Category Archives: Creators Corner

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.

Creator’s Corner: Exercises in Cartooning: Week 4

I’m a writer, not an artist. But for the next 7 weeks, I’m going to be a cartoonist.

And you can join me on this journey–not only by seeing what I do, but by completing the exercises I do along with me.

*Note* To see Week 1’s adventures, click here, to see Week 2’s adventures, click here, and to see Week 3’s adventures, click here.

The great cartoonist Ivan Brunetti, also a teacher of comics/cartooning, has a book that publishes his course; it is a 10 week “class” that has a few exercises for each week, some of which I might even use in my own graphic novel class.

I thought it’d be fun–especially since I’m a writer and need to challenge my skills as an artist–to run myself through his course and post each of my exercise on here.  So without further ado…

Exercise 4.1

Part 1:

Create a basic design for a character and draw from it from a few angles.  I created a robot character with a wheel instead of legs.

Then, brainstorm a location to set your comic with this character and a verb, an action for this character to do.  I set it in a factory and wanted the robot to hug someone/something, to add some pathos and emotion to this character.


Part 2:

Create a page with 8 evenly divided panels.

For panels 3-6, draw the character doing your brainstormed action in the preset location.   Avoid shifting perspective too much, but when needed, shift and use the angle character study you created.

Then, draw 2 panels (panels 1-2) to show why the character is doing this action; add closure by drawing the consequence(s) of this action in panels 7-8.

Here’s what I came up with; I’ll do a postmortem analysis of my choices and cartoon after it–good luck with yours!

cartooning exercise week 4

While I like the simplicity of the robot design, I did find it hard to have him “act”, which might explain why some of what he’s doing is a little unclear. The first panel, for instance, is the robot hugging his boss and coworker, but that isn’t clear. It actually looks more like he’s assaulting his boss then hugging him.


Specifically, though, these were the parts that made it hard for him to act and in turn possibly made it hard for his hug and other actions to be understood by a reader: the boxy arms and hands; the stationary wheel; the lack of legs. If I were do do a similar comic and character, I would have the arms be more flexible and fluid, and I would have the wheel attached to some sort of legs or leg-like appendage.


On the positive side, I do think I was able to make the robot, the boos, and the assembly line worker emote with few facial details; they also were relatively different–in the way their faces were drawn but also in their figures–which made them easier to distinguish.


Another positive: the action and storytelling were pretty clear with what was being done by the factory machine (the one that looks more like a claw a kid uses to grab a stuffed animal in an arcade game).


A positive and negative: I do a good job streamlining setting details to a minimum, making the reader focus more on character, actions, and storytelling. The one point where I went too far with this minimalism, though, is the fourth panel, when the robot has gone through the doors into the factory. I’d like to add another machine or two, along with a worker or two, so that the factory seems busier (and so that the setting is clearer, that it is in fact a factory).


Well, that’s it for this week’s cartooning exercise and model. Check out previous week’s in the above links, and I’ll see you for Week 5!


Creator’s Corner: Creating Rebirth of the Gangster, Part 5–Finding the Right Artist

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 four 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

In today’s segment, I walk you through how I found the perfect artist for Rebirth of the Gangster, Juan Romera!

Finding the Right Artist:

Now that I had my story and script ready to go, I started looking for an artist. Yes, I realize that the best scripts are tailored to an artist, but as you will see (or have already seen), I sometimes go about things in a backwards way. What good is creating your own stuff if you can’t set the rules, am I right?  

I had a few guidelines in mind: I wanted an artist who wasn’t overly detailed, but could bring the heat when it came to creating character expressions. A lot of this comic is reliant on the “acting” of the characters and the reader inferring things, rather than me just telling them. Note–there is more telling and exposition in the first issue than the later ones will have, but that’s often the case with a first chapter or scene.

juan sample 2 faces

Image rights owned by Juan Romera: one of the images that drew me to him as my artist

I also knew that I wanted an artist who could play with shading and grab the reader with just black and white. Part of that, to be honest, is an issue of funds–everywhere I looked, artist’s price for coloring their pages was out of my budget. I also like to think, though, that black and white suit this story even better. It creates the noir atmosphere and tonally helps emphasize some of the thematic concerns, especially ones dealing with race and class.

juan sample 1

Image rights owned by Juan Romera: one of the images that drew me to him as my artist

Other than those two big guidelines, I was willing to be flexible and let the artist bring something new to the table. It might sound weird when you look at how detailed my script is–that’s how I envision each page and panel, but I’ve always let any artist I work with know that if they think of a better option, they should discuss it with me. After about a month of searching, I narrowed it down to two artists: Juan Romera and a European-based artist (I guess I can’t stand to work with people in the United States!)

juan sample 3

Image rights owned by Juan Romera: one of the images that drew me to him as my artist

Both of these artists were advertising themselves on a “Seeking Comics Artists/Writers” forum, found on The forum’s title gives you a clear idea of what it is for, but there are other comic creators that advertise themselves, like colorists or letterers (like I advertise my letterer service on that forum here).

The European-based artist had some things going for him, but I thought some of his storytelling and character work could get a little too abstract, so I couldn’t justify his extra cost, especially once I saw some of the sketches that Juan did for me, based off these character descriptions.




Race–Black/Asian mixture

Hair–Black hair.  Curly hair, but we barely notice it because his hair is cut very short.

Clothes–He’s a lawyer, so he’s often dressed in ties and suits or in other fancy attire: button up shirt, dress shoes, and khakis/black slacks.  He’ll be in a tux in the first scene.

Other general appearance: He’s lived a clean life, so he’s fit (not overly muscled, but toned).  He’s professional looking, but often happy (or at least he looks happy–he focuses a lot on having a good appearance).




Hair–Long, brown hair.  It’s almost shoulder length and is mainly straight, not curly.  A little messy.

Clothes–He’s mainly wearing jeans, tennis shoes, and sweat shirts/flannel shirts.

Other general appearance: He’s a heavy drug user and drinker, so he’ll look older than Marcus (baggier eyes, more wrinkles, and his teeth are a little yellower).  He also has a little pot belly (not so big that he’s fat, but you can see that he drinks a lot, eats poorly, and doesn’t exercise a lot).  He’s mainly looks a little anxious, depressed and angry.  Every now and then, he’ll be happy, but that will mainly be when he’s high or drunk, escaping his stressful life with chemicals.




Hair–Black hair that’s straight and just a little past shoulder length.

Clothes–She’s a detective, so she’s often dressed in  suits.  Her suit is a little wrinkled and of poorer quality than Marcus’s suit; she also doesn’t wear a tie (or if she does, it’s only loosely tied, there only for appearances).  When she’s off duty, she wears jeans, tennis shoes, and plain, long-sleeve shirts.

Other general appearance: Like Marcus, she’s mainly lived a clean life.  She’s fit, but has a few more wrinkles and bags under her eyes than Marcus, because of her stress growing up.  She can look serious to people that don’t know her but nice to those that do.  We know we don’t want to mess with her, but we also know that there’s nobody else we want on our side.



Race–Asian (Hmong from Vietnam)

Hair–Short, black hair.  Not quite shoulder length, but not so short that she’s “looking like a man”.

Clothes–She wears blouses, fancy slacks, and high heels.  In the opening scene, she’s wearing a fancy dress.

Other general appearance: She’s really pretty, but you can also tell that she has an edge to her, a hard side (dark side).  Like Marcus, she also mainly puts on a happy face for appearances.  As the story progresses, though, she’ll start looking tougher and more serious.

And from those concise character descriptions, here are the sketches Juan sent me:

Rog sketch

Not only did Juan have a better feel for the characters, he was cheaper!  In fact, the only suggestion I made was this:

“Hi Juan,

And after further thought, I’d like the character design of Andrea to still have black hair, not white. She’s going to be a badass and I think it’ll be easier to sell if she’s not too “old looking”. It’ll also match the flashback and make it easier to transition from past to present.

Sorry to keep flooding you with feedback. If, because of all the emails and changes, it’s a little confusing, I can send you one email to look at for my feedback.

Just let me know if that would be better for you or if you have any other questions.”

I didn’t know how I lucked out to get both of my major needs met, but I didn’t want to waste time and let Juan slip away to some other lucky writer.  So I agreed to work with Juan, and haven’t looked back.  

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.

Creators Corner: Creating Rebirth of the Gangster, Part 4–Scripting the Action


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 three parts-

Part 1: The Birth of the Idea

Part 2: Brainstorming and Outlining the Plot

Part 3: Outline, Synopsis and Chapter Breakdown

Today, I’ll take you through the process of writing a script, showing some of the revisions I made along the way–partially because of some peer feedback you’ll see–along with some of the final art for the first issue, so you can compare and contrast it to the script description.

If you compare the script to the comic, you’ll also see some changes from the script to the comic page, mainly dialogue that’s been rewritten to be more concise, less explicit–in character motivation, not swearing–and  more realistic.  You won’t see a lot of revisions in panel layouts, because I do that in rough sketch form before writing the script pages themselves.

*As you’ll notice, I inserted Google Drawings for the page layouts I imagined most pages having–you’ll probably note a flag/US flag motif in the layouts for many pages, done on purpose.  I always gave him the freedom to change these layouts (as seen in the script by how often I say things like “this is how I possibly view the layout”; I also let him know in emails that he could change the layout).  Eventually, though, I felt like he was being confined by these layouts–even though he sometimes steered clear of them, I think sometimes he used them just because that version was forced into his head.  Because I thought he needed greater control and freedom, by issue 8, I’ve stopped doing this, trusting Juan Romera more, which is one of the lessons I’ve learned on how to be a better collaborator*

Rebirth of the Gangster, Issue #1


PAGE ONE, fFlashback (nine panels, standard 3×3 grid, each panel the same size and shape.  If you envision any page laid out differently, though, let me know!  I’m completely open to suggestions.)  I’m using the Dark Horse Comics Script format, seen here.


Panel 1.  We open on a completely black panel, starting our story the way all our stories start: in darkness.  This page will be a flashback.  We’ll have a lot of these flashbacks throughout this story, so it would help if you manage to visually separate these pages and panels from the rest of the piece, either by having a different style or even something as simple as creating a different outline for the panel borders. Maybe just the corner of the top left panel and the corner of the bottom right panel is partially cut off/faded to separate it from the present.



“I was born out of darkness into light.”


Panel 2.  The fluorescent glare of hospital lights shines through and breaks the darkness.  We see these lights, the ceiling, and that’s it; we’re essentially taking on the perspective of the narrator as a new-born baby.


Panel 3.  Now we’ve shifted out of that perspective and are looking down on Marcus, the new-born baby.  A close-up of a screaming baby shakes the borders of this panel.



“But I’m sure I didn’t view it like that.”


Panel 4.  We’ve widened our camera angle to see the thrum of a busy hospital room.  Doctor and nurse hover near the hospital bed, standard hospital machines wait for the next birth, and Marcus’s mom and dad hold him, welcoming him into their lives.


Panel 5.   Zoom in on a scissors snipping an umbilical cord.



“Unfortunately, as I entered this world of light–”


Panel 6.  This panel is similar to panel 4, but now we’ve completely zoomed in on Marcus being held by his mom and dad.  Like all new parents, love radiates from them and his mom’s eyes water.  Marcus continues to howl.


Panel 7.  We shift scenes (keeping the voiceover from Marcus).  Now, we’re on the streets of Madison, WI at night.  On the left side of the panel, hands holding a gun creep onto the panel.  The hands clutch the gun as it blasts a few shots, attacker knowing how to prep for the recoil.  On the right side of the panel we see the target of this gunshot: an old, black man (Marcus’ grandfather).  He’s wearing a suit, newly bought.  He’s pushed back by the force of the gunshots, flailing as his feet leave the ground.



“–my grandfather’s flame flickered and fell–”


Panel 8.  We’re at the same scene as panel 7, but time has passed, the murder has been discovered, the body is gone, and all we see is a chalk outline of the grandfather’s body.  It’s still night, but we can see this area more illuminated than in panel 7; flashlight beams cut across the chalk outline and this panel.



