All posts by Nico

French-born Nico is an iconoclastic Comic Book Writer with a Bachelor in English Language and Literature/Letters from the University of Poitiers and a Master in Theatre Arts from Portland State University. ComicsByNico.com.

Character Study

Character study for the 2016 Top Cow Talent Hunt

I am currently working on my submission for the 2016 Top Cow Talent Hunt. This year, I must write a 22 pages Comicbook script which takes place in the futuristic world from the Aphrodite IX and IX Generation series.

Though I have a pretty good idea of which character I would like to focus on and what type of story I’d like to tell, I decided to do some thorough studying first. I am currently re-reading the books in order to get a clear picture of  the world and the characters in it. I am building a timeline, gathering information about the settings, and doing related research. One thing I am forcing myself to focus on are the characters and, more specifically, the nine self-proclaimed gods from IX generation. If I am to write a story featuring one of them, I want to make sure I know them well and that I truly nail their individual voices. In order to do so, I use my background in Theater Arts (especially Acting) and gather information about the characters so that I can appropriately “play” them.

IXgeneration-character study

In order to achieve that, I do character study using an Acting script analysis method. I ask myself two very simple questions as I go through the script.

1)What does the character say about him/herself?

2)What do other characters say about him/her?

For example, in the case of Ares:

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From what this character says, Ares is “dumber” than intended…

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… and he is also, according to Hades,  gay.

I go through the entire books , gathering info for all the characters I study. It provides me with a clear picture of who they are and how they are perceived by others. Of course, you also have to take their actions in account ( actions speak louder than words, right?) and even their appearance.

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HADES is the one speaking through this Aphrodite XV .

You do not want to take everything for granted though. What a character says about somebody else is not always the truth. They might have motives as to why they are saying something about someone else or even about themselves. Simply put, all the information you gather should be taken with a grain of  salt and you should always look back on it with a critical eye. Ares might be dumb, but he is still a great strategist. He has the best army in the world after all. Characters are not one dimensional and it is their inner contradictions that make them interesting. Find those contradictions or create them in your new characters, using the Dig Deep questionnaire:

DigDeep

With all those character elements figured out, you should be able to more easily find the character’s voice. The character might even start having a life of their own in your head (freaky!).

One more helpful thing is to try and find someone in your real life on whom to base the character on. It is  not uncommon for writers to create characters based on their friends and/or family. For example, Comicbook Writer Brian Michael Bendis wrote his version of the character of Aunt May (from Ultimate Spiderman) after his own mother.

Alright, I have got to go back to studying now. Good luck to all.

-N

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Essential readings for Comic Book Writers

Essential readings for Comic Book Writers:

This list is based off of the curriculum from Brian Michael Bendis’ writing class, as well as other recommendations from friends, and other lucky finds. I picked my favorites or, at least, the ones I believe to be the most helpful, should be read first or even re-read, perhaps studied. Simply put, books you should have at arm’s reach for easy reference.

Here are my recommended, Essential readings for Comic Book Writers:

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One of my favorite books and the one I recommend reading first. It will give you a solid foundation, from the actual structure of your story to character’s archetypes. This is a great book that you will keep referring to and should keep handy. Plus, I feel like it makes all my writing super Mythical and Epic!

 

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Another great book though, I felt, a little more dense. I found it easier to digest AFTER reading The Writer’s Journey since it builds on some of the principles explained in the first book. The script analysis of Chinatown is particularly exciting. This is a book you should read closely and by that, I mean STUDY it. Just like all the books on this list really. And yes, it is about Screenwriting but the same principles apply to Comic book writing.

 

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The best book about the actual medium. Understanding Comics is a big fat comic strip about comics and how they work. Scott Mc Cloud takes you through everything that makes up a Comic Book, one panel at a time. You should also read his Making Comics.

 

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Tons of good advice from the Legendary Writer with an interesting focus on the ‘Theme’ of your story. Also, the afterwords that he wrote 15 years later destroys everything he recommended doing in the book. Priceless.

 

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More than a book about writing Comics, this is  about the entire business of being a professional Comic book Writer. From your relationship with Artists to dealing with Editors, it proves to be the most original and innovative book of the bunch with advice from pros you won’t find anywhere else. This book will take you to the next level. Oh, it also gives you homework btw.

