Creating Sparks Part 2: The Basics and Getting the Green Light
I remember in English class something my teacher said something to me which I feel is very true. ‘The moment you write something and consider it brilliant is when you should stop.’ In essence what she meant was ‘don’t get your head up your own ass too much.’ Indeed you see it all the time in comics, movies, music or any other industry you can think of. You see people struggle and fight for their spot, producing amazing work but then they get their big break. They become a sure-fire hit, they get told their work is genius and after a while that stops being true. The fire, the motivation to really deliver is gone because no matter what you do, people will buy it.
The reason I’m saying that is I never really think you stop learning to write, especially in comics. Literally every work, every project I learn something new. Sometimes it’s something small, sometimes it improves the quality of my scripts a great deal. However when I started out, after creating Sparks which was closely followed by a concept called The Immortals (more on that later) I had no idea how to put together a comic script. I wasn’t even sure how to structure prose properly and so I completed a lot of stories that went pretty much like this.
Turning to the audience, Glenn gives them a big smile.
Glenn: Hello audience!
Audience: Hello Glenn!
Taking a bow, Glenn proceeds to bask in the audience applause.
Around this time I also sent a full letter of ideas forward to Marvel. I posted it all the way to New York and even put in the legal form the big 2 make you sign anytime you want to submit work/ideas to them. Looking back it was so unprofessional and so deluded of me that the entire submission may have been done out in crayon with cute little backwards letters.
There are plenty of books on how to write comics or to write period. The likes of Stan Lee, Peter David, Brian Bendis, Stephen King, etc have all crafted books on how to write.
I’ll admit right now that I have read none of those. I certainly encourage others who would likely benefit greatly from it but I never did. I just learned through buying a lot of comics.
That might sound strange but one of the wonders of the modern age of comics is how much effort put into collected editions. With some of these collections you get an assortment of DVD/Blu-Ray type special features. You get sketches, pin-up art and sometimes you get scripts. Full comic scripts from the best in the industry and how I learned to put together scripts was by reading other scripts.
I also found a number of other writers putting their scripts online, what then has followed is some trial and error. I’ve included some stuff, ditched other things and tried my best to find my own way to do it. I learned the difference between full script and ‘Marvel style’, how to structure a page and some interesting things I never would have realized.
I found that there was no real ‘wrong’ way to do it. Every writer laid out their full scripts differently and I came across quite a variety of styles. I would probably call my own mostly a blend of Neil Gaiman, Ed Brubaker, J. Michael Staczynski and a little of myself.
Being an editor with GrayHaven I have the pleasure of reading literally hundreds of scripts for anthologies and I pick up interesting things here also. Little hints and tips I use to adjust my own style. If there is anyone out there looking to write comics or wants to learn how to do it better (we can all improve) I would highly suggest reading scripts from peers or pro’s. It’s astonishing what you can pick up. Often times whenever I green light a pitch for a GrayHaven anthology I sometimes get the writer going ‘This is great…now what do I do?’ I then send them some strong scripts I have received over the years.
I would like in particular like to mention GrayHaven vets Ray Goldfield, Doug Hahner, Sean Leonard and Jason Snyder who have great instincts when it comes to scripting. There are many others who I’ve found helpful but those guys are top-notch.
Something I really liked from Neil Gaiman’s scripts was the informal manner he wrote in. In her introduction to Absolute Sandman Vol. 3, Jill Thompson wrote how much of a pleasure it was to read Gaiman’s scripts because of this. I thought I would do the same and I do attempt to do so on a regular basis.
Now obviously it’ll depend on the artist and publisher. The majority of the latter I have worked with enjoyed it but others consider it a distraction. When it comes to your publisher, if they ask you to write the comic script standing on your head and reciting ‘Old McDonald’ then you must do so but…more on this later.
So I started to write comic scripts because mainly, I learn by doing. I first wrote a Booster Gold one I published on Facebook for fun. I was loving the comic series at the time and thought ‘Well, why not?’
I also wrote a script for artist Aaron Bir for his then website Sequential Stutter. I tried to find the story and can’t which is a shame because it was the first comic I had published anywhere.
Then came the beginnings of GrayHaven comics. I’ve told the story over and over so I’ll keep it as brief as possible. Good friend and fellow Jinxworld poster Andrew Goletz asked a bunch of us if we wanted to do a comic anthology for fun. It turned into Vol. 1 ‘The Thing With Feathers’.
I could probably (and will likely) craft an entire article on where I get the idea for some of my GrayHaven shorts but my first actual printed comic work was in there. The feeling I got when I heard that first book, saw my name on the back (which I still miss) is something I will never forget. I also got to work on with artist Brent Peeples who went on to much bigger and better things with Images Last Of The Greats and other work for IDW, Zenescope, Valiant, Dynamite. I loved working with Brent and hope that one day, our paths cross again.
Vol. 1 of The Gathering was a big hit commercially and critically. It wasn’t perfect but people liked the potential and what it offered. A publisher was willing to let unknown creators throw themselves out there, for better or worse. Having learned over the years that breaking in was very difficult to those who could only write and not draw, it was great to see somewhere that offered that.
I helped out GrayHaven the only way I could in the early days which was financially and with any advice Andrew was willing to take from me. Time passed, more volumes got released and we even had some great pro’s like Gail Simone and Sterling Gates help us out.
Soon we had over 8 volumes with more on the way. New volumes were being announced, I’d sent pitches and Andrew approved them along with another opportunity. Due to my initial support he granted me a one shot. It was quite something as back then, the only solo work GrayHaven had approved was Doug Hahner and Donal Delay’s My Geek Family which had earned it through winning a contest.
I was over the moon and my mind exploded with possibilities. I went back to the idea that came first, I went back to Sparks. I pitched it to Andrew who liked it but wanted one change, he wanted it to be set in Britain and not the US because back then in the days of 2011 when this all happened it wasn’t all that common. Nowadays we have quite brilliant crime dramas set in the UK like Sherlock, Luthor and Broadchurch but at the time it was a great idea so I was all for it!
He then asked me who I wanted to draw the story and I gave him a list of 4-5 names, the first of which in an interesting twist was Kell Smith. However Andrew went above and beyond to a secure an artist (here thereafter referred to as artist A) who was immensely talented and seemed to be on the cusp of real success.
It was all set! The car was there, the key was in the ignition and it was all a go. I had only one problem. I had an enemy I wasn’t fully aware of. An enemy that had operated in the shadows for years but it seemed that now, just when things were taking off for me they were about to become my archenemies and a frequent pain in my rear.
Sherlock Holmes has Moriarty
Batman has the Joker
Even the Powerpuff Girls have Mojo Jojo
It turns out that Glenn Matchett’s enemy was named ‘impatience’ and we were about to get very well acquainted.
Next: Artist A, Artist B and Kell Smith
Got any comments, suggestions or questions? Let me know! Also follow me on Twitter @glenn_matchett