Saurav Mohapatra - comic book writer

author, artist and bona fide geek

Tag: ron marz (page 1 of 2)

Witchblade #141 Reviews


Continuing from the previous post about Witchblade #140 reviews … (Co-written by me with regular series writer Ron Marz)

  1. Newsarama Best Shots Review http://www.newsarama.com/comics/best-shots-advance-110119.html
  2. Comic Buzz http://comicbuzz.com/witchblade-141-review
  3. Project Fanboyhttp://forums.projectfanboy.com/showthread.php?t=10308
  4. Comic Buzz http://comicbuzz.com/witchblade-141-review
  5. nFamous Gamers http://www.nfamousgamers.com/reviews/books/paper-monsters-witchblade-140-and-141
  6. Comic Attack http://comicattack.net/2011/01/tcrevwitchblade141/
  7. Pendragon Post http://www.pendragonspost.com/2011/01/23/witchblade-141-review-top-cow/
  8. Comics Bulletin http://www.comicsbulletin.com/reviews/129590607378350.htm
  9. Graphic Policy http://graphicpolicy.com/2011/01/31/review-witchblade-141/
  10. Weekly Comic Book Review http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2011/01/25/witchblade-141-review/
  11. Donuts and Top Cow Podcast http://www.comicbooknoise.com/topcow/2011/02/episode-5-witchblade-140-and-141/ (7m30s onwards))

Once again, hearty thanks to Ron Marz, Top Cow, Filip Sabik and Phil Smith for giving me a chance to write Witchblade. Here’s hoping that we get to do something together again, soon… ish!

Reviews for Witchblade #140 [updated]

Witchblade #140, the first of the two-part story I co-wrote with Ron Marz (art by Stjepan Šejić) for Top Cow (as mentioned in this post earlier) is hitting the stores tomorrow (8th December). Already there are a few advance reviews out and looks like it’s getting some love around “teh interwebs:)

It shall be available in comic book stores on Wed 8 December, 2010. So run out and grab a copy.

So without further ado, here are the reviews so far:

Some nice blurbs from the reviews above

“… very nice art and a far more efficient piece of storytelling than we have seen since the rise of six issue trade paperbacks…”Project Fanboy
“… gives readers some good old fashioned carnage with some great humor and nicely done art….”Player Affinity
“… Marz and Mohapatra do a great job building this story up and letting it explode in your face at the end.”Comics Bulletin
“Ron Marz co-writes this issue with Saurav Mohapatra, and as a sign of any good team-up — the writing is seamless”Newsarama Best Shots Rapid Reviews
“a great detective tale, with a pretty creepy super natural twist thrown in…”Comic Book Revolution
“… familiar, fun, comforting and a solid read. If you’ve never read a Witchblade comic before, this is a perfect hopping on point, and I absolutely recommend doing just that.”Graphic Policy

Witchblade

Recently I was approached by the awesome folks at Top Cow asking me if I was interested in co-writing a 2 issue arc with regular series writer Ron Marz and art by Stjepan Šejić. Of course, I said yes immediately. I’ve long been a fan of Witchblade and especially Ron’s work on that. I was kinda bummed to have missed out on the Witchblade-Devi crossover earlier during my stint with Virgin Comics. So this, was in a way, a long standing dream come true.

Ron and I did a two issue arc (Issues #140 and #141) and #140 is due out on Dec 09, 2010. So rush out to your nearest LCS next week and grab a copy (or 10) :). Here are the two awesome covers for the issue by Stejpan and Brandon Peterson.

Cover A by Stjepan Šejić

Cover B by Brandon Peterson

Many thanks to Filip Sabik and Phil Smith at Top Cow for thinking of me and giving me this chance.

Update 1 (added on 3rd Dec 2010)
Comic Book Resources has a preview of the Witchblade #140 issue and an article where Ron talks about the issue.

Money quote:

The issues – which are co-written by Saurav Mohapatra, a writer that Marz worked with during his time at Virgin Comics – focus on a pair of kids who can make their drawings come to life, and unfortunately for everybody around them, they like drawing monsters.

It also features the upcoming Witchblade annual.