–leaving my torch to replace his.  But my dad, as always, helped me withfather never let me be dragged down by that weight.


[Peer 2 Feedback: This is a little unclear. “Helped me [cope with/come to terms with?] that.” I’m not sure how to revise it exactly, but I feel like a little more specificity would give this line more power.]


Panel 9.  We’re at the same scene as panel 8, but now we’re panning out to see the area surrounding this chalk outline.  We still see the outline, but it’s crowded by police tape and cops talking with each other and with witnesses.  Their flashlights still shine against the darkness.  The caption ideally should be at the bottom right of this panel, to help transition into the next page.



“He taught me that I was born out of darkness into light.

rog 1 first page.jpg_large


PAGE TWO (four panels: one small panel inserted into another panel–the bigger panel is a widescreen establishing shot; the other two panels are medium/small-sized panels beneath the widescreen one.  Below is how I envision this page’s layout.)  


Google Drawing Page Layouts P 2 (1)-page-001

Panel 2.  Pan out to see the ballroom and a crowd of spectators in tuxes, gowns, and other fancy evening wear.  In the top center of this panel, Marcus stands at a podium, continuing his speech with a smile that slips naturally onto his face.  Light and shadows alternately streak across the room, echoing the stripes in an American flag.  


At the bottom of this panel, we’ll insert the title and credits.  The title will read “Meet the Family: Marcus–The Future is Mine”.  I envision this title mirroring the flag motif we’ve already set up–if we have color,”Meet the” will appear on top in white lettering and “Family” will be on the bottom in red lettering. “Marcus–The Future is Mine” will stand next to “Family”, but will be in blue.


Panel 3.  Zoom in on Marcus at the podium.  A smile is still plastered on his face as he twists to his left (our right), about to introduce his dad.  His left arm stretches out, hand splayed out like a fan, pointing off panel in his dad’s direction.



And that great man is who this night is really about, so let’s get to him. You all didn’t shell out money just to listen to me, and if you did, talk to me later and I can see about getting you your money back.


SFX (muted):  

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha


Panel 4.  Pan out so we see both Marcus and Curtis, along with the audience.  Curtis is stepping up to the podium.  The audience enthusiastically applauds his introduction.



So without further ado, the man who we’re all here to celebrate.  The man who showed all of us how to come up from nothing and make something of ourselves.  The man who showed me how to take something dark and make it light: my dad, Curtis Thompson.


PAGE THREE(six panels, which I envision like the below layout).

Google Drawing Page Layouts p 3 (1)-page-001

Panel 1. Amid continuing applause, Curtis and Marcus hug at the podium.


Panel 2. Now we’re looking at Curtis at the podium, an older black man dressed impeccably, with an even bigger smile stretching across his face.  



Thanks Marcus, I couldn’t ask for a better introduction.  And all of you, thank you for coming out.  It’s a huge honor to be in this hall to kickstart my new foundation, and it’s an even bigger honor to celebrate this magical day with so many special people.


Panel 3.  Curtis is turning and looking at Marcus, a chuckle escaping his lips at the joke he’s about to tell.  Marcus holds up his hand and is laughing too, waving off his dad’s corny joke.



Even more, thanks for listening to Marcus get all philosophical…as if he doesn’t get enough practice in the courtroom.  But I guess the blame for that falls at my feet too–he inherited my gift of gab, to my delight and the dismay of every crowd forced to listen to him.


SFX (muted):  

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha


[Peer 2 Feedback: It’s helpful to hear this banter, too–you make both of these guys instantly likable. Nice.]


Panel 4. Close up of Curtis giving his speech.  He’s taken on a more serious tone and countenance.



If you’ll bear with me though, I’d like to talk about that path from darkness to light. You all know I haven’t had the easiest path to becoming the success I am.  And unfortunately, that story is still all too common for too many people.


Panel 5. Zoom in on the audience, who look like any crowd listening to a speech: a little bit happy and a little bit patiently polite.



Of course not for us, though; we are the lucky ones.  We don’t have to grow up with crime haunting us.  We don’t have to grow up with subpar education.  We want for nothing–”


Panel 6.  A waiter stands next to a woman in the crowd, holding a tray topped with glasses of champagne.  The woman is draped in a gorgeous gown as she reaches for the glass of champagne.



“–and we still want more and more.”  


PAGE FOUR (4 panels, possibly looking like the layout below)

Google Drawing Page Layouts p 4-page-001

Panel 1. Another wide shot of Curtis giving his speech.  If possible, angle it so that the “camera” is behind the woman who picked up the glass of champagne in the previous panel.




But I know we can be better. And that’s why I started the Curtis Thompson Charity for Disadvantaged Youth.


Panel 2. A shot of the ballroom with people absorbed in conversation.


Panel 3. Marcus stands in the middle of a crowd, doing his best to look fascinated by his group’s conversation, but he’s clearly bored.


Panel 4.  Same shot as before, only now Marcus is turning his head, his attention being hooked by his mom speaking off panel.



…And speaking of Marcus, I’m going to quick talk to him before he heads out for the night.  MARCUS, LET ME GRAB YOU FOR A SEC!


PAGE FIVE (5 panels, possibly looking like the layout below, with the second panel as an inset–making it look like an upside-down US flag–and the last panel smaller than the rest):

Google Drawing Page Layouts p 5-page-001

Panel 1. Marcus and Andrea are walking away from the crowd–towards us–Andrea’s hand on the back of his shoulder, gently guiding him.  Both are smiling, Andrea’s smile looks more authentic.



Thanks againn for making that great speech.  I know you don’t always like this stuff, but I know your dad appreciated it. I do too–it’s nice to see you get all gussied up.


MARCUS (small):

Don’t worry about it mom, it was no problem.  But yeah, it’s not really my thing you know?.


Panel 2.

Zoom in on Andrea and Marcus.  Andrea is smiling and Marcus is looking at her.


Tell me about it! You know I’d rather be doing something else a little more exciting, but you also know we’ve got to do this.


Panel 3. This should mirror the last shot: but Marcus is now smiling and Andrea is looking at him.



I know, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it, right?



Yeah, I guess…if you want to if you want to pout like a little kid! (Everything before this is the final version) pout like a little kid be a little kid about it! (Previous versions had these two phrases in it)


Panel 4.  Andrea and Marcus are angled toward us, so that they’re somewhat facing us while still looking to the right of the panel.



But anyways…I see your P.I.C. Alex over there looking to stir up some trouble. , so I guess you’ll want to join him. Don’t get too crazy OK?



Yeah, we’re getting up to something, but I’m sure it won’t be too crazy. Bye, love you mom.



Love you too. Have some fun but not too much fun OK?


Panel 5.  Marcus gives Andrea a kiss on the cheek right before he leaves.


PAGE SIX (six panels, laid out in a 3×2 grid, all panels the same size)


Panel 1.  Marcus and Alex are walking home from the bars–toward the “camera”–both laughing and having a good time, although Alex is stumbling a little, being tripped up by too much to drink.  Madison’s capital is lit up in the background as they waver down State St.  It’s a winter night, although there isn’t any snow on the ground yet, just people walking around bundled in coats, wrapped in scarves, and sporting hats and gloves.


SFX (loud):  

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha


Panel 2.  Still focused on Marcus and Alex walking home, but they’re smiling now and we’ve zoomed in on just their faces.



You know, I don’t think she knew what she was in for once you started buying drinks.



They never do…and neither do I really!


Panel 3.  Same shot as before, but now Alex and Marcus are turned to face each other, and panned out enough for us to see that Marcus’s hand is on Alex’s shoulder.



Man, I wish I had a video of her face when you said that to her…that thing about marriage and divorce, you know…



Oh, yeah!  “I’m not that into marriage, because sooner or later you have to deal with that whole divorce thing.”


Panel 4. Pan out so that we have a view of them walking–the “camera” now sees  them in profile, heading toward the right and a homeless man.  The man is black (African American) has blankets wrapped around him, his head poking out from under a winter hat, and he’s wearing ragged clothes.



Lex, I don’t know how you manage to get any women talking like that, that’s crazy.



Oh, it’s part of my charm. Yeah, they can’t get enough of the old Asshole Alex charm.


Panel 5.  Same shot as before, only now Marcus and and Alex are closer to the homeless man, who’s reaching out, about to beg for some money.



Yeah, keep telling yourself that and then you won’t be just an asshole for no reason, right?


Panel 6.  Same shot, but now zoomed in more and the homeless man is right next to Alex and Marcus; he holds out his hand, hoping for some change and kindness.



Ah, fuck you, Mr. Big Shot.  Don’t tell me–


Excuse me, do you have any extra change?  I just need some cab fare to get to a shelter.  I’ll pay you your money back…I promise.


PAGE SEVEN (5 panels–two of these panels will be insets in the biggest panel, the top–one at the top left and the other at the bottom right)

Google Drawing Page Layouts p 7-page-001

Panel 1 (the first inset).  We’re zoomed in on the homeless man’s hand, outstretched in a vulnerable request for help: his hand’s a little filthy and full of callouses.


Panel 2 (the top big panel).  Profile view similar to panel 6 is the last page, but Alex is now cringing away from the homeless man, and the homeless man is leaning in, still hoping for some help.



Please, I just need a little help…


[Peer 2 Feedback: Could you make it clear that the man is now addressing Marcus? Maybe his speech starts to ease into a plea to a fellow black man? I think it might justify the man’s anger at Marcus more clearly if he was to be ignored here; maybe Marcus turns away his face in shame before Alex slaps the man’s hand away?]


Panel 3 (the second inset).  Somewhat similar to panel 1, but we’ve panned out from that enough to see Alex slapping the homeless man’s hand away, pushing the homeless man’s whole body.  I’d like it crossing over into panel 4, so that it’s partly inset in panel 3 and 4, like the example above.


Panel 4.  Alex has just pushed the homeless man, who’s falling backward, arms flailing, as Marcus looks on in astonishment.  The homeless man should be falling toward us, so it’s not a pure profile view anymore.


Panel 5.  Marcus has finally leaped into action, holding Alex back; Alex’s face and body writhes with anger.  We’re either seeing this from the homeless man’s perspective, or looking over his shoulder so we can see him just starting to prop himself up in a half seated, half laying position that leaves him defenseless.  


Why don’t you get off your fucking ass and leave us alonework instead of mooching off the rest of us?


MARCUS (burst):

Alex!  Alex!  Leave him alone!  He didn’t do anything–
Rog original page 7 issue 1


PAGE EIGHT (six panels, laid out in a 3×2 grid, all panels the same size)


Panel 1.  We’re just zoomed in on Marcus and Alex now, and Marcus is still trying to calm down Alex–he’s facing Alex, his back towards the homeless man.


Panel 2.  We’ve moved so our focus is now only on the homeless man.  He’s clearly angry, but also a little confused and hurt.



Yeah, I get it, you gotta protect your asshole buddy.  You all just stick together no matter what, right?  I thought you was my nigga.


Panel 3.  We’re now back to focusing on Marcus and Alex.  Alex has calmed down a little, but Marcus is now turned toward the homeless man, a little irritated by what the homeless man said.


Panel 4.  We’re focusing on the homeless man again.  He’s getting angrier, hiding his hurt and confusion.



“You knoweah, man, I thought you were gonna help a nigga out, but I see you’re just like your asshole buddy.  You all just stick together no matter what, right?  I thought you was my nigga.”


Panel 5.  Marcus is guiding Alex so they walk away from the homeless man, both trying to avoid further conversation but for different reasons.  This should be a profile view, but angled slightly, so that they’re walking away from us, toward the upper right of the panel; the homeless man is toward the bottom left corner.


Panel 6.  Marcus and Alex are still walking away, but now we’ve zoomed in on Marcus, who’s clearly disturbed by this interaction and lost in thought.  He’s walking away–but we’ve shifted angles so we can see him walking towards us with the homeless man barely visible in the background.  Marcus is just going through the motions, the real movement being done inside his head.


