Thursday, 5 March 2015

Writing Comics: Tamsin and the Deep


Tamsin and the Deep (c) 2015 Neill Cameron and Kate Brown, OBVS


I'm giving a couple of talks on Writing Comics here and there these days, and I thought I'd put some of my resources up here for reference, so: for anyone interested in the process of How To Write Comics - or How I Write Comics, anyway, which is not necessarily the same thing - here you go. As an example we'll be taking the first episode of Tamsin and The Deep, a strip I write for the magnificently talented artist Kate Brown, which is published in The Phoenix.

First off, the story is outlined in broad strokes in a Series Outline which we'll discuss and get feedback from our editors on. The way it works on the Phoenix you'll generally have a story commissioned for a given number of episodes, and number of pages per episode, so writing an outline like this is a very useful way of getting the whole story straight and figuring out the overall shape of the thing before you fire into making it. Here's the first page of my outline for Tamsin, covering the first episode:

TAMSIN AND THE DEEP

SERIES OUTLINE

By Neill Cameron(4 ‘chapters’ / seasons, of 5 episodes each. 20 episodes total.)
 CHAPTER ONE EPISODE ONE

A cold November morning on a windy beach in Cornwall. It is largely deserted - all the holidaymakers are long gone for the year. The only people around are three local boys, surfing - impervious or steeled to the cold in their drysuits - and a young girl, who sits on the beach, grumpily watching them.

The girl, Tamsin, argues with one of the boys - her older brother, Morgan.

"You were supposed to be teaching me. You promised Mum!"

"Alright, alright! In a minute…"

Morgan is too busy having fun with his Idiot Friends, and Tamsin is abandoned on the beach. Grumpily, she picks up her bodyboard and sets off to have a go herself, some way off, muttering as she goes about Stupid Morgan and his Stupid Idiot Friends.
Morgan and his friends return to shore, notice that she's gone. They see her getting up onto her board, some distance off. She's outside the flags, off a dangerous stretch of coastline. As they yell and wave their hands to get her attention, Tamsin catches a big wave...

...and wipes out. She is rolled around under the surf, managing to almost get back to the surface before being pulled down by a powerful undertow. The cord connecting her to her board snaps. She is dragged downwards, away from the sun and down, down into the dark.

Morgan and his friends see her board bobbing around uselessly on the surface, and Morgan starts to scream helplessly.

"Tamsin! TAMSIN!"

As Tamsin struggles desperately beneath the waves, she manages to turn, and sees...

Arms gripping her legs, pulling her down. And just visible through the darkness, a terrible, beautiful, utterly alien face.

TO BE CONTINUED…  


That was pretty much one side of A4 for one episode. With something like Mega Robo Bros, where I'm writing for myself as an artist and I've been doing it for a while, the outline might be a lot shorter, but as this was an all-new strip and characters it goes into quite a lot of detail.

Once the outline have been discussed, amended, edited and approved, we proceed to scripting. On Tamsin I'm writing full scripts for Kate, whereas on Mega Robo Bros I'll pretty much jump straight from the outline into thumbnailing. Anyway, here's the full first episode of Tamsin, in script form:


 TAMSIN AND THE DEEP


By Neill Cameron


EPISODE ONE

Page One

1.1: Small shot showing waves.

VOICE (o/p): Morgan!

TITLE & CREDITS:



TAMSIN AND THE DEEP


By Neill Cameron & Kate Brown


Episode 1

1.2: Big shot of Porthtowan beach. It is late November, the skies are slate grey and the sea dark, but that has not put off a small group of three teenagers: the dark-haired MORGAN and his idiot friends TRAVIS and KYLE, who are paddling their surfboards out into the waves. On the sands sits a ten-year-old girl, TAMSIN. Beside her are some bags and surfing-gear, left on the sands, and a couple of bodyboards. A large golden retriever, PENGERSEK, runs happily around on the sands behind her, chasing a ball. She is calling out to the group of boys on their surfboards.

 TAMSIN: Morgaaan!

 MORGAN: What IS it, Tamsin?

1.3: full-figure shot of Tamsin, so we get a proper look at her. She wears wetsuit and flippers; she is all kitted up with nowhere to do. She sits on her bodyboard, lain flat on the sand. Behind her, Pengersek runs around happily, chasing a ball.

TAMSIN: You’re supposed to be teaching me!

TAMSIN: You promised MUM!

1.4: Shot from out in the sea; Morgan and one of his idiot friends (Kyle, the loudmouth)

MORGAN: I will! In a bit, okay?

