Robert Haines had some very nice things to say about THE BROADCAST over at the Joe Shuster Awards website yesterday. While not a review, he did say that, “Noel has created moody, evocative pages which capture the spirit of the story.” I couldn’t agree more. I keep telling people his art in THE BROADCAST is like an old black-and-white movie on the page. In fact, I’m thinking Noel should be a shoe-in for next year’s Shuster Award. I’m a little biased, of course, but you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who’s doing better work than Noel has done on this book…
Also, and perhaps most importantly, Haines reminded readers that comic shops are ordering indie books less and less, but that readers CAN order the book from their local shop and have it in just a few weeks. Of course, you can also pre-order it through the NBM site and have it delivered to your doorstep.
My friend and fellow Indiana-based writer Bob Freeman had some very nice things to say in his review of THE BROADCAST this morning, saying “This is what you hope for when you dip into the indie market. Smart. Riveting. Complex. Compelling, First and foremost, The Broadcast is a solid literary work…..this should be an instant classic.”
So we’ve gone through all the motions. Script, layouts, artwork, a new script. After all that, this is what the final result looks like:
For me this moment is always somewhat bittersweet.
There’s nothing better than seeing your story come together. At the same time, this is when I have to lock it in and move on to the next scene. No more scripting, no more notes for Noel. This is the point where I have to let go and be happy with the work we’ve done. Probably the most difficult step of all.
Once Noel’s finished his work on a scene it’s time for me to go in and give the dialogue one final polish (I’m something of a perfectionist). Sometimes I don’t need to make changes at all. Usually, however, I do.
For instance, this scene saw the addition of one or two panels on each page. Obviously this means I need to review the dialogue’s placement, making sure it’s still appropriate given the page’s new layout.
From there I want to make sure the dialogue compliments the art. Sometimes Noel’s work isn’t exactly what I pictured in my head. Sometimes it will say enough that I can delete some dialogue. Other times, I need to add a line or two for clarity.
This scene saw a few minor tweaks. The biggest came on page 66. You may remember that initially there was no dialogue in the first panel. When I saw it, however, I didn’t think reader’s would understand the old man was coming out of his desk because he was angry and felt the addition of a line or two was called for.
Once I’ve finished tweaking everything I send a “lettering script” to my letterer with the art. He takes it from there.
Here’s a look at what one of these shortened scripts looks like…
Dawson (standing): PLEASE, TIM. YOURS IS THE ONLY HOUSE WITH A STORM SHELTER FOR TWENTY MILES.
TOM (on left): THE CHURCH IN TOWN HAS A CELLAR.
JACOB (far right): AN’ IT’S FILLED TEN TIMES OVER BY NOW.
TOM: I UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU TWO WANT, I DO. BUT UNTIL MY DAUGHTER IS SAVE NONE OF THIS IS GOING TO BE OPEN FOR DISCUSSION.
JACOB: BUT MY DAUGHTER’S HERE.
TOM (off panel): I KNOW THAT, JACOB.
DAWSON: CAN YOU LET US DOWN FOR NOW? AS SOON AS KIM SHOWS, WE’LL–
TOM (off panel): IT’S NOT GOING TO BE THAT EASY.
JACOB: GODDAMNIT, SHARDER!
TOM: YOU KNOW? I THINK I’VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF THIS!
KIM (off panel): DAD!
TOM (far right): OH, THANK GOD.
KIM: IF I’D KNOWN…
TOM: I KNOW, SWEETHEART.
JACOB: YOU TWO JUST REMEMBER WHO WAS HERE FIRST.
This one doesn’t require much explanation. Once Noel and I are both happy with the layouts, he goes to work. A few weeks later, I end up with something like this waiting in my inbox…
I know, I know. Someone shouldn’t get to work with an artist THIS talented on their first book. But hey, someone has to be the exception that proves the rule. Might as well be me.
Yesterday I shared an excerpt from THE BROADCAST’s script, today I want to give you a look at the next step — layouts.
Essentially, Noel takes the script and does a very rough version of the illustrated page. It’s a vital step in the process because it gives us a chance to make sure the story is being told visually.
While you want the art to work hand-in-hand with the dialogue that will eventually be included, a good artist will tell the story without a word on the page. Just look at the first set of layouts…
Already, we know three men are meeting behind closed doors (see how Noel stuck that panel in — and rightfully so).
We know that two of these guys are here to see the old man, and we know they’re pressing him about something (see how one of them is leaning forward, hands on the desk?)
We know it isn’t going well. Just look at the body language in panel five. Even in these rough drawings you can see he is getting upset.
And finally, we know the situation reaches a boiling point when the young guy finally snaps and pounds a fist onto the desk.
You’ll notice Noel added two panels to the second page. The last panel is a particularly important addition.
I initially wrote this page to end with Jacob’s dirty look — but showing Gavin and Eli as they watch Jacob storm away is a far stronger moment to end with. After all, Gavin and Eli are two of our most important characters. Leaving this scene without showing their dumbfounded reaction would have been a huge mistake.
This week I wanted to give a behind-the-scenes look at how Noel and I collaborated on THE BROADCAST.
Below I’ve attached a small script excerpt that takes place near the beginning of the book’s second act. I’d love to tell you this is the first step in the creative process, but I’m just not that good. The truth is, this is what my scripts look like after endless outlining, note-taking and re-writing.
