Blair and Jason gracefully let me write this year end ATR column ? lucky for them I stopped celebrating Christmas years ago and my pagan animal god religion allows me to work on December 25th.
After a recent top-secret meeting in New York earlier this month, Marvel Comics re-organized some of its big name creative teams on its various A-list titles for 2005.
Mark Millar (Ultimates) and Greg Land (Phoenix) will be on Ultimate Fantastic Four. Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo (Fantastic Four) will tackle Spider-Man. J. Michael Straczynski (Supreme Power, Amazing Spider-Man) will take over the Fantastic Four.
This Has A ?Twinkles Toes? Factor Of Eight Out Of Ten
Legend of the Dark Aussie
Shane McCarthy?s superlative writing skills are being demonstrated in an excellent 5-part Batman and Riddler tale in Legend of the Dark Knight. Shane took some time out from Christmas Day barbeques (it?s summer down-under, don?t you know?) to answer a few questions:
John Vouleris: So how did someone from Perth Australia who teaches swing dance get a gig writing such high profile comics like Star Wars and Batman? Have you had any formal training/schooling in the creative arts? How did the big US comic companies give you your break?
Shane McCarthy: Determination, Man. Disgustingly vast amounts of determination. And photos? vast amounts of disgusting photos. Ahem.
I’ve been writing for years prior to this (plays and so on), but when it comes to the comic industry it’s all about pushing forward and not giving up. In fact, you know? When it comes to everything it’s all about not giving up. In the end it took me getting on a plane and flying the Hell over there to TV land (my only prior experience of the US was through the TV set? I was quite disappointed to discover no-one gets into their car by sliding over the bonnet) in order to meet with editors, artists and comic pros of all kinds. Then it was a matter of getting the right people to read my work and the rest flowed on from there. Not an easy thing to do but in the end it worked out.
I firmly believe that if you’re passionate about life and passionate about what you do then things always have a way of working out. The greatest thing about this industry is it’s filled to the brim with passionate people that are just loving what they do. Nothing of any real merit comes easy.
JV: Batman: Riddle Me That is a great little mystery arc that gives readers a take on the Riddler that is both intelligent and menacing – after this arc is over are there any other Bat villains you would like to write about?
SM: Firstly thanks for enjoying the story, I appreciate that. As for having more Batman stories in me? Absolutely. Batman’s just an incredible character to write simply because he’s so multi dimensional. He can be a great many things all rolled into one when done right and he’s such a powerful, vulnerable, fractured character to write. I think the biggest thing people forget is that this is a character that cares DEEPLY about those around him, and not just his immediate adopted family but complete strangers as well. Day in and day out he risks his life and puts himself through incredible amounts of pain because he cares. He doesn’t do this because of hate…I’m sure he’d like us to think that…but really his motivations stem from a deep, profound love and a need to protect others from the pain he endures.
On top of that the villains in his world are just as tortured, just as vulnerable as well as being unbelievable monsters.
So yeah I definitely have more I’d like to say and do. I’d personally love to see a return to the contrast between Bruce Wayne the dapper fop and Batman the Dark Knight actually. It’s that contrast that sets the page alive in a way that’s rare in other characters and it shouldn’t be forgotten.
JV: What comics did you enjoy reading growing up? Are there any characters from Marvel, DC or any other company you would like to tackle some day?
SM: I read comics like a cocaine-addicted fiend when I was growing up, it was scary, really it was. Every damn cent I had I spent on those things. I read everything from the X-Men to Iron Man to Batman to Superman. The X-Men hooked me in very quickly with the melodrama and ongoing soap opera, like everyone I just had to know what Jean possibly saw in Scott and why on Earth she didn’t ditch the pencil neck for something shorter and more manly (I’m thinking back hair but that’s just me). Whereas the DC stable drew me in with the powerful figures and inspiring stories. Also Giffen’s JLA really comes to mind as an old favorite, too. Man, I loved that book.
As for who I’d like to write? Hard to say. I’ve always wanted to get my hands on Blue Beetle and really give that guy some cred, it’s the heroes that love what they do that I feel aren’t shining as much as they need to? really though this is a list that could go on for ever. I’m just an addict for adventure and storytelling and would sink my teeth into anything I worked on.
JV: Describe your creative work process for our readers. How long does it take you to produce a 22-page script?
