Home Blog Interview Screenwriter Danny Baram on Scaring up an Indie Comic Book Version of “Halloween Team”
Screenwriter Danny Baram on Scaring up an Indie Comic Book Version of “Halloween Team”

Screenwriter Danny Baram on Scaring up an Indie Comic Book Version of “Halloween Team”

Working in the comic book medium allows a people with a story or vision to create something which they can share with others. Even if that means their vision is a television show or movie, sometimes a comic book is the best way to share the idea with other people. Making an indie comic book is certainly cheaper than a Netflix series or a film.

This is precisely the path which screenwriter Danny Baram has followed to get his creation “Halloween Team” out and in front of the public. Originally, his tale, was meant for the screen. Thankfully for those of us who love comics, he decided to begin his story in print (and digitally).

We asked Danny to tell us about the journey from screenplay to comic book script, and some of what he’s learned on the way.

INDIE COMICS ZONE: What inspired you to become a comic book creator, and how did you get started?

DANNY BARAM: I have had a lifelong love of comic books since early childhood. As a young kid, I was fascinated by (but also a little intimidated by) my uncle’s sprawling comic book collection — which was kept in his old bedroom at my grandparents’ house.

But when the “Death of Superman” event hit in the early 90s, I got completely hooked on reading comics and never looked back. I was initially a big DC kid. The Superman and Batman event storylines of the 90s were my favorites and my main entryway into the world of superhero books. Reign of the Supermen, Knightfall, etc.

At the same time, I have always loved writing and drawing. In addition to constantly writing and making up stories as a kid, I would sit for hours and draw my favorite superheroes. I remained a huge comic book fan through high school and college — and of course, my tastes began to expand to the non-superhero works of writers like Alan Moore, Garth Ennis, and Brian K. Vaughan (to name a few). At the same time, while I realized my artistic skills were perhaps a bit limited, I focused a lot of my energy on writing.

Danny Baram’s “Halloween Team” delves into some intense topics, including secret societies.
Danny Baram’s “Halloween Team” delves into some intense topics, including secret societies.

I began getting into screenwriting and took numerous Film and TV writing classes in college at Boston University. I then moved to LA in the mid-2000s to get a foot in the door of the entertainment industry. All the while, in the back of my mind, I thought about writing a comic book and how cool that would be. But working a full-time job and trying to break in as a screenwriter meant I only had so much time — and I didn’t quite know where to start with comics. Every time I thought about diving into making comics, I felt like I was hitting a wall when it came to finding an artist, figuring out how to make it work financially, and understanding how to actually get the book out there.

A few years ago, though, I had written a TV pilot script called “Halloween Team” that I was really excited about. I thought it was a cool concept. It was challenging to file it away and move on to the next thing after my initial round of contests and other submissions. The more I thought about it, I realized that so many elements of the script — from the title to the characters — would translate well to a comic book. I started to seriously consider the idea and wanted to find a way to make it work. It all clicked for me when I was at Comic-Con around that time and heard a talk by one of my favorite comics writers, Peter Tomasi. He mentioned how he’d begun writing a lot of his comic scripts in screenplay format.

And I realized that adapting “Halloween Team” as a comic would be a lot easier if I could start with the basic skeleton of my pilot script and adapt it without completely starting from scratch formatting-wise. I thought, “Okay, this is it, I have to do this.” I started posting in online comic creator forums and eventually found a great artist in Matt Shults. I decided to do the book as a 4-issue miniseries, at least to start. I also decided to self-publish digitally in the interest of just getting the comic out there.

We made some initial attempts to submit to publishers, but it felt like breaking through on that end was a near-impossible task. So self-publishing was, it seemed, the way to go. I began working closely with Matt on character design and other visual elements of the book, and we went from there. I also felt really good about how this book would fit into the current comic book landscape because there’s so much diversity of material out there these days from publishers big and small. So “Halloween Team” is the first comic book I’ve written, but I really hope it’s just the beginning!

INDIE COMICS ZONE: How do you approach the creative process for your comics, from the initial idea to the finished product?

DANNY BARAM: Whenever I write something new, I usually have two main starting points — one plot/premise related and one thematic. So with “Halloween Team,” I started with the premise and thought a lot about my old favorite TV show: Are You Afraid of the Dark? I thought about the kids from that show and about what happened to them when they grew up. Did they maintain any of those childhood friendships? Did they look back with nostalgia at their time with the Midnight Society? And so I thought about a premise where that group of horror-loving kids didn’t just gather to tell scary stories, but also to solve all kinds of supernatural mysteries in their small town.

