Archive for June 9th, 2012

MOTOR CITY COMIC CON 2012: Interview with “Billion Dollar Batman” author Bruce Scivally

Written by on Jun 9, 2012
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Mr. Scivally was quite an interesting man to speak with about our mutual interests...

Bruce Scivally is the author of the acclaimed book titled Billion Dollar Batman. He has also written books on Superman, James Bond, and is a professor at Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois. He was enthusiatic about speaking to me when I asked him if he could fit me in.

TOMMY ZIMMER: Of all the topics you have written about (Batman, Superman, James Bond), which is your favorite?

BRUCE SCIVALLY: I like all of them. I was more of a superhero fan and a big fan of Bond. I was a fan of the Batman 60’s series as a kid, and watched Superman as a kid.

TZ:  What attracted you to Batman as a kid?

BS: In my teenage years, I loved his fancy ears. I loved his whole persona. Whatever he wanted, he had.

TZ: How did you become a fan of James Bond?

BS: I was a fan but got into him in college. There, I met John Cork who produced featurettes on James Bond DVDs with me.

TZ: How did you prepare for writing a book on him?

BS: Since I did so many interviews, I got Bond. I usaully do as much research in news and media archives.

TZ: How did you decide you wanted to write a book on Batman?

BS: Promoting Superman drew me to writing about him.

TZ: What do you feel is the difference between the two heroes?

BS: Superman represents hope, goodness, and all we aspire to be. Batman represents revenge and who we are.

TZ: Who is your favorite James Bond?

BS: My favorite’s Sean Connery. Connery’s Bond was of his time. He was the classic James Bond. George Lazenby was the more vulnerable. Roger Moore was more of a disco-Bond. After him, Timothy Dalton played up a more angry Bond. When Pierce Brosnan took over, I thought he was the best since Connery but he was an emotionally needy Bond. Finally today, Daniel Craig is just a hard, cold bastard.

TZ: Who is your favorite Superman?

BS: George Reeves is my favorite. I saw Christopher Reeve in high school, and thought he did Clark Kent/Superman best.

TZ: In the same fashion, with The Dark Knight Rises coming out, who do you think the best Batman has been?

BS: It’s between Keaton and Bale. To think about Batman, he’s crazy……

TZ: What do plan to write about next?

BS: I don’t know……. maybe on the 60’s or old Tarzan.

Thanks Mr. Scivally, and I hope you all enjoyed my coverage of MCCC 2012!!!


Written by on Jun 9, 2012
Filed in: Stephen Jondrew  |  5 Comments »

WALKING DEAD IS A RIP OFF… or at least that’s what one reader says.

The other day I finished helping to launch our affiliate website As a fan of both the comics and the TV series, I have found myself enjoying more and more a variety Zombie themed projects including comics and movies. While I find there is often a certain level of similarities between projects, I’ve always found there is also an extreme level of variation too.

The other day I received an email titled “Walking Dead Rip off” from someone named Alex Blaxhorn. Being that it had only been a few days since the launch of at first the subject line had me thinking that someone had ripped off the Walking Dead… of course, that wasn’t the case. Here is the email in its entirety.

Is The Walking Dead a Rip Off?

After finally catching up on The Walking Dead show on AMC, it seems unbelievable that no one takes them to task for lifting of other sources. The only mention so far has been the stealing of the opening sequence of 28 Days which was out before The Walking Dead. Of course, the title of the comic is the same as another comic that came out some ten years earlier, from Aircel Comics.

What is more strikingly apparent is the similarities to Deadworld. That series came out from Arrow Comics during the black and white explosion in the 1980s and had good sales during that time period. If the creators of The Walking Dead were zombie fans, they had to know about Deadworld which moved to Caliber Comics and had some 40 more issues in the 1990s, well before The Walking Dead ever came out.

Not having read the comic series, the similarities are only based on the TV show but it seems beyond just coincidence or story elements that deal with zombie stories in general.

In The Walking Dead, the group travels using a RV and in Deadworld, they used a school bus. One of the early scenes in both is two people going to raid a store for supplies and getting trapped by zombies.