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This is my new favorite book and one I keep handy.  Nick Macari little book will truly take you to the next level because it assumes you already know about the writing basics and concerns itself with mechanics specific to the comic book medium. I am still learning from this great book. You can find some of Nick’s advice on his site here and make your own opinion.

More cool books to check out:

You can also find Comic book scripts in the back of some trades or Deluxe editions of your favorite books. It is worth checking it out. I especially enjoy the Civil War Script book by Mark Millar.

And of course online, at the Comic Book Script Archive.

Have the most Mythical and Epic of Journeys!!!

-Nico

 

Godzilla in Hell.

Last Friday, I went to the Godzilla in Hell #4 release party at Bridge City Comics.

The creators behind IDW’s  Godzilla in Hell issue 4 were all present: Writer Brandon Seifert (Witch Doctor), Artist Ibrahim Moustafa (High Crimes) and colorist Marissa Louise (Escape from New York).

This was my first time at Bride City Comics. My home store is Floating World Comics so I  don’t often go to other shops. Bridge City is a great shop in a very hip and fun part of Portland. I picked up a few back issues to add to my collection along with Godzilla in Hell #4.

I also ran into my friend Matt who was purchasing blank cover comics to use for commissions. He actually showed me his large collection of original cover sketches. You can see them here on his Tumblr. Matt is in the process of getting a multi Marvel character cover done by several artists, including Moustafa, who drew Hulk and the Thing beautifully. I wish I had a picture to show you.

It was a lot of fun listening to the All-Portland team talk about their process behind putting the issue together. I am no Godzilla specialist, I actually have never seen any Godzilla movies except the most recent American one (I know, blasphemy!) but I still enjoyed the issue immensely.

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Flames out of Godzilla’s mouth added by Moustafa.

In the story, Godzilla is stuck in a city with two of his most relentless arch-enemies: Ghidorah and Destoroyah (Gosh, I hope I got their names right). They are stuck fighting each other and, when they die, they keep coming back to life. Being stuck fighting forever is Hell for Godzilla. The entire issue has not dialogue but the team does a great job of conveying the action and Godzilla’s “thinking” with dynamic layouts and pacing.

Kyle Yount from the Kaijucast Podcast was there to conduct a short Q&A with the team. It was fascinating listening to Brandon Seifert talk about his google map research on Tokyo or how he and Ibrahim Moustafa came up with the concept of “Hide, Seek, and Destroy”: Godzilla is not as tall as some of the buildings in Tokyo so he can hide behind them.

Hide, seek, and destroy!
Hide, seek, and destroy!

I highly recommend reading the limited series and will purchase it when it comes out in TPB.  I also encourage you to check out Bridge City Comics for its laid back atmosphere and friendly staff.

-N

Getting British Stamps: All hail the Queen!

How to solve the 2000 AD submission stamped self addressed envelope conundrum.

As you may already know, I really want to submit Future Shocks stories to 2000 AD. They have open submissions right now. The thing is they only take submissions by mail and they are located in Oxford, UK. That’s not the issue though, it’s easy enough to print your script and synopsis, put it in an envelope, and send it to the UK. The tricky part is that in order to get an answer from them, you need to include a stamped, self addressed envelope so that they can just type a short rejection letter (haha), put it in the envelope that you included, and drop in the mail box which, hopefully, does not have a Mr Bean in it.

I did not struggle that much but still, close enough.

Now, here’s the rub. Since the self-addressed envelope will be sent FROM the UK to the US, it needs to have British postage on it. You really want to make it as easy as possible for submission editors so no, you can’t send them Paypal money so that they buy their own stamps or something like that.

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My precious ones, come to daddy.

I asked the US post office if they had some kind of International postage I could use or even if they had something, ANYTHING that could serve my purpose  but nope, big fat nope. I then went to the Royal Mail website and started ordering a sheet of  international stamps. They even let me enter my shipping address and my billing info before telling me they don’t ship outside of the UK.

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Royal Pain.

So here is the unfortunate solution to this problem. If you want to submit to 2000 AD, you need a friend in the UK whom you trust and who can help you out. Lucky for me, Gabriela Houston, the artist I worked with on the short Bathory stories lives in London and she totally helped me out. I sent her money via Paypal and Gabriela purchased a sheet of stamps for me (the 1.52 pounds kind just to be safe) and voila. The UK stamps are on their way and soon, I can start being rejected by 2000 AD. Yeah!

-N

Comic Book Sketch

It’s been a sketchy week (‘haha’).

