Creators Corner: Creating Rebirth of the Gangster, Part 6–Pages in Progress and the Artist/Writer Collaboration

Over the summer, I wrote a few parts in a series detailing the creation of my comic Rebirth of the Gangster (on sale now!)

In case you missed it, check out these links to the first five parts-

Part 1: The Birth of the Idea

Part 2: Brainstorming and Outlining the Plot

Part 3: Outline, Synopsis and Chapter Breakdown

Part 4: Scripting the Action

Part 5: Finding the Right Artist

Last week I wrote about finding the right artist–and I definitely lucked out in finding Juan Romera, a perfect match for the story I wanted to tell. Wait: the story we wanted to tell. Even though I lucked out in getting such a great talent, we didn’t have as dynamic and smooth of a collaboration when we started issue 1 as we do now. Part of that might be because I was too controlling/too descriptive in my scripts, and part of that could be just the natural journey in any collaboration–the more steps collaborators take on that journey, the more they are able to convey directions that used to take a whole sentence with a simple word. And that’s led to some great work in the last year and a half of our creative partnership.

That great work isn’t the only reason I love working with Juan, though: he’s a great collaborator. He’s understanding, willing to accept feedback, and a true professional. I mean, he’s put up with me sending multiple emails of feedback on some of his pages, even when I’ve sometimes changed my mind. Like me, he wants to make Rebirth of the Gangster as good as it can be; if something isn’t working, he’ll adjust it until it does. Take a look at some of the below thumbnails and the exchanges between us to see for yourself.



Since flashbacks play heavily in our story, I wanted something special in the art to frame these flashbacks, making the transition between time periods easier on the reader. Juan sent the following two versions of the page to offer options. After the images, you’ll see my feedback on the flashback style and a request to change something else (the mistake was mine, sorry Juan!).

First style for page 1

first style p 1-page-001

Flashback style for page 1

flashback style p 1-page-001

Email 1 for Sample 1:

Hi Juan,

Thanks for taking the time to work this up; don’t worry about getting it to me a little later, since I’d rather you take the time you need than have you rush through it.  I love the sample page and the character sketches!

I love the flashback style and I’d like you to use that style for this page and other flashbacks (in the script I’ve attached the only other time you’d use this flashback style would be for page 9 and 10 of the comic, which are pages 16-19 of the script).  I like the other style that you sent, though, and I think that should be what we use for the other pages of the script, the parts of the book that take place in the present.

I only have one suggestion for the sample page: I would like Marcus, his dad and his grandfather to have a darker skin tone.  Make it look closer to the skin tone you have in the sketch for Marcus.

As always, if you think of a different interpretation for the layout of a page or a scene, let me know.  I’m open to ideas and adjusting if we both think it’s a better option.

I started a Twitter and Instagram account with a pseudonym (CJStandal).  I’m a teacher, and for right now at least, I’d like to use a pseudonym because some of the swearing and subject matter of the comic isn’t school-appropriate and might make me lose my day job if I don’t have that pseudonym.  And if I lost my day job, I wouldn’t be able to pay for your work long-term for this whole series; I’d only be able to pay for this issue.  If a publisher thinks I should use my real name, though, I’m definitely open to that.

Sorry for yet another long email (but you’ve probably already sensed that’s what I do).

Please let me know if you have any questions or other feedback.


Email 2 for Sample 1:

And I should add this to my last email:

I like how young Curtis has longer hair, but I’d like old Curtis (present day Curtis) to have short hair and a graying beard.

And would you be OK with me posting your sketches and the first page on Twitter and Instagram? I would tag you unless you didn’t want me to do so. [The answer was yes unsurprisingly].

Let me know if you have any questions.


Email 3 for Sample 1:

Hi Juan,

Sorry to keep bugging you but after some thought I had a slight change to the point I made about the flashback style.

I said I like the flashback style, but on second thought I’d like to use a style in between the flashback style and the other one (just for the flashbacks; I still want to use the first style [not the flashback one] for parts that take place in present day). For the flashback style you sent, I like how the panel borders are different but I don’t like how the coloring/inking/shading looks different.

So could the flashback pages have the same inking/shading as the first style but have the same panels/borders as the flashback style you sent?

Thanks for your time and please let me know if I wasn’t clear or if you have any questions.


Email 4 for Sample 1:

Hi Juan,

Is it also possible to change the chalk outline on the first page to the actual dead body of Marcus’s grandfather? That seems more realistic and dramatic.

I did some further research and found out the chalk outline isn’t really part of police procedure: it was something created for movies. I want to be realistic and reflect real procedure by not having the chalk outline at all.

That last email is another example of me going about things a little backwards.  I should’ve researched before writing that page, but better late than never right?

(And I know, you’re probably thinking: How did Juan put up with this?  Make up your mind, CJ!) Thankfully, Juan took it in stride and agreed to make the changes I suggested.  I didn’t include his responses, because they’re so agreeable they’re boring.  And because I’m a narcissist that wants the world to focus on my words.  Why else would I become a writer?



Sample 2 p 2-page-001Sample 2 p 4-page-001

Above (pages 2 and 4); Below (page 3, take one)

Sample 2 p 3-page-001

Email 1 for Sample 2:

Hi Juan,

Thanks for all this great work!  The corrections on page 1 are perfect!  The sketches look great!

I only have one small request for a change, and again, it’s not because you misinterpreted my script–it’s because I thought of something that would work better after seeing the sketches.

At the bottom of page 3, I think it would work better if we just saw a close up of the woman’s hand grabbing the glass.  That way we focus more on her grabbing more champagne (an image that better highlights greed and pairs better with Curtis saying “but we want more and more”).  It also gives more variety to the images, so that we don’t have too many big, crowd scenes.  Again, this is a change based off my own thoughts, not because you messed up .

And change it he did!

Sample 2 p 2 take 2-page-001

Above: page 3, take two


First draft of page 8

p 7 take one-page-001

Email 1 for Sample 3: 

The pages look great! One small change: I think the last panel on page 8 would work better if it was a close up of only Marcus’s face, so we can see that he’s really upset and lost in thought.

Next draft of page 8

p 7 take two-page-001

Not only did he do that; he made the panel before it a smoother transition into it (making it less of a bird’s eye view, so that we don’t suddenly shift camera angles).

That’s it for this installment of “Creating Rebirth of the Gangster“.  Join us next time, and in the meantime, check out all installments of Rebirth of the Gangster or visit me at my site.