Comic Book Scripts
Plot and Script Samples
For aspiring comic book writers or other interested masochists, following are links to plots and scripts from published comics. There may be value in comparing these documents with the printed stories. Note that there is no industry standard format for plots or scripts. This is just the way I do them. For the record, my Marvel-style plots are a bit fuller than average, I tend to put in at least a first draft of all the dialog. Many people don't. Not surprisingly, I prefer to work full script. My full scripts are about average in terms of detail. Click on the highlighted titles to see the documents. Please note that all characters are TM & © copyright by their respective owners. All unpublished stories (and some of the published ones) are © copyright Dwayne McDuffie. All Rights Reserved.
Static Sample Plot. This is a four-page, plot-style "test" for artists that Milestone used to give to folks who showed us promising samples. It's deceptively difficult, requiring the ability to draw backgrounds, real people and super heroes, choreograph action, and sell expressions and emotion. John Paul Leon, Tommy Lee Edwards and a few others were hired off of their work on this plot. I ripped this idea off of a Vision script that Marvel Comics used to give out for the same purpose.
Deathlok #2 (ongoing series) "Caught In The CyberNet." My first solo Deathlok script (I traded off story arcs with co-creator Greg Wright). This was the first time I used the Booker T. Washington/W.E.B. DuBois debate as a lens to discuss issues of race and the heroic image. Icon readers know it wasn't the last. I really enjoyed writing Misty Knight. Sadly (for me, at least), John Byrne made her a regular in NAMOR shortly after this and I had to write her out of the book.
Spider-Man #1 (special) "Skating On Thin Ice." This comic has one of the largest print runs in history. It was a give-away from the organization of Canadian Police Chiefs to nearly every school kid in Canada. Wish I'd got royalties on this one! Spidey is great, I do an old-school sort of Bugs Bunny/Groucho Marx version. Good practice for STATIC, who owes more than a little to my favorite web-slinger.
Hardware #1 "Angry Black Man." The first Milestone comic ever. I set out to challenge audience assumptions by doing the "anti-Deathlok." Don't get me wrong, I love Deathlok but he was so mature and good, he had nowhere to grow. I resolved to take Hardware from selfish anti-hero to true hero over the course of a couple of years. Reviewers called me racist and "ungrateful". Milestone got two letter bombs (no injuries, thankfully). On the other hand, we sold over 400 thousand copies, nearly eight times our projections.
Icon #13 "It's Always Christmas!" A semi-affectionate humorous jab at Marvel's Hero For Hire, Buck Wild proved so popular that he returned several times, eventually replacing the original Icon for a while. Even his death couldn't stop him from taking a final bow. Get a hold of the actual comic, if you can, Matt Wayne's parody of a Marvel Comics' letter column is even funnier than the story, damn him.
Full Script Samples
Damage Control (8-page preview from Marvel Comics Presents) "Overture." John Porter is recruited to Damage Control, while Daredevil beats some information out of his favorite punching bag, Turk. The script format is something I made up. I used it for about three years before abandoning it for the modified screenplay format you'll see on most of the other scripts posted here.
Deathlok Annual #1 (8-page back up) "Show And Tell." I comment on a raging letters column controversy in story form. This also includes the weirdest crossover I ever snuck by an editor. The little girl at the beginning of the story is from Harvey Comics' MONSTER IN MY POCKET series. Her dollhouse is filled with inch-high versions of Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster and others. But she never gets a chance to show anybody...
The Demon #27 (last series) "Etrigan, He's Our Man..." The Demon Etrigan runs for President in what I think is my funniest story. Massive good sport award to penciller Val Semekis, who although way on the opposite side of the political spectrum from me, did a terrific job on this story, despite really hating it.
X-O Manowar #19 (vol. 2) "We Bombed In Denver." I really enjoyed this series and would have done it forever if Acclaim Comics hadn't suspended publication five issues into my run. Donavan (X-O) Wiley's platonic gal-pal Renata Wade was on the verge of nudging aside Raquel "Rocket" Ervin as my all-time favorite character to write.
