Under Pressure (Part 2)
Answering your burning questions about panel placement and Disney Parks!
Hey, guys, it's Scott.
It is Tuesday, March 7th, I can't believe the month is going this fast. I say that every time, but I feel like the Earth is just spinning faster and faster every day. Anyway, a couple quick housekeeping things before I dive into your questions. Tomorrow, Wednesday the 8th, out from Dark Horse Comics, is Clear #1. It's an oversized massive issue, it's the beginning of a sci-fi noir series that I did with co-creator and great friend Francis Manapul. It's about a future where we all connect to the internet neurologically and can ‘skin’ the world however we want, and it's a murder mystery that happens in this world that goes from like the back alleys all the way up to the heights of power. And it's a lot of fun, but it's also personal to us and I'm very proud of it. And full disclosure, we're at the tail end of our talks for the ancillary rights, for the film and TV rights right now. It's looking really good. We've had some fantastic conversations and there's just a lot of people that seem interested. So hopefully we'll have good news sometime in the near future about that too.
And also the FOC for issue #2 is Monday!
Then next week, a week from tomorrow, March 15th, Nocterra #12 is out from Image Comics. It's the beginning of our third arc. It's an easy jumping on point, if you haven't been reading Nocterra, it's about a darkness that covers the earth and changes every living thing into a monster. The only way to stop that is to stay lit. Anyway, I'm very, very excited about that one, too. This is easily our biggest and craziest arc and then we've got some really cool guest artists coming for fill in. I hope you'll check it out!
So I meant to do a part two to the post the other day…
…and then I had a kid home sick. He is fine, but he just had a cold. Not long ago, we went to a baseball card convention at a hotel near here. It was awesome. Emmett, who's eleven, is obsessed with baseball and he's the kind of kid that like, consumes a topic over the course of a few years. It was Star Wars and Pokémon and space and Cuphead and Zelda and all this stuff different times. But baseball has really lasted a few years, and it's a great one because it's social and it's active and all those things I've said to you before, and I filled you in on this whole love of his.
But we did not know that there are baseball card conventions nearby, and we went to one at a Holiday Inn not too far with the parents of one of our older boy Jack’s friends who's really into it and has an amazing card collection. And it was so cool. It was just like a comic book convention, but entirely baseball card and football card and basketball card-oriented. Really cool to see Emmett make friends with kids his own age that like baseball cards. It was really endearing and brought a tear to my eye. But the downside was it you could tell the minute you walked in that you're gonna get really sick from it because everybody's handing stuff back and forth, nobody was wearing masks, and it's cold season. So you knew it was coming. But anyway, it was worth it. He has some amazing new cards, and I hope to go to another one!
But your questions, let's answer them.
melissamars asks, “Would you tell us more about your process of 'staging' your story? How do you decide and know how many panels you want for each page? Do you and the artist discuss that together according to the dialogue?"
That's a great question. So staging, in case you don't know, is kind of the choreography. It's like, how you move through a scene, how the angles of the camera work, how fast you're going, what information is given visually, and what information is not. I really try and generally leave that up to the artist. What I do is I talk to them either on the phone beforehand, some artists love to chat before, and I really love that, or if they're really wanted in the script then what I do, and I do it anyway, even if after we chat, is to, at the beginning of each scene, give them a sense of what is trying to be accomplished in the scene. So for example, if I have a scene between Batman and Alfred and the point of the scene is for Alfred to really hint to Bruce that he thinks he's going too far in this case and becoming obsessed and missing some clues, I'll say that and I'll say:
So the feeling should be Alfred trying to figure a way out to get through to Bruce that he's pushing himself too hard and probably missing obvious clues that would help him solve it because he's too obsessed with moving fast and getting the Joker before anything else happens.
So what that would mean is that would dictate some of the visual decisions the artists makes like, I think, seeing Batman from afar, looking close at Alfred, feeling like you're on the outside of Batman’s fear emotionally by being next to Alfred, or seeing Alfred looming in the background sadly.
All those kinds of decisions are based on what that scene is about. So that's kind of the way that I do it. I have a conversation with them on the phone about what a scene is about. They can pitch me ideas like “you know what, what if we never show Batman’s face in that scene? What if he always has his back to us?” I’ll say, “I love it. I think that's a great idea. Let's do it!” Or “what if I frame it in such a way that they're never in the same panel? It's always divided, so visually, we get a sense throughout the page that everybody's in their own box—Alfred, Batman, Alfred, Batman, Alfred, Batman, so they're never together.” “Great idea. Let's go for it!” So that. Again like, being transparent about the priorities of the scene, what the scene is about, is really the key to good staging with an artist.
Okay, second question:
KENHAZLETT asks, “What differences (if any) did you notice about how the different Disney parks approach storytelling? What about storytelling in the Parks, both attractions and character interactions, can we bring to comics writing?”
That is a great question. That is one I want to revisit many times because I had so many experiences working at Disney World that I would love to talk about in relation to storytelling in comics and everything from like funny anecdotes about like, reading Guns & Ammo with Tinkerbell in the tunnels to bigger ideas about the way that they tell their corporate story and they tell their stories internally to guests in good ways. So that's like, a whole giant rabbit hole to go down.
What I would say as like, an opening salvo, I think, about the way that Disney approaches story is that they're completely immersive, for better or worse. They're funny immersive in the kind of way that they approach the parks so that once you enter that park, there is nothing you see that pierces the veil of that story, the way that they asked you as a character, or cast member, to act as a character. There's no off-script. So the goal, and especially with the rides, when you go on a ride there, the queue itself, the line, I forget the term that the Imagineers came up with, but there's a term for it (someone pot it in the comments here) that’s about the story of the ride itself that's being told in that line. So even the lines, everything is reinforcing the idea that you're in a place that's magical. You're in a place that is really unflinchingly about these narratives that you're being told each ride, and that it's meant to make you feel transported to a place that feels fully realized. And I love that about the parks.
I mean, I think it's a priority that you can absolutely bring to your storytelling in comics. How do you create an immersive environment? How do you create something that feels from every angle, from every vantage point, like it's reinforcing the idea that this story is fully realized, full hearted, fully visually imagined. Everything about it is transporting you. That doesn't mean escapist. That doesn't mean like, it's taking you to a place where you're outside of meaning in some way. It just means that the story itself is encompassing you in a way with its own meanings, and its own messaging, and all of it in such a way that you're completely swept up in it, that you're not distracted, that you don't see something outside of it that it feels like everything is fully experiential with it. So I think that's a huge priority to take, and that's a great thing to take from Disney parks to your own work. Make them feel like they're walking into something that has an entire giant tree of story from the moment they step into it. Everywhere they look, there's more story and that story is folding in on itself as a way of showing you that it's a fully imagined world.
Anyway, there's a lot more to talk about there. I must have told the story about the time when I auditioned to be a character and they teach you this dance.
(Check out the above post for some more Disney World insights!)
If I haven't told you that story here then I will tell you that story next time, but one of the best memories of my youth was auditioning for characters. Alright guys, thanks!