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Monday, August 31, 2015

Do I want to Publish Isis Series Comics…Or Isis Graphic Novels?

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Last week I finished my first comic script, an adaptation of E’steem: No Good Deed. And right now I’m working on a new comic script, an adaptation of Isis: My Sister, My Frenemy. I’m testing the waters and getting ready to pursue one of my lifelong dreams of writing comics.

 But if I took the plunge and actually published comics at SJS DIRECT, what format would I prefer to produce work in? 32-page Comics or Graphic novels?

While I grew up with 32-page comics and I love them, they’re just not cost effective for me as a publisher to produce or to sell to the reader at retail. Today a floppy 32-page comic costs $5. Any customer could go to a local bookstore and put a few dollars more with that to get a full paperback book that provides a higher entertainment value per dollar.

Would you buy an Isis series Graphic novel? 

If I published comics, most likely they’d be in graphic novel format. As anyone who has read this blog regularly knows I’m a big advocate for selling comics in the trade paperback format. It’s the format most people buy comics in these days and it gives readers the most entertainment value for their dollar.

From a publishing perspective graphic novels are the best fit for the work I publish. Stories like those I write in the Isis series work best as graphic novels in the trade paperback format. With each story being told in single self-contained volume readers can pick and choose whatever stories they want to read at any point in the series.

Graphic novels would also provide me with an opportunity to reach the largest audience of readers. In addition to comic shops, Graphic novels are also sold in bookstores like Barnes & Noble and online retailers like Amazon.com. And thanks to their long shelf life they offer an opportunity to reach those retailers like drugstores and big box retailers like Wal-Mart and Target.

I’ve seen examples of the kinds of Graphic novels I’d like to produce in the YA/Kids section of Barnes & Noble. The Graphic novel trilogy Smile, Sisters and Drama from Scholastic perfectly represent the format I’d like to use for the Isis series. These paperbacks are just the right size for reading, carrying and sharing. And the price (Under $14) is perfect for allowing new readers to buy and try titles.

If I published Isis series graphic novels they’d be about 120-160 pages in length. I believe that’s a pretty reasonable size to tell a story effectively in pictures. A 120-160 And cost wise it’d be easy to price at $14-16 after it’s printed with a POD company or with a printer like Lightning Source.

In addition to the print copies, there’d be digital ones as well. eBooks are a big part of my business model and they’d be an integral part of any graphic novels I’d publish. The prices would be a LOT higher than 99 cents though.

Latest Isis series book!
All of this is still in the planning stages. While I’m finding my voice in the comic format the same way I found it in screenwritng, there’s still a lot to for me to learn before I go out and look for an artist to pencil up my ideas, an inker and a colorist. Comics are a team project and each person has to work well with the others to produce the best quality publication possible.

And after the comics are created, there’s the business side. Finding a printer, finding a distributor along with promotion and sales. I’d love to have a webcomic preview of any comic I published just like the sample chapters I publish.  And If I went and spent the kind of money needed to produce a graphic novel I’d want to start doing comiccons and shows and meeting people.

Producing a Graphic novel would be part of a major business expansion. And I’d love to do it. But I’m taking it slow. Building towards that foundation is writing well-crafted stories and I’m making every effort to make sure that the comic scripts I produce are just as strong as the original Isis series books.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

E'steem: No Good Deed Comic Script




Today’s blog features my first comic script, an adaptation of the short story E'steem: No Good Deed This is my first draft of the script and I’m still learning how to tell stories in the comic panel format. It’s a major challenge getting the images and dialogue in my head to fit into one solitary image for every panel, but I think I’ll get the hang of it eventually. Enjoy! 
Copyright (c) 2015 Shawn James 

PAGE ONE

SPLASH

The close space of a fitting room inside one of Madison Avenue’s designer boutiques. E’steem, a sexy sista with a fit, hourglass figure wearing a red bra and bikini panties stands and stares at her reflection in the full-length mirror. Her red wrap dress and designer heels lie on the fitting room bench in the background. There’s an annoyed look on her face as she ponders-

E’steem: (thought bubble) How long does it take to find a dress?