SM: Well the schedule’s ever changing but I certainly do my best to get a good solid block done in the day. Most of my time is spent in Cafes or Pubs or at the beach (much better scenery). I’ve got a nifty little iPaq and a portable keyboard that I take with me everywhere. That’s the beauty of writing, have pencil will travel! Or stylus? whatever.
So that combined with my iPod I’m pretty much set. The best thing for me is to get myself the hell out of the house as early as possible. I learned very quickly that I can write fantastically in a noisy room filled with strangers but I can’t get any work done in a quiet room with just one person I know? I get too distracted with their well being or whatever, “You need a drink? Can I get you something? How are the kids?” In cafes it’s brilliant, constant sensory input, new people, colors, sounds. It’s perfect for me.
As for how long it takes me to produce a script? Again, hard to say really. My scripts are usually about 40 pages long but by the time I’m ready to write the script I’ve already done an awful lot of outlining and background work so it’s really a matter of just sitting down and doing the work with constant revisions as I go through. Never more than a week once I’m ready to start depending on the workload but sometimes much faster.
JV: Any artists you would like to work with? What do you look for in an artist – are your scripts very detailed or do you let the artist run with the ball and give feedback (for instance who designed the Riddler’s new look in your current LOTDK arc?).
SM: Artists I’d like to work with? Man, you got an hour? Honestly though all my choices would be obvious. I’m a big fan of smooth lines so high up on my list would be people like Hitch, Dodson, Hughes? then of course there’s all the others like Lee? but I’m really just painfully embarrassing myself by listing these guys off because they’re absolute killers in their fields. The field’s just brimming with some really amazing talent right now. Liam Sharp is one, his work is as moody as hell, I love it. Same goes for Ben Templesmith. Lee Bermejo is someone I’d kill to work with. Also Michael Lilly’s work really impresses me, plus he’s a really passionate guy that brings the best out in projects.
What do I look for? Storytelling all the way and more especially an artist that wants to work as a team to bring the most out in a project. I’m not a fan of doing this gig alone, I want to really work with the artist and strive to give the readers the best book for their buck and that requires a team effort.
With that in mind when I write a script I include a lot of information that’s designed to give the artist a good, clear impression of what I’m trying to achieve. This way if they think of a better way of doing it or something that’ll look more effective (and I’m always hoping they can) then they can go right ahead and do that armed with the knowledge of what we’re trying to achieve. Coming back with, “I just drew this guy hitting the other guy cause it looked cool” just doesn’t cut it. However with the Riddler’s new look I’d come to DC with that in mind and had a very clear idea of how I wanted him to look, sound and act. No artist was attached at that point so I had to be excruciatingly specific to ensure we could get exactly what we wanted.
JV: Any upcoming projects or pitches you’d like to plug?
SM: The big thing I want to plug the hell out of is MAM TOR’s EVENT HORIZON brought about by the vision and dedication of Liam Sharp. This book’s going to be bloody incredible with some really great talents involved:Glenn Fabry, Steve Niles, Ashley Wood, Chris Weston, Liam Sharp and so on. However, the best thing about this book is that it had no boundaries what so ever; it’s an independently published book with the goal being to tell thought provoking, exciting stories that simply won’t fit anywhere else. It was an absolute joy to work on. You’re getting all of these creators going wild, don’t miss it.
Read more about Shane and his work at his website: http://www.shanemccarthy.com
This Has A ?You Call That A Knife?? Factor Of Ten Out Of Ten
Got A Light?
Geoff Johns (JSA, Teen Titans) is rumored to be working on a second ongoing Green Lantern series that will spotlight the Green Lantern Corps led by John Stewart.
This is probably the Green Lantern series that Dave Gibbons has been working on for the last few months and will be released to coincide with the new Hal Jordan Green Lantern ongoing series by Johns, Pacheco and Van Sciver.
DC wanted a second GL series to capitalize on Geoff John?s successful re-launch of the title, and to offer John Stewart fans (especially those who know him from the animated series) a book of their own.
No mention of Kyle Rayner though?
This Has A ?Little Green Men? Factor Of Seven Out Of Ten
Color My World
Ian Sokoliwski has been a professional colorist for over 7 years. He has worked on dozens of DC, Vertigo and Marvel books over the years. His latest major project is The Chronicles of Conan trade paperbacks. Ian took some time out and answered a few of our questions.
