filled with people begging for advice on how to start drawing. Just as consistent as the question, is the answer, “learn anatomy.” I’m here to tell you that if you’re new to drawing, learning anatomy first is the worst thing you could do for yourself. Especially, if your medium is sequential art.

What?! How could I speak against such sage advice?

Simple, I made the same mistake. When I picked up the pencil again after so many years, I joined a class taught by David Finch on superhero anatomy. I mean, why wouldn’t I? It’s David Finch. So, I learned where the muscles go and what muscles to look for in the pectoral region and yada yada yada. So on and so forth. Here’s the thing, in comics, you have to know how to draw everything, and drawing a bicep isn’t going to help me draw a Buick. Really, I had taken this moderate class as a beginner instead of waiting to learn the foundations first. The foundation of shapes.

Before you blow out my eardrums yelling at me about having learned your shapes back in kindergarten, understand what I mean. How many times have you picked up a drawing book instructing you to draw a face using a circle and some lines? Is it wrong? No…and yes. In my opinion, they are teaching you to think two-dimensionally instead of three-dimensionally.

Have you done it? Have you followed those steps wholeheartedly only to find yourself staring at a flat drawing? Wallowing in confusion and minor hair loss, trying to figure out what you could’ve done wrong? You drew the circle. You added the lines. Why doesn’t it look like a masterpiece?!

It may be because you drew a circle when you should’ve drawn a sphere. What’s the difference? Perception…and three dimensions.

Look at Fig. 1, I used a simple circle and line construction. Now, in Fig.2 I thought of my circle as a sphere, and followed the form with my pencil, like tracing the roundness of a ball. If you don’t want flat drawings, don’t draw flat. Just imagine you are drawing on the three dimensional surface of your subject. This thought pattern is going to apply to everything you draw and, once you start seeing shapes in this 3D form, you’re going to recognize it in everyday life.

Warning, you’re going to stare…a lot, but you’re not a creep. At least, let’s hope not. Your staring is actually observations of the shapes and forms creating poses, folds in clothing, and numerous objects. Afterward, you’ll be able to visualize how that bicep you learned to draw fits into a greater dynamic form.

Dynamic form? What happened to learning shapes?

Dynamic forms are new shapes morphed from your understanding of 3D form. For instance (Fig. 3) your forearm could be considered a triangle. When you morph it into a cone it becomes 3 dimensional, but don’t stop there. Add the dips and the roundness you’ve noticed from being an observer and it morphs into the outline of a forearm, into a dynamic form. Now, the muscles you learn from studying anatomy fit into that form. Understanding forms and shapes first make learning anatomy easier than if you had studied anatomy first.

Morphing your squares into cubes, triangles into cones and circles into spheres is going to increase your understanding of form exponentially. So much so that if you’re presented with a challenge of having to draw something you’ve never drawn before you don’t have to run out and get a step by step book on how to draw it. Observe the subject then apply your knowledge of shapes and forms into figuring out how to draw it. It’s not the only key to drawing, there’s always more to learn, but this foundation will keep you from suffering more than you have to.

The great thing about this foundation is that it helps no matter what style you want to draw. If it’s cartoonish or realistic (Fig. 4.), you’ll be able to switch back and forth depending on what the project calls for.

So learn those shapes, study those forms, and become a creep…I mean an observer.

11Aug/20

Title Spotlight: Marauder

Some say there’s honor among thieves and some say that when they put one of yours in the hospital, you put two of theirs in the morgue. Both phrases were probably said at some time by the Kirk Connell, the hero of Marauder.

Marauder marks a change in tone for Silverline veteran Sidney Williams. This title is a true high octane action-adventure book from the master of horror. Marauder comes complete with gunfights, knife-fights, judo-flips, a rocket launcher, and heavily armed spy boats. During this escapade, William takes the reader across the Atlantic from New York to Paris as one man’s quest for justice pits him against a shadowy band of mercenaries.

We start this quest in New York during your typical diamond heist. A stone precious beyond cost in a heavily guarded museum display case. Two men tasked by the Thieve’s Guild with the diamonds capture. Those two men are Kirk and his mentor Lumley. Of course, it can’t go all according to plan.

Their heist is quickly crashed by a band of heavily armed mercenaries gunning for the same diamond. Whereas the Thieve’s went in with stealth in mind, the mercs are more of the smash-and-grab type. A firefight breaks out and Lumley goes down. Kirk tries to fight back but the mercs brought a rocket launcher and send Kirk running for cover, leaving the diamond behind. The leader of the mercenaries hits Kirk with a marker round but leaves to recover his compatriot, assumed dead.

