The Darby Pop Script Contest

So, Darby Pop publishing, home of some oddball comics including 7th Sword, Doberman and Dead Squad are holding a script contest for up-and-coming writers. They’ve challenged those looking to break into the comics biz to to write a complete 22-page one-shot script for their character, Stingray, who appears in the pages of the superhero-comedy comic Indestructible. The winning script will be drawn up and subsequently published by Darby Pop and IDW in 2015.

While this is the first time I’ve mentioned it here on my blog, I now have time to do so because on Wednesday I submitted my finished script for the contest.

Hot off the heels of placing in the recent Titan Comics Undiscovered Talent Competition, I knew this would provide a fun exercise in creativity, deadlines and working with a pre-established intellectual property. One of my goals as a comic writer has always been to tap into the work-for-hire market and “play with another creator’s toys,” if you will, and Darby Pop’s contest was just the thing to get my brain going. I’d always wondered what would happen if I were given the opportunity to write for characters created by someone else and, boy, did I get a crash course in doing so!

First things first…while I’d heard of the comic Indestructible, I hadn’t actually read it, so my first order of business was to cruise over to ComiXology where I picked up the collected edition of the first four issues and proceeded to dive right in. There’s a chance I may have even ignored several real world responsibilities while I devoured that thing. (Let’s keep that between us, okay?)

Indestructible was created and written by Darby Pop President Jeff Kline with art by Bernard Chang, Salvi Garcia, Javi Garron and Chris Johnson, tells the story of Greg Pincus, a slacker who lives in a world, not unlike our own, where superheroes are not only high-powered crime stoppers, but A-list celebrities to boot. After (sort of) stopping a robbery, Greg is mistaken for a superhero and thrust into the spotlight where he must wrestle with enjoying the perks that come with the celebrity status while wanting to come clean with his friends, family and the world over that little detail…he doesn’t really have powers. Before long, Greg is approached by the League of Defenders who attempt to recruit him to their ranks. Much hilarity ensues.

After reading the first volume a few times, I was taken aback by how funny it was. If there’s one thing I love, it’s funny. The characters were three-dimensional, had strong motives, were likeable and the humor was a nice mix of slapstick and the occasional riff on superhero tropes.

Of course, as I read I made notes and collected information on the aqua-powered female character Stingray, for whom I’d be writing a script. A hero-gone-bad, the femme fatale showed a penchant for nefarious deeds, drugs and had loads of strained relationships with the other characters in the book. In an odd turn of events, she didn’t appear in much of the volume, but her scenes were poignant enough to give a sense of who she was as a character, which was all I needed to get my brain doing it’s creative thang.

The contest rules stated that any characters from the book were on the table to play with and the time period in which the story was set was open, so already Darby Pop was providing writers with very few restrictions, something I greatly appreciated. On my next pass through the book I investigated other characters and heroes, ultimately deciding to set my one-shot before the events of the first volume. The germ of the idea was in motion and the thought of getting to write for a brash, younger and more emotionally-charged group of heroes provided limitless potential.

Over the course of a few nights I did my outline, page breakdowns and on a recent Sunday afternoon, drafted my first issue of the script. A tight outline made all the difference and I found myself in the fortunate position of not having to cut or pad a single scene. As a comic book writer, that’s a personal victory right there. After letting the script sit for a few days, giving me a chance to review it with fresh eyes, I made my edits and let it sit again. This week after a final round of polish and dialogue tweaks I was ready to “send the kid off to school.”

This contest was rather brilliant on multiple levels…it not only gave writers a reason to put on their thinking caps and experience life in the work-for-hire trenches, but it also got people reading their book. I was darn impressed not only with what Kline and company did in the first volume, but with what new writer Ken Kristensen did on the subsequent four issues. Good comics are good comics, and I’m glad I found something else to add to my pull list.

The deadline for the contest is October 22, after which I’ll share a deeper look into how the idea came together, perhaps the outline, beat breakdowns, and if it’s determined that I’m not a winner, maybe even the finished script. As I learned more about the Stingray character, the idea of a broken super-powered human who could play the hero or villain, depending on the day, became such an interesting idea to explore and I thank Darby Pop for holding a contest that’s encouraged writers to write and will judge entries based on what they’re bringing to the table as a “solo artist.”

Though, I don’t envy them having to read all those scripts…

I had such a ball with this project and regardless of which talented scribe is chosen as the winner, it gave me the confidence that I could in fact write for a pre-existing property…and perhaps even do it well.

Fingers crossed.

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