Creating a noir comic book – part 9

Part 1 – Idea to concept
Part 2 – Concept to outline
Part 3 – Outline to page breakdown
Part 4 – Scripting and the first step of finding an artist
Part 5 – Finding a great artist
Part 6 – The great artist and defining visuals
Part 7 – From script to finished page
Part 8 – Identity and branding

And that brings us to today’s post, where I’ll talk a bit about the pitch package, your sales document for your comic book, and what to do about it.


Now, some publishers aren’t open to submissions (seemingly), and some encourage it (seemingly).

Those that state they aren’t open to submissions haven’t stopped looking for content to publish, they just have enough channels and a big enough network to find this content themselves. They know who to get in touch with to get the content they want. That said, if you strike up a conversation with a person from such a publisher and a communicative relationship springs from that initial talk, I’ll bet my left margin that you’ll eventually be able to pitch, show them content or even be asked to pitch for them. You’ve entered their network, their channel. So NO publisher is closed shop. Remember that. There are always ways in, although they might be long and look like a maze.

Then there’s the “other”, seemingly easier side, and that’s the publishers that encourage submissions – usually electronically on their websites. Easy! They’ll usually have rules on how and what to submit – and everyone says you should follow them. I have. (And I haven’t.) But no matter how hard you follow the rules, fact is that putting your content in that submission pile won’t get you far. If we’re talking about the “higher-ups” publishers, at least. And those are the ones we’re aspiring to, no? You’ll have to do the part mentioned in the previous paragraph. Network, meet and greet and get to know. Once your name is on their radar, then they’re more likely to give your submission a proper look. But I’m not saying you shouldn’t submit to these seemingly open publishers – you absolutely should, from the get go. Especially if you’re an artist. Because they’ll see your art and that can lead to things. And extra especially if you’re a writer working with an artist. Send that stuff in so publishers can start to see your artist’s work. Hustle and pimp that lovely lady or handsome bloke. Get their art in front of the eyes of editors, whenever you can, without being a pain in the ass, of course.


But, all in all, I’m not a fan of does and don’ts, rules and restrictions. I’m not saying break the rules and go crazy, but bend the rules, use some tricks, pick some locks and sneak in where you can. As long as you act professional, humble yet confident and plain ol’ nice – you can get away with a lot of rule-bending. But none of this matters unless you have good content on your hands.

Another issue that arises for me personally is my location. I’m far away from any comic cons where I might meet editors (because meet editors is what you really want to do!). Sure, we have a couple of very nice conventions here in Norway, but usually there’s just a few guests from the States and the UK, and they are always creators. If I want to speak to an editor, I’ll have to fly over to the UK, or better yet the US. So if you have high-profile conventions near you where editors from all walks of comic publisher lives regularly appear, know you are privileged. And take advantage of that.

So, let’s get back to Spiral. Me and Emerson put together a simple and easy submission package, or pitch package, if you prefer. A handful of finished pages (*see below), some character sketches, a quick outline of the content/story**, and our contact info. All in a small, handy PDF. This was back in January, and I had already set my sights on London Super Comic Con (which I’ve been to before) to see if I could get some face-time with editors. There were a few publishers there that were interesting and a fit for Spiral.


So I flew down to London, which was also a trip to promote and talk to creators about Outré. Together with my co-editor Glenn Møane. I had the Spiral pitch PDF on my iPad and went up and talked to a few editors. (I’ll leave the names up for guessing.) The “industry” says you shouldn’t pitch stuff at the convention floor, because editors either want to sell their books or talk to fans there or just hang out, but here we’re back to the rule-bending business. I introduced myself, talked a bit about their books (which are books I really like and books from creators I like and some I know), told them about my situation and asked about their submission policies. And since I was plain ol’ nice – (hey, I am!) – of course they could take a look. Up comes the iPad and I tell them the sales pitch for our project while I show them the pages. Everyone I showed the pages to, creators, friends, fans and editors really dug them. And I can’t blame them. Emerson’s pages are fantastic. The editors I spoke to asked me to send them the PDF so they could have a proper look at the office. Mission completed.


And this is where your imaginary high fives, your silent victorious war cries, you on the knees laughing of joy – in your head – soon vanish and turn into a long, long wait. Because that’s what it says on the package: hurry up and wait. The week after, (this is March still), stuff was sent and initial replies were received and the wait for the final “yes, let’s do this, boys” or the “nope, chaps. Next!” began.

And we waited, and waited. But what you need to do in these periods where you are walking the Withering-Soon-Away-From-Waiting-For-That-Email Plains (you’ll walk them a lot), is create, create, create. Me and Emerson quickly began producing more pages, setting our goal on completing the first issue. The indication from peers and editors was that we had something good on our hands. Pages kept coming in from Emerson and the notion of waiting seemed to vanish into the back of my mind. I had started working on other projects at the same time, so you kinda forget you’re waiting.