CAP/DARIAN (He’s saying the same thing in the next scene/page as the homeless man to ease the transition from this page and scene to the next page and scene).


“I thought you was my nigga–”


PAGE NINE, flashback( 7 panels, possibly looking like the model below; panels 3-5 should hopefully overlap each other and shouldn’t be all parallel to each other–they’ll move slightly diagonally down from left to right to emphasize the action of the hand off).
Google Drawing Page Layouts p 9-page-001

Panel 1.  This panel should somewhat echo the previous panel, to ease the transition from scene-to-scene and page-to-page.  We’ll be focusing on Marcus lost in thought here too, but he’s standing in a back alley and not walking; he’s facing us.  Marcus is 17 years old in this panel, since it’s another flashback.  He’s still wearing nicer clothes than most 17 year olds, but he’s not decked out in full suit, his full formalwear, yet.  I like how you adjusted your style for flashbacks in the sample of page 1 you gave me, so mimic that technique here.


Panel 2.  We’re now seeing Darian, a black kid that’s also 17 years old.  He’s built like a football player (muscular, not a fat lineman) which makes sense since he is a football player, and he’s wearing a sweatshirt of his high school team: the Cardinalshe’s wearing his uniform.  Any type of high school football uniform is fine; he plays for a school other than Marcus’s school, though.  He’s acting nice, but there’s an air of threatening energy around him: you can tell that if Marcus crosses him, it won’t end well for Marcus.



Right on time Marky-Mark.  You got it?



Yeah, as long as you’ve got yours.


Panel 3. We see Marcus handing Darian an essay he wrote for Darian.  The title should say “Blood and Corruption in Macbeth”, but we don’t need any other visible writing.


Panel 4.  Similar to the previous panel, this is another handoff between Marcus and Darian.  This time, though, Darian is handing Marcus a bag of weed (marijuana).


Panel 5.  We’ve zoomed out to see Marcus stuffing the bag of weed in his pocket; he’s looking around nervously to watch out for cops or anybody else who shouldn’t be seeing this.


Panel 6.  We’re now seeing Marcus nervously trying to slide past Darian.  He’s also nervous because he’s trying to explain to Darian that this is his last time doing something like this.  He’s clearly afraid of Darian blowing up in his face and refusing to accept these changes.



So anyway, Darian, thanks a lot for hooking me up like this, but, uh, I think this is gonna have to be my last time doing something like this.  I can’t, um…


Panel 7.  We’ve zoomed in on Darian, who is clearly shocked and not happy with what Marcus is saying.

rog issue 1 p 12-page-001


PAGE TEN, flashback (7 panels)

Google Drawing Page Layouts p 10-page-001

Panel 1.  This will be a shot of Darian similar to the last panel.  Now he’s a little less startled, though, and starting to get angry.



What do you mean?!?  I thought you was my nigga…Right?”


Panel 2. This won’t have any panel borders or any background.  It’ll just be a shot of Darian facing right, advancing on Marcus, so that when he’s grabbing Marcus in panel 3, it’s a smoother transition and display of the action leading up to it.  He should have his arms at least partially outstretched–his back angled toward us and the hands angled toward panel 3 and pointing “inside” the page, away from the direction his back is facing.


Panel 3.  We’re zoomed in so we see Darian’s hands grabbing Marcus’ shirt at the shoulders.   Marcus is clearly scared.



You know that, right?I know you really wouldn’t like what I’d do to you if you left me hanging.


Panel 4.  We’re now zoomed in so we only see Marcus’s face.  He’s startled, and he’s stammering, trying to talk his way out of a beat down.



You know I’m not going to say anything, um I mean...I mean, I’m just not comfortable with this…I mean….you know what?  I guess I could do this one more time.  I mean we have that big research paper coming up soon…


Panel 5.  This shot should in some ways mirror panel 3, but now Darian is wiping off Marcus’s shoulders, straightening the wrinkles he caused in Marcus’s shirt.  Marcus is still rattled, but he’s not as afraid as he was in panel 3.  At the bottom right of this panel, a police siren cuts in.


SFX (burst):

Woop woop!


Panel 6. We now see a cop car that has approached, its lights flashing.  Marcus and Darian both look scared, petrified, and they’re both looking around for an escape route, although there is none.



Keep your hands where we can see them and don’t try anything reckless now…


Panel 7.  We see Marcus with his hands now handcuffed behind him.  He’s being led into a police car, the cop pushing Marcus’s head down so he doesn’t bump his head when getting into the back of the police car.  Make sure we can see the handcuffs because our next page will focus on somebody else who is handcuffed, and it’ll be a stronger scene-to-scene and page-to-page transition if we emphasize that detail.  That next page will take us out of the flashback to the present, and it’s important for us to make that switch as easy on the reader as possible.

PAGE ELEVEN (6 panels)


Panel 1.  Similar to the last panel, we see another pair of black hands in handcuffs.  This panel should only let us see the hands and handcuffs, though.


Panel 2.  Zoom out so that we now see a cop leading Devonte (an African-American man in his early twenties, wearing the orange clothes of a prisoner) to his seat in a courtroom.


Panel 3.  Zoom back in: we have a similar shot to panel 1, but we see that the cops taken off the handcuffs now–just show us hands and forearms.


Panel 4.  A shot of Devonte sitting down.  He’s clearly scared, but trying to put on a brave face unsuccessfully.


Panel 5.  Pan out so that we can see Devonte in the foreground, but our main focus should be on the next table over: Marcus is sitting in his suit with a briefcase in front of him.  Next to him is Kaitlyn, another lawyer.  She’s a black woman, about Marcus’s age, but has a little more swagger than him; her hair comes down in braids almost like dreadlocks, but not quite that unprofessional. .  She’s fit, tall, and dressed in a nice suit.,  She’ll be a big part of our story, but this scene will just briefly introduce her and Devonte, another important character later.


Panel 6.  A widescreen establishing shot of the courtroom, with Marcus, Kaitlyn, Devonte, Devonte’s lawyer, cops, a jury, and a judge.  


PAGE TWELVE (6 panels in a 3×2 grid, all panels the same size, except for the second-to-last panel and the last panel.  The second to last panel is a little bigger, and the last panel is a little smaller to create an introspective, claustrophobic feel)


Panel 1.  Focus on the judge as he’s sentencing Devonte.  The judge is an old white man, and he looks stern, glaring at Devonte in disapproval.



For being found guilty of possessing Schedule I Narcotics, this court sentences you to 3 ½ years in prison.  I truly hope that you will use that time to reflect on the road that took you here Mr. Robinson.


Panel 2. Devonte is a little angry at the verdict, but more importantly he’s desperate and begging the judge to reconsider.



I told you!  It wasn’t mine!  You gotta reconsider, please.   I know I made some bad choices in who I hung out with, but it’s not fair!  Not just because I was there…


Panel 3.  Marcus is looking at Devonte with conflicting emotions.  He’s upset at this verdict, because he was in Devonte’s same shoes (charged with drug possession), but he’s also recoiling at Devonte’s outburst, thinking it’s inappropriate behavior.


Panel 4.  The cops drag Devonte out of the court, Devonte still yelling and pleading his case.


Panel 5.  Kaitlyn is standing up with her briefcase in hand, looking down at Marcus, who’s barely moved during this spectacle.  She looks concerned for him, but he just looks lost in thought.



Another one for the good guys!  Nice work….Everything alright Marcus?



Huh?  Oh, yeah, it’s all good.  Why don’t you head on back to the office and I’ll meet you there?



…OK, I’ll see ya there.


Panel 6.  The courtroom is empty except for Marcus, clearly lost in thought about this case and its connections to his past.


PAGE THIRTEEN, flashback (4 panels)

Google Drawing Page Layouts p 13-page-001

Panel 1.  We’re back in another flashback now.  This one takes place after Marcus is arrested.  He’s about to be released: he’s sitting in a waiting room, looking as lost and lonely as he did in the panel at the end of the last page.  This shot should closely echo the shot of the last page; it’s in a different setting (the waiting room) and Marcus is younger, but we have the same angle and tone to this shot.


Panel 2.  Curtis has opened the door and is walking through it; the door should be on the left of the panel for natural movement and flow.


Panel 3. Curtis has closed the door, and is now standing by Marcus, hands on his hips, head lowered in a disapproving gaze.


Panel 4. Curtis sits down next to Marcus; Curtis is leaned forward, so that he’s facing the reader, not Marcus; his hands are on his knees.  He has a serious look on his face, but it’s hard to read.


PAGE FOURTEEN, flashback (5 panels)
Google Drawing Page Layouts p 14-page-001

Panel 1.  Curtis turns to look at Marcus.


CURTIS: I can’t believe you’d do something so idiotic.  What were you thinking?  How could you do this to our family?


Panel 2. Marcus stares straight ahead–he’s in the typical teenage mode of fuming and sulking instead of responding to authority.


Panel 3. Curtis is starting to get angrier, leaning in closer to Marcus as he lectures him.


CURTIS: I asked you a question. Answering’s not optional.


Panel 4. Same shot as Panel 2–Marcus staring straight ahead.


Panel 5. Curtis is now standing, towering over Marcus.  Curtis is yelling at Marcus, and Curtis has his arms outstretched.  Marcus cowers in fear, shrinking away from Curtis.


CURTIS: Listen to me!  You have no idea what you’re throwing away here! If you’re grandpa was here to see you acting like some fucking fool–


PAGE FIFTEEN, flashback (5 panels)
Google Drawing Page Layouts p 15-page-001

Panel 1. Marcus stands up and yells in Curtis’s face, causing Curtis to momentarily back away.


MARCUS: Don’t even fucking do that!  Like grandpa has anything to do with this!  You’re just mad because I can’t be fucking perfect like you!


Panel 2. Curtis steps back towards Marcus, even angrier.


CURTIS: Son, you don’t even know what you’re talking about.  You have no idea what I’ve had to do to get us where we’re at…I’m not going to have you waste it all.  Not when–


Panel 3.  Marcus pushes past Curtis, making Curtis fly back against the wall.


MARCUS: Get off my back!  I never needed your money and I definitely don’t need you!


Panel 4.  Marcus swings the door open and exits, leaving Curtis stunned.


Panel 5. Curtis is looking at where Marcus had been sitting.  He’s lost in thought, clearly disturbed, but by more than this argument–Marcus is starting to act like the gangster Curtis was.


PAGE SIXTEEN (4 panels)
Google Drawing Page Layouts p 16-page-001

Panel 1. Marcus and Alex are standing at a convenience store, strolling through the aisles, picking up items here and there.


So why are you worrying so much about him, huh?  Dude got caught…he just had to be smarter about being dumb.


Panel 2.  Similar shot as panel 1, but zoomed in.



Yeah, I know, but there’s something that doesn’t sit right with me.  I don’t know…



I’ve said it time and time again, but you’re too serious for your own good, Marky Mark. You gotta figure out how to relax.  Maybe that kid doesn’t have too bad an idea with indulging in a little recreational, how should I put it?


Panel 3.  Just zoomed in on Marcus now, who’s a little upset, but trying to cover it up.



….You know I don’t do that stuff, so just drop it.


Panel 4. Similar to panel 4, but zoomed in more, with a robber’s voice coming from off panel.



Alright, nobody move!  We do this quickly and nobody gets hurt!
Rog issue 1 p 19-page-001


Google Drawing Page Layouts p 17-page-001

Panel 1.  Two robbers enter the convenience store through a pair of sliding doors.  They’re dressed all in black with ski masks and gloves.  They both wave their guns around, one waving to the left and the other waving to the right.  One is yelling, and the other (Hunter) is quiet.



We don’t want any trouble, but we’re not afraid to start some shit either.  Don’t test us!


Panel 2. The robbers have moved to the cash register and are pointing their guns at him.



Alright, man, just put the fucking bills in the bag and we’ll be on our way.  It’s not worth your life, just remember that.


