Wednesday, May 10, 2006

INTERVIEW: Jason Hall speaks about storywriting!

[Interview compiled for the Toon Zone Storyboard Forum: 17th April 2005 - interview was complied a lot earlier with Jason, maybe even late 2004]

Jason Hall, co creator of the popular Pistolwhip series of comics and graphic novels, has written for many major imprints and publishers. Hall is most commonly known by Toon Zone visitors for his stints on numerous DC titles such as Batman Adventures, Justice League Adventures, Detective Comics and the Vertigo imprinted Beware The Creeper. He has also written for the Star Wars franchises published by Dark Horse as well as create the comic title Crush for Rocket Comics. His most current stint was on the creator-owned monthly series Trigger that premiered in December under the Vertigo imprint.

Ladies and gentlemen, Jason Hall was kind enough to take time off his busy schedule and answer a couple of questions for the Story Board that might help you in your creative writing =)

JAMES: What do you do to relieve writer's block?

JASON: I either work on something else, or read a book or watch
something else or listen to certain music (that's always a
good one!) that might inspire me or spark something in
me to get past the writer's block -- or I talk the story/idea
over with a friend of mine or my wife and get their opinion
and they end up being a great sounding board that allows
me to come up with new ideas I hadn't thought yet. Talking
it through with someone is always a big help.

JAMES: How did you get started?

JASON: I co-created Pistolwhip Comics with my pal Matt Kindt, and
we did mock-ups of our first two books that looked like actual
published books and we gave them to publishers at the Comicon.
Top Shelf loved them, thought they were already published books
that they were just getting comps of, then realized they weren't
and signed us on the spot with our books as is. No changes or
anything needed (except a cool new cover for one of them). And
we have total creative freedom with them on the Pistolwhip stuff,
which is nice (and something you don't get with any mainstream
publisher). The books were well-received by both critics and
readers (which was really great to see!), even getting a couple
Harvey Award Nominations. Based on my work on "Mephisto
and the Empty Box" (one of those previously mentioned
Pistolwhip books), I got to submit a script for Star Wars Tales
(which the editor loved, but couldn't use because it was too
similar to something already coming out -- but that led to getting
to send in another idea, which was approved, and led to doing
a total of nine stories for SW Tales over the last two years or
so) -- and based on both "Mephisto" and my first SW Tales
story, I got the editor of "Batman: Gotham Adventures" to
agree to read a complete script I wrote for that book, which
she really liked and decided she wanted it for the book right
off the bat (and that story is my first Mr. Freeze story from
B:GA #51 -- which you'll see the exciting follow-up to in
"Batman Adventures #15" this June!). And from those two
things, I was able to bring my work to the attention of other
editors, and that led to "Beware The Creeper", "Justice League
Adventures", "Crush", "Detective Comics", and more (and at
the same time, I contiued to work on the creator-owned indy
stuff, writing "Pistolwhip: The Yellow Menace", which was also
well-received and gave me yet another project to show to editors
at the bigger companies). But it was A LOT of hard work and
persistance and determination. None of it comes easy (or maybe
it does if you know people, but I didn't -- I started from scratch).

JAMES: What inspires you to write such great stories? Any pointers?

JASON: Well, I can't say if any of my stories are great or not (but thanks
for the compliment!) -- but as far as inspiration goes, I try to write
the stories that I'd like to read. But because there are other hands
in the process, the end result might not always be exactly what you
imagined or were hoping for (sometimes for the better and
sometimes for the worse). And I never write anything according
to any kind of "formula". I don't think of stories divided into acts
(at least not in a formulaic way) and I don't think a story has to
have certain elements in certain places throughout -- when you
start breaking it down like that, I feel the end result can wind up
being kind of cookie-cutter. I think that's why so many Hollywood
movies are so bad and clichid. I just write it -- sometimes in pieces
which I rearrange and build a story from, or sometimes from start
to finish -- always in an outline first, which becomes kind of a road
map for the script (although you usually find yourself thinking up
new/better ideas or ways to do things as you're writing the script,
which keeps that part interesting as well, and not just expanding out
something you've already got down) -- and things are never set in
stone, because there's always room for a new idea or a different
way to do things.

The only advice I can give, for what it's worth, is to write what you
like -- write the kinds of stories that you would pick up off the rack.
Sometimes that's not always possible (hey, we all need to pay the
rent, right?) -- but even if you find yourself working on a project that
may not necessarily be something you'd buy yourself, you can always
do your best to make it something interesting to you and different than
what might normally be expected.

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