The Tick (Fox Kids Funhouse) "The Tick Vs. Auld Lang Syne!" This unpublished script, intended for a Tick Holiday Special, was partially pencilled when Acclaim pulled the plug. It's my funniest Tick script and I'm disappointed it never saw the light of day. Check out my mean parody of Marvel's The Watcher, I wanted to call him "The Voyeur" but my editor made me stop. He was right. If it seems oddly paced, it is. This was written for a digest-size comic, and I tried to put only 3 or 4 panels a page.
Deathlok #25 dialogue. As you may or may not know, a "Marvel-style" plot (see Deathlok #2 or Spider-Man #1 above, for examples) is drawn by the penciller from the writer's description, then returned to the writer for the actual dialogue. Here's a brief example of dialogue from that process. This is also interesting because it's my only public commentary on (Afrocentric publishing co-op) ANIA's relentless attack on Milestone as "not black enough." While these guys were blowing tons of free publicity by (generally) failing to turn out any decent product to back up their activist stance, Milestone was busy employing three or four dozen black creators (all the while refusing to publicly badmouth ANIA, or any other publishers). In my last story for Marvel Comics, I put ANIA's arguments into the mouth of Marvel's "Moses Magnum" and let Deathlok speak for me. Apropos to ANIA's fake Swahili, I named the story, "Protect and Defend." This single issue of Deathlok outsold the combined print runs of every ANIA book ever printed. Fuck with me....
New Series Proposals
These are pitches I gave to editors, usually to sell them on the idea of doing a new series. Sometimes editors let it be known that they're looking for a new direction on an ongoing title, I've included examples of those kind of pitches, as well. These days, series pitches are much shorter. An editorial attention span thing, I suspect.
X-O Manowar. I've had several requests to add my original pitch for the popular Acclaim series to these pages, so I'm doing it. Fabian Nicieza, Evan Skolnik and Mike Marts edited me for the last 5 issues of this series. They agreed to let me do some outrageously radical stuff to the book, most of which, sadly, never came to pass, as we were cancelled very early in my run. Nevertheless I had a blast on X-O for many reasons, not the least of which was that I got to write Brian Augustin's wonderful creation, Renata Randall, one of my all-time favorite characters. Continuity anal-retentives will note that I won the assignment, despite making the cardinal error of misspelling the name of the book throughout my proposal.
Damage Control. What can I say? This got me in the door. I pitched it blind, because I had too little experience to know that Marvel never buys new series from outsiders with no track record. Guess what? They bought it anyway. With mixed emotions, Tom DeFalco, "against better judgement", handed it off to Mark Gruenwald who had been developing me on Solo Avengers stories. Mark passed it on to Sid Jacobson, who taught me how to make comics.
Deathlok. Intended as a mini-series, this sold so well that Greg Wright and I were awarded an ongoing series immediately after. You'll note some changes between this pitch and the eventual series.
The Ones That Got Away
These are pitches that editors didn't go for. I've also included some that sold but for one reason or another never made it to print.
Young Fantastic Four (graphic novel). The Fantastic Four has always been my dream book. When I sold this graphic novel, I thought the news was too good to be true. It was. My story was rendered moot by the new continuity imposed by a Roger Stern Doctor Doom/Dr. Strange graphic novel. Not only did Roger's story kill my project, the damned thing was so incredibly well done, I couldn't even bitch in good conscience. I later used some of the material, in altered form, in an issue of "WHAT IF?"
RoboCop (ongoing). My first collaboration with Greg Wright. We were on the short list to write this continuation of the popular movie, when Greg was assigned the book to edit. He did the only fair thing and took our proposal out of consideration. Shoot. The many conversations we had about RoboCop ultimately led to our more successful Deathlok pitch.
Hero For Hire (revamp). As a kid, I always wanted to like Luke Cage but I couldn't quite get with him. So when I finally got the chance I put together this pitch, keeping what I liked, dumping what I didn't. This is my all-time favorite of my Marvel pitches, and easily the most rejected. I pitched this approximately every six months for 5 years (except for when the character was revived as CAGE in the early 90's). Eventually I was told by a friendly higher-up that "they're never going to let you write that character, they don't like your attitude and they don't want all that black stuff in there." Whoops. You'll note that some of this stuff has worked its way into Marvel continuity anyway (my beloved cursing bit, for instance) and many of the characters I recycled into HARDWARE. Years later, I would try and fail one more time to do a Luke Cage project, see Marvel Milestone, below.
