13 April 2008

"And Here’s a Site for a Detail”

Last month Newsarama ran an interview with Peter J. Tomasi, the current writer of the Nightwing comic book. (And Nightwing is...? Anyone? The lady in the back? Yes! He's Dick Grayson, the original Robin, all grown up and fighting crime on his own. Which makes this another weekly Robin posting.)

Within that interview was a link for downloading part of Tomasi's script for Nightwing #140 in MS Word form, provided to the eager public to illustrate his method of writing action scenes.

I found that script interesting for a number of reasons. Like many others from experienced comics writers, it addresses the artist--in this case, Rags Morales--directly in a conversational tone. I haven't seen that in any other type of script or manuscript besides comics.

As with other comics scripts I've seen, the level of detail that Tomasi put into his action descriptions is striking. I'm used to the required minimalism of children's picture-book manuscripts, and the comics business's approach appeals to the control-freak in me.

But what really seemed new to me was Tomasi's use of weblinks to provide Morales with reference images and information.


panel 1
Inside the Cloisters, FIVE THIEVES DRESSED COMPLETELY IN BLACK, decked out in hi-tech thief gear, infrared goggles hang from their neck or are atop their head, and cool-ass looking P90 submachine guns (website: http://www.fnherstal.com/html/Index.htm).

They are in a chapel where two tombs/effigys lie in the middle of the stone floor. Also, there's a hole in the stone floor where they entered and we can see a cylindrical hi-tech type of digger laying next to the hole (Rags, call me about this). There's a beautiful stained glass window that the moonlight streams through, and a large wooden chandelier with UNLIT candles. Here's a place for you to go to see a shot of the chapel: http://www.mrfs.net/trips/2001/New_York_City/Upper_Manhattan/gothic_chapel.jpg

And here's a site for a detail of the stained glass:

Also Rags, Google the: Tomb of Jean D'Alluye and look at images, cause that's one of the tombs I'd like you to make sure we see since it's the reason they're there.

panel 2
Closer on our Thieves, as they take great care and struggle to try and open the tomb of Jean D'Alluye. Two of the thieves are using a small, handheld laser to cut around the sealed stone lid as the others stand guard with weapons ready.

panel 3
Overhead shot as our thieves are successful, we see them opening the tomb lid to reveal the skeletal remains of Jean D'Alluye, laid out just like the tomb cover bas relief carving, with his crusader shield and sword.

panel 4
Another angle now, moments have passed and they have already removed the skeleton and are now in the process of carefully zipping up the sturdy black body bag that it's now in. They are unaware that in the background, TWO SMALL BALL-LIKE DEVICES with Nightwing's symbol on it, have been tossed up from the hole and are at the moment in mid-air ready to go...
Decades ago, Batman co-creator Bill Finger was famous for clipping articles and photos to his typewritten scripts for artists to rely on. With web addresses and the dominance of Microsoft software, such sources can now be embedded in the scripts themselves.

Back at the start of Oz and Ends's first COMICS AND NON-COMICS WEEK, comics artist David Lee Ingersoll commented:
I'd say that the best script is the one that gives the artist everything he/she needs to do the job well. Sometimes that means providing reference material for the artist if the artist has been asked to draw something obscure. (The internet has made this a lot less necessary. Yay internet!)
I'm not sure whether David was thinking of URL-rich scripts like this one or being able to use the internet when he had to do his own research. Tomasi might be unusually sensitive to artists' needs since he was editor of Nightwing and other magazines for over a decade before returning to writing; he therefore probably heard every artist's complaint about scripts, and every excuse there is for the art (or script) not to be delivered on time.

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