In The Walking Dead, the group comes across a religious family on a farm who for some reason seem to be unaffected by the zombie menace. One of the group hooks up with the daughter of the religious leader. In Deadworld, the group comes across a religious family in a farmhouse who were unaffected by the zombie menace. One of the group hooks up with the daughter of the religious leader.

In The Walking Dead, the living gets through a group of zombies by rubbing zombie blood on themselves. In Deadworld, a character cut the skin off a zombie and wrapped himself up to get through the zombies. In both of them, zombies are stacked up and burned. In both stories, a little girl who has turned into a zombie has to be shot. In both of them, a character has to cut off his hand.

Towards the end of the first volume of the Caliber run, there is a group heading north and led by a guy named John. John is not a sheriff like Rick, but looks similiar as he always has a hat on. John hooks up with Stacey who becomes pregnant (ala Lori). .John is constantly challenged by another member of the group (ala Shane) and there is also the scene where one of the older guys gets bit and John has to shot him (ala Dale). Also, John has a son with the name of Carl (ala Carl). There’s talk that The Walking Dead comic series moves to a prison and in Deadworld, one of the guys who hooks up with John later is Clarence, the token black guy (ala T-Dog) and Clarence came from a prison.

At the end of last season’s show, a female character was shown wielding a sword and leading zombies chained. In Deadworld, there is a female character that also has zombies chained up in the same fashion and she will later become known as Tattoo who wields a sword all the time.

There’s been talk of next season bringing in a character called the Governor who apparently is the leader of a small town with military overtones. This sounds just like Moloch who has helicopters and military type soldiers and captures humans to build up his town. Moloch also uses humans versus zombies for sport.

Again, not sure exactly what is in the comic, just the TV show but if you read Deadworld, haven’t you already read The Walking Dead?

While at first Mr. Blaxhorn makes some points which seem valid, most of them are also missing a crucial level of substance. For example, in his comment comparing the Deadworld events to Hershel’s farm, I can’t remotely be convinced of the similarities. His point banks heavily on one of the Deadworld group members hooking up with the daughter of a religious leader and I’m fairly certain there is nothing unique about love-at-first-site-in-troubling-times (I refer you to Forrest Gump The Notebook Pearl Harbor any romantic comedy). In addition, unless I’m wrong, Hershel Greene is in no way a religious leader in the comic book or TV Series – he was simply a religious veterinarian. Last time I checked, there was no copyright on the idea of a religious farmer (although if one movie was to hold the rights to that idea, I’d suggest it be THE JERK).

Of course, I could sit here and tear apart his points one by one, but I have better things to do today; however, there is one point that had me literally laughing outloud — the hat comment. That’s right, I’m talking about “John is not a sheriff like Rick, but looks similiar as he always has a hat on.”

SO AM I UNDERSTANDING THIS CORRECTLY?!?! You are telling me that these two are similar because they share a hat. Alright, fine, I concede, the two are similar because they wear a hat. That being said, I’m still not angry because now this means that Rick can also be related to the following characters:

Indiana Jones
Indiana Jones

Jake and Elwood Blues
Blues Brothers

The Mad Hatter
The Mad Hatter


Ferris Bueller
Ferris Bueller

As I said, I could rip apart the rest of his points but I want to know what your thoughts are on this readers opinion. I’ve now read the email a few times and still can’t see any concrete similarities to convince me of his point – I only see a guy grasping at straws.

Right Place at the Write Time #5 – From Story to Script

Written by on Jun 9, 2012
Filed in: Right Place at the Write Time  |  3 Comments »

In the last Right Place at the Write Time we talked about motivation and how to find the time and energy to write. We’ve also covered the important of writing regularly to hone your craft, and I even gave you some helpful hints on things you can read to best prepare yourself for writing comic books. Assuming that you’ve checked out those columns and taken some of the advice, I think we’re ready to continue on.

This time, I thought we’d get into some meat and potatoes type stuff and take a story from an idea all the way to a comic book script.

Now remember, there are hundreds of ways to script a comic book. I’ve seen a ton of them, but be sure to find something that’s comfortable for you. Some folks do Plot-First (otherwise known as Marvel Style) while others feel that a Full Script is the better approach.

