All posts by Tim Thiessen

23Feb/21

Silverline Community Highlight

Hey Silverline Family. It’s a new year, and a new us, so we figured we’d give this concept a test drive. The one thing that allows us to be comic creators and comic pros, is you, the comic reader! What is special about where Silverline is now is that a lot of our readers are creators in their own right. This has allowed us to create a unique and truly amazing community. 

Whether you just enjoy our new releases, interact with our social media, follow our blog for tips on how to better make your own comics, or catch our live-casts, we appreciate you. We figured we could show some of how much we appreciate you guys by highlighting some members of our community who shared their comments with us. 

If you want the chance to have your comment highlighted, just post it! Whether on our blog, our Facebook, Youtube, Twitch, one of us will see it. If it stands out for whatever reason, you have a chance of being featured. 

All the featured comments today were taken off the live-casts on Facebook. They’ll probably be more varied in the future but we figured this was a good place to start. So here’s what you said:

Rob Davis: “>turning down my hearing aid<” 

Wednesday WHAM! producer Tim T.K. has a unique and loud method for introducing the show. Utilizing years of musical theatre, and punk band experience, Tim delivers a sonic experience that is sure to take a few hours off your lifespan. (I’m sorry . . . okay, I’m not sorry.)

Quinton J. Bedwell: “Yes… It’s time for a new system. CRT screens are outdated Roland”

Recently, the Silverline family got together on Silver Sunday as they surprised EIC Roland Mann with the means to get a new computer after his old system went out to pasture. This comment is great because it commemorates this awesome gesture and also points out that our EIC is, in fact, not the youngest member of the team. (Don’t fire me)

Ovin Armando Reyes: “I really loved infamous 2 it was my first platinum trophy”

Ovin is a Silverliner since the before-times! It was great to have him in the conversation on the week we were discussing video games. Achievement hunting is not something every gamer does. It requires commitment, and to platinum a game, you have to hunt every single achievement in a game. The first time you platinum or 100% a game, it’s a special feeling that you want to celebrate. It’s also great to hear how a piece of media brought Ovin so much joy because that is ultimately what we want our comics to do for someone. 

Kasisi D. Harris: “Ergokinesis”

This comment got picked for a weird and personal reason. When the Wednesday WHAM! crew was discussing the best superpowers, Kasisi brought up Ergokinesis. Which is a great power, the ability to manipulate raw energy. Elemental, cosmic, electrical, what have you. Energy manipulation is a classic. However, I (Tim T.K.), had a brief moment where I thought it was related to Ergonomics. You know, like office chairs. I had nearly fallen out of my seat with laughter, as I imagined a hero whose power allowed them to make any surface good for their joint and back health. 

Patrick Lugo: “In the 80’s John Byrne claimed Superman’s powers were all subconscious telekinesis.”

This one just blew my mind. Thinking of Supe’s powers as subconscious telekinesis makes so much sense and yet I can’t wrap my head around it. Superman has such a wide array of powers, but telekinesis could explain them all and yet it almost feels too simple. Although I suppose, he has superstrength, eyebeams, and flight because of the sun is also a bit too clean when you think about it. The question is, is that preferable over muddying the waters with fifty-thousand types of kryptonite.

I hope you guys liked having the spotlight on you for a second. Let us know, should we keep doing these, try something else, stick to the classics? Who knows your comment might just be featured next time.  

16Feb/21

Title Spotlight: Switchblade

The core mantra of boxers is fists up, chin down, and knives out. Well, at least it is for Scott Nathans, boxer by day, and vigilante by night. Scott is the man known as Switchblade, a defender of the defenseless in New Orleans and the eponymous character of the Switchblade comic.

With the recent launch of Switchblade Remix, this is a great time to add it to your wish list.



Switchblade is a classic vigilante origin story but with a splash of sports drama that ties into the core plot. Just because Scott Nathans has picked up the hobby of giving villains a gruesome end doesn’t mean he’s given up his life as a boxer, or the rivalries that come with it.

