Saturday, January 31, 2009

Unnamed Superhero Story

I have been writing comics for several years but have never actually published a superhero story-- not in comics, anyway. Several years ago I published two novels for Marvel-- an X-Men/Spider-Man team-up book and an Incredible Hulk novel called Abominations. But no comics. The comics I've written have been "plain clothes" and largely independent, such as Sword of Dracula, Soulcatcher and Sylvia Faust, and one Marvel comic, Strange Magic, about a witch. (All have female main characters, whatever that means.) I've also done hero-like manga in Psy-Comm. But never a hero comic.

So this was a big week-- a story idea I pitched had been setting at Marvel for about three months, not moving. Then suddenlyon Friday the story was rejected with a "try something else, but fast." This was hilarious because the editor was basically saying: "Get me an [Unnamed Superhero] story-- STAT!" There's always a caveat in there that the story must not suck.

Here's how the process went:

Friday: Editor says, "get me a new idea. This is an 8-page, self-contained story in [Unnamed] continuity."

An hour later: I send two ideas that I think I can fit into an 8-pager.
Monday: Editor says-- this is the actual email--

"Ok, let’s go with [Title of Pitch].

I’d say you might want to set up something in the very beginning, something brief that hints at [Hero’]s motivation to see [Character.] Perhaps a scene with other [redacted] or a flashback. Nothing too obvious but something that seeds the punch line.

Also, maybe we shouldn’t set this up as something that happens all the time, just this once. Otherwise you wonder why they keep letting him do this or why they haven’t caught on. I like that they threaten him with hurting/killing the others.

I think we can just go to script from here. I’m hoping you can find that subtle widget that can tie the beginning and end together and enhance the poignancy of the story.

When do you think you’d have the first draft ready?

I said, "I can get you a draft by Wednesday." It's an 8-pager. Of course I can, if I know what it's about. The toughest part would be that last request from the editor-- "some subtle widget," something nice that would make the story be memorable, touching, something special. What would it be? Who knows?

Wednesday: I turn in a draft of the 8-pager. In case you're wondering, here is what my format looks like:
I script in Final Draft and output pdfs. The numbers indicate panel numbers, but actually they're just guides-- the artist can split up the panels however makes sense.

The final story turns out to be a little different from the pitch. The main character's motivation got simpler but also more complicated. Also, I think I found a Subtle Widget.

An hour later, Editor sends back some notes. Change this pose I describe because he likes something else better. Add in this detail at the beginning because, unknown to the writer, this story will be in an anthology where we haven't presented this world very much, and it needs more setup.

I turn around the draft during a lunch break from my games work. Edit, pdf, attach, mail.

An hour after that, changes accepted and that's that.

So, from no superhero comics to one coming out in a few months.


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