Update 2 (added on 4th Dec 2010)

the Top Cow forum thread on WB #140

Comics Bulletin preview of WB #140

Project Fanboy preview of WB #140

It also features the upcoming Witchblade annual.

“Building Character” (Part 2) – TRISHANKU

Like parents, creators are duty bound to say that they love all their children equally and like parents, creators always have their personal favorites.

When working on creator owned projects like MUMBAI CONFIDENTIAL or DHURANDHAR, I have the freedom to build the world and its inhabitants from the ground up. So I can craft each character and add whatever oddities I feel like to make them more “human” :). But as a “work for hire” writer, the properties one deals with already have set personalities as protagonists and antagonists. So as a creator, I always felt that one way I could leave my stamp in those projects was to create some characters around the main cast who’d provide extra flavor.

Here’ a list of some characters from the ones I’ve created so far for my Work-For-Hire projects. I shall be writing a series of these dealing with one of my favorite characters in each.

#2 – TRISHANKU (from THE SADHU: THE SILENT ONES)

TRISHANKU was a major character in my run on THE SADHU : THE SILENT ONES, a 5 issue mini-series drawn by R. Manikandan and edited by Ron Marz. When I thought of the character of Trishanku, the immediate model in my mind was the character of Ben Gunn from R.L. Stevenson’s TREASURE ISLAND.

The other influence, obviously, was the mythological figure of Trishanku, who was the only mortal on record to bodily ascend to heaven. His unprecedented act threatened to topple the delicate cosmic balance and as a compromise, he was offered “Trishanku’s Heaven”, a midway realm between heaven, hell and earth.

Like his namesake, our character from Sadhu has been marooned in Limbo for a long time and this has cost him his sanity. Trishanku is a scholar-warrior, displaying in depth knowledge of Vedic hymns and martial arts — a homage to the drunken/crazy kung-fu fighters from Hong Kong flicks.

I still remember the first line I wrote describing the character to the editorial team.

Trishanku is the proverbial mad monk, kind of like Ben Gunn from Treasure Island meets Yoda. You don’t know at any given moment, if he’ll unlock the secrets of the universe or fling his poo at you.

Another cool thing about Trishanku was the way he spoke. He is shown as completely mad by the time we meet him in the story and thus he has a unique speech pattern. He refers to himself in the third person and fires off synonyms of words together. This gives him a deranged voice that hints at deep wisdom.

As the story progresses, we get to know more about who Trishanku really is and what he’s capable of. Needless to say, he plays a pivotal role in wrapping up the plot and helping James Jensen in his quest.

Even when his mind is not quite right (from the centuries of being marooned in Limbo), Trishanku displays awesome capabilities and powers that help him when threatened.


You can read the whole THE SADHU : THE SILENT ONES miniseries for free at SCRIBD. Here’s a post I made earlier about that.

SADHU – THE SILENT ONES Full Miniseries is now free to read on SCRIBD

Way back in 2007, I wrote a miniseries called SADHU – THE SILENT ONES for Virgin Comics (now reborn as Liquid Comics). There was an 8 issue main series called The Sadhu written by Gotham Chopra, who had created the character. I was assigned to the project to continue the story further.

Ron Marz (Witchblade, Green Lantern, Samurai: Heaven and Earth, Dragon Prince) had signed up as Editor for this title and we decided to follow up the main series with a 5 issue mini. So long story short, the entire 5 issue mini is up at “SCRIBD for FREE. I’ve created a SCRIBD collection for easy access.

The Trade Paperback collecting the 5 issues is available from Amazon.com.

The first series (created and written by Gotham) dealt with British soldier James Jensen, whose family (pregnant wife and son) was brutally murdered by his psycopathic commandant and nemesis Townsend. James was left for dead and was revived by a mystic, who initiated him into the ways of the Sadhu. But James was torn between quest for salvation and his thirst for vengeance. The main series ended with James slaying Townsend in London.

I had a ton of fun writing the series. I set out to create what I thought of as an “existential swashbuckler“, something that blended elements of mysticism, metaphysics and good old pulp adventures. Ron was an excellent guide in creating the story and mentored me as I learned the ropes. He also got some cool covers done by Brian Stelfreeze and Jefferey Spokes. The series had great interior art done by R. Manikandan (see the interior page pictured above and below).