Kirk returns to the Thieve’s guild and seeks their blessing in hunting down the gunmen. He does not receive it but decides to pursue them anyway. He is forced to leave the guild and fend for himself in his new venture with Lumley disabled.

The leader of the assault team, a man named Elapse turns over the diamond to Judas Rathbone also known as the Vulture. Judas runs this mercenary outfit and has put together a new plan, they just needed the diamond to finance it. He tasks Elapse now with capturing Jasmine Stowe, one of the world’s leading financial experts. With her working for the Vulture, he can hold the world’s markets hostage.

Meanwhile, Kirk takes Lumley to a specialized medical facility in hopes of saving his life. The situation is dire, but Kirk is desperate. As it turns out, Kirk made the right call. Lumley pulls through but without the use of his legs.

Across the world in the French Riviera, Elapse and another merc known as Chasm find Jasmine Stowe on vacation with a friend and take them both. The countdown is set until Jasmine breaks under their torture and helps them manipulate the world’s markets. It’s up to Kirk to get there in time and dish out justice with the help of Lumley.

Marauder is a classic action-adventure story. With a globe-trotting hero, a conspiracy bent on world domination and a powerful 80’s-action-star-mullet, what’s not to love? This story will have something in it for any sort of action fan with elements pulling from shoot-em-up movies, to international intrigue, and high-tech gadgets.

What really makes Marauder it’s own is its ability to pull on classic tropes without falling into cliche or the pitfalls common in the genre. Perhaps the prevalent example of this is its avoidance of a romance sub-plot. Jasmine turns out to be just as much a hero as Kirk. Their stories happen in parallel but they don’t intersect until the very end. Each character operates in more than one dimension, caring about the bigger issue at hand but also trying to take care of their existing friendships but Williams takes care to not muddy the water with forced romance that could undermine the stakes each character faces.

You can also see that in how the story avoids another common pitfall of action stories. That issue being action-leading-to-action. This is what happens where the story just feels like one prolonged fight as the story is driven only by encounters with little room for character. Each issue has its fair share of fights and chases, but there is a lot of time spent on each character working to achieve their goals or even just existing outside of combat. This does a lot to add to the pacing of the story as well as make the characters all feel that much more real.

Marauder is a definite must-read for fans of action-adventure stories that want something that knows what works and what’s familiar but doesn’t let the formula dictate how the story is told.

Marauder was created and written by Sidney Williams. A Silverline vet who is known for his work on Mantus Files, Bloodline, Friar Rush, and many others. Williams is also an accomplished novelist with many titles under his belt.

The art was penciled by Jaxon Renick who is known by Silverline readers for his work on Silverstorm Volume 2 and the upcoming White Devil.

That same art was inked by Chuck Bordell who also inked Silverstorm Volume 2, Sirens, Switchblade, and the upcoming White Devil.

The lettering was done by Brad Thomte, Debbie Woods, and Larry Rains.

Marauder is currently being colored by Rebecca Winslow with plans to be re-released in the future in full color.

21Jul/20

Craft: Luis Czerniawski – Why I Keep Coming Back to the Shadows

Hey Silverline Family, I reached out to one of our outstanding artists and asked him to tell us a little bit about his process. Luis Czerniawski is a prolific artist that has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to both penciling and inking. In this month’s entry, Luis talks about his thought process when he first approaches the shadows on a page.

Why I Keep Coming Back to the Shadows

Hello everyone, my friends at Silverline have asked me if I could tell you a little about the process of how I work, so here we are. I hope you don’t get bored.

When I start a job, I always try to imagine what the inking will look like in the end, since it is the part that I like to do the most. That is why sometimes it varies a lot from job to job or sometimes even in the same book.

I always start by tearing through the script and imagining what would be the best way to show each panel. When I start, I never make a very finished pencil. I always sketch and start to shape it with the ink. It’s a habit that I have.

However, I always recommend making a good and neat page in pencil first. Here I show a very old page where I made the pencils in detail and the inks were all worked in brush:

My favorite tool is the brush, it can be Winsor and Newton, Pentel etc, or any good round tip brush. I’m currently using markers from size 04 to 07 and I make shadows with the brush.

Here below we can see two examples not so old from a couple of covers where the shadows are loosely made and are more impressionistic.

