By Julie, enjoying spring in Somerville
I met Adina Kruskal last year, right before the pandemic hit. At that point she was a playwright and composer figuring out her next theatrical steps. Since then, she’s been learning about screenwriting, and I’ve enjoyed hearing about writing a series for Netflix and comparing it to writing a mystery series.
Adina recently branched out in another direction. She wrote the script for a comic book, which Diana Kresge illustrated. I’m fascinated by comic books. The words have to be so spare, but the story still has to be strong. The illustrations and words together create the story. She told me about the process, and I asked her a couple of questions, which she answered for the blog.
For the Girls is available in digital form. I enjoyed reading Adina and Diana’s take on the quarterback who falls for the art student story, and appreciate Adina helping me understand the process of writing a comic book a bit better.
Julie: Did the story change when you decided to write a comic?
Adina: Definitely. But this particular story was already sort of a “transformer” because I tried it out in many different formats over the years. I came up with the idea in 2018, and first was developing it as maybe a short web series. Or a musical. Or a musical web series. At that time, I pretty much only wrote musicals, so that was my natural inclination, and I did write a few songs for it, but couldn’t shake the idea that it would work better in an episodic format. I looked at it occasionally in 2019, but mostly shelved it because I didn’t know what medium would suit the story.
In 2020, I dusted off my notes and found that I really liked this world I had built. I made a few offhand tweets sharing the characters, lamenting that I didn’t know what to do with them. That’s when Diana reached out and said she really liked the concept and asked if I might want to collaborate on a comic. As a huge fan of her work, I said YES, of course! But the funny part is, at the same time, the renewed enthusiasm for these characters made me want to revisit the world in a longer format, and since I began shifting into TV writing in 2020, I decided to turn FOR THE GIRLS into a TV pilot as well, which developed symbiotically with the comic. I wrote the first draft of the pilot in October, at the same time I developed the initial outline for the comic. Then, when I came back to rewrite the pilot in early 2021, I found myself directly pilfering a couple bits from the comic that weren’t originally in the pilot! I learned different things about the scenario from writing it for two different mediums. It was nice to be able to steal from myself.
Julie: I love the idea of stealing from yourself! How did you and Diana collaborate?
Adina: Diana reached out to me in September 2020. I sent over the materials I had already written for the world, which was some background on the characters and a rough outline of a “season” for a short format web series with a brief arc. We then had a few Zoom meetings to discuss what transitioning this world to a comic might look like. Obviously, it had to be simplified to fit in 15-20 pages. We decided to condense the romantic arc to its core beats – meeting, complication, resolution. We also picked out the core cast, isolating only 4 necessary characters out of several more I had come up with. I wrote up an outline, Diana gave thoughts, we swapped around some scenes and made some expansions to better serve the comic as a stand-alone piece rather than the beginning of a series. Diana was really helpful in that regard, since I was still viewing it as just a piece of the large world in my head, but she had really great thoughts that kept me grounded in the reality that readers would ONLY see these 20 pages, so it had to stand on its own. We agreed on a version of the story we both liked, then Diana got to work drawing it! It was such a thrill to observe her process, from the initial character designs, to rough page layouts, to finalizing dialogue after the art was finished. And it came out looking fantastic! I can’t express how thrilled I am to have collaborated with her.
Julie: Did you think about the story the same way you look at a screenplay?
Adina: Not the same, but similar. Like TV and film, comics are visual, but there are other constraints. You can show a scene, but a simple motion is a lot trickier. Dialogue is also limited by how many speech bubbles can fit in a panel, which required me to curtail my natural wordiness! However, poses and facial expressions can do a lot of work, especially in an expressive style like Diana’s. If I was concerned a certain line wouldn’t read on its own, I would leave notes in the script for Diana about the character’s feelings in that moment and I knew it’d come through in the art. At the same time, I tried to write scenes that would serve the visual format and be interesting to draw!
Julie: The end result is terrific. Congratulation to you both!
Bio: Adina Kruskal is a writer, composer, and music director from Newton, MA. She studied at Skidmore College and the National Music Theater Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. Her first full-length musical, Unison, for which she wrote the book, music, and lyrics, was featured in the 2019 Chicago Musical Theater Festival where it won the award for Best Ensemble. Her work has also been performed as part of the New York Musical Festival Student Leadership Concert. She also works as a resident music director with ArtBarn Community Theater, where she composed the scores for brand-new children’s’ musicals. More at www.adinakruskal.com.