Earlier this week, I received the commission I purchased from Artist Randy Emberlin at the Rose City Comic Con. Artists charge per character so if you want her or him to draw  more than one person, you have to pay more. I was on a budget (aren’t we all?) so I asked him for something special and a bit tricky: Mystique in the process of transforming (morphing) into Wolverine. Here is the terrific final product!

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I especially enjoy the contrast between her/his ample chest and the super hairy arm.

 

On Wednesday, I went to a couple signings.

Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick had  a signing at Floating World Comics to celebrate the release of the Bitch Planet Trade Paperback. Per usual, Kelly Sue was funny and brilliant. She signed my copy of Bitch Planet #1 and gave me a mission.

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Like several others at the signing, I was on my way to Things From Another World for another signing. Artist David Marquez (Ultimate Spiderman) was there to celebrate the release of his new Marvel title Invincible Iron Man #1 written by Brian Michael Bendis. Kelly Sue wrote a special congratulatory message on the back of a Bitch Planet poster, tore it to pieces, and gave the “bitch chunks” to us so that we could give it to David. I became one of her trusted messenger, bringing a piece of that bitchy puzzle with me.

David Marquez was taking the time to sketch variant covers and, after I delivered my piece of the puzzle, I asked him to do a version of the Invincible Iron Man #1 cover with Brian Michael Bendis as Iron Man:

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Iron Bendis!

Wednesday truly is the best day of the week.

-N

Music to write to

Do you need Music to write to?

I know I do.

And sometimes I don’t.

It really depends. Listening to music while you write can really help you flow and cancel the rest of the world out. Sometimes though, you just need silence in order to focus on the task at hand. I usually listen to music when I am JUST writing. It helps me write and get in the mood when I am free flowing, writing long hand, or scripting. But when I am editing, working on more technical aspects of my writing, and reading my dialogue out loud, I usually don’t listen to music.

When and IF you need music to write to, you have several options out there. Let’s take a look.

Make your own project specific playlist:

This is what I do. For example, as I write this, I am listening to my Arthur King playlist. It is built around Led Zeppelin and other 70s and 80s rock songs. I’m not sure why this is the soundtrack to Arthur King but it is. It just fits the book. I even picked a theme song for Arthur: “Whole lotta Love“. The only thing about building your own playlist is that you need quite a large catalog of songs to choose from.

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Those guys are so COOOOL.

But then, you can still use Spotify:

What turned me on to Spotify was Kieron Gillen‘s (The Wicked and the Divine, Phonogram) playlist.  Kieron created a project-specific playlist for The Wicked and the Divine on Spotify so that he can share it with the world. He also created a collaborative playlist that his readers can contribute music to if, for exmaple, they think it speaks to the world of the book.  His work revolves around music so it makes perfect sense. Spotify is free if you don’t mind limited access and ads.

As an alternative, you can also go to 8tracks.com. They have playlists of music to write to already put together by users. It’s fast and painless.

Or you just want some random ambient sounds:

You can use asoftmurmur.com to build your own rain and thunder soundtrack, a fire by the beach, or birds chirping in a coffee shop. Up to you. I like to mix the singing bowl with ocean waves in the background. Very Zen.

Another interesting one is Radio Aporre which “plays recordings from its global soundmap project.” Some people might like it but I find it to be sometimes too distracting for writing. Though it’s still cool to listen to recorded “ambience” from everywhere around the world.

In the end it’s up to you. I know that music sometimes simply help me “sit and get started” which is often the hardest part of any writing. As long as it helps you and keeps you motivated, do it. Find you music and maybe even your muse in it.

-N

 

Comic Book Pitch

I am currently working on a Comic Book Pitch for Arthur King.

Writing a comic book pitch is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I actually believed that I already got it since I had a logline, a synopsis, and an outline ready to go. But a pitch is so much more than just a run down of your plot and, simultaneously, so much less. It is like squeezing concentrated story juice.

So I did some research and found a couple resources that have proven deadly helpful.

Comic Book writer Jim Zub (Skullkickers, Wayward) posted a four part blog post on how to write a comic book pitch. If you intend on ever pitching your book to and editor or a publisher, don’t waste your time and go read it now.

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Jim Zub has got quite the temper.

 

I spend all day yesterday trying to distill my story to its core essence and asking myself questions such as “Why should we care?” “What it is about?”