Title: NO GOOD DEED


PAGE TWO

PANEL ONE
Closeup on E’steem grimaces as she looks at her watch.

E’steem: (thought bubble) The saleswoman said she’d be right back. It’s been five minutes and she still hasn’t returned with the size four she said was just supposed to be just on the rack-

PANEL TWO:
Medium shot, ¾ wide panel. Outside on the sales floor of a Madison Avenue designer boutique. Slow day. One of the salesladies is working the counter and another is fishing through dresses for E’steem’s size on a rack when-

A pair of obese hood rats with brightly colored hair weaves, tight jeans, tight T-shirts and gaudy multicolored sneakers kick the door in. One holds a nine, another holds a shotgun. One woman points her pistol at the sales clerk at the register the other aims her shotgun at the ceiling and lets off a round.

SFX (Door) BAM!
SFX (Shotgun pointed at ceiling) BOOM!
HOODRAT: EVERYBODY GET YOUR HANDS UP! THIS IS A STICK UP!

PANEL THREE  
In the fitting room a curious E’steem cocks an ear after hearing the commotion and the store clerk’s scream.
SFX: (saleslady) AIEEGGGH!

PANEL FOUR
There’s a pissed off look on E’steem’s face when she realizes what’s going on.
E’steem: (thought bubble) Great. Out of all the stores on Madison Avenue they had to rob it had to be one I was shopping in. I’m not in the mood to be a hostage today.

PANEL  FIVE

Double wide panel wide shot, outside on the sales floor. One hoodrat has her pistol trained on the salesclerk at the counter while she’s stuffing money from the register in a bag. While the other points her shotgun at the saleslady near the dresses-

Hoodrat with pistol: Is there anyone else in the store?
Saleslady: N-No…
Hoodrat with shotgun: I’ma go check the back.


PAGE THREE

PANEL ONE
Double wide panel. The Hoodrat kicks in the door of the stall of the fitting room. There’s a gradient effect while E’steem starts to fade from sight holding her iPhone as she starts to activate her cloak.

SFX (door kicked in) BOOM!
Hoodrat #1 Is there anyone back there?”

Hoodrat: Ain’t nobody in here!

Saleswoman: There has to be someone in there! She was our only customer!

PANEL TWO
E’steem stands in the corner of the stall on the bench with a piqued look on her face.
E’steem: (thought bubble) There’s some customer service for you. Rat out the only person who isn’t a hostage.

PANEL THREE
The hoodrat with the shotgun looks around and sees nothing unaware of the invisible E’steem in the background.
Hoodrat: WELL SHE MUSTA LEFT! AIN’T NOTHING IN HERE BUT CLOTHES!

PANEL FOUR
The hoodrat bolts out of the fitting room unaware of the invisible E’steem standing in the corner.

PANEL FIVE
Closeup as E’steem becomes visible again as her reflection can be seen in the mirror. She coyly smiles as peers down at her iPhone thinking-
E’steem (Thought bubble): I could call the police. Or I could take the law into my own hands…

PANEL SIX
E’steem gestures. A flash of light envelops her silhouette and…
SFX: FZASH!
E’steem: RAIMENTUS CHANGEUS!
Caption: A spell is chanted. And in the place of the attractive shopper stands-


PAGE FOUR
Splash

Caption: E’steem, The Devilish Diva! Once one of the most feared she-demons in All Hell, She now fights on the side of the Angels.

E’steem, stands posed in front of the mirror The sultry she-demon has long black horns jutting out of the top of her head, yellow reptile eyes, black cloven finger and toe claws. She wears a tattered red dress and a smile on her face.

E’steem: Time to scare some kids straight.


PAGE FIVE

PANEL ONE
Double wide panel. In the background E’steem in demon form rushes out to the sales floor. The smiling Hoodrats are snatching a bag of money from the saleswoman behind the counter and heading for the exit.
HOODRAT: Nice doing business with you.