We’re first introduced to Scott Nathans in an action-packed opening as he hunts down two child predators that the jury let off. That’s also when we first see Scott use his infamous switchblade. The weapon that earned him his name.

Of course, vigilante justice is a crime itself. Enter detectives Rob and Sid. The two were tasked with finding Switchblade and bringing him to heel. The citizens of New Orleans, however, are grateful for the speedy removal of the scum terrorizing their city. The detectives are without any leads and there never seem to be any witnesses. Their job gets more confounded once dismembered bodies start popping up. These aren’t clean kills with a blade, and they don’t have criminal records. The m.o. doesn’t match Switchblade and that last thing the police want is two killers out in the city.



Scott’s life as a boxer also gets more interesting when a mysterious and skilled boxer starts training at the same gym as him. The gym’s owner, Simon, is essentially Scott’s adoptive father so he’s unlikely to pass the limelight onto this new fighter. After a few sparring matches, this new fighter, Don, gives the impression that he may be the strongest fighter there. After he brutalizes a few of the other boxers and shares some smack talk with Scott, a rivalry begins to form. One that transcends just the ring.

It’s not long after Scott’s first kills that detectives Rob and Sid receive a report of a missing fourteen-year-old boy. At the same, the butchered bodies send ripples through the ranks at Simon’s gym causing a stir among the longtime members and Don, the new arrival. As these events unfold, Scott, Don, and the detectives all set on a collision course with each other, that is sure to end with someone dead.

What stands out in Switchblade is that drama unfolds both in the world of masked crusaders at the same as in the ring and the way it ties together. As Switchblade, Scott tries to uncover the recent killings and child abductions. As himself, Scott develops enters into a rivalry with Don to prove he can’t come in and pick on the other boxers. When the predator’s identity is revealed both stories intertwine in a way that leads to a unique fusion of sports-drama and comic hero action.



Another element that gets explored rather well throughout is the moral dilemma faced by the detectives. They know that a person cannot take the law into their own hands and kill criminals who get off easy, but also that the system allows for those criminals to get off even after their wrongdoing is universally acknowledged. Rob and Sid are forced to confront their own beliefs on if the system of Switchblade is doing more good for the city.

If you like vigilantes heroes, boxing, and seeing the two be put together in a way that makes both integral to the story this is the book for you. Switchblade is a classic brawling hero but exploring the heart and skill required to be a good fighter.

Switchblade was written by Roland Mann who needs no qualifiers. Known for Cat & Mouse, Demon’s Tails, Trumps, Krey, a laundry list of more titles, running Silverline, and inspiring students.

Leonard Kirk penciled Switchblade (1-2). Leonard is known for such titles as Planet of the Apes, Galaxina, Dinosaurs for Hire, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Chuck Bordell also provided art for Switchblade (1-3). Chuck’s work can also be seen in Sirens, Marauder, and Silverstorm.

David Rowe provided inks.

Brad Thomte lettered the series. He is also known for lettering Scarybook, Marauder, and Silverstorm.




09Feb/21

Craft: Aaron Humphres – Sketchy Technique

In my comic book Godlings, I have developed a different way to illustrate my pages from other comics. This is not so much in the style of art per se, but the technique I do to develop the final look of the page. I wanted the pages in my comic book to look old like they are from an ancient tome. I also wanted the look of the book to be somewhat sketchy like someone was drawing the story as you were reading. I got the idea from watching the old 101 Dalmatians animated movie. In the movie the outlines of the characters were sketchy, and they would purposefully leave in underdrawings in certain scenes. I thought that style would work for my comic. I decided to have the final art in my comic book be in pencil only, with no ink applied.

In order to do this, I went about developing a certain method of production for my comic pages. Over the years I have been drawing my pages on card stock and not Bristol board. For one thing, my book was going to be 300 pages when finished and I wanted to have enough paper on hand. I bought a ream of 11” x 17” cardstock from Kinkos. It cost me 17 dollars and should cover all the pages in my book. Card stock also has a different texture than Bristol and my pencil lines tend to be initially darker. I use a cardboard backing from an old drawing tablet to draw the pages on. The cardboard is soft enough that when I draw on top of it, it helps the pencil lines sink into the paper better. I start my pages as loose sketches and darken the lines I want to keep with a mechanical pencil.