Another strong aspect of the whole thing was that Ron and I decided to create a narrative which would be accessible to people who hadn’t read the main series. So if you haven’t read The Sadhu before, you can still enjoy The Silent Ones (or at least we tried our level best to make it so) :)

I introduced an ancient cult led by a fiesty Grand Mistress (yeah, that’s the pulp adventure part. this was my homage to Thugee lore and an honest attempt to grow SADHU : SILENT ONES TPB beyond Mola Raam from INDIANA JONES AND TEMPLE OF DOOM), played with themes of multiple realities and pre-destiny/rebirth. We started the series off with James coming to know that his son is alive and that the child is a captive of the cult. James races against time to reach his son before they sacrifice him. But his path is not straight forward. He finds himself in Limbo (the void between universes) and encounters a character marooned there for centuries. (gawd, I so want to give out the details, but don’t want to spoil it for you). So why don’t you head on over to SCRIBD and see for yourself?

Or you can use the handy links below:

[CRAFT] 22 Pages of Doom – on pacing a comic book issue (a NINE PANEL GRID column)

22 Pages, mark this number down my friend, the bane of every writer who has a monthly gig – the industry standard story page count of a monthly issue of a comic book.

Filling up the said 22 pages is the subject of much head scratching, heartache and frustration – especially when the mind goes blank and the deadline comes a-knocking at the writer’s door.

My first gig was writing a series of one-shots for Virgin Comics called INDIA AUTHENTIC. IA told the myths and legends of the Indian pantheon and since there was no continuity from one story to the next, it was not the hardest thing in the world to write. Sure, given the number of versions of each myth and the fact that I wanted the stories to be a bit more than dry biographies, I put in a significant amount of work into treating the stories as sort of a secret origins kinda gig – every story tried to capture the theme that defines the dramatis personae for the world at large. So once I locked down the story, I’d just sit down and hammer out 22 pages.

Now the very next gig I got was an ongoing monthly – DEVI. Herein, o reader, my troubles began. A monthly comic book title (especially an ongoing one) is like a TV series. Each issue has to be reasonably enjoyable on a stand alone basis (at least that’s how my editor Ron Marz, quite astutely, wished it to be) and also forward the greater arc narrative. We also decided off the bat that we should not be too steeped in continuity to ward off new readers irrespective of the index of the issue they picked up as their first.

Oy Vey! It was very exhausting, but I like to think we (Ron and I) did manage to pull that off in the run we had on DEVI. Right off the bat we were so far behind deadlines (due to factors out of our control – I was moving back stateside after a year long sabbatical in India, Ron was taking over as Editor from Mackenzie Cadenhead etc. etc.). We had a couple of weeks to go from story to pencils and we didn’t have the plot. So during brainstorming session at Ron’s house, I floated the idea of starting off with a collection of three short stories about the main characters in the series – sort of explain their motivations and background. Ron, who taught me a lot during my run on DEVI and SADHU, instantly caught on to the idea and also suggested that we use framing pages at the beginning and end of the issue and in between the stories to sort of provide a narrative. Being a veteran of comic books, he understood the 22 page structure and how to navigate through them. So 3 stories, six pages each and 4 framing splash images. We had our 22 pages. We did some back and forth on the plot of the short stories and needless to say made our deadline.

Later as I started writing full 22 page stories, I had issues (pun not intended) with how much can fit into that. Again here Ron’s experience saved me from a lot of blunders. My first treatment for DEVI #12 had seven scene changes, so on an average every third page the narrative would shift to a different scene. I knew the story I wanted to tell from #12-#15 and was setting up a lot of the stuff here. But going over Ron’s redline I realized that, when read as a standalone issue, it was pretty confusing. So we talked and later came up with sort of a format for telling a 22 page story.

But before I get to that, I must touch upon another mistake most first timers are likely to make. When I submitted the second draft of the treatment, it was too decompressed. Ron’s note said something to the effect – “Now it’s dragging, every single item is getting a visual. The pacing was too much like Manga.” So as in everything else in life, the answer is in the Golden Mean.

