my one cent on writing for comics:
your story is not THAT important.
Let me explain.
I'm cruising through teh digital webbing site in their collaborations section and I see this post:www.digitalwebbing.com/forums/…
and I'm thinking- wholly shit, this actually sounds pretty cool, and he might actually get someone to work on that project for free.
and then i see this at the bottom of the ad:
"This first issue is mostly set in the cockpits of the various ships, so there's not a lot of action. Just a fair warning."
People do not want a 22page primer to understand a comic. People want a 22page backstory that accents the main story.
What do I mean by this?
Lets take a basic premise. Humans are using giant robots to fight off an alien invasion.
a) devote 2 pages to discovery of the invasion, 3pages to the internal strife about what to do, 3pages to building robots, 8 pages to the character development of your team of characters and their inner drama, 2 pages to the aliens actually attacking, and 2 pages to the emotional drama of the attack and one team member saying "we have to fight now" and one scientist saying "but we aren't ready yet"?
and 2 pages of robots finally launching into space with the last page finally showing a teaser of action.
b) (apologies in advance for not using/straying from the proper punctuation for script form
page 1: location space: earth hangs at the bottom of the page. there is a spacehip with a huge explosion that's obviously come from the rocket trails leading up to it.
(ok- we don't know what the hell is going on, we're probably going to turn the page to find out)
page 2: panel 1: cockpit shot- character is very excited "booyah- eat rocket you alien scum!"
panel 2: exterior: 2 giant robots floating in the foreground with the alien spaceship behind it. Dialogue comes from one of the robots: "nice shot but...."
panel 3: same shot- the alien spacehip is returning fire "maybe you should have aimed for the bridge"
(ok- humans versus aliens, human number 2 sounds like a dick)
page 3: pan 1)cockpit- same character from before "bite me simmons"
panel 2)cockpit- new character "before or after these freaks roast your sorry ass"
panel 3) cockpit, yet another new character- "I'll shoot both you fucks right now if you don't take that left flank"
panel 4) the giant robots zooming away from the return fire to go to "left flank" (wherever the hell that is)
(human #2 IS a dick, human #3 is obviously the leader, and he sure doesn't seem to have attended the Richard B Hamilton school of middle management)
panel 1) the same 2 giant robots shooting smaller fighter robots approaching them
panel 2) alien fighters zooming across the panel one exploding from being shot
panel 3) cockpit of human #2 "come on you lousy tracking system...."
panel 4) external of giant robot firing a shot with earth in the background
(the dick's gun isn't working... I heard there was a pill that will fix that)
panel 1) laser fire obviously missing an alien fighter
panel 2) panoramic- lots of alien fighters, not enough human robots. one's laser shot is hitting an alien space craft
dialogue: there's too many for the tracking system
dialogue: switch to manual and do it the hard way
panel 3) cockpit human #2: "lousy piece of shit hamilton electronics"
panel 4) Robot firing on and hitting alien fighter "oh yea...."
(ah yeah- the old "the only way to do anything right is to do it yourself" story. We americans like it when we see this)
panel 1) human robot is being hit by fire in the shoulder "..eaaahh!!"
panel 2) (within panel 1) cockpit- human 2 with a grimace on his face, maybe a motion blur that show's his cockpit is in motion
panel 3) wounded robot in the background, another in the foreground that looks like it's turning towards him. "simmons- status!"
-"in diagnostics- one gun down"
panel 4) cockpit human #1 "I got cover"
panel 5) the wounded robot floats a little lower in the panel, the other is firing a barage of shots across the top of the panel obviously without aim.
(awe- human #1 cares. I bet he ends up dead)
panel 1) cockpit human leader "zig-zag a chicken back to base"
panel 2) cockpit human 2 doing something on his dashboard "sir, repairs initiated , eta 63 seconds- and i still have one gun functional"
panel 3) Exterior- different robot (the leader's) fighting alien ships on his own "well fuck- do that then!"
panel 4) reverse cockpit human leader, pushing a comm button on his panel, we should still see the fighting outside his cockpit window "swarchz!"
swarchz (OP): "sir!"
(who's swarchz? and what's with the spelling on that name?!)
panel 1) Half page layout, sexy human robot piloter enjoying what she does
Human leader (OP): "how are the drops?"
swarchz: "like shooting pigs in a barrel"
panel 2) earth in the background - little dots seem to be descending towards it, and two human robots in various stages of the foreground are plucking them off
Robot 1: "I thought it was ducks in a barrel"
robot 2 (swarchz's): " you aren't talented enough to hit ducks in a barrel"
(meh- i've waited longer for sex appeal. Obviously these two have some sort of "thing" going on. oh- and the earth is imperiled)
panel 1) cockpit human 4: "damn girl, you gotta go bust balls along with busting hearts?"
panel 2) cockpit swarchz: "hey- if i can target it"
panel 3) alien dropship being split in half from from fire from above
swarchz (OP): "I can split it"
(maybe that "thing" is already over and done with)
panel 1) cockpit leader: "spare me the anatomy- what's the numbers"
panel 2) cockpit human #4: "%42 percent"
panel 3) close-up leaders face, not happy.
panel 4) external of rio de janeiro, kids playing futbol in the foreground. There are white dots in the blue sky behind them.
leader(op) "fuck... rio's going to end up like paris"
(we don't know what happened to paris, but it sounds bad)
panel 1) cockpit human #4 "Permission to fire EM arc phaser sir?"
panel 2) reverse cockpit leader "granted"
the dashboard has a screen that comes to life with the picture of a scientist:
panel 3) laboratory, same scientist hunched over a screen, two technicians working on something else in the foreground.
scientist: "the arc phaser hasn't been field tested, and your'e aiming it at earth!"
technician #1 "why'd they attack paris anyway"
technician #2 "I don't know, maybe they thought the eiffel tower controlled the worlds communications...."
panel 4) cockpit leader: "andrews...."