Now that I have my pages all drawn in, I photocopy them at my local copy place. The first reason is that I need to shrink the 11” x 17” page down to 8” x 11” to fit my scanner bed. The second reason is that the machine will take my pencil lines and reproduce them in black. I also adjust the dark levels in the copy parameters by two notches towards dark. This darkens the lines in the photocopy just enough to where I like them.

I then scan the photocopies into Photoshop and adjust the levels. I usually darken the scan to the midway point in the levels panel. This gives me a nice dark line in the drawing and keeps some of the light underdrawings as well. This creates the sketchy look I want while making the art clear to the readers. From there I color my pages.

26Jan/21

Craft: John Martin – Inking Lines

Hello everyone, I’m John Martin and I’m the inker on Friar Rush and Wolf Hunter for Silverline comics. Now, in my opinion, it’s easier to show than tell you about inking but I’ll give it my best. When it comes to inking the most important thing to keep in mind is the line. It’s the one thing that can make or break a page or cover. As an inker, it is the one aspect of the page that you have to bend and manipulate to make the pencils shine even more and become the finished product ready for color and print.

Now, having a healthy variation on line width is what you use to imply several things like depth, weight, light, and shadow. Heavy lines are used close and in the foreground, then they become lighter the further you go into the background. Outlines of characters, objects, buildings, etc. should always by a heavier line than the lines used inside them. For example, if you outline a person the lines should become thinner on the interior of it for all the normal details (eyes, nose, mouth, etc), then even thinner for the rendering of shadows.

If you weren’t using blacks for shadows you would then not only use the weight of the line for indicating distance but also where the shadows would be. The heavier line will be where the shadow is on the figure or object and of course, the lighter would be the indication of the light source.

Now, when you are using line weight for both depth and to help indicate a light source it can get a little tricky so you as the inker have to make the best decision based on what the focal point is in the panel/cover. These decisions are why no two inkers ink the same page the same way. A perfect example of happens during the Inkwell Awards, when they pick inkers to ink a piece to put up for auction.

In closing, lines are the biggest thing needed to bring a page/cover to its full potential and the most important thing for an inker to keep in mind and practice daily. So, get out there and start making a mess and laying some ink lines down. I know I am.


12Jan/21

Creator Diary: Switchblade #1 and Teen Beetle #1

Hey Silverline Family!

If you’ve been following any of our socials for the past week, you’d know we announced two new books going up on Kickstarter soon! Switchblade #1 and Teen Beetle #1 will both be available for preorder starting January 14th. Remember when our books go to Kickstarter, they’re already done. You’re just preordering your copy, and telling us directly that you want to see more of it before it goes to the digital storefront.

Follow this link to be notified as soon as they go live!
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/rolandmann/teenbeetle1switchblade1

As the resident Blog-Dude, I thought it might be kind of cool to talk to some of the creators involved with the upcoming releases. Unfortunately, due to some at-home circumstances, I couldn’t reach out to everyone involved. With future iterations of this Creator’s Diary, I would like to give as many creators as possible a chance to talk directly to the readers.


I did manage to grab snippets from the writers of each project and the colorist of Switchblade.

First Up (Because he is my boss), Roland Mann, Writer on Switchblade:

“I’m a huge fan of black and white art, but I know a lot of fans prefer color. I’ll admit, seeing Switchblade in color really helps bring the characters to life. The RemiX has a crisp cleanness that the original version didn’t have. It’s exciting.”

Aiden Belcher, Colorist on Switchblade:

“Switchblade is the book that you should pick up if you love comics. I could tell that the very first time I saw it. Every page is filled with realistic, gritty, street-level vigilante action that I thankfully had the pleasure of coloring. I appreciate the chance that Roland Mann gave me in working on this project. Everyone should be on the lookout for this one, it’s a good showcase of what comics does best.”