John Voulieris: So walk us through the coloring process. Do pencillers give you a guide or do you use reference and your own judgment? Do you scan in the pencilled pages? Any particular programs you use?
Ian Sokoliwski: Generally, when I get a project, I get a script and a rough idea of what the colors for certain characters are supposed to be. Going by what the script says (night, day, pink walls, that sort of thing), I generate the basic color combinations I’m going to use for each sequence, modifying them as I go along to help the storytelling (brightening some characters to emphasize them, darkening others to reduce their impact in the story, that sort of thing).
Sometimes there will be detailed notes by the writer and/or penciller as to their intention (colour, mood, any special effects), but usually I’m left to my own decision-making abilities (of course, the client will ask for certain changes once a job is done if they disagree with my choices).
Almost always, I receive computer files of the scanned pages to color, not the physical pages themselves. The only time I scan anything in is when I’ve illustrated the page myself.
I work exclusively in Photoshop – I find it is incredibly flexible (and is the industry standard for most colorists).
JV: How long does it take you to color a page? Do you go back and tweak it?
IS: Depending on the job, it takes between a half-hour (for incredibly simple pages) to between one and two hours (that is about the average time per page) for me. Some very complex pages will take me up to four hours per page, but that is pretty rare.
Generally, when I’m done a book (or a large scene), I’ll go back and quickly review all the pages I’ve done, just to see if the coloring flows well throughout the sequence and whether anything was missed/overlooked/isn’t-working. Also, as I stated above, the client may ask after they review it to make certain changes as well.
JV: Walk us through the process of re-coloring older works for trades (like Conan) – is it different than coloring new books from scratch?
IS: I’ve dealt with two different approaches to re-coloring older works. First is the approach taken when a book is simply colored to match the original look of the book. I’ve worked on dozens of such projects (such as the line of Star Wars reprint books put out by Dark Horse) at both Digital Chameleon and at All Thumbs Creative. With this approach, you match (as precisely as you can) the original coloring as it was done back when the books were originally published (using the older, more limited color palette, for example). This kind of work can be fun (as I am a huge comic buff, and it is a lot of fun to read some of these older books while working on them), but doesn’t have much of a creative side.
Second, however, is the approach taken in the Chronicles of Conan volumes, where we do not have to follow the original coloring in any way, and are free to interpret (within the limits of the story and established colors of the characters) the pages in any way we wish.
Functionally, this works the same way as coloring current books (as we can use the much more expanded list of colors available today, as well as the more varied and subtle tools to model characters and backgrounds).
JV: Any upcoming projects you would like to plug?
IS: I have a mini-series making the rounds of a few publishers, a theocratic horror story that is, admittedly, something of an oddball book. I’m also developing a murder mystery mini-series, and am working on another project (doing pencils as well as coloring) for another writer (which still has yet to be accepted for publication, so I can’t really talk about that one too much).
I’ve also submitted a couple of stories to Heavy Metal magazine, and will be sending in some more as I have the time to work on them (time is in pretty short supply, these days).
This Has A ?By Crom? Factor Of Nine Out Of Ten
A Cowardly and Superstitious Lot
In order to tie in with the upcoming Batman Begins film out next year DC comics will produce a trio of prestige format title focusing on the villains featured in the movie.
Creators involved include: Devin Grayson, Paul Gulacy, Bruce Jones and Sam Hamm (who scripted the original Batman film as well as Detective Comics #598 to #600).
This Has A ?Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys?? Factor Of Eight Out Of Ten
Clash of the Titans
Titan Books have published numerous books on the comic book industry including the excellent Writers on Comics Scriptwriting 1 and 2.
Next year will see the release of Comic Creators on the Fantastic Four which will feature interviews with John Byrne, Stan Lee, Warren Ellis, Mark Waid and pretty much every major creator who has been involved with the Fantastic Four.
Another volume focusing on creators who have written Spider-Man will also follow in 2005 featuring interviews with Roger Stern, Marv Wolfman, and Todd McFarlane among others.
This Has A ?What No Pictures? Factor Of Nine Out Of Ten
Well that?s a wrap for 2004 ? thanks again to Blair and Jason, Shane McCarthy, Ian Sokoliwski, and to the people at http://www.imwan.com for all their help and support.
Happy New Year everyone!