Thursday, March 16, 2017

Plot, Script, Comic: Megaton Man #11 Complete!

Maybe the earliest surviving example of my evolving working method is the plot and partial script of Megaton Man #11 (published as Return of Megaton Man #1 in July 1988 only after a needlessly bruising exchange with my publisher), dating from January 1987 (thirty years ago).

In the first ten issues of the series, I worked more or less in a "Marvel method," based on the way it was imagined Stan Lee worked with his artists: developing a loose plot, then breakdowns of pencils, then final script.

Back and front covers to Return of Megaton Man #1 (Kitchen Sink Press, July 1988)

After my own fashion, and after experimenting wildly with Border Worlds (which seemed to veer wildly between writing the script first one issue then working out the visuals first the next), I settled on a plot-script routine that was still very much homemade and ad hoc.

As noted on the typescript, the plot envisioned a single 64-issue. This material was subsequently expanded into three 24-page issues, which I envisioned as Megaton Man #11, #12, and #13.

Between the plotting stage and the scripting stage, I seem to have either created thumbnail sketches of the page layouts, or actually sketched out the panels roughly (called "breakdowns") on the pages of Bristol board themselves. This seems likely because the typewritten script features only dialogue, with no scene summaries or descriptions (or even directions such as "close-up," "long shot," etc.).


At this point (page 14), the script ends. The remainder may be lost, or I may have never typed one. It is entirely possible that I may have just written the dialogue directly on the art boards. By the end of the issue, I may have felt "warmed up" enough to winged it. Or not!

One hand-written fragment of script remains, the big entrance of Yarn Man and Kozmik Kat, who arrive in Ann Arbor as a curtain-closer for the issue. It was written on plain bond (typewriting paper), like the rest of the plot and script, but appears to have been hand-trimmed with scissors.

 No other script fragment remains. (Note: the Spirit T-shirt design on the inside back cover was suggested by me.)

 What is evident about these materials is that they clearly demonstrate that I took the time away from Megaton Man to totally rethink the strip, in the hopes of putting any ongoing narrative on a more sound footing. The emphasis on character over action (or slapstick humor), and on a rational basis for the unfolding events, speaks for itself. This makes the publisher's characterization of my hiatus from the strip as a betrayal that deserved punishment, instead of a necessary creative recharge, all the more sad and demoralizing.

The Return of Megaton Man mini-series ran three issues. In the following installment, Megaton Man Meets the Uncategorizable X+Thems #1, I seem to have used a completely different method, breaking down the story in half-size thumbnail sketches I enlarged on a photocopier, light-tabled (traced) onto Bristol board, lettered, and inked. I will scan those soon and post here!

Thank you for enjoying the Megaton Man blog!

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