KS exclusive cover by Ben Dunn


And for Teen Beetle, Writer John Crowther:

“John on Teen Beetle: What I enjoyed the most about working on Teen Beetle, was being able to reunite with artist Dell Barras. Dell was one of my favorite artists as a child, from his work on Blue Beetle and Death’s Head, and he was the artist on my first two comic series for Antarctic Press — Rochelle and Turnbuckle Titans: Nikolai Volkoff. I believe that Dell fully captures the stories I am trying to tell in his art and I feel readers will truly enjoy our chemistry in the Teen Beetle series.”

We hope you’re as excited for these books as we are! Remember January 21st, of 2021, we’re kicking the year off with some kick-butt comics!


15Dec/20

Our Must Watch Holiday Movies (And Other Things)!

Hello Silverline Best Friends,

It’s the Holidays once more, but this time it’s a little more special. This year you get to spend the season with us! Seriously, you’re trapped in here with us. Don’t bother looking for the door, we already tried. 

We figured that while Silverline comics are must-read material all year round, there are some pieces of media that are unique to the Holidays. 

Every family and truly every person has their own unique traditions when it comes to celebrating. But here, we are all nerds and that means we watch a lot of movies and read a lot of books. So, I asked the team to share some of their favorite Christmas content and what we will be watching/reading/listening to this month, and what we recommend! 

I’ll list everyone’s answer and what medium in case there is anything you need to add to your list, dear reader.

Since I am very much not neurotic, I’ll go first.

Tim T.K. – Nightmare Before Christmas (Movie), August Burns Red Presents: Sleddin Hill (Album) 

I was pleased I wasn’t the only one to say Nightmare. In my mind, it is the perfect movie for the last quarter of the year, and watch it at least once at Halloween and again at Christmas. I am also a headbanger with an undying love for metalcore. Traditional Christmas music usually puts me in tears, but ABR did a killer album that shreds. 

Now, simply in order of who got back to me first. The Holiday Picks of Silverline Comics.

Mickey Clausen – Die Hard (Movie)

Mickey is a self-proclaimed Scrooge and didn’t celebrate too much growing up or now. While I’m not one to judge how people choose to celebrate the holidays, I will say that if you’re watching Die Hard, you’re doing it right. 

Aaron Humphres – Charlie Brown Christmas (Movie)

Aaron gave us a classic that is shared by many others on the list. I haven’t seen it in years, but it might be worth a rewatch.

Haley Martin – Charlie Brown Christmas (Movie), Elf (Movie)

Haley provided us a picture of her OG Charlie Brown VHS which is wicked rad. She included a photo so we can admire the nostalgia factor! Elf is also hysterical and definitely something everyone needs to see at least once. 

Mike W Belcher – Miracle of 34th Street (Movie), Trouble in Paradise (Movie)

Mike came in with some classics, and also some strong feelings. When it comes to Miracle, Mike says it’s the OG Bb lack and white or it doesn’t count.

Kurtis Fujita – A Christmas Story (Movie)

Kurtis gave us another classic which reminds me to warn all of you to not shoot your eye out this Holiday Season. 

Roland Mann – Twas the Night Before Christmas (Book), The Santa Claus, It’s a Wonderful Life (Movie), and Miracle on 34th Street (Movie)

Roland has quite a few traditions. His family reads Twas the Night Before Christmas and watches a couple of movies. His Immediate family watches the Santa Clause and his extended family watches It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th but the colored version due to complaints from the kids. I assume the kids aren’t welcome at Mike’s.

Roberta Conroy – Nightmare Before Christmas (Movie), The Year Without Santa Clause (Movie), and Charlie Brown Christmas (Movie)

Roberta gave us three different movies. Nightmare made me happy, of course, but you can’t go wrong with The Year Without Santa Clause, and another vote for Charlie Brown.

A.J. Cassetta – Christmas Vacation (Movie) 

A.J. watches Christmas Vacation which for a lot of us is the movie that made us fall in love with Chevy Chase. A must watch to be sure.

