Full Script, Marvel Style or something inbetween...

edited February 2014 in Do The Work

So, I'm not around much anymore and now that I show up there is a chance I'm just causing trouble.

This (http://gillen.cream.org/wordpress_html/4419/decompressed-006-mark-waid-and-matt-fraction-on-the-marvel-method/) has been on my mind... for a long time, but has been given a lot more thought lately. Full script vs Marvel Method is what it breaks down to, sort of. Those are kind of two extremes, and it can just mean where in the spectrum from really detailed script to really open script does your comfort zone lay.

For me... and I haven't talked to any other artists about this, so this is only my opinion, reading a script is painful. That may be a little harsh, so maybe difficult is a better word. I have to prep myself to get into a script. I've heard it said that some writers write their script to entertain the artist. This seems impossible, as a script really isn't a formatmeant to be read for entertainment... only to convey information. If I want to be entertained, then I will read prose (which I really do enjoy doing).

My favorite part of the linked podcast is the discussion of artists going through Alan Moore scripts, highlighting the necessary and crossing out everything else. I can see this as streamlining the working process down the road nicely.

Considering that many of the original group to this site came from an old forum that was an off shoot of a Warren Ellis forum, I can guess where a lot of opinions will land... but I might be surprised. So, thoughts from others (writers and artists) on either side of this debate.



  • I think, if I have this right, that the Marvel Method is to write the story by scenes, not panel-to-panel.  Is that right?  I admit, I'm not clear on the concept.  I don't want to give an opinion without understanding the definitions.
  • @Jimmie_Robinson ; Yeah.  Marvel method was giving a basic description of each page.  It was developed when Stan Lee was writing every comic for Marvel, and couldn't write full scripts due to time constraints.  It would be like "this page this action happens ending with blank, next page a group of panels showing a heated conversation between the members of blank gang, their crime being foiled, next page..."  the story would be drawn, sent to the writer and then dialogue would be added after to flesh things out.
  • Could you summarize the podcast so we know what the point is?
  • edited February 2014
    Writers are going to be on both sides of the plot/"Marvel style" vs. full script.

    So are artists. Basically, the freedom it gives the artist comes at the price of adding a whole lot more work for the artist. Some are going to like the freedom; some are going to hate the extra work. One of my collaborators was just complaining about how much extra work he had to do on a "Marvel style" project he'd just done — because he had to make *all* the staging choices, and basically ended up co-writing the story without actually getting a "Co-Writer" credit (or extra pay!).

    It always reminds me of filmmaking. If you're a scriptwriter, you AREN'T writing specific camera angles, sequences etc. in. Because those are up to the director to decide on. So "plot style" is much more like screenwriting, while "full script" is like being a screenwriter plus a director, while the artist is everybody else involved (wardrobe, lighting, camera, actors, etc). I don't know if I would be comfortable writing like that — because there are so many tricks of pacing, staging etc. that are flat-out impossible unless they're written in a script. (Plus it's much easier for the writer to write an impossible sequence if they aren't breaking things down into panels and making sure speaking order is right, there isn't too much critical stuff going on in a page, etc.)
  • Sure (and understandable, I should have thought of doing this initially).

    Kieron Gillen interviews Matt Fraction and Mark Waid:

    Apparently, full script writing has been the big way of doing things for a while now.  This hasn't always been the case.  Mark Waid describes how DC was the house of full scripts while Marvel (having developed the "Marvel Style" out of necessity) did more of a back-n-forth between writer and artist, to the point that the collaboration was sometimes plotter->artist->dialogue-er... all separate people.