She-Hulk (ongoing). First I had it, then I didn't. Mere days after selling Marvel Damage Control, Robin Chaplik (the real one, not the one from Blood Syndicate) and I sold a romantic comedy She-Hulk ongoing series to Marvel. John Byrne, just returning from his high-profile DC stint revamping Superman, was told he could do any book he wanted. Incredibly, he wanted She-Hulk. Given the choice between a couple of unknowns and the hottest guy in the business, Marvel thought about it for nearly two tenths of a second, then gave the book to John, as well they should have. Our material was adapted into the She-Hulk: Ceremony bookshelf series. We were told to take the jokes out. We mostly did. Later, when John left the book, I tried to get on it with a Molly Dodd inspired, "dramedy" pitch. No go, but here's a look at it.
Punisher/Iron Man: The Killing Machine (bookshelf mini-series). This one I dreamed up with Xombi and X-Files writer John Rozum. The Punisher steals a suit of Iron Man armor, paints it black with a white skull emblem and goes to town. Iron Man wants it back. This one got lost as editorial teams changed several times while we developed it. I also had vague notions of Jim Rhodes getting the black armor in a sequel. So Mark Bright did some very strong armor designs and we pitched a second Iron Man book starring Rhodey. That didn't happen either, at least not for us. I like to think we had something to do with the War Machine book that came out a few years later. Although admittedly the idea isn't that much of a stretch.
Damage Control/Marshal Law. Imagine my surprise when Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill, the creators of my favorite humor book, the super-hero hating Marshal Law, agreed to let me do a crossover with Damage Control. Imagine my shock when Marvel agreed to an unprecedented crossover between Marvel and its creator-owned Epic imprint. So why didn't it happen? I don't remember. I'm guessing it had something to do with Marshal Law's move from Epic to Dark Horse but I couldn't say for sure. Damn, this would have been funny.
Marvel Milestone. This is the big one. Taking advantage of a window in our then-exclusive contract with DC Comics, in 1995 we developed with Mark Gruenwald and Tom DeFalco a "mini-universe" of interlocking titles set in the Marvel Universe. Milestone was to package the books and Marvel to publish (not unlike the deals Event and Chaos comics later did). We were all very excited about what we came up with together. Unfortunately, Tom DeFalco left, Mark Gruenwald passed away, Marvel went bankrupt and the deal evaporated. We were never able to get it going again with the new regime. These would have been great. They included a slightly re-worked version of my HERO FOR HIRE pitch, a radical reworking of Shang-Chi called DEADLY HANDS, a New Universe spinoff, PSI-HAWK and a Photon-led team book (incorporating Epic's Shadowline) called POWER MEN. One day I'll find the terrific character designs Denys Cowan did for these (especially for Cage!) and I'll post them here.
I have absolutely no luck with these guys. I couldn't sell DC Comics Bristol board during a paper shortage. In addition to some originals that I won't post here because I'm still shopping them elsewhere, I've recently taken a few shots at doing things with established DC characters. No go.
Wonder Girl (mini-series). Editor Paul Kupperberg was looking for pitches for John Byrne's new version of Wonder Girl. I came up with this. Nope. I still want to write a series with a female lead and for what it's worth, I think this would have worked.
Batgirl: The Last Laugh (one-shot). This is my favorite DC idea, if a bit radical. It's sort of a a sequel to The Killing Joke, featuring an all-new Batgirl. I pitched it as an Elseworlds. Two group editors hated it. I still like it.
Batman: Tale of the Black Bat (one-shot). Another Elseworlds story, this one approved by Archie Goodwin. We never got around to doing it, and Archie (in my opinion, the best writer in mainstream comics, ever. He was merely a terrific editor) passed away. The story, set in the future, tells of the historic adventures of the great African-American super-hero Batman. By the time I unearthed the pitch, nobody liked it anymore. I did get an offer to maybe do it as a 19-page back-up. But I think it merits more room than that. Dead forever? Maybe not. I'll probably try again sometime.