The Watchmen Week Letter Column – 03/13/2009

Friday means many things to many people. For some, Friday means you have to spend the next 48 or so hours with your horrible horrible family, begging to go back to the sweet mind numbing sanctum of the corporate office. For others, Friday is the day you banter with a leggy Amazonian princess.

At iFanboy, Friday means it’s letter column time.

You write. We answer. Very simple.

As always, if you want to have your e-mail read on the any of our shows or answered here, keep them coming — contact@ifanboy.com

 


At the end of Final Crisis #7, the figure that we are supposed to believe is Batman is painting on the cave wall with his left hand. Is Bruce a lefty or a righty. I assume he’s a righty, but if he’s a lefty, then could this be a hint that it’s not really him? I know Bats is ambidextrous in combat, but in this situation wouldn’t he use his most natural hand? I just need a concrete answer as to wether or not he’s a lefty or a righty. I can’t seem to find a definite answer online anywhere, and I’m about to start paging through old issues.

Sam from Philadelphia, PA

Uhhhhhm… ahhhh… let’s try another one?

What are your feelings on Marvel’s and DC’s practice of releasing a trade as a hardcover first and then months later releasing it as a softcover. Usually these hardcover editions contain nothing more then the collected issues with no extras. They just slap a hardcover on it and charge you $5 more. I know it is only $5, but it seems like I am getting nothing for those $5. More and more titles are doing this: The New Avengers, JSA, Green Lantern, and Superman are a few that come to mind.

I understand that the comic industry needs sources of revenue but this seems like a very cheap way to make a few extra bucks. Release the “cheap” softcover first or give me something for my $5 other then a hardcover.

Alan from Chicago, IL

Here’s my take on extras — they are extra. I like them, I think they are a nice bonus, but at the end of the day I’m buying the story and the format, and those are the most important considerations. Extras are a nice bonus, but I don’t think they are necessary. The only time I really take extras into consideration is when there are two different versions of the same book (or DVD) and the price point isn’t all that different.

The extra five bucks for the hardcover is for the format. It’s higher grade that costs more. It’s not the comic book companies cheaply ripping consumers off, it’s the companies offering different formats for those who care about such things. I don’t know exactly why they offer the hardcovers first, but releasing the higher grade offering first followed by the lower grade format seems like a logical progression to me. I prefer hardcovers myself so I will gladly pay the extra five bucks for the format of my choice.

At the end of the day, it’s all about choice and smartly giving consumers as much as possible.

Conor Kilpatrick

 


As a aspiring writer what is the best way to get into the business were can I submit samples, should I be writing in script format, should I submit original works to various publishers. basically I would like your two cents on the subject, tho I’m sure you get this question quite often.

Joe

This is indeed a common question, and quite simply, there is no one answer and no single path. No pro comic writer got where they are in the same way as any other comic writer. It’s scientific fact.

From a technical side, there are all sorts of resources when it comes to scripting. There is no set format for comic scripts, in the way that there’s a standard for screenplays. This is how I do it. Previously, I used Final Draft, a screenwriting program, and I just juked the formatting a bit. Currently, I’m using a Mac program called Scrivener, which has some comic templates included, as well as many other tools. I’m also experimenting with Movie Magic Screenwriter, which also has comic templates, and is quite robust. You can find script books out there from writers, including Brian Bendis and Greg Rucka. You’ll also find script samples (which are never the same) in the back of some trade paperbacks. There are also some great resources online, like Antony Johnston’s site, with script samples.

As far as getting published goes, it really depends on your goals. Do you want to write for Marvel and DC, or do you just want your stories published? Are you trying to make a living? Let’s assume you want to work for the big two. Get published somewhere else first. Do that by finding an artist. You can start by looking at Digital Webbing. Find someone you like working with, and be clear on what your business relationship is before going too far. This can take years to find someone. If you can draw, you’re all set. The list of guys writing full time who started out drawing their own comics is mighty. Brian Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Alan Moore, Bill Willingham, and Rick Remender were all their own artists before doing scripting only. If you have a script and an artist, and work you’re proud of (only share work you’re proud of), then you have to get it published. Research the small press publishers out there, and READ THE SUBMISSIONS POLICY before sending anything. Don’t lose out on a technicality. If it’s at all possible. Get to know people, either at conventions, or virtually. Don’t be creepy (whatever that means to you), but networking is how things get done. It always helps to have someone on the inside.

