Even though I’ve been a professional writer for over a decade, putting words on the page so that our artist, Joe Ng, could translate them into sequential art was a completely new experience.
When we first started working together, Joe sent me some sample scripts from a few of his past projects. A comic book script includes the dialogue and narration that need to be on a given page, as well as a description of the action and the scenes to be included. There’s a specific format that Joe likes to work with that is actually really friendly from a writing perspective, and which was easy to pick up.
Not so easy, however, was understanding how art should flow from one page to the next, remembering which side of the book even and odd page numbers would be on, and learning to guide the reader’s eye through a sequence of panels. This was all new territory for me, and Joe and Angela Hodge were a big help in bringing me up to speed.
Curious as to what a comic book script looks like? Here’s a sample page from the first issue that illustrates much of what I mentioned above.
When I first started working on a draft of the Issue 1 script, I thought that I needed to be as descriptive as possible when it came to not just setting the scene, but also describing the action that I saw in my mind’s eye. It was just like being a director, it seemed, and I approached the script from a cinematic perspective.
I was lucky. After talking me through some questions he had about what I had provided so far, Joe said the phrase that would stick with me for the rest of the writing process.
“I appreciate you providing a lot description of the action, points of view, and movement in the panels,’ he said. “But when it comes to visuals, you just have to trust me.’
It was a gentle, but necessary reminder. While I had created the characters and story for Code 45, it was Joe who would bring them to life with his art. He was the expert here, and his years of experience drawing comics meant that he had the best possible perspective on what would work on the page.
As soon as he said those words, everything clicked for me. I could stop micromanaging the appearance of every panel and instead allow Joe to craft the look and feel of Code 45 as only a true master could. It was freeing. I back off from saturating the script with details and instead described how I saw things unfolding on a given page in broad enough strokes that Joe could take the spirit of my words, and then run with them in the same direction that the story was heading.
It was the single most important lesson I learned working with a team on a collaborative project like this graphic novel: trust your partners to do what they do best.