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Category: 04 Storytelling Lecture Page 1 of 4

New! Storytelling Lecture.

JayJay here. Look! Up in the navigation bar!

I’ve created a separate web page section of the blog just for Jim’s storytelling lecture. It’s all of the information and images, without the fluff or announcements, in one easy-to-find spot. I thought it would be easier for people to to explore the content and browse only the information they want.

The wisdom of the ancients presented for your elucidation.


Regarding What Has Gone Before and a Modest Proposal

Marvelman has left a new comment on your post “And So This Is Christmas Plus More Sex <http://www.jimshooter.com/2011/12/and-so-this-is-christmas-plus-more-sex.html

It’s a small world. I came on this blog to recommend that Jim take a look at Azzarello & Chiang’s Wonder Woman. I highly recommend it. However, I’m not sure that each issue contains as much exposition as it should. I think it’s possible a new reader would find herself lost. Which brings me to two questions…

1) Jim, how do you feel about the “what has gone before” pages which are now printed on the first page of many comic books?

2) Do you think it is alright for some books in a line to be directed at a general audience and others to be intended for comics-savvy readers? Or, would that just lead confusion about what a brand (e.g. Marvel, DC…) represents?


RE:  “…how do you feel about the “what has gone before” pages which are now printed on the first page of many comic books?”

And So This Is Christmas Plus More Sex

First, a Few Items

An Apology to Mark Waid

Mark Waid wrote this scene, which I showed as an example of an out-of-character use of Aunt May for the purpose of a shocker:

I had no idea that Mark had written that scene, not that it would have mattered. I’m an equal opportunity complainer. Anyone may find him or herself honked at here.

Here’s where I went wrong: I judged the scene against Aunt May’s character as it was when I was at Marvel. The Aunt May I knew of was a very old-fashioned woman, the epitome of propriety, who no more would have had sex out of wedlock than my Victorian-era Grandma, who was born in 1888. But, I’ve been told that Aunt May became a little more of a modern Golden Girl subsequently, and that the scene is not out of character for her. Okay.

Sorry, Mark.

To Kill or Not to Kill

JayJay here. Earlier today Rob commented on A Review: Captain America & Bucky #624:

Jedi Knights and Harry Potter wizards are clearly superheroic. heck, the HP kids are children-who kill bad wizards. Plenty of kids look up to them.
and the rest of them are “normal people” the same way Batman is lol i.e. not really.

and yet, I still looked up to Luke Skywlaker though he blew up the Death Star and killed thousands of people; sliced off arms, and casually knocked people into the Sarlaac pit.
December 12, 2011 6:12 PM

Here’s Jim’s Answer:

RE: Heroic characters killing or not, here’s what I think:  Heroic fiction often tends to place heroes in life or death, kill-or-be-killed situations. If no one ever actually does get killed, if it always turns out that there was a nobody-dies alternative, then the jeopardy was false and can become tedious.

How to Do Continued Stories and Next or Future Issue Teases – Part 3

The Great Cover After the Best Cliffhanger Ever

At the request of Lincoln G, here’s the cover of the Amazing Spider-Man #33. Not surprisingly, the best cliffhanger also made for a terrific cliffhanger cover.

Long Term Teases, or This Better Be Good….

The best long term tease, the best tease of any kind is consistently great entertainment. Publishing compelling issue after compelling issue is the best way to keep people interested in what comes next. Build up enough momentum, enough reputation and even if the stories are not as good as usual for a multi-issue stretch, the audience will stick with a series for a while. It’s like a ride in a hot air balloon. You stay aloft for a while even after the burner is turned off.

Mark Twain’s Rules of Literary Art

Excerpted from “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses” by Mark Twain.JayJay here. Over the years Jim has had a few classic sources of advice on writing that he would refer writers to. Here is one of them. Good things to keep in mind.

And I recommend reading the essay that these guidelines are taken from even if you have never read any Fenimore Cooper. It’s very funny. Over the years Jim has had many people ROTFL when he performed dramatic readings of it. Makes my sides hurt to even remember.

