Oct 31 • 11M

Newsletter #101: A Best Jackett Halloween

Plus more info on INTRO TO COMIC WRITING 102, a free class happening this Wednesday!

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Scott Snyder
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Hey guys, it's Scott.

It is Halloween. It is Monday, October 31st. And I'm sorry I didn't do a post on Friday, but like I told you, we came back from Disney with the wheels off on this one with a couple of us sick and all kinds of stuff due for the kids, and so it was a bit of a mess. And getting ready for Halloween was equally messy. We were that family that was in Spirit of Halloween at, like, 7pm last night, when the only costumes left are like Sexy COVID Molecule and random generic versions of costumes like Eccentric Billionaire and those kinds of things. So it was a sad, desperate scene. My son Jack, who's fifteen, wanted a simple vampire costume just so he can go out with his friends. And so we got one and the only one was, like, size XXXL, so he's wearing it as like a frock. It was a shirt and I just gave him a belt and it's, like, “it looks great. Very Victorian.” So anyway, our 11 year-old is a baseball player, as he has been the last two years. He really sweats over which player to be but this year he's Acuña on the Braves, last year he was Judge. And our three year-old, Quinn, is a ghost…or a skeleton now, he changed it. So it's a costume that looks like a skeleton ghost.

But anyway, he was Batman the other day. I didn't push him, he loves Batman. I was gonna make a recording for you guys, if I'm talking about Batman, because it's pretty hilarious. Every night he likes to talk Batman. He came up with it on his own, I swear to you. I have no idea why he gravitated towards Batman except maybe it's because there's thousands of Batman things around the house. But he now likes to talk Batman before we go to bed. So he picks the bad guy that Batman is fighting, and he picks the vehicle Batman takes into the city to fight that bad guy and put him in “Arkham jail.” So I'll make a recording so you guys can hear, it's very funny.

Yes father, I shall become a (tiny) bat…

But anyway, so huge, huge news. I am so excited about this, we have our first class of Comic Writing 102 this week! So we finished our whole first year, Comic Writing 101, where I use published work to talk about different craft elements—characterization, plot, conflict, verse, emotional conflict, all kinds of things. And this will be our very first class with our new format, where we're going to be looking at your work, along with published work, to illustrate different elements of crafts and how to improve on certain techniques in comic writing. For this very first class, it's going to be free. So if you're not a paid subscriber, you can still take a look and see if it's something you want to be a part of. If you decide you do you sign up, it's $7/month or $75/year. And for just seven bucks, you have access to the entire first year. We did all video archives to peruse at your leisure whenever you want. I think it's 13 or 14 classes.

Our Best Jackett
ARCHIVE - Scott's Comic Writing
For anyone looking to dive into everything we’ve taught in class before, here’s the link to access all the video content we’ve had on Substack up until this point! And here’s an individual breakdown of all the different Comic Writing classes we’ve had so far or are planning on offering…
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There's ones with Greg Capullo and Donny Cates and James Tynion IV, Kyle Higgins, Will Dennis (editor extraordinaire), and a lot of different talents on there. And so it's it's really good time, I'm very proud of it.

But this one will be free to give you a sense of what we're going to be doing second semester. For this very first class, we're going to use my work because I didn't want to jump in on the very first one using yours. I just want to show you two examples of short pieces that I did when I was starting out, one of which could use quite a bit of work and the other one which I think is a little bit more solid. And we'll talk about why one works a little bit better than the other. So those pieces are here in this post, Ty is attaching them.

One is a Nation X piece, it was actually one of the very first things I ever wrote, it’s for Marvel…

…and then the other one is a Batman: Black and White story that I did more recently.

And I'm going to include a couple others. I'm gonna include a Joker short…

…and I'm going to include one of my very first, really my first published comic, a one-shot that I did for Marvel for the Timely line about the original Human Torch, John Hammond, to give you a few different examples.

But the two we're really going to focus on are the Batman: Black and White and the Nation X. We're going to talk a little bit about structure, we're going to talk a little bit about focus, arc, characterization, all of that stuff. So I'm really going to break it down and show you how I approach student work in workshops this way so that we can have a preview of how to work when we're looking at your stuff.

Now our contract is all ready for you guys. We signed it and have it set, so you guys are going to be able to start submitting work now. You can submit comics that you've made. I think, honestly, for the first couple of classes, we'll probably be leaning more towards that. So if you have an indie comic you want us to critique, constructively critique, please, please submit. If you have a script that you've written that you want us to critique, submit those too, and we'll be looking at those as well. So we'll use both at different times, depending on the needs of the class. The contract essentially says that you can't sue us if somebody steals the idea from you that we are now using in front of thousands of people in class. So please, please think of that carefully before you submit your work. Obviously, you will have your stuff publicly presented in front of well over a couple thousands people here. So just be aware when you're signing this. It just says that you can't come after me or Best Jackett for presenting this. That's all it is. Essentially gives us kind of legal protection if somebody else out there tries to take the idea from you. Anyway, it should be incredible fun. I really think it's going to be exponentially more helpful for aspiring creators than the class was before, as much as I love what we did the first semester, and I really can't wait to get to it!