KYLE: Dude, your sister is annoying. Do you really have to babysit her?

1.5: Close in on Tamsin, pulling a sulky face.

MORGAN (small, distant): Ugh, tell me about it…

TAMSIN: JERKS.



Page Two

2.1: Medium shot. Her face set in determination, Tamsin picks up her bodyboard and strides off to panel right.

TAMSIN: Who needs him!

2.2: Arial shot, Tamsin strides along the beach, a trail of footprints behind her. Pengersek runs after her, yapping.

PENGERSEK: YAP YAP YAP!

TAMSIN: Don’t worry, Pengersek. Of course I’ll be careful.

2.3: Long shot of Tamsin striding out into the surf. In the distance we can see Morgan and his friends bobbing around on the surf, waiting for a big wave.

TAMSIN: After all, if those morons can do it…

2.4: Tamsin paddles out, lying flat on her board now.

TAMSIN: …how hard can it be, right?

2.5: Tamsin is now out in the sea, facing back towards the beach. She looks over her shoulder, out to sea.

TAMSIN: Okay. So now I just wait for a big wave, right?

2.6: Shot from Tamsin’s POV of a wave approaching, in the distance.

SFX: SHHHWWWW

2.7: Small shot of Tamsin, looking slightly worried.

TAMSIN:  ...that is a big wave.

2.8: similar shot to 2.6; the wave is much closer now, white foam breaking on the top of it.

SFX: SHHHHWWWWW

2.9: Tamsin grips her board and looks up at the wave as it curls over her.

TAMSIN: Whooooaaaa!


Page Three


3.1: Large panel: Tamsin is doing it; riding the wave, speeding across the front of it on her boadyboard. She looks delighted. Sun glints on the waves.

TAMSIN: Ha ha ha ha ha! I’m doing it!

TAMSIN: EAT IT, Morgan!

3.2: Small panel of Morgan, some distance off; looking round. Possibly we can see Travis in shot, also looking off to the same point.

MORGAN: Huh?



TRAVIS: What’s she doing? She’s too far out!

3.2: Close in on Tamsin; she looks worried now; struggling to hold onto the board as the wave bears down on top of her.

SFX: SHHHHHHHWWWWWW

TAMSIN: Ummmm…..

TAMSIN: Hold on…

3.3: Another large-ish panel; Tamsin WIPES OUT, the wave crashing down over her – just a limb or a tip of board being visible beneath the foam.

TAMSIN: waa---

SFX: SHHWWWWFFFF!!!

3.4: Wide shot of the beach; Off to the left we see Morgan surfing along, looking over to where Tamsin has disappeared beneath the water. Pengersek is splashing into the surf at the edge of the beach, barking furiously towards that same point.

MORGAN: Tamsin -?

PENGERSEK: RUFF RUFF RUFF RUFF!!

3.6-3.9: Kate, I’d like to leave the precise panelling of this up to you, but the last third of this page should essentially be a sequence of Tamsin rolling around under the water in the undertow. The sequence of ‘events’, such as there is one, is –
Tamsin is pulled down by the undertow. She flails wildly, uselessly.
The cord tying Tamsin to her board snaps free, the board shoots pu and away to the surface…
…Tamsin manages to recover her bearings enough to at least see which way the surface is, and reaches for it…
…only to feel something pulling her down. She looks around…
…setting up the big page-turn reveal for p4. But the precise sequence of events is less important here than the overall sensation – of panic, or chaotic turbulence, or rolling waves and darkness and impending drowning.
HAVE FUN WITH THAT.


Page Four

4.1: BIG panel. Still underwater, we see  Tamsin being pulled down into the darkness by a HAND that grips her ankle. Between the darkness and the rolling waves and perhaps some seaweed it is hard to make out WHAT, exactly, it is. But we see a hand; a dark, greeny-blue hand. It grips Tamsin tightly by the ankle as she twists her body round in panic, looking down at it.

4.2: Close in on Tamsin’s face, looking down in panicked horror amongst the swirl of air bubbles.

4.3: Reverse-angle shot; Close in on an EERIE INHUMAN FACE looking up at her; female but fishlike; large black merciless eyes. Again, shrouded in darkness and seaweed and churning surf, but it is definitely a face.

4.4: Morgan and friends running along the beach, dog barking…
Back on the surface, a wide-angled shot of Morgan, running through the surf in panic, Pengersek at his side. Travis and Kyle are bringing up the rear, ineffectually. Morgan’s face is absolutely wild with terror.

MORGAN: TAMSIN!