So coming back to the format – a safe format for the 22 pages (Your mileage may vary, but this worked for me).

ACT I (Pages 1-4)
First 4 pages are ACT I. I usually either began with a splash or had 2-3 as a two page spread. This was setup. It was something I came back to later in the issue. For an arc beginning, I would use this page for a sequence that would serve as a springboard for the entire plot. For middle issues, this was where the dramatic kaboom sequence would go in to start things off with a bang.

ACT II (Pages 5-16)
ACT II was the next dozen or so pages or so (up to page 16-17). Page 5 cut from the opening action to the thick of the story and for 3-4 pages we set up the first obstacle of the story. So most probably on page 9 or 10 we’ll get the first glimpse of what really will our protagonist(s) be up against (we might’ve hinted at this in ACT I). Then on Page 9/10, I used to cut to something that was a continuation of the opening pages and for the next three pages use that to move the story forward. That takes us to Page #14. Page 15,16,17 then serve as the setup pages which bring the thread started in act I and the sequence that introduced ACT II together and positions everyone and everything for the finale / ACT III. If I planned on ending with a big fight scene, it usually would’ve started by page 15, so that the 16-17 double spread would be used up to show a great widescreen shot.

ACT III (Pages 17-22)
For ACT III, Page 18 and 19 usually were used to show the protagonist bouncing back and kicking some righteous ass. For more story driven issues 20 and 21 introduced / foreshadowed the next issues story and 22 splash was used as a cliffhanger.

It’s a simple structure, but I felt comfortable working with it. It meant I didn’t have to worry about pacing so much, since I knew where my act braks and plot points would be. Of course it is not a rigid formula nor is it a paint by numbers kind of thing. I used this as a rough guide and hope something like this helps you write a better 22 page story.

Till next time.

Toodles,

mohaps

This is a repost from my “Nine Panel Grid” column at Comics Waiting Room. You can find other Nine Panel Grid columns here

THE WITCH & THE WARRIOR – a Frank Frazetta homage

A few days back, my friend and artist/collaborator Saumin Patel (DEVI, MUMBAI MACGUFFIN) sent me a mail. Saumin is a big fan of Frank Frazetta and upon seeing Ron Marz‘s tribute to Frazetta, he too was inspired to do something.

Thus was born “The Witch & The Warrior“.

Now, Saumin’s visual storytelling (having worked with him on a bunch of projects) is perhaps amongst the best I have seen. So for a change, rather than working from a “Script”, he free-styled some sketeches/roughs with a basic story idea in mind. Our goal was to use some iconic Frazetta imagery, in a story reminiscent of those that he provided covers for. I then took a crack at tightening the story and the images into a 11 page script with dialogue and Saumin came back with astounding pencils for it. The pieces are now lettered and ready. Once Saumin finishes inking and coloring them, we’ll post it on the web.

But while we wait for that, pictured above is a rough lettered version of the cover for your to drool over. :) Hope you like it (as much as we did creating it).

“Old Jungle Saying” – PHANTOM CHRONICLES (Vol 2) HARDCOVER


I grew up with the Phantom — the Ghost Who Walks, Guardian of the Eastern Dark. My first exposure to comic books were the collected editions of Lee Falk’s newspaper strips reprinted by the now defunct Indrajal Comics. Like many of my generation from India, I am a rabid “phan”.

So I mentioned this fact in the passing to Ron Marz, who recommended me to Joe Gentile of Moonstone Books. Joe was putting together the second volume of the anthology of new Phantom stories and as the stars aligned, I got the chance to contribute. My story “The Plague” is exclusive to the hardcover edition (by the time I spoke with Joe, the deadline for the book was already past). Joe was extremely accommodating (once he realized how big a “phan” I was :) ) and by the time he received my story, it was almost time for the book to go to print. Due to some other engagements, I was unavailable for the edits within the extremely crunched timeframe. So CJ Henderson kindly stepped in and did the required edits as per Joe’s directions.