PANEL TWO
The hoodrats are terrified when-

SFX FZASH!
E’steem stands in front of the door arms akimbo with a smile on her face. A flash of light behind her to signify her teleporting.

E’steem: Excuse me, I’m with loss prevention. Can I see your receipt for that cash in your bag?

Hoodrat: OH MY GOD! IT’S A MONSTER!

Caption: Demon I’m a demon. Don’t they ever see the horns?

PANEL THREE
One of the terrified Hoodrats fires her pistol at E’steem. Bullets bounce off her chest as the charging E’steem who smiles and reaches for her gun and-

Hoodrat with shotgun: SHOOT IT! SHOOT IT!

E’steem: Just like a human kill what you don’t understand.

PANEL FOUR
Closeup on E’steem’s hands. She crumples the gun like paper.

SFX: CRUMP!

Panel FIVE
Side view of both women as they look at each other. The taller E’steem smiles as she looks down at the terrified Hodrat and asks-
E’steem: Do you want to give up now?

PANEL SIX
Hoodrat swings at E’steem as her flight or fight response kicks in. E’steem blocks the blow and-
Hoodrat: You’re not gonna take me to Hell! 

PANEL SEVEN
The scared hoodrat catches a backhand slap from an indifferent E’steem that sends her to the floor.
SFX: SMACK!

PANEL SIX
E’steem peers down at the fallen hoodrat who slumps under the sales counter, smirks, and tells her-

E’steem: Hell? I was going to let the police take you to jail.


PAGE SIX

PANEL ONE
Saleswomen react to the action. They’re gasped in awe of E’steem’s feat of strength.

Saleswoman #1 Did you see that? She knocked her out with a slap to the face!

PANEL TWO

A smiling E’steem looks over at the hoodrat with the shotgun and asks-
E’steem: Now are you going to atone for your sins? Or am I going to have to smite you?

PANEL THREE
SFX KACHICK!
Nervous, the hoodrat cocks her shotgun in defiance and points it at the heads of one of the saleswomen. E’steem’s body is frozen in an aggressive stance.
Hoodrat: Don’t come near me! She barks. “I’ll blow their heads off!

PANEL FOUR
Closeup of E’steem’s face as she smiles at the girl

E’steem: I’m not moving.

PANEL FIVE
Closeup on the Hoodrats’ multicolored weave smoke starts to starts to smolder.

Caption: And I don’t have to. I have such precise control over Hellfire I can make it ignite pyrokinetically.


PAGE SEVEN

PANEL ONE

Flames full on the hoodrats head. She drops her shotgun and is flailing around like a chicken with its head cut off. Saleslady in the background picks up the shotgun

SFX: FWASH!

Hoodrat: “AAAAHHHHH!!!! MY WEAVE!”

PANEL TWO

And the hoodrat has wide eyes when she’s staring down the barrel of her shotgun. Her hands are on the back of her head trying to put out the fire.

Saleslady: ALRIGHT! ON YOUR KNEES AND PUT YOUR HANDS BEHIND YOUR HEAD!
Hoodrat: But-but my hair is on fire!
Saleslady ON YOUR KNEES!

PANEL THREE
Hoodrat has tears in her eyes as she’s on her knees. E’steem takes a bottle of water off the counter and pours water on the girl’s weave to put out the fire and laughs.
E’steem: Big cryaby.

PANEL FOUR
Women smile expressing their gratitude to E’steem

Saleslady: Thank you so much for saving our lives Miss.”

E’steem Why you’re welcome. I couldn’t have crooks robbing my favorite store.”

Saleslady#2 Well, the next time you come in, we’ll make sure to give you our employee discount on anything in the store.”

PANEL FIVE
E’steem smiles pondering what she’ll buy with her discount as she talks to the saleswomen.

Caption: That reward would sure help me in buying that little black dress I was trying on a few minutes ago.

E’steem Er…Don’t you have a customer in the back?”
Saleslady #1I forgot all about her!”

PANEL SIX
A flash of light shows E’steem teleporting as one of the Salesladies rushes off the salesfloor

PAGE EIGHT

PANEL ONE
E’steem reappear in the fitting room in her underwear. A flash of light behind her to signify her teleporting.

