Paul Scheer is an actor, writer, and creator of the Adult Swim series NTSF:SD:SUV.
He also stars on The League on FX and has worked with the Upright Citizens Brigade. Nick Giovannetti got his start working for Kevin Smith and has been writing with Scheer for a while now. The two met when Scheer was living in New York. Now, they’re the co-creators of Aliens vs. Parker, a four-issue comic book series from Boom! that will be released as a trade paperback on February 5.
Aliens vs. Parker follows a group of goofballs whose delivery jobs lands them the middle of an outer space adventure. Quickly, the team has to go from swapping wisecracks to saving themselves, or, maybe, try to do both at the same time.
This wasn’t intended to be a comic book. Initially, the two had fleshed out Aliens vs. Parker for the big screen with a script that Scheer describes as “kind of like Shaun of the Dead meets Alien.”
Time and again, they were told that the script was going to be a tough sell. They were going to need big names attached to it. Or, it just wasn’t the kind of movie that studios were making. Scheer and Giovannetti were ready to shelve it, when they had another idea. Maybe that story would work if it were a comic book instead of a movie. Ultimately, Boom! picked up on the four-issue series.
“Boom! let us make a version of the movie we wanted to make, which is really kind of brave,” says Scheer.
Writing for comics takes away one of the major challenges of writing for TV and film. It lifts the burden of a budget. There aren’t the same expenses that one would incur with a cast, crew, locations, etc. “I get to work in a lot of TV stuff where I’m doing whatever I want, but it’s on a certain budget level,” says Scheer. “Working with comics is really great because I got to work with an unlimited budget level, which is really kind of fun.”
However, there are certain challenges that arise when TV and film writers turn to comics. They’re dealing with a different medium, one that has altogether different creative demands. Specifically, writers have to be able to get that text to fit on a comic book page. Scheer and Giovannetti found that this could be difficult, particularly for comedy. “You want to write things so that there are beats and there is pacing. You are kind of manufacturing that,” says Scheer. “Whenever you manufacture that, it’s more bubbles.”
Both writers admit that the problems hit hard in the first issue of what was originally intended to be a digital comic. “We were really taking our time in the beginning,” says Scheer. “It’s a little bit of a slower pace than how the book actually turned out.”
“I can’t believe how much we meandered. Going from a movie concept to a comic, we already thought that we were cutting everything out,” says Giovannetti. “Compared to what we did with the next couple of books, that first one feels really slow now.”
Scheer points another another key difference between writing a comic book and a TV show. “With TV, you’re writing a script. That’s one version of writing,” he explains. “Then you shoot the script. That’s another version of writing because, on set, the actors are bringing different things and things are added in the moment. Then you get to the editing room and you can write again. You can move this scene over here.”
Writing Aliens vs. Parker was different. “When you’re writing a comic, that’s it,” says Scheer. “No one else is going to add to it.”
Fortunately, the got some good advice from Deadpool writer Gerry Duggan. He told them not to be rushed, to remember that they have one opportunity to write this. “We did a lot of re-writing. We did a lot of careful examination every time the book went out,” says Scheer. “We were rewriting things around existing artwork just to make it pop because we knew that this was our only shot.”
In the end, they wrote a story that’s as funny as it is action-packed. It is, in a way, an amalgamation of their interests. Both writers were reared on the action and sci-fi films of the 1980s and their penchant for comedy is something that goes back to their formative years. “We write comedy mostly, so it’s fun to jump into the world of action and sci-fi,” says Scheer. “What if you saw an alien? What if you had to shoot a gun like this?”
All this lends itself to characters who probably shouldn’t ever be heroes, but, by default, have to go that route. “That’s what we always find funny,” says Giovannetti, “regular dudes in extreme situations.”