Today I received my author’s copies in mail and truth be told, it’s a dream come true for me. Not only did I become (as far as I know) the first Indian to write a licensed/commissioned Phantom story, but it is definitely so very cool to see my name in an author list that includes (among others) Harlan Ellison and Tom DeFalco. :)

Albany Comic Con 2010 Photo dump

Just came back from Albany Comic convention. Had a fun time there with Ron Marz, Matthew Dow Smith, Nick Tapalansky, Jackie Santiago, Dave Rodriguez and Paul Harding.

Last time I was there we were all sitting at pretty much the same table and this time around the seating order was not much changed. I haven’t had this much fun just shooting the breeze since college. :) So thanks guys, look forward to next time.

Also managed to sell some stuff : DEVI vol 3 TPB, Sadhu Silent Ones TPB and the Mumbai Confidential Preview. As usual, the conn drew a pretty comics savvy crowd and it was a real pleasure chatting with the fans.

Towards the end, I walked around and traded books with other pros attending. Mark Holmes gave me a smashing print that I shall be scanning and putting up on the blog soon-ish. Jackie drew me a DEVI pinup that she couldn’t complete on time, so looking forward to receiving that in mail sometime soon (will post scan as soon as I have it). Paul Harding also sketched a mean Punisher for my con sketchbook.

Picked up a signed copy of Magdalena #1 Conn Variant (pencils: Matthew Dow Smith / inks: Terry Austin) for Saumin Patel, who had colored it).

Below are some cellphone snaps I took while the conn was going on in no particular order.

K.I.S.S. Me, you fool!

My fingers tap on the typewriter keys – a staccato clattering like a spastic with a tommy gun, in perfect cadence with my stuttering thoughts. There it all is – a symphony made out of the slow start building into a crescendo as I feel clarity and then the pregnant pause as my mind lulls.

Blah Blah Blah!

Well, I could’ve just written, “I’m typing as I think.” Somehow couldn’t resist the temptation for “Purple Prose”. When I started writing comic books, my first break was INDIA AUTHENTIC, a retelling of Indian myths and legends preceded by a foreword from Deepak Chopra (yes, THE Deepak Chopra). Given the subject matter and Deepak’s reputation, my first few issues I veered towards high and haughty sounding words and phrases. The pieces were caption heavy and I tried my best to make sure they sounded lofty.

During that time I had the good fortune of working with Ron Marz (GREEN LANTERN, WITCHBLADE, SAMURAI : HEAVEN & EARTH) and as I’ve mentioned before I learned a lot about the craft. Ron is a great believer in K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid!). One of my titles that he edited was THE SADHU, about a British soldier in colonial India in the 19th century who has a spiritual awakening and becomes a mystic warrior. My story took James Jensen, the protagonist beyond the realms of the physical on a journey that eventually ended within himself. I used James as the narrator of the series and my first draft carried on the style of my first few INDIA AUTHENTIC books and I thought myself to be the Cat’s Pajamas.

But after a few discussions with Ron on the first draft, I realized that I was actually making a title that was kind of alien to the American reader in the first place, further obtuse by my purple prose. Obscurity is often mistaken as profundity in this world of ours, and frequently dropping words like Karma, Dharma, Cosmic Synergy does not equate a tale well told.

Less is always more. A comic book in particular has the assist of the visual storytelling of the artist, so the writer can counterpoint that by using simpler language that don’t cause the reader pause breaking his suspension of disbelief. Simple doesn’t equate to flat storytelling. Hemingway wrote magnificent works of literature and perhaps the best display of dialogue based narrative. He rarely used the so-called Million Dollar Words. His language was simple, accessible and had a cadence of its own. Elmer Leonard’s novels and the narrative techniques he uses are based on simple building blocks, yet he crafts a masterful body of work from those ingredients.

In comic books, perhaps the best example of simple language creating an unforgettable mental image is the opening of ALL STAR SUPERMAN by Grant Morrison (DC). We’ve been told the origin of Superman so many times in different media, but Morrison is downright majestic in the way he uses four simple phrases to sum up eight plus decades of mythos. (picture below)

“Doomed planet. Desperate Scientists. Last Hope. Kindly Couple.”

Try and beat that!

Till we meet again,

Toodles!

mohaps

UPDATE
Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing – aka Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodlehttp://www.kabedford.com/archives/000013.html

Repost from my previous Nine Panel Grid column at Comics Waiting Room.

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