4.5: Shot from Morgan’s POV of Tamsin’s bodyboard washing up in surf; its cord trailing uselessly behind it, attached to nothing.

MORGAN: (o/p): TAMSIN!!

TO BE CONTINUED…


Couple of points:


  • You'll note a couple of lines in red there: I think they were added in based on editorial feedback on the first draft; if memory serves, we just wanted to add a bit of clarity as to where Tamsin was relative to the boys, and hint that she was somewhere she shouldn't be.
  • On the third page there's a section where instead of giving precise panel-by-panel script description, I've just described the general effect we're going for and left it up to Kate to make those decisions. When you are working with an artist and storyteller as talented as Kate, this is often a good idea.


You can currently read the whole of Tamsin and the Deep chapter one over on Movella's Project Remix site - and maybe then have a go at creating your own comics, too. Do go have a look, and see for yourself the amazingly beautiful comic that Kate created out of all these boring old words.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

The Pirates of Pangaea: Book One


The Pirates of Pangaea - a graphic novel concerning pirates, dinosaurs, and adventures thereupon by Daniel Hartwell and myself - was published recently, and it occurred to me that I possibly ought to mention this fact on my blog. The book collects the first big story arc from the now rather hard-to-find issues 0-20 of The Phoenix, along with lots of special new bits and pieces and cool fun stuff like maps and faux 18th-century dinosaur guidebook pages and that kind of thing. It was a huge amount of fun to make and if you know any kids who like comics or dinosaurs or pirates or ALL OF THOSE THINGS I hope you'll consider grabbing them a copy. We've been getting some lovely reviews, which I am now going to proceed to shamelessly share with you...

"The Pirates of Pangaea is absolutely the best comic strip being published for children in the UK, possibly the world. 10/10” -Starburst Magazine 
"Pirates! Dinosaurs! Every bit as wonderful together as you expect to be, every bit as brilliant as you wanted it to be." Forbidden Planet
"Superbly engaging and utterly enthralling, this astounding all-action romp is a riotous delight of astonishing adventure." - Now Read This! 

...but, as ever with comics, there's not a lot of money for advertising on the sides of buses and so forth (which is a shame because OH how I would love to see dinoships on the sides of buses) and we really do rely on word of mouth, so please... say words with your mouth? Thank you!

You can see a bunch of art from the book and find out all about it over on my website, at www.neillcameron.com/pangaea, or read a preview on my tumblr. And look, you can now buy from those nice people at the Phoenix an exciting BUNDLE containing all three of my books (that's Pirates as well as Mo-Bot High and How To Make Awesome Comics) for a cut-down bargain price. I am mostly just excited to have somehow done enough books to constitute a bundle.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Saturday Morning Comics Club!

(Photo courtesy The Story Museum)

I'm trying an Exciting New Venture in 2015, running a Saturday Morning Comics Club at the Story Museum in Oxford! It's for kids aged 8-12, and every week we'll be reading comics...

(Like THESE)

...talking about comics, learning about comics, and most importantly MAKING LOTS OF AWESOME COMICS!


Like this one! Or maybe EVEN AWESOMER. Who can say?

The goal is to have produced a brand-new anthology comic in time for the Phoenix Children's Comic Festival in May, but I dare say that'll just be the start of it!



I'm also going to be using the same 'curriculum' and ideas to run a weekly Comics Club on a volunteer basis as an afterschool thing at our local primary. I bang on a lot, encouraging parents and teachers and librarians to use comics in their schools as a great way of boosting literacy and encouraging creativity and having FUN, and I figured it was time to put my money where my mouth is and get involved myself. I'll be blogging about the experience and lessons learned and ideas it prompts as we go along here, in the hopes of maybe encouraging other parents / cartoonists / foolhardy souls to have a go themselves.

Anyway, the Story Museum Comics Club starts with a taster session this Saturday (14th Feb), 11-12:30 am. You can find full details and book a place on the Story Museum website, here:

...and then the main event starts in proper on 28th Feb and then every week thereafter. If you'd like more information please e-mail tickets@thestorymuseum.org.uk or phone 01865 790050 to speak to the lovely people at the museum with any questions you may have.

I am mildly terrified but I think it's going to be lots of fun. If you do know any families in the Oxford area who might be interested, please do spread the word!

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Mega Robo Week!






My comic Mega Robo Bros starts its second series in The Phoenix this Friday! To celebrate this exciting fact I thought I'd spend this week sharing some art from the strip, and even some full episodes, and pulling back the curtain a bit to talk about, you know, the artistic process and my thoughts and feelings and all that dumb stuff. 

