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Points of Impact – Week 23: Make the Most of EVERY Opportunity

| September 1, 2012

August 2012 – Week 4

Sacrebleu!  What is this?!  Where is Yannick, and who is this American imposter?

Welcome all to another installment of Points of Impact, where we learn how to become better comic creators by studying the books on the racks!  Yannick Morin, who usually sits in this chair, has been dispatched on a secret mission in the Canadian wilderness.  Because I know POI fans are a rabid bunch, I decided to pinch hit for him this week, rather than make you wait until he returns.

Once more, the ground rules:

  • The BULLSEYE! section presents something that really wowed me. That’s usually when a writer does something unique among his peers.
  • The HIT! section picks up on a cool trick that gets used pretty often – mostly because it works – but of which I’ve found a prime example.
  • The MISS… section however isn’t about praising a good shot but – as you guessed it – pointing out where a writer stumbled so you don’t put your feet in the same hole.

Now don’t you forget: this column is extremely spoilable! Go read your comics before you come back here!

BULLSEYE!

Ed Brisson Makes the Most of His Murderbook Short in the Back of Grim Leaper #4

Writer & Letterer: Ed Brisson
Illustrator: Johnne Christmas
Color: Dean Trippe

Okay, here’s the situation: You’re a hardworking independent creator trying to build a name for yourself in the comic market, and you’ve been given the incredible opportunity to create a 5-page back-up story in the back of an Image Comics series.  How would you play it?

Personally, I don’t think you could have played it any better than Ed Brisson did this week, when he got his shot to write one of the “Love Stories to Die For” featured in the back of Grim Leaper #4.

While the assignment called for a 5 page, self-contained story around the “Love Stories to Die For” theme, Brisson delivered “A Murder Book Short”, thus using this as an opportunity to present his ongoing creator-owned Murder Book anthology series to a larger audience. Grim Leaper sells around 5,000 copies in the direct market, is available digitally. Assuming the shorts are included in the collected editions as well, this is solid exposure for Brisson’s property in today’s market.  Rather than generate a one-off, throw away story, Brisson did something that will enhance the awareness of his series and further reinforces the brand he’s building.  Savvy move.

What’s more, the story itself is a textbook example of how to deliver a compelling short.  I’ve written before about the challenges of tackling the comics short, and it’s not an easy skill to master.  Brisson and Christmas put on a clinic here with “None Between Us (A Murder Book Short)”.  In fact, if you’re ever in the position of having to produce a short and find yourself banging your head against the wall creatively, stealing this template wouldn’t be a bad idea:

Page 1 – In medias res, establish the scene, the compelling situation, and the main characters.

Night time on a quiet suburban street, a teenage girl and her boyfriend have just murdered the girl’s parents.

Page 2 – Develop the characters and give them a goal.

 Young, dark, gothy kids in love and with blood on their hands…and now they need to get away.

Page 3 – Make it clear whose story this is.  Provide a twist!

Interior monologue lets us know it’s the girl’s story.  Her motive was that her parents wouldn’t let her date who she wanted to.  The twist, is that she calls 911 to report the murder, that her boyfriend did it, and that he is trying to kill her!

Page 4 – Increase the tension, build to the resolution, further develop character.

The girl keeps the cops on the line, and is clearly a pathological liar/psychopath as she throws her boyfriend under the bus. 

Page 5 – Find a resolution, and nail another twist at the end.

The cops arrest the boyfriend, and we find out that the girl used him to kill his parent’s so she could be with another boy.  

Remember, shorts are all about economy — limited numbers of players, limited number of scenes, and a focused message, moral, or idea to play with.  Both the art and color was very strong on this short, among the best I’ve seen from the Murder Book series. In just about every way, Brisson and his team made the most of this opportunity.  The guy is a talent on the rise…and I’m happy to hear he’s joining the cast of The Process Podcast on the Image Addiction Network.  You can bet I’ll be tuning in.

