Comic Book Script To Inks
By Timothy Joe Himes
Introduction To Script Writing For Comics
Comics. They exist in myriad forms and can be found throughout the world. From single one shots to graphic novels, they are produced daily by large publishing companies and Independent start-ups alike. But, how are they created? What goes into making a comic book? How does the artist translate what the writer describes in their script?
My name is Timothy J. Himes, here to offer you some insight into the wonderfully wide world of creating comic books.
In this article, I’ll delve into the transition from descriptive text to captivating sequential imagery. To do so, I will be pulling from the first issue of my own graphic novel Blood Moon Mountain: Darkenridge.
The Comic Book Script
A comic book script is a tool that writers use to convey the stories that they imagine. It allows the writer a means to collect their stories into a simple concise and readable format. Unlike a book or novel, a comic script is often described as being more like a script from a play or a manuscript for a movie.
There is no one standard way of writing a comic script. In fact, many writers either use their own guidelines like yours truly, or they follow the directions offered by the publishing company they work for.
Regardless of what format the script is in, there are a few things that are common in all formats.
Now, don’t get me wrong. This article isn’t about writing comics but if you are going to be a comic artist, you will need to know a few things about how to read a script. And, this article will take you from reading a script to finishing your inks.
Important Parts Of The Comic Book Script
As an artist, there are a few key parts of the script that you should be familiar with.
Page Count: Each script should have a space that tells you what comic interior page number that you are working on. This is usually shown something like this: “Page: 1 of 24”. This tells you how many pages of completed work you will need to do.
Number Of Panels: This is important because it tells the artist how many panels the writer thinks this page will need. This is also important to know because it will help to know this when your planning your page layout.
Panels: Panels are used to describe the imagery that the penciler needs to draw. The penciler being that artist who does the initial penciled layout for the inker to go over later. Panels can be long and complex or simple and straight to the point. For an artist, this is where the meat is. I’ll cover that shortly. Panels are often numbered. This tells the artist what order the writer thinks they should appear on the page.
Caption Boxes: Some of the worlds best comic writers today use Caption Boxes to convey a lot of important things about their story. As an artist, you should be aware of where these should go, how large they will need to be and most importantly, where they might cover up your art.
Character Dialogue: Usually listed as the characters name in all capital lettering, the Character Dialogue tells the letterer who is saying what in the scene and in what order the word balloons should be placed. For the artist, this is important to know because it tells you how many word balloons there are going to be. The artist, usually the penciler, should consider this when designing the comic page. Word balloons cover penciled art. So, it a good idea to plan ahead so that you have an idea of the amount of space you will have to work with. Whatever you draw, your art will need to flow around these spaces.
Sound Effects: Just like the Character Dialogue above, Sound Effects tell the letterer what effect they should create for sound. This could be a character yelling, a loud crash or the sound made by machine guns! Either way, the artist needs to have an idea where these will go because like the Character Dialogue above, these effects will also take up space on the page.
(By Timothy Joe Himes)
BLOOD MOON MOUNTAIN: DARKENRIDGE
Issue #1 Page 2 of 24
SCENE: Alice has just dropped Bannon off where the roads stop and the wilderness begins at the foot of the Blood Moon Mountain area. Bannon is dressed in his U.S. Army gear complete with an alice pack. The M1 Garand slung over his shoulder and the 1911 Pistol at his side. Alice is driving a Black 1970 Plymouth Duster.
PANEL ONE: Medium shot eye level. We see Bannon's back as he looks toward the horizon, reminiscing on past events and his time in Vietnam. Dressed in his Army gear, Black Eagle's M1 Garand is slung over his shoulder. Bannon's 1911 Colt is at his right side, more of a western fashion to offset the military feel. In the distance, Blood Moon Mountain stands tall above the rocky mountains scattered about in the distance. Clouds roll across the sky with shadows cast across the ground.
CAPTION 1: Darkenridge County line. 20 miles North by Northwest of the Kalemateo Reservation.
CAPTION 2: Fall. 1969.
PANEL TWO: Close up bust shot of Bannon's chest with a jet black 1970 Plymouth Duster in profile behind him. Do not show Bannon's face, this will be shown later. Emphasize the name "OMAllY" on his right just above the pocket. In the Duster is Bannon's wife, Alice Marie O'Mally. We should not see her face clearly as of yet.
ALICE 1: I'll be back on Sunday morning to pick you up.
