It struck me that reading comics doesn’t mean you know how a comic script is laid out and since we’ve had over 12,000 inquiries in the first three days of our Millarworld New Talent Search it seems wise to give you a wee example to work from.
Our new book Huck is out next month from myself and Mister Rafael Albuquerque and I’ve copied the first six pages of of the comic at the link below and provided the original script to see here too. I hope this proves helpful and gives you the format necessary for both this competition and any professional work you get in the future.
Some more pointers:
*I would advise working around 5 panel pages, especially for a short story. This is just enough room for an artist to clearly tell the story visually and, in a short story, give you enough room for a satisfying beginning, middle and end. Six panels should be your absolute max as anything else essentially becomes a series of close-ups for your artist and neither of you will be happy. Yeah, Frank Miller did a sixteen panel grid for Dark Knight Returns, but he was drawing it too, which makes a complex page much easier to write and anything too fancy at this stage and you’re going to trip yourself up. Focus on the story as opposed to potentially interesting panel arrangements. The story itself is hard enough.
*Your first page should have a panel big enough to take the logo and the credits for you and the artists. I’d recommend opening with a four panel page for this reason as it will give your opening room to breath and immediately separate it from the previous strip in the anthology. This isn’t an issue with a regular-sized issue, but for a short story in an anthology it’s an easy rookie mistake to make.
*Panel descriptions should be as little info as you need. No artist is going to thank you for talking about something they don’t need to draw. Just give them the minimum to get the story across and trust them to do a good job.
*Dialogue likewise should be stripped down to essentials. This is especially important in short stories which are a brilliant way of learning to cut flab. Not one panel or balloon should be here if you can comfortable strip it out. Denny O’Neil brilliantly described comics as Newspaper Headlines Written By Poets and that’s the aspiration you should have here. Three balloons is the absolute max you want in a panel or your page looks ugly and it disrupts the flow. There are exceptions, but this is my rule of thumb and you should count the words in an average panel and try to keep each balloon to that number as a maximum.
*Don’t feel daunted by the four to five page remit. Some brilliant stories are only three or four pages long and Alan Moore is an excellent example of someone who did this more right than anyone else. In ye olde days, writers started on short stories to learn how to tell a story in the shortest space possible because if you can do it in 5 pages you’re going to be brilliant over 22 pages. DC and Marvel trained people up with back-up strips and 2000AD had Futureshocks. If you want to see characters and a situation and a great story and a phenomenal twist told in 5 pages I recommend googling Chrono-Cops by Moore and Gibbons. Yeah, the guys who did Watchmen. This shows you what you can do with even the tiniest number of pages and should be inspiring.
Anything else, pop your questions below and either me or one of my pals here will try to answer, but I hope this is all useful. I’ve got the first six pages of next month’s Huck #1 below as a script example alongside the finished, lettered, coloured art to show you a comparison. Hope it’s all useful and good luck!
FINISHED PAGES FROM HUCK #1:
FAO Nicole Boose, Editor
ISSUE ONE OF SIX
Script by Mark Millar
Art by Rafael Albuquerque
Final Draft: 13th May 2015
1/ Open at night and two small-town guys driving a car down the highway in Maine. One thinks he hears something on the roof, but the other just keeps driving, disregarding.
GUY ONE : You hear something?
GUY TWO : Nope.
2/ Pull back for a very odd-looking shot of Huck standing on top of this car and essentially hitching a ride, the people below completely unaware. It’s dark and nobody else sees him either, Huck moving nimbly and quietly in the pages ahead. We can talk about the visual when we’re up ands running, but I’m seeing this as a big, oversized guy almost Rank Xerox in build and wearing jeans and the same very identifiable t-shirt every time. He’s got cropped-in hair and a nice strong, silent demeanour. He’s got learning difficulties which manifests himself in an earnestness at all times here. Think Tim Sale’s Young Clark Kent in terms of purity. Like a Norman Rockwell middle-American home-grown hero. He looks intense. Never pleased with himself. He’s just focused on always getting it right. Think Forrest Gump. That seriousness where getting the job done is all that’s important.
1/ Cut to Huck jumping from this car onto another car that’s overtaking.
2/ These first five pages or so should continuously be in movement so we Huck jumping again, leaping onto the roof of third car. He’s a big guy, but very athletic. In terms of his abilities, think Captain America. Nobody has any idea he’s here at all as he weaves his way through the night.
3/ Huck jumps across another couple of passing cars.
4/ Pull back again and a shot from behind the truck as it shoots off into the night with Huck standing on the roof. There’s a road-signs above him suggesting he’s heading for the East Coast, although he’s still hundreds of miles away. He’s making the journey from the mid-west out to somewhere like Maine or some equally rocky coastal terrain.
1/ Cut to that early morning golden light and a close up of his feet running in an urban setting early in the morning.
2/ Pull back and we’re in a little American town, that beautiful golden light making the pretty poor area around him very pretty as he runs through wide, empty streets. He knows where he’s going and seems to be running in a perfectly straight line. Nobody else is up yet.
3/ Cut to a more rural backdrop and we see him running again, very intense and not doing anything except looking ahead, totally intent on where he’s going some hours later.
4/ Cut to the coast and we’re miles away from even the start of this page, a big wide shot from behind Huck as he runs through this beautiful windy field and towards the edge of a cliff, the sea up ahead with the rising sun. He’s a tiny figure here.
1/ Cut to an amazing shot of Huck just diving off the edge of this cliff. He doesn’t even hesitate for a moment, just jumping off with a perfect dive.
2/ Switch angles as he falls and we see just how high up he is here, the waves all crashing down below.
3/ Impact shot as he hits the water, still resolute and looking for something.
1/ Cut to bottom of the sea, staying underwater the whole time, as he wades through what looks like an underwater junkyard. It’s all strangely beautiful and he seems to be looking for something.
2/ Switch angles as he finds the spot where he wants to start digging.
3/ Digging deep into all this junk, we’re surprised not only that he’s holding his breath this long, but how strong he is as he effortlessly pushing abandoned fridges and all sorts of garbage out of the way to get to something he wants.
4/ Whatever he’s been looking for, he looks pleased as he holds it in his hands. We can’t quite see what it is from this angle, but we can
1/ Cut to a finger pressing a doorbell.
SOUND F/X : DING DONG!
2/ Pull back and we’re looking at the light from inside a door cutting across a dark doorstep and a little chain lying here on the welcome mat.
3/ The 30 year old woman who owns the chain looks surprised as she picks it up, her husband calling from inside.
HUSBAND : What’s up?
WIFE : You know that gold chain I lost in the garbage…
4/ Cut to Huck watching from the bushes and smiling, quietly delighted to be doing a good deed and content that he’s done something nice, no need for any praise.
WIFE : …looks like somebody FOUND it.