A new week, and a new comic. Happy Birthday, Major Tom promises to be a hell of a ride. It’s a pretty dim story about the unforeseen complexities of space flight. I’m excited to see where this goes, the relatively unusual nature of my collaboration with the Fillbachs often times leaves me as much in the dark as the audience.
Sometimes I will get a week or more worth of pages from them, and the illustration will closely follow the delivered script. Sometimes they run a more secure tactical operation, and I get a page at a time, and there are minor deviations from the original story. Almost always these changes are for the better of the comic. For instance, this story was originally titled Ground Control To Major Tom, a clear but probably unnecessary reference to David Bowies Space Odyssey.
The relationship between a writer and an artist has no real standard in comics. Some writers insist that the illustrators strictly follow the script delivered. Others deliver a very loose script and rely on the artist’s creativity to breathe life into it. Some, like Alan Moore, deliver extraordinarily dense scripts and work very closely with the artist to collaborate on a finished product.
Get a copy of Absolute Watchmen, and in the introduction is an excerpt from Moore’s script for the first page of the comic. This is a page that has little difference or variation from panel to panel. The first panel is a close up of the Comedian’s smiley button in the gutter and each successeding panel pulls farther back to reveal more of the background. Despite the relative simplicity of the illustration, Moore’s script is dense, like a thick mane of words, describing in ever more detail the background and the setting.
My method is slightly different. I supply the Fillbachs with a story in either a prose form or a very loose script. The Fillbachs aren’t just illustrators, they’re story tellers in their own right. Our relationship is more collaborative than most I think, but sometimes our collaboration is segmented. This can lead to surprises, but always pleasant ones.