As you can see, sometimes I use a dry brush and I usually finish the job with some washes. I love the grey tones. I think it’s part of my nature and I can’t stop doing it.

I‘ve done work for different companies and they were not all were looking for the same style. Maybe that’s why my approach has changed throughout the years, or maybe one morning I woke up with a clean line and the other week a dark line. 

It must be my karma, but I always go back to the shadows since it is beautiful to see how those shapes appear with the brush. Some production companies hire me simply to correct and beautify their work with these kinds of details.

Some ask me why I don’t draw and ink digitally, which is much faster etc. I have the tools and I’ve tried it, but the truth is that I like the traditional method and in some cases, it comes out faster by hand than by machine. It is beautiful to see and feel when I apply the ink on the paper and, obviously, while listening to good background music.

Here I show you some panels made in different ways and styles, almost all made with markers and only the black ones made with brushes, such as wrinkles, funds, etc.

Well, I hope you are not bored by the many examples I brought to show you. 

I walked this whole road alone. I learned on the go, and this is how I learned.

I learned by ruining hundreds of drawings but it helped me to understand a lot of things. Experiment with different tools and inks, and never stop looking at art. We’ll always be learning or discovering something new.

Now it is easier since they have everything on the internet but still, you have to sit down and stain your hands. So, draw, draw, and draw, don’t get mad, and be very patient. I still keep doing it and am learning every day.

I would like to continue saying many things and giving many tips to help you all. Maybe this little note can be the first part, and I’ll do another. Everything will depend on you and conquering your doubts. If I can help, I’ll be here.

Below are some other inking examples:

30Jun/20

One Shot: Bringing it All Together – Lettering Cures or Kills by Wes Locher

If sequential storytelling is the invisible art, then comic book lettering is an invisible-invisible art, viewable only through the MacGyver-esque day-saving bomb-thwarting tinkering involving lemon juice and a lighter.

For many fans, the “what” of comic book lettering is limited to the placing of dialogue, captions, and word balloons on the comic book page. However, in reality, it is so much more than that. For instance, it also involves placing sound effects.

But wait, there’s more!

Lettering is an art form in itself that requires not only a keen design eye but also a mastery of the language of comics. Letterers must view a comic book page as a whole, choosing where to place those word balloons and captions in order to successfully lead the reader’s eye across the page from the first panel to the last.

Think for a moment about the last comic you read. Did you have trouble knowing which word balloon to read next? If not, then you were blessed with professional comic book lettering. If you were lost on the page and had to take a wild guess, then you were a victim of amateur work.

In fact, a comic book can have PEN/Faulker-worthy writing and the most imaginative, beautiful art since Kirby, but it can quickly be destroyed by shoddy, unprofessional lettering.

Once all dialogue and captions are on the page the letterer is also responsible for adding in the sound effects that will breathe life into the title’s action sequences.

This doesn’t simply block letters thrown onto the page—oh no!—a letterer must ensure the sound effect sits appropriately with the art and visually represents the actual sound. The punch to the gut of the protagonist’s enemy might be called out as “Whud” in the script, but no matter the variation (thud, fwump, whumph, fud, tup, et al), the letterer must represent this hit so the reader both feels it and hears the sound in their mind’s eye.

This is known as onomatopoeia (which only took me six attempts to spell correctly) and indicates a word that phonetically imitates, resembles, or suggests the sound that it describes.

These sound effects provide a soundtrack to the book and allow a letterer to show their creativity. Most letterers develop their own “signature” style for sound effects, using it as a way to differentiate themselves. After all, word balloons and caption boxes generally all look the same, and sound effects are crucial to adding a dash of fun to the letterer’s workload.

Next time you read a comic, ask yourself: “How was the lettering?” if you can’t think of anything negative, then you were treated to the best that the industry has to offer. And often, having nothing negative to say is the biggest compliment one can give a pro letterer.

It’s my hope that this brief overview provides you with a bit more information and understanding when it comes to the role and responsibilities of a comic book letterer. Perhaps you’ll even gain a bit of respect for the work once you’ve closed the back cover on your issue. Though it’s more likely, you’ll probably think, “Oh, yeah, someone placed the dialogues, captions, and word balloons on the comic book page. Neat.”

 

23Jun/20

Title Spotlight: The Scary Book

Doom! Doom Upon Ye! The world is ending and . . . is that a giant lobster demon?!