Though I have answers to those questions, the real challenge is to present your story in a concise and entertaining fashion. People are not interested in a simple run down of your plot scene by scene. Instead, you should spark their interest with a snappy logline. Show them your characters’ arc(s) and tell them the entire story in one paragraph or so. No more. You should also follow their guidelines, if any. For example, the editor I am sending my comic book pitch to wants no more than 3 pages.

I worked hard to cut the fat off of my pitch. Then, it downed on me. I already had successfully pitched a story. Loony the Moonian makes Friends to 8th Wonder Press.

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8thwondersubmissionNicolasIzambard_Page_4What that pitch does right is that it has ART.  Lots of it. You must include some kind of artwork; so yes, you must find an artist and work with them. It’s even better if you have sequential artwork, not just sketches.

What is wrong about this pitch is that I run through the entire story, basically providing a moment to moment outline. Loony is a 12 pages story and I ramble on for over a page and a half! Not good. Can you imagine if I did that for a 6 issue story arc? Yuk.

One more thing. Writer Brandon Seifert (Witch Doctor) has been sharing some of his pitches on his Facebook page. They are prime examples of what a one page comic book pitch should look like. Intriguing and quite brilliant. They make you want to read his stuff! And that’s exactly what your comic book pitch should do.

-N

Five Highlights from Rose City Comic Con 2015.

This week end, I went to the Rose City Comic Con 2015 in Weirdtown, Oregon; and it was fun, and I saw stuff, and I have blurry pictures to prove it.

First off, there were so many good panels that I could have spend the entire week end sitting in a room, listening to comic book professionals schooling me on Writing, Art, and Life. I did manage to extirpate myself out of the panel rooms and explored the crowded show room floor, talk to friends, and buy some cool (and cheap) stuff.

Five things stood out most.

These are my five highlights from Rose City Comic Con 2015:

  1. Kelly Sue DeConnick. (Bitch Planet, Captain marvel, Pretty Deadly)

Kelly Sue hands me a delicious cookie and blesses me.  She murmurs: “May the Bitch be with you”.

This is how the super-packed Bitch Planet panel started. Its red-headed priestess of Feminism in Comics welcomed us for a pagan celebration of hope, challenging your own programming, and defying expectations.  My favorite quote of hers on that day was: “It’s okay, you can cry and kick ass at the same time.”

Kelly Sue DeConnick Rose City Comic Con 2015
I am duck-face challenged.

 

2. The “Comics and Twitter: How to hang out without being a jerk” panel with Phil Hester (Green Arrow, Ant-Man), Erica Henderson (Squirrel Girl, Jughead), Christopher Sebela (High Crimes, We(l)come Back), Daniel Warren Johnson (Ghost Fleet, Space-Mullet, Green Leader) and moderated by Donny Cates (Buzzkill, Ghost Fleet, The Paybacks).

Kuddos to Donny Cates for putting this panel together.

I never liked Twitter but it is a necessary tool (evil?) in the comic book creator’s box of social media stuff. From promoting your own work (and others) to simply hanging out and having a conversation like a human, I learned how to no longer be a dickhole on the internet. Yeah.

3. Listening to Larry Hama.

Best known for his work on G.I. Joe: A real American Hero, I had the pleasure of listening to this master of the craft over the weekend. To learn that he was treated as a pariah for writing “toy” comics was both surprising and enlightening. What really struck me was how humble this industry veteran was. He shared his thoughts on creating compelling character-driven stories, base characters on people you know in real life, and being fulfilled with the work that you do.

4. Chatting with Randy Emberlin.

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I already own a few awesome sketches from Randy, including this badass one of the Hulk.

Legendary Comic Book inker and local teacher Randy Emberlin was busy-busy this week end, chatting up attendees and knocking down commissions like a superhero-drawing machine. I had to get on the bandwagon and asked him for something special. Since he charges per characters for sketches, I asked him to draw Mystique transforming into Wolverine because I have yet to learn how to not be a dickhole in real life. The sketch should be in the mail soon and I’ll share when it gets here. Seriously though, Randy is a great guy and his wife is charming.

5. Emi Lenox

… is a talented and hilarious human being. I had to ask her to draw something too. She does not like Spiderman (neither do I. I just want someone to draw Ganke making out with SpiderGwen) or drawing dudes in general so I suggested Silver Age Storm which costume is amazing. I cannot wait to see her take on it. This should come in soon too and I’ll share when it does.

