From Strip to Script – Batgirl #35

By Josh Hechinger

Welcome once more to From Strip to Script, where I reverse-engineer a script from a finished page of someone else's comic.

So, last time, we tackled the wily double-page spread. This time, I want to take a swing at…hmm. You know, I'm not actually sure what to call the majority of this page. It's not quite a spread, which is where you give a page over to a single storytelling unit (even if there's a progression of time within it (and yeah, by that definition, last week's example was a double-page layout, not a spread…mea culpa)). A "single-page open-sequence with panels sprinkled on it" would be a clunky term, huh?

Let's see if we can figure out what to call it when it comes time to actually script it, eh? Our subject is from Batgirl Issue #35, by Brenden Fletcher (co-writer), Jared K. Fletcher (letters), Cameron Stewart (co-writer, breakdowns), Babs Tarr (artist), and Maris Wicks (colors).



P1. BABS stops herself by snagging the doorframe, scanning the street for the THIEF.

P2. She watches him leg it down the sidewalk, heading around the corner of the building.

P3. BABS' eyes narrow.

– BABS (small)      Catch up Gordon, catch up…what's the quickest route?

For this next sequence, I'm going to switch to a looser script, rather than strict panel-by-panel breakdowns.

I'm thinking full-bleed collage, but with something like…Photoshop layers, listed here as background-to-foreground.

Layer 1: City street-map background, in BABS' Detective Mode.

Layer 2: She's "normal" colored, shown running, hopping fences, ending on climbing a fire escape; BABS in full-on Sabotage mode, basically.

Layer 3: Floating around each shot of BABS running are Detective Mode panels of dead ends, street construction, the DRIVER on the moving truck from earlier talking to BABS, and finally, a fire-escape.

– DRIVER (blue)      We're gonna have to come around from Fourth Ave, this one's a dead end—

So, What'd We Learn?

– As ever, as always, scripting is about knowing when to hold 'em, and when to fo—wait, no, I'm thinking of something else.

In all seriousness: unless your collaborators strenuously object, there's nothing wrong with switching up scripting styles from full-script to semi-plot-first if the page you're trying to nail down is a mix of structured and abstract. Use the tools you need to do the job you're trying to do.

– That said, always remember that comic scripting is description, not dictation. Ideally, you're just describing the page you see in your head, as clearly as possible, then getting the hell out of the way of the artist's interpretation of that description.

– I have a bad habit of using references/pop-cultural shorthand, or at worst, doing so without linking to what I'm talking about. I've worked with artists that like having examples of what I'm talking about in the script, or with whom I've swapped references back and forth to nail down what we're both trying to describe, idea wise. I've also worked with artists who've told me to reign it in because they have no context for my references and it's getting in the way of how they approach the page.

(Put another way: I think "Photoshop layers" is safe, I dunno so much that dropping Sabotage, even with a link to the video, isn't me just being self-indulgent.)

– P3's a good example of the tightrope between calling out panels and describing layouts. Like: I have it as a P3, implying a panel, with borders and everything, but it clearly works brilliantly on the finished page as a borderless "shot" that bleeds into the rest of the collage.

See, it's got one foot in both "halves" of the page, layout-wise: it lacks traditional panel borders, but Babs' hair forms a kind of loose frame around the "action" of her eyes and dialogue.

Would every artist pull that off from "BABS' eyes narrow"? Who can say? Are you covered either way, in that if P1-2-3 can have borders, and the rest of the page is an abstract thing, and it still sort of symmetrically hangs together? Sure. Does it leave space for the artist to come up with something like the transition panel? Hopefully/thankfully.

Philly-based comic writer Josh Hechinger is a Cancer, and his blood type is A+. He enjoys running, coffee, and broadly positive tonal revamps of licensed characters. He's a little more Ryoga Hibiki than Babs Gordon when it comes to navigating, if truth be told.

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About Hannah Means Shannon

Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. Independent comics scholar and former English Professor. Writing books on magic in the works of Alan Moore and the early works of Neil Gaiman.
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