DECOMPRESSED 006: MARK WAID AND MATT FRACTION ON THE MARVEL METHOD.

A bit of a format breaker this time. Rather than talk about an issue specifically, I’m joined by Mark Waid and Matt Fraction to talk about the scripting methodology of “The Marvel Method”. We touch on some issues specifically – DEFENDERS #9 and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #583 – but we’re really about the advantages and disadvantages of doing it Marvel Style. Still – there’s visual and script aids below, though you can totally go and but the issues online if you fancy (Defenders 9/Amazing Spider-man 583). Or get them from your fine local comic shop.

You can download the podcast from here. Its webpage RSS page is here. And you can find it on Itunes here.

And for those who just like sitting on this page, here’s the embed.


The beauty of an embed. How I long to caress it.

AND HERE ARE OUR STUDY AIDS

I mentioned starting learning to write comics from Warren Ellis’ 3-part tutorial in his columns circa 2000. Here they are…
Part 1.
Part 2.
Part 3.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #583
(Mark Waid for Barry Kitson)

PAGES THIRTEEN through FIFTEEN

Exterior establishing, a NYC bar. Night.

Interior. Betty’s at a table for three with an attractive female friend–let’s call her HALEY. Third chair (Peter’s, ostensibly) is empty. Betty, annoyed, checking her cellphone for the time. [Haley: You said he’s cute, right? Betty: You’ll love him. If he ever GETS here. I said EIGHT, Peter...]

The girls talk, but we angle past them to see a big-screen TV showing Spidey in action at a tenement fire. The girls pay no notice to this–they just keep talking.

A female bartender brings over a pitcher of frozen margaritas and two glasses, indicates two ill-dressed guys waving from nearby. [Bartender says “Compliments of the FASHION POLICE over there. Shall I tell them you’re waiting for someone?” Betty: “God, please. And no thanks to the margaritas.” Haley: “One’s not gonna kill us, Betts. Just a sip. Tell me more about this Peter guy.”]

On the pitcher, nearly full. Dialogue from the girls from off.

Same exact, but much later. Pitcher’s almost empty. More dialogue from off as Betty, sloppy-drunk, finishes telling an embarrassing Peter story.

The girls–LOADED–look up to see Peter–sweaty, face a little dirty. These girls are PLASTERED, so feel free to play up their snorting and hooting and hollering and general obnoxious-drunk derisiveness.

Haley, hammered, laughs [“So is it true they called you ‘Puny’ Parker in high school, kiddo?”] as Betty sloppily tries to clean Peter’s face.

Betty tries to chide Peter [“An’ ANOTHER thing...!”] as Haley’s picked up by a cute guy.

Peter, taking it all in stride, helps Betty to her feet. She says “Get Haley, TOO!” but, enraptured by the cute guy, she waves them off–she’s JUST FINE. Have a GOOD NIGHT, you two.

DEFENDERS #9
(Matt Fraction For Jamie McKelvie)

PAGE ONE

So we open in THE HYDRA CLUB – this Universe’s version of THE PLAYBOY CLUB. The atmosphere is a nightclub: dark and smoky (although, and I can’t state this enough, WE CANNOT SEE NOR SHOW ANY SMOKING IMPLEMENTS IN-PANEL), lowly lit. Men wear SUITS, women wear high-fashion gowns or are HYDRA GIRLS, the equivalent of PLAYBOY BUNNIES back in the day:

http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2011/05/playboy-clubs-201105/_jcr_content/par/cn_contentwell/par-main/cn_pagination_contai/cn_image.size.playboy-bunny.jpg

http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_ls34lo2Uc71qayigto1_500.jpg

http://www.watergatestreetgallery.co.uk/ms/watergate/img/exhibition/pieces/philiptownsend/Playboy%20Club%20Bunny%20Helga.jpg

but done up in HYDRA colors, in a more risqué sort of suit than the typical HYDRA garbage-bag jumper:

http:// i557.photobucket.com/albums/ss17/mikey_boy76/hydra_3a_.png

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/4b/440px-HydraOrganization_Head.jpg

http:// i476.photobucket.com/albums/rr128/the_dark_ace5280/Marvel%20Characters/madamehydraakaviper.jpg

Etc. Very MAD MEN, in its way.