Panel 3. Pan out so that we see the whole convenience store: Hunter and the other robber are still focused on the cashier, who’s hurrying to put the money in the bag.  Marcus and Alex are crouching behind a series of shelves with candy and other snacks a stall where they can’t see them.  Nearby, there’s a stand with newspapers on it.  We can’t see any of the articles or pictures yet.


Panel 4. Zoom in on Hunter and the other robber.  Robber 1 is pointing at Hunter, while he waves his gun in the direction of Alex and Marcus.


Panel 5.  Hunter strides away from the other robber, mouth grimly set, eyes focused forward.


PAGE EIGHTEEN (3 panels)
Google Drawing Page Layouts p 18-page-001

Panel 1.  Hunter is walking towards Marcus and Alex.  We see this from a perspective that has Marcus and Alex in the foreground and Hunter in the background, striding toward us.


Panel 2. Hunter is moving towards the right of the panel, gun at his side.  We only see Marcus in this panel, not Marcus and Alex.


Panel 3.  Hunter has found Marcus and Alex, who are still crouched behind the shelves, clearly scared.  He points his gun at them.



Stand up slowly, go walk over to that corner, and face it.  Slowly. so I can only see your backs.


PAGE NINETEEN (5 panels)
Google Drawing Page Layouts p 19-page-001

Panel 1.  Alex talks back, looking indignant.  He’s pointing at the stand with the newspapers on it.



You have no idea what kind of trouble you’re about to bring down. Do you even know who this guy is?  Look at that if you don’t believe me.


Panel 2.  We’ve zoomed in to see one of the newspapers, The Capital Times.  It reads, “Curtis Thompson Writes a Check He Can Certainly Cash”.  Underneath the headline, we see a picture of both Marcus and Curtis from the ball that started this issue.


Panel 3.  Hunter has taken a step back, and puts one hand on a shelf behind him, clearly upset. His mouth hangs open and his eyes are stretched open in disbelief.


Panel 4.  Marcus has his hands up and is also clearly upset that Alex made this comment.



Don’t listen to him, sir.  We don’t want any trouble, now or after this.  Come on, Alex, let’s do what he says.


Panel 5. We’re now seeing Robber 1 and the cashier again.  Robber 1 has the bag of money, and the cashier is backed up with his hands up.  Robber 1 is looking at the cashier but speaking to Hunter.



What’s the hold up?   We all good?


PAGE TWENTY (4 panels)
Google Drawing Page Layouts p 20-page-001

Panel 1.  Hunter swings his gun down on top of Marcus’s head; Alex backs away from both of them.


Panel 2.  Marcus is falling to the ground.


Panel 3. Hunter stands still, expression unreadable.


Panel 4.  Robber 1 is at the door now, turned toward Marcus, yelling.


ROBBER 1: What are you doing?  Let’s go, let’s go!


PAGE TWENTY-ONE (5 panels)

Google Drawing Page Layouts p 21-page-001

Panel 1. We see the feet of Hunter and the other robber as they’re running towards a car at the far right of the panel.  We have a low camera angle here, so we only see feet, legs and the bottom half of the car.


Panel 2. This shot is similar to panel 1: it’s the same angle, but we can only see the car with its door open; Hunter and the other robber are already in the car.


Panel 3. The same angle, but now the car door has closed and the car is moving, pulling away from the robber in a quick getaway.


Panel 4.  We’re inside the car now; there are three men, all wearing ski masks and gloves.  The getaway driver is new, wearing a mask, and fat; the man in the passenger seat up front is the robber; the man in back is Hunter, although he hasn’t removed his mask yet.  The robber (in the passenger seat) is turned around, yelling at Hunter.



What the fuck was that?


Panel 5. Hunter has taken his mask off.  He’s trying to pretend like it’s no big deal, but there’s clearly something bothering him.  His gloves are also off, one on his lap.



Nothing, don’t worry about it.

Rog issue 1 p 24-page-001

PAGE TWENTY-TWO (4 panels: panels 1-3 are inset into panel 1, which is a whole page spread)
Google Drawing Page Layouts p 22-page-001

Panel 1.  We’re back in the convenience store.  Marcus is starting to get up, but he should be close to the ground, with at least one knee on the ground and his two hands pushing himself up from the floor–the other two panels will show him halfway up and then all the way up.


Panel 2.  Marcus is halfway up; his knees are no longer on the floor, but he’s not fully standing.


Panel 3.  Marcus is completely standing, still in shock over the events.


Panel 4.  We see a Hunter’s lap with the glove still on it and his bare hand holding a photo.  That photo shows a young Curtis standing with his arm around the shoulder of Hunter’s dad, John.  John has long hair like Hunter, but he has a full beard.  Both John and Curtis are smiling.  


Based on the feedback from publishers–more on that in a later post–I added a page in between page 6 and 7 to justify Alex’s reaction more.  Here’s that page:

NEW PAGE SEVEN (six panels–two rows of threee panels each; top row–panel 1 is smallest in the row, panel 2 is bigger and panel 3 is biggest in the row; bottom row–panel 4 is biggest in the row, panel 5 is a little smaller, and panel 6 is the smallest in the row.)


Panel 1.  Zoom in on Alex’s face as he’s trying to shrug off the homeless man’s plea.  His hands are raised in a dismissive gesture.



Sorry, man, I can’t help you.


Panel 2.  Alex is on the left side of this panel; the homeless man is on the right side of the panel, stepping towards Alex.  The homeless man has one hand held out.



Come on nigga…We both know you’ve got some skirlla to share.


Panel 3.  Alex is clearly getting angry and a little worried, but he’s trying to back up from the homeless man and get away from the situation.




NEW PAGE SEVEN (continued)


Panel 4. Alex has stopped backing up now.  He’s changed his mind, and his face is now resolved to a new course of action, but he’s very calm looking.


Panel 5. Alex is now moving towards the homeless man.  The homeless man has stopped stepping towards Alex, and the homeless man is looking a little worried, but he still has his hand held out.


You know what? Yeah I do. But not with you.   Maybe if you got a job…


Panel 6.  The homeless man is standing up straight, looking at Alex.  (Alex is off panel though).  He still holds his hand out, but he’s now looking more confident and righteously angry.


Yeah that’s more like it.  Nigga finally being honest up in here.  Least you can do one thing right.

Rog issue 1 p 07 resized for printing-page-001

That’s it for this installment of “Behind 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.

Creators Corner: Exercises in Cartooning: Week 3

brunetti cartooning cover

I’m a writer, not an artist. But for the next 8 weeks, I’m going to be a cartoonist.

And you can join me on this journey–not only by seeing what I do, but by completing the exercises I do along with me.

*Note* To see Week 1’s adventures, click here, and to see Week 2’s adventures, click here.

The great cartoonist Ivan Brunetti, also a teacher of comics/cartooning, has a book that publishes his course; it is a 10 week “class” that has a few exercises for each week, some of which I might even use in my own graphic novel class.

I thought it’d be fun–especially since I’m a writer and need to challenge my skills as an artist–to run myself through his course and post each of my exercise on here.  So without further ado…

Exercise 3.1 (there’s only one exercise this week, but Brunetti still labeled it this way for some reason)

Part 1:

Draw a one panel cartoon for each of the below scenarios; spend 3-4 minutes on each cartoon (so you don’t overthink and add too many details): you can’t use any words (so you focus on visual storytelling and showing instead of telling) and you can only use black and white (so you don’t rely on color to separate items that look too similar; only using black and white makes you create distinct items and characters, as my artist Juan Romera does so well on Rebirth of the Gangster, (trade paperback on sale later this week, but a digital copy available now).

Brunetti specifically says to use a notecard for each of them, but I just split a page into 12 squares, since I didn’t have notecards on hand.

The scenarios:

A) the beginning of the world

B) the end of the world

C) a self-portrait, including your entire body

D) something that happened at lunchtime (or breakfast, if it’s still morning)

E) an image from a dream you had recently

F) something that happened in the middle of the world’s existence (something in between cartoon A and cartoon B)

G) What happened right after cartoon F?

H) something that happened early this morning

I) something that has yet to happen

J) pick any of the above panels and draw something that happened immediately afterward (I chose right after cartoon H, which is about my girlfriend and I’s cat waking us up)

K) draw a “riff” on panel J; it could be a different perspective, a different character’s viewpoint, something happening off-panel, or a close-up of a detail on the panel

L) draw something that has nothing to do with any of the panels you’ve drawn so far

Here are my cartoons (row 1: A-C; row 2: D-F; row 3: G-I; row 4: J-L)

Part 2:

Take 4 of the panels and arrange them so they tell a story.  Study if any beat is missing. Rearrange the order and see what has changed–is it still readable or has it now lost its narrative?  Finally, decide on the best order that tells the most concise and engaging story.  Without knowing it, you just brainstormed your way into creating a four-panel comic.  The next exercises in weeks to come will refine this ability.

I decided to organize my panels this way: H, J, K and C.  Essentially the first three were all the exercises asking me to draw parts of what happened this morning (the cat walking me and my girlfriend up) and the last one is a rough looking self-portrait, which is sometimes how I feel when I’ve woken up early to a cat’s hungry meows.

This was a helpful way to ease into creating a four-panel comic; there was some guidance in the prompt about what to draw, but being able to choose which panels to use gave me some flexibility.  I almost always find that working within rules and guidelines like this is, perhaps counter-intuitively, more freeing and creative than having no structure.

That’s it for Week 3 folks!  Tune in next week for Week 4, but you can check out my updates until then on my blog at

Creators Corner: Adventures in Cartooning, Week 2

I’m a writer, not an artist. But for the next 9 weeks, I’m going to be a cartoonist.

And you can join me on this journey–not only by seeing what I do, but by completing the exercises I do along with me.

*Note* To see Week 1’s adventures, click here.

The great cartoonist Ivan Brunetti, also a teacher of comics/cartooning, has a book that publishes his course; it is a 10 week “class” that has a few exercises for each week, some of which I might even use in my own graphic novel class.

brunetti cartooning cover

I thought it’d be fun–especially since I’m a writer and need to challenge my skills as an artist–to run myself through his course and post each of my exercise on here. So without further ado, let’s take the next step in our journey…

Exercise 2.1

Get handful of index cards and write phrases/sentences that you’ve heard recently (from eavesdropping, conversations you’re actually a part of, something you saw on TV, etc… Brunetti didn’t specify a certain number, so I just went with 5 index cards; you should use 7 or more, since the next exercise involves drawing 7 single-panel images and then pairing them with these phrases.

Exercise 2.2

Using some new index cards draw a single-panel cartoon (no words allowed) of these things; then pair them with the index cards from 2.1, mixing and matching until you find the best caption.

The intent behind this is to show that sometimes the funniest or just best comics happen when juxtaposing things that don’t seem to go together.  (Case in point: my carton that shows firefighters helping put out a housefire, which was combined with a caption featuring someone trying to bargain/extort the other; that’s not really how firefighters work, but that reversal of expectations builds the humor).

It also shows that we should pay attention to the world around us, because it might offer the best way to complete an idea (more of this tip in Exercise 2.3).

Check out my work!  I’ve both typed the captions and scanned them, because my handwriting is so awful someone might not be able to read the scanned caption.

1) the funniest thing you can think of (someone entering a party so enthusiastically they slap food and drinks in others faces)


2) something sexy (I didn’t do this, sorry)

3) something scary (my house–and all my books and comics–burning)


4) something abstract (looks like panels of a comic, but maybe not?)


5) the saddest thing you can think of (an alien landing on Earth and, first thing, shooting a library with a space ray gun). This is one of my favorites–either my favorite or second favorite–because of the unexpected caption, but I did cheat and make it a few panels, all wordless.


6) something you saw in a dream lately (I didn’t do this one, sorry)

7) something boring or mundane (sleeping the months away and doing nothing). This is one of my favorites–either my favorite or second favorite–because the caption both fit and didn’t fit (he’s cooped up inside so needing a door open kind of makes sense, but a closed door shouldn’t make someone sleep a couple months away). I also did a small cheat and used the ZZZs to indicate sleeping, but they don’t count as words–they’re accepted symbols for sleeping–so I think it’s fine.


