Creating a noir comic book – Part 1

I’m in the middle of making a four-part noir comic book aimed at the US/UK market, which I’ve called SPIRAL (as a working title). In this article series, I hope to highlight how I go from idea and concept to outline and story, from outline to breakdown and script, and how to find and work with an artist, and eventually get a publisher to bite and get the book on the shelves.

In part one we’ll take a look at how a concept emerges from that tiny, initial idea.

Sometimes, ideas and concepts I have emerge from a single inspirational element. Be it a photo of an old house. A walk in the mountains. Or the video of a never-before captured squid. The latter became the foundation of the story for my graphic novel THE VESSEL OF TERROR.

The idea to SPIRAL was different. It emerged slowly through observing and reading several things. The seed was planted around Sept/Oct in 2012. At the time there was a lot of buzz online around gay characters in US/UK comics, the lack of female voices – both writers and artists – in comics in general. And the lack of female-driven comic books on the shelves. It was also when I found the time to read a some of Mark Waid and Paulo Rivera’s DAREDEVIL.

These two things became the idea to SPIRAL. A vigilante comic with a female lead. I wanted to do a legacy story, about passing on the mantle. But I also wanted to reverse the expected roles and play with the reader as to whose story it actually was. But I didn’t have the tone down. I couldn’t move into the story. So it kept churning in my head, not putting anything down on paper.

That December, I left London and went back to Norway. Having spent two years in South London, I had absorbed a lot of the atmosphere of not just London, but  the distinct differences of the communities in South London. The class differences, the minorities, the architecture of poor versus rich, working class versus upper class – and everyone between. The tiny details.

Back in Norway, I (finally) started reading Jason Aaron and  R.M. Guéra’s SCALPED. A noir story set on a Native American reservoir with crooked FBI agents and crime lords with spirit animals. About characters who are struggling with their roots, and can only move on if they face their past mistakes. A comic book series I cannot recommend enough.

When all these things had marinated for a while, the tone, genre and characters of SPIRAL came to life so strongly I could start putting things to paper. I had enough to start.

I always let ideas marinate inside the skull for quite a while. Several days. A week. Sometimes months. I’m not suggesting that you don’t write down your ideas in your idea archive. But for me, if the idea is strong enough, it will stay in the back of my mind, and I will not lose it. With the limited time I have these days, I never start exploring an idea/concept on paper before I’m positive it’s a strong idea. Then I’ll know if it’s something to dedicate time to.

Tip: Let things marinate. Explore your idea in your mind long enough to make sure it’s the right one to explore further. Discuss with like-minded peers. Watch and read stuff which might be close to your idea to see how your concept might fit into that landscape.

I’ll try not to make these posts too long-winded, so that’s it for now.

Next time, let’s look at how best to get the story down on paper.

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