In case you haven't caught it yet: Mega Robo Bros tells the story of Alex and Freddy, two brothers who live in a London of the (carefully indeterminate) future, and... well, actually I'll just give you the blurb that opens each episode, that seems easiest...



This is Alex:



 He's the sensitive one.

And this is Freddy:



 He's the terrifyingly destructive, scatalogically obsessed, borderline sociopathic one. (Which is to say, he's 6).

The idea for the strip had been floating around my head for a little while, ever since one day I saw my son running around pretending to be a robot and shooting lasers out of his fingers and thought to myself: oh my God... what if he could?

My son will happily tell you that this means that the strip is in fact his idea, and I'm not going to argue too hard. In fact, as it's been appearing in the Phoenix a weird feedback loop thing has been starting to happen, where I'll put in things kind of inspired by the boy, and he'll find them hilarious and quote them back endlessly, to the point where I actually find it quite hard to remember who said something first: my son or my fictional robots. 

Which can be confusing.




Anyway: as I say, the second 'season' begins this week!

Regular readers may have noticed a certain fluidity to the strip so far, in terms of size and scale. Basically, I've been doing it on quite an ad-hoc basis; trying different lengths of strip, different approaches, different things. This has been hugely enjoyable, and I've loved the opportunity to experiment and do shorter little things. Single-page comics have become pretty much my favourite things in the world, and at some point I want to try some even shorter ones. Also, it's basically been as close as I've ever got to just straight-up writing a sitcom, and I have loved every second of it. Back when I was developing the idea, the point at which I got really excited about it was when I had ideas for two stories I could do with it - one of which was a 3-panel gag strip, and the other a 200-page emotionally gruelling graphic novel. That seemed like an idea with legs.



Anyway, as I've been doing these shorter strips, along the way I've been dropping little hints here and there,  letting things percolate away in the background, building up bits and pieces about a bigger story. And in Season 2, starting this Friday in The Phoenix issue 160, we actually get on and start telling that story. I'm really excited about it. Join us, won't you?

Also! Check back on this blog, as well as my twitter and tumblr all week where I'll be posting selected full episodes from Season 1, development art and fun stuff to give you a taste of the strip. 


Thursday, 4 December 2014

Comics For Christmas!


(Image courtesy The Etherington Brothers)

The festive season is (nearly? sort of?) upon us, and so I thought I'd provide a few suggestions for Christmas Present Ideas for Kids Who Love Comics! DISCLAIMER: a couple of these will involve MY comics. (This is my blog? Turkeys are expensive? Look, let's just get through this.)

Because Comics, as we all know, are the GREATEST GIFT OF ALL.

1) The Phoenix



The Phoenix have some great Christmas-present-suitable subscription offers at the moment - I particularly like the "Book Plus a Sub" deals. So you could, for example, get a copy of HOW TO MAKE AWESOME COMICS to enjoy over the holiday period, and then an awesome comic sent direct to your house, every week thereafter. It's the gift that keeps on giving!


2) Sketched books!


For a more personalised present, you can get signed and personalised copies of my books, HOW TO MAKE AWESOME COMICS and MO-BOT HIGH, direct from my web shop! Including custom sketches, done just for you! http://neillcameron.bigcartel.com/



(Also there, a few copies of me and Adam Murphy's collabocomic THE CURSE OF BARRY STARKEY. Very limited stock, left over from Thought Bubble! Be the coolest person in your non-specific local area!) 

3) MORE sketched books! 

Lots of other Phoenixy creators have their own webstores, too, where you can get personalised copies of their books and also check out their other works! For example:

  • for anyone who loves James Turner's STAR CAT (which, surely, must be everyone), why not check out his completely hilarious BEAVER & STEVE collections. My son's new favourite, hugely recommended! http://eruditebaboon.bigcartel.com/

  • for fans of Adam Murphy's CORPSE TALK, you can get signed & personalised books, Custom Corpse Sketches, and more, from his store: http://adammurphy.storenvy.com/


Look, you can even buy the complete set of originals for EMILIE'S TURN, the ballet strip we did! Aaaargh that would be the greatest present ever.


  • those exuberant Etherington Brothers have a store filled with their books as well as prints and sketchbooks stuffed full of Lorenzo's mind-meltingly gorgeous artwork. http://www.comicsboutique.blogspot.co.uk/



...and that's just a few. I've left so many out, and apologies for that, but you get the idea. Pick a creator, head over to their site and see if they have a store there, it can be a great way of getting uniquely cool swag and supporting your favourite artists at this time of year!