Then one day, that e-mail came diving into my inbox…


*Here are the pages we included in the pitch package. The first 7 pages of Spiral. All art by Emerson Dimaya and lettering by Chris Crank!.

Spiral_01_001 Spiral_01_002 Spiral_01_003 Spiral_01_004 Spiral_01_005 Spiral_01_006 Spiral_01_007

**which is called the pitch text, the hardest part of writing for most writers. It’s hard to distill your own work into a quick and sales-worthy paragraph – but it’s easy to do it to other people’s work. So practice on properties that you like, books, films, comics whatever.

Creating a noir comic book – Part 2

In the first article, I spoke a bit about how the idea for SPIRAL came into being. How I let the idea marinate in my head for several months, picking up more inspiration for it along the way, until I was ready to write anything down.

Olivia Jensenv3

We’ll get to the artist/artwork bit later.

Here, I’ll explain briefly how I go about getting that marinated concept and story down on paper slash screen.

I know a lot of writers like to write down the story they have in their head directly. Almost like writing prose. I’ve done that earlier on a few projects, both films and comics, but these last couple of years I’ve found that it’s easy to lose yourself in the details if you approach it like that. Approaching the whole thing.

Instead, I start with the pitch. Not necessarily a sales pitch, but more a pitch to myself. If you’re not familiar with what a (sales) pitch is, it’s basically explaining your concept and story in as short a space as possible. The movie industry has something called “the elevator pitch”, meaning you sell your idea verbally in the elevator ride down (or up) with a producer – meaning 30 seconds. Some projects are easy to pitch, some are tougher. Snakes On a Plane has its entire pitch in its title, for instance. SPIRAL is a bit trickier than that.

Back to writing down the pitch. I write the pitch for me, not for it to be a selling pitch – meaning it’s not the originality and freshness I’m looking for in this initial pitch. It’s just the key things that happen that drives the story forward. And the shorter the better. The initial pitch for SPIRAL (after a couple of revisions) was…

Brash police officer Olivia Jensen takes up the mantle after her father, the retired The Watcher, against his wishes. Her recklessness gets her shot and injured. When her brother Samuel, who was intended to take on the The Watcher personae, goes to avenge his sister he ends up in a coma. Recovered, Olivia takes on the mantle in hopes to heal her now broken relationship with her father and brother.

(Note: I changed up the names a few times to get them right. And I still consider everything a work in progress until the lettering part begins.)

With this I have a fixed idea on what the core of the story revolves around. You can lift themes out of this. Father-daughter relationship, blood thicker than water, values, justice etc. etc. And also guess at endings, knowing that I locked down on the noir genre from the get go. I guess there’s also a slight originality in there, with the mix of gender roles and genre attached.

But it’s very basic. It doesn’t say much about what actually happens. Which is a good thing for me. The details, and with details I mean plot, isn’t important at this stage for me. I have a lot of plot floating around in my head at this stage of course, but I deliberately hold back on writing plot and scenes down and focus on getting the core of the story right.

Once I had this, I could start going down the prose path, basically writing down what I knew I wanted in the story, what I thought could work and what ending I wanted. As I started writing down the outline (the story) a few subplots took on a bigger role and certain things I had imagined showed themselves to be too cliché or just not right for the story.

I won’t put the outline up since it’s too spoiler-y of course, but I’ll briefly explain how the outline turned out. For this project I wanted to have a multi-layered story with several intertwining storylines. (Having drawn inspiration from Scalped, and The Wire.) The A story was of course about Olivia and her vigilante business and relationship with her family. The B-story followed the father and son of the criminal main element of the story, as I’ve always liked stories that present a world that’s blurred, that has several perspectives. And the C-story was Olivia’s husband’s story, dealing with an ex-wife and their kid he was losing custody over. Once I began fleshing out and scripting the story, another prominent storyline came forward as well, but more on that in a future article.

(It might be good to mention that Spiral isn’t a very big project, it’s a mini-series, but if it was a larger story/project I would likely have written a few synopsises before going into the prose-like outline. A synopsis summarises the story in broad strokes, but not as broad and quick as a pitch. A synopsis helps you stay focused if you have a large body of work to map out. Navigating a 2-page synopsis is easier than navigating a 5 – 10 – 20 page outline. As it’s a small project the outline for Spiral was 3 pages.)

Once I had the outline down I knew the most important thing about Spiral. The ending. With that locked down, I was ready to go into the story, to start breaking it down into pages, which is unique for comics. There are several factors involved as you go to break down the story (publishing plan, format etc. – which you likely have in mind before typing anything) and I’ll speak more about these things, and going into the scripting phase next time.

Thanks for reading!