‘Sunshine Superman’ Wrtten and Performed by Donovan, 1966
We’re closing in on launching the comic book, so I’d like to take a minute to introduce y’all to our newest comic book hero….
Hey everybody, meet Sam Simms:
I gotta tell you, that one of the biggest thrills of my life is when I saw the first two pages of the comic book traipse across the transom of my inbox.
Movie, schmovie, I WROTE A COMIC BOOK!
For some reason, that was like the icing on the proverbial cake. I mean, the movie is truckin’ along, I’m literally finishing up our edit, producers are feelin’ good, editor is satisfied… Sean, our sound designer is adding clangs and ka-chunks, John, our muzzle flash fx guru is muzzle flashing away… couldn’t be happier…
And lo-and behold, I get an email from Benny Powell, our comic book editor with the first two completed pages… and I nearly had a heart attack.
See, most kids want to grow up and be a big-league pitcher, or be a defensive blah blah for the gridiron… And often times, those fantasies morph into fantasy football, or even sports camp. My fantasy (other than being an astronaut - which, lets face it, has already morphed into my little sojourn at Space Camp a few years back) was to write comic books. I loved comic books. I remember I had stacks and stacks of ‘em growing up, so when I clicked open that email – it was like two different parts of my life were joined in an instant.
There it was. A comic. Somebody else’s drawing. But with my words.
I wrote that thing. It sprang from my head, somehow got filtered through the hand of Weilin Yang, our very talented artist and wound up looking and smelling like the real deal: the comic book of my dreams…
Of course, I had tons of help.
Enter Benny. Now Benny has lived a lifetime in the comic industry. He worked at Marvel, and on a slew of other properties like GI Joe and Transformers. Currently, Benny is authoring Wayward Sons for Keenspot Comics, which is a pretty cool sci-fi comic, that you should check out.
Benny is my editor, which is odd to me because other than my movie editor, I’ve never had an editor, editor before. But above all, Benny is a writer. He approaches things in a writerly manner, talks story with the best of ‘em and has been a terrific sounding board, co-conspirator and Great-and-All-Powerful Oz in this process.
Now, I had never really written a comic before. Sure, I played around with the form, but somehow they all came out screenplays – so Benny had to essentially show me the ropes from scratch - and I’m sure that I tried his patience on more than an occasion.
The very first thing he said to me – which is music to a director’s ears – went something like this:
Benny: Okay, well, you know how in film you have budgetary restraints, time considerations and actor’s schedules that you have to work around….?
Jay: Boy, do I ever!
Benny: Yeah, you have none of those in comic books. You can do whatever the heck you want!
I paused. I didn’t know what to say. I mean… it… it’s like a creative Christmas! A blank canvas. I could do anything. Needless to say, my Spidey sense was tingling.
I said. Trying to wrap my mind around the thing that I wanted most… Then, it hit me! The biggest, Michael Bayest, flashiest, budget-busting story concept that I could think of…
Jay: Then we’re gonna start off with a humungous battle!
And off we went.
So, the Shockwave, Darkside comic is actually a prequel. It covers a big battle on the lonely lunar plains of a place called Mare Crisium that’s actually referenced in the film - kinda like the D-Day invasion of the ‘Shockwave’ universe. I figure lots of ‘kaboom’ would be a whammy of way to introduce our characters from both the comic and the movie as they bob and weave through this awesome canvas, trying to stay alive.
And so far, it’s been a blast. But it’s also made me respect the art of writing for comics so much more. And it is and art. Just as illustration requires a deft hand and keen eye, creating amazing characters, breathtaking situations and hair-spitting escapes within the constraints of a few sentences per panel, per page requires a quick wit and a nimble mind. Less is more and economy is king when it comes to hypnotizing the reader to keep on turning those comic pages. And it’s a lot harder than you think. The beats, rhythms and character nuances are so completely different, that it's really like learning a new storytelling language.
This is Sam Simms’ first battle of his first war. And from the moment he steps into it, he has nothing but his instincts to keep him whole. As the world around him explodes, collapses and folds in on itself, the only way he can survive is just by forging ahead, figuring it out step-by-step, and trying to avoid getting shot.
But don’t worry Sam, I’ll be right there with you. Doing the exact same thing.