Glenn Farrington and ComiXwriter forging tools for wordsmiths

Credits: Glenn Farrington
Credits: Glenn Farrington

Glenn Farrington and ComiXwriter forging tools for wordsmiths

Glenn Farrington  may have had his start in stand up comedy, but he is no joke when it comes to the craft of writing scripts (be it for film or comics). With his recent work and experiences on the upcoming First Comics title The Firemen and graphic novel LIVES, he was inspired to pull a team together to develop ComiXwriter, computer software designed specifically for comic book scripting. Currently in the middle of a full fledged Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to help realize the full vision for ComiXwriter, Glenn took time out to share a bit about the endeavor, comics and his career. Check it out:

MT: How did you get into comics, what drew you to the field, any particular genre you are more attracted to as a writer?

GF: It started when I was young, ironically a story I just told today in our Kickstarter status update, when my mother use to buy me Classic Illustrated books. These weren’t really the cool comics. If you knew my Mom this made sense, she was a teacher. But reading Wuthering Heights isn’t as much fun as superheroes. What really got me hooked was a (Marvel Comics) Silver Surfer issue my Dad gave me that had Spider-Man on the cover. Man…that was awesome. I followed both, but mostly Spiderman after that. I was already a fan of the Spider-Man cartoon (yes I just aged myself). I still honestly believe to this day, my sense of humor comes from Spider-Man.

Comics kept coming in and out of my world over the years. Family and life became so busy, especially as our kids got older, I found myself not reading or following comics as much as I use to. One day when I was going through a storage bin in the garage and came across my DC Comics Batman: A Death In The Family and Batman: The Killing Joke. Two treasures of mine. I stopped everything and read them again. That soon led to me going through my old long boxes and reading through my Silver Age Spider-Mans. Then as if by kismet, I went to Pasadena later that day to try out a chicken place my friends were raving about. Turns out Zankou Chicken was right next to a comic book store called the Comics Factory. I went in…and completely forgot about trying out the chicken.

Not long after that I came up with an idea that didn’t quite seem to fit for a comic book series, but seemed perfect for a graphic novel. I did some research online and ran into a website that had a quote from Larry Young about what he looks for in a story. I knew my idea fit into that, I sent him an email and we met at Comic Con later that year. He simply told me, “let’s do it!” Even though I was working as a screenwriter out here, comics once again became a huge part of my life. I’m not the only screenwriter out here like that. Ron Zimmerman, John Rogers, Steve Marmel, Steve Kriozere are all comic fan boys.

It’s hard to pick a genre I prefer. I’m all about story and I don’t like putting that in a box. Comedy is my forte and I love to write drama but when it comes to comics, I’m all about the sci-fi. You can count on whatever I write to have comedic and dramatic moments, but all of them will be character driven. Before I die, I’d like to write a Spider-Man story.

MT:  ComiXwriter is a massive undertaking and you have incredible talent in the form of individuals such as Steven Sashen helping to make it happen.  What made you finally decide that this was something that needed to happen? What features will ComiXwriter possess that you feel are “must haves” for serious writers? How is it different than templates offered by Final Draft, Celtx, Scrivener or other industry software currently on the market?

GF: Massive would be an understatement! For about a year, I’ve done nothing but design the basic features. It was a phone call to Steven about what pitfalls to look out for from a programming side that made it happen. Steven had created Scriptware, the very first screenplay writing software. The call turned into a much longer one and by the end of it we decided to go into ComiXwriter together. It was obvious the two of us were a perfect fit for the project.

I founded and built the business of Digital Seas International. DSI installed and ran (and continues to run) internet café’s on every major cruise line in the world. When I came up with the idea, I was always worried someone would beat me to it. After months of preparations, I approached a satellite company to form a partnership. Someone had approached them with a floor model passenger based system (think early small tables in bars that allowed you to play Pac-Man) that would allow people to surf the internet. If I hadn’t showed up when I did, they would have gone with that company. So now when I come up with an idea, I act quickly on it. But when it comes to business, for me, that idea has to be two things. 1.) It must be a service of some type 2.) The product has to sell itself. (I call that the, “wow that’s cool factor). As an entrepreneur, I truly believe that if your idea covers those two things, you’ll have a successful business and if it fails, it’s your fault. Not the idea.

The automated features of ComiXwriter™  are for every comic book writer. But for the more serious working writers, the following features of ComiXwriter™, in our opinion, are the most important.

  1. Our collaborative editor that allows you pull up the artwork next to the page it’s drawn from. This also allows you, if necessary, to edit that script page or make notations on the artwork. That gets saved as a file and exported as a pdf back to the artist, colorist, letterer or editor.
  2. Saves scripts to our ComiXwriter™ file but can export them to pdf, word and RTF (which is a preferred choice among many letterers)
  3. The ability to embed graphics/photos into your scripts. Whether they are references for yourself or for the artist, you are able to insert a graphic/photo into any part of the script. Once embedded, you will have the option to keep them hidden or not. Same option applies when you export it as a pdf.
  4. Page breaks…I know that sounds insignificant, but it’s not.

Our sample pages differ from the templates other software, that are ALL non specific for comic books, because we don’t limit you to the box they put you in. Our many sample scripts allow you to format them how you’d like. Then allowing ComiXwriter™ to then take over with the automation.