     The Scary Book is a story where our heroes must unravel a shadowed mystery involving the dark powers of the occult. Unlike titles with similar subject matter, this story isn’t highlighted by abstract terror and gore, but instead by hilarity. Each issue is packed full of jokes, and references delivered in a consistently impactful tone. This four-issue series is a must-read for fans of dark comedies.

The story starts with Marty Applegate, owner of Applegate books, receiving a delivery of strange books he didn’t order. Even after getting his order fixed by swapping with the intended recipient of the strange tomes, one escapes their scrutiny and finds itself on Marty’s shelves. While Marty isn’t looking, a man named Caduceus purchases the book from the clerk. Shortly after that, pandemonium breaks out. 

As it turns out, that book was actually a book of spells penned by the devil himself, Lou C. Fer. He puts out a new batch of books on occasion so that advanced conjurers can give his demons work on Earth. Turns out Hell is even tiresome for the Demons, which is probably why they got a union organizer. The problem is that this book began making the rounds. All the major demons have been summoned out of hell and there is no one left to torture all the damned souls. Lou needs his demons back and in order to do that, he’ll need Marty to track down who bought the book and stop it from circulating.

In issue 2, we meet Marty’s cadre of book hunters as they travel through a world being torn apart as mass conjurings and spells are unleashed by even the most inept of magical practitioners. The first is Crimson, a cursed soul sent by Lou C. Fer to make Marty aware of his quest and assist him in completing it. Crimson sold her soul for beauty and has been stuck in hell to suffer the punishment for vanity ever since. The chance to work back on Earth finally gives her the opportunity to fully use the boon she received in her pact. The two of them enlist the help of Phillip Chandler, a private eye whose career earned him several films made about him starring himself. Phil proves to be an interesting addition to the team as he is mentally stuck in his role. He speaks as if he is providing narration and dialogue in a voice-over session. The trio follows the first clue to a cult performing a conjuration. 

That encounter sets them on the right trail. They trace the book back through all the hands that have held it since it was initially purchased. On the way, they encounter a whole slew of fascinating characters, unsavory beasts, and what street prophets believe to be the end of the world. Eventually, they get their confrontation with the book’s holder and things only get stranger from there. 

What really sets The Scary Book apart from other mysteries is the tone and voice in which the story is delivered. Even when compared to other comedies nothing really comes across as wholly unique but expected as The Scary Book. It sits in the intersection of three genres, comedy, mystery, horror, and behaves the way you’d expect a story in any one of those genres to behave but because it does all three so flawlessly, it is entirely its own story. It is somehow both paying homage to great assets each of these genres can employ at the same time as being irreverent to all the tropes that can make those same genres cheesy and silly. 

Writer Sidney Williams’s voice really comes across through the three main characters he employs. Marty delivers a classic dry wit that serves to give the perspective of the average person caught up in world ending nonsense. Pair that with Crimson who has experience with both mundane and the demonic and is just tired with it all. The color commentary and banter provided by these two immediately sells the reader on the intended atmosphere and gets them invested in the characters as people. Then there is Phillip Chandler who is a world unto himself. Not only does he only talk through first-person narration as if he were the voice-over of a hard-boiled detective movie, but he brings the same style of Hollywood flair to solving the team’s problems. While this is “the real world” for Marty and Crimson, this is just another shot for Phillip, so of course he attempts to handle every situation as over-the-top and high-octane as possible. 

With characters as loveable and strange as these, it’s no wonder that this universe is being expanded in the near future. Writer Sidney Williams has written a spinoff called Something Big! This story will follow Phillip Chandler and a new host of characters as they tackle a brand new case brought to Phil’s desk. This will, of course, be brought to you by Silverline Comics.

The Scary Book was written by accomplished novelist Sidney Williams, whose recent releases include Dark Hours and Disciples of the Serpent. Sidney has also written comics such as The Mantus Files, Marauder, and Sirens.

The The Scary Book was pencilled by Steve Willhite. Steve has also done work for titles like FUBAR and Jesus Hates Zombies. Steve also inked issue 4 of The Scary Book.

Issues 1 through 3 of The Scary Book were inked by Dan Schaefer who Silverline adepts would recognize from The Mantus Files and Cat & Mouse. Dan has also inked for The Green Hornet, New 52, and Predator.

Nick McCalip lettered issue 1 and pages 1 through 9 of issue 2. Nick has also lettered for The Mantus Files, Cat & Mouse, and Krey.