In fact, fuck it, let’s go MAND MEN: let’s have the BACK of a HYDRA GIRL as she approaches NICK FURY, sitting like DON DRAPER in the MAD MEN logo, with his arm draped across the back of some bit of post-war, mid-century modern love seat.

NICK turns to see her. To his RIGHT, so it’s his RIGHT EYE we see, as the PATCH GOES ON THE LEFT.

ON HIS LAP sits PUSSYCAT, of whom you and I have spoken, Jamie, but give her a TWIGGY haircut so as to not cause visual confusion with BLACK CAT (clearly SOMEONE at Marvel had a type, right? I mean… it’s the same design…!). PUSSYCAT should be in her catsuit but color it gold and yellow.

OH! The legs of the HYDRA GIRL are BRIGHT RED — it’s SHE HULK. So while most times a shot like this would be a fairly gratuitous ass-and-legs shot, here, it at least transmits some information. PUSSYCAT is a HOSTESS at the club, different than a WAITRESS, and eyes RSH with a fuck off kind of silent hostility.

(CONT’D)
PAGE ONE, CONTINUED:

NICK’S POV on RSH, then, so we’ve got a clear visual and the dummies that don’t get the red legs indicate her presence here NOW understand it’s her. She’s brining NICK a drink from “The gentlemen at Table H…”

NICK takes the drink — whisky in an elegant tumbler — sniffs it, looking to table H…

SITTING AT A TABLE, waving politely, raising their drinks is BARON VON STRUCKER — looking as we know him, but in a GREEN SUIT, yellow skinny tie & yellow pocket square; ADOLPH HITLER, half-Hitler, half-Frankenstein with scars and stitches across his neck and neckbolts, old, and kind of out of it but still HITLER; and a villainous BLACK WIDOW, back when she was still an enemy of the West. Anyway– they raise their glasses. A fuck you toast between espionage supergods.

NICK frowns as he pours it out.

PAGE TWO

RSH reacts like a waitress concerned her VIP client may be having a bad time — going after the spilled drink as NICK and PUSSYCAT rise.

She apologizes as NICK reaches down for her — he makes some comment about how no drink paid for by Nazi scum should be served anywhere in the USA.

We need an INSERT PANEL of FURY TOUCHING RED SHE HULK — on the wrist, the hand, some kind of skin-to-skin contact. BEHIND THEM the BACKGROUND swirls in an explosion of psychedelic color — see next page for more about that. The idea here, subtextually transmitted, is something odd happens when fury and RSH come into physical contact. Read on, read on, etc.

PUSSYCAT dismisses the now-upwardly mobile RSH, insisting she can take care of Fury, the client, she has everything he needs, etc. Shooing RSH away.

RSH returns to the BAR, drink tray but with one empty glass now, and we see DANNY RAND is the bartender. Is it weird to have him shirtless but for a bow-tie, like a Chippendales’ dancer? Probably so, probably so. Well… barring that, then, he’d be in a tuxedo dress shirt with sleeves rolled up and a loosened bowtie. They exchange some kind of back and forth.

They look, then, as SOMEONE bursts into the CLUB and screams something panicky about the sky…

PAGE THREE

OUTSIDE THE HYDRA CLUB where a velvet rope-line is guarded by HYDRA TROOPS (IN the classic HYDRA garb) but everyone– guards, people in line, pedestrians on the street and… emerging from the club, RSH and IRON FIST, stare up to the sky, which has gone insanely psychedelic, as per STRANGE TALES 168 PAGE 4.

DANNY and RSH look up. “I’m SURE this is our fault somehow.” BEHIND THEM FURY and PUSSYCAT sneak out, Fury lowering a fedora to conceal his face some… neither FURY nor PUSSYCAT look up.

PAGE FOUR

We smash cut to the lost CITY HALL SUBWAY STATION underneath Manhattan:

http://life-in-quotations.blogspot.com/2011/12/new-yorks-first-subway-story-of-alfred.html

Where there just happens to be a CONCORDANCE ENGINE, an OMEGA silently waiting in his chair, the BLACK CAT and, futzing around with the CONCORDANCE ENGINE, the SURFER. DOCTOR STRANGE meditates before THREE BRASS FROGS from last issue arranged at points of a pentagram drawn on the floor, candles at other points…

Anyway all of them are LOOKING UP to the sky/ceiling, aware of what’s just happened… the machine just made the sky go crazy.

