Trying to make a great comic is not an easy task. So many creators have a great idea and a ton of creative energy to bring it to life. However, they struggle to plan and organize their thoughts to bring their idea to life effectively. There are many ways to approach comic-making, and two of the most popular methods are the full script and the Marvel method. As you’ve seen from the title, I currently favor the Marvel method over the full script method. In this article, I’ll explore these two methods and discuss their pros and cons. I’ll also discuss which method may benefit a sole creator vs. a creative team. Let’s start with an overview of both methods.

Full Script: The Classic Approach

The full script method is probably the most popular way of making comics. In this method, the writer creates a complete script that contains all the dialogue, panel descriptions, and action sequences. This may be for a single issue or the script for the entire story. The artist then uses the script as a blueprint to create the visuals for the comic. This method is popular because it allows the writer to have complete control over the story and the pacing of the comic. It also gives everyone involved the whole story with all the needed details.

One of the advantages of the full script method is that it allows for greater precision and detail in the storytelling. The writer can carefully craft each panel and dialogue to achieve the desired effect. This method is also helpful for artists who prefer a more structured approach to comic-making. However, one of the downsides of this method is that it can limit the artist’s creativity and input if the script is not flexible. Also, if everyone in the creative team only focuses on their individual role, the magic that happens in the relationship between images and words can get lost if no one is thinking about this specific aspect. This can result in the underutilizing of the unique advantages that comics have when compared to other mediums.

The Marvel Method: A Collaborative Adventure

The Marvel method is a collaborative approach to making comics. In this method, the writer provides a general plot or outline for the story, and the artist creates the visuals and the pacing for the comic. Once the artist has finished, the writer then adds the dialogue and other details to the finished art. This method was popular with Stan Lee and artists because it allows for greater collaboration and flexibility in the creative process.

One of the advantages of the Marvel method is that it allows for more creative freedom and input from the artist. The artist can contribute ideas for the pacing, layout, and visuals, which can enhance the storytelling. This method is also helpful for writers who may struggle with dialogue or pacing, as the artist can help to fill in those gaps. However, one of the downsides of this method is that it may require more communication and collaboration between the writer and artist, which can be challenging. In addition, there has been much debate about who is really the creator of a comic if the artist is doing the majority of the heavy lifting in the storytelling. Many of Marvel’s early comics followed this method and there is much debate as to who really were the majority creators for certain IPs.

Pros and Cons: Which Method to Choose?

Both the full script and the Marvel method have their pros and cons, and the choice of method will depend on the writer’s and artist’s preferences and goals. If the writer wants complete control over the story and desires a structured approach to comic-making, then the full script method may be the best choice. If the writer wants to collaborate more with the artist and desires a more flexible approach to comic-making, then the Marvel method may be the best choice.

Regardless of the method chosen, it is essential to communicate and collaborate effectively with the artist or writer. Clear communication and mutual respect can help to overcome any challenges or differences in the creative process. It is also important to be open to feedback and to be willing to make changes to improve the story and art.

My comments above come from the view of a creative team. Throughout the industry including the Indie comic world, I tend to see the full script method being used. I think this makes the most sense for a team of creators working together. However, I think there is a big advantage in using the Marvel method if you are a solo creator.

The Solo Creator

I find myself in this boat and I find it challenging to use the full script method. I can figure out the plot line, the act lengths, and some of the pacing. However, to sit down and write an entire script before drawing any panels is difficult when I think very visually. I used to think the Marvel method was a little lazy but then I started thinking of this method differently. It can be likened to how some movies are made. It may surprise you that some movies don’t have a completed script by the time production starts. Films like Iron Man, Edge of Tomorrow, and even classics like Casablanca did not have complete scripts when being made, sometimes only working with an outline. You would think it would make more sense to have a completed script from the start, but sometimes it’s difficult to write great scenes. I often struggle with this aspect. Continuing along the way films are made, they are rarely filmed in order of the story. Sometimes many scenes are filmed and then the storytelling magic happens in the editing room. This can lead to wasted scenes that are never used but the reason they are discarded is because it’s not enhancing the story. Even if they aren’t used in the final cut, they often make great bonus material for lovers of the film. I believe a similar approach could be taken with comics to ensure that the story is the most critical component of the comic.

CATAPULTED Written using the Marvel Method

I am currently writing CAPATULTED in this way. I have created a plot outline and have figured out roughly how many pages each act and scene should last. I do have high-level scene descriptions but these are not broken out by page. I also don’t have the dialogue written and definitely don’t have panel descriptions ready. Rather than focusing on breaking out the scenes into detailed pages, I want to focus on making the scenes to be memorable and engrossing. I am asking myself two questions:

  1. What information do I need the scene to convey to the reader?
  2. How do I want the reader to feel during this scene?

These two questions are helping me focus on a specific scene. Question 1 helps me think about what plot-based information to I need to convey. What actions do I need to convey? Question 2 I think is more important and I think it’s the one that gets forgotten about in comic script writing. What emotion do I want the reader to be feeling as they read this page? Do I want them to put themselves in the shoes of a specific character? Do I want them to feel pity, fear, excitement, or some other emotion?

So many times I see creators ask: How do I know what kind of panel to use? How large it should be or what kind of perspective should I use? This is where the benefit of question 2 comes into play. Thinking about the reader will help you determine which tools to use to achieve the desired emotion you want them to feel.

I also ask myself a bonus question: What do I want the reader to discover? This is in line with a previous post I wrote that theorizes that readers can be drawn in when they discover details and story elements instead of being given or told them. But more about that in another post.

As a result of using the ‘Marvel Method’, I am often writing and drawing scenes in a non-sensical order and am hoping that once I’ve finished all the elements I can edit them in a way that produces a powerful story. When I look at the story as a whole I can check the pacing, emotional payoffs, and how the story reads overall. I may find there are pages or panels that end up on the cutting room floor but like most movies, I always enjoyed seeing those extra scenes in the ‘making of’ or ‘bonus’ section of the DVD release and I would include them in the back of the graphic novel with some commentary.

Am I doomed to get stuck in the creative process due to not having a finalized script? Will I really be able to make a compelling and entertaining story with such a fluid method? Only time will tell. What method do you prefer? Are you a solo creator that gets stuck in the writing stage? How are you writing and creating at the moment? Let me know in the comments.

Making Comics: Finding Your Creative Groove

Making comics can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it can also be challenging and time-consuming. To make the most of your comic-making experience, it is important to find your creative groove and develop a routine that works for you.

It is also essential to remember that making comics is a learning process, and it takes time and practice to improve. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different methods and techniques, and don’t be discouraged by setbacks or challenges. Keep pushing yourself to grow and improve, and enjoy the creative journey.

In conclusion, the full script and the Marvel method are two popular approaches to making comics. Both have their pros and cons, and the choice of method will depend on the writer’s and artist’s preferences and goals. Effective communication and collaboration are essential for success, and finding your creative groove can help you to make the most of your comic-making experience. If you are a solo creator, you have the flexibility to choose the best from either method. Whatever you choose, keep creating, and have fun!