Debbie Woods lettered pages 10 through 24 of issue 2

Brad Thomte letters issue 3. Brad also lettered Switchblade, Marauder, Silverstrom, Pantheon, and Mouseguard: Tales of The Guard

Mike Belcher lettered issue 4. Mike is perhaps most well known for creating his own title Man in The Mask for AMK Comics.

16Jun/20

Craft: Sid VenBlue – The First Steps Are The Most Important

Hello, Silverline Family! I had the pleasure of chatting with industry newcomer Sid VenBlu. Sid is a fantastic colorist working on Trumps. Already possessing an outstanding portfolio and it won’t be long before she has a fantastic career in comics. In the following article, Sid talks about the first steps she takes when she opens up a brand new page to be colored.

The first steps are always the most important ones.

Coloring sequential pages is a little more than just coloring in the lines. I learned that not long after I officially entered the comic book industry. Color has to contribute to the linework, making sure it doesn’t overpower it, but also adds to the storytelling. Coloring has to be able to give the proper environment and make sure that the reader focuses on the right spots in each panel such as where the light should shine brighter or shadows should cast deeper shadows.

But before jumping into adding any special effects and knockouts, it’s really important for me to understand what has to be done in the first steps after opening the comic page in the coloring program. More than once, I’ve found myself having to redo a whole bunch of work because I made a sloppy start in the file, so in order to avoid that I made my own system that I’ll explain.

Before anything I want to make sure that all my needed files are open, that being the script, page and one or two already colored pages (I use Clip Studio, but this can perfectly work with photoshop and other programs). Once I start working I do not want to cut my flow. It is also the same when making sure that you have all you need in your work area, coloring takes time and consumes pretty much my whole day, so If I want to get things done, I’d better not interrupt my workflow.

Now that I got all I need I analyze the page and notice the important parts of it. If the page has a big character reveal then that would be the most important panel and it’s what you want to highlight the most. In a layer below the inks I make a layer only dedicated to the flat colors, and for that, I use a sharp brush tool, with anti-aliasing to the minimum or just disabled, That way the edges of the colors will be sharp and won’t blend together, so I can grab the color I want to work on without missing pixels or having odd borders. Choosing the color palette right now is not my main priority, since what I want to do first is to figure out what should be brighter or darker depending on the focus point on each panel, and for that, you can go with just gray tones.

It’s also important to go from macro to micro. For example, divide the sky from the floor; then the people standing on the floor, then the clothes of the person and then the facial details, that way you make sure there are not loose pixels here and there, and it’ll help you keep track of the flats on the page. Once I consider the flats done and all the elements properly separated I can start the next step of coloring. More than once I’ve had to go back to the flats layer in order to better separate a character from the background. Doing this has helped me skip unnecessary steps more than once. 

Flatting can be a very tedious job, it takes time and figuring out all the different pieces of each page, as a colorist I am always eager to add the magic touches and those fancy glows over metal surfaces. But when having to work with several pages and open files, proper setup and flats are what has been keeping me from having to color pages all over again. 

These first steps are very important to me considering I am in my first steps as a colorist in the industry. Learning has been constant trial-and-error, but I’m always taking a step forward. 

19May/20

Craft: Roland Mann – Writing: Adapting “A Something” into a Comic.

Hey there, Silverline readers and comic creators! I was able to get a hold of a very important person at Silverline, our Editor-In-Chief Roland Mann. Roland has a long and storied career in comics that you can read about in his Creator Page. He has also worked on many projects that involved adopting other mediums to comics.

With the world now familiar with comics being adapted into phenomenal blockbusters, I wanted to look at what that process looks like going the other way. Here, Roland talks about what is involved when a writer is asked to adapt something else into a comic. – Tim

Adapting “A Something” into a Comic.

If you had asked me when I first started writing if I would do so many adaptations, I’d have told you no, that I was only going to write original stories. Stuff I’d conceived in my own head. Yet, as I look back, I’ve done quite a few adaptations: Rocket Ranger (PC game), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (novel), Wizard of Oz (novel), Gladiator (novel; the comic was never published, but I did the work!), SadoMannequin (short film), The Remaining (feature film), and She-Devils on Wheels (B-movie)…more recently, my adaptation of Thumbelina. Then there are the works that seem to be adaptations, but are rather a “sandbox adaptation,” meaning I’m playing in the original sandbox, but I am writing original content. My Battletech and Planet of the Apes series fall into that category.

