On the latest episode of the Hyphen-Tanner Comics Podcast, Ryan and I were lucky enough to talk with Joe Keatinge, professional comics writer extaodinaire. Joe started in the business by working his way up through the Image offices, eventually co-editing the Popgun anthology before making the leap to freelance writing where he published his creator-owned project, Hell Yeah! with artist Andre Szymanowicz through Image. That lead to a writing gig on the relaunch of the Extreme titles where Joe penned the new Glory. It was his work on Glory that would open the doors from him to write for Marvel and DC.
Of course, I recommend listening to the podcast first and foremost, but because Joe had so much valuable information to share, I thought it would be a good idea to include a blog post as well. First, to recap Joe’s path as he “broke into the industry,” and then to let Joe, himself, go over one of his scripts for you and breakdown his process.
I. What came across to Ryan and I as we talked to Joe was not only did he have to play the long-game in order to reach this point in his career, but he never stopped hustling or looking for that next opportunity. He got his foot in the door at Image and did whatever they needed, including running convention booths for the likes of Eric Larsen and Robert Kirkman. Then when he was offered a chance to color flat some comics, he took it even though he wasn’t quite sure how it was done. He said “yes” when an opportunity presented itself and figured things out along the way.
This, of course, comes with the caveat that you still have to be good at what you’re doing (or at least reach that point fairly quickly once you start). As Joe said, someone can do all of what he just described and have it still not work out. If his Hell Yeah! script hadn’t been good, he wouldn’t have gotten the Glory gig, and if that hadn’t blown the Marvel editors out of the water, they wouldn’t have given him the job on Morbius. You still have to be at the craft, and part of that is understanding the job of comic script writing.
Alright, so on that note, let’s let Joe go over one of his scripts. To see the script he’s referring to, click here.
II. JOE KEATINE:
The attached script was my contribution to Riley Rossmo’s anthology, DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS entitled ‘Day Of the Dead 3000′. Beyond the surface level goal of telling stories connected into the themes of the Mexican Day of the Dead, the idea was to have Riley experiment with a number of styles. A lot of the stories — and they’re all quite good, including contributions from Peter Panzerfaust’s Kurtis J. Wiebe, Sheltered’s Ed Brisson, Ghosted’s Joshua Williamson, among many others — were either centered on crime or horror, usually with some really touching, somber moments. So, I decided to do a entirely over-the-top, somewhat drug-fueled look at the insanity of 1970s comics, specifically Jack Kirby’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and R. Crumb’s Zap Comix, while still telling a story with a larger theme and something of an emotional core. I thought it would be a great way to push Riley into doing something stylistically he hadn’t attempted before and I couldn’t be happier with the results. He absolutely killed it, as did colorist Megan Wilson.
A couple things on a technical level — it says “Draft 1.0”, but that’s a bit of a misnomer. What that actually means is it’s the first draft I think is suitable for human consumption. The truth is this is already quite a few drafts in. I also work a bit differently than most people, in that I do a lot of the rewriting very early on — in both an outline phase and as I’m writing. And then a bit more. And then I get to the level this script was at where I feel I can send it to someone else without having them think I’m insane. Then there are usually more changes. In most cases I usually rework up through a draft ‘2.0,’ but every single project is different.
The main point to stress is this — the way I work may be entirely different than what works for you and your collaborators. Unlike screenwriting, there is no set format. What’s important more than anything else is communication and in the end, whatever works for you — that’s what works.
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See you next time.