Tim Simmons is self-professed process junkie. Even in his professional life at a Hollywood Production, company he spends much of his day embroiled in “Making Of” and “Behind the Scenes” featurettes for DVDs. He thrills at dissecting the creative process, and it was this passion for the inner workings of creative machinery that lead Simmons to start The Comicbook Script Archive in October, 2008. The site has been active for less than a year, but already it’s become the go-to resource for aspiring comics creators, featuring scripts by comics pros large and small, including Warren Ellis, Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, Garth Ennis, and others.
For Simmons, the idea to start the Archive came sometime after he left film school. That was when he got interested in comics and started thinking he’d like to try writing one. “I was able to find a handful [of scripts] here and there,” Simmons told CBR. “Like Warren Ellis scripts that he’d sort of sprinkled around the internet. Like a ‘Fell ‘script on this forum. A ‘Desolation Jones’ script on this forum. But there wasn’t any place for it.”
The idea also came from meeting a colleague who ran one of the premiere Quentin Tarantino fansites, posting scripts and interviews with the revered director. “I thought, if he can do it – why can’t I?” Simmons recalled.
Simmons began by collecting all the comics scripts that creators had posted on the internet and organizing them in one place. “I probably missed a couple here and there, but I think I got most of them,” he explained.
Simmons also solicited creators like Matt Fraction and Brian K. Vaughn to donate a script or two to the website.
Soon, creators were sending Simmons scripts without him even having to contact them. “The coolest morning is waking up and seeing an email from Mark Waid giving you a few scripts,” he said.
After that, the Comicbook Script Archive took off fairly quickly, and today gets at least a hundred new visitors a day. “Chances are you’re one of three people if you’re visiting the site,” Simmons explained. “You’re someone interested in writing comics scripts or you’re just really into comics and want to see how they’re put together or—and I’ve seen this one a lot lately—you’re an aspiring artist who wants to practice on a real script for Marvel or whatever.”
While Simmons is ecstatic that he’s helped people, it’s clear a lot of the drive for the project has come from his own passion for the nuts and bolts of writing. “When I was going to college, there wasn’t just scripts everywhere,” Simmons explained. “I remember going to conventions and a goldmine would be a script to a ‘Twin Peaks’ episode or ‘Raiders of the Last Ark’ and you’d happily pay twenty dollars for that.”
As soon as he began getting the comics scripts, Simmons noticed the differences in every creator’s style. “Morrison’s scripts are like looking at a fucking Peter Max painting – but in a good way,” Simmons joked. “Ennis scripts have no formatting at all, like his fingers are trying to keep up with his brain. Then there’s the Bendis joke about Mark Millar - that he drinks himself into a coma and wakes up three days later and all his scripts for the year are neatly typed up in a pile on his desk.”
After seeing scores of creators’ scripts, Simmons has learned a number of things about the creative process – but what’s the most surprising “That Bendis can’t spell?” he joked. “No, really, it’s that there is no set format for comics scriptwriting. You realize how wildly divergent a comics script can be, provided it communicates what needs to get across.”
Of course, all of this was just preparation for Simmons’ next project. After years of reading and analyzing the scripts of comics’ best creators, Tim Simmons has finally debuted a comic of his own – “Spy6Teen,” which is participating in this month’s Zuda Comics competition. “’Spy6Teen’ is a spy-fi adventure story about Cally Calhoon. Cally’s parents were operatives who died mysteriously and now Cally has taken up their mantle,” Simmons explained.
Cally works for S.H.I.E.L.D.-like agency called “The Quad” which has a mysterious agenda. “Think of The Quad as a more clandestine version of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s still very much underground and no one knows it exists.”
Cally and The Quad find a common enemy in the clandestine terrorist organization The Chaos Imperious. By the end of the eight-page Zuda preview, Cally will discover that the Imperious may have agents within her High School.
“Whedon’s metaphor for Buffy was ‘high school is Hell’,” Simmons explained. “The metaphor of ‘Spy6Teen’ is that high school is a spy movie – everybody keeps secrets from one another, everybody is playing a part, shadowy back deals are happening left and right and that’s all **without** being a government agent.
“It’s basically ‘Degrassi’ meets ‘Alias’— a spy-fi book set in the corridors of high school.”
Simmons was quick to explain what makes “Spy6Teen” different from recent spy stories in pop-culture. “There’s a character dynamic I’m very proud of, for one thing. It didn’t make it into the eight-page preview, but Cally’s being raised by her uncle who is sort of the quintessential ‘Our Man Flint’ kind of super-spy. But now he’s saddled with raising a teenager and he doesn’t have the first clue how to do that.”
Though “Spy6Teen” is an entry in the Zuda Competition, Simmons has enough story to carry it for a long time should the project win. “We have a plot laid out for another year of Cally’s life, if it goes. After that, a year later when it comes back, we’re Spy7teen. And then Spy8teen, so we have three years of material basically, ready to go. We’re like a TV show in that respect - there’s an ending in mind, though it might take three years to get there.”
After running the Comicbook Script Archive and now writing comics of his own, what is Tim Simmons favorite format for comics scripts? “Definitely Fraction,” he answered. “His format he jokingly calls ‘The Modified Brubaker.’ It’s very tight and very good.”