The first thing you have to consider when writing an adaptation is what exactly does the editor/publisher want. If they want an exact adaptation, that’s one thing. If you can take some creative liberties, that’s another.

Straight adaptation is a little easier, but not as creative. Adaptation with some creative liberties is what writers really want to do because—well, they get a little creative freedom.

When writing an adaptation, the first thing you have to figure out is what are the important parts? Generally, you can’t get every word of the original thing into the adaptation—so, what’s vital? And what can be cut? I like to take the original and write a summary of it. It’s not creative work, just take the thing… and write a detailed summary of it.

This is where I start looking at the scenes and make notes—“vital”, “important,” “be cool to have,” “if this is gone, no one will miss it.” Things like that. The next thing I do is examine the scenes and try to visualize how many comic pages that scene will need. Yes, it’s often guesswork, but you’re generally working with a set page number established by the editor/publisher. You know what you have to work with.

Then, I add all the pages up. If I have too many—which I always do, I look at the scenes marked “no one will miss” and start crossing through them. Generally, I keep a running tally so I know the page count. Sometimes, though, I’ll just remove all the non-essential scenes all in one swipe and then add it up. I’ll work my way down until I get to the page count desired by the editor/publisher.

My next step is to work on a page by page plot. The old Marvel method allows me to more accurately visualize what will actually happen on each page. Sometimes I find that I’ve allotted too many pages for a scene, or sometimes—more often than the other—I find that I haven’t allotted enough. But I’ll go ahead and do this for the entire story and see what the total page count is.

Once I’ve done the entire thing, I won’t go auto-delete things, but I’ll reexamine the scenes labeled as “be cool to have” and see if I can reduce the pages required. If they’re marked that way, it’s something that would be good to have, but maybe I shouldn’t devote so much space to it. In all honesty, this usually works for me to get it down to the required page count. If it doesn’t, though, I’ll go through those same scenes and try to determine which one(s) can be cut to make room. This has always gotten me there.

It’s still a lengthy process, but it’s a different one than creating a story from scratch. The main thing a writer should remember is that it’s your job to be true to the original, to capture the things from the original that fans love.

28Apr/20

Silverline Title Spotlight: Sirens issues 1 -4

The streets of New Orleans have come alive. Mardi Gras is in full swing and the streets of the French Quarter are packed with celebrators, tourists, and the dead!

   Jeff Delmer, a resident of the Crescent City and investment broker, has been rather down and out during the week-long celebration. It’s a week without work and, while he isn’t fond of his job, it’s all he’s got. Until he and an enchanting gal exchange glances across the street. Their fling turns into a romance and then to love. There’s just one hitch in this love story. Remember earlier when I said the dead were also walking the streets?

As it turns out, Lois, Jeff’s new love, is a Siren looking to break free from the voodoo-practicing witch she’s been enthralled to. Unwittingly brought under the effects of a centuries-old curse, Jeff wakes up one day to find Lois missing, his face-melting, and the adventure of a lifetime before him.

Sirens is a story about zombies, witches, Louisiana’s mythology, and most of all love. The story takes place in New Orleans, home to a handful of stories in the Silverline catalog. Like those other stories, the city and the cultures that call it home play just as much a part of the story as the characters do. The hero of this story is Jeff Delmer, an investment broker who has inherited the business from his father. Jeff is as unlikely a character as anyone for the kind of mess he gets wrapped up in. He perseveres, however, driven by a love, unlike anything he’s felt before, aided by some strange friends, and with a little help from divine relics.

The story of Sirens starts in the French Quarter during Mardi Gras. There Jeff catches sight of Lois standing in the rain and is immediately taken by her beauty. He invites her to grab some coffee with him and something about Jeff sparks Lois’s interest. As they leave the packed street, neither of them spots the mysterious watcher who has been following Lois. Jeff and Lois immediately hit it off and spend the next several days going on a series of dates. They are inseparable and love blossoms.

The watcher in the street is not the only one who has been keeping an eye on Lois, however. Felicity Green and her cabal watch Lois through a mystic looking glass. Lois had belonged to Felicity, and Felicity is not just jealous but covetous and vengeful. She wants Lois back bad, and she has an assortment of minions to do her work for her. One of those tools is a big and burly sailor turned thrall.

