How to Write a Short Comic: Our DCC Panel

Limit Break Comics was founded on the back of a shared desire to see Small Press Comics grow in Ireland. Over the years, Limit Break have put out 10 titles which have created opportunity for Irish Comic Book Creatives to find and work with liked mined Individuals to realise their ambition of creating their own comic books.

On Saturday 6th August 2022, Limit Break took this initiative in a new direction with their first Dublin Comic Con panel on how to create short comics. Paul Carroll, Alice Coleman, Seamus Kavanagh and James Killian joined together to speak about editing, lettering, writing and illustrating comics respectively. While Paul is a Founding Member of Limit Break, Alice, James and Seamus have all contributed to Limit Break titles in recent years.

The purpose and aim of the panel was to educate those in attendance on how short comics are made, in the hope that examples within the presentation will be the inspiration needed for others to create their own comics.

Seamus Kavanagh began by speaking about how he wrote the 4 page comic “A Warrior’s Journey” from Old Game Plus #1. He began by speaking about how he looked at his love of running, Street Fighter games and travel lead him to inspiration about a story that would take place at locations around the world, locations selected from his own previous travels. 

Seamus then highlighted how he framed the story about a Fighter losing toward the final round of a tournament, which opened up a reason for that Character to reflect on their journey, fitting into the travel theme with global locations. The story was then tied together with an upbeat ending that allowed the main Character to look positively toward the future and the next challenge. 

Creative credits for the above: (Illustration) Ruairi Coleman, (Inks) Barry O’Sullivan, (Colours) Timothy C. Brown, (Letters) Kerrie Smith

Finding inspiration for a story can be difficult so it was certainly useful to learn how a story can be inspired by different ideas and then distilled into a structured short piece.

James Killian as Illustrator then spoke about his process for bringing scripted pages to visual life. This was a highly educational part of the presentation as James covered the basics of the materials he used and then went through a step-by-step breakdown on how to draw a comic; covering what to note when reading the Script, how to research and gather references, Layouts, Pencils, Inks and final Edits.

James delivered excellent detail for each of these stages and went so far as to provide some of his own reference phots which he has used for Character poses, as we can see with the image below:

James then finished his piece by showcasing some of his recent work, visible with the image below. James gave focus to the elements he regards as important in the illustration process. The structure and layout of a page can add to the story elements of the Script by helping to focus on key areas and enabling a flow for the eyes across the pages.

Creative credits for the above: (Illustration) James Killian

James finished up by detailing some of the overlooked basics such as saving the work as print size, the right file type and ensuring a smooth hand over for the Colourist and Letterer. 

Next up, Alice Coleman delivered an insightful presentation on comic book lettering. An often-undervalued piece of the comic book process, Alice detailed how a Letterer has opportunity to really elevate the work of the creative Team and add their own contribution to the story and world of the comic.

Alice’s process for lettering begins with studying the script, planning the flow, establishing the graphic language, executing the plan and finally adding in special effects. With a deep and varied body of work to pull from, Alice was able to showcase some great examples to illustrate the various stages of her process. 

The slide below from Limit Break Present’s #1 features a Millennial Adventurer interreacting with an Ancient Guardian. Many comics would feature standard and uniform word balloons for such an exchange between regular type characters yet Alice chose to give them separate and fitting font types. The Millennial Adventurer has a standard and clear text where the Ancient Guardian has an archaic style to his text, further helping to recognise that Character’s voice.

Creative credits for the above: (Illustration) John McGuinness, (Colours) Ellie Wright, (Letters) Alice Coleman and Writing (Seamus Kavanagh)

In the next sample, from Irish Graphic Novel The Guards, Alice gave a great example of finding opportunity to trying something new and fun. In the context of the below panel, the Character is beginning to lose interest in what is being said to them and so Alice was able to trail the text off toward the end section and see it break away, reflecting the action of the comic at that point in the story.

Creative credits for the above: (Illustration) Kevin Keane, (Letters) Alice Coleman and (Writing) Shane Ormond

Finally, Paul spoke about one of the more practical first steps in getting your first comic created; finding Collaborators. He highlighted some of the regular comic book focused events that take place around the Country where it’s possible to meet people creating comics and make connections to find writing, illustrative, colouring or lettering collaborators. Paul also spoke about great online Irish Comic resources, such as IrishComics.ie, a website which publishes a new comic page by a different creative team each weekday. IrishComics.ie has become a great showcase for Irish Comic Book talent. It hosts a database of Comic Creatives, detailing their skillsets, and has a great archive of completed comics to view for free.

As Editor of Limit Break Comic’s Anthologies Turning Roads and the forthcoming Down Below, Paul gave examples of opportunities to pitch to have your comic published and gave some tips on how best to pitch your comic. Covering the basic of preparing and hosting a portfolio, Paul gave practical guidance for pitching toward the theme of the target Anthology what should and should not be included and how best to make your submission stand out.

Each of the Panellists crafted an informative presentation, full of useful and practical tips against their own areas of illustrating, lettering, writing. Summer 2022 Dublin Comic Con was a sold out show and the Convention Centre Dublin was full of energy and enthusiasm about comic books across Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th August 2022. Limit Break hope to return at future Dublin Comic Shows with more panels to help aspiring Creators to get that first short comic made and be on their way to their own full comic book.

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