Final Draft, Movie Magic are great for screenplay writing, they’re just okay for comics. Scrivener does a great job for writing novels and outlining, a decent job for screenwriting but just a limited okay job for comics. I see people every so often on forums remind people that you don’t need ComiXwriter™ because Scrivener is Free. Actually, Scrivener does have an upgraded version for $40. But the free (or even upgraded version) are not made for comic book writing. You have to use a template and work with it to make the software give you the basic needs you’re looking for. If that’s all you want. Then it’s perfect for you. If you want  software that is completely dedicated to writing comic books and gives you features that you’ll need whether you’re writing professionally or not, ComiXwriter™ stands alone. The only reason people have been using these types of software is because there is nothing else…that and  some are free. People will put up with a lot when it comes to free. But like my Dad always use to say, “When it comes to free, you get what you pay for”

MT:  What has the reception been like thus far from industry writers, any input or suggestions they have given to your project?

GF: The reception from industry writers has been extremely encouraging and supportive. Guys like Alan Grant, Mike Carey, Matthew Dow Smith and John Rogers got it right away and saw the complete need for it. Mark Sable has been a huge help in suggesting features and functionality. There are also guys like Ben Templesmith who don’t even use a computer for their work so ComiXwriter™ isn’t a fit for them. But, almost everybody gets how ComiXwriter™ will not only make their work easier but more productive. You don’t have to spend nearly as much time working on the formatting structure and get to concentrate on more important things like story.

The greatest inputs we’ve been getting have been from the backers of our Kickstarter. All day long I get a slew of questions about features. Most of the time we are already offering the functions they’re asking about, but every so often, someone will ask a question that didn’t even occur to us as a feature. I immediately think, “We need to do that”. I think Steven and the programming team is beginning to realize when I call, it’s because a backer came up with a great idea and we need to figure out how to code it. One of our backers, because of her disability types very slow and uses  speech recognition software to write her scripts and even recently published her first comic book. She wanted to know if her recognition software would work with ComiXwriter™. That input became something we instantly started looking into, because a feature like that is important.

MT:   Should your efforts to get the project funded succeed, you mentioned on you campaign page that you would like ComiXwriter to be more than just software, what did you have in mind for the site once it is live?

GF: We are all about celebrating the writer. We’d like part of the functionality of our website to be for the writer what deviant art is for the artist. We want our website to be a vehicle for writers to let the world know more about them and what they’re creating. It’s our hope, that we’ll be forming a community that becomes a great networking tool for meeting other comic book creators and publishers from around the globe. We also would like to offer blogs on comic book writing and online seminars from some of the most respected comic book writers in the industry.

MT: With your graphic novel LIVES coming out later this year (a few hundred copies will be available at SDCC ahead of the official release) and the first issue in your new series THE FIREMEN from First Comics,  what was making that transition of being a fan to being a creator like? Any surprises about the process? What are the two titles about?

GF: I was always afraid that transitioning from a fan to a comic book creator might ruin some of the fun. It’s not always cool when you pull back the curtain and find out OZ isn’t really all that powerful.  But surprisingly, it’s given me an even deeper love and appreciation for comics. Same thing happened to me as a screenwriter. I look at TV and Films completely different now. While I’m enjoying them, I also see how they lit it, shot the scene, edited it and use of SFX and music. The same with comics.  I look at a single comic book page completely differently now. The decisions on the artwork, the panel layout, the nuances of the color and how the lettering can make or break the tone and feel.

I think the biggest surprise was how SLOW the process is. If you like things moving at a fast clip, don’t get into comics.

LIVES follows the lives of five people over the course of a single day. We not only see how their lives affect each other, but you as the reader as well. The Fillbach Brothers did the astounding art and lettering for it. It originally started out just as a single one off issue. But as the project moved forward, we all kind of realized how special it was becoming. Next thing we know First Comics surprised us by letting us know they are going to release it as a hardcover. On top of the regular published run, they’re even doing a limited edition.

THE FIREMEN comic book series is about a secret society of firemen in Chicago that battles dangers threatening the world. I’m working with Steve Bryant (Eisner nominated Athena Voltaire, UnDead or Alive) doing the amazing artwork and the awesome John Hunter is doing the color.

MT:  Any advice for aspiring writers chasing the dream to create their first comic? Where can those interested in learning more about ComiXwriter check out what you and your team would like to see happen?

GF: The best advice I can give to aspiring writers is to write everything down, every idea, no matter how insignificant they might seem at the time. You’ll be surprised how often they become a story or become the springboard to an even better story. Also, don’t let anyone talk you out of pursuing what you love. If you stay passionate and focused you can accomplish anything.

For now, the best way to find out about ComiXwriter™ is to go to our Kickstarter page. Later this year, before we even launch, our website at www.comixwriter.com will become more functional and offer more information on our product.

MT: Lastly: Excalibur or Lightsaber?

GF: Excalibur. Swords are for real men, Lightsabers are too easy!

Thank you Glenn for sharing about your work and ComiXwriter. For those interested in learning more about this incredible Kickstarter campaign, be sure to check it out here.

Read More by Mark Turner

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