Wubba Fett – Nightmare Before Christmas(Movie)

Wubba is a man after my own heart and says that Nightmare is a must in his house.

Adelia Gunderson – The Santa Clause 1,2,3(Movie)

Adelia likes to keep her house on brand during the Holidays. As she was growing up her family watched The Santa Clause every year and added on the sequels as they came out.

Well, that’s all from us! Tell us in the comments what you like to watch, read, or listen to during the Holiday Season? 

08Dec/20

Craft: Tommy Florimonte – Teaching Myself The Craft

Hello and Happy Holidays Silverline Family! I had the pleasure of asking Tommy Florimonte what I think may be one of the most important questions I’ve asked so far on this series. I asked him how he taught himself the craft of making comic books. This is incredibly important because, for many people, the ability to take a specialized course on making comic books is simply not in the cards. But that shouldn’t count out their passion.

Not only has Tommy been an inker with Silverline, but he is the co-owner of Ka-Blam (a comic printing service), and he has written and sold his own series for children. I would say that as a self-taught comic creator, Tommy is more successful than some classically trained artists and writers. It is my hope that the following entry in our Craft series encourages you to pursue and learn how to make comics if you have the passion regardless of what traditional options lay in front of you.

Teaching Myself The Craft

I’m an inker. So what does that mean? Essentially, my job is to take a drawing that someone else has done and make it print-ready. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Can’t you just redraw/trace what the penciler has already drawn out? Sure, you can do that. But the inker’s job is more than that. The inker’s job is to make it better. Inkers are sometimes called embellishers. Embellish means to make something more attractive. Better. The inker should ADD something to the process. To my mind, the goal as “The Inker”  is to do everything possible, using all the inking tricks I have learned, all the skills I have picked up, use all the techniques available (another subject) to make those pencils look Really Cool!…  To make them ROCK!!!

So how do you do that?

I was already finishing college in a subject different from “ART” when I got the bug to try my hand at being a comic artist. While I’ve always been able to draw naturally, not professionally, of course, I had no real “art training” and I certainly didn’t like the idea of adding more “COLLEGE” to take drawing classes. Why would I? I could already draw. How foolish I was. So- What do I do? I needed to find people that were doing what I wanted to accomplish and ask lots and lots of questions. 

Well, luckily for me, I had a few friends doing just that: Starting their comic careers. So the answer to “What do you do?”: In the beginning, you learn from everybody. I studied inkers I liked. And inkers that I didn’t. Do your research and practice every spare moment. Show your stuff around. Get advice from everybody. Take it all in and decide what works, and even try the stuff that doesn’t — just to be sure. I felt everything was helpful. I took a deep dive into what makes a strong inker and took notes on what I needed to accomplish to become one.

I decided in the beginning, I wanted to be known as an inker that provided a “Bold” “Dynamic” “Clean” ink line that also stayed true to the penciler’s drawings. And to get the line I was wanting, I decided that I was somehow going to have to master the “Brush”. It would have to be my number one tool. I was told if I was ever going to be a great brush inker, the brush I must… No! HAD TO USE, was the Winsor & Newton Series 7 sable hair brush. Size 3 I think. And they weren’t cheap. I bought several Winsor & Newton Series 7 brushes, a bottle of India ink, and within a short few days, I had mastered this tool. 

Not really. I proceeded to make a mess, spill ink all over the place, destroy quite a few expensive brushes, and ruin a lot of my clothes. Well before trying to ink a page of any kind, I knew I needed to get a handle on this thing. It could be done. I had watched others doing it. If they could do it, so could I. So I practiced by inking page after page of those thick to thin parallel lines that everyone tells you to do. Over and over again. Straight – bouncy – lines. Page after page. Once that started looking good, time to draw curved bouncy lines. You get it. Lots of bouncy lines. I got to the point, I could see the line before inking it. I don’t know about being perfect, but a lot of practice will get you pretty close. 

