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First Second
Prudence Shen
Faith Erin Hicks

Faith Erin Hicks

Page 235-236

Posted by Faith Erin Hicks | March 19, 2013


… I will never get tired of that. *_*

Okay, so Imma gonna do a process post today! I had a request a little while ago to post the script for NCPGW, so those who perhaps aspire to write comics could take a peek. The person asking requested Prudence post the script, which would be a little hard since she didn’t actually write it, I did. I thought it would be fun & helpful to do a behind the NCPGW scenes post, and get into who actually did what on the comic. I’m going to put it all behind a cut because it’ll probably end up being super long because I am very rambly and comics are complicated to make! ;) Onward!

NCPGW was not created through a simple artist/writer collaboration. When I drew this comic, I wasn’t handed a script that dictated what I was supposed to draw and how to draw it (I have had those relationships; for comics where I have drawn other writers’ scripts, check out Brain Camp and Bigfoot Boy), I adapted it from a prose book. A very long prose book, which, if I’d literally drawn every single thing in the book, NCPGW would be a 1,000+ page comic. Since there was no way I was going to draw a comic that long, I took Prudence’s very funny, very touching book about two dudes named Nate and Charlie, and hacked it into a 280 page graphic novel.

I did a LOT of cutting. Back when we were talking with First Second about putting NCPGW online, I suggested that we put the prose book up on the website along with the comic. I thought it would be a fun thing for readers to see, the contrast between the novel and what became the comic. Also, Prudence did a lot of subtle internal stuff with Nate and Charlie, delving into the internal world of their relationship, stuff that by the very nature of graphic novels, I couldn’t put in the comic. So I thought it would be great if readers would have the chance to read the original book, as a nice bonus while reading the comic online … but ultimately we decided against that. Oh well. Hey, maybe if you bug Prudence she’ll post it online anyway! Actually, no, don’t do that.

So, where did I start when I started adapting NCPGW? With an outline, of course! I went through all of the NCPGW prose book, which I printed out from my computer (it came to 200+ pages on 8 by 11 printer paper) and I made a very basic outline, which I then sent off to my editor for discussion. Here’s the outline:


Well, that’s page 1 of 11 of the original outline. As you can see, not only was I putting in plot notes and deciding what goes where, I was re-arraigning dialogue to make things clearer, and trying above all to simplify simplify simplify. I wish I still had my copy of the original NCPGW novel with my marked up notes on it, it would’ve been interesting to show you. Unfortunately I’m pretty sure I recycled it during an Art Closet purge … that or it’s buried too deep for me to find in the dreaded Art Closet. (The Art Closet is exactly what you imagine: an entire closet full of boxes of original artwork belonging to me and my boyfriend. Arrghh, so much art!!!)

My editor & I went back and forth on the outline for a bit, and I believe Prudence got a look at it as well. Honestly, I can’t remember! I was doing all this back in early 2011, and it’s a bit of a blur.

Oh, I’ve had a few questions about how closely Prudence and I worked together on NCPGW and the answer is … not terribly close! ;) There were a few exceptions (one scene in particular which I’ll get to later), but there wasn’t a lot of back & forth between us. I very much appreciate her trusting me to manhandle her book into a graphic novel shape.

Anyway, after the outline was approved by my editor and Prudence, I went forth to write a script. The script was a mix of Pru’s very funny dialogue and me wrangling that dialogue into some kind of … story that made sense in comic form. I did a lot of cherry picking the good stuff, and even more wrangling, as again, novels are just different from comics. What works in a novel doesn’t necessarily work in a comic. I had to make things clear, so sometimes a character’s internal conflicts became dialogue, or I’d have to alter things a bit to make intent more obvious.

So I did what I usually do when I write a graphic novel script: I did a bunch of thumbnails on lined paper, putting in dialogue as I wrote. Here’s some photos of that original thumbnail pass at NCPGW. Bonus points if you can read my horrible writing! (This is at the very beginning of NCPGW, where Nate picks up Charlie from school, and Charlie’s been dumped by Holly & Nate has plans to get the Student Body Council money for the Beast. Ahh, feels so long ago!)

ncpgw_thumbs ncpgwscript_ruff ncpgw_thumbs02

Fun fact: That is a 300 page lined notebook, and it contains all of NCPGW. :D

I spend a lot of time on this rough script stage. I figure out the pacing of the comic here, ESPECIALLY where the emotional beats are, which is one of the things I’m most concerned about when I make comics. It’s very important to me that you, lovely reader, feel the emotions these characters feel and get caught up in their story.

