Developing Characters In Comics Part 1

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It’s hard to believe that Flying Sparks is midway through its 7th issue, with art being complete for issue 8 and writing half done for issue 9. It seems like just yesterday that I was uploading my first image to appear on the website August 23, 2010.

I assume most folk who follow this blog do so because they’re Flying Sparks fans or they know me personally at this point in my career. Though I do have other short stories out there in both prose and comic form, the comic’s where I get most of my attention.

It’s been no secret that in the blog section of the comic, I often comment on my favorite pages being the ones where my characters are “just” talking. Whether falling down a darker path, growing in relationships or just giving some witty humor, that’s the most fun part to do as a writer. Not that the action’s bad, but you can only write:

Panel 2: And Johnny uses his electricity from his hand to burn the baddie to a crisp… again. 

so many times. I’ve actually started to give my artist, Jethro Morales, more leeway in the action parts to just follow my script as a guideline for how it needs to pace and end up because we work so well together, and I know those are the most fun parts for an artist to do. So might as well give creative freedom where I can, right?

But despite the “talking scenes” being my favorite parts of the story, comics are a visual medium. So it can get REALLY boring, if I’m not careful. Which is why Flying Sparks has so much action, and has traditional superhero plots weaved throughout. I’ve made it more a point to have a standalone or two issue plot where there’s a goal accomplished on either the underworld or superhero side (or both) and then weave the relationship into a couple pages, pushing it along.

It came to my attention in the last couple months that when I talk about Flying Sparks, and other people talk about it, they bill it more of a romance than the actual pages of the comic turn out to be, which is because of my fear of pacing for comic readers used to Avengers, X-Men, Spider-Man, or the like’s relentless action. But those books all have something in common: there is NO real character development because they are being forced into a cycle where they can “be classic enough” that they appeal to a moviegoing audience for when the next blockbuster comes out.  So is it a good thing to emulate them?

The answer is yes and no. I still think having an action based plot that provides some cool visuals is essential. Flying Sparks is a superhero/romance blend, and getting the blend right is what makes it interesting, or not, depending on your point of view. So it serves the overall story well to have Johnny going after some mafia guy who killed his father, or Chloe working with Detective Liu to hunt down some criminals. My characters even got frustrated with an inability to see each other there in issue 5, and split up because of it. So in some ways, the action plot drives the romance and vice versa.

Now I promised someone over a month ago that issue 9 was going to really focus on the relationships and the action was going to take a back seat. In writing my outline, I couldn’t keep action out of it completely, but so far I’ve developed this chapter of the story to have much more of an interpersonal element, and much less baddies throwing cars around and causing property damage.

But I’ve realized that I’m not breaking my promise by throwing a little fight scene into a story. Action’s okay, and characters can even develop through the action sequences if they’re done right.

Next week, I’ll go through some of the individual beats in which our characters really changed or developed, and how I scripted that for a visual medium. This will cover some talking scenes and action scenes as I finish writing issue 9 (no issue 9 spoilers will be in the post though! Keep reading the comic!).  See you then. Same Meta-time, same meta-channel.

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