No respect for the format

I write my scripts for Rapid City and other comics projects using a free script formatting software product called Celtx.It is the free version of the more popular (and more expensive) Final Draft. Celtx handles all of the formatting stuff involved in making a comics script look like a comics script. Side note: If you are one of those writers who scoffs at formatting software and says "I just do it myself in Word"... you haven't tried it. The fact is it save a lot of time and energy. Establishing clear, consistent, and readable script format is not a part of the creative process. It is a tool. But that's not my point here. My point is that I have been raving about Celtx for years. After a very small learning curve, your scripts just cook. It is very intuitive. I bought the pro-pack that has a few extra writing tool and have subscribed to its cloud service in the past. You might be able to detect that I am about to bitch about this great product. You are right. I am.

Ok, Celtx offers a variety of formats. Movie scripts, stage plays, audio-visual, comics, and radio. Maybe some others. Each format has function that generates a "typeset" which is a complete PDF version of your script. It includes your information on a formatted title page. It is a nice, professional-looking, document.

Every format, that is, except comics. Every other format takes the script as it appears in the composition frame, and pretties it up for the PDF by adding page numbers and such. I know almost nothing about coding, but it would seem that taking something from one format and outputting it in a nearly identical format would be a fairly simple. I know that this must be fairly simple because Celtx does it for (almost) all of their formats.

When you use the typeset function in the comics format it outputs some absurd spreadsheet. It is laughable. Or, if you actually used it, humiliating. I feel bad just thinking about the comics writer who just blindly trusts that the coders at Celtx know what they are doing and submits a great script to a publisher in that silly looking format.

Here's a recent script I wrote in Celtx for which I generated a PDF by printing straight form the script. And here is the same script in their silly typeset format.

I should also add that it is an industry near-standard to include page breaks in a comics script at the end of every comic page. Celtx does not allow you to add those breaks.

I have been bringing this issue up with them for, literally, years. I know that sounds crazy, but I have been polite about it. Just asking if those features might be included some day.

They have a support forum when their staff answers the questions that users have. I posted a question about exactly this problem earlier this month. Most other questions posted around then have view counts as high as the mid-30s. My post hit more than a thousand views. It stops counting at a thousand. I have more views than any post I have seen in my cursory scrolling of their forums. And no answer. Still, no answer at all. I searched the post tags for similar questions. I found some.. and still I found no answers.

So... what the hell? It is hard for me to be objective and take this as anything other than an open disrespect for this medium I love so much. I love Celtx, and I love comics, but Celtx seems to hate comics. So, can I still love Cletx?

Ok, so now I have filled a whole blog post bitching about the shortcomings of a free program. That is weak.

So, here is the larger view. Maybe this is a symptom of a wider cultural disrespect for comics... and the writing if comics. Early in my quest to get Celtx to adopt a more universal format, I was assured by one of their people that "there is no standard for comics". Just because there is no SPECIFIC industry standard does not mean that anything goes. I doubt that anyone would take such a cavalier attitude toward a more respected medium.

This is part of a bigger problem.

Josh Dahl

I hate love revisions.

A look at my writing process. However it comes, I get a general idea of what I want to happen in a comic. Characters meet. Characters fight. Ice blankets the city. Whatever it may be. Then I tease and work those elements together into a story. In the course of doing this, I write and re-write each scene several times. Once they all work together, and do what each needs to do in order to help the story do what it needs to do... the comic is done. The Normally, it sits until it goes to the artist. When the pages come back from the artist, I go through the script again and make sure that it still fits the art. Some parts will need to be expanded, while others can be cut away. Then maybe some touch-ups from the letterer. And that's it.

My current project, Rapid City:Below Zero is turning out to be a bit different. For starters, it was conceived initially as one, single, story. Each plot point, and issue, had its place in the grand scheme. This is restrictive, but it also allows me to have a much stronger handle on the proper function of each story element. What used to be "That is cool! Let's see where it goes!" became "This moves the story forward, but is it doing so in the most compelling way?". Another change in this project is my very long lead time. Extra time, and a focus on plot functionality have really changed the revision process for me. Now that I know what each scene and moment is required to accomplish for the story as a whole, I can zero in and tighten up those nuts and bolts. That part of the process is now much less intuitive, and much more technical. That actually makes revisions much more satisfying. There is more concrete functionality. Then, once the walls and floors are built, I can start adding the furniture and decorations. I can play and make the scenes all pretty now because I know they are doing what they need to do. It is like a wild guitar solo in the middle of a structured rock song. And, that is what I will be spending my snow-day doing!

