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A comic book script is a unique beast. Like a film script, it has two functions: • Provide a blueprint for the construction you and your collaborators are about to build. • To be a communications tool in the collaboration between writer and artist (and editor!). But, unlike a film script, there’s no set format. There are as many scripting styles as there are writers. Some will use a word or two of description to give the artist the utmost freedom to do their job; others, like Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta, From Hell), will describe each panel in exhaustive detail. I’m only giving you the format that I use. It’s the one I’m most comfortable with, and, at least so far, it’s been a confusion-‐free communication tool. But, just because this format works for me, it doesn’t mean I’m going to pound my chest and scream USE THIS WAY YOU MUST! Use whatever gets your ideas across! To better understand the format, I’m also including my original script for a one-‐ page comic book from Whiz!Bam!Pow!, my own Golden Age comics/transmedia project, along with the completed artwork from artist extraordinaire, Blair Campbell. Note that the comic is done in the 1940s style… the writing is meant to be over-‐the-‐top! As a writer, your job is to clearly communicate your ideas to an artist in a manner that both tells your story and gives the artist room to use their own expertise. I hope this brief guide, coupled with my book, Comics for Film, Games, and Animation, helps you do just that. This document will be ever-‐evolving; I plan on incorporating your thoughts and questions throughout each evolution. If you have any questions or suggestions, don’t hesitate to ask me via Twitter @tylerweaver or on my Tumblr, Penny a Word, at tylerweaver.tumblr.com. -‐ Tyler
“THE SENTINEL SUNDAY STRIP” WHIZ!BAM!POW!
“THE SENTINEL SUNDAY STRIP” (NOTE: THIS STRIP IS MEANT TO HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED IN 1940 PLEASE USE VEHICLES, CLOTHING STYLES, ETC. APPROPRIATE TO THAT ERA)
PAGE 1 (10 Panels) PANEL 1 - SPLASH PANEL* The Sentinel flies through the air, carrying an unidentified woman. 1. WOMAN: WE MADE IT OUT JUST IN THE NICK OF TIME! 2. THE SENTINEL: JUST DOING MY JOB!
PANEL 2 A city block is in flames. Wrecked cars all over the place. Pandemonium in the streets. 3. CAPTION: IN THE SENTINEL’S ABSENCE, THE BIG CITY HAS BEEN ATTACKED! WHAT COULD HAVE CAUSED THIS?
PANEL 3 The Sentinel puts the woman down on top of a building. 4. THE SENTINEL: YOU’LL BE SAFE HERE! 5. WOMAN: NOT UNTIL YOU GET BACK!
PANEL 4 The Sentinel flies into the heart of the city. 6. CAPTION: HIS CITY IN JEOPARDY, THE SENTINEL HURLS HIMSELF INTO ACTION! 7. THE SENTINEL (thought balloon)*: WHAT NEFARIOUS CREATURE COULD HAVE DONE THIS?
PANEL 5 A car SMASHES into the Sentinel from behind. 8. CAPTION: OUT OF NOWHERE, MECHANICAL DOOM STRIKES THE SENTINEL! 9. THE SENTINEL: OOOF!
PANEL 6 The Sentinel CRASHES TO THE GROUND. 10. CAPTION: THE STREETS CRUMBLE UNDER THE FORCE OF THE SENTINEL’S IMPACT!
PANEL 7 A GIANT FUCKING ROBOT holds the woman from panel 1 in its hand, towering over the Sentinel. 11. WOMAN: SENTINEL! SAVE ME!
PANEL 8 The Sentinel HURLS the car from on top of him. 12. CAPTION: THE SENTINEL BREAKS FREE FROM HIS TOMB OF CERTAIN DEATH!
PANEL 9 The GIANT FUCKING ROBOT’s EYES LIGHT UP with a Death Ray! 13. CAPTION: THE INCENDIARY METALLIC BEAST’S EYES GLOW RED, READY TO RAIN DEATH ON THE DENIZENS OF THE CITY - AND THE SENTINEL!
PANEL 10 The Sentinel flies into the air, battling against the death rays, bombarding him! 14. SENTINEL: NOT TODAY YOU DON’T! 15. END CAPTION: * WITH THE FATE OF HIS CITY IN HIS HANDS, CAN THE SENTINEL POSSIBLY PREVAIL? FIND OUT NEXT WEEK!!!
written by TYLER WEAVER, art by BLAIR CAMPBELL
* SPLASH PANEL = a panel intended to be big, bold and powerful. The title page, sometimes. Also called a splash page (when it takes up the entire page). I use “Splash Panel” here as it was era-‐appropriate (1940). *THOUGHT BALLOON = use a cloud-‐shaped icon to demarcate the appearance of thought; a pop-‐culture version of the Shakespearean aside. They’re not used much today, as Captions have taken on a more first-‐person, voice-‐over role. However, in the era this comic was crafted, it’s absolutely appropriate. * END CAPTION = this is used rarely, and was again, era-‐specific. It’s the comics equivalent of a quick fade to black and the ominous words, TO BE CONTINUED. In the 1940s, cliffhangers were a bit more hyperbolic than today’s cliffhangers, hence the over-‐the-‐top nature of the writing. In the case of Whiz!Bam!Pow!, this creates the illusion of “Perceived serialization,” a topic I talk about at great length in the book. • • • • Yes, I swear a lot in my scripts, especially when I’m excited about something. Unless it says “caption” before it, it doesn’t go into the final product, and is there as a note to the artist. • Why do I use numbers for each element? “Change 27 to ‘He’s all yours guys’” is a far simpler ways of communicating a change than “Change the dialogue in panel 7 page 19 to …” • But, I don’t include panel numbers until the final script is locked. Otherwise, the pages would be a haphazard mess of unreadable tripe. Think of adding numbers to the script like adding scene numbers in the script breakdown stage. • Note that I don’t use sound effects in the excerpt. Had I used them, I would have given them a number. • I usually give each page in the comic its own page in the script. If I go over a single page, I still start a new page of comic on a new page of script. It gives the artist room to scribble and make notes on a print-‐out.
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TYLER WEAVER is the author of Comics for Film, Games, and Animation: Using Comics to Construct Your Transmedia Storyworld and the writer/co-‐creator of Whiz!Bam!Pow!, a transmedia story experience of family, forgery, death rays, secret codes, laundry chutes, and the Golden Age of Comics. He also once saw an ocelot. You can find him on Twitter under the creative handle of @tylerweaver.