Before I begin, I need to decide what the comic/issue will be about. Some comics can be self-contained stories, but others like mine are chapters of a larger story. Still, the idea is the same. What will this particular issue be about?
The first step is to take down notes about what I wish to convey in this issue. What will each scene be about and who will it feature? I may also have specific lines of dialogue I wish to use, or specific visual ideas, so I write these down before I forget them. Once this is done, I start my script.
Page 1 will usually be a full page, but I need to decide what it will depict and whether there will be any introductory dialogue. As far as I am concerned, there should always be some dialogue. Imagery is fine, but story is better. I want my readers to get as much story as possible, so I tend to keep silent panels to a minimum.
The other pages are set up in two ways. If I already know what each panel will depict, then I set up each panel with details for the artist, and write the dialogue for each panel. If, on the other hand, I am not sure what each panel will depict, I write the dialogue for each panel and will go back to the visuals later. Why? Because sometimes the panels could be similar in look (close up of character, close up of other character, view from over one character's shoulder, reverse view, etc...) and figuring out the subtleties of each panel can take some time and also affect your train of thought. The dialogue is really what matters, first, so write out your scene, and go back to the details later.
Ok, so the first scene is written. Usually, I take a break after that and review what I have done. If I realize that there is too much dialogue per panel, I reduce the number of panels so that the dialogue will fit better. If, for instance, I have two panels depicting close-ups of two characters conversing, I may change it to a larger panel with both characters in it. At times, I may need to decide if some of the dialogue from one panel can continue in another panel or even another page. When that is done, continue with the next scene, and then the next, until the story you wanted to convey is told.
Now your story is written, but it is longer or shorter than anticipated. If it is shorter, you may want to reduce the number of panels per page, and move the extra panels to another page, thus creating a new page. If the story is too long, try combining panels and text to reduce the number of pages.
Finally, the story is written and the depiction of the panels as well. Am I satisfied? Yes, but am I done? Not at all. I know there are spelling mistakes, at the very least. I personally wait for another day for the next step.
Now I am rested and reread the script. Yes, I find plenty of mistakes, but also, I don't feel the dialogue is as good as it could be, so I make further changes. I usually reread the script many times over the months, as I wait to accumulate the funds necessary to pay the artist, and each time I read the script, I find things to change. By the time I am ready to send the script to the artist, my story has gone through numerous changes.
I now receive the finished art, but I notice that some depictions are a bit off (nothing is exactly as you visualize it). The character may be standing or looking differently than I had pictured, and the dialogue doesn't quite fit with the new visuals. It is time to make yet more changes to the script. What about the empty panels? I may decide that it now needs some dialogue. The character may be thinking; time for a thought bubble, or if the character seems to be talking, make him talk.
When all the art has been received and the story dialogues have been written, you may feel that you are done, but reread the comic a few more times to make sure. Have someone else read it as well. They may find things you may have missed, especially spelling errors. After reading your script some 50 times, you don't see the errors anymore.
At this stage, the comic should be ready to print, but in my case, it needs to pass one more hurdle.
My comics are also translated into French, and I often find my English dialogue affected by this. Even if you are fluent in both languages, some things cannot be easily translated. There are times when I will use a different way of expressing a thought in French and decide it would also benefit the English version.
When my translation is done. I usually feel confident to send my book to the printer.
And there you have it; my way of doing things. I hope this helps some of you, but the main lesson to learn here is that you should never submit your first, second, or even tenth draft. Take your time to tell the best story you can, and even if you somehow miss something, you can at least say that you really tried.
Keep the creative juices flowing...
Is my Gaia Force comic book series WOKE?
Gee, I hope not. Still, there are those who will read it and find elements that point to this, so before anyone makes the wrong assumptions, let me address these points.
So what is wokeness? If one defines it as Merriam Webster does: “to be aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice), then yes, Gaia Force does dwell into this. It is the basis of the story, after all. Gaia Force was created to protect the planet from those who would harm it. In the novel, the real enemy is the Human race whose neglect and abuse of the planet’s ecosystem has endangered Gaia herself, and while some will argue that this is not really a racial or social issue, Gaia would beg to differ. She has been raped and abused for the past century, and her children decimated on a genocidal scale.
If, on the other hand, the word woke is used to virtue signal social justice friends that I too am up-in-arms about social issues, then the answer is definitely no. Gaia Force is solely written to entertain.
Other terms which today’s woke like to rally behind are the words diversity and inclusion. Where does Gaia Force stand in this regard?
Are the characters of various sexual orientations? Yes, not all are heterosexual, but that doesn’t mean that sexual identity was part of the creative process. In fact, the characters were all blank slates when they were created. It was only through story telling that some characters’ preferences were revealed.
The first character revealed to be gay was Night Storm. She and her co-member, Hartree, were assigned to patrol together. Over the years, their friendship became so strong that they viewed each other as sisters, but one line from Night Storm did change that, as she revealed that to her, it may have meant more.
The story had told me something I had not known about the character, yet although Night Storm felt that way, Hartree did not. She had been raised in a Christian family and had been confined to a wheelchair most of her life. When she joined Gaia Force, she was still a virgin. She was shy and withdrawn. It was through great effort on his part that Roguestar managed to woo her. It was her first and only romantic relationship, and it lasted three hundred years.
So where did that leave Night Storm? It turned out that she did have a relationship, but it was with one of the members of Gaia Force’s subgroups. I just didn’t know who. I decided to find out who would be best suited, and eventually did find one. This character became gay for the sake of the story.
