I'm a huge fan of the creative process. whether it's comics, movies or tv, I'm a sucker for Anything that gives me a glimpse behind the curtain.
So, for anyone like me, check out the 'Behind-The-Panels' pieces below for a behind-the-scenes look at some comic book pages.
The Unfortunate Tale of 'Soup or Man?'
The most uniquely absurd super hero, sci-fi, crime noir comic ever written... and how to deal with failure.
After being sick as all hell the other day, and being able to hold down nothing more than chicken noodle soup, I remembered a one-shot comic I'd written a couple of years ago that fell through, and thought it deserved a post. I set out to write a different kind of super hero story, and I think I did just that. Enter, the crime noir, super hero, science fiction comic, Soup or Man? Read on... You'll see.
Soup or Man? is the story of a depressed man going through an existential crisis, after years of being a punching bag for all those around him. He yearns to be loved. To be needed. Will he spend the rest of his life soft, spineless like the soup he needs to survive? Or, will he finally rise to the occasion, put his foot down, and stop letting everyone walk all over him.
Decent idea, right? Now, enter the unique absurdity!!
Soup or Man? goes on to tell the unfortunate tale of a man whose severe IBS has forced him to eat only soup his entire life (you heard me right), making him very picky and difficult to live with, leaving him lonely and bitter.
Because of this, he barely sleeps. This night owl wanders the crooked city streets, thermos of warm soup in hand, watching bad things happen, never helping. Until one night, he decides to take a stand!
After witnessing the robbery of an elderly woman, he steps in to tackle the fleeing thief. Instead, he's brushed easily aside, crashing hard into a nearby electrical panel. His soup spills all over, and as he's electrified it meddles with his DNA, replacing its strands with noodles and broth from the soup he'd relied on so much.
Enter, Soups, a human turned super hero, turned super villain, back to hero in the end when aliens invade the city he'd taken under his control, who has the power of elasticity and transforming to liquid. Once he realizes that compared to him the city is weak and puny, as he once was, he decides to appoint himself as ruler, since he alone knows what's best for everyone.
Part satire, part absurdity, part exercise in storytelling, I wanted to turn the super hero genre on its head, melding it with crime noir, science fiction, and a major plot twist to cap the whole thing off.
Depending on feedback, I may release the script to this, for shits and giggles.
In the end, the work I did to write this story, making it as interesting as I could, was the only reward. Unfortunately, the artist I'd been working with for months eventually disappeared. He hasn't been on social media since either, sooo I hope he's okay. We missed the deadline for the anthology we were going to submit this too, and after all was said and done I moved on from the beautifully sad, and fantastic, world of Soup or Man? .
As a comic creator, sometimes these things are going to happen. Especially early on in your career, before you build yourself a network of fellow creators. The way I look at it is this--when all is said and done, regardless of whether or not a project is successful, or is even finished, you can still pull something out of it and chalk it up to a learning experience. Obviously, your goal should always be to FINISH your work. However, if you don't, you CAN turn it around and learn something from it: How to work with collaborators, meet deadlines, build up a pitch, manage your expectations, recognize when to pull the plug on a collab, move on, take an L like a boss, some or even all of the above.
Behind-The-Panels: Wretches #2
(A) Salo Farias
(C) Chunlin Zhao
(L) Jamie Me
(E) Chas! Pangburn
(W) James E. Roche
a character's mental state
When re-introducing Shea in Issue 2, the goal right off the bat was to visually show her state of mind by using, not only her body language, but the scenery as well.
Here in one of the earlier pages from this issue, we showed Shea going from a bustling tunnel, surrounded yet still alone and in her own head, to a dark and empty one where she truly is, as she feels inside, alone.
The middle of that page pulls back a whole lot and lets us breath in the setting some more, as Shea cuts through a massive cavern, making her look, again how she feels, alone and insignificant.
Finally, the page ends with her approaching the shadowy figure she'd be journeying all this way to meet. Scraping the bottom of the barrel in hopes of gathering intel on Sean's whereabouts, this credent may be her only hope.
Below is the script for this page, along with the breakdown from roughs to the final version. PLUS a way to grab a pdf of issue 1 for free.
Thanks for checking this out!
Behind-The-Panels: No Dawn for a Pawn
Dr Seuss meets Chinatown, in a gritty crime noir!
(A) Axur Eneas
(L) Chas! Pangburn
(W) James E. Roche
The Rough Script
With this story I did things a wee bit different. I started with the dialogue!
Since I wanted the entire story to be driven by the rhyming narration, I decided to work on that part first, as you can see on the top of this page. While I wrote the rhymes, trying to stick with anapestic tetrameter (unstressed - unstressed - STRESSED x4) in order to best emulate a Dr. Seuss-esque flow, I had the rough idea for what'd be inside the panels.