Tons more information on both of these styles can be found online, but here’s a brief rundown if you don’t feel like getting your Google on:

Marvel Style is when the writer breaks down what should be on each page of the story. The characters, the action, the “what’s happening” and the artist takes the page, goes off and decides how many panels are needed, and positions the panels accordingly. After the artist is complete, the writer goes back and writes dialogue for the finished page. This style works best when the artist and the writer trust each other’s abilities and talents.

In a Full Script the writer breaks each page down by panels and tells the artist exactly who should be where, what dialogue should be able to fit into each panel, and how many panels should be on a page. This lets the writer control the flow and pacing of his story, but doesn’t always leave room for the artist to be creative. We’ll talk about finding and working with artists in a column to come.

Me? I prefer to work in Full Script. The comic book script is a letter to the artist. After all, they’re the ones who will be taking your written words and ideas to the illustrated page. Unless, of course, you’re one of those lucky folks who can actually write AND draw, in which case, I’m completely jealous of you and everything you stand for.

The danger of full script is that you have to ensure that you give the artist enough to work with. You have to flesh out characters and what they look like, the environments, whether a scene is taking place at night or during the day, and generally everything that you hope to see on the page. It takes an extreme amount of detail at times (Alan Moore would write panel descriptions that were pages and pages long) though other times, a mere sentence will do depending on the talent of the artist and how familiar they are with your story.

I want to show you how I take a story from idea to comic book script. Now, I’m not saying that this is the correct way, or even the only way — it’s simply what has worked for me.

One of the interesting things about comic book scripting is that regardless of whose script style you choose to ape at the beginning, over time it will meld into something that is completely your own as you learn new processes and get feedback from your artists. In fact, I encourage you to solicit feedback from an artist on how your scripts are setup. Their feedback and can be enlightening.

For this example of Story to Script, I’m going to use a short story that I wrote a few months ago. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t steal it and claim it as your own, but these things happen.

In my never-ending process of trying to write in different genres, I figured it was time to write something in a fantasy setting. I’m no fantasy master, but I understand the types of characters that are available, the tropes, and the stereotypes. Since I didn’t want to sit down and write a six-issue mini-series (after all, I’m just testing the waters for myself), I thought I’d start off with something simple: a three page story.

I thought for a few minutes, considering different types of stories, and what might be fun for an artist to draw. After several false starts, here’s the germ of the idea that came to me:

Three Orcs, sit along the side of the road discussing which types of humans they enjoy eating most, however, these are not your typical Orcs. The stereotype, shown through movies and fantasy novels, tell us that these beings are slow and stupid, but these three particular Orcs speak in very advanced dialects.

BOOM. There it is… The basic idea for my story. The first idea I got that I didn’t hate.

Knowing that this was to be a 3 page story, I was going to need to flesh things out a bit more. I had a story idea, but I didn’t have a plot.

I had the introduction to my characters, but I needed more in order to have a story, as opposed to three Orcs just sitting around gabbing.

Three Orcs, Dort, Vafur, and Nilg, sit along the side of the road discussing which types of humans they enjoy eating most, however, these are not your typical Orcs. The stereotype, shown through movies and fantasy novels, tell us that these beings are slow and stupid, but these three particular Orcs speak in very advanced dialects. As they talk, a man in armor runs upon them, sword in hand. He is a knight who is escorting two young ladies in a horse-drawn cart. He calls the Orcs stupid and prepares to vanquish them, however, the Orcs don’t like being stereotyped. Out of pure anger, they attack the Knight, killing him and destroying the cart. During the frenzy, the Orcs show their stereotypical “Stupid” side, but after the fight is over, they go back to their regular talk and as luck would have it, they’ve also gotten some humans to eat. They resume conversation, discussing how sad it is that humans can be so cruel and hateful toward them.

Now this is starting to look like a story! I include all of the classic elements:

Act 1The Introduction: I Introduce my characters, show who they are, what they’re about, and establish the status quo.