Arkahnus, however, was destined to be gay. He had not been established as such, but the character was based on someone I knew, and that person was gay. It became clear that Arkahnus would be as well. The novel did not mention it. However, Meridian did point out that if Arkahnus was interested in women, he had never showed it. It was only in the second issue of Gaia Force that it was confirmed, but then again, the motivation behind the reveal was not to virtue signal. The scene was integral to Arkahnus’s development, as it foreshadowed the great turmoil he would soon face. Had he been involved with a woman, the scene would have been written just the same.
In one scene from the novel, Meridian realizes that she has a crush on Farpoint. He, however, is already in a relationship with a member of the Armstrong, Lt. Amanda Whitfield, thus establishing his preference. Meridian, however, ponders who else she may consider as a potential sexual partner. As she reflects, she mentioned that her old self would have been interested in Night Storm, establishing the fact that she had bisexual tendencies, but Meridian is not who she once was. She was created to be the epitome of the female form, and as such, her interests are now towards males.
Renshi is Arkahnus’s brother, but unlike his brother, he is not gay. Actually, I’m still not sure where his preference lies. He was written as being self-absorbed, and whose only interest was in bettering himself, physically as well as spiritually, the whole bordering on the narcissistic. I had begun to think of him as being nonsexual, where his interest in physical pleasure was overridden by his desire to better himself. This however may have changed, since we now know that he and his dojo assistant, Sunn Yee, had a relationship. Whether the relationship was sexual or solely spiritual, it has not yet been disclosed.
Silverlance was once married and had six children. This would imply that he is heterosexual. He did, however, re-marry with Rubikhon, a giant alien female. This could establish him as xenosexual, though I still consider him hetero since his new wife is female.
Roguestar and Avatar Prime are unquestionably heterosexual.
Nicci is a special case.
Strong female characters
Are there strong female characters? Definitely, and again, not to virtue signal but simply for the fact that I love female characters. When I play games, I always play the females first. I love women and I love looking at them. The more feminine they are, the more I enjoy them. It was a foregone conclusion that they would play a major and prominent role in my stories.
The females in my stories are all strong, yet all have weaknesses. They are not perfect in every way; capable of facing any adversity with little to no effort. Some struggle every day in some form or another. It is that struggle that makes them strong, not the strength of their attacks.
Meridian is by far the strongest member of Gaia Force, with the exception of Avatar Prime, who is in a class of his own. She is capable, and could easily lead the team if she wanted to, but she does not lead. Silverlance led the original team and now Roguestar leads the new one. Does she resent that? She does not. She knows her worth, as do her teammates.
Night Storm is the most powerful member in terms of raw power. She may not be the strongest physically, but she can cause more devastation than anyone else. She has often assumed the role of leader when Silverlance was unavailable. Night Storm is the smartest member of the group.
Hartree is on par with Night Storm in terms of raw power, but she is also frail and vulnerable. She is still self conscious and has a hard time accepting that she is one of the most beautiful and powerful women there are, and even if her handicap is gone, the scars created through her years of suffering still haunt her to this day.
Caregiver has the weight of the world on her shoulders, quite literally. She is the vessel through which Gaia can relate her feelings and experiences. Being Gaia's vessel also means that Caregiver shares Gaia's pain, but Caregiver's devotion to the green mother is unwavering. Were Gaia to demand it, Caregiver would slay every Human on Earth.
Then we have Nicci, created as an afterthought simply to have a character in a golden form. But she became so much more. She became the most relatable of all the characters.
She was created with no true purpose, an enigma to all, even to herself, but she has risen so far above this. Her path started from bondage, rose to hero then to revolutionary, culminating with the leadership of her own army. Nicci’s story is one of constant struggle and fear. Fear that one day, she will return to what she once was, for there is one out there whom she fears above all else.
The comic book series will introduce more strong females. One of which will be Psylash, one of the leaders of Ravagers’ Hounds. I made her leader by choice. She is not the strongest of her squad, but she is deadly and psychotic.
The one behind the Gamblers’ Guild will also be female, her gender chosen through circumstances. I needed the character to be formerly from Earth, but that was the Earth of 400 years passed. Who could still be around after all this time? Only the one I chose made sense.
How about inclusion?
Is Gaia Force diverse enough? Yes, it is. It had to be, because Gaia Force is comprised of people chosen from across the globe. Farpoint is South African, Silverlance is Japanese, Roguestar is British, Night Storm Irish, Hartree is American. Meridian is Australian. Renshi, Arkahnus and Caregiver are related and they are Canadian.
Some will undoubtedly argue that there are more white people than there should be, and to those I will say, “Look at the countries in question.” The chances of picking a black man in South Africa are higher than those of picking a white man, as are those of selecting an Asian from Japan, but European countries are predominantly white. Still, Gaia Force is not the only group protecting Earth and the subgroups have an even more diverse selection of members.
The comic book also has a more diverse cast. Soleil is Korean while Cardigan is black, as are the Neosians. There are also plenty of colourful aliens.
I will conclude simply to say that I do not write my stories to virtue signal. My stories are meant to entertain, nothing more. There is no agenda other than telling a compelling story with great relatable characters, and if some think that reading between the lines will help you find hidden meanings, then let me tell you this; Enjoy the stories for what they are, not for what you hope they mean.
Keep the creative juices flowing…