-Josh Dahl

State of Rapid City

Here's what's going on with Rapid City comics. Comics Rapid City comics are being made right now.

Issues 1-4, by Josh and Kav, are complete. They form a complete story called "Objects at Rest". Click on the STORE link above if you want to buy them from me.

The "Objects at Rest" collection is in the works.

Kav is currently drawing issue #7. Issues 5-8 are a murder mystery involving Hourglass and Maxwell Murder. These pages are coming along quickly now, but the books themselves might take a little while.

Watch our collaboration live in the Rapid City Open Studio.

Artist Shawn Langley is set to begin working on "Rapid City: Below Zero". This will be a twelve issue super-villain revenge epic.  We hope issue 1 will be in my hands on time for New York Comic Con.

Appearances Josh will be at M.I.C.E. September 28-29 in Cambridge,MA. Stay up to date through their facebook page.

Josh will also be wandering the floor of NYCC, October 10-13. If you are an editor, or press, , or a fellow creator, or just a cool person and want to talk to him there, get in touch.

Josh is also looking into this Harvard Book Store thing, but we will know more in a little while.

Online You can find us at: The Rapid City home page. On Twitter On Facebook The Rapid City Open Studio on Facebook

Press Please contact Josh for review copies, more information, or to set up interviews.

Last Weekend: Brushes with Celebrity pt 2

Last Sunday, Bekah and I went to the House of Blues in Boston to see Rancid.RANCIDRancid is my favorite band. They have been forever. I have actually lost track of how many times I have seen them. Lots. A few years ago, when I was working in the first version of Rapid City and Bekah was coming out to visit me from Ashby, I hung around outside what was then called The Avalon hoping to talk to Rancid before they played that night. There were a few other people hanging around out there. Tim Armstrong came out to talk to us and sign stuff. I gave him an ashcan preview and told him that my comic was largely inspired by his music. He thought that was cool and put my name on "the list" to come and see the show that night. I had already seen them the night before with Bekah. That was the only time I saw them two nights in a row.

Anyway, back to last weekend. Bekah and I loved the show. I wasn't just talking when I said that my comics are inspired by their music. Every time I see them play I get a billion ideas crashing through my head. We waited near their bus in hopes of catching them after the show. I brought copies of Rapid City 1-4 to give to them. It was pretty exciting. There wee a few other people also waiting around while different crew members and stuff loaded out. We waited. A long time. Bekah said

"All I know it's 1 o'clock, and they ain't never showed up and... I watched a dozen people go home form work."

So, we went home. I had the next day, Monday, off of work. I went back down there. The show started around 6:30, so I got there around 5. And I stood there. In the sun, and the rain, and even in the hail. And I waited. I knew the buses. I knew the doors. I knew the time. So I waited and I watched.

I never saw Matt come or go either day. But I met him and shook his hand last year.

I saw Lars go by, but did not recognize him until he was already gone by.

I saw Tim go past once. Too quick. Again, back to the bus this time. A young girl called out to him and he very sincerely told her "Not now. After. After."

I knew that I couldn't wait until after. And the show had already started inside. Tim's band The Transplants would be taking the stage soon. Running out of time.

I positioned myself for the most best eye-lines between the bus and the stage door.

A few minutes later, Tim came off the bus and i called out to him. "Hey, Tim."

He stepped right over and I told him about how I had met him before and about the earlier comics. Then I showed him the books. He saw the comics, and that it was rainy, and he pulled us all (me, him, and his small entourage) under an awning so that they would not get wet. I showed him Kav and Micah's cover to issue 2 and said "That's Maxwell Murder!" I think he was impressed with that. He told someone else who was standing there, like he was proud of it...

That's Maxwell Murder!

I gave him the books and he said "I love comics."

And that was it. I gave the comics I made to the musician who inspired me to write them.

Maybe he read them. Maybe he didn't. Maybe they are being passed around the tour bus right now. Maybe not. Either way, I felt pretty cool.