Jeff wakes up to find Lois gone, a hex splattered across the wall, and a zombie at the door. The zombie, mouth stitched shut and unable to speak, hands Jeff a note. It simply reads “You are in danger!” Jeff gets dressed and follows the zombie to a shop of curios owned by Velvet Green. Velvet is an expert in the tradition of voodoo and has been keeping an eye on Felicity’s cabal long before Jeff got involved. Jeff, naturally, has his doubts about the situation but after Velvet explains Jeff’s very mortal and critical situation, he listens.

Velvet explains that Lois is one of a group of Loup Garou, commonly known as werewolves, but not quite the way folklore tells it. Her group is enthralled by Felicity Green, a voodoo witch, who uses the group as sirens to seduce men and feed off their life essence. In the process, Felicity and her sirens are kept young and the men are reduced to zombies. Velvet reveals she knows all this because she is Felicity’s daughter. As Velvet explains, Jeff is under the effect of the Loup Garou curse and has begun the transformation into a zombie.

It’s not all grim news, however, his professed love for Lois has broken her from Felicity’s enthrallment. Their romance has created an opportunity to strike at Felicity and end the curse. He’ll just need some help. She introduces him to Sheck, the zombie he’d followed and Felicity’s ex-husband, as well as Father Milligan. The good father has taken a post to confront evil in New Orleans should it arise. He is often overlooked by the church but he takes his role seriously. After performing a quick sanctification of Jeff the father says it will be up to Jeff, as his love for Lois will be what strengthens him in his fight with the Loup Garou.

The story continues as Jeff investigates the curse and searches for Lois who has been taken prisoner by Felicity. He’ll find himself going from the dingiest apartments to the swankiest hotels of the French Quarter, and even relic hunting in the bayou. Jeff’s race against time will grow more frantic as he continues to fade from the world of humanity and become more zombie-like with each day. Along the way, he meets and relies on a varied cast of characters. Jeff grows from a man who had nothing outside of his 9-to-5 to a man with love, friends, and a divine calling.

That’s part of what really sets Sirens apart from other adventure-horror stories. The human elements motivate everything in the story. While the events are surely traumatic, Jeff has experienced more positive growth from the connections he made along the way.

The characters he connects differ from the traditional stereotypes that can found in horror. The roles and titles they fill are definitely staples of the genre but they act in ways not typical of titles that share the same shelf-space.

First of all, Jeff Delmer. The well-to-do business guy is certainly a mainstay of horror and is usually a hyped-up playboy who the audience loves to see get killed. Jeff, however, is quite the opposite. Jeff is rather down about his lot in life because he didn’t choose it. Romance was something he didn’t think about until he saw Lois. His change really shows what good purpose and meaningful connection can do for a person.

There is also the case of Velvet Green. Every story having to do with the occult or voodoo has a mystic of sorts. Even better if they are related to the bad guy. Rarely, however, are they as practical as Velvet. Mystic types are often portrayed as aloof, their head wrapped up in ritual and esoteric elements of the problem at hand. Velvet, however, is thinking the next step forward. She is aware of the very real and physical danger the group is in and is thinking of how to combat that with the combined arms of brunt and mysticism. When she comes into play, she very easily takes the role of leader, knowing exactly what needs to be done and how to do it as efficiently as possible.

Father Milligan also lives outside of the norms of how religious authorities are portrayed in the genre. This role is portrayed by some stories as the subject of ridicule for sounding crazy despite being right, or as the powerful and domineering voice of authority. Father Milligan is neither. He is not ridiculed, he is just unimportant and often overlooked. Nor is he domineering, he is thoughtful and patient. This is Jeff’s crusade and Father Milligan knows that and simply offers him help and resources where he can.

One of the most unlikely characters is Sheck, the zombie. Not mindless or a monster. Sheck is Jeff’s stalwart protector and is oddly charismatic. Despite being unable to speak, Sheck’s body language and physical presence in panels provide to be both eerie and endearing. Through acts like watching over Jeff as he sleeps or just the way he holds his face, Jeff and Sheck develop a tight but strange relationship that is reminiscent of the central relationship in a “buddy- cop” story. In the end, the reader finds themselves rooting for the two as friends fighting back to back.

Through smart characters and a new take on Creole mythology Sirens does a lot to set itself apart and is a memorable and engaging read. This is a great comic for fans of action/adventure stories and classic horror.

Sirens was written by Sidney Williams, known to comic fans for writing The Mantus Files, Marauder, and the upcoming Bloodline and Friar Rush. He is best know for his novels such as Gnelfs, and Night Brothers, as well as for many pieces of short fiction.