The one other thing that greatly helped me get that super clean/sleek line I get with a brush, is learning to draw with your arm and not just your hand. I can draw/ink a very smooth curve using the rotation of my arm. So use that natural curve to your advantage. I have been told it’s funny to watch me ink. I’m flipping the page in all different directions, upside down even, to get the best angle. I’ve been asked quite a few times by a lot of people, “Thomas! What on earth are you doing?” Me, “I’m inking. Isn’t this the way you do it?

10Nov/20

Craft: Dan Hosek – Lettering: From Hand to Digital

Hey Silverline Family,

I was able to grab a snippet on lettering from Dan Hosek.Dan is a Silverline creator currently doing the colors on Steam Patriots, but he has done just about every job in the business and he has done them well. That makes him a total beast in comics and someone definitely worth listening to. Here he talks about lettering, and how he developed his style as the industry was changing.

Lettering: From Hand to Digital

Typically, five tasks have to be completed to make a comic book: writing, penciling, inking, coloring, and lettering. Of those five jobs, lettering is probably the least glamorous, but it is also one of the most important in making a comic book feel “professional.” While good lettering might not make a comic a masterpiece, poor lettering can make it stick out like a sore thumb.

Let me start with a little history. I worked at Marvel Comics as an assistant editor in the mid-90s, a time that was seeing the medium move from traditional “hand” methods of creation to the digital methods used today. The two jobs (at the time) that were most directly impacted by this move were coloring and lettering. Before the move to computer lettering, all comics were hand-lettered.  The tools of the trade were an Ames lettering guide, speedball pens—with different tips (or nibs) for bold and plain text, an Exacto knife to cut out all the caption and word balloons, and rubber cement to paste it to the artboards (the great Todd Klein has an awesome visual description here: https://kleinletters.com/HandBasics.html)! If there were corrections, they had to be pasted on top of the errors in the balloons. Hopefully, editors (like me) wouldn’t want any serious dialogue overhauls, but when they were needed, Marvel’s fabled Bullpen came to our last-minute rescue many times!

Pat Brosseau’s pasted up lettering from Jim Lee’s run on X-Men. The rubber cement has yellowed over time.

Sometimes I don’t know how things got done in a timely matter in publishing before computers. The switch to digital made the process of lettering (and corrections) simpler. The first person I remember working with who switched to all-digital lettering was Richard Starkings. Though I’m sure there were other pioneers blazing the trail with him, I remember Richard’s company, Comicraft, being the first computer letterers used by Marvel before other “traditional” letterers also began to make the switch. These days, hand lettering is very rare.

With that brief history lesson out of the way, let’s talk about the positives and negatives of digital lettering. The traditional method required a greater skill set than what’s required of lettering with a computer.  On top of knowing where to place balloons, how to place them to read in the correct order, and the basics of laying out a page, a letterer also needed the skill to create letterforms that were uniform in size, legible, and could even convey emotion.  A skill that had to be learned and honed. Not to mention the talent needed to hand-letter killer sound effects and title treatments!

With digital lettering, the latter part of that skill set is not needed. Places like blambot.com have many comic lettering fonts available for free and Comicraft licenses their fonts for a fee, just to name a few resources. And while it’s nice to have this available, as with other things that have entered the digital realm, having the fonts and Adobe Illustrator does not necessarily make one a letterer. I have seen many indie comics with beautiful art destroyed by amateurish lettering (thankfully that’s not the case with any Silverline titles!). My first attempt at lettering had many flaws, the worst of which was way too much space in my balloons (thanks to my friend and letterer extraordinaire, Paul Tutrone, for pointing that out). Over time and with practice, my skills have gotten sharper, but I’m of the thinking that one is always a student and always has more to learn.

You could fit a Star Destroyer in all the “air” in those balloons. And I should take my own advice—just because I have a pencil, it doesn’t mean I’m a penciller!

My lettering somewhat improved over time.

A letterer’s job is always to help tell the story. Today, some of the most important things a computer letterer can do are not get in the way of the art by keeping balloons and captions off of important story elements and make sure everything reads in the proper order. Although computers have taken some of the “human touch” from the art of letterforms, the digital age has opened the door to allow more people to try their hands at lettering. With time, new styles and forms will likely evolve from this change, a small example being how some comics use upper- and lower-case letters in word balloons, something almost absent in comics before computer lettering. Innovation and change are something comic books have always been good at and I look forward to seeing what the future holds.