I knew the overall tale I wanted to tell, so with that out of the way I was able to focus on pacing each page and revolving it around the rhyme-scheme.
At this point the script went out to Axur, and he took the reigns. The script should always be a guide for the artist, not rules set in stone. A good writer knows to let the artist do their magic and change panels as they see fit - all for the betterment of the story.
Axur laid out the panels and, since we were going for a specific look, asked Chas! to drop the letters on first, this way he knew what kind of room he was dealing with. From there, he knocked out his rough lines.
The finished page
Aaand here it is, folks! The opening page of No Dawn for a Pawn. Axur far exceeded my imagination with his artwork.
I don't know what else to say but, keep an eye out for this story. I had a blast writing it and can't wait for the finished product.
I made sure to include some of the creative process in the back of Wretches part deux! Here's a glimpse below.
Behind-The-Panels: Wretches #2
A Short Comic From Outline to Script to Art
All-ages horror tale.
(A) Tangra Art
(C & L) John Becaro
(W) James E. Roche
My process... more or less.
I've been wanting to put something together for a while about my comics writing process and I just stumbled across an old email that motivated me to get it done. The cool thing is, every writer I talk to does things differently! There is absolutely no right way to do it, this is just mine.
Mid 2015 I was spit-balling ideas with artist Michael Syrigos, trying to come up with a story we could collaborate on. As I sat there ready to shoot him back another email the idea for this horror story started to come to me. Fifteen minutes later, after the stream-of-consciousness stupor faded away, I was left with a very rough short story.
This short story written in an email would serve as my outline. What I did next was breakdown the story beats. My goal became, despite what my original email says, knocking this out in no more than 10 pages. That means I had to cram as much story into each page while still allowing it to breath.
The first two paragraphs, and I use paragraphs loosely here, are almost exactly what I turned into the first two pages. There isn't much going on in these paragraphs, just a lot of description, so the storytelling and pacing transitioned easily here.
The next chunk is where most of the story unfolds. Loaded with actions taking place it called for a lot of chopping up to break it down into pages that I thought flowed nicely.
In the end, the outline shouldn't act as a bible. It mainly serves as an anchor point to keep coming back to when you want to make sure you're hitting all of the story beats you wanted to, adding and removing them as you see fit.
Here is a breakdown of outline to script to inks to the final colored & lettered page.
I had fun playing with this page and trying to create the sense of anticipation and fear that the young girl was going through by doing several quick cuts, steadily zooming in until the two of them lock eyes.
Here are the inks for the entire story alongside the script. Looking at this year old script for the first time since finishing the story I can see several things I do differently now. The more you write, the better you get.
This story has very little words in it, and looking at these inks now I love how the art tells the story perfectly on its own. You can read the story in its entirety HERE. Thanks for reading!
Check out the interview I did with Timothy Browning, host of the Alterna Podcast, and all around cool dude.
We shot the shit for about 25 minutes on air about the Sci-Fi anthology IF, starting in comics and the creative struggles of a writer.
The guy's really passionate about the art form as a whole, and I could tell from the 20 minutes we spoke off the air afterwards that he loves talking to creators who are doing what they do for the love of it, not the nonexistent paychecks.
So, check it out. Let me know what you think.
"IF is a new anthology that will be released annually starting this November. The theme of this inaugural release will be “Science Fiction,” and will contain over 150 pages of content with 15 stories from over 20 creators. Coverage of the creators begins with this week’s episode and will feature James E. Roche, writer of Apex War." – Timothy Browning
“There are no questions in IF – only answers.” –Peter Simeti
SCREENPLAY WRITING 101: BY A LESS THAN 8 YEAR OLD
I remember the first ‘story’ I ever wrote. I still have it in fact. I remember sitting there, at my grandmother’s house, banging away at the typewriter. It wasn’t until I found the finished, 1 page movie script, that I realized just how insane my young imagination was. It’s copyrighted so don’t you even fucking think about it! It’s a story that I even casted the characters for. It stars Sylvester Stallone, Johnny Depp, Sharron Stone, and a few others. Don’t ask... I couldn’t even begin to tell you... I was 9.
Lookie what i found!!
HUNTERS "BEWARE OF THE BEAR AND WOLF"
Now that I look back on it, even though I wasn’t huge into comics growing up, I was creating them at a young age. I’ll put up some more pictures along with this, but I created a stick figure character with a red bandana, let’s call him Rambro so I don’t get sued. I drew a whole scene, or I guess you could call it a ‘level’ that our hero Rambro had to get through, filled with bad guys with guns, knives, maces, lava pits, spiked pits, acid pits, shark infested waters, flame throwers, the works.
I couldn't find any Rambro, but I did find the classic tales titled, THE FLOOD: I and HUNTERS "BEWARE of the BEAR and WOLF" (pictured here).
You could barely understand what’s happening in the stories, shit neither can I, but that was the start of my sequential art career.