In terms of being a writer, you should study and read everything you can, regardless of genre or media. Look at plot, character, story, structure, and think about it all the time. Then write. Keep writing, and write some more. You’re going to suck for a long time. Get used to rejection and do not quit. Get through all that, and you might have a chance. This is not a short game, and it’s not for the weak. Good luck.

Finally, and this might seem like a nitpick, do not send emails with grammar and spelling mistakes like the one you sent us. Every word you send out should be as perfect as you can make it. You don’t want to put a potential editor or opportunity off because you wrote “tho” instead of “though.” Make a habit of it everywhere, and lose your IM/texting shorthand as soon as you can.

Josh Flanagan

Comments

  1. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I use Movie Magic Screenwriter as well.  For years now, actually. If you’re serious about all this, it’s worth the plunge.  

    Read scripts.  All kinds of scripts.  Don’t just focus on comic scripts either. Dramatic theory is universal to all media even if the structure isn’t. Read plays for dialogue. Transcribe overheard conversations on the train or bus to learn dialogue.  Read screenplays and scriptwriting books to learn about plot.  And don’t forget to write either.  

     

  2. Holy Crap, thank you Josh for bring up his grammar and spelling errors. I was planning on commmenting on that before I finished reading this. It’s amazing how many people don’t even proof-read stuff they send. Hell, I proof-read texts I send people, and use correct punctuation. I feel like nobody has respect for the "word" anymore.

  3. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @Ben – I think you mean ‘bringing up’.  😉

    While Josh is totally right about proofing correspondence with potential editors, let’s try not to dogpile on Joe, here.  Point’s been made.   

  4. @PaulMontgomery – Haha, thanks, missed that one.

     

  5. Thanks guys! I have the dream of publishing my own comic as well and getting picked up by one of the big guys! What are your thoughts on practicing with an established character, like a Wolverine or Aquaman or do you think a virgin writer should try with something totally original?

    And really, Batman must be a righty. Why do I say that? Because I am certain I have a 50-50 chance of being right!

  6. A book is first published as a hardcover. Several months later, it is rereleased in a cheaper paperback edition; that edition often includes updates, extras, or corrections since the hardcover was published. I have not just described DC and Marvel’s trade policy, but rather the entire publishing industry. That’s just the way books come out. Not everything the Big Two do has to be a dastardly swindle.

    As for the nitpick raised by the other letter: I’m dumbfounded by the obvious punctuation and grammatical errors that make it all the way to publication in comics now. I probably learned half my vocabulary from verbose supervillains in the eighties, but now Dark Avengers has a double negative screaming at me on page three. How many sets of eyes did that pass by on its way to the printer?

  7. @Jimski, it was my email about the hardcovers vs. softcovers.  While I do agree with you that books do release in hardcover first the vast majority of comic book trades do not.  I can’t think of any Image title that comes out in hardcover first and all Marvel/DC titles don’t either. Most of the books I have noticed that come out in hardcover first are mainstream ongoing titles that consistently do well on diamonds top 100 list. 

     

  8. @alsotav: Marvel and DC have the funds to act like a book publisher.  I’m sure if Image could release everything in hardcover first they would.

  9. @alsotav-Also, it seems Image would want you to try out a book first, then invest in a nice big hardcover edition.  So they will put out a cheaper softcover trades first like Walking Dead, Dynamo 5 and the soon to be released I Kill Giants.  After that come the oversized deluxe stuff if they feel confident people will want to pick it up

  10. For real grammar and spelling fun try Bendis’s early oeuvre – Goldfish, Fire, and Jinx. Man, it can be truly painful at times. However, he self-edited and lettered those and freely admits he sucks at spelling so he gets a partial pass for that. Now, once he started working for someone and that crap still made it to the finished page despite editors, letterers, etc. that’s a horse of a different color.

     

  11. When it comes to paperbacks or hardcover I TRY to always get the hardcover when possible. I love hardcovers. I think the real question is: Dust jacket or no dust jacket? Right now, unless the actual cover design doesn’t have an easily identifiable spine (Azzarello’s JOKER, the Kirby Omnis) I have the dust jacket safely stored away. I especially like my Vertigo trades like this, the stuff they use to make the actual cover feels nice (Whatever they used for JOKER and the Y deluxe trade, at least).  

    I like to use Celtx ( http://celtx.com/ ) for script writing. They offer a number of different formats to write in but they recently added a pretty decent comic book template. The software is absolutely free and runs on Windows Mac and Linux. It used to have a lot of free online features like sharing and backup hosting but soon those will be a pay-for service, but the software itself will still be free and worth checking out. 

