Holy speech bubble, Batman!

So anyway, I’ve been reading comics again, and they’ve been making me a   better screenwriter (I think).

A couple of months ago I stumbled across a very simple but very nifty little   programme called CDisplay, which displays scanned sequences of artwork; perfect   for comics. I also discovered people sharing their comics online (they come with   .cbr file extensions) and delved into a few and found them perfect to read on my   laptop.

So now I’m hooked and doing something I haven’t done since I discovered girls and bands and Jean Paul Sartre – reading most of my literature in pictures with speech bubbles.

I’d forgotten how much I used to read comics as a kid. Growing up with dyslexia I didn’t  start reading novels in earnest until I was twelve. But I always read comics.

It started off with  the usual: Beano, Dandy, Whizzer and Chips, Beezer. Then later came Bullet and Warlord and the stunning and radical Action. I had every issue, stored in Cornflakes   boxes, but lost them to a house move after I’d discovered girls and bands and Jean Paul Sartre.

To my delight, and without the need for CDisplay, I discoverd a beautiful site devoted to Action comic. It’s a wonderful blood red rosey-glowed nostalgia trip for anyone weaned on   the delights of the ‘sevenpenny nightmare’ (and probably explains why I grew up the disturbed individual I am now).

After the powers that be got Action banned, I sought refuge with the likes of the anarchic Krazy, Roy of the Rovers, Battle, Commando, 2000AD, Star Wars and the mature Hammer House of Horror magazine (their Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires strip remains one of my favourite comic experiences). I rarely bothered with American comics, although I remember briefly sampling a modern day US-set Dracula comic for a while.

I’d forgotten how many I used to buy. Listing them like this makes me realise I was a serious collector between the ages of 8 and 14, until I discovered bands and girls and Jean Paul Sartre.

But now, thanks to CDisplay, I’ve been dipping into the delights of Alan Moore’s From Hell, Brian Michael Bendis’s Alias and the epic Marvel saga, Civil War.

Why I find it so interesting is that the way stories unfold in comics seems   to me remarkably similar to good screenwriting. Yes, it’s a visual medium as well, but there’s also something about the brevity of the format and the need to reduce scenes to their essence.

Searching online for a way of explaining what I was experiencing, I stumbled   across this piece by Kurt Busiek and noted how most of his advice is equally applicable to good screenwriting.

So I’m using comics every day now to get me in the mood for my own writing.   They kick-start my creative coma quite effectively.

I’m keeping my underpants on the inside, though.

Plot points from Hell…

So anyway, my mate Martyn finally dropped round the Battlestar Galactica box sets (no, keep reading) he’d promised to lend me since before Xmas.

I’d ignored this series when it hit TV because I didn’t even like the original when I was kid. Then everyone started saying how totally different it was and how light years (sorry) ahead of every other TV drama series it was. And not just sad sci-fi nerds like Martyn.

So I started watching the (three hour!) pilot tonight and what struck me   immediately was the influence of one of my favourite writers: Alan Moore. Maybe   because I’d spent the whole weekend addictively consuming his gargantuan Jack the Ripper graphic novel, From Hell (cast all thoughts of that ridiculous movie from your mind though; it’s like Paul Verhoeven doing Finnegans Wake).

In From Hell, Moore has an uncanny skill of introducing characters from every walk of life in Victorian London and beyond (from the lowliest beggar to the big V herself) and making each and every one of them matter to you, and each one deftly brought to life in a short but poignant scene.

And there it was in Battlestar Galactica: the same technique. Twenty seconds into a scene with a new character you feel you know their life story. Every character matters and so does every word they utter.

Maybe that’s where it’s always gone wrong in the film versions of Moore’s work (and every one of them’s been a total dud): there’s just no time to do that in two hours. Only the long-running television drama series can do it justice