    Mark Waid has worked both ways, and says that you can get some awesome results from the Marvel method (he also gives an example of a case of some real crap).  This is something that Matt and Kieron are just now exploring a bit more.  Enjoying the results so far and wondering why they write the way they do.  It comes down a lot to finding an artist you are comfortable/have a strong connection with, to work in a more open fashion.
  • and apparently Queseda give Bendis a lot of crap about how the best books Marvel ever made were done in the Marvel style... just to get under his skin.
  • edited February 2014
    Whenever I read about the Marvel plot style I always get concerned (as an artist) because the way I see it, the artist assumes *more* of the storytelling role.  I'm okay with that, but as noted in a well-written article at Multiversity we're kind of living in the era of the writer.  Matt Fraction's Hawkeye, Jeff John's run on fill-in-the-blank, Rick Remender's X-men, Bendis' Avengers, etc.  It's like the artist is secondary, or even third on the list when thinking about books nowadays.

    Thus, if the writers are getting the star treatment on stage then I expect those writers to give me a full script and leave me less guess work.  I can still innovate and add my own twist *on top* of what is already in the script -- but if it's never there then I'm almost writing the story with my artist-eye as a cinematographer.

    As always, as Brandon noted, this will vary from script-to-script, book-to-book, and story-to-story.  There is no one size fits all.  Even the old Marvel House Style is kinda gone.  A single run of a corporate book can have a number of artists working on it.
  • Apparently a bit of the Fraction/Aja stuff is Marvel style.  Matt said in a writers panel that he is one of the artists that really takes that opportunity to compose the page when given the freedom.
  • edited February 2014
    I believe the marking-up-Alan-Moore-scripts anecdote originated with Eddie Campbell, who was actually talking about going thru a script after reading it thru, and highlighting the bits that specifically described what Alan wanted him to draw.  Like you might do reviewing for a test.  So it's not that he was ignoring the rest, but rather letting it fade into the background of his mind so he could focus on the task at hand.
  • @JasonAQuest I've also heard it as parts that aren't necessary being crossed out.  There are a couple examples of this in the podcast... though I can't quote them off the top of my head. (I'll have to listen again later and edit that in).
  • @JohnBivens, I believe Dave Gibbons went through the Watchmen scripts with different colored highlighters, marking the stuff that was important, less important and who gives a damn.

    As for me: I write full script because I want the artist to know how I see the panels and the page. I see both as I'm writing -- and the putting-together of that puzzle is one of my favorite parts about writing comics. I have an excellent sense of pacing and a strong visual eye, so my layout requests are generally observed.

    HOWEVER: I always tell the artists I work with that if they can do it better, they should. Wanna change a row of verticals into a bunch of horizontals? Fine by me if it serves the story -- and as long as it doesn't screw up the pacing.

    The level of detail I go into in a script depends on whether I'm writing something without an artist attached yet or with an artist -- and also who that artist is. My scripts for @marvinmann are bare-bones, because I trust him and I know what he will deliver, and that it doesn't require a lot of instruction. My scripts for a new partner are more detailed, especially if the artist is relatively inexperienced and may need some hand-holding.

    My scripts for OLD WOUNDS, which John is drawing, are detailed for a different reason. We're building a new world in that story, designing places and characters as we go, and I put my suggestions in the script rather than doing a story bible. Also, because it's a crime story, there are specific things needed in specific places -- just as in the WWII stories I've done with Marv. And if I don't specifically request a type of weapon or uniform or provide photoref for that object, it may not be accurately reproduced.
  • I'm not even sure that when Stan was working with Jack it was even page by page, As I hear it, Stan often gave Jack a ride home and they jammed up a story idea which Jack then drew (in about five days it seems like) and Stan scripted. Recall that Stan had to ask Jack who the Silver Surfer was.

    Perhaps we'll try that someday, Russell.

    I have gone through scripts occasionally (not Russell's because we talk them out heavily before hand, nor Josh H.'s for the same reason) and deleted a bunch of stuff I don't need, in only to help me focus on what's critical.
  • And Russell, if you think what you write for me is bare bones, you should see what I write for myself. OK, that's not fair, because I'm in my own head, but not in yours.
  • The favorite script I've ever seen written, if just for how it was written, was an example that Scott Allie did at a Stumptown.  It wasn't a Marvel Style and it wasn't near what I've seen for full scripts.