In my Act 1, Dort, Vafur, and Nilg (good names for Orcs, right?) show us that they’re quite intelligent, breaking the typical Orc stereotype. They hold an intelligent conversation on what type of humans they enjoy eating most.

Act 2Conflict: My characters are tested in some way.

In my Act 2, the Knight, showing off for the women that he’s escorting, attempts to kill some stupid Orcs. Of course, the Orcs take offense and the fight is on.

Act 3Resolution: My characters succeed, learning something.

In Act 3 the Orcs kill the Knight and ravage the cart, showing what happens when humans underestimate them. For humor purposes, the Orcs will show their stereotypical “stupid” side during the battle.

Denouement: The state of affairs after the climax.

In my closing, the Orcs go back to their normal way of speaking and they’ve also left one of the humans alive, for a snack. (See how we went full circle there?)

I’ve now got the skeleton of our story. An outline, if you will. The next part is to visualize the story, decide which scenes should go on which page, and the pacing of it all.

This story is pretty straightforward. With a three page story, we essentially have one page for each act. We’re still in outlining mode so I’m not diving into too much detail yet, simply deciding which actions will need to appear on each page.

To keep things simple, this is how I broke down the story:

PAGE #1:
We meet the Orcs, Dort, Vafur, and Nilg, as they along the side of a road. They debate whether blonde or redhead humans taste better. Suddenly, their conversation is interrupted.

PAGE #2:
A Knight, protecting two women on a horse-drawn cart comes running at the Orcs preparing the vanquish them in order to make safe passage. He makes the mistake of calling them “stupid” which angers Dort, Vafur, and Nilg. They attack in anger.

PAGE #3:
The Orcs kill the Knight and destroy the cart. They talk about how ignorant the humans are to think them so stupid. They’ve also left the redhead alive. She’ll be tasty.

In this example, each page corresponds with each act, though obviously this won’t be the case with a five or ten page story.

Now the tough part. It’s time to figure out how many panels needs to be on each page in order to tell our story.

How do we figure that out? Simple! Take a few minutes away from the computer. Close your eyes. Go outside. Take a walk. Let the story play out like a movie in your brain. Play it over and over until you see the snapshots that will help tell your story.

Some helpful guidelines: Most comic book pages have between four and seven panels.

The fewer the panels, the faster the pacing of the page (because you read it faster) whereas more panels will slow down your action (since there’s going to be more to read and look at). This is something you’ll also want to keep in mind.

After spending some time visualizing my Orc story, here’s how I decided to break it down:

I decided that on page #1 I could squeeze everything I needed to into 4 panels.

PANEL 1: Establishing shot of the Orcs sitting alongside the road.
(This establishes where we are and the tone of the story.)

PANEL 2: Fly in closer to the Orcs. They talk.
(Introduces are characters and shows the reader that it’s a fantasy story. This lets them change their mindset and activate their suspension of disbelief.)

PANEL 3: We isolate Nilg and Varfur as they debate with one another.

PANEL 4: The Orcs continue debating, however, Dort looks over his shoulder. A disturbance is happening off panel.

Page one complete. I’ve established the setting, the type of story, introduced our characters and the beginnings of the problem. There’s no dialogue yet, but that doesn’t mean I’m not writing it in my mind!

Let’s look at page #2, which I also kept at 4 panels. It’s mainly action, so I wanted to ensure that the reader eyeballs it quickly to keep up with the pace.

PANEL 1: The Orcs notice the Knight coming at them with sword drawn. In the background we see two women, a blonde and redhead, sitting on a horse-drawn cart looking scared of the Orcs. The Orcs react to being called “stupid” by the Knight.

PANEL 2: The Orcs attack the Knight. He’s shocked and surprised.

PANEL 3: The Orcs kill the Knight and head for the horse-drawn cart.

PANEL 4: The women hold onto one another, scared of their impending doom as the Orcs draw near.

In 4 panels I’ve set up the problem and the action has happened. Lastly comes page #3 which I decided could be just 3 panels and would bring the story to a close.

PANEL 1: The orcs walk away from the wreckage. The knight, the horse, and one of the women are dead.

PANEL 2: We pull back and see the redhead being dragged away by the Orcs as they continue to talk.