DOC will say something to the effect of — what the hell was THAT?

The CAT and SURFER have no clue. A moment of worry is expressed for RSH and Danny — they should be back by now.

– the CAT takes her leave, off to find the target herself…

PAGE FIVE

NICK’S PAD. Rather than the famous silent sequence as referenced in my big ol’ rant above, check out the page from Strange Tales 159, Page 7 – a dominant panel here about the architecture and design of Nick’s place, thoroughly post-war midcentury modern. Which was always weird, to me, as Nick’s whole shtick was a more blue-collar man-out-of-time thing like Captain America? I dunno, maybe it was an expression of a need to integrate. Or… just working with an obdurate fella like Steranko who was gonna draw what he wanted to drawn. Anyway.

NICK puts on a record — Coltrane’s GIANT STEPS, but I dunno if we’re legally allowed to show it — standing over a long hi-fi. He mutters to himself John Coltrane died. What kind of world is this, John Coltrane dies and the king of Ratzis sends over a DRINK… from off-panel PUSSYCAT says something about not worrying about it.

There’s a WET BAR somewhere that PUSSYCAT works behind. There’s a door in, and at least one other door leading to a bedroom.

Okay. Now it’s time to put your Howard Chaykin dirty old man hat on, a little bit. PUSSYCAT emerges from behind a wet bar with two drinks, each in a little tumbler (CAN I JUST SAY here now how hard it is to type “tumbler” and not ‘tumblr’). She’s wearing a NEGLIGEE of some sort, translucent, in HYDRA COLORS, with the H shape and everything. A period bra-and-panty set, suspender-belt and pull-up stockings (again all in Hydra emerald and gold but you should pattern the stockings and, hell, the outfit, less the negligee that covers it, like in PUSSYCAT pages in the ref. file). Feather-ringed. Put her in pair of green and yellow marabou mules, too, just to complete the ridiculousness of it all. She says something like “Hitler is but a man, jazz is eternal.”

She smiles at him as he drinks.

He grabs his throat, screaming.

PAGE SIX

DEAD NOW, Nick Fury lies there as PUSSYCAT puts her mule down on his neck and raises her fists up in a HAIL HYDRA salute.

Her head whips around as someone OFF PANEL says “Not so fast…”

And the room FILLS with NICK FURY LMDS, all identically dressed to the NICK we just saw fall — see Strange Tales 145 Page 4 — from all doors seen and maybe one or two doors we’ve not. PUSSYCAT is surrounded. From the BEDROOM comes REAL NICK, raising a glass. He should have his JACKET OFF, sleeves rolled, and tie loosened, something to set him apart from the rest.

PUSSYCAT is taken away in custody of the MULTINICKS, bound for the HELIPRISON. NICK raises a glass her way.

NICK follows the LMD’s out of his apartment and we see THE BLACK CAT has infiltrated the space. She is BEHIND HIM and NICK has no idea…

I think the last two panels should be ON NICK, from the threshold, as he smiles at his LMD’S exit. BLACK CAT over his shoulder, a rag in her hand.

Then a FIXED POV of her CHLOROFORMING NICK, the RAG over his nose and mouth.

SMALL BLACK PANEL closes out the page.

PAGE SEVEN

HELICARRIER: In an insert panel, JASPER SITWELL screams “WHERE’S FURY?!?”

The rest of the page needs to be an EPIC SPLASH. THE HYDRA ARMY, led by STRUCKER invades the S.H.I.E.L.D. HELICARRIER that SITWELL, DUM DUM, and a shitload of S.H.I.E.L.D. GUYS, repulse to the best of their abilities. It is TOTAL CHAOS. As many HYDRA and S.H.I.E.L.D. men and women as you can draw… you should draw.

