Man in the Box

Collaboration is not easy.  It requires people to have the same creative vision and the same temperament and same work ethic.  I don’t work very well with other creative people.  And it’s pretty much my fault.  I think of myself as pretty creative, and I am usually pretty stubborn when it comes to admitting someone else came up with a better idea.  So I don’t work with other people on creative projects as much as I used to.

Beside Ben Mudek doing the book designing for the Uptown Girl graphic novels, I really only work with Brian Bastian.  I met Brian while working at Toys R Us back in…I don’t know, the early 90’s.  We worked well with each other, always bouncing ideas off of one another.  He’s really the only person I’ll run an idea past and will listen to his opinion.  Brian wrote about a third of the monthly issues of Uptown Girl and wrote the first original graphic novel and a few short stories since then.  I am happy to say that Brian will be coming back and writing a new Uptown Girl graphic novel, but he and I are also working on another project.  This new project is truly a collaboration.  With Uptown Girl, if he writes a story and there’s something that I think doesn’t quite work, in a way, I have veto power because Uptown Girl is “my” thing.  But that doesn’t happen often.  Brian is a better writer than me, he’s funnier and more clever, so he does just fine.  However this new project is something he and I created together.  It’s straight up 50/50.  We have to both agree on ideas, character developments and all that.  So far it’s working out.

The way we are working together on this project is quite unusual.  He’ll give me the script, I’ll draw it and then we work on the dialogue together.  It’s a throwback to the old Marvel method.  So far the story is about 30 pages in, and there’s been three different styles of the script.  The first part of the story the script was something like this:

Oh wait, since the project isn’t officially announced, I suppose I can’t really show the script.  But let’s pretend the script was for Uptown Girl.  The script went something like this:

Uptown Girl is at the music store.  She wanders around for a bit.  Suddenly the ghost of Beethoven appears in front of her.

So I would storyboard it and draw it leaving room for the dialogue and word balloons.  Brian would then come over and he’d write the dialogue to fit what I drew.  It’s a but of a risk to work this way, but a lot of fun.  We’ve been getting some really great lines just by being spontaneous when looking at the art.

A second script style we’re using is a fully scripted script with complete dialogue.  Neither of us particularly like this style, but for scenes where exposition is necessary, this method is pretty much required.

The third style is even more simpler than the first style and lends itself to the most creative and potentially dangerous work.  I say dangerous because I don’t want to draw 20 pages of something and then realize it’s not going to work.  The story requires a flashback, and in Brian’s script he wrote something like “we flash back to 1964 where (the character) is involved in a typical spy adventure”.  Now, for something like this I can do quite a bit.  I can use this direction to tell a character’s origin, to draw something really fun, to show the character’s personality, to introduce a new supporting cast member…the potential is endless.  I could turn that direction into a 5 pages sequence or a 50 page sequence.

So last night I drew the first page of the flashback.  I wasn’t 100% certain what this spy adventure would be, but I decided it would start with a little…ah, spying.  Here’s the page:

30When I got to the fourth panel, I realized that I had no idea what was in the boxes.  Are they smugglers?  Are they stealing the boxes?  Since I didn’t know, I decided that the character didn’t either, so I drew him contemplating the crates.  “I’ll let Brian figure out what’s in the boxes”, I thought.  But after I finished the page, I saw in the second panel there’s a guy walking away from the van, so obviously they are unloading the van, not stealing them.  So, theft is not the angle I can work with.  Then I thought there are two different ways I can go.

1) There’s something in the boxes that needs to be retrieved, such as they contain equipment to build a weapon

2) The boxes could be used for the main character to hide in in order to sneak into the building.

I looked at the the third panel and realized that there’s no way a guy looking that stupid would be entrusted to handle dangerous supplies, so by default, the character would use the boxes to hide in so he could get inside.

Suddenly a story that starts with a page drawn without any real idea as to where the story was going started to take shape.  I have some great ideas for the man in the box.

So, there’s an insight into the creative process.  It doesn’t work for everyone, it doesn’t always work for me, but I am very happy when it does.



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