13Oct/20

Craft: Brent Larson – Subtext in Dialogue

Since I’m a screenwriter, and movies offer more in shared experiences than comics, I ask you to consider this scene from Pulp Fiction

JULES (Samuel L. Jackson) and VINCENT (John Travolta) drive down an LA street. Both wear identical black suits.

VINCENT: Where are we going?

JULES: To find this guy who stole our boss’s briefcase, which has something weird and glowy in it.

VINCENT. You think we’ll have to kill this guy?

They pull up to an apartment building. They get out and open the trunk, where they have an assortment of weaponry.

JULES: Probably.

VINCENT: How many guys you think are up there?

JULES: Four, maybe five? But I’m not worried. Life is meaningless. I just try to plus it up by being dramatic.

VINCENT: Aw, don’t be so gloomy. I enjoy life, especially when I’m taking drugs. 

JULES: Yeah, I guess. You know, we go back a long way, don’t we? I enjoy our friendship, mother blankity-blank.

They walk into an apartment, surprising several young guys lounging about.

VINCENT: Don’t be afraid, we’re not here to kill you… haha, kidding! We’re both psychotic!

If Quentin Tarantino had written that, he’d be running a Payless Shoe Source in Bakersfield and we would never know his name. His masterful ability to craft dialogue definitely applies to comics. I’ve tried to incorporate several principles into my comic Kayless, but I’ll expound on just one because it’s such a pitfall in my own writing… using subtext and avoiding the information dump. 

For those who haven’t seen Pulp Fiction, in their actual opening conversation, Jules and Vincent talk about, in order, drug laws in Amsterdam, how Europe is different from the US, the Royale with cheese, their boss’s wife, and what a TV pilot is. After they burst into the apartment, they discuss burger joints and Jules’s favorite Bible verse. All the information I wrote into the example is covered, it’s just barely said in the dialogue. Meanwhile, the audience is asking, Who are these guys? What do they feel about this horrific act? How is Jules fundamentally different from Vincent? All these questions are answered in a conversation that seems inordinately centered on nothing.

Movies, and comics, are a visual medium. That means we have an entire palette of information presentation apart from words. Facial expressions, postures, and random actions all communicate something. If a man tells his wife, “My mom wants to visit this weekend,” and his wife says “Oh, good,” and starts cleaning the silver candlesticks, this says a lot – her mother-in-law stresses her out, makes her feel inadequate, is maybe nitpicky. And the dialogue, albeit brief, complements this. She doesn’t feel free to tell her husband how she feels, which then tells us something about him, too. Maybe he’s oblivious or compares her to his mom. So many things you can use as a writer, all of which would have been stifled if, instead, she’d said, “Oh, great! Not again!”

Upcoming cover to Kayless #3: Thomas Hedglen, Ryan Brooner, Mickey Clausen

Here’s a personal example. In the upcoming Kayless #3, Scott visits his father in prison. They talk about Scott’s military record, why his dad is in prison, and how he feels about it. That’s the information side of things. But what’s really going on is a battle for power. Scott’s dad has kept him under his thumb his whole life, and Scott desperately wishes to tell him he can’t control him anymore. Comic real estate is smaller than a movie, so I had to be choosy with my words and move things quickly, but that didn’t mean the conversation had to be info-heavy. I’ll let you read it and tell me if I succeeded. 

Whenever I write dialogue, I then go back and check if it’s solely conveying information. If so, I look for ways to rewrite it as subtext, or present other visual elements to communicate what’s needed. Writers are often obsessed with their own cleverness, and I am no exception (neither, I suspect, is Tarantino). If I detect any of those self-serving impulses in my dialogue, I rework it so it sounds organic to my characters. Ultimately, I want my readers to think my characters are clever, not me. I’m always happy to share the credit.

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.