So, quick thing. This is what I want you to think about going into the class. This is how I run a workshop, okay? So the most important thing is to try and identify what the person that submitted the story is going for with this story. What's the story about? What are they trying to achieve with this? For example, if you read Court of Owls, you could say, “I think what this is about is Batman needing to be humbled by the history of Gotham so he can be a better superhero.” Or if you read Dark Knight Returns, you could say, “I think this is about Batman wrestling with his own mortality and needing to find a way back to find meaning in his life as Batman once again,” whatever it is, that founding perception, that founding interpretation, is the lens through which you see everything else. Everything comes from what is this person going for? What is this creator trying to express? What is this piece about? Everything comes from that. That's your thesis. So that's what you do first, what do I think this is about?

Now, given that, given what I think this person is trying to achieve, what's working really well in the story? Well, maybe what's working well is the plotting, because it's really ramping up that sense in Dark Knight Returns that Batman's body is failing even as he's facing greater and greater threats. You know what else I think is working well? The narration, because it's giving us a window into his mind and showing us how worried and scared he is, even as he's determined and obsessed with being Batman, about his own kind of physical decline. So you pick the things that you think are working well, given what the story is about what it's going for.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #1 (1986) | Art by Frank Miller, Klaus Janson & Lynn Varley; Letters by John Costanza

Then, number three, you do what isn't working so well given what the story is about. So it’s hard to critique Dark Knight Returns for me because it's such a touchstone, but if we're talking about it, you could say, “well, I think that maybe the fact that Batman seems to use a rifle at one point or kill one of the mutants with a machine gun or let them die doesn't quite fit with the mission he says when he breaks the gun,” or “the part about the plane hitting the building feels a little rushed.” You can say these things aren't working quite as well given what I think this story is trying to achieve.

And then the fourth thing is, how do I think we can work on or improve on those things that aren't working so well, given what the story is trying to achieve to make it more effective. So given that the story is trying to express Batman's return to form in the face of all of this mortal coil anxiety he has, and all these challenges, I think what could work better than an expedited scene where the plane hits the building is something that's even more terrifying for him because he sees that he might fail. And so to really give that a splash, to really give that a spread, that kind of stuff to give us a sense of the city being blacked out instead of being so rushed. All of that, a moment of quiet.

So those are the four parts:

  1. What is this about and what is it trying to achieve? Basically, what’s the point?

  2. Given that, what's working well?

  3. Given that, what's not working so well?

  4. Given that, how do we fix some of the things that aren't working so well to improve the story?

That's the criteria. That's what I use I've used for fifteen years in workshops. It's what was used with me that I think is really effective, because what it does is it creates a compass for you. It creates a lens through which to see the story that really keeps you in bounds. It's not about your tastes, it's not about what kinds of stories you like, it's not about what kinds of things you prefer to read. It's about what this person is trying to achieve and how to help them achieve that on their terms. So you might read a story that has political leanings you don't agree with, you might read a story that's a genre that you're not really into, a genre you don't like to read in your spare time. Your job as somebody participating in the workshop is to help that story be its best version on its terms, not to change what it is into something you would like. So that's really the goal. And that's honestly what being an editor or a critic in a workshop (not a critic out in the world, but a critic in the workshop, the constructive critic) is. It's someone trying to help another creator make the best version of their story, not your story, that it can be. So that's what we're going to do. I can't wait for it. I'm really excited.

A couple other things—Night of the Ghoul #2 comes out Wednesday from Dark Horse Comics.

The first issue sold out or is essentially about to sell out. We're excited, we announced that 20th Century picked it up along with 21 Laps, really really excited. And yeah, it's gonna be a movie with Rob Savage directing, who did Host and is about to The Boogeyman coming out the incredible Stephen King story. So really, really thrilled.

And we also have Barnstormers: A Ballad of Love and Murder coming out tomorrow.

Barnstormers #3 from Comixology, me and Tula Lotay. I'm really, really proud of this one. I hope you'll check it out. I mean, all these series are passion projects. It's corny and I've said it before, but I mean it. I hope it reads that way, because it's true.

And so hopefully I will see you in class! Remember free, it is free, it is live, Wednesday (November 2nd) at 9:30pm ET. Tyler will be here with me, we're going to have a lot of fun. If you can't make the live one, it'll be posted in the free newsletter the day after (or Friday at the latest) so that you can watch it and catch up after the fact, or even if you see it live and you want to just go back and review something. The chat will be open for comments, so you can join in the discussion about the pieces. And yeah, I’m just really thrilled. I can't wait to get to it. So thanks again you guys!