Discover more from The Writer's Labyrinth
TABLE OF CONTENTS
My Personal History With The Medium of the Month
Lessons I’ve Learned Writing Comics
Yeah But How Does Writing This Help Me Write Other Things (And Vice Versa)?
Adapting Your Idea Into Comics
Comic Breakdown for Paid Subscribers Update/Teaser
The Hobby Report
I know, I know — I’m late! Please forgive me, last month was a whirlwind. Three countries, two premiers, and an issue 7 of Tim Drake: Robin release. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like a lot is happening when I’m sitting on my couch writing these, only for me to remember… it’s been a hectic time.
The big news in out today is — JUSTICE LEAGUE x RWBY: SUPER HEROES AND HUNTSMAN! We premiered this at WonderCon on Saturday, to a room of a thousand people, and it went so well. Everyone laughed at the funny moments and gasped at the sad moments, and no one booed (my perpetual fear of doing panels is that someone will boo.) And honestly, you shouldn’t just pick up JLxRWBY because of the writing — the performances are STELLAR, and the animations are beautiful. I’m so excited for you to see all the amazing pieces of this movie come together.
Also out today — TIM DRAKE: ROBIN #8! The final arc is out today, and I think we go out with a bang, if I do say so myself…
Which leads me to…
MY PERSONAL HISTORY WITH THE MEDIUM OF THE MONTH
Animation! I’ve always loved animation. We weren’t really allowed to watch much growing up. My joke is that I’d seen every movie, as long as it was made before 1960. But there was an exception in my home for animated movies. Disney was revered in my family, and Disney World was home. There was never any question if we would watch the new Disney movie, that was just part of my family’s identity.
Also, when you’ve got five children, you need something to entertain them on days you need five minutes to yourself. We became connoisseurs of cartoons, perusing our local Blockbuster or the dollar bin at Wal-Mart to find films we hadn’t seen before (often, they were films no one had seen before — there’s an Australian Peter Pan adaptation that I loved, much to my mother’s chagrin).
When we finally did get a TV, it was reliably always tuned to one of three channels: Disney, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network.
But, of all of them, it was Cartoon Network that introduced me to my three favourite cartoons, the shows I’m constantly trying to mimic in my own style.
Scooby Doo - Scooby Doo is one of my earliest memories. Specifically, the memory of fear. I remember being at my grandparents house, we were planning on going somewhere, but we had to wait on someone, there were always a lot of people to wrangle. So, the TV was put on, turned to an episode of Scooby Doo. What trouble could Scooby Doo cause? I watched quietly as I waited. The Scooby gang were investigating reports of some sort of sea monster, and they visited an old captain that claimed to have been chased by the monster. But, when they went back to ask the captain more questions — he was still, pointing to a message etched in the wood of the table. That was the first time I had seen “death” (I put it in quotation marks because the sea captain was the one behind the sea monster, obviously). I will never forget the cold terror of knowing that this person had once been alive and now wouldn’t move again (again, can’t stress this enough, he was the bad guy). I was terrified… but also, I felt a little proud. Even at that age, I knew the people in charge of writing the cartoon expected me to be okay. They expected me to be brave. This led to a belief I still hold today — that we shouldn’t be afraid to push the limits of what we think kids can handle. So much of animation is so sanitised today. I’m not saying there should be full frontal nudity, but I am saying we should analyse why we think kids can’t handle certain content. Is it for their sake or ours? As the C.S. Lewis said, “Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.”
Code Lyoko - The second show that fully changed my brain chemistry when I first watched it was the French anime, Code Lyoko. I had already watched anime at this point, becoming obsessed with Dragon Ball Z. But it was Code Lyoko that really surprised me. It provided the stakes I was sorely missing from so many of the cartoons at the time. For those of you unaware of Code Lyoko, it’s about four friends in the real world who discover a digital world, with a young girl trapped within the digital realm. But she’s not the only one trapped. A terrible presence known as XANA is also trapped, trying to break the bonds of the digital world and bring chaos. Every episode is about how Xana tries to kill everyone, almost accomplishing his mission, if not for our heroes who make sure they can “return to the past now”, erasing everything from the memories of everyone else. The stakes? High. The drama? Couldn’t be higher. Not just because of this clearly intense premise… but when I tell you there is a “ship” that broke me, I am not joking. Two of the characters are so clearly in love, but are both so stubborn, and the series manages to make miscommunication and hurt feelings absolutely realistic.
Justice League - This last one is a little more obvious as my own inspiration. For Justice Society: World War II, Jeremy and I both harkened back to some of the classic Justice League episodes, and for JLxRWBY, I pulled heavily from a particular episode in the later season, Justice League Unlimited (an episode you can watch if you buy the DVDs!) It combined the scares and stakes of Scooby Doo, with the drama and interpersonal emotions of Code Lyoko, to create what I constantly source as one of my favourite TV show of all time.
