Have you ever wondered what a comic book script looks like, before the editor and visual artists interpret it and create the finished product we see as a printed or digital comic? Like a stage play or a screenplay, a comic book begins with words on a page.
Marvel Comics editor Bill Rosemann shared a page from one such script with Disney Dads. The page is from the script for the comic book Kà #1, an adaptation by Marvel Custom Solutions of the popular Cirque du Soleil stage show. Below, you will find the script page, written by well-known comic book writer Bryan JL Glass, corresponding to the above finished pages from the comic book, drawn by Wellinton Alves and colored by Jean-Francois Beaulieu.
Writer Bryan JL Glass is most well known for the two-time Harvey Award-winning series The Mice Templar, which he co-created with Mike Oeming. He has also written several works for Marvel, including the acclaimed four-issue series Thor: First Thunder.
Disney Dads had the opportunity to get a glimpse into Glass’ life, his childhood, his current workspace, and how he gets inspired.
DD: Can you tell us where you grew up, and what sort of childhood you had?
BJLG: I was born and raised in a Philadelphia blue-collar neighborhood called Fishtown. It was a fairly rough-and-tumble part of town when I was a kid. In the last decade or so, Fishtown has become a prestigious arts community in the city — now that I’m no longer living there. Growing up in that environment, there were plenty of opportunities to have made some bad, short-sighted decisions … but I credit my dad, and his example of how to be a responsible adult, with keeping me from falling in with dangerous crowds and ultimately allowing me to grow up safe, healthy and confident enough to pursue my creative dreams.
DD: Can you tell us a little more about your dad?
BJLG: My dad, Harry Lee Glass, was loving, hard-working, and utterly devoted to his family. His own youth had blessed him with a prowess for sports, but his only artistic endeavors were singing and playing the saxophone. But when blessed with three arts-driven children, they could not have asked for a more supportive and proud parent. My older brother Jim inherited the sports gene, but that didn’t prevent my father from appearing in my student films, shuttling me and my crew and our equipment from place to place in pursuit of my various crazy creative endeavors. He didn’t blink when I asked him to be a stunt driver in one student film, and allowed me to capture on film things that would have given my mother, his wife, a heart attack. Everything I am today was certainly aided by the best father any son or daughter could have asked for.
DD: Can you describe your workspace for us?
BJLG: My office is a fairly standard second-story room in our home. The walls are lined with bookshelves filled with CDs, DVDs and Blu-Rays … and on the walls are a trio of inspirational paintings: Helnwein’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams; Robert Heindel’s Les Miserables; and the poster for the 2003 film version of Peter Pan where our hero appears small yet undaunted when facing a dark pirate ship looming out of the unknown — a metaphor for life and how I’ve chosen to face the unexpected.
When weather permits in the spring, summer and fall, I prefer to work on the back deck of my home, in a screened-in porch where the breeze is terrific and the view is even better. My neighborhood is relatively quiet, and I fill the silence with what I call Musical Muse — an alphabetical cycling through my collection of motion picture, Broadway, TV, and video game orchestral and electronic scores.
DD: Is comic book script-writing more similar to directing than writing in some ways?
BJLG: I most definitely see my scriptwriting as a form of directing, and yet I never want my own vision to be authoritarian enough that it stifles the artistic contribution and expression of the many visual artists who follow. Sometimes I know exactly what effect and emotional impact I am going for and will describe my intent as explicitly as possible; but most of the time, I see my scripted vision as a guideline to inspire those who will actually translate the written words into visuals.
Regarding this particular adaptation for Kà #1, I was limited as a storyteller to the production as performed. The plot is already determined. The characters hold no surprises for me, nor could they be altered or guided by me. The story [in the comic book] has to unfold in sequence and event just as it does on the stage. Thus my job is to translate that story from one “language” to another, so to speak: from the stage to the page. I was given a limited number of pages, and assigned a selection of scenes to fit within those pages. The key was to find the important moments, the single “snapshots” of imagery that conveyed an abundance of character and carry the reader through the story. And as Cirque du Soleil productions are known for their visual pageantry and spectacular feats of acrobatic prowess, I convey that wonder into the art panels I describe to the artists in the script I write. It’s about perspective, as I guide the artist into wondrous panoramas or intimate close-ups of tender and poignant moments. I determine where the art allows us to fly above the audience with the character performers, or stare upwards in awe at the monolithic wall that factors into much of Kà.
