Guerrilla Screenwriting: Comic Book Movies Are Still Red Hot

comic book movies: 2 Guns

2 Guns debuted as #1 at the box office last week. So far, it has racked up an impressive $51 million domestic gross. The action comedy film stars Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, two of the most bankable actors in Hollywood. What most people don’t know is that the movie is based on a comic book series published by indie comics publisher BOOM! Studios.

As I discuss in my “Writing a Graphic Novel Hollywood Will Buy” class, “comic book movies” aren’t going away. They’re here to stay. They’re mainstream now. The Marvel and DC Comics superhero franchises have certainly solidified that, but the superhero film is only a fraction of the comic book movies in existence. The Walking Dead comes from comic books. Does anyone seriously think The Walking Dead is teetering on the edge of extinction? On the horizon are more of the same: Kick-Ass 2, the 300 sequel, and Hercules. And those are just the creator-owned comic books I can recall off the top of my head. There are many more in the pipeline.

Comic books have made their film and TV inroads over the past decade because the new generation of executives and producers who came into Hollywood in the late 1990s to early 2000s were all comics fans growing up. Even a lot of older producers who predate the big comics invasion or otherwise had little experience with comic books have learned to appreciate them as viable source material. This popularity has not been lost on many actors and directors who have now cast their eyes on comics as a substitute for studio pitches.

Producers haunt (or send their assistants to haunt) Los Angeles comic book shops every Wednesday, looking for that next potential big property. If you’ve ever been to the humongous San Diego Comic Con, you know how heavily influenced it is by Hollywood now. Nearly every star, agent, and producer you can think of eventually shows up down there. Like novels, video games, old movies, and old TV shows, graphic novels have become a well-respected source of pre-branded story material to feed the studio pipeline.

The lesson here is that there are a lot of producers in Hollywood, and they’re all looking for sellable IP (intellectual property). If even ONE of them finds your book interesting and believes they have a chance to get studio muscle behind a movie, they will come knocking on your door.

Become a Producer

You don’t have to sit on the sidelines and watch others capitalize on these new trends. The good thing about the comic book medium is you can create one with very little money and it doesn’t matter where you live. There’s no need to be in Hollywood. With the power of the Internet, you can hire an artist in Brazil, collaborate and share art files with them, and even self-publish the book when it’s complete.

If you grab the bull by the horns and create a graphic novel or comic book with your own money, you’ll find that it’s much easier to sell it to Hollywood than if you did it solely as a naked spec script. Like an indie film, it becomes your calling card, your invitation to the kingdom of Hollywood. The more interesting you can make it, both visually and with the writing, the more likely it is someone will want to pay you money for it. But that’s true for the regular book market too, not just for Hollywood.

Difficult as it sometimes seems, it’s possible to fulfill yourself creatively and make money. I mean it’s really a nice feeling to see your book on a store shelf or available to buy on Amazon and iTunes. It makes your baby somehow more “real,” and thus potentially more valuable.

If you’d like to learn how to create a kick-ass comic book or graphic novel, you should sign up for my upcoming class at The Writers Store. In it, I’ll teach you everything you need to know to get started. Click here for more information.

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Write a Graphic Novel Hollywood Will Buy

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2 thoughts on “Guerrilla Screenwriting: Comic Book Movies Are Still Red Hot

  1. IllustratedGreenArrowIllustratedGreenArrow

    How many hours do you reckon it takes to pencil, ink and color a page of Margaret Loo’s X-Men stuff, or Boom Studios stuff, Martin? Plus the $$ for the raw materials, like Bristol Board, which is now over $20 per sheet of 15 pages?

    What kind of CONTRACTS dealing with compensation do you suggest being OUTLINED IN THE FIRST CONVERSATION, since realistically, you have left that out of your seminar discussion. The prices you have suggested for “deviant-art.net” dweebs have jack-crap to do with real pages that make real progress.

    1. Martin ShapiroMartin Shapiro Post author

      Each artist works at their own pace, which can vary tremendously from person to person. I’m not a comic book artist so I don’t know how many hours the people I’ve hired spent on each step of the process on each page. It doesn’t matter from my perspective because I’m not paying by the hour. I pay a flat rate per page and give them a deadline that’s reasonable to deliver the finished 22 pages. The penciling is the most time consuming stage in the process, inking requires a little less time, and coloring is fairly quick. I’ve spoken to colorists who have cranked out 4 or 5 pages per day when under a tight Marvel or DC deadline for a monthly comic book, especially when the penciller/inker delivered the pages much later than expected.

      Regarding the art boards, for most indie books the artist pays for the art boards he uses, not the employer, so you normally don’t have to worry about that. On all the books I’ve done, I’ve never paid for the art boards, except for the very first book I did (and that was only because I didn’t know any better). Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse used to provide logo-stamped art boards to all their artists, but I don’t know if they do that anymore in all cases. Some young artists now work completely digitally – no paper.

      Did you attend my Writing a Graphic Novel seminar? In that class I give out sample contracts to any students who request them. From your tone, it sounds like you’re running into some problems hiring a good professional artist for your book. I don’t know why you say the artists who post on Deviant Art are “dweebs” or why you say their pages are not “real”. Like with all websites freely open to the public, there are going to be many untalented people posting their portfolio work along with the limited number of talented professionals. It’s your job to find the needle in the haystack that hasn’t already been snapped up by the big publishers. It’s not easy to find a “good” artist who is available when you need them. I never implied that it was. The reason I suggest Deviant Art as a source is because I have found good artists there that I ended hiring in the past, especially painters who do cover art.

      For more insight into the artist hiring process, I suggest you read the following article I wrote for the Graphic Novel Creator blog: http://www.graphicnovelcreator.com/blog/comic-book-art/deadlines-and-flaky-artists

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