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Stardust In The Spotlight in 2012 by Mark Heike

Stardust by Barretto detailAfter a year’s recovery from her imprisonment by the Old Dark Gods ( from FEMFORCE #s 140-150 ), the FF’s resident alien member will play a prominent role in the saga of the FEMFORCE for next year. Starting right out of the blocks; in the action up to her neck in the conclusion of the “Living In Synn” story arc in FF #158, into playing a pivotal role  in the all-new 20-page story written by Bossman Bill Black (and illustrated by Eric Coile) for the BIZARRE  THRILLS: The Paragon Publications Story TPB early in the year, and rolling through an FF lead-feature delving into her early days (written by Stephanie Heike) for an upcoming  (but as-yet unannounced) 2012 issue of FEMFORCE. Not to mention not one but TWO FF covers starring the lovely Rurian, both drawn by the late, great Eduardo Barretto. But wait ( as they say in the infomercials), there’s more: just this AM ace writer Eric Johnson turned in a bang-up script featuring Dusty in solo action called “Satellite of Hate”. It’s a taught little drama wherin the pointy-eared bombshell…well, it’s a little hard to give you a preview of a story, without giving the whole thing away.  If we had art in on it, I could whet your appetite with a single page- but heck, Eric just finished WRITING the thing; we haven’t even decided on an artist for it yet. But it’ll be good. Take my word for it- I’m picky about these things. Ask Eric, he’ll TELL you. He’s had experience. As far as writers go, Mr. Johnson has probably been “put through the fire” as much as anyone ever has scripting for AC. He’s always had an intense drive to “get it right”, and really puts the effort in to accomplish just that. Writing scripts for comic books is not a simple thing, but in the few short years he’s been working with us, Eric has mastered it. Some people think “the writer” just works out the general events in a story, and decides what order they happen in. Well, that’s part of it, but that’s just the plotting.  Others assume “the writer” just pens the words that go into each characters’ speech balloons; and THAT’S part of it,too; but that’s just writing dialogue. WHILE he’s doing all that, the comic book scriptwriter, ALSO must describe the action that should appear in each panel in a way that is easily interpreted by the artist. Too much description can”lock up” an artist and impede his ability to let the story flow; too little can leave him bewildered as to WHAT to draw. A really good scripter has a feel for what should make for the most visual way to express a panel, and give that information to his penciler in a way that combines the maximum amount of storytelling with the most freedom for the artist to develope each scene in his own way. While all this is going on, the skilled writer must also manage to stage his pages with as much drama as possible- AND not forget the basic rules of panel direction so that he can prompt his artist to break down his continuity in such a way that the art and balloon placement works with the natural up-to-down, left-to-right action of reading a page. Eric has become quite skilled at this delicate literary balancing act, and as a result, he not only writes exciting  and involving stories, but he crafts them into great scripts  that allow artists to turn the collaborations into exemplary creations of comic book storytelling. Eric came to AC scriptwriting from a background in gaming and writing straight prose, coupled with an awesome knowledge of AC Comics continuity. From the beginning, he demanded constructive criticism, took it all like a professional and learned from it. As an example, Eric loves witty, snappy dialogue, and he’s GREAT at writing it. Initially, he had a tendency to write TOO MUCH of it; far more than could be fit in a panel and still leave any room in it for an illustration! Editing it down was always a painful process for the both of us, but because comic books are a mix of art AND story, it routinely had to be undertaken on Eric’s scripts. They’d’ve made spectacular radio plays, but very VERY wordy comic books if left untouched. But Eric recognized this shortcoming early on, and as he has gained more of a comfort level working in comic book continuity, he has conquered it.  His script for “Satellite of Hate” is by far his best yet, and that’s saying a lot, considering his great work on so many features for us over the last five or six years, on strips like “Ali Bastur and her 40FT” in in FEMFORCE #144, “Amazon Housewife” in FEMFORCE #141, 142 and 150; Yankee Girl and the FF themselves in FEMFORCE #147, and Marla Allison/Humonga in too many previous issues to list. Look for more of his work on “Big Temper”, starring Marla Allison and Tara in FEMFORCE #158 (with art by Dan Gorman and Jeff Austin),  on “Not A Gentleman Caller”, featuring Fantasia the 1-900-Giantess (illustrated by Eric Alan Nelson) in FF #159, and “Growing For The Gold”, once again boasting  art by Gorman and Austin. You readers can enjoy his stories when you see the finished product; only those of us on the production end have an appreciation for the top-flight SCRIPTS he writes that allow those stories to come out so well.

6 Responses to "Stardust In The Spotlight in 2012 by Mark Heike"

  1. Mark Holmes  December 30, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    Is the Satellite of Hate a take off of the Satellite of Love from Mystery Science Theater 3000? Once again I learn more about the actual creation of comics by reading these articles than any other source out there. Well done.

    • Eric Johnson  December 30, 2011 at 11:51 pm

      Yeah, “Satellite of Hate” is a little bit of wordplay, paying tribute to one of the most fun TV shows of all time in my own little way.

      Yes, I do love me the in-jokes and wordplay in my scripts, and even my story titles.

      As Mark said, it’s almost impossible to talk about the story without giving stuff away. But with the title out of the bag, I can confirm it that it involves…. a Satellite! :)

      (and yes, Hate is involved in some way as well.)

  2. Scott  December 30, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    Good stuff, Mark!

  3. Eric Johnson  December 31, 2011 at 12:11 am

    And after all of Mark’s praise of my eloquence, I find myself pretty close to speechless.

    Seriously, I’m so flattered by reading this, I’m stumbling to find the words. And I’m maybe blushing a little.

    I’ll say more when I gather my thoughts, I think. But thanks Mark.

    Okay, one initial reaction. I almost fear that in discussing the script work, I’ve stolen some of the spotlight unfairly from Stardust in a story that should be about her.

    However, I think it’s a great thing to go over and discuss, as I’m sure some people must think writing comic books isn’t that involved. “You just get the idea and jot it down, that takes a few minutes, right?” is probably how some people think about it.

  4. jim johnston  December 31, 2011 at 7:22 am

    With stories such as these coming down the pipe I am assured that 2012 is gonna be a great year.

  5. Eric Johnson  January 1, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    Thanks for the great positive feedback, Mark. As an admitted amateur at this whole thing, hearing a longtime vet of the comic industry say these things is really flattering.

    I’m profoundly thankful to you and AC for the opportunity to do this work over the last several years. If I met my childhood self, all I’d have to let him know is that I got wrote comics books and he’d totally high-five me.

    And people, Mark is a great editor. I am so glad for every moment he’s taken to guide and teach, especially knowing how much work he puts in at AC, and how busy he is. I know many of AC’s artists have learned a lot from him, and so have I.

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