4) MORE Awesome Comics

There are so many great comics for kids being produced at the moment - I wanted to update my last post on the subject about five minutes after finishing it, but in the meantime why not check out some of these great comics? 
  • DUNGEON FUN, by Colin Bell and Neil Slorance - I've ranted about this many times before - hugest possible recommendation, particularly for kids who love the kind of stuff in The Phoenix, or just Stuff That Is Awesome generally. You can order direct from publisher Dogooder Comics, here: http://dogoodercomics.bigcartel.com/

  • NIGHT POST by Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder - this utterly gorgeous, lavish, fantastic hardback is available from selected fine comics shops - for instance, the marvellous Page 45. (Who also sell a bunch of other great kids' comics, so go nuts.)


One more Christmas-themed message while I'm here! I'll be doing a couple of festive live events in Oxford over the next couple of weeks, specifically:

  • Saturday 13 December, 11am - Waterstones, Broad St - live HOW TO MAKE AWESOME COMICS fun! The idea is I'm going to to a kind of live version of my usual festive Santa-themed drawing challenge, expressing the Spirit of Awesomeness in Santa form. How many bizarre and ridiculous Santas can I draw in an hour? Come along and let's find out together! Also signing books, doing sketches for people, all that good stuff.
  • Tuesday 16 December, The Story Museum, Pembroke St - NEILL CAMERON'S CHRISTMAS CARTOON - a special one-day course in which I will be teaching participants to draw ridiculous robot and dinosaur-themed Santas of their own, and making cards and comics with the results. Booking and details here!
Festive advertorial ends! Thank you for your time. Back to drawing amusing pictures of Parks and Recreation characters, tomorrow!

Friday, 14 November 2014

HEY: Let's Get Everyone Making Comics!




I recently had the opportunity to work on a really fun little project for Booktrust's wonderful Letterbox Club project, a scheme which sends packages of books to children in care all over the UK. Included in their next pack will be a little poster / comic we made, encouraging the kids to have a go at a spot of writing and drawing for themselves. Here's a peek!


SPACE PANDAS! #SPACEPANDAS

Meanwhile in a different part of the age spectrum, I'm really excited to have been involved with another really exciting undertaking: Children's Laureate Malorie Blackman's Project Remix, which aims to get kids aged 13-19 making creative responses to and remixes of existing works. Comics are included as one of the categories, and I'm beyond thrilled that Kate Brown and I's Tamsin and the Deep has been included as one of the remixable works! 



You can read the entire first chapter (5 episodes) of Tamsin on the Project Remix site - and then go nuts with it! Compose a rap about spooky mermaids, write the prose adventures of What Tamsin Did Next. Personally it's just a ridiculous thrill to see Tamsin nestled between Jane Austen and Arthur Conan Doyle on the list, so I'm off to pretend I'm 13 and draw a comic where Tamsin teams up with Elizabeth Bennett to fight Moriarty. Possibly in space. 


Please spread the word to any 13-19-year-olds of your acquaintance, it's a really fun idea and there are FANTASTIC PRIZES TO BE WON. Have a go!

Anyway, it's great to see organisations like Booktrust and Movellas using comics as party of these kinds of initiatives - it's what we're always saying, that comics are such a great way of encouraging creativity and imagination, at any age, and I'm always delighted to help spread that message.






Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Thought Bubble! New Comics! Fun Times!


Here is the cover for THE CURSE OF BARRY STARKEY, a brand new comic by the amazing Adam Murphy and myself, with colour covers by the also-rather-amazing Lisa Murphy, which will be available exclusively from our table at this weekend's Thought Bubble comics festival in Leeds! Which table is that, you ask? THIS table:


Table 61, Royal Armouries Hall! THAT table.

(Thanks to Adam for the handy map there.)

Adam and I are sharing a table this year and we thought it'd be fun to do something new for the occasion, and... this is the result. 



Come find us to check out a copy. Witches! Tentacles! 2 x D20 rolls! THIS ONE'S GOT IT ALL. 

As well as that, I will of course also have a big stack of How To Make Awesome Comics:



and Adam will have a similar stack of the British-Comics-Awards-Nominated Corpse Talk:



So we'll be selling those, and doodling in them, and generally hanging out having AWESOME COMICS TIMES. We're in Royal Armouries Hall, surrounded by other awesome all-ages comics folk like Sarah McIntyre, David O'Connell, Gary Northfield, Emma Reynolds, James Turner, Daniel Clifford and Lee Robinson, and... just loads more, ok? What, you think I have all day to sit here linking to websites? I have comics to draw! COME BUY OUR COMICS. Thank you.

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