Pro’s Knows: Richard Hamilton

Return of the Super Pimps by Richard Hamilton

Return of the Super Pimps by Richard Hamilton

1. What is your daily/weekly writing regiment?

I get up at 5:15 am five days a week to write before my wife and kids wake up. I make my coffee, sit at my desk, which is situated in front of a window, so that I can see the sunrise, and get to work. It’s a great way to start the day in that I can be given the most menial task at my day job but, if I’ve written something earlier that morning, I feel like I’ve already accomplished something, so I don’t mind a little grunt work. In fact, I get in a bad mood if I haven’t written that day.

 2. When you write comic books, do you write for floppies (single issues) or do you write for larger formats?

With Return of the Super Pimps and Miserable Dastards, I wrote for single, 22-to-24 page issues, but was always mindful that they’d hopefully be collected into a tpb. I also had the advantage of writing detailed outlines and some issue scripts before we had to worry about deadlines, which is a luxury most monthly writers don’t get to enjoy.

However, due to the practicalities of the comics industry right now and the high costs of printing, it doesn’t make much sense for a small press guy like me to publish individual issues anymore, so all of my future projects will be written for digital release first, to be then collected into OGNs (provided there’s an audience, God willing). 

3. What is the most important thing about writing dialogue for a character?

To me, the most important thing is to find a terrific artist so that you don’t have to write dialogue. Let the art do the talking. But, when I do have to write lines, I try to be very specific and not have characters talk in generalities. Instead, I have them refer to specific events, times, places, and things. “Give me a Yuengling” as opposed to “Give me a beer.” Now I know what kind of beer that character likes to drink, how decisive he is, and roughly what part of the US he lives in. To me, specific references ground the characters in reality and can help give them the sense of a back story, even if we never get to directly reference it in-story.

4. What is the most overlooked rule for writing comics?

Probably making them fun to read. I am amazed by how many comics today are just such a chore to get through, so I wonder if enough writers are asking themselves “Does anyone even want to read this kind of story? Does it ‘need’ to be told?” From my standpoint, the subject matter in most mainstream books is dark and heavy and usually quite violent. What happened to the Silver Age-y fun of it all? I suspect this may also be one of the reasons that there aren’t that many kids getting into comics today. At least, not as many as with previous generations…

5. What is the most important thing about creating a new character?

Finding that balance between really knowing that new character’s psychology and backstory prior to the inciting incident in your story and still giving them enough room to grow (and keep growing) several arcs down the road.

6. What is the optimal number of panels per comic book page?

That depends on your artist. Brian K. Vaughan writes no more than five panels per page, as a general rule but, when you’ve got somebody like George Perez on panels, he can make twenty panels on a page seem clean and orderly. I personally don’t like to go past six now, but I try not to let that guideline get in the way of the storytelling.

7. Is there an optimal/minimal amount of description to write for a single comic book page?

Again, I would say this depends on your artist. Some like lots of description to inform their choices, others like lots of freedom so that they can contribute more to the book. Usually, my first issues feature a fair amount of description, since we’re not only telling the story for that issue, but also setting up the characters and world for the rest of the series. From issue two on, though, the description tends to get a little sparser, and the artist and I can communicate in shorthand.

8. What software do you use to write?

I first jot down ideas or thumbnails in my pocket Moleskine sketchbooks, then type up outlines in Word, and then finally write the pages in Final Draft.

9. What script format do you write in?

A modified screenplay format in Final Draft. I just take the script template and break it down by pages, then panels.

10. When writing comics, where do you look for inspiration?

When I’m actually writing a comic, I try not to read any other comics at the time (a real challenge for me) so that I don’t get too “inside-baseball” or include too much convenient comicbook logic.

Instead, I read the paper, cooking magazines, novels, and Dr. Seuss books to my son, Max. Dr. Seuss, by the way, is an excellent boot camp for comic writing. He writes visually, is very economic with his word count, and thinks up suspenseful cliffhangers with the best of them. Will Hooper Humperdink get invited to that party? Will that guy like the green eggs and ham? Kids and grown-ups simply have to turn the page to find out, no matter how many times they’ve read those books!

• What company you work for – maybe it is your own or maybe it is just you – tell us.

Day-job: Script Coordinator at DreamWorks Animation

Night-job: Writer/Publisher, Dial “C” For Comics

• A website that you’d like to promote?

• What comics you’ve written

Return of the Super Pimps, Miserable Dastards

Thank you.

You are welcome.

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