The rules governing literary art in the domain of romantic fiction require:

    1. That a tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere.
    2. They require that the episodes of a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale and shall help to develop it.
    3. They require that the personages of a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others.
    4. They require that the personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit sufficient excuse for being there.
    5. They require that when personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject in hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when people cannot think of anything more to say.
    6. They require that when the author describes the character of a personage in his tale, the conduct and conversation of that personage shall justify said description.
    7. They require that when a personage talks like an illustrated, gilt-edged, tree-calf, hand tooled, seven dollar Friendship’s Offering in the beginning of a paragraph, he shall not talk like a negro minstrel in the end of it.
    8. They require that crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader as “the craft of the woodsman, the delicate art of the forest” by either the author or the people in the tale.
    9. They require that the personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable.
    10. They require that the author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages in his tale and in their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones.
    11. They require that the characters in a tale shall be so clearly defined that the reader can tell beforehand what each will do in a given emergency.In addition to the large rules there are some little ones. These require that the author shall:


  1. Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.
  2. Use the right word, not its second cousin.
  3. Eschew surplusage.
  4. Not omit necessary details.
  5. Avoid slovenliness of form.
  6. Use good grammar.
  7. Employ a simple and straightforward style.

How to Do Continued Stories and Next or Future Issue Teases – Part 2

The Best Cliffhanger Ever

I remember buying this comic book at Churchill’s Pharmacy, corner of South Park Road and Brightwood Road, Bethel Park, Pennsylvania. It was October, 1965. I had just turned fourteen.

I read the book in the store, after paying for it. They were nice at Churchill’s but like everywhere else, if you read the books before buying them, they’d remind you “this isn’t a library.”

The issue contained the second chapter of a three-part story, fondly referred to around Marvel in my day as the “Master Planner Sequence.” This chapter, “Man on a Rampage,” features Spider-Man on a desperate quest to recover the only thing that can save his beloved Aunt May’s life, a serum called ISO-36, the only supply of which has been stolen by the Master Planner’s thugs.

How to Do Continued Stories and Next or Future Issue Teases – Part 1

Continued Stories

I was taught that if a story continues in the next issue, end with a climactic cliffhanger.

Well, duh….

And yet….

And, as I learned on my own, that “rule,” taught to me by Mort Weisinger, like pretty much all rules applied to creative work, is far from absolute. There are plenty of ways to go about continued stories. More on that later.

But first, the end-with-a-climax/cliffhanger way:

In the first issue, introduce the characters and establish their situation. Introduce the problem, threat, opportunity, whatever that generates the conflict. Develop the conflict to an intense climax/cliffhanger, and end there.

Second issue, elegantly, succinctly introduce the characters. Re-establish the climax/cliffhanger situation from the end of last issue. If possible, intensify the situation. Resolve the climax/cliffhanger—that is, brilliantly get Batman out of the death trap or whatever. Do it in such a way that A) the overall conflict is not resolved but is in fact increased, or B) a related-but-new, greater conflict arises to succeed the resolved conflict. Develop that new or increased conflict to an intense climax and bring the story to a resolution.

Storytelling Rant

JayJay here. In response to several comments about the state of storytelling in the business today, Jim wrote the following:

RE: Storytelling by artists.  Too many artists these days have no understanding of how to convey information — that is, how to do their part of telling the story.  Or they think it’s their job to make cool pictures and that’s all — explaining things is up to the writer — he or she can always add a caption or something.  Some of them have that attitude even when it’s a full script!  Or, they actively ignore what is called for and draw whatever the hell they want because they think story doesn’t matter.

Call for an establishing shot.  They give you a big head shot.  Tell them to draw figures in action.  It’s a mile away or cropped to the point that it’s meaningless.  Tell them to draw a close up.  They think it’s time to do a direct overhead shot of the room that mostly features the floor.  Give them ref, they ignore it and make something up.  Don’t give them ref and they complain.


Color Theory

Storytelling Lecture Series, Part 21

So, the inker has done his or her job, and now we have black and white images—usually with some halftone rendering, like feathering, hatching, stippling, drybrush, maybe even spatter technique. And even possibly with some Zip-a-Tone or other halftone applique, creating gray or grayish areas. 

At this point, the colorist controls everything but the black and grayed areas. They’re there. The colorist can choose to leave a white area white or choose to fill it with any color. In ancient days, there were only 56-58 usable colors. There were three color plates—yellow, magenta and cyan. You could have no color in an area, 25% or 50% halftone of each color, or solid colors. That works out to 64 theoretically possible colors, trust me. But some weren’t really usable because the ink saturation would have been too heavy for the cheap newsprint paper. Show-through is bad enough, soak-through is disastrous.

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