Art for Sirens was penciled by John Drury, who created Pendulum, and inked by Chuck Bordell, whose credits include Marauder, Switchblade, and several games like the Neverworld RPG.

Sirens 1, 2, and 4 were lettered by Brad Thromte who has worked on such titles as Mouseguard: Tales of the Guard, Pantheon, Switchblade, and Marauder. Issue 3 was lettered by Todd Arnold.

As can be seen in assorted color panels above, Sirens is getting the color treatment from Silverline’s own super-talented Barb Kaalberg, and will be available as a color trade once complete.

21Apr/20

Craft: R.A. Jones – Writers are Artists Too – or at least they should try to be

Hey there Silverline Readers and Comic Makers! I was able to get a hold of R.A. Jones and have him give us the low down on part of his writing process. R.A. has made quite the name for himself working on titles like Bullet Proof Monk, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Wolverine & Captain America. As someone who has read a couple of R.A.’s scripts, I can tell you that the second you pick it up, you can immediately see how every detail would translate to panels.

This entry of Craft is about just that. R.A. goes over why writers should think about their comics visually and how he does that himself. It’s our hope that the following entry helps you, dear reader, go about writing your own comic scripts that develop synergy with your artist and better engage your reader.

Writers Are Artists Too – Or At least They Should Try To Be
by R.A. Jones

Years ago, a professional comic book artist gave me a hypothetical and somewhat exaggerated example of the kind of bad scripting of which writers are occasionally guilty. It went something like this:

Panel 1: BATMAN AND ROBIN SLIDE DOWN THE BAT-POLES, RACE ACROSS THE BATCAVE, LEAP INTO THE BATMOBILE AND DRIVE OFF INTO THE NIGHT.

The problem this presents should be obvious – though it always isn’t to some writers. The hypothetical scribe has asked their artist collaborator to visually portray at least four separate actions in a single panel!

Writers also sometimes forget that it takes longer to draw the Statue of Liberty than it does to simply write: Draw the Statue of Liberty. One of the quickest ways for a writer to get on an artist’s bad side is to hand him a script heavy with panels that are so elaborate, so full of characters and actions that he/she is practically reduced to tears of frustration.

A writer does not have to be able to draw any better than does a typical 5-year-old. But they do need to be knowledgeable about the ins and outs of visual storytelling. That is a talent that is often lacking even in those who can draw, at least early in their careers.

Stating that a writer needs to be able to visualize when they write is obvious in certain media, such as comic strips, comic books, and television and motion pictures. But it is a talent that is important to writers of prose as well; useful in describing people, places, and things and thereby creating pictures in the mind’s eye of the reader.

There is a bit of advice I’ve given to many aspiring artists over the years – and I would offer it to writers as well. Choose one of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic films (or director of your choice). Play that movie with the sound off and don’t just watch it – study it.

Get to understand the hows and whys of his varying camera shot choices – from establishing shots to close-ups. Study how he uses the camera to direct our eyes to where he wants them to go. See how much information can be conveyed without the need for any words at all. Develop an appreciation for the creative uses of lighting.

Then apply what you learn to your writing.

There, of course, is no single “right” way to write a comic book script, but I’ll tell you about mine; you find the method that works best for you. This applies to my preferred method of writing a story – full script – but can also be applied when employing all but the briefest and loosest of “Marvel Style” scripting.

First, I write myself a short plot synopsis of that story/issue: usually no more than 3-5 pages long. Along the margins of that plot, I make pencil notations regarding how many pages I think each scene should require to be told visually. Among other things, this lets you know if your plot is too dense for the space allotted and adjust accordingly.
(You will find few if any artists who are happy about working on a script that requires them to cram 12 panels into each page to get all of that story into 20 pages!)

Once I’ve done this, I literally draw the entire issue myself. Full disclosure: my “drawings” are extremely simple and crude, sometimes little more than stick figures. But that’s all I require to make sure the pacing is correct and to be able to fully and understandably explain to the artist what I want from each panel of each page.

Only then do I write the actual script that will go to the editor and artist. If I can draw the story within the required limits and without cramming too much into each panel/page – I know any good, professional artist can comfortably do so as well.

And be flexible; even the method I’ve described should allow artists to flex their creative muscles in terms of layout, etc. Don’t let ego prevent you from recognizing that their visual ideas and instincts can be better than or improve upon your own.

Doing your job well in visualizing your story – makes it easier for your artistic collaborator to do their job!