Exercise 2.3

Over the course of the week, take note of 12 small objects and write them down.  Then, brainstorm commonalities for all 12.  After that, eliminate 2 objects, because they’re most dissimilar to the rest of the objects.  The purpose of this is to create more and more connections between things–which is what art does after all–but to see what can be jettisoned to be more streamlined–which is what great art does after all.

My list:

watch, lunchbag, strainer, phone, book, cleats, notepad, picture frame, lighter, nametag, cat toy and waterbottle.


things found in a house, things to make memories with

What I got rid of and why:

cleats and waterbottle; being associated with sports, exercise and outdoor activity it didn’t fit as much with these things found and mainly used in a  house.

While I like how this exercise tries to show that we can find more commonalities between things than we normally feel–although we shouldn’t force these commonalities too much–I wasn’t the biggest fan of this exercise.

I think my brain already does that (hence the reason that my comic, Rebirth of the Gangsteris influenced by my experiences with the students I teach and the coworkers I instruct with, Breaking Bad, issues with immigration, The Wire, hip-hop,  The Godfather, the opiod epidemic and even more recent political/social issues; I’m even throwing a little Shakespeare in the mix with a taste of Macbeth and Othello.

Exercise 2.4

Create a one-panel cartoon adaptation of a famous literary work.  Brunetti gives an example of how he would adapt The Catcher in the Rye, a piece he recommends because there aren’t already film adaptions or comic adaptions of this piece, so the visuals are more original.  To see that, though, check out the book, because it’s insightful, but too in-depth for me to go into without risking copyright infringement.

I chose Guards, Guards by Terry Pratchett, which focuses on a Night Watch group (although this group has seen better days, with only 4 members, 3 of whom don’t enforce the laws and just get drunk instead–the only one who does is a new country boy who enforces dated laws from an old book he had read).  And in the midst of this lack of law, a dragon starts terrorizing the countryside.

Here’s my cartoon, and this was probably the most fun I’ve had in the first two weeks (I’ll type the caption beneath it too, since my handwriting is awful):

“That dragon is in violation of law 24.5–an unnecessary and unapproved flight path.” “What are we supposed to do about it: we’re just the Guard. Have a drink.”


That’s it for Week 2!  Come back in about a week to see how Week 3 turns out.

And if you can’t wait that long, check out until then on my blog at where I post each exercise individually.

I try to post daily but as a teacher (and since I’m working on the print edition of the first story arc in Rebirth of the Gangster, cover below and digital copy available now), it’s an ideal goal that hasn’t become a reality yet.


Thanks and see you next time!


Creators Corner: Adventures in Cartooning, Week 1

brunetti cartooning cover

I’m a writer, not an artist. But for the next 10 weeks, I’m going to be a cartoonist.

And you can join me on this journey–not only by seeing what I do, but by completing the exercises I do along with me.

The great cartoonist Ivan Brunetti, also a teacher of comics/cartooning, has a book that publishes his course; it is a 10 week “class” that has a few exercises for each week, some of which I might even use in my own graphic novel class.

I thought it’d be fun–especially since I’m a writer and need to challenge my skills as an artist–to run myself through his course and post each of my exercise on here. So without further ado, let’s take the first step in our journey…

Exercise 1.1

This exercise follows these guidelines:

1) Draw a car in 3 minutes.

2) Beneath that, draw a car in 1 1/2 minutes.

3) Beneath that, draw a car for 1 min.

4) And so on, using more intervals like 45 sec, 30 sec, and 10 sec.

5) Repeat with other objects like a castle, cat, and more.

The intent behind this exercise is to streamline your drawing until you have the most iconic and universal representation of that image, while still being detailed and polished enough to ground it in some reality.

This is what I did for the car and castle versions; I think my best in each was my third try, which was always around 45 sec-1 minute.  With less time, my drawings got even worse than my natural skills already are, and with more time, my drawings got too messy but in a different way: too messy with details.

Often, we love looking at the art with the most detail, like Bryan Hitch’s cinematic scope, but this exercise shows that creating too much detail can slow storytelling; we end up focusing more on the beauty of the image than the story itself.  While I’m not looking down on detailed, beautiful artwork, it is helpful to keep this idea in mind and focus on storytelling more than pure aesthetics, adding a gorgeous, detailed page every now and then.

The compromise I’ve seen many artists also take–and the balanced approach I gravitate towards–to find this balance between storytelling and detail, especially manga artists, is to add detail in setting but streamline characters and main objects to their bare essentials. This was a fun, low-pressure first exercise with some good learning opportunities.


Exercise 1.2

This exercise follows these guidelines: From memory, draw quick doodles (spending about 10 seconds or so on each) of about 25 famous cartoon/comic characters.

The intent behind this exercise is twofold:

1) It shows that the most recognizable characters are often still recognizable in the rushed pen of a layman or laywoman; this is generally because those recognizable characters have been streamlined, so we remember and recognize them from less detail than we would think.  This goes hand-in-hand with the streamlining focus of exercise 1.1.

2) It also shows that to draw these characters perfectly, most people would need a model to look at, which also raises the issue of consistency: if we want to cartoon ourselves, we have to create a character than can be duplicated relatively quickly with a constant consistency, and we should have models (showing the same image from different angles) to help accomplish this.

These are some of my doodles; I think the comic characters and Homer Simpson looks good, but some of the others aren’t very recognizable.


Exercise 1.3

This exercise follows these guidelines: Create a grid (like a big 10×10 tic-tac-toe board); spending no more than 5 seconds per drawing, draw whatever word comes to mind (people, objects, places, jobs, feelings, etc…)

The intent behind this exercise is twofold:

1) It shows that when a cartoonist simplifies and boils drawings down to their most basic components, the image is still recognizable and universal, which can actually make a simpler drawing better than a detailed one.

This simplification process is something Brunetti has really hammered in this week, and like any good rule, it’s a great guideline but can always benefit from exceptions when breaking that guideline for a purpose.  And for those familiar  with Brunetti’s work, it’s probably no surprise that he stresses simplicity and clarity above all else.

2) It also shows that obsessing over a drawing for hours isn’t the best approach, because we often add unnecessarily details that distract from the needed, fewer, universal details.

This is what I did, and I think it’s better than the previous exercise, partly because I was free to draw what I wanted (instead of other people’s creations) and because a simpler cartooning style suits my, shall we say, less-than-refined drawing abilities.

That’s it for this week!  It’s been a fun, and educational, experience so far, and I look forward to continuing this for the next 9 weeks.  Check my next post on week two of this journey next week for Graphic Policy.

However, if you want to follow me along for each exercise (not just the week recap), I post each exercise on my blog and at my site,

Creators Corner: Creating Rebirth of the Gangster, Part 3 – Outline, Synopsis, & Chapter Breakdown

Rog outline with TK comment

*Note: This is the third part of my series about creating Rebirth of the Gangster. The first part focused on brainstorming the big idea and plot, and the second part focused on brainstorming all the details and outlining them into a coherent whole. This one will focus on transforming the brainstorming and outline into a series synopsis and chapter/issue breakdown.

Now that I’d brainstormed possible story beats, I was ready to write the synopsis [I’ll also place peer feedback in brackets like this–I got the peer feedback after I wrote the synopsis and outline]]:

Synopsis for Rebirth of the Gangster (Of course spoiler alert, although things will change as I write the piece and already have changed in the five issues I’ve written so far.):

Rebirth of the Gangster

Two sons–one rich and one poor, one black and one white, one with both parents living and one with a dead father and a dying mother–get sucked into a world of crime as they are haunted by their families’ secrets and a murder as old as the sons themselves.


Rebirth of the Gangster is

  • a long form narrative like 100 Bullets, also echoing its playful dialogue, ensemble cast, and shadowy visuals
  • with seasons that explore many facets of society like The Wire
  • and dripping in the noir-grounded reality of Criminal and Damages that marches characters towards an almost certain doom

(potentially released as a series of limited series that intertwine like Criminal does, if that’s a better commercial approach)

Marcus Thompson is a young African American man, a prosecutor for the state. His mom, a Hmong woman named Andrea, is a successful stockbroker and his dad, Curtis, owns a large, national business. When Marcus was born, his grandfather was killed. But that’s not the only murder that’s part of his family’s past, even if Marcus doesn’t know it: his dad used to be a criminal, before using his proceeds to fund his legal business ventures. And he was involved in a murder that’s going to haunt his whole family.Hunter Anderson is a young white man who works in a warehouse and struggles with anxiety and depression. His mom, Linda, is an administrative assistant; his dad, John, was killed by Curtis. Now, though, she’s trying to live a normal life: she’s remarried to a construction worker, a man who doesn’t treat her with as much respect as Hunter would like. Recently, she’s been diagnosed with cancer, and they’re struggling to afford her treatment. Hunter’s friends know this and convince Hunter to join them in a life of crime.

To open the story, Curtis receives an award for his work with his charity. Marcus walks home from the event with a co-worker, Alex. Alex gets in a fight with a homeless black man. Marcus stops the fight, always trying to play the peacemaker, but the homeless man accuses Marcus of betraying his race and history. The next day, these comments under his skin, he puts a young man (Devonte) in jail for drugs. Devonte says he’s innocent–the drugs were planted.

Although Marcus wins the case, he feels some guilt, as he flashes back to when he was a kid, giving into peer pressure to cheat for drugs: other black kids also played the race traitor card. They were all busted by the cops, but Curtis pulls some strings and Marcus has no consequences–the arrest is even erased from his criminal record. Because of events like this, he’s lately been feeling disillusioned with his role in prosecuting non-violent drug crimes. His coworker and friend, Kaitlyn–a black woman–tries to cheer him up, unsuccessfully.

Later, Marcus and his coworker, Alex, are at a gas station. A few men come in and rob the gas station. Marcus remains silent, hoping it will blow over, but Alex talks back. When one of the robbers (Hunter) comes over, Alex points out who Marcus is and warns Hunter. Hunter sees Marcus and Curtis’s pictures on the TV, and then cracks the gun on Marcus’s head. [Peer 2 Feedback: Love the premise so far. Hey, how does Hunter know that Curtis killed his dad, and why hasn’t he taken revenge yet? No opportunity?–My response–This made me have Hunter’s mom tell him the whole truth after this robbery; I also adjusted the plot, so that Randy’s dad was blamed for John’s death. That also gave Hunter greater reason to keep Randy around, even though Randy is a jerk: he’s trying to atone for the family legacy of a framed crime]

After the robbery, Hunter flashes back to what got him here (his mom’s depression and anger, his struggles in school, his dead end life, his mom’s sickness). At the same time as these flashbacks, he’s talking to his partners in crime, hiding the truth about why he hit Marcus. Angry at his emotional actions, they decide to stop working with him. He leaves and talks to his mom in the hospital, finding out the truth about his dad’s death: before, he thought the dad of a neighbor, Randy, killed John and that Curtis was only responsible for sucking John into the life of crime. He comes up with a plan and gets one of the robbers to do this as a last favor.

This plan, it turns out, involves the robber staging a fake mugging of Marcus where Hunter “saves” Marcus. Grateful, Marcus takes him out for a drink and the two start becoming friends. Marcus and Hunter start hanging out regularly. He even starts partying with Hunter and his friends, slipping back into his past drug use, even buying. While they’re hanging out one day, a Hispanic cop stops by to ask Hunter some questions about his recent robberies.

This cop, Lorena, grew up with Hunter and almost fell into a life of crime herself because of her struggles with a fractured family and faith, partly because she’s gay. She found her faith, closure with her family, and decided to become a cop to help others like her. Although her beat isn’t in Hunter’s neighborhood, she’s a workaholic who keeps in touch with her old life. She gets nowhere in the questioning, but vows to find out what he’s up to & why Marcus is there.Andrea & Curtis end up meeting Marcus with some of Hunter’s friends, but not Hunter. Although they run this charity, they still feel uncomfortable with these guys. Echoing what he said when Marcus was caught with drugs, Curtis worries that this might affect their image.

