Thursday, 12 January 2017

Behind the Scenes - The Big Comic Con

I thought I'd share some insights about the creation of our latest comic book; a behind the scenes look at how the book has been put together.

Our latest book is The Big Comic Con, a tale of crime, comics and cosplay. It is our first fiction story, and is launching on March 11th at Dunfermline Comic Con.

The idea for the story came to me around the time of the 2016 Dunfermline Comic Con. There had been an exhibition of vintage comic books at the event, some of which were very valuable. A while later I read a story about some rare comics being stolen in America, and the idea for The Big Comic Con was born.

The basic premise is as follows:

A group of youngsters, helping out their friend who has gotten into financial problems, decide to pull off a heist at their local comic con. Going after some valuable vintage comics, the group soon find themselves on the wrong side of the law and also at the mercy of some local gangsters.

From that initial idea I started to flesh out the story, whilst trying to answer many questions.

  • Who are the people planning the heist?
  • What motivates the characters to resort to crime?
  • What difficulties will the characters face?
  • What happens after the heist?
  • How does the story end, and how can all the threads of the story be wound up nicely?

From the outset I didn't want to make this an entirely serious story. I wanted to inject a little humour and keep it more of a 'crime caper' than a serious crime story. I took the initial idea and started to write an outline of the story, starting with the motivation for the characters. I then moved onto the events of the story, and this is when I ran into a problem faced by many writers - how to end the story.

I really had no idea how the story was going to end, but I knew that I wanted it to work out neatly and in a satisfying way. It took me a while to come up with the eventual ending, and it was one of those 'two o'clock in the morning inspirations' that came from nowhere. Of course, I'm not going to reveal the entire plot or the ending here, but what I will show you is the process I went through with the artist to make the comic a reality.

Having the story, I wrote it out in script form and started to think about the dialogue and interactions between the characters. As an artist myself, I see the script visually in my head, and I find it useful to sketch out panels and page layouts as I go. Most writers don't work this way. They usually write a script and let the artist do the visuals. Fortunately, the artist on The Big Comic Con, Michael Philp, was happy to work this way. During this part of the process I was very conscious of not revealing too much information on facing pages. If there was a 'reveal' occurring in the story, I tried to make it after a page turn, so that it came as a surprise to the reader. This wasn't always possible, without a major re-write, but it was certainly something I had in mind during the whole writing process.

So, my process was to write the script and sketch some roughs of the page layouts.

Script and rough layout

These were sent to Michael, who would then produce a rough layout based on my sketch. Sometimes Michael would have a much better sense of how a panel should be laid out, so I was happy for him to make alterations to my initial ideas. Michael also added a lot more movement and dynamism to the panels, which I was very pleased with. Compare my initial sketch with Michel's rough, below.

Sketch and Rough

From the rough Michael would develop it into a clean line drawing, which would be sent back to me for lettering and colouring.

Line drawing
I added the lettering first, sometimes adapting the script a little if I thought it looked wrong on the page, or if the dialogue was too stilted and hampered the reading flow. I ended up doing this quite a lot - adapting the script at this late stage. Perhaps that's just a sign of an inexperienced script writer!

The above image is a partially completed page. Colouring and shading has still to be completed, but it serves to demonstrate the stages of production.

So, that's a brief insight into the making of The Big Comic Con. If you're an aspiring writer, perhaps you'll find it useful, or at least mildly interesting!

Tickets for Dunfermline Comic Con 2017 are currently on sale, so if you'd like to get your hands on a  signed, first edition of The Big Comic Con, then please come along and meet us!