The Horror in Hollywood: Jim Zub Takes Us Behind the Scenes on ‘Glitterbomb’ [Exclusive]
This fall, Jim Zub, Djibril Morissett-Phan, K. Michael Russell, and Marshall Dillon will launch Glitterbomb through Image Comics. The story follows an actress named Farrah caught in the Hollywood trap of daring to age, whose frustrations summon something from beyond --- something she may not entirely be able to control. This new horror comic hones in on the effects of the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, and the terrifying results of its grind on the people it chews up.
Ahead of Glitterbomb's release, Jim Zub takes us behind the scenes of the creation of the book, from its earliest days as a mere concept, all the way through the final printed pages kicking off the first issue.
Glitterbomb is a nasty and tragic story that I hope taps into common fears we all have about fame and failure. It’s an idea I’ve had percolating around in my mind for several years, but it only came to fruition last year after I met Djibril Morissette-Phan and we started collaborating on tightening the pitch and putting visuals to the overall concept.
For that pitch (and what would become the opening scene of the story), I wanted to make a really strong first impression and put a line in the sand showing what we’re all about. It had to be informative without being an “info dump”, engaging, visual, and memorable. No pressure, right?
I imagined a build up of tension between two people giving way to some kind of unexpected violence. Farrah and her agent was a natural choice. It’s a disagreement and there’s finality to it. Farrah is a middle-aged actress who has fallen into that strange pit between youthful and elderly where Hollywood no longer wants to hire her because of her perceived age. That kind of situation, something out of her control, drives a lot of her frustrations and fears about her own self worth. Thinking more about it, I realized that a really good way to show this would be “man-splaining”; A situation where a man will overwhelm a conversation with a female friend/co-worker, lecturing instead of interacting, overwhelming instead of collaborating. I realized that letting the agent do all the talking would help establish the power imbalance between them and that the more he talked, the greater the tension would be until… well, Farrah decides she’s had enough.
Comic scripts have many different formats, but they’re usually some combination of description and dialogue, with elements you might see in a screenplay punctuated with cheerleader-like asides where you’re trying to get the artist pumped for drawing the scene. It’s about clarifying what the most important elements are, setting the mood and then getting out of the artist’s way so they can put themselves into it.
When I write dialogue, I tend to get “into character”, a throwback to my love of tabletop RPGs. If I was this ignorant blowhard, what kind of shocking things would I say? How confident would I be in my own perception of the world as a power player in Hollywood? I usually brainstorm a bunch of dialogue for conversation scenes like this and then break it up into panels once I have a sense of where the most important ‘beats’ are.
Even in this thumbnail format, you can see how clear Djibril’s storytelling is. Good composition and clarity are established right off the bat. I requested one change on page 3, switching the panels to 4 vertical ‘slices’ so that the moment-to-moment nature of the pay off is established instead of having that larger panel for Farrah’s shock at what she’s done.
Djibril did a masterful job at conveying all the build up and pay off in his line work. The power differential between the agent and Farrah is instantly recognizable. He’s standing confidently while she’s slumped down in the chair. He’s taller and more forceful in his body language. She’s staring back and looks weaker until she strikes.
On page 3 Djibril was able to incorporate the moment to moment elements into Farrah returning to her senses while subtly enhancing the panels by getting closer. It’s emphasized without breaking the rhythm. So good.
When we cut away to the casting room, the characters are no longer looking right at us. The emotional intensity is broken and we calm things down to establish what happened earlier in the day. It’s a way for us to flesh out the rest of Farrah’s story and start building up tension again.
K. Michael Russell brings a dim and textured palette to Djibril’s pages. It’s meant to be dour and bleak instead of the colorful/flashy rendering you see in most superhero titles. Farrah’s story is anchored in an ugly and gritty world and the colors help emphasize that. Harsher colors only arrive when there’s extreme emotion or violence.
Marshall Dillon has lettered more of my comics than anyone else, by far. Every creator-owned project I’ve worked on so far has had Marshall’s confident lettering behind it. Proper lettering naturally guides the reader’s eyes across the page and helps bring them through the story. When it’s done well it’s incredibly easy to take it for granted. Look carefully at the page though and you’ll see how cleanly Marshall guides us from top to bottom and left to right.
When the creative team is firing on all cylinders, every aspect of production is working in tandem to strengthen the final result. The themes and emotional payoffs are reinforced in the script, line work, coloring, and lettering to make a cohesive comic story. Even now, after years of writing and over a hundred comics under my belt, watching it develop through each stage still has a bit of magic to it. I love making comics and the excellent collaborators I work with keep my creative fires burning.
Glitterbomb #1 is available for pre-order now and arrives at your local comic shop on Sept. 7. I hope you check it out and let our crew know what you thought of it.