    Scott would write out paragraphs that were anywhere from 3 to 6 sentences that were direct actions.  He would then treat each paragraph as a page and take a single sentence or two sentences as necessary and group those into a panel.  Once that was done he deleted anything that seemed like extra chuff and add dialogue to panels that needed it.  Very bare bones and very open to interpretation.  If I'm remembering correctly, for some sentences he would write (1-3 panels as you think).
  • And I'm the same when I write for myself @marvinmann .  I do a brief plot and thumb it from that point... it really isn't fair for us to compare it (as you've pointed out) since if we're doing the story the we are living with it constantly.
  • I've done both, and other stuff.

    I did Marvel style at DC, by their request. Actually I did it twice, once where I actually did write a plot script by their request, and once where they just used my breakdown as the script - my breakdowns are as detailed as Scott Lobdell's scripts. More so, actually.

    I don't like it.

    I'm not categorically against and it CAN work really well but for most of my WFH career, I have no idea who the artist is going to be, and so it's a complete gamble. It also more or less requires you to go back and dialogue over finished art, which for my own idiosyncratic reason, I don't like doing,

    Likewise, my scripts tend to be dialogue reliant (although not necessarily dialogue heavy) and so it's hard when I don't know that the artist will do.

    But that last bit is key - I would trust Tradd, for instance, to do Marvel style and indeed, will probably do a project that way with him. My scripts for him are already barely more than the most stripped down description possible, and he can and does change a bunch of panels in the process.

    But my Thanos and Darkseid Carpool Buddies of Doom stuff are written only as dialogue. There's no panel description or even pages specified. That's all Rafer. Again, because I know (and trust) how he works.

    Even within my usual script style, I don't put down page layouts (mostly) and I always tell the artist to let me know if they have a better way to do it.
  • @JohnBivens I would never do that... because there is no "chuff" in my panel descriptions. If I didn't think it was important, it wouldn't have been there in the first place. If I include it, it's because there's a reason — character, plot, moment, sequence, whatever.

    The issue becomes... making it clear to the artist WHY I included each bit, WHY when I say "Three characters in this panel, focus on characters 1 and 2, character 3 has his back to us and we can't see his face" I'm asking for that in specific. (In that example, it's probably because I feel the sequence requires a panel where characters 1 and 2 react that also sets up character 3, while hiding his own reaction until the next panel.) I'm getting better at remembering to articulate that in scripts... but when I'm explaining WHY I think each panel is necessary, that just makes the script longer. In a perfect world, if an artist didn't understand why I was asking for a specific thing, they'd ask me why. In the world I live in, that hasn't happened one. Single. Time. They just change stuff... and usually it turns out they didn't understand the point I was trying to make in the first place.

    Hence why I think I should make my scripts longer rather than shorter.
  • I write to benefit my audience, and in the case of a script, the audience is the artist. Many artists I've worked with prefer to have the page layout direction in the script itself, as well as as much detail and I can provide (and I don't go into a ton of detail - I like to let their imagination work a bit) since this is an area they personally stuggle in, or find that it's a big time sink for them.

    For the sake of efficiency and easier collaboration, I tend to write in full script with the panel layouts and a level of detail the artist has stated they enjoy receiving. That said, I would totally be down for providing less direction - Katie Cook just numbers her panels and gives basic descriptions on what's happening or who's talking for her MLP stories, for example - would be a fun exercise if the artist were comfortable working that way.

  • What's weird is I actually started out writing scripts as panel-less, but...y'know, there'd be six lines, with dialogue under each, or whatever. That's probably six panels? It doesn't have to be.

    Later, I switched to full script because. Well.

    On a good day, I've got a passion for the informational Tetris of page construction, especially since I also have a thing for digression and in-panel acting, and balancing those hard and soft storytelling needs is the puzzle and challenge and delight of writing comics.