LESSONS I’VE LEARNED WRITING ANIMATION
So, what lesson come from writing animation?
Similar to Comics 101, there are two lessons that stand out to me as important lessons when it comes to writing animation.
The first? Think big. Why are you doing animation? Yes, it’s easier to animate superheroes than put in costly VFX. But that’s can’t be the only reason. Take Star Trek the Animated Series. I’ve recently watched it, and I’ve been really struck by how they use the animation to include more aliens that are clearly less humanoid. When working on Supernatural, we were always very wary of creatures and using things like masks. It’s difficult to make alien creatures look realistic in live action, no matter how much VFX you use. Think beyond special powers. Remember the incredible art we talked about in Comics 101? Now imagine that it moves. How does it move? Make it as cool and as unique as you can imagine. There are other limitations to animation, but every single animator wants to make your writing as cool as possible, so give them something to play with.
However, the other lesson? Be mindful. When writing animation, you usually have to number your dialogue. While live action is limited by page count, animation is also limited by page count, and dialogue. And when I’m talking dialogue, I’m not just talking the words the characters are speaking. I’m talking impact grunts, sighs, gasps. All those things have to be animated, and all those things have to be voiced by the actor. Even if you’re not producing the animation, you still have to make your producer’s life easier by making sure you capture or pinpoint everything that is important to be spoken or visualised.
YEAH BUT HOW DOES WRITING THIS HELP ME WRITE OTHER THINGS (AND VICE VERSA)
If you can write animation, you can write audio drama. Most of my producers will get mad at me for saying this, since animation is about visuals. But the mechanics of writing animation are so similar to writing for audio that it deserves to be said. You are creating an image in the mind of your audience with audio, and in animation, you’re creating an image for your animator to make real. You have to think about footsteps, about how a fight works. Writing audio made me a better animation writer, I have no doubt.
Writing animation also helped me write live action. Because of how mindful you have to be in animated scripts, you end up carrying that over into your live action scripts, paying attention to things most live action writers take for granted. In fact, one of the biggest issues currently facing live action writers is the lack of producing your own episodes. Writing animation actually gives you many of those on the ground training pieces you eventually learn on set.
ADAPTING YOUR IDEA INTO ANIMATION
So you have an idea that you think will make a great animation. You’ve watched the movies or shows, you’ve read scripts, but how do you develop that idea?
First, answer the question — why is this animation? If the answer is, “because no one will make this live action,” then it won’t work. It may be a failed live action idea, but you have to want it to be animated. Animation is not second place to live action. Animation is a beautiful art form that has so much power, and it is constantly derided by people in the entertainment industry. Part of this is Walt Disney’s fault, because he didn’t want to pay people. But other reasons are because people don’t understand how difficult animation actually is — and as with many things often geared for younger audiences, it is seen as not as important. So… check in on your own opinions about animation before you try to enter into an industry of people who actually do want to be there.
Second, we go back to the lessons I’ve learned — think big. Does your idea have a talking dog? Why not? Can it have something like a talking dog? If you’re writing it for younger audience, what is the toy? Free yourself up to think like the kid you once were. Animation is where you get to flex all those crazy ideas you’ve had, the ones that have always felt a little impossible. The best thing about animation is that everything is possible, especially when it comes to original ideas. This is where the interesting things are happening at the moment. Pull out your coolest idea, the one that you’ve always felt is just a little too “out there”. That idea is for animation.
ANIMATION BREAKDOWN FOR PAID SUBSCRIBERS UPDATE/TEASER
This month’s animation breakdown will be… not one. But two. For those of you paid subscribers… keep an eye out over the next two weeks. I will be doing an animated pilot script that is near and dear to my heart… but I will also be putting up a scene from JUSTICE LEAGUE x RWBY to talk through!
THE HOBBY REPORT
So for the past two months I’ve been working on antique restoration. Back in February, my partner and I went to Brussels, which is known for its antique markets. There, we found this beautiful wall mounted coffee grounder that was about 100 years old. We got it for 18€. Ever since then, I’ve been very focused on fixing this beautiful piece up, and what that looks like. How do you restore porcelain? How do you fix metal? Luckily, I’ve found my way onto restoration TikTok once or twice, and knew a few of the steps I had to take.
Disassemble it. No matter how rusted everything was. And trust me, there were some rusted pieces. I spent a good hour one night, completely destroying the screw so I could take apart the mechanisms. I got really familiar with my local hardware store. And not just for screw removal.
After I was able to pull everything apart, I had to do something called “sandblasting”. I’ve been wanting to sandblast for the last few years, ever since I first heard about out it when working on a boat in a marina. And I was terrified. I had no idea how to do it. But, thanks to a sale on amazon and some googling about renting an air compressor, I was able to sandblast!
Restoring this coffee grinder has been so fun. I will make sure to show you once we’ve got it all done!
That’s all for now! Until next month,