PANEL 3: They walk down the road, dragging the woman along with them. The conitnue to talk to one another, saddened that the ignorance of the humans.

Our panel breakdowns are complete! A round of applause for everyone!

But I’m not done yet! Because I’m writing in full script, I have to go in and beef up the details. Everything I’ve written for my outline is very general, but because this script will be a letter to the artist, I need them to know everything about the characters that I can, along with roughly how much dialogue will be in each panel (so they can leave appropriate space).

Some artists will do character sketches to get a feel for the people they’ll be drawing, but others may request to know which actors people may look like. In the case of the Orcs, I may find a very general picture of one that I like, and then explain what sets the three apart so that the artist doesn’t make them look too much alike.

This is the toughest part of scripting. You have to know your story inside and out. Take as much time as you need and once you’re happy with it, read over it a few more times and massage out all the details.

Here’s the finished script that I produced for the artist:


PAGE #1 (4 Panels):

PANEL 1: Establishing shot of a country side. It’s the middle of the afternoon and we’re zooming in on a small encampment alongside a lush, forested road.

My ears recognize your pontification, Nilg. I simply find crimson-tops to be more PALATABLE.

I say, Dort–

PANEL 2: We meet three gruesome looking Orcs: Dort, Vafur, and Nilg. They’re sitting around on the ground chatting with one another. They should all look very similar with basic clothes and facial features to differentiate the three of them. Crude swords sit next to them on the ground. Varfur gestures toward Nilg with his thumb.

He simply seems to misrecollect all the engagements in which we’ve pirated the GINGER over the PLATINUM.

I respect your opinions, gentlemen–

PANEL 3: Close on Nilg and Varfur as they talk.

–My tastebuds simply dance at a different SAPOR. No one is amiss here.

Well said, my good man.

PANEL 4: Varfur is talking and gesturing while Dort looks over his shoulder at the sound of a disturbance.

At the end of the day, a feast of HUMAN FLESH is sidereal–

WARRIOR (off panel):
Halt while I dispatch of these STUPID Orcs!

PAGE #2 (4 Panels):

PANEL 1: Bigger panel. In the foreground, the three Orcs watch as a warrior, clothed in armor, his face uncovered, runs toward them with sword high in the air preparing to strike. Behind the warrior we see a horse-drawn cart with two younger women, approximately in their early 20’s seated on top. One a red-head, one a brunette. They look frightened at the scene.


My ears heard correctly?

Aye. “STUPID ORCS,” he claimed most callously!

Let’s get to it then…

PANEL 2: The Orcs attack the warrior. He backpedals, a look of terror on his face.



PANEL 3: In the background, Dort stands over the warrior stabbing him with his crude sword. In the foreground, Varfur and Nilg run toward the camera snarling and looking very threatening.



PANEL 4: Close up of the two women, sitting atop the horse-drawn cart. They’re dressed in a regal, fantasy garb and they hold onto one another, screaming in horror at their impending doom.


PAGE #3 (3 Panels):

PANEL 1: The three Orcs are walking away from the wreckage into the foreground. In the background, the cart is overturned and is on fire. The warrior, horse, and one woman are dead. We can’t see the Orcs below the chest.

If given option, that encounter would have leaned toward…


Utterly, Dort.

PANEL 2: We pull back and see that one of the Orcs is dragging one of the women behind him. It’s the red head. She’s alive.

Incredulous that he’d lead off proclaiming us “Stupid.”

No introductions? No shakes of hands?

Don’t let it get to you, Nilg–

PANEL 3: They walk off into the distance with their prize. They’re silhouetted by the daytime sunlight.

–We shan’t be a stereotype FOREVER.




Whew! That was quite a journey, right?

As I read back, I ensure that I included all of my plot points and don’t leave anything hanging. I’m likely to read this script ten more times and make many more changes, but it’s a starting point and something an artist can visualize and draw from.

I hope that this focus on Story to Script was beneficial, and I’m happy to answer any questions you may have. As always, I welcome your ideas as well!

Stay tuned to see where the column goes next!

Until then, keep reading and writing.

Wes Locher
June 2012

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