We’re in some berserk Steranko-Kirby science fiction equipment room — see the samples, see the issues for a feeling of what I’m talking about… Steranko went for 100% verisimilitude when the book was in NYC and went 100% imagination for the Helicarrier or any of the Bad Guy sets and locations… so we want that. Some crazy machine in the back, multiple floors of action… screens with op-art illusions on them for no discernable reason…

We see HITLERSTEIN has freed PUSSYCAT — maybe he’s got her over his shoulder, maybe he’s attacking guards around her, and she’s doing the same… As much classic FURY-style sci-spy chaos as you can fit into a single page, Jamie and Mike, is what must happen here. I say must because it is more than just a moral imperative, Jamie, Mike; it is a measurement of your very manhoods and talents.

ARE YOU BAD ENOUGH DUDES TO RESCUE THE PRESIDENT?*

*Please tell me you get that joke.

PAGE EIGHT

BLACK PANEL. “FURY!” in white text inside.

FURY with his eyes closed. Eye! Eye. Shit.

FURY with his eye open.

HIS POV: DOC and BLACK CAT, upside down, looking AT CAMERA. Col. Fury. We have questions, says Doc.

We’re in the SUBWAY STATION. We see RSH holds FURY by the ankle, upside down, lifting him up so FURY can see DOC and the CAT. SURFER is at the engine. IRON FIST is not here. Colonel, we mean you know harm and have tried to contact you through proper channels for weeks. Forgive us for ESCALATING.

He continues, but BLACK CAT looks around

DOC We have the world’s greatest kung fu fighter with us, Nick. We don’t want violence but–

CAT Wait, where’s Danny?

DOC looks too.

DOC …Danny?

JUMP CUT back to the HYDRA CLUB where DANNY mixes drinks for a cluster of attractive WOMEN at the bar, hanging on his every word. He’ll be babbling on about something. He’ll probably be telling them about the weirder parts of being Iron Fist.

BACK to the SUBWAY where RSH lifts FURY up so he can see her face.

RSH Don’t need him. Things get physical, I have it covered.

FURY Don’t you JUST.

FURY You wanna put me down before something in my brain BURSTS or what?

PAGE NINE

She sets FURY down; CAT and DOC rise.

DOC helps FURY to his feet. They start asking about the ENGINE. Doc mentions maybe part of their problem in getting S.H.I.E.L.D.’S attention is that they COULDN’T mention the engine no matter how hard they tried.

FURY clearly knows what he’s seeing, even though he’s never seen it before. He examines the engine; CAT and DOC walk with him.

Over a span of three panels as he examines the engine, DOC explains he and the gang are from another time and dimensional space and want to return home, but have no way of operating the machine. They went to him believing he’s the guy that knows everything about everything.

As NICK walks past SURFER, still tinkering with the machine, SURFER looks up at him — NICK asking “So why didn’t he kill you?”

THE SURFER explains he can hear some kind of… artificial life on him. Disguised as a scent…

He SMELLS FURY, who backs up from the naked silver weirdo.

Fury’s covered in some kind of nanite cloud.

Pussycat’s perfume. It’s a HYDRA homing mist. Which means they’ll be here any second…

PAGE TEN

STRANGE literally slaps a palm on his head — BLACK CAT looks around as if HYDRA were already upon them. NICK kind of… does a Justine Frischmann snarl, pointing to a tooth. He’s got some sort of homing device in there anyway. S.H.I.E.L.D. will be here momentarily.

Strange can only shake his head. What a mess this team is.

SURFER sees someone coming through the walls — or senses them, something about the Surfer’s utter uniqueness indicates to him someone’s coming.

THE TEAM prepares as they hear SOMETHING on the other side of a set of sealed-by-chains doors.

That set of DOORS bursts open.

FURY DRAWS as the team prepares for violence.

PAGE ELEVEN

It’s just IRON FIST. HANDS UP. “Whoa whoa WHOA — I couldn’t get the doors to open, did you guys chain them shut or something?”

Of course they did, with Fury in their presence. Everyone exhales.

Then, the third and final panel of the page is MASSIVE as HYDRA pours in from EVERY IMAGINABLE POINT OF ENTRANCE and several spontaneously-created ones (thanks to explosion or subterranean drill). The DEFENDERS form a defensive ring around the ENGINE, backs to it. The OMEGA doesn’t move. All the same, it is, in one sensational shot, total fucking carnage.

