Should Screenwriters Consider Adapting Video Games, Comics & Graphic Novels?


Given the dire state of the spec script and open writing assignment markets, writers are looking at alternatives to screenwriting.

The current video game market is increasingly lucrative and worth several times the value of the feature film market. Furthermore, video games  are relentlessly being adapted into feature films to cater to the existing consumer base.

Similarly, the comic book and graphic novel markets are attractive to film producers, partly for the same reason of existing market awareness and an in-built potential move audience, but also because most of the visuals and characters are already in place.

Movie producers are attracted to these properties because they are faster to read than traditional feature length screenplays. The fact that Disney  Studios paid over $4 billion for Marvel Comics suggests that comics will feature heavily in theaters for years to come.

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How Long Are Comics & Graphic Novels?

The traditional 22 page comic book is excellent practice in writing visually, using minimal dialogue and writing in sequential storyboards. Hollywood’s hunger for adapting comic books into screenplays and optioning their movie rights shows no signs of abating.

Graphic novels typically run for 88 to 132 pages and therefore more closely resemble a screenplay in terms of length. Sometimes they are anthologies of a comic series. Other times they are a single extended story such as “The Walking Dead”.  Although the page count conversion from comic to screenplay varies, a useful figure is 1 comic book page to around 0.8 screenplay page.

Comic books are divided into panels and average about six panels per page. The writing is even more economical as only one visual concept is allowed per panel. In screenplays, one concept is allowed per scene. However it may be comprised of a sequence of events, a luxury not afforded in comic books.

Although visuals can carry both comics and graphic novels part of the way, audiences will always respond better to deeper characters and solid storylines. The stories traditionally tend to be high concept action and comedies such as “The Crow” and “Men In Black”.

The main formatting differences between comic books/ graphic novels and screenplays are the economy of dialogue, the use of “on the nose” dialogue, little, if any, subtext and thought banners/bubbles stating a character’s thoughts.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Hey, I do a free podcast about this very subject called Writing for Rookies (btw, I’m a writer for the new Thundercats series). Check it out here:

    http://writingforrookies.podcastpeople.com/

    Brandon

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