By Seth Kushner

Making a photocomic is a unique process in that it starts with an idea, then a script, then it becomes a photoshoot and finally a Photoshop session, or more accurately, many Photoshop sessions.

The idea for my new photocomic, “The Hall of Just Us,” sprung from a script Dean Haspiel wrote.  Dean had a superheros-in-a-bar story which we were going to shoot together as a photocomix collaboration.  Sitting at a table behind his main characters,  he had “three miscreants” who were to be seen for only two panels.  Since we’d be shooting it, we’d also have to cast those roles and wardrobe them.  That got me thinking about who the “three miscreants” could be, and I came up with characters I liked, so much so, I decided to spin them off into their own script.

For a variety of reason, Dean and I decided to shelve his script and focus on these three new characters, Fission, Duplicato, The Tarot, plus Senor Amore, a role we created for Dean to play.  I wrote up a first draft of a script, which Dean then did an edit on.  Here’s the first page:

COSTUMED CHARACTERS in THE HALL OF JUST US
By Seth Kushner & Dean Haspiel

Characters:
Katelan Foisy as THE TAROT: A gypsy-looking hero, whose tarot cards hold a fate changing power.
Ron Scalzo as DUPLICATO: A domino-masked and cloaked hero with the power to make duplicates of himself.  Logo: Infinity symbol.
Chris Irving as FISSION: A hero in a colorful cowl and tights who wields the power of caustic energy. Logo: Raidioactive symbol.
Dean Haspiel as SENOR AMOUR, a lover, not a fighter, shirtless  in jeans and boots with a Mexican wrestler mask.

PAGE 1

1 – EXT, night.  A seedy-looking dive bar, “THE HALL OF JUST US.”  A sign in the window reads, “No capes, no shoes, no service.”

THE TAROT (off panel voice from inside the bar)
Fine, boys—but just one drink and then you gotta am-scray.

2 – Small panel, close-up of THE TAROT’s hand on a tarot card, “The Lover” with a picture of a Mexican wrestler-looking guy.

DUPLICATO (off panel)
Can you really see the future with them cards, doll?

3 – INT, bar.  THE TAROT sits at a round table, flanked by DUPLICATO and FISSION.  She’s laying out her tarot cards, clearly more interested in them than in the two low-rent heroes vying for her attention.  They all have beers.

THE TAROT
Sometimes

FISSION
Ah, then you must see yourself going back to my secret lair tonight?

4 – Close-up on DUPLICATO, looking angry.

DUPLICATO
Do you see yourself hanging from the top of the Empire State Building by your underwears?  The lady obviously has eyes for me, “Fissure”!

5 – Close-up on THE TAROT, still engaged with her cards.

THE TAROT
Now, now, boys…the future is a road with many off ramps.

6 – Close-up on FISSION.

FISSION
That’s “FISSION!”  You’ll do well to remember, or you shall learn why I am called that!

With our completed draft, we went about casting the roles, as we would for a film.  I basically created The Tarot for artist Katelan Foisy, since she’s a tarot reader, so happily she was game to join our production.  My Leaping Tall Buildings co-author Christopher Irving, a natural ham, happily stepped in as Fission, a part which I knew he’s excel.  As Duplicato, we cast my old friend and musician, Ron ‘Q*Ball’ Scalzo, because he’s a performer and I knew he’d be able to bring the right amount of tough guy goofiness.

The next step was figuring out the layouts, which would be key in figuring out how to shoot, like a filmmaker would use storyboards.  Dean sketched out a rough thumbnail which gave us a great map to follow.

With the script, cast and layouts all in place, as well as some last minute costume shopping, we were ready to shoot.  Sunny’s Bar in Red Hook graciously provided us with our location.

Shooting a photocomic is somewhat akin to shooting a movie, except no one actually moves.  We went panel by panel from the script, using the thumbnails for reference.  Dean and I worked together, co-directing our cast, as I took the photos.

During the week following the shoot, I spent many hours in front of my Mac, laying out the photos into comics format, adding the text and word balloons and creating the special effects.  Dean and I went back and fourth over email, as he suggested tweaks and edits, until we were happy and we had a completed 4-page comic.

“COSTUMED CHARACTERS in The Hall Of Just Us” can be found in my new independently produced anthology, FORCE FIELD FOTOCOMIX, which is available for purchase on my Etsy shop now.

-Seth Kushner