PAGE TWELVE

IRON FIST immediately executes brutal kung fu strikes on the HYDRA GUYS rushing in from the door he’s just kicked in. Drives his leg straight back like a freight train and bashes three, four guys back. STRANGE summons a long-staff from astral space –

– and brings it upside a HYDRA GUY’S head as RSH is SHOT AT by HYDRA GUYS —

– and, arms extended, crouching down, she PLOWS THROUGH THEM ALL. ONE of them drops their gun; FURY grabs it.

– FURY opens fire, bellowing out a classic FURY “WAH-HOOOOOO!” battle-cry. The SURFER blasts HYDRA GUYS with his cosmic blasts. The classic Kirby dichotomy in one panel.

(JAMIE: As you can see, here and on the following page, I wrote these all with an A action and a B detail that becomes the A action of the following panel — so there’s call-and-response physical action link between cuts. It was how I’d write action for Terry and he’s slice through it like a hot knife through ice cream — but if you want to break it down, up the panel count, etc., I of course trust you. I really just wanted to document the physical beats and trust you implicitly to change it all however the fuck you want, honestly…)

PAGE THIRTEEN

Those HYDRA GUYS fall like ragdolls past the unmoved and unmoving OMEGA. BLACK CAT is DIVING for the FROGS –

– and GRABS THEM just as THREE HYDRA GUYS all leap for her, smashing into each other.

Those GUYS are MACHINE-GUNNED DEAD by FURY as BLACK CAT does some sort of acrobatic leap to safety, cradling the frogs.

FURY turns, looking up and behind him, as someone off-frame SCREAMS HIS NAME.

BIG SHOT. We see, on the scene, towering above through a hole in the wall blown open by HYDRA (maybe agents repel downwards, if you can frame it), STRUCKER, HITLER, and PUSSYCAT. STRUCKER tells Fury “You should have taken that drink when you had the chance.”

PAGE FOURTEEN AND FIFTEEN

AT WHICH POINT S.H.I.E.L.D. DESCENDS EN MASS AND WHAT WAS ALREADY BERSERK now blossoms INTO A FULL-BORE INSANE ACTION SCENE — the DEFENDERS doing the end of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, basically, only Secret Volcano Base is Abandoned Secret Manhattan Subway Station, as two arcane and secret armies do subterranean war with one another while an intrepid group of good guys try to survive it all…

There’s the big four-page Steranko spread to refer to for this, and then these spreads:

http://db.tt/VfTrNXg5

http://db.tt/962e2lfK

http://db.tt/TSbdq0gm

to get you thinking. Total majestic chaos. The DEFENDERS beating the hell out of HYDRA. S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA machine-gunning one another. The pristine, nearly-sacred, architecture of this small pocket of lost New York reduced to rubble.

And the Concordance Engine in the middle of it all…

We could maybe put a DON’T YIELD! BACK S.H.I.E.L.D.! explosion-cap in the lower right?

It’s silly, but I always liked ‘em.

PAGE SIXTEEN

FURY snarls like a dog with the taste of blood in his mouth. Today’s the day he’s going to kill Adolf Hitler — and he knows it. Aiming at them. “You’re gonna die today.”

Hitler, Strucker, and Pussycat realize he’s not lying — uh-oh — as STRUCKER shoves PUSSYCAT out of the way of DER FUHRER.

FURY and BLACK CAT give chase.

BLACK CAT pounces on PUSSY CAT making an instant tussle — the visual similarities, speaking volumes, clearly, to SOMEONE in Ye Olde Bullpen of Yore and their specific kink.

IN THE CHAOS the SURFER has found his way to OMEGA and kneels before him. He’s begging Omega to HELP THEM.

OMEGA listens silently.

PAGE SEVENTEEN

IRON FIST and DOC in the middle of combat. IRON FIST executing a spectacular kung fu move as DOC tears his magic staff in two, a coil of magic energy linking them —

– and WHIPS a HYDRA GUY in the head with one end. MAGIC NUNCHUCKS. Suck on THAT Neil Gaiman.

IF comments that there seems to be more HYDRA than S.H.I.E.L.D. and they’re gonna need help soon –

– and we see RED SHE HULK fighting against a half-dozen HYDRA guys, trying to subdue her, helplessly. She’s shouting SOMEBODY SHOULD DO SOMETHING ABOUT ALL THIS SOON!

