27 posts tagged comics
27 posts tagged comics
Inspiration can come from anywhere. For James Abrams, writer of Dreamcatchers, the latest movie project added to the Amazon Studios development slate, it came from a series of nightmares he experienced while sick with the H1N1 flu virus.
The unrelenting visions James experienced during his illness made him think about what would happen if nightmares crossed over into the real world. He started to explore the concept and wrote what became Dreamcatchers – the story of an insomniac security guard who must help stop the worst nightmares from destroying our world.
A lifelong fan of comic books, James attended art school and later went on to produce and write a comic of his own called Archaic, which was independently published by Fenickx Productions in 2005. Soon after, he caught the screenwriting bug, starting out with more violent, action-oriented scripts which he describes as “something that Bruce Willis could be in.”
We spoke to James about his dreams, his script and what made him switch to more family-friendly material.
Tell us about the story of Dreamcatchers.
James: The story is about this secret organization that captures nightmares and takes them into the real world. Our protagonist is a guy named Nick, who had one of these nightmares when he was very young and it has made him into an insomniac. He works as a night watchman and during the day he’s a computer tech, and eventually he gets involved with the Dreamcatchers who recruit him. Because of his insomnia, he is able to understand the nightmare’s powers.
For comic book artist and writer Matthew Dow Smith, Doctor Who hasn’t just been a job — it has been a lifelong influence. “I’ve been a Doctor Who fan since I was 6 or 7 years old. I still remember the very first episode I saw, and I remember how badly is scared me, but I loved it,” he said. “A lot of creative people from my generation can trace what they do back to Star Wars. But I actually trace it back to Doctor Who.”
We talked with Smith about how Doctor Who has influenced his work, including Blackburn Burrow, the comic he drew for Amazon Studios (the complete, four-issue series is now available for free), the value of “nerdy” details and telling stories on TV.
Hollywonk: What did Doctor Who teach you about storytelling, and how things unfold in your work?
Smith: Everything that I like in a story and everything that I do in a story as a writer was influenced by the aesthetic of that show. There are certain themes, and there are certain approaches to telling a story that really do come from Doctor Who. I always try to tell really nice stories.
And the aesthetic of the show influenced everything that I do. I draw people in coats, including a coat in Blackburn Burrow. I’m good at drawing people in coats, and that’s because I spent my entire childhood drawing Doctor Who in all those coats.
Hollywonk: Take a part of Blackburn Burrow that you think of as one of your favorite pieces to draw and tell us about it.
Smith: Well I’m really proud of the whole thing. I really like this opening sequence that we did for the book. Ron [Marz], the writer, really set out to set the tone for the entire book within those ten pages. We’re cutting back and forth between a sequence with Master entering a spooky mansion off to fight something bad, while two other characters on the other side of town talking about him, and we cut back and forth between those two things and they meet up. …
Acclaimed comics writer Ron Marz (Green Lantern, Silver Surfer, and Amazon Studios’ own Blackburn Burrow) knows about telling stories visually. Here are his three rules for doing it well:
By Ron Marz
I write comic books. Yes, that means my job is to write the words that go in those little “bubbles” on the pages … though we actually call them “balloons” (bubbles are in bath tubs and champagne, not comic books).
My job is also to try to figure out the most visual way to tell a story. Comics are visual documents. They are words and pictures together, making something more uniquely powerful than either could accomplish separately. A comic-book script is like a long letter to the artist, most often breaking down the action by page and even by panels, suggesting pacing and storytelling to the artist. The artist interprets the script, bringing his or her own sensibility to the page, choosing how best to convey the visuals. The magic lies in the collaboration; the creative energy of two (or more) minds working toward the same goal.
A generation ago, comics were artist-driven, often to the detriment of sensible stories and three-dimensional characters. Now the pendulum has swung the other way, and comics are writer-driven, often to the detriment of visual excitement. The comic industry needs to get back to more of a balance between writing and art, as in the 1980s, when seminal works like “Watchmen” and “Dark Knight Returns” were created. One of the ways we can do that is for writers to be more attuned to writing visually, and making artists full partners in the creative process. Which brings us to …
Three Rules for Writing Visually
Rule #1: “Show, Don’t Tell” This one seems obvious, right? But I’ve had more than one comic artist say this exact thing to me: “If I have to draw one more scene of people sitting around a conference table talking, I’m gonna lose my mind.”
Yes, there’s a certain amount of necessary information that must be conveyed via dialogue in every comic. But just showing people talking is generally the most visually dull way to do it.
Issue #4 of “Blackburn Burrow” opens with a flashback sequence, showing ancient Mayans summoning, battling and entombing their “god,” with Colonel Richards narrating what’s happening. It’s considerably more interesting to show those events, rather than just two pages of Richards talking.