You’ll notice I use a sparse writing style, and it’s a very deliberate move on my part. While I usually have an idea how a panel should look, the truth is I try to give the artist as little description as possible. After all, he’s probably going to have better ideas on how the story should be told visually — why am I going to handcuff him with a list of things he “HAS” to include?
Emma and Sharon share a couch in the Shrader living room, three children crammed between them.
Tom sits calmly behind his desk as Jacob and Dawson try to plead their case.
Jacob is in a chair. Dawson stands. The old man’s fingers are steepled in front of him.
DAWSON: PLEASE, TOM. YOURS IS THE ONLY HOUSE WITH A STORM SHELTER FOR TWENTY MILES.
TOM: THE CHURCH IN TOWN HAS A CELLAR.
JACOB: AN’ IT’S FILLED TEN TIMES OVER BY NOW.
Tom leans forward.
TOM: I UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU TWO WANT, I DO. BUT UNTIL MY DAUGHTER IS SAFE NONE OF THIS IS OPEN FOR DISCUSSION.
Jacob fights to keep his anger at bay.
JACOB: BUT MY DAUGHTER’S HERE.
TOM (off panel, softly): I KNOW THAT, JACOB.
Dawson’s talking to Tom but has his eyes on Jacob as he does. He wants to make sure Jacob doesn’t lose his cool.
DAWSON: CAN YOU LET US DOWN FOR NOW? AS SOON AS KIM SHOWS, WE’LL…
TOM: IT’S NOT GOING TO BE THAT EASY.
Jacob slams his fist down on the desk. It catches everyone off guard. They jump back from the outburst.
JACOB: GOD DAMN IT, SHRADER!
Tom comes out of his seat, enraged and ready to let Jacob have it.
Dawson comes between the two as Tom rounds the desk. He has a hand up to each man, hoping he can stop them both.
KIM (off panel): DAD!
All three men turn to see Kim coming into the room.
TOM: OH, THANK GOD.
Kim and her father embrace.
KIM: IF I’D KNOWN…
TOM: I KNOW, SWEETHEART.
Jacob looks over at Gavin and Eli who just appeared in the doorway. He doesn’t look happy.
Fuming, Jacob storms out of the room. He eyes Gavin and Eli as he goes.
JACOB: YOU TWO JUST REMEMBER WHO GOT HERE FIRST.
Putting the book together has been a lot of fun because it’s given me a chance to look through some of the early material that was created in the project’s development.
For Noel, the first step was to develop a look for each of the characters. The “behind-the-scenes” material in the book will give everyone a look at the earliest sketches Noel created, but here’s a quick look at the final designs and a little bit about each of the players in THE BROADCAST…
Eli and Gavin Baker
Eli’s worked his whole life to give Gavin the life he never had. When things got tough for the Indiana farmer, Eli went to the bank and mortgaged everything he had – including his farm – to ensure their survival and a future for his son. Now, Gavin’s returned from a four year stint at university and is making plans to follow the love of his life to New York – if only they can convince her overbearing father to let them go.
Thomas, Emma and Kimberly Shrader
After losing both sons to the war, Thomas moved his family from Chicago to the Indiana plains in hopes he could start anew and atone for the mistakes he made with his boys. That said, years later history seems to be repeating itself. Just as his sons left to enlist, never to be heard from again – now his daughter is talking about a move to New York with the Baker boy he’s never approved of – something he’s ready to prevent by any means necessary.
Jacob and Ally Lee
A broken man, Jacob has allowed a string of bad luck to twist him into a man fueled by jealousy and rage. While he does his best to suppress these poisonous emotions in the name of his little girl, raising her alone is a constant reminder of why he’s become so angry in the first place — a powder keg ready blow.
Dawson and Sharon Winters
The Winters are a typical family trying to make their way out of the Great Depression. Like his friend Jacob, Dawson sold his farm to Thomas Shrader and now works the land he used to own. Unlike Jacob, however, the Winters count their blessings, knowing there is always someone in the world suffering a bit more than them.
It’s been three long years since I commissioned Francesco Francavilla to illustrate a cover for THE BROADCAST. Three years!! That’s a long time, especially in comics. They’ve two Harry Potter movies in that time, I think.
I’m sure Francesco reached a point where he assumed it wasn’t going to come out. Part of me thinks he probably forgot about it all together. Anyway, I was ecstatic to send him an e-mail a while back to let him know we finally had a publisher and the gorgeous piece he did was going to see print.
To celebrate the book’s debut next month, Francesco did a new piece over on his Pulp Sunday blog that features Orson Welles. I’ve already requested a print. I’ve pasted it below, but I highly suggest everyone take a look at his blog. He is incredibly talented and is a future star in comics. We’re going to work together someday… he just doesn’t know it yet.
There’s an old saying that every writer has a million bad words in them, and that the only way you can become a decent writer is to get through those first million words as fast as you possibly can.
Now, I can’t say for sure if I’ve written a million words. I think the chances are pretty high. I’ve written an awful lot. But while I can’t tell you for certain how many words I’ve put on the page, I can tell you there was a moment when writing THE BROADCAST when I felt as if the last bad word had escaped and I was finally writing something readers would find special.
Most my stuff sees huge changes as I re-write, but this scene is almost word-for-word exactly as I wrote it the first time out. I’ve written better stuff since. Heck, it probably isn’t even the best scene in THE BROADCAST. But this scene holds a special place in my heart. It was the first time I ever sat down, read my work and believed I actually had a chance to sell the damned thing. :o)