SPECIAL GUEST TUTORIAL: Writing For Comics With 'Captain' Ron Fortier

Today I am honored to welcome to ICN one of the most nicest men in comics. ‘Captain’ Ron Fortier is a comics vetern who may be best known for his run on The Green Hornet and being the writer for NOW Comics Terminator series that launched the career of Alex Ross. I first came across the the former Incredible Hulk writer during my early days writing for Comic Related and through that web site where he maintains a presence I got to know him just a little bit. In 2006 Ron started Airship 27 Productions, a production company devoted to publishing new adventures of classic pulp heroes and with that he is enjoying producing new work in a favourite genre of his. I asked Ron if he would mind giving Ireland’s up and coming writers some tips in producing a comic script with some do’s and don’ts and was delighted when this highly resepcted industry vetern said he would. So read on…



One of the most basic elements of comics creation is often overlooked by young would be comic book scribes; the fact that comics are a visual medium. Honestly. You would be amazed at how many new writers tackle a script as if they were going to write the “Rise & Fall of theRoman Empire.” They fall into the trap of loving their words so much, they feel a need to produce more and more of them with each new panel and page and thus produce truly boring, word intense catastrophes.
I have always believed in my heart that comics are very much fifty percent artwork and fifty percent literature with two different creators telling the same story in two different ways and then merging them together to make the whole which is a finished comic book.  But do not think the order here is inconsequential, it is not.  Note, I said mentioned the artwork first and that is because graphics are about the art.  It, by its very nature, has to take precedence over the words.
Once a young writer begins to reign in his or her own ego, in a true, self-less love of the form, only then can they grasp the magic of comics and write them properly. Some rules of thumb to keep in mind on each and every story one writes; Never use lots of panels. The old pros of the Golden Age understood too many panels made for tiny pictures and no decent fan wants to look at tiny artwork. I do my best to maintain six panels (or less) per page and always do my best to imagine the constraints and challenges each will pose my art partner on the project.
For whatever reasons, modern publishers today don’t like captions, which is silly in my humble opinion. A well written, brief and succinct caption can go a long way in setting the feel and mood of any panel or page. Simply avoid repeating in words what the artist will be drawing in that panel. Do not ever write…”A beautiful sunny day,” only to have that clearly visible in the art. Use captions to move the story along ala, “Ten minutes later…” Use it to deal with non-material things the artist simply cannot portray. Anything they can draw, let them.
Likewise with word balloons.  Nothing crowds artwork like a verbose character who talks and talks and talks.  When writing dialogue, make it as economical as is humanly possible. Say what needs to be said in the fewest words possible. Then when you’ve finished your script, go back and cut more words. Believe me, you’ll discover there’s still lots of fat on those bones. It is amazing how much people will applaud your wonderful storytelling the fewer words you use.
I write comics. I write for the artist. When a book is finished, I want the readers to experience it as a whole, not one element alone. They should not even be aware of my captions or word balloons, but of each page as something artistically beautiful that gives them pleasure start to finish.
Learn to love the story and not your words and one day Alan Moore just may be looking over his shoulder at you.
Good luck,
Ron Fortier
My thanks to Ron for his contribution and if you want to see more of Ron’s work then please follow one of the links below to some of the onlines homes for him.