    On a bad day, I'm an overly precious shot caller who's not as clever as he thinks he is.

    So, I'm currently a full-script guy, with the usual caveat that if the artist has a better way, they should go for it. I'm trying to be a lot less shot-call-y, but I'm doing a mixed job of it in the three things I'm scripting this year so far.

    I'd actually love to go back to that borderline Marvel-style-with-dialogue style I started out with; for me to feel like I'm doing my job, I need to have the plot and stage business/acting and dialogue in there, more than I need to call shots and layouts, per se. Layout wise, I like/think in 5-7 panels split on three tiers prrrrettty much always, which is how I know what I write in a full script will fit, but it's probably fundamentally stifling on the artist end even when I don't call out the actual grids.

    Misc. notes:

    - The right artist is key.

    - It's interesting that Jimmie (and Mike Allred, as mentioned in the podcast), despite being writer/artists, prefer having a full-script if they have to work with someone else.

    - Possibly because everyone involved thus far's a Western comicker, nobody's brought up the name/roughs version of scripting out of Japan, where the "script" is dialogued layouts that are either run past the editor first, or given from the writer to the final artist.

    I've done that...twice? I think? Once for an early version of R+M, and once for a project that hasn't happened yet, but where the artist has never drawn a comic in her life and wanted the layouts and a script to get used to the medium.

    - It's less brave now that John's said it, but: I hhhhhhhate reading
    scripts. Mine or others'. Pitches I love, but scripts are just always a
    slog. It's reason number two I never put myself out there when there's a call for peer kibitzing.
  • I despise reading my own scripts (and left to my own devices, I really don't) but I don't mind reading other people's. But it IS difficult reading for me.
  • Chuff was a bad choice of words, taken from a Bruce Willis story, @BrandonSeifert. I apologize for doing it.  Generally I find myself looking for the bare bones in a script to put together a really cohesive thumbnail before working.  If a writer includes a description of a panel layout then I'll try a thumb that way, and then I will do one or two more using my own visual language.  I guess in that sense I'm a serial killer of "darlings" when I write for myself I kill my own, and if someone puts a script near me I get that gleam in my eye that is reserved for the man on the corner trying to bite his own face.

    In a scripts defense, I don't know if upon conception it was meant to be something that entertained the couple of people that will look at it to develop the project.  It's simply a tool to convey the basic information that reaches the final project in the most successful way possible.  Reading one is like reading the instructions to put together a complicated piece of furniture... not entertaining but necessary.

    I wonder if when a writer attempts to make a script more palatable, if that is more of a candy coating for the editor or whomever may make the decision to green-light an initial project?
  • I know that @Jimmie_Robinson has seen this article and it links directly to his comment earlier.  I see the roles for the creatives in comics as (if not cyclical) always changing.  There will eventually be another time where comics are linked to the artists as much as they are the writer at the moment... or it may be a case were the audience embraces more folks like Jimmie or Mike Mignola, whom are the all around creative on a project. 

    Fraction has described the feeling of the dynamic between the writer and artist to be the reason he's played with Marvel style.  Wanting to make his collaborator feel more invested in the project.  I'm not sure if this actually works that way, but it's an interesting experiment.
  • I can only speak for myself... but it would kill me to create something under the marvel plot style (which asks me to be more creative for something that's *not* in the script) and have it NOT be something I own.
  • @Jimmie_Robinson - Why? Not saying you're wrong; I wouldn't create a new lead character at either company, that's my limit if it ever comes up. I'm just curious why you view method the same way I suspect I view content, basically.
  • @JohnBivens: To clarify, I wasn't upset or anything. But my point is, I don't right extraneous stuff into a script. If it's in a script, I thought it was important. So when artists cut stuff without asking why it was there in the first place, more often than not I find it causes problems... because there was an important reason why I was asking for it that they missed if they thought it was extraneous. (I'm talking about storytelling stuff here. If I suggest a panel layout, that's often less important — I may just be including it as an example of how the page could work and the relative importance I place on each panel. But then again, sometimes I need exactly what I'm asking for.)