Andrea, however, isn’t as afraid of their past life. In fact, she’s been getting bored lately, and longs for more of the old life–her killer instinct is reawakened when someone attacks her while going home one night and she fights him off. There will be a few instances where women in this series are in danger. Like Andrea, they’ll be more than capable of fighting their way out.

This killer instinct isn’t new: in flashbacks it’s revealed that she has a wild streak, including helping Curtis kill Marcus’s grandfather, because he found out the truth of their activities and was going to turn them in. Andrea–in Lady Macbeth fashion–convinced Curtis to kill him. Similar to Curtis, Linda is trying to put her past anger behind her. She had always tried to get John to leave that life. After he died, she turned to drugs and petty crime to deal with her

depression and anger. Now, though, she starts seeing how Hunter is falling into the same trap,

and she’s going to do everything she can to help him avoid her mistakes before cancer kills her.

Two more characters close the beginning third of our series: Dennis, a friend of Hunter who was just released from prison, and Lizzeth, a Hispanic teacher who’s friends with Marcus.

Dennis is quickly pulled into Hunter’s plans, although Dennis isn’t certain he wants to re-enlist in a life of crime. Prison haunts him, including his time in solitary confinement, and he’ll do anything to avoid going back. Lizzeth meets Dennis through Marcus. There’s clear attraction between her and Dennis, but she doesn’t want to get involved with him because of his past.

As Marcus and Hunter continue to party more, Hunter asks Dennis to document (tape, photograph, etc…) Marcus’s illegal activities, eventually planning to blackmail Marcus. At first, Dennis doesn’t want to do this, but he’s eventually convinced and starts slipping back into the life that sentenced him to prison. While this is going on, Lorena busts one of their parties but gives them a pass, partly because she’s not interested in something that small, and partly because she knows Hunter is up to something and thinks he might crack if she’s playing the good cop. She starts to obsess over this, leading to another fight with a girlfriend.

Marcus starts to slip up at work because of the fast life; Kaitlyn tries to help him out. He at first wants to listen to her, but eventually gets too caught up in his partying and Hunter’s schemes. As Marcus continues his fall, Andrea does so too. She starts taking risks, like shoplifting and picking arguments with random people that almost lead to fights. Curtis notices this behavior, and at first tries to find out what’s going on. When Andrea says nothing, they start fighting and a distance grows between them that will last. Linda tries to talk to Marcus and warn him about Hunter’s intentions, but she backs out at the last minute, afraid of betraying her son. [Peer 2 Feedback: Getting a real Iago-Othello vibe here–minus Desdemona–and it’s pretty fascinating. Is there anything redeeming about Hunter, though? Iago’s always a character who’s absolutely evil–I mean, you like him because he’s so damn clever, but otherwise, he’s awful. How do we feel sympathy for Hunter beyond him losing his dad and, potentially, his mom? I mean, Marcus didn’t actually kill his dad–so why does he deserve to have his life ruined? Just throwing thoughts out there. I’m intrigued!–My response–I’ll add some sympathetic character traits as I write individual issues, but this was a good reminder.]

Eventually, Hunter reveals his evidence to Marcus and blackmails him for a plea bargain–he’ll rat on a gang leader, even though that leader had nothing to do with the crime. And even though it’s against his code, Marcus, afraid of tarnishing his image, agrees to go along with it. Unknown to Marcus, Dennis is videotaping this interaction too.Marcus goes to work the next day and starts the plea bargaining process immediately. Kaitlyn starts getting suspicious and starts double checking the plea bargain documents and rifling through Marcus’s desk, while Marcus goes to visit Randy. At the prison, Marcus is confronted by Devonte, the prisoner he put away at the beginning of this story–the prisoner has heard from other inmates about what Marcus is doing (and why he’s doing it) and threatens to go to the warden. Flustered, Marcus calls Hunter and warns him about what’s going on; Hunter agrees to take care of it, and later that night, Devonte is found stabbed, close to death. Lorena comes to Hunter’s place shortly after this, partly to check up on Randy and partly to ask questions about this prison violence; they’ve been able to pin it down to Derek, one of Hunter’s friends that is in prison; he hasn’t talked, but she wants to pressure Hunter and see if he cracks.

Marcus gets back from visiting the prison, and is faced with a bunch of questions from Kaitlyn. Clearly rattled from confronting Devonte, he acts shady and makes Kaitlyn even more suspicious despite revealing nothing. She’s met Curtis & so she calls him with her worries, which leads to Marcus confronting Curtis again about professional behavior & the family image.

The next day Marcus finds out about Devonte. He goes to Hunter and gets into an argument with him, threatening to go to the authorities. Hunter brings up the phone call Marcus made from the prison and tells him that they’re both going down if Hunter goes to the

authorities. Shortly after this, Lorena confronts Marcus and he comes close to telling the truth. At the last second, though, he lies. After this he goes to talk to Hunter, who pushes him even more off balance: Hunter wants Marcus to help him rob Curtis, but he doesn’t reveal why yet.

While all this is going on, Dennis and Lizzeth have started a romantic relationship. Lizzeth is still uncertain about Dennis and Dennis is hiding how he works for Hunter. Eventually, LIzzeth finds out because Lorena tells her in hopes of getting an informant, and so LIzzeth tells him to make a choice; even though Dennis really likes LIzzeth, he walks out on her.

Linda is so worried about Hunter’s actions and possible plans with Marcus’s family that she does the unthinkable: she goes to see Andrea and warn her about Hunter and Marcus’s friendship. They fight about how important it is, but when Linda leaves, Andrea talks to Curtis about it, clearly worried. It’s also revealed in this fight that Andrea was the one who killed Marcus’s grandfather. Curtis is so worried that he forbids Marcus from hanging out with Hunter, but he won’t tell Marcus why. Although Marcus knows how dangerous Hunter is, he still gets in an argument with Curtis about not wanting his life dictated to him. Still, Marcus is unsure what to do: he’s dug himself a hole, but he’s not sure how to get out of it.

He goes to confront Hunter, trying to find a way to avoid both blackmail and the robbery: he’ll do another plea bargain, he’ll owe him, etc… An argument follows, and Hunter reveals part of John and Curtis’s past. He tells him about their dad’s being partners in crime but not about Curtis murdering John. However, he does reveal something shocking: while they were still partners, Curtis and John were going to be turned in by Curtis’s dad; Curtis came up with a plan and killed his own dad. Horrified, Marcus leaves without committing to anything.

After this conversation, Linda steps out of the shadows and confronts Hunter about his actions. She knows the hurt he’s going through, but she also knows that anger and revenge isn’t the way out. They get in a fight and Hunter storms out, still too focused on revenge. As he walks away, though, we can see that he’s lost in thought, second-guessing his own actions.

Meanwhile, Marcus confronts Curtis about his grandpa’s murder. At first Curtis looks like he’s going to tell Marcus the truth about Andrea, but he ends up saying that it was him that killed his own father, arguing that it was for the good of the family. Marcus and Curtis get in a fight and Marcus storms out, lost in thought. He eventually calls Hunter & tells them that he’s ready to help. Marcus, Hunter, Randy, and Dennis start planning the robbery. Marcus and Randy clearly have some tension, but are able to pretend to put it aside. Things are looking good, until Dennis backs out at the last minute. Dennis has been going through a personal struggle with falling back into his old life, but losing Lizzeth pushed him in the right direction. Hunter tries to talk him out of leaving, but Dennis is finally helping himself out and thinking long-term.

Desperate, Lorena has been doing some investigation into Marcus’s life, looking into the murder of Marcus’s grandfather. She stumbles on photos that show John and Curtis together. At the same time, Kaitlyn finds some questionable financial reports from when Curtis started his business,brings it to the police, and partners up with Lorena on the case.

Reeling from the loss of Dennis, Marcus and Hunter try to find a replacement. Marcus has an idea: he’ll offer a plea bargain to Devonte (further implicating the rival gang member that

Randy ratted on) in exchange for his help. When he goes to the prison to offer this plea bargain,

though, Marcus makes it clear that Devonte is only going to answer to him and that they’re going to sabotage the plan–keeping the money for themselves and killing Hunter and Randy.

The night of the robbery, Lorena and Kaitlyn have managed to secure a warrant to search Hunter, Marcus, Linda and Curtis’s houses. They start at Marcus’s house and find nothing; they go to Linda’s house, where they find her collapsed on the floor and rush her to the hospital; at Hunter’s place they find some of the plans for the robbery and rush to Curtis’s house.

The night of the robbery–everybody in masks, wearing gloves–Randy goes to secure Curtis and bring him to the room with Curtis’s safe; Devonte does the same for Andrea. Hunter and Marcus are waiting, safe open and valuables packed away. At the same time, Lorena pulls up to Curtis’s house. When she gets no answer, she enters, radioing for back-up.

Hunter removes his mask and explains why he’s there. He’s hesitant to kill Curtis, though, his mom’s words are ringing in his head. Before he can make a choice either way, Lorena barges in, warning them that more police are on their way. Lorena and Hunter talk, Lorena reminding him of the times he helped her when they grew up, appealing to his good nature. It’s working. [Peer 2 Feedback: This is what I hope to see flashes of throughout–it’ll make Hunter ripe to be talked out of this…maybe!]

Randy’s been watching this with growing unease: he shoots Lorena in the side (which we’ll later see wasn’t a mortal wound). Hunter breaks down and kills Randy, then rushes to Lorena’s side. Sensing an opportunity, Curtis grabs Randy’s gun and shoots Devonte, killing him. He turns to Marcus, about to fire, but before he can, Marcus pulls off his mask.

Now, it’s time for Marcus to launches into a tirade against Curtis. Curtis tries to placate him. Andrea joins in, but keeps her distance. Sirens start to wail as tension mounts and Lorena’s back-up finally arrives. With the sirens echoing in his head, blood tainting his vision, and memories assaulting him, Marcus shoots his dad, killing him. He points the gun at his mom but can’t pull the trigger. Aware of the sirens again, he places the gun in Randy’s hands and brings his mom into a corner, huddling together as if they’re both victims.

The cops break in, see Hunter with a gun in his hand crouching over Lorena and open fire. Hunter dies quickly, but takes one last look at Marcus, tears staining both their faces. The cops rush to Marcus and Andrea’s side, shepherding them out of the room.

The next few weeks pass by, and we next see Marcus visiting Linda in the hospital. He tells her that Hunter changed his mind at the last minute, and then leaves her, clearly haunted by this whole experience. Lorena is in the next room over, her girlfriend visiting her and forgiving her. Lorena resolves to retire to a desk job and give up her investigation of Marcus; we learn some of this from Kaitlyn’s visit to Lorena. Marcus holds a press conference announcing his promotion to CEO and his renewed dedication to Curtis’s charity from the beginning of the book. Dennis and Lizzeth happily cook dinner as they both talk about their day, Dennis raving about his new job. The story ends with Marcus talking to Andrea, trying to figure out how she coped with her past. She gives him advice, but he’s clearly haunted by it, and the series closes on him reflecting, unsure if he’ll ever be redeemed.

[Peer 2 Feedback: Based only on the synopsis, this reward doesn’t seem just, but that’s only because Marcus doesn’t seem likable yet. He’s so conflicted all the time and seems easily manipulated–but I expect he’ll be a lot more complex than that once he gets some dialogue time. Wild ending, man–I’m impressed! The characters all come together in a final clash I can see being really epic in graphic form. Looking forward to seeing it all come together!–My response–I agree that the reward isn’t just, but part of the thematic point of this comic is that we live in an unjust world, where some suffer more for past sins than others because of the status they have.]


