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Monday, January 11, 2016

Home of the brave, land of the fee

So, strange though this seems to me, over the past two years or so, I've been contacted by a few professional artists who have, apparently, found my writing -- specifically, samples of my original comics scripting and plotting and what have you --  somewhere out there on the internet and, apparently, been impressed by it.  Enough so that they've contacted me and indicated a willingness to work with me on some sort of project... they would do the art,  I would do the writing, we'd both get credit as co-creators, and we would all live happily ever after.

As time has gone on in these collaborative efforts, however, one thing has become glaringly obvious:

I'm an asshole who doesn't play well with others.

Well, we all knew that, though.  Another thing that became glaringly obvious -- these guy aren't really looking for a writer.  They're looking for a polisher.

Here's the thing about me -- I'm a poor to mediocre artist.  I understand things about art, about atmosphere and nuance and body language and, most importantly  in the sequential art subgenre of comic books, that odd thing called 'storytelling' -- which is, essentially, a combination of simulating motion and sound in a medium that has neither, while showing the reader what is going on without them having to make some kind of effort to figure it out, at the same time subtly and unobtrusively directing the reader's eye from panel to panel across a sometimes quite chaotic comics page in a way that all the various images make sense and, well, tell a story.

I can't DO it, certainly not to a professional standard, but I know enough about it not to, for example, script an opening page of a comic book that has six panels on it, five of which introduce each member of a superhero team, all of whom have highly visual powers and one of whom is ten feet tall, and the final panel of which takes up the lower half of the page, and which is supposed to show the entire team charging dramatically into action, against a gigantic robot.

On the other hand, I'm a pretty decent writer, and very knowledgeable in the particular sub-category of superhero comics writing.  I haven't done it professionally, but I was mentored in college by two famous, prestigious, very well thought of, successful, and award winning pros, and I've written probably hundreds of pages of comics scripts, mostly for my own projects which were never produced because, alas, I cannot draw and do not know any artists who want to draw my stories.

Which brings us back around to these guys who contacted me, wanting to 'work with' me on 'a project'.  A project that they would draw, and I would write.

Now, when I say 'write', I mean, essentially, create.  Come up with the basic idea, develop it, find its themes and its subtexts, create characters for it, come up with arcs for those characters, come up with story ideas and plots, take it from a rough concept to something finished and polished, break it down into panels, script the word balloons, the thought balloons, the sound effects, and the captions.

Give you an example.  The first artist who contacted me, close to two years ago now, had an idea -- he wanted to do a superhero team comprised entirely of clones, in the Marvel Universe.  He did not, he told me quite emphatically, want to do an X-book.    He did not want X-clones in this book (although he undermined this a bit by insisting we have Madeline Pryor in it, but, whatever.)

I thought this was a magnificent idea.  Clones, you see, infest the Marvel Universe like lice.  They're a terrible plot device used by wretched hack writers.  But, within the universe itself, they're also... interesting.  See, a clone is a discarded object, a throwaway person.  Clones are generally created by supervillains, for some nefarious purpose... you clone Spider-man because you want to replace the real Spider-man with a duplicate that is under your mental control.  In fact, this is generally always the basic plot behind a clone story... someone comes up with a clone of This Big Important Character so they can kill This Big Important Character, replace him with the clone, and then operate the clone like a puppet.

There are other reasons... unbearable grief at the loss of a loved one is a biggie.  Or, we're going to transplant our brain into this clone's body... the Red Skull did that, when he cloned Steve Rogers.

Whatever the case, though, clones are never brought into being from a place of love.  They are objects, meant to be used in an evil scheme.  Chattel.  And if they survive the failure of the evil scheme, which often times they do, then... they are lost.  The Big Important Character they were created to replace is still alive, and living the life, filling the role that they were designed, intended, and created to take over.  They have nowhere to go, nothing to do, no purpose.

So my collaborator's idea was, some outside force, some evil being or organization, starts killing all the clones in the Marvel Universe.  Several of the clones, most if not all of which have superpowers, hear about this, and decide to band together for mutual survival.  And to sort of hide in plain sight, they all take on new superheroic identities, and enter the public eye as a new superhero team, in hopes that if they establish their heroic cred well enough, eventually they can ask for help from, like, the Fantastic Four, or the Avengers, or someone.

I loved this idea.   And I spent around three months bouncing ideas, via email, off my collaborator.  I came up with all these wonderful concepts for the team... who could be in it, what kind of new heroic identities they would adopt, how they would interact with each other, who the Clone Killer was... all kinds of cool shit.

Until, eventually, it became apparent that my collaborator, who knew absolutely nothing about what made this concept workable and appealing (and to be fair, cared less) simply wanted to create a team of cloned heroes in the Marvel Universe... so he could have Namorita in it.

Now, Namorita is a clone, but she wasn't created to replace anyone.  She has a place in the world, her own unique identity, and a family.  She's not a cast off or a reject, she doesn't need to join a team for protection against some Clone Killer... she's the beloved younger cousin of  Namor, the Sub-mariner, and through him, friends with some of the most powerful superheroes in the Marvel Universe.  She simply and absolutely does not belong in the superteam I was creating... but it didn't matter to my collaborator, any more than it mattered that she was, sadly, dead.  (To be fair, it hardly ever matters if a character you want to use is dead, There's Always A Way.)

Anyway, this is just one example where my collaborator, who was going to draw this team book while I wrote this team book, insisted on overriding me in an area that I felt was, you know, mine... because it had to do with, you know, the writing.

So, we went our separate ways.