PAGE EIGHTEEN

HITLERSTEIN and STRUCKER run, FURY on his tail (down that dark tunnel I suppose).

SURFER and OMEGA: “You know what we’re trying to do! You must HELP US.”

HITLERSTEIN and STRUCKER finds themselves at a dead end, a brick wall where the tunnel has been blocked off. Backs to it. HITLER using STRUCKER as a human shield. Terrified. FURY aiming at him…

FURY: “Junior Juniper says hello, you robot ratzi son of a bitch.”

OMEGA lifts his hand — we see the ? mark — WHITE PANEL-SPACE KIRBY DOTS crackling around it.

SURFER turns back, yelling over his shoulder. “I think he UNDERSTOOD ME –“

PAGE NINETEEN

EACH of the DEFENDERS in MID COMBAT VANISH in the OMEGA style — solid panel-border outlines, solid white inside. In mid-action sequence they all drain out of the comic.

I think FURY should have gotten ONE shot off but we don’t see it hit his target yet.

EVERYONE ELSE vanishes in mid-action pose. I’d love to see HYDRA GUYS grappling pure white space that used to be RSH — but however you choose to stage the rest, they’re all just spontaneously vanished.

HYDRA and S.H.I.E.L.D. alike are stunned and startled.

PAGE TWENTY

SPLASH PAGE. The GANG stand closely together in a magical alien landscape. WHITE KIRBY DOTS like snowflakes, like TV static, pepper the frame — they’re materializing in.

The gang are [SPOILERS EDITED FOR DEFENDERS 10! - Ed ]

BEHIND THEM some monstrous MONSTER comes at them — an INSECT, truth be told, but we don’t want or need to recognize that right away.

IRON FIST asks “Where the hell are we?”

Love your writing, love these podcasts! Keep up the good work!

Finally a comics podcast that actually asks questions beyond “So what can we expect in the next Spider-Man arc?”

But Mr. Gillen, for God’s sakes, enunciate!

Absolutely fascinating listening. Stayed up a bit too long, but well worth it.

I’m still a little bit at a loss to see the benefits in leaving dialogue out of the initial plot process. I don’t see how you can excise something so important. I mean, Dialogue is an action in and of itself, right? If you don’t know what they’re saying, how can you know what a character means by their actions? Wouldn’t it end up as little more than a caption competition, stilted by being removed from, oh god forgive me, “the moment?”

I dunno. I suppose I can see the attraction in not spending ages tabbing out dialogue and parsing the script into neat little chunks.

Hm. Funny you should touch on the return of the caption box. I’ve been toying with an idea for the Commando format, and while the thought of letting the captions take such a large chunk of the storytelling weight is a bit scary, the thought of scripting the thing in a loose, communiqué style, and leaving pacing to the artist, is kinda tempting.

(Commando Format: named for the war comic that is the last bastion of the form. 1-3 panels per A5 page, descriptive caption-heavy. Might seem old-fashioned to you beConversed urchins, but has been used for romance, kids’ comedy, etc.)

Ramble over. Oh! Talking heads. Photostat panels are and ever shall be poopy-pants. I did used to like the way Terry Moore approached talking heads in Strangers In Paradise, though. Very Smith & Jones.

(This, but with the subtitles down the middle: http://youtu.be/x3OwvPzVRoA )

Great podde!

//\Oo/\\

The writers of three of my favorite books in one podcast? Brilliant! I was enthralled the whole time. Thank you so so much for these podcasts, every single one has been fascinating.

Matthew – because it’s a collaboration. You’re going back and forth in the creating, where the art inspires the dialogue as much as the script inspires the art.

this is absolutely amazing. please do more episodes like this with multiple guests where they’re allowed to ask questions to each other as well. especially when they’re people like matt and mark who are friendly without being best friends. i like that they don’t know everything about each other yet so their questions are sincere. i remember reading something on wizard once where bendis was interviewing mike oeming and while it was interesting and fun to read, it suffered a little bit since the two of them are so close and know everything about each other’s process already. this episode was perfect.

Fascinating podcast guys, especially from the point of view of someone who hasn’t really worked Marvel-style. Great stuff.