In this issue of the stellar Monstress, there are some good examples of developing character in a fantasy themed story. Looking closely, it’s possible to identify some of these elements. My attempt, in this article, is to look closely, and distill some of these patterns into useful ideas for writers. If you’ve Googled the question “How to write a comic script” there are some good ideas and techniques showcased in Monstress #8.
Monstress #8 forces its characters into a restrictive environment. They’re on a boat, sailing to a forbidden island. Restricting the setting for a comic script might cause writing blockades, with only limited space to move the characters around. However, close environments allow for conflict and character growth to play out more quickly.
Maika Halfwolf is a character with deep internal struggles. She experiences two powerful conflicts. She is caught between two distinct races within the Monstress world, and battling a powerful, old god living within her called a Monstrum. In contrast, her traveling companions Kippa and Ren face complex problems. They face more pressing obstacles.
Kippa must learn to Swim.
Ren must avoid evisceration by the ship’s pirate crew. They despise Ren’s race. Ren belongs to an intelligent race of talking cats, called Nekomancers.
From this sample, one core writing elements emerge:
Character challenges can line up with the weight of the character’s role in the story. For example, Kippa is a younger child character with a smaller role, and therefore face a problem that matches their stature within the story (learning to swim, compared to Ren and Maika’s problems of identity turmoil and discrimination).
Monstress has excellent comic script elements – a detailed and expansive world building ethos combined with clever wordplay.
Fans of the fantasy genre might remark on the word choice of Nekomancer, which combines the Japanese word for cat (Neko), and the suffix “-mancer”, deriving from Greek (mantea) and Latin (mantia) origins meaning “oracle or divination”. A wordplay on the word and Necromancer, and the act of Necromancy.
Here, we can see another core writing element: looking for patterns in sound and meaning to create new words. These words contribute toward the tone of the fantasy world under construction. It’s good to see some basic instructions for fantasy naming.
Issue #8 is a great example of the Monstress world building ethos. Being on a boat at sea might seem restrictive, but Monstress #8 inviting elements of the ocean into the story.
Maika’s internal struggles rise to the surface again, as she fights with the pirate crew, and has to be separated and isolated. Maika’s isolation represents a large struggle for her character.
As a person caught halfway between two races in the Monstress world, Maika’s struggles explore the theme of isolation – and the fear, rage, and pain that follows.
To enact these themes, and play out Maika’s internal struggle, Monstress #8 introduces shark and octopus characters.
The octopus character has a tentacle torn off by Maika, after they strike her across the face. The stakes are low for the Octopus, who can grown back a limb, but for Maika, the stakes are raised. The consequences of Maika’s rage and violence? The ship’s captain isolates Maika up in the crow’s nest, where she is separated from almost everyone. Isolation, anger, and violence are a cycle. This is an example of how a close space can intensify a characters personal struggles.
In script writing, and when exploring themes of isolation, having the captain suggest Maika accompany her to the Crows Nest – the highest point on a ship – is a deft way to use a limited setting – a boat in this issue – to further character growth through a setting.
This scene is one example of the detailed world building ethos, and expertly enacted combination of character desires and theme expansion in Monstress comic scripts.
You can read more about Monstress on the Image comics website.