Once I’m pretty happy with the rough script/thumbnails, I go and type up the final script, tweaking and tightening as I go. I don’t show that rough thumbnail script to my editor; I honestly don’t think she could read it, my handwriting is that terrible. I like her, I don’t want to cause her pain. ;) Then we go back and forth on the script (I don’t remember a ton of back & forthing on NCPGW, probably because Prudence had worked out a lot of the story kinks before hand, and I got to polish it even farther. It was nice!) and once we’re all happy with it, I get to drawing. And as for how I draw, you can check out the Friends With Boys post on that. I’m still drawing pretty much the same, all by hand, like a sucker. ;)

Here’s a fun treat. I took the first couple pages of the original NCPGW novel and put them side by side with the NCPGW comic script. It’s a huge image so please click the thumbnail to make it full-sized.


It’s interesting, huh? I have a lot I have to get on the page quickly, a lot of information that needs to be thrown at the reader in a way that’s natural. Nate’s personality, Charlie’s personality, Charlie being dumped by Holly, Nate’s determination to get the SBC money, the conflict of Holly wanting the money, etc … it’s a lot! I needed to bang that out really really quickly right at the beginning of the comic, and do it in a way that’s entertaining in the graphic novel format, which again, is different from prose. So how’d I do? See the differences between what Prudence and I did with our respective formats? I think it’s a lot of fun to adapt things. You get to pick a story you like, and all the hard work of creating interesting characters and plotlines has already been done, it’s your job to hammer it into graphic novel shape.

There was one scene that I remember Prudence & I collaborated more directly on, and that’s this scene currently running on the site, the conflict with Team Rock Opera. The original scene with Team Rock Opera was the only scene in the original NCPGW novel that I balked at, feeling it needed to be changed to make the story more satisfying. The original scene was very different: Team Rock Opera wasn’t the nerd bullies they currently are, they were just guys who didn’t seem particularly bad, but they were, of course, Team Awesome’s competition. So Nate & Holly send poor Charlie on this undercover Mata Hari type mission to seduce the (possibly gay) Team Rock Opera, and gain a competitive advantage. It’s been so long since I read the original novel I can’t quite remember what Team Awesome did, I think maybe they scoped out Rock Opera’s robot and figured out how it worked … something like that.

Anyway, despite the fact that this was a very funny scene, I felt it went against all the character development that had happened over the course of NCPGW. At the core, this comic is about Nate and Charlie growing and evolving as people, and over the past 230+ pages, Nate has learned to be less of a pushy butthead and to appreciate Charlie as a friend, and Charlie’s learned how to stand up for himself a little. The original Rock Opera scene, I felt, undid the development the characters had earned: Nate was still a jerk to Charlie, Holly was manipulative, Charlie was spineless. Team Awesome needed a real bonding moment, and they needed to confront a villain during the Robot Rumble.

So I came up with this scene, and Prudence and I wrote it together. I can’t remember who did what, although I know Joanna’s super serious “We’ll meet them on the battlefield” was mine because I’ve ALWAYS wanted to have that line in a graphic novel. :D

And there you have it! Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong starts out as a prose novel and emerges a graphic novel, flapping its beautiful butterfly wings! I hope you have enjoyed this rambling.

… Faith out. *flies away*


Sarah McIntyre pointed me in this direction after I told her I was planning to include graphic elements to my latest novel. I wasn’t sure how much the author should direct the artist (I’m not an illustrator) but your script is fascinating. As an artist, would you prefer to receive something as detailed as that or would you prefer a more fluid ‘this needs to happen, we should see X’s reaction, she says blah blah then this happens’? Thanks for such an informative post! Jo

Honestly, that’s a question you’re going to have to talk through with the artist you work with, because all artists work differently. Some want everything dictated to them & laid out very plainly, others would prefer input on pacing. It depends on who you’re working with.

I’m an artist and a writer, so I prefer to dictate my own pacing, especially when I’m working with someone who isn’t familiar with the graphic novel format. If the writer I’m working with is experienced (like J.Torres, who writes the Bigfoot Boy books), then I trust them to be able to handle the pacing of the comic, but if not … I would prefer the writer let me work my magic. ;)

Yes! that was some excellent info! thanks for the post!
and don’t think I didn’t notice the waterbending scroll on your bulletin board!