    @joshhechinger, I totally understand where @Jimmie_Robinson is coming from — he's talking about being required to do more work, to put in more effort, for the same amount of pay and ownership as he would for a full plot story. I was in a similar position with my Marvel book, where although it was a Marvel book I basically had a creator-owned workload on the story, because I had to come up with all the characters, setting etc. from scratch. I wasn't working in their sandbox, I was building a new sandbox for them. It's not quite the same as what Jimmie's talking about; but they both come down to more work, more effort, same pay.
  • I wrote and deleted a long post that basically said the same things @RussellLissau did. I'm sure I've written that same post in other threads, and Russell has probably done the same.

    I have tried everything from full script to Marvel-style to screenplay to dialogue-only. I've worked with beginner artists to pros with a lot more experience than me. 

    In most situations, full script gives met the best results. It makes sure there are not storytelling holes for the artist to fall into, and if they manufacture a hole anyway it allows me to show them where they went wrong. Putting it in the script means that my intention is clear to the artist. If there's something difficult, full script should show the artist a path through it.

    Artists who are more confident will adjust or ignore the script and that's fine if it makes the story better--but they can't do that if they don't understand my intentions to begin with.
  • @BrandonSeifert - I sort of get that; I think it's the work/effort qualifier that's tripping me up on your example.

    See, your example is the kind of situation where I'd draw the line at doing it as straight WFH at all; if I'm creating a book or a sustained cast whole cloth, I expect either royalties or some kind of creator participation deal, at least.

    Whereas if I took a wholly WFH gig that happened to require more work than usual (let me use Daredevil as an example; I've got zero DD stories in me, that gig would be a wrench), I don't know that I'd expect more money on that, within reason.

    I guess I'm coming at WFH from an office job perspective. Like, I'm contracted to work 40 hours a week. There's weeks that kick my ass within the 40 hours a week I'm contracted to work, and there's weeks that don't, and I get paid the same either way. If I work more than 40 hours a week, there can be overtime pay.

    I guess I (and I stress "I") look at the method of creating a comic, on the art and writing levels, be they full-script, plot first, pencils only, pencils and inks, etc, as being the 40 hours a week of varying difficulty. Whereas creating original characters or concepts for a company's sustained use is more along the lines of above-and-beyond overtime, and should be compensated as such.

    That's maybe an oversimplification; a writer/artist doing an entire book by themselves should definitely be compensated more, just off the top of my head...

    Anyway, with me breaking it down into salaried time versus overtime...I can absolutely see a case for feeling that having to put more of yourself creatively into a WFH gig than what an average one requires of you as falling under overtime. I just sort of had to think through it out loud first.
  • My script for Michael on Amala is Marvel style, but with all the dialogue included. I don't break it down by panel. My script for Ryan on Monstrous is full script. I can work both ways, but either way, my scripts tend to be sparser than most. (My dialogue, too.) I don't want to overwhelm the artist with instruction, just like I don't want to overwhelm the page with dialogue. Same principles apply.

  • If anyone ever invites me to draw a comic from a "Marvel style" script, I intend to include the Silver Surfer in the story. Just because. :)
  • Going through Russell's script for Calypso part 2 and ruling in panels. I'm pretty much following his calls on panel sizes and arrangement from his full script because they work fine and why not? And it occurs to me that this is much like what a writer must do working Marvel style. When it comes time to create dialogue, you have to follow the artist's lead about how to tell the story, how to break up the panels and action.

    So a writer saying that they couldn't work Marvel style is tantamount that if they were an artist they would find it hard to work from full script.

    Who is in charge of the breakdowns? This is perhaps one of the reasons that some artists prefer to become their own writers.
Sign In or Register to comment.