And, just recently, I've had this happen again.  Another pro artist contacted me, evincing interest in 'working with' me 'on a project'.  He had a kinda cool idea, I liked it, I started filling it out and expanding it and, frankly, improving it, and that went along for a week or so... and then he dug his heels in and said "no, we're not going to do it your [awesome] way, we're going to do it my [much more boring] way'.

Rob Liefeld once expressed utter disbelief, a complete lack of comprehension, for why his Image Comic TEAM YOUNGBLOOD was generally received with such... lack of enthusiasm.  Especially as to why people thought the writing was so terrible.

Liefeld's reasoning was, there was no difference between the product called TEAM YOUNGBLOOD, which he created and drew and had some writer-guy do dialogue and captions for at Image, and the product known as X-FORCE, which he somewhat co-created and drew and then had some writer guy (who had also done a lot of basic conceptualization on the team, and quite a bit of the plotting) do dialogue and captions for at Marvel.

He simply could not, and for all I know, still can not, grasp the difference between the guy who wrote X-FORCE, whose name is Fabian Nicieza and who is one FUCK of a talented, skilled, popular, and successful comics writer and editor, and the guy who 'wrote' TEAM YOUNGBLOOD, whose name is Hank Kanalz and who is some guy Liefeld went to high school with.

Because to Liefeld, the 'writer' doesn't matter.  Yeah, the product needs words, even the most graphics crazy comics nerd won't buy a comic that doesn't have dialogue  in it.  It's sad (for idiot non-writer artists, anyway) but true.  But as far as Liefeld is concerned, ANYone who managed to get Bs in a high school composition course can put coherent words in the little bubbles.  What matters is the art.  The art was the same 'quality' in both TY and X-F, so, why did people rave about one and heap scorn and derision on the other?  It is a puzzlement, for sooth.

I don't think it's a coincidence that both artists who contacted me to 'work with' me 'on a project' came out of Image Comics.  They seem to have exactly Liefeld's attitude towards the task of actually writing a comic book... it's not hard.  It's not like it takes talent or something.  Sure, they can't do it themselves... if you could see these guys' emails to me, you'd understand that they are among the vast vast majority of human beings who could not craft an elegant sentence or create a stylish phrase if the only alternative was being bastinadoed at dawn and then defenestrated at noon.   They know that they can't write to even minimum professional standards... but, still... the words in the little bubbles just aren't that IMPORTANT.  What matters, as far as they're concerned, is the art.

Well, I'm done with this, so I'm putting this out there right now:

If you want me to 'work on a project' with you, here's my fee schedule:


Scripting your completed pages of art:     $25 per page.  I'll need 72 hours per page.  Send me Xeroxes of the artwork and anything you have that tells me what kind of characterizations you want to see and that explains the story and plot to me, assuming the artwork doesn't.

Full script from your plot/rough concept/basic ideas:  $50 per page.  Same turnaround time.  Send me what you got.

Brainstorming - You've got a bright idea, but you feel it needs some work.  Some fleshing out.  Some development.  Some execution.   Or it needs a plot.  Or characters.  Or a setting.  Or a theme, or a subtext, or something else you really don't know the word for but you're sure it's important.   $100 per email.  I write long emails with lots of great ideas in them.  Use 'em, don't use 'em, I don't care.  Same turn around time.

All fees are payable in advance.  My Paypal address is docnebula01 at juno.com.   Drop me a line at damadigan at gmail.com (use your sentience to turn those into a real email addresses, please) advising me you've deposited my fees.  I'll check it out, and if the money's there, I'll write you back and tell you to send me what you got, and the clock will start ticking on your project.

All fees are also negotiable -- upward.

All work I do for you is work for hire.  When the pages get lettered, I expect to be credited.  The name I generally write under is 'D.A. Madigan', but I reserve the right to designate a pseudonym if you hired me to do dialogue on something as shitty as, well, anything Image ever published that wasn't written by an actual writer.

If you want me to ghost write something for you, I'm happy to consider it, but my fees will increase significantly.

I type fast, I'm knowledgeable and talented and skilled... and this way, I won't have any illusions that you actually want me to write something and I actually have any say about how this project is going to come out.

Am I really this insane?  If you've read anything else on this blog, well, you know the answer to that, but, really, I do not expect anyone to seriously give me any money for any of these services.  The people who have contacted me clearly felt I should be honored to have the opportunity to polish their work up for them, to put words in the little bubbles in their service, and both were very offended when I eventually made it clear that if they wanted me to 'work on a project' with them where they would draw and I would write, I expected to actually WRITE.

Now... on the other hand, if you are a competent comics artist and you want to draw any of my various concepts or projects, examples of which can be found here and here and here and here, just for starters... well, then.  Pick any of those links, draw me up a few pages and email me scans so I can see what you can do, and we'll probably talk.

I'm perfectly willing to write for an artist on a spec basis, as long as I'm actually WRITING, which means, in creative control of all of the actual writing aspects of the project... I make final decisions on characters, plots, arcs, subtexts, themes, story content, all that good stuff.  The artist... DRAWS it.

Any other arrangement is fine... as long as I get paid up front.

To sum up:

Dialogue and text on finished artwork - $25 per page

Full script from conceptual notes -  $50 per page.

Brainstorming - $100 per email.

72 hours per page/email turnaround time.

Fees payable in advance, and negotiable -- upwards.

I get credited in the name I designate when the pages get lettered.   If you want me to ghost for you, I'll consider it, but my fees will increase significantly.

And that's a wrap.

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