Saleswoman: MISS? MISS ARE YOU ALL RIGHT?
SFX: Rapp! Rapp!

PANEL TWO
E’steem stands in the doorway of the fitting room in her red wrap dress and heels with a nervous smile on her face.

E’steem: I’m fine.

Saleslady: I thought she’d gotten to you-

E’steem: She would have gotten to me, but when I heard the commotion, I grabbed my cell phone, ran into another fitting room and called 911.

PANEL THREE  
E’steem gives the saleslady a curious look.

Saleswoman: Just be glad you stayed in here. You didn’t have to see the demon!

E’steem: Demon?”

PANEL FOUR
E’steem has an engaged look on her face as she listens to the story.
Yes, a tall Black woman in a raggedy red dress with yellow snake eyes, horns, and black claws.
E’steem: Wow. She sounds scary.

Saleslady I’d say she was. She bent steel like it was paper, and set the other one’s hair on fire.”

E’steem: I doubt they’ll ever pull another stick-up again.

She sure scared them straight.

PANEL FIVE
There’s an eager look on E’steem’s face as she anticipates her reward.
E’steem: So do you have the size four in the little black dress?

There’s a befuddled one on the saleslady’s face.

Saleslady Oh…I was coming back here to tell you that we’re all out of your size. I’m sorry.

PANEL SIX

Shrugged shoulders and a playful smile on E’steem’s face as she looks to the readers and tells them-

E’steem: {Thought bubble} I save the day and I still don’t get the dress I wanted to buy. I guess no good deed goes unpunished.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Shawn Writes a Comic Script



I just wrote my first comic strip script! Nothing fancy, just an adaptation of my short E’steem: No Good Deed. I figured before I tackle a full Graphic novel adaptaion of an Isis series story or an original story for another character in the format I decided to see if I could get my style to work within the medium.

I chose E’steem: No Good Deed because it was one of my shorter works. (only three pages) And since it was short, it would be a good test to assess my style.

I found it interesting how only three pages of prose and dialogue story turned into nine pages of comic panels.

The big challenge with comic writing was trying to create single images only using words. I thought I could use some techniques I picked up from screenwritng, such as creating images using a limited amount of words, however in comic writing a writer has to use even fewer words to create their pictures.

The big difference is while the images are moving in a screenplay, in comics a writer has to tell a story using a series of static soilitary pictures. So writing for the medium is a lot trickier. Trying to get the thousand words down to four or five that effectively tell a story in one picture is quite the challenge.

I’ve been studying comic scripts for a few years but it’s a major challenge to actually sit down and write one. The formatting is completely different from novels or screenplays. Each page has its own set of panels and that really limits how much story a writer can put on a single page. While I could easily put an intro and go right into story on a novel or a short or just start writing action for a scene in a screenplay after FADE IN, for a comic I have to have to create an inciting incident with a single solitary image for the splash page. Then that has to followed up with panels that transition the action and move the story forward in pictures. Not easy. Not easy at all.

No Good Deed worked fairly well for a comic script. The action flowed smoothly from panel to panel. While it only it took a day for me to write the original story, it took a week to write the script for the comic. Maybe that’s because I was learning the ins and outs of formatting, but I’d like to think I could produce a script at the speed I write many of my Isis series stories.  

I wrote the E’steem: No Good Deed script kind of loose; I wanted to leave it a little rough in case I ever got to work with an artist on it. Working on comics is different from the novel or the screenplay. The novel is a solitary project where the writer works alone. And the screenplay is where a writer works alone. On the other hand, a comic is a collaborative effort and a writer has to be open to changing things when working with an artist to tell the right story in pictures. When you work on a comic the artist is just as important as the writer and their input is just as valuable to the finished product. They may have some ideas to add during the revision process that make the final story the best it can be.

This is my first script and it’s a really rough first draft. And I’m hoping to trim it from the nine pages to about six or eight or possibly even four. A simple story about a hero foiling a stick-up doesn’t have to be that long. The original E’steem: No Good Deed was just a basic story to introduce the character to readers and establish her new direction; and that’s what I’d like the comic to be when I get a chance to publish it.