  12. As Jim said, it’s satndard pratice to release a HC and then PB later. The problem with comics is for people who follow ongoing series in trades. Well sucks to be you!

     

    Also, I am so gay for Absolute Watchmen!

  13. Paperback all the way baby!

    Not only just for the cheaper cost but it’s just easier for me to handle. Some hardcovers are fine, I mean nothing you can do for Omnibus’s or large sized HC’s. But I just hate dust jackets, I hate them. So annoying, they should be library edition HC’s where the cover is like pasted or taped onto the cover itself….Or however Library’s do their trades.

     

  14. @ TNC

    I just take off the dust jackets when I start reading and put them back on after I’m done. 

  15. @eagle: That’s what I do too….but it’s just annoying for me. Again I would love it if HC’s in general would turn into Library Editions.

  16. Maybe Batman’s right hand is sore from shooting that big old gun at that Darkseid dude!

  17. @Champ: I just leave the dust jackets off always! It works great and the usual minimalistic cover underneath is awesome 😀

  18. I hate to blemish the dust jacket OR the actual cover so recently I’ve been removing the dust jacket and putting on one of those spandex book sox they sell at the local Walgreens while I’m carrying the book around with me.  Not only is it reusable but it reduces odd looks from the guy across the seat from you on the subway 😉

     

  19. I’m a paperback man as well.  Mainly because I just find they’re easier to read in bed. 😛  I don’t mind a hardcover for something special, say like Batman: Year One or whatever, but I think they’re overdoing it with putting out anything that remotely sells into hardcover, especially when it’s an ongoing monthly title.  How the heck am I supposed to keep up if I’m a paperback reader?  Basically, I can’t, so I either wait oh so patiently or buy the monthlies or hardcover.  I do give some kudos to Marvel as they tend to release their paperbacks 3-4 months after the hardcover, whereas DC takes over a year, and to me, that’s way too long.  They’re releasing monthly periodicals, not self-contained stories like novels.  People use trades to either catch up and then switch to monthlies or that’s how they read the series.  I can see releasing a paperback a year later on a hardcover when it’s a mini-series or OGN, but not on a monthly book.  That’s potential new readers you’re losing!  One of the downsides is that I sometimes lose interest or have completely forgotten by the time a paperback comes out.  My other HC/TPB gripe is that Vertigo shouldn’t put out all of their OGNs in hardcover form first unless there is a built in audience.  If it’s by a known creator (be it writer or artist, but most likely writer if it’s Vertigo) or using a known character, such as Sandman or Hellblazer, then fine, put it out in HC, because people will buy it.  But when it’s a new writer putting out something nobody knows nothing about, all the great reviews from WB owned magazines won’t do shit to get it in people’s hands.  Release it in paperback first, lower the price a wee bit and promote the hell out of it.  I think most comic readers are terrible at taking risks, which is why superhero books will always reign, so publishers need to make stuff like that more accessible to people.  I find it kind of funny that Vertigo Crime is releasing in hardcover first, since crime pulp novels were always cheap paperbacks, and I would imagine putting out a cool looking paperback for $10 or so would sell better than a $20 hardcover.  They’ve said they’ll release the books in paperbacks eventually, but who’s to say the line won’t be defunct by that time?  Minx I don’t think made it a year.  But we’ll see.  I really don’t think DC will be changing any trade policies as they have a distribution agreement with Random House and I’m sure they dictate some things to DC in terms of release times and hardcovers/paperbacks.

  20. I didn’t mean to leave this out, but if you want to break into comics, you need to be following CB Cebulski on twitter.  http://www.twitter.com/cbcebulski.  He’s doling out pro tips and advice left and right.

  21. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    For artists, mostly.  

  22. True, but there are bits of things for writer, and just general rules about how to get in with the companies.

    Don’t be creepy.  Don’t act like you’ve earned it when you haven’t.  It’s a job, etc. etc.

  23. so is batman left handed?

  24. I though batman wrote mostly with his feet. left footed

  25. and what blood type is batman, huh?

  26. A Super Positive

  27. THis is wayy late, but these two books are great for finding out how writers you like write.  Their kinda hard to find, but I’d gladly lend anybody my copies.  

    http://www.amazon.com/Writers-Comics-Scriptwriting-Vol-1/dp/184023069X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1237172402&sr=8-1

    http://www.amazon.com/Writers-Comics-Scriptwriting-Vol-2/dp/1840238089/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1237172467&sr=8-2

  28. Batman’s bloodtype is Type O Awesome

  29. And thank you Josh for mentioning grammar. This online shorthand drives me up a wall!