Chapter/Issue Outlines (spoiler alert again!):


Outline of Chapter/Issue Order, Rebirth of the Gangster, CJ Standal

(Of course I’m flexible, given market conditions and demands of the story as it’s created)


Meet the Family (all 24 issues/chapters are going to be around 22 pages)

1–Marcus: In which we meet Marcus at a gala honoring his dad, followed by a close encounter with a homeless man that unearths old memories and new doubts at work until we finally witness his assault from a masked Hunter.

2–Hunter: In which we meet Hunter after his assault of Marcus, clearly shaken, haunted by his mom’s battle with cancer and his own fall into crime, and then end with a resolution from Hunter and a call to arms.

3–Lorena: In which we meet Lorena in her element–chasing criminals–see her flashback to relationship ending fights with her girlfriend about her obsession with her job–partly due to her harsh childhood–and close on her trailing Hunter on one of his clandestine meetings.

4–Marcus and Hunter: In which we find the fruits of Hunter’s scheming and the unexpected wrench in his plans, Marcus’s ability to fight back hints at his dark nature and violence, and the first “friendly” meeting between Marcus and Hunter.

5–Andrea: In which we see Andrea’s growing concerns over Marcus’s friendship with Hunter, a flashback to a youth spent learning how to curb her anger and put on a pretty face, and a robbery that reawakens her second face: one of violence, lies, and greed.

6–Lorena, Marcus, & Hunter: In which we see Marcus and Hunter partying at breakneck speeds, [Peer 1 Feedback: NICE! – this is the best example how you told me a situation without flat out saying it. Go through and make more sound like this] witness Lorena launching an investigation against Hunter–and shortly, Marcus–watch cracks appearing in Marcus’s professionalism as his coworker Kaitliyn tries to help , and learn that Hunter has been compiling evidence to blackmail Marcus.

After this story arc, it might be a good time to have a Rebirth of the Gangster Month, almost like Vertigo’s Sandman month, which drove up sales and recruited new readers. It could include:

  1. A release of “Meet the Family” as a trade paperback, if we’re releasing RofG in individual issues beforehand
  2. A release of “The Birth of the Comic: A guide to how the RotG was created and how you can create a comic too”–this hopefully would start with a short comic book narrating the story of how we created the comic, but then it would break down into traditional textbook format, with sections featuring our advice and models on writing and script, pencilling, inking, coloring, lettering, and proposing/promoting the comic.
  3. A prequel graphic novel on how Marcus and Hunter’s parents met and started committing crimes. It would show the tension between John and Curtis, Curtis’s dad finding out about their criminal behavior, Andrea’s manipulation of Curtis into the plan to kill Curtis’s dad, John and Linda’s attempt to double-cross Curtis, and Curtis beating them to the punch: killing John.
  4. The release of the first issue in “What’s Old Is New Again” storyline.

What’s Old Is New Again

7–Linda: In which we are reintroduced to Linda as she starts to challenge Hunter’s new decisions, reflecting on her past experiences abusing drugs after John’s death, and see her try to warn Marcus away.

8–Dennis and Lizzeth: In which we join Dennis on his first day home from prison, watch him face the fork in the road that divides the old and the new life; in which we join Lizzeth as she offers Marcus a helping hand and recoils away from Dennis’s advances.

9–Marcus and Hunter: In which Curtis and Andrea meet Hunter’s friends and express disapproval, and Hunter blackmails Marcus, leaving Marcus unsure what to do.

10–Andrea and Linda: In which Andrea continues to feed her wild side and Linda attempts to curb Hunter’s.

11: Lorena and Kaitlyn: In which Lorena busts a party that Hunter is holding, but doesn’t press charges in the hopes of finding out more information on the bigger score, and Kaitlyn starts digging into Marcus’s professional and personal life.

12: Marcus, Hunter, and Lorena: In which Marcus gives in and creates the plea bargain leading to a discussion with Devonte, Hunter puts a hit on Devonte, Marcus and Hunter fight, while Lorena waits in the wings for them to slip up.

A Family Affair (first idea for the story arc title was Turnabout is Fair Play)

13: Lorena and Kaitlyn: In which Kaitlyn finds something shady in the plea bargain Marcus just did, starts investigating Marcus and her family, and Lorena investigates the prison hit against Devonte while also telling Lizzeth the truth about Dennis.

14: Hunter and Marcus: In which Marcus finds out about the hit on Devonte, argues with Hunter, makes Kaitlyn suspicious, and Hunter tries to get Marcus to join him in robbing Curtis.

15. Randy, Dennis and Lizzeth: In which Randy joins Hunter’s crew again, clashes with Dennis over his recent doubts, and Dennis visits Lizzeth for a second chance, both with her and with reformed life.

16: Hunter and Marcus: In which Hunter tells Marcus some of the truth about Curtis, Marcus confronts Curtis about his grandfather’s death, and Marcus reluctantly agrees to side with Hunter.

17: Andrea and Linda: In which Linda tries to get Andrea’s help after Hunter refuses to change his ways, and Andrea confers with Curtis about this new wrinkle in Marcus’s life.

18: Hunter, Marcus, Lorena, Kaitlyn, and Devonte: In which Marcus enlists Devonte’s help in the robbery because of Dennis’s second thoughts, Hunter plots with Randy, and Kaitlyn finds out about Curtis and John’s connections, causing her to go to Lorena for help.



A Little More Than Kin and Less Than Kind


19. Marcus, Hunter, Devonte, and Randy: In which Marcus, Hunter, Devonte, and Randy all plan the robbery, pretending to be working together when there are actually plots within plots, betrayals abounding.

20. Lorena and Kaitlyn: In which Lorena and Kaitlyn continue to unearth clues, finding enough to get a warrant to Hunter, Marcus, Linda and Curtis’s houses.

21. Andrea and Linda: In which Andrea tries to get Marcus to change his ways, and when that doesn’t work, she redirects his anger towards Curtis, and Linda’s failing health place her in a hospital bed.

22: Beginning of Robbery (Everybody other than Dennis and Lizzeth): In which Hunter, Marcus, and more start their robbery, and Hunter unmasks himself to confront Curtis, while Lorena and Kaitlyn find clues but no crime in Hunter, Linda, and Marcus’s house, finally rushing to Curtis’s house.

23: End of Robbery (Everybody other than Dennis and Lizzeth): In which motivations are laid bare, and the intrusion of Lorena and second doubts causes the plan to go off the rails, leading to more violence and death.

24: Falling Action (Marcus, Andrea, Lorena, Kaitlyn, Linda, Dennis and Lizzeth): In which we see, Lorena and Kaitlyn trying to return to their life with a new work-life balance, and Marcus visiting Linda, Dennis and Lizzeth adjusting to their new life together, and Marcus and Andrea trying to cope with the events of the robbery and the new mantles of business leadership.



[Peer 1 Feedback: Overall, fucking awesome, really want to read where it’s headed. I have some overall notes below.


Be less on the nose, give me 9/10 of the pie, let me wonder about the 10th – for example, don’t tell me outright who he is blackmailing – a good reference point for these intros is reading one of Tarantino’s screenplays. His character descriptions are great because:

1. The writing is tight and punchy. Short sentences. Every line better than the last.

2. He focuses on the character’s attitude, drilling into their core, and less so on the events of their life.

Right now I’d say you’re about 70% background events – 30% emotional characteristics

I would bump up the emotional side to 50/50, if not higher.

My response: Yeah, I will show and hint more in the actual comic. This is more of an outline for what I want to happen/be hinted at in each chapter.]


That’s it for part three folks! Stay tuned for the part four, in which I’ll discuss writing my first script; like part three, I’ll show you the product, along with some peer comments and my own reflection.


*Note* To see more behind the scenes, check out “First Shot: The Making of Rebirth of the Gangster for sale on Amazon!


Creators Corner: Running a Successful Kickstarter Part 4: Promoting Your Campaign

Now that you’ve done your research,  brainstormed rewards, and created the campaign page (video and all), you’re ready to start doing the most fun part of the Kickstarter: begging people for money. That’s right, I’m talking about promoting your campaign to anyone willing to support you, which is always barrels of fun. It’s not quite the hoot that soliciting for reviews is, but it’s pretty close.


In all seriousness, though, most creators view this as the worst part about running a Kickstarter, and I can’t really blame them: it’s practically impossible to stand out in the midst of so many other campaigns being advertised online. And if you’re even able to stand out, you have to make the pitch and possible rewards memorable enough for people to click on that link to your Kickstarter page. And even if all this aligns perfectly, you’ll probably still feel a little shady to be hitting up friends, family and strangers for money. But, despite the drawbacks to this stage, you can still have fun with it and–most importantly–use it to to reach that end goal: campaign completion.



Building that Base

The first step of promoting a campaign starts before you’ve even created it. Essentially, you need to build a base for you and your work first, and you also need to preview the Kickstarter for at least the month leading up to the actual campaign. Building a base–and connections–helps make it more likely that others will promote your campaign; after all, if they already like what you’ve been doing, chances are they’re going to want to help you even more. I did this in many ways: writing guest posts on others’ sites, getting reviewed, giving the first issue away for free, getting on podcasts (shout-out to This Freakin’ Show, my first and most faithful podcast so far!), and more.



And as far as previewing the Kickstarter before it even launches, it helps to give people a heads up to plan for a possible budget item. You don’t want to have a friend who would’ve donated a few hundred dollars donate five bucks simply because they didn’t have enough notice to make that cash available. Even better, announcing the Kickstarter in advance and giving away a free excerpt/issue is one way to make sure that possible backers have the needed knowledge and excitement to support you when the Kickstarter launches.



Should I Pay (for tweet splashes/PR from an agency) or No?

The next step on this seemingly endless journey is to decide if you want to shell out money to an agency for their expertise and PR machine. Before I dove in, I dipped my toe in the water and just ordered a 24-hour tweet splash to coincide with the first week of launching the campaign for Rebirth of the Gangster. I got some retweets, but to be quite honest, it was a waste of my money. That doesn’t mean a big agency would be a waste of money, but it does heavily suggest that tweet splashes are a waste of money. Yeah, they might have more followers than you, but (being a follower of those accounts myself), those followers won’t actually pay close attention to their tweets.  So the question remains: should you enlist the aid of an expert agency in the hopes of either completing your goal or even exceeding it?


Initially I decided not to, but a few things happened that made me start to reconsider that position. First, after a week of the campaign being live, I wasn’t receiving the level of response I’d hoped for (or in other words, I wasn’t getting enough of that cash money!). Secondly, I started to get a lot of emails from agencies like the one above, telling me that my Kickstarter had strong appeal and only needed the boost of an agency to propel it in the atmosphere.

funding progress and pledge sources Kickstarterpic

I was really close to giving in and signing with one of these agencies about halfway through the campaign when the miraculous happened: I started getting more and more donations, and it looked pretty feasible that I was going to reach my goal. Seeing that, I started re-evaluating how much I was leaning towards these companies.  

Given that I didn’t have a big goal ($1000, which isn’t that high of a goal compared to other Kickstarter campaigns), I didn’t think that paying hundreds of dollars to maybe hit that goal and maybe exceed it was worth it.  If I had a bigger goal (like the $3000+ I was thinking of to print the graphic novel of the first story arc), it would make sense to me to enlist their help, but with such a small goal, it didn’t seem worth it to me. And to make that decision even easier, I saw that a lot of my friends and family were donating and donating big (I’m lucky in that I have friends and family who are pretty affluent), so it didn’t seem like I needed even more support. There is no right answer, just a careful consideration of all these variables and costs. And besides, I found another, cheaper way to garner support from others versed in Kickstarter: other campaign creators like myself.


Kickstarter Creator Solidarity

Once I launched my Kickstarter campaign, my inbox started piling up with messages from other Kickstarter creators, asking if I was interested in backing their project in return for them backing mine. Now, we’re only talking about a $1-$5 pledge, so it’s not that much money for either of us, which might make it seem like it wouldn’t be worth it.  


