What's the different between comics and novels?
Blog Tour Author: Dan Jolley
Featured Book Release:
Gray Widow's Web
July 19-26, 2017
Featured Book Release:
Gray Widow's Web
July 19-26, 2017
Over the years, I’ve met a few novelists who’ve said things like, “Wow, I could never imagine writing a comic book,” or “Man, I can’t believe how hard writing comics is compared with writing novels.” Since I started out writing comics, and only later moved to prose, that struck me a little funny to begin with.
But they were totally right about comics being a difficult medium to master. It’s incredibly rigid: you’ve got a set number of pages, a maximum number of panels on a page (depending on the artist you’re working with), you’ve got to manage your word count so that you don’t obscure the art and make it impossible to tell what’s going on, and because of the page-turn, you need to be really careful that your big, impactful, surprising moments happen at the tops of even-numbered pages. You’ve got to understand, as Scott McCloud put it in his brilliant book Understanding Comics, that most of the story takes place between the panels, in that space where your imagination fills in what isn’t actually seen.
I first learned to write professionally by writing comics. I got my start at age 19, when I was still in college, and soon I met my comics-writing mentor/guru, Dark Horse Comics editor Dan Thorsland. Dan gave me a crash-course in what worked and what didn’t, and I still use the wisdom he imparted to me every time I sit down to write a script. And because the medium of comics is so rigid and unforgiving, I incorporated that into my whole approach: being creative within a concretely-defined set of parameters.
That mindset came in handy when I got the chance to write some books in Lerner Publishing’s Twisted Journeys series, a hybrid prose/graphic novel format that presented a new take on Choose Your Own Adventure. One story with 27 different endings? A narrative structure that revolved around a massive, complicated flow-chart? Sure, okay. I ended up doing nine of those. Later, when I got into video games, I discovered it was every bit as regimented as comics, but in different ways—writing for a game requires things like coming up with 25 different ways to say, “I’m out of bullets,” usually limited to no more than about eight syllables. Or generating a cinematic scene that has to convey a pre-determined amount of information, and be dramatic and compelling, and last no more than 90 seconds. I adapted to all of that, too, and it was almost entirely because of how I got started.
Learning to write by scripting comics is kind of like learning to drive in a two-ton flatbed truck with a three-speed manual transmission. It’s not easy. It takes just the right approach to get that big, unwieldy beast to do what you want. Once you learn, of course, it becomes second nature…
…but then you finally get the chance to drive something else. Say, a Ford F-150 automatic. Suddenly you’re thinking to yourself, “Oh my God. It’s so much less complicated! I can just get in and go!”
That was kind of what it felt like to me when I first started writing prose. I can make the chapters as long as I want to? The page count is only a suggestion, and if I come in seven or eight thousand words above or below it, it’s okay? It was liberating. Revelatory.
But there were still parameters in place. I was mainly doing Young Adult prose (my Alex Unlimited trilogy), or prose that couldn’t be objectionable in any way to a mainstream audience (novelizations of movies like Iron Man and Transformers 2). I never really got the chance to cut loose.
Until Gray Widow.
For the first time in my career, the Gray Widow Trilogy is allowing me to cast off every limitation and go for broke. No ideas off-limits. No restrictions based on age range or vocabulary level. No censorship on violence or sexuality or horror.
The Gray Widow story centers on Janey Sinclair, a young woman in modern-day Atlanta who discovers that she and a few other people have for years been unwittingly involved in an extraterrestrial plot that classifies humans as something like raw material. Janey’s life has been scarred by tragedy, and when she mysteriously gains the ability to teleport from one patch of darkness to another, she decides to use that ability to try to overcome the pain and anguish that has threatened to overwhelm her. Digging into Janey’s mind and personality, bringing her to life, watching her take control of her destiny—at the same time exploring every implication of the extraterrestrials’ actions for Janey, the people around her, and the world at large—well.
Now it feels as if I’m driving a Lamborghini.
I hope you’ll join me for the ride.
Wow, you make that Lamborghini sound fun! Thank you Dan, and I'm really looking forward to reading the Gray Widow books.
About the author: Dan Jolley started writing professionally at age nineteen. Beginning in comic books, he soon branched out into original novels, licensed-property novels, children’s books, and video games. His twenty-six-year career includes the YA sci-fi/espionage trilogy Alex Unlimited; the award-winning comic book mini-series Obergeist; the Eisner Award-nominated comic book mini-series JSA: The Liberty Files; and the Transformers video games War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron. Dan was co-writer of the world-wide-bestselling zombie/parkour game Dying Light, and is the author of the Middle Grade Urban Fantasy novel series Five Elements. Dan lives somewhere in the northwest Georgia foothills with his wife Tracy and a handful of largely inert cats.
Where to find him:
About Gray Widow's Web: JANEY SINCLAIR never knew how or why she gained her ability to teleport. She never wanted it, and for years tried her best to ignore it. But when horrible violence shattered her world, she vowed to use her mysterious talent to protect the citizens of Atlanta, in an effort to prevent anyone else from suffering the kind of agony she had. Wearing a suit of stolen military body armor, Janey became known to the public as the GRAY WIDOW.
But now the extraterrestrial source of her “Augmentation” is about to reveal itself, in an event that will profoundly impact Janey’s life and the lives of those closest to her—
TIM KAPOOR, who barely survived the assault of twisted, bloodthirsty shapeshifter Simon Grove and still struggles to pull himself together, both physically and mentally.
NATHAN PITTMAN, the teenager who got shot trying to imitate Janey’s vigilante tactics, and has since become obsessed with the Gray Widow.
SHA’DAE WILKERSON, Janey’s neighbor and newfound best friend, whose instant chemistry with Janey may have roots that neither of them fully understand.
And Janey’s going to need all the help she can get, because one of the other Augments has her sights set on the Gray Widow. The terrifying abomination known as APHRODITE LUPO is more powerful and lethal than anyone or anything Janey has ever faced. And Aphrodite is determined to recruit Janey to her twisted cause…or take her off the field for good.
Unrelenting ghosts of the past clash with the vicious threats of the future. Janey’s destiny bursts from the shadows into the light in GRAY WIDOW’S WEB, leaving the course of humanity itself forever changed.
Where to find it:Kindle Version
Barnes and Noble Link for Gray Widow's Web:
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