That’s it. Those were my five highlights from Rose City Comic Con 2015.  Of course, I also approached editors and did the “networking” thing which I despise.  Now it’s time to get pitching. Here comes the King!

See ya suckers,

-N

 

 

 

 

2000 AD Future-Shocks submission

SUBMIT TO THE MIGHTY THARG!!!

The next 2000 AD opened submission period starts Monday September 14th 2015 (Crap… that’s tomorrow…)

Isn’t that exciting?

But what exactly IS 2000 AD?

2000 AD is a weekly British Sci-Fi comic book Anthology published by rebellion. Judge Dredd was born in the pages of this illustrious publication in the late seventies.  2000 AD publishes on-going serials along with one-off stories called Future-Shocks.

Starting on Monday, 2000 AD will be accepting writers and artists submissions. Writers must submit Future-Shocks stories which must be 4 pages long and with a crazy, unexpected, unforeseeable twist ending.

In preparation for the open submission and because I have never read 2000 AD in my life (I did read some Judge Dredd stories mind you) , I purchased “The Best of Thar’s Future Shocks“.  And I am obsessed with Future Shocks now. Some of those stories are really messed up but in a very cool way. It reminds me of Tales from the Crypt but in a Sci-Fi, futuristic setting.

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Tharg the Mighty is 2000 AD’s alien Editor. To him, we are merely ‘earthlets’.

I am still reading through that 160 pages digital behemoth and I already have enjoyed many of Peter Milligan‘s expertly crafted stories. From 6 pages long to only one (1!!!),  Mulligan has crafted little comic book gems. They’ll teach you about conserving space, pacing, and the use of the page turn; all necessary features of any good Future Shocks.

I have started writing my own Future Shocks to submit later this week and I hope you too will consider taking advantage of this opportunity. Whether you are a writer or artist, it should not be missed.

Here are a couple VERY useful posts (one and two) by writer Alec Worley who shares his experience submitting Future Shocks and how it helped him break into Comics.  He also shares his knowledge about the Art of Twist endings. You must read this.

-N

 

Bathory Comics

My ongoing fascination with the Countess of Bathory has no end in sight.

I have to say that her story (in truth, my version of her story) is my go-to project. In the past few months, I have been focusing on more pressing writing matters but Elizabeth Bathory is always in the back of my mind. From time to time, the muses grace me with ideas for her story. I quickly write them down before they take them away.

The Hungarian Countess, Elizabeth Bathory de Ecsed (1560-1614) is, allegedly, the most proficient serial killer of all time. Legend has it, that with the help of her “torture crew”, she kidnapped, disemboweled, and very muck killed hundreds of young girls.  About six hundred or so. Rumors of Vampiritic thirst fuels her deadly legacy but she sets herself apart from her cousin Dracula in one interesting way. She did not drink blood. Instead, she bathed in the blood of virgins in order to regain and maintain her youth and beauty. And so the Blood Countess was born.

What exactly happened to the highly educated young woman who knew dozens of languages and provided medical care to the most unfortunate remains unclear. Whether she was framed by a King indebted to her family for large sums of money or vilified for her liberal sexual practices, no one knows for sure. In the end, she was condemned and imprisoned in her own chambers. Walled in. She died at age 54, alone, in the dark.

For me, it all started about 4 years ago and I have been writing and thinking about her ever since. It was 2011 when I convinced poor Gabriela Laszcz to draw a couple short stories I wrote based on Elizabeth Bathory. And Gabriela obliged me. And she did it for free which, in retrospect, really makes me look like a jackass. You MUST pay your artists. You just must. I was even less experienced as a writer and Comicbook “maker” than I am now and unreasonably demanding. I also shamelessly used that opportunity to do my first (and quite horrid) lettering job. And good Gabriela put up with my silliness and turned in some beautiful art.  She even did the lettering for the second Comic, “My Beautiful Mentor” and I am glad she did. No, really, I was a real jackass. I don’t think I even knew what the word “collaboration” actually meant back then. Oh well, you live, you learn, right? I just wish I could learn a lot faster.

My focus at that time was on Elizabeth’s childhood. There is  this story of her father allegedly forcing her to watch as he punished a Gypsy for stealing. He had him sewed inside a dying horse. That’s some messed up stuff. I was hooked. I had to write it. And four years later, I still am. I just cannot stop thinking about Elizabeth.

BATHORY: “A childhood Memory”.

 

BATHORY: “My Beautiful Tutor”.