(obviously the human response can be described as "hastey" at best)
panel 1) cockpit human #4 (apparently his name is andrews and he's smilinig). Human leader (OP) "permission to FIELD TEST arc phaser GRANTED, but downswoop. Swarchz cover"
panel 2)robot accelerating past alien drop ships
panel 3)cockpit swarchz "don't hit the FAT pig... got it."
(Richard B Hamilton school of middle management strongly dissapproves)
full page layout- one robot in foreground, dodging alien fire from ships behind it. Swarchz robot in background, plucking one of the aliens off
(I'm going to rip this page out and tape it to my door)
cockpit panels on the left, exteriors on the right
panel 1 cockpit andrews: "invert"
panel 2: human robot rotating to face back up
panel 3: Cockpit andrews: "initiate"
panel 4: there's a shoulder mounted device on the robot, and judging by electrical discharges, it's doing something
panel 5: cockpit andrews: "fire"
panel 6: that same exterior shot of rio de janiero we saw before, only everyone has stopped what they are doing as something in he sky is casting long shadows and is brighter than the sun
(damn complicated weaponry and their complicated set-ups, let's see what it does)
page 15 and 16:
Reverse interior swarchz cockpit, but most of the pages show the expanse of space out her cockpit window. She's grimacing and turning away from the brightness, electrical plasma charges are arcing from alien ship to alien ship, all emanating from a very bright robot at the bottom of the spectacle.
(going to tape these pages to my FRONT door)
panel 1: human leader cockpit "oooh baby, that was a bright one. Swarchz status."
panel 2: swarchz rubbing her eyes- "If i could fuckin SEE!"
panel 3: human leader cockpit " damnit ... andrews- what you got?!"
panel 4: human robot is floating listlessly in space. human leader (OP): "andrews"
panel 5: cockpit andrews, he's unconcious. human leader (OP) "ANDREWS!"
(and everything was going so well....)
panel 1: human leader: "damn... computer: drop analysis"
panel 2: dash monitor shows a network of hollow dots, each representing termination location. One dot at the bottom isn't hollow. on the side is a readout with a percentage that's very readable: 01%
panel 3: human leader's robot, very far from the planet "Damnit, they missed one!"
simmons (OP) : "i'm on it"
(at this point I don't care if I'm being rescued by hitler. also, how much damage can one of those little drop ships do?)
panel 1: Simmons robot is already gloriously rushing to earth. human leader (op): "Simmons?! you're functional?!"
panel 2: Reverse cockpit simmons, his panel is glowing red with warning indicators.
Simmons (whispering off radio): "functional enough."
panel 3: cockpit leader: "what about kent!?"
(lol- kent! ... the name fits)
panel 1: Human #1 or kent (so that's his name!)- robot is shooting down alien craft.
Kent (singing): "Swweeet swwwwwweeeeet suuuueeeee...."
panel 2: an alien ship explodes. kent (singing, OP) "Cooomiiinnng to take me hooome..."
panel 3:cockpit andrews: "he's fine"
leader (OP): "think you can get that bogey before it gets to earth?"
panel 4:cockpit leader.
Andrews (OP): "yes"
scientist (via dash panel in leaders console) "NO! the suits aren't designed for atmospheric transition!"
panel 5: a gloved hand hits a switch.
SFX: "click!"- and the screen is blank
(little worried about kent there, but more pressing issues at hand)
page 21: back in the lab
panel 1:Scientist staring at his blank screen in frustration. lab techs in background, but already rushing towards the scientists console.
Scientist: "there ca.. wha... that motherf.. i .. LAB TECHS! EM-SIM NOW!"
panel 2: side shot of the three working at the console with a lot of overlapping dialogue
"model type?" "a-profile j-005"
"altitude" "speed" "twenty k p s" "175 ki"
"target speed" "ignore it" "incipient angle" "90" "90?" "worst case" "local barometer" "no time" "wind speed?" "run program" "but... nm then"
panel 3: Subdivided into three panels eaching zooming into screen demo of robot with various altitude lines intersecting it. the last shows the robot broken up into crude pixelated graininess
panel 4: lab techs look despondent, the scientist is pushing a button
panel 5: reverse cockpit human leader. The grainy image of the broken up robot on his dash panel.
leader: "Simmons, I don't know how this is going to end son"
Simmons (OP): "I know how this will end"
(turn the page turn the page!)
panel 1: human robot starting to glow red hot and losing panels from atmosphere reentry.
panel 2 (inset). cockpit simmons screaming maniacly "SOMEONE IS GOING TO DIE!"
(guess i was wrong about the nice one dieing)
The important thing here is that I think it's a common problem for writers because these days stories do have to have the answers to the questions that readers will ask. And if you can't rely on the simple plot points of yesteryear, you are going to have to be a little complex in your story line. So when you accumulate all the research and plot points, you begin to think that you need to put it all in the first issue.
You have to get the reader to want to ask the questions first, and you can only do that by giving them the action that gets them to turn the page first.
Besides- it gives you an opening to do a "prequel" to boot