I was also given the specific instruction to script no dialogue, just as the show itself plays out with expression, action, and music alone. My text captions merely clarify characters and locations, and enhance the philosophy behind the events unfolding in the story.
DD: Have you written in other formats?
BJLG: I’ve written for the stage, as I was once the leader of the now-defunct theater troupe mereBreath Drama, and my work for Marvel Entertainment has also allowed me to write in the video game format as I did for the game app THOR: Son of Asgard for Disney Mobile.
DD: What is your all-time favorite father/son story in a comic book series?
BJLG: My all-time favorite story is Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables which is more of a father/daughter tale. In the realm of comics, the ongoing relationship between Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four and his son Franklin is one of the most inspiring, as it has been chronicled by numerous Marvel Comics writers for over 25 years. Some of the moments crafted by more recent writers Jonathan Hickman and Matt Fraction have been true tear-jerkers for those who understand a healthy father/son dynamic.
Below is an excerpt from the script which corresponds to the above spread from Kà #1,
written by Bryan JL Glass. © MARVEL
PAGES 2 & 3
Two-page spread: top panel appears like an arch spread across both pages, highlighting the Imperial family (left-to-right): the Empress appears first (so she sits at her husband’s right side) clasping her hands before her heart, showing tremendous love in both her gesture and facial expression toward her children (upon the opposite side of the spread); the Emperor touches his right hand to his heart, while extending his left hand as if bestowing a blessing toward his offspring, his countenance firm yet kind; the Twin Sister is next, foreground, with fingers to her lips to stifle persistent giggles; the Twin Brother joyfully plays with a pair of short wooden practice swords, one blocking, the other thrusting, mimicking the martial pageant before him (below), imagining himself as part of the action.
The four characters above are significant and should be prominent, while the other misc. characters as mentioned on the preceding page, should they appear at all, should be treated as background or space filler.
Caption: On this night, such profound decrees of KÀ challenges still await.
Caption: The impressive entourage gathers upon a secluded isle, to recognize an historic event in the life of the Imperial family-the coming of age of the royal twins.
Caption: The love of their mother, the Empress, is boundless.
Caption: While the Emperor himself reveals his greatest joy through the pride they share.
Caption: For his Imperial Majesty knows the prosperity of his ancestors’ dynasty continues only through just and benevolent leadership, and none are more loyal and true than his beloved children.
Caption: .his daughter and son, valiant and courageous, both exhibiting bravery and compassion beyond their years.
Caption: And fate will one day require the boldest of their noble attributes to forge alliances, maintain their borders, and keep envious enemies at bay.
Note: We want to stay away from the girl’s tradition compassionate qualities and see her have courage and bravery. Please keep the Twin Sister bold and courageous. Both the sister and brother need to have benevolence in their apprenticeship of leadership. Both should also have a good and strong heart.
Montage across the lower two thirds of the double-page spread: three prominent images of the martial arts sword demonstration-each showcasing the Officers in dynamic acrobatic poses as they duel in Wushu style-while one features the single Officer defending against two spear-wielding Officers, and another portrays the same Officer in a pose identical to the Twin Brother’s hand motions above.
In addition to the three prominent images, add whatever further elements add to the overall composition: close-up of a hand gripping the sword; close on sword blade and spear tip clashing with sparks.
Last: as a stylistic enhancement, border the montage left, right & bottom, below the “arch” of panel 1 with tiny figures engaged in acrobatic swordplay (in a style similar to a particular Avengers poster by George Perez that featured a succession of Janet van Dynes in her many Wasp outfits bordering a central hero shot of everyone who had ever been an Avenger). These stylized border figures might also be portrayed as mere silhouettes. But either way, it should give the page a rather unique and stylized presentation.
Make sure this scene is still referring to the Officers (Good Guys) and not Spearmen (Bad Guys)
Caption: For themselves, as much as for their parents, this celebration marks a time of transition and hope for the people they serve.
Caption: .as the line of succession is once more assured, so that the blessings of prosperity and peace might pass unbroken from one generation to the next.
Caption: Thus, the pageant that celebrates the twins embodies the virtues they value above all.
Caption: .not conflict and war-but strength and skill that come only through the disciplines of patience and perseverance.
Caption: That through such dedication, anyone might achieve feats that at first seemed impossible!
photo credit: © MARVEL. To see the entire comic book and learn more visit the official website.