However, Kickstarter–like so much of the internet and life in general–favors the popular, which in the Kickstarter world means that projects with more money donated will appear higher on searches and be more likely to get pledges (it’s kind of like that old cliche when applying for a job: “You don’t have enough experience” to get the job so those who already have the experience will be more likely to be hired instead). So, that’s one benefit of donating to other campaigns and getting others to donate to you, all for the temporary cost of a few bucks that will be “rebated” to you when they donate to your pledge too. Even better, those creators I backed were more likely to publicize my Kickstarter on Twitter, Facebook, etc…!  


So, after being contacted myself, I started contacting others for this support: after all indie authors love sticking together. And even though, I only had about 5% of creators I contacted agree to this support, that’s still better than nothing and still free publicity.


(above, a pic shared with me by someone I backed)

Stretch Goals

Even with all of these supports and keys to success, you might see your Kickstarter lagging after a few weeks, and that’s when you need to think of greater incentives to meet the goal and keep your campaign in the public eye (after all, according to recent studies, humans now have an attention span of 8 seconds, shorter than a goldfish’s). Some of these stretch goals can be expanding a reward you already have, but since it had a limited number of pledges it’s already full. I did this by adding one more cameo to my project–at first I’d had 2 cameos in the campaign, but since those were snatched pretty quickly, I added another one.  


It also makes sense to add goals similar to ones that have been successful: since the cameo was so successful, but since I wanted it to still be special and since I wanted to save Juan time looking at photos to add new characters, I added something kind of like a cameo: naming a character after the backer or anyone they wanted.  This isn’t quite the same as a cameo, so I made it less expensive, but like the cameo, it was very popular. That’s how I got the Lil’ Jimbo name, and that’s why I sent out the following tweet of appreciation:


And that brings me to something I’ve almost overlooked, something that is actually incredibly important for every step of the process: publicizing your thanks, both for your backers and for those spreading the word. People pledge support for a Kickstarter for two reasons:

  1. They want to support art
  2. They want others to know they’re the type of person to support art.

So, you should be tweeting, Facebook-ing, and spreading your thanks anywhere you can, even in the work itself.  I could post a bunch of pics of me doing that, but you don’t need to see 100+ messages of me thanking my supporters (I know that’s more than I had backers, but I would thank backers multiple times and thank people who spread the word about my campaign).

If you do all these things, you should be able to get a variety of backers who found your campaign in a variety of ways, like mine did:

Referrers kickstarter campaign

But there’s still one last thing to consider, and that’s the final push.


Last Call and the Big Finish

In the last week–whether you’ve hit your goal or not–it’s still important to keep getting the word out, especially to family and friends. I know it seems weird that you have to remind those closest to you to support you quickly in this campaign, but this campaign isn’t nearly as big of a deal to them as it is to you.  

Perhaps surprisingly, many of them might have forgotten about it (yes, even those who are true friends), so continuing to put it on their radar makes it much more likely they’ll offer a pledge.  In fact, the pledge that made it so I met my goal was from a friend in the last week and a half, something he only did because I texted him a reminder.  As this post has no doubt shown, your job as a promoter for the Kickstarter is never done, and your audience for this promotion only continues to widen. If you keep these ideas in mind, you should be on your way to Kickstarter success!

After that, the only step left is finishing the dang project and fulfilling the pledges, which I’ll cover in my next–and last–installment on running a successful Kickstarter.

Creators Corner: Creating Rebirth of the Gangster, Part 2–Brainstorming and Outlining the Whole Plot

*Note:  This is the second part of my series about creating Rebirth of the Gangster.  The first part focused on brainstorming the big idea and plot, and this one will focus on brainstorming all the details and outlining them into a coherent whole.*

Dead-ends, forks, and finally finding the Yellow Brick Road

Five years and a failed comic book had passed since I first wrote that poem (mentioned in the first part).  But no matter what I did, I couldn’t keep it out of my mind.  It kept bobbing above and beneath the surface of my conscious thoughts.  Finally, I’d had enough!  It was time to start turning this poem into the long-form narrative I’d always wanted it to become, but by now, I was completely set on making it a comic.  Instead of writing a detailed outline and sticking to it right away, I wanted to brainstorm as many ideas as possible.  After this process, I’d be able to delete and add ideas, combine characters and events for a more streamlined story, and recraft character motivations and relationships.  See below for the various brainstorming documents and notes I created.

At first I started jotting down random ideas on random pieces of paper, but I don’t have those (I do have handwritten notes for later in the process though).  Eventually, I looked at those notes, and compiled them into emails I sent myself.


First set of notes I emailed to myself

(Spoiler alert–kind of, since some this stuff will make it into the comic, and some definitely won’t; if you don’t want to read this, though, you can skip down to look at the reflection I have after it–the reflection starts after the italics end at the next bolded part):

Use birth poem beginning to piece on:

1) father figures–one dead, one alive, both former partners in crime, one double crossed and killed the other; has since retired into a comfortable anonymous life

2) sons–one doesn’t know what his dad’s done and is living comfortably post college; one knows what happened to his dad and is an addict (drinks and smokes) and works temp job while also getting socked into life of crime

3) wives–one has come to terms with what her husband has done in the name of family but distant from husband and becomes more distant as series moves on; one loves her dead husband but can’t come to terms with what he did and what happened to him: remarried and in a tense marriage and drinks: wants best for son and has to get over her need for revenge to help him avoid his father’s fate

4) love interest–starts off juggling both sons: middle of book goes with LD son but eventually ends up with DD son

5) two sons come into conflict over love interest: DD son finds out truth about each other and DD son pretends to be friend: convinces him to help him with a score w/intent to double cross: at story’s climax he changes his mind bc he’s finally moved on: to stay out of cops hands LD son sacrifices himself to save DD son: don’t know when but LD son finds out truth about father

6) use variation of “birth” to intro each character and what they let define themselves

7) DD wife toward climax kills LD; she gets away with it but realized the emptiness of her revenge and talks to her son about it; he rejects her talk at first and goes to mug someone out of anger; feeling nothing but rage and self disgust he starts to see his moms point but not fully yet

  1. A) first chapter starts with LD son birth and flashes to his life–happily working, happy hour with friends–and he is going shopping with love interest (not girlfriend but dating). While shopping DD son robs the place, recognizes LD and cracks him one with his gun; leaves and we see him escaping as he pulls off his mask to flashback to his birth scene and the scene of LD killing his dad
  2. B) second chapter starts with DD wife recounting her “birth”–meeting her husband after some traumatic event. At first she doesn’t know what he does but she finds out and eventually convinces him to quit. He’ll do it after this last score; but he doesn’t get to quit because he’s killed as she gives birth to their son–echo “birth” in her narration to close chapter
  3. C) third chapter starts with “birth” of DD son–new one, where he learns about his dad; starts doing worse in school and hanging with bad kids; his mom finds out and gets him to avoid this life for awhile but on a chance encounter he sees LD son happy which infuriates him; chapter ends with his first crime and an echo of “birth” in his narration
  4. D) fourth chapter starts with “birth” of LD wife: her first robbery, done with her husband; chapter follows them joining DD and clashing with his wife; fearful that the DD wife is going to police after seeing argument they resolve to kill him; chapter ends with DD death, wife and LD come home to celebrate and fuck (conceiving son) and she echoes “birth” narration as they go become a legitimate family
  5. E) fifth chapter starts with LD’s “birth” he just killed his partner and goes legitimate, albeit not in a legitimate way at first; as son grows up he softens and tries to forget his past; DD wife won’t let him though and she blackmails him every few years; chapter ends on one of them as he echoes “birth” narration to feel anger, and self-loathing, but indecision bc of his love for his son and family 
  6. F) sixth chapter starts with the “birth” of love interest as she also lost her parents and is adopted; story follows her growing up and feeling loved and unloved at the same time; middle of chapter we see her as a teacher, trying to help make sure no one feels what she did; chapter ends with echoes in narration of her double “birth” as she hits it off with both sons

Next email and set of notes:

Of below outline definitely don’t use #4 (bc a love triangle doesn’t fit) and don’t use most of #5 (LD son doesn’t die and sacrifice himself, but does knows truth about his dad and is trying to redeem himself)

Third email and set of notes:

LF killed DF bc DF was planning on killing LF’s father; LF stops DF’s hit man but kills his own dad anyway

LF wife helped kill DF; she shot him in the leg; the first time we see DF’s death we see that wound but not her; we see her later in one of her chapters, third or later

DF wife is atheist which clashes with spirituality of cop/old friend of DF son, subtly not melodramatic, and not all the time

LF and LF wife got are religious but hypocrites obviously–most of the time they don’t see this of themselves

The night of the grandfather’s death is not the same as the night of DF’s death

Fourth email and set of notes:

DF son has a friend from the neighborhood who is just paroled from prison and is facing a Cutty-style decision from The Wire. His dad is some blue collar worker who works two jobs and is barely home. We see some of this storyline in the present and in flashbacks, which will also cover his experience in jail (review the book Unfair and some Oz). Like Cutty, he at first tries to get back in the game but won’t end up there.  After getting out of the game, he ends up with a Latina woman who is a teacher. Unlike the cop, she had a present and working father and isn’t religious.

Another member of the gang–who was in jail with him, which we’ll see in some flashbacks–gets out at the same time but sinks back into his old life with his old girlfriend, a real rider like in the book we read for book club, written be a UW professor of social work I believe. This storyline would be introduced in the second act.

The LF son is a prosecutor (review that section of Unfair); the LF is a real estate developer; the LF wife is a business image contractor like Cheadle in House of Lies.

Maybe the DF son says he’s got a plan on how to extort/blackmail LF but he’s really just looking to kill LF and then the LF son. He at least doesn’t kill the LF son. Probably he can’t kill either of them and the LF son kills his own dad. The DF son gets killed by police  or arrested after the fact? LF son lies and says the DF son killed his dad?

Title idea: Rebirth of the Gangster/Return of the Gangster

Second meeting between the two sons: DF son has one of the members of his gang stage a mugging of LF son that the DF son stops. Of course, because of the previous robbery, the LF son is fearful and angry toward the robber and appreciative of the DF son, his “rescuer”. This leads to the beginning of his fake friendship with the LF son. Most likely tell this story from the perspective of the LF son.


Outside Help with the Outline and Plot

Around this time, I felt I needed some more guidance in how I approached creating this story–yes I had a lot of ideas, but I wasn’t quite sure how to make them all work in a satisfying story arc, much less make them work as concisely as I needed.  I turned to two texts to help me with this stage of planning: Writing for Comics by Alan Moore, which mainly helped me think about the best ways to structure an individual issue (see below my handwritten breakdowns for the product of this reading and thinking; I still do this for every issue, although I sometimes find that I need to add a scene/make a scene shorter/make a scene longer, etc…).

outline first issue rog handwritten

I still felt lost, though.  On a visit to Chicago, I met some old college friends.  One of them has traveled the world, shooting advertising campaigns, writing scripts, and so on.  He looked at my notes and gave me some feedback, and then pointed me to Save the Cat by Blake Snyder (I know, I know, this isn’t really a revelation, since it’s been a go-to guide for many years.  But it was a revelation for somebody who was focusing only on books that taught comic writing).  

While I don’t agree with everything Blake Snyder writes, his book did help me combine some of the disparate elements in my notes into scenes that had multiple purposes (one of which is to create tonal shifts), and he did make me realize that my main character, Marcus, had to be more active.  (I kind of resent the idea that there has to be one main character, so my comic will have him and Hunter as a focal point, but will develop other characters on a similar level, kind of like Game of Thrones.)  He also helped me structure the story for certain beats (like the turning point, the all is lost point, etc…).  Again, while these ideas aren’t necessarily revolutionary–and not even really new to somebody who spends way too much time consuming entertainment like I do–it helped remind me of certain, proven story beats and how I needed to change my story to fit them.  

Below is the outline for the series as a whole, based on the story beats Snyder describes:





That’s it for part two folks! I’ll be back soon with the next part, that focuses on writing the synopsis and getting feedback on that, before moving onto writing the script.

*Note* To see more behind the scenes, check out “First Shot: The Making of Rebirth of the Gangster for sale on Amazon!

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