BANNON 1: Thanks again for the ride baby. I'll see you then.
PANEL THREE: below chest level view of Bannon from the back. He has casually upholstered the 1911 pistol and holds it at his side. In the background. Alice drives away, trailing loose dirt and gravel behind her in a dust.
CAPTION 3: Thursday. 10:17 AM.
PANEL FOUR: Close on Bannon chambering a round in the 1911 pistol. The slide is held back just before releasing it.
SFX 1: Chk-Chk.
BANNON 2: Finally alone. Just you and I brother. You, me n' mother nature. The way it used to be so often for us.
END OF PAGE
Comic Book Panels
Panels are those weird shaped boxes, rectangles and other funny things that you see on the comic pages. Each one holds a specific image that captures the most important or dramatic image the writer needs the artist to convey.
But how do you do that? Well, lets talk briefly about the Layout.
Captivating imagery begins with planning the layout that the Panels will flow in. Comic panels are organized in such a way as to allow the readers eye to flow across the page. In the standard comic, eye flow moves from left to right and then down in a zig zag fashion.
Word balloons and caption boxes are laid out in much the same fashion.
Establishing The Layout For Your Comic Book
Artists should always read the script that they are given. This will help the artist to visualize what the writer is talking about. And, when you read a good script it allows the creative side of your mind to conjure imagery. Comic artists explore that imagery in many fascinating ways, often by exaggerating the drama or angle of the image.
Sometimes, the writer will include a few suggestions to help the artist to create that image in their mind. To do this, the writer will often describe the panel in a way that they feel will best emphasize specific aspects of that panel.
Other writers do not do this at all, in fact they just write out the scene that plays out in their head and its entirely up to the artist on how to render that image.
How To Translate This To Comic Art
As an artist, its always a good idea to read the panel description. I’d suggest reading it a few times to help get a better mental picture. Can you see something like this with your mind’s eye? Here is a technique I use when translating the descriptive text to captivating imagery.
Thumbnails: a spare sheet of paper. Nothing fancy, even typing paper will do just fine. Then, draw up a few thumbnails. Go ahead and use whatever you have handy. A pencil, a pen, or even a sharpie. I’d suggest sketching out the layout that you think would work for this first but keep the number of panels in mind when you do. Just make sure that your thinking about how readers eye will flow from left to right while you hammer this out real quick.
What’s a thumbnail? Well, a thumbnail drawing is a very rough and loose sketch that you can do to help get this image on paper. Here’s mine.
Choose The Best: Ok. Now that we have a few thumbnails to choose from, if you look closely you also have several panel shots to choose from. Sometimes, I’ll go in and sketch up a couple more thumbnails that combine what I have already done. Then, I choose the best one that fits the script.
Rough Draft: Now that you have a good thumbnail to work from, it’s a good idea to redraw that again. This time, draw it larger and add more detail to it. Don’t overdo it, just add in the details that you think are important from the script. It’s ok to draw up a few of these rough pencils as well. That way, you can choose from the best one.
Final Pencils: Now at this stage, you should have already chosen the best rough pencils that you did. Make sure this is the one that fits the script best and tells the story that the writer was conveying in their script. Now, you can redraw this one more time. This time, we are going to do this on 11 x 17 Bristol Board.
When using this technique, you can also use non-photo blue pencils to draw the final pencils for your page. Non-Photo Blue does not show up when scanned so you get a clean inked page with no pencil lines.
The final pencils are done, and they look great! Now, you have a few options here.
Most traditional artists will set aside the original penciled page that they just did. Now, they will use a tracing board or light table and begin inking the penciled page on a separate sheet of 11 x 17 Bristol. The original is of course placed beneath the new sheet. On a good light box, you can see the lines very clearly and go straight to inks.
You can go ahead and lightly erase the pencils that you just did on the original page. Do this very lightly so that you can still see the pencils. Now, begin inking over the remaining lines that you see. This technique saves Bristol board, but you lose the original pencils when they are covered by the inks.
The classic approach is to ink right over the pencils that you just did without erasing them first. You don’t erase until the inks are dry and then you remove all the penciled lines.
This is the completed inked page.
And there you have it! From the thought provoking scripted page to the captivatingly clean inks, congratulations you just completed your first comic book page!
Now, send that off to the letter so they can add in the thought provoking dialogue! then, its it's off to the colorist so that they can make that baby shine!
Timothy J. Himes
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