I’d love to learn more about comic writing. I believe the techniques used could help me with the novel the same way screenwriting helped me become a better novelist. Now that I’m starting to write comic scripts I’ll be working on more projects in the medium in the future.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Isis/E’steem Crossover is now Available on Smashwords!



The Isis/E’steem Crossover is now available on Smashowords and Smashwords affiliates such as Barnes & Noble and the iBookstore. Both books feature covers by Hero Busine$$ artist Bill Walko and feature a Smashwords exclusive trade dress! Both books are 99¢ and well worth the purchase price! 

Vampires! When E’steem is given a project that takes her out of the office, Isis fills in for her on the job at the Morris Phillips. While she’s escorting CEO John Haynes to a charity event the demon D’lilah and a brood of disgruntled Vampires crash the party looking to take a meeting with him. Can the goddess next door help her boss take care of business dealing with the undead?

Bad Girl Gone Good! Good Girl goes undercover! When E’steem and John find stolen boxes of Marshmallow cookies in a Bronx Bodega, she goes undercover at the Nabiskit factory in Philadelphia to find the employee responsible for the thefts. Can the Devilish Diva stop the cookie crook and put an end to their confectionary caper?



Note: There will be a video about Milestone Media and the heroes of Milestone Media in the future. Right now I’m doing research and digging all my old Milestone comics out of the closet to do that feature!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Isis Series Book News and the John Haynes Sequel






Isis: Night of the Vampires and E’steem Undercover are coming to Smashwords!

But with a twist! Bill Walko did an amazing job on the art on the Isis/E’steem crossover covers. And he even did a pair with a different trade dress. And with Smashwords having a larger distribution network than Amazon, I thought that would be a great place for both to get their debut!






In other book news I’ve just completed the first draft of  sequel to The Temptation of John Haynes. The book is tentatilvely titled The Man Who Rules the World. I'm pondering calling it  John Haynes: The Man Who Rules The world to keep it in line with the other Isis and E'steem series books. Temptation was one of my most acclaimed novels in 2011 and it had a fairly strong following. Some asked me back as far as 2011 if there’d be a sequel, and I wanted to have just the right story premise in mind before I made any promises.


I planned this story back as far as 2009 and I’ve been trying to write The Man Who Rules The World for close to seven years now. I started this book and stopped it numerous times and struggled to get this book to go anywhere. However, while I was stuck on Isis: Imitation of Life I got inspired to write The Man Who Rules The World and completed the entire story in a week.


Some of my readers have wanted me to write books for Black boys for several years. And I wrote this story specifically with Black boys in mind. I made it a point to create a story where we see a Black man in a leadership position being assertive, authoritative and commanding. I’ve learned a lot of lessons about manhood and the male identity in the last seven years and I wanted to make sure they were applied in this story.

Readers of the Isis series got a glimpse of John Haynes in his appearances in Isis: Wrath of the Cybergoddess and Isis: Night of the Vampires. And the story of The Man Who Rules the world will take place right after Isis: Night of the Vampires if you follow that continuity. Like Temptation, this one is action packed and is extremely fast paced. If you like superhero movies like The Avengers, you’ll love The Man Who rules the World. Almost every major character from the SJS DIRECT Universe makes an appearance here.


The Man Who Rules the World is the first full John Haynes story in the Novelette format. I wanted this book to be longer, but as it was writing itself this was the format it was flowing into. I would love to do a John Haynes series like I do with the Isis series, but I’d have to see the sales numbers for the book before I made any commitments.  


I’m pondering doing a Kickstarter for The Man Who Rules the World I would love to see Bill Walko’s version of John Haynes to go along with Isis and E’steem. And I’d love to see his trade dress for the cover. He did a great job with the Isis/E’steem crossover covers and I’d love to work with him again.


I’d love to release The Man Who Rules The World in Summer 2016, but I’m making no promises This is just the first draft and I have a long way to go.