Lesson Learned

When you get an opportunity to present your work to a larger audience, be strategic about it.  Can you do something that will extend your personal brand or lead to future sales for an existing property, while at the same time satisfying the requirements of the invite to the letter?  Can you work within the constraints given and shine?  

HIT!

Joe Mulvey Takes us Places We Haven’t Been Before in SCAM #1

Script, Art: Joe Mulvey
Art: James Harren
Colors: Andrew Crossley
Letters: Deron Bennet
Editor: Tyler James & Steven Forbes

Go ahead, accuse me of being a homer with this pick…I can take it.

But there’s a reason SCAM #1 is getting great reviews, is now in shops world-wide, and was made ComixTribe‘s first direct market release…because Mr. Joe Mulvey does a lot of things right with this début.  Here’s one of them…

Comics are a visual medium.  You’ll hear that over and over and over again.  And yet, far to often, creators keep bringing us much of the same.  How many superhero books take place in generic New York City?  How many deals go done in nondescript warehouses?  How many times have you read a book and thought, “Well, nothing new there.”?

While film directors often are constrained by the number of locations they can shoot in, comic creators don’t have that limitation.  The pencil can take us anywhere…and the cockpit of an intergalactic warship costs the same to build as a coffee shop.

In his 44-page début issue, Mulvey takes us all over the place!  I counted 12 distinct scenes in the first issue, taking us everywhere from the insides of a bank vault, to a tropical island, to an underground warehouse, to a Vegas hotel and casino highrise, to the airport men’s room.  The story moves at a rapid pace, and yet, through the proper use of establishing shots, I’m never lost.

Pop Quiz: You know the baggage claim at the airport, where your luggage comes out of?  What’s behind there?  What does it look like?  Personally, I had no idea…I’d never ducked my head back there, and I’ve never seen it portrayed in comics or on film.  In SCAM #1, Mulvey brought me there…among many other colorful places.

Lesson Learned

As a creative story-teller, you have the opportunity to take your readers literally ANYWHERE.  Don’t treat that power lightly.  Usually your first, second, or third ideas for a scene are what they are because you’re accessing something you’ve seen before…which can lead to ho-hum locales and clichéd scenes.  Dig deeper.  Do research.  Take us places we haven’t been before, and we’ll remember it. 

MISS…

None this week!

I don’t read nearly as many comics as Yannick, so I don’t have any misses this week.  Sorry sadists!

Honorable Mentions

  • Brandon Graham and company for the world building they are doing in Prophet Volume 1 and in issue #28, first of the second volume.  This book baffles me in a lot of ways, and I’m not entirely sure it’s for me, but I’m compelled to keep reading.  And while it initially seemed like Graham was simply telling his own quirky sci-fi epic, slapping the Prophet moniker on the series simply for sales and marketing purposes, he’s been able to cleverly tie in vestiges of Extreme Studios’ past.  It’s unlike anything else on the shelves.
  • Owen Gieni, whose bright color palette over Riley Rossmo on Debris #2, is a breath of fresh air in the post-apocalyptic genre.  Scripe Kurtis Wiebe seems to get out of the way for most of this issue, letting his artists make with the pretty. And sometimes, with the right talent, that’s the correct move.
  • Steve Niles and Jimmy Palmiotti, for their Creator Owned Heroes series.  This is such a well-designed, well-conceived book from top to bottom.  I hope it has a long, long run.

That’s all I have for you.  Hopefully Yannick will have slayed the Yeti terrorizing his town, and will be back next week with new stories to tell.

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Category: Points Of Impact

About the Author ()

Tyler James is a comics creator, game designer, educator, and publisher residing in Newburyport, MA. He is the writer and co-creator of THE RED TEN, a superhero murder mystery, EPIC, a superteen action comedy, and TEARS of the DRAGON, a swords and sorcery fantasy. Tyler is the publisher and co-creator of ComixTribe, which is both a new imprint of quality creator owned titles, and an online community where creators help creators make better comics. Follow him on Twitter @tylerjamescomics, or send him an email at [email protected]

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