And then I thought about their lives as adults — and what would happen if, after years apart, this group of childhood friends had to reunite to solve one more mystery? From there, I connected it back to stuff I was going through as an “elder Millennial” — when you feel stuck and like time is passing you by, but your life isn’t quite where you want it to be. I thought this story could be an excellent way to reflect on that 30-something dilemma of wanting to both delay adulthood, get on with it, and put down some roots. So it all spun out from there, which was really “Halloween Team”’s genesis.

“Halloween Team” soars — figuratively and literally — with the art of Matt Shults.
“Halloween Team” soars — figuratively and literally — with the art of Matt Shults.

When I first connected with our artist, Matt Shults, I had already written the script for the four-issue miniseries. But I wanted to work closely with Matt on many of the book’s visual elements before he got into the actual page-by-page artwork. So we spent much time on the character design — that was a big one. I had some ideas of how the characters looked, but I also wanted Matt to put his unique spin on things. So we had a lot of dialogue about each character and went through different revisions.

And it was challenging because each character has an adult version and a childhood version in the book. So we wanted to make sure we captured what made each version distinct. We spent a lot of time on the logo, too. I didn’t know exactly what the logo would look like, but I had a specific idea of the feeling it should capture.

Since most of the book deals with childhood nostalgia, I wanted something that evoked an old Saturday morning cartoon logo. And Matt ultimately came through with a super cool design that I love. Once we got into the actual artwork for the book, it’s really the Matt Shults show.

Matt is doing everything art-wise — pencils, inks, colors, letters … So he takes ownership of the art and does a great job with the layouts for each issue. If he has a question about how something should look, he’ll let me know — but otherwise, I’m pretty hands-off. The one area we’ll come together and brainstorm is on the covers, where I’ll perhaps give more input.

Then, once Matt is done with the art on a given issue, I’ll also serve as editor and comb through any typos in the lettering or any other random bits that seem off for whatever reason. But the corrections are usually pretty minimal. Since we’re releasing digitally, the final step is usually me uploading each issue to Amazon and GlobalComix, going through each page, and separating the panels to facilitate panel-by-panel reading. It’s fun — you get to play movie director, in a way.

INDIE COMICS ZONE: What has been your biggest challenge as an independent comic book creator, and how have you overcome it

DANNY BARAM: The biggest challenge has been promoting the book and getting the word out. I’m pretty active on Twitter, so that became my home base on social media for talking about “Halloween Team”. But I try to do so on Facebook and Instagram as well. But social media promotion can be a full-time job, and it’s difficult to break through the algorithms and get people to engage with your posts. I’ve also been trying to just cold email a lot of publications, podcasts, etc to get coverage.

We’ve had some great hits so far — the big one for me was Newsarama doing a write-up about the book because I’ve been a fan of their site for years and years. But yeah, it’s difficult enough for a book from one of the big publishers to get attention these days, let alone a self-published indie comic. In this space, I feel like it’s about the quality of readers versus just quantity. I feel confident that people will dig “Halloween Team” if they give it a shot. I’m hopeful that you need one great endorsement in this social media age to move the needle and gain momentum. So if you read and like the book, give us a shout-out!

Danny Baram’s “Halloween Team” features five friends, who were childhood pals. These kids have reunited to solve a mystery in their hometown.
Danny Baram’s “Halloween Team” features five friends, who were childhood pals. These kids have reunited to solve a mystery in their hometown.

INDIE COMICS ZONE: What advice would you give someone starting out as an indie creator?

DANNY BARAM: If you’re a writer, I would say find an artist first and foremost who can be a good collaborator. With Matt, a huge reason why I wanted him onboard was — great art aside — I could tell he’d be easy to talk to and bounce ideas off of. The book would not have the same high quality if I hadn’t been able to dig in and spend those first few months working with Matt on the look and feel of the characters and world. So it might take some searching — but you have to wade through the clutter and find someone who can be a creative partner.

INDIE COMICS ZONE: How do you balance creating comics’ creative and business aspects, such as marketing, promotion, and distribution?

DANNY BARAM: Coming from the screenwriting world, I was used to that balance — because in Film and TV, so much of trying to break in is being a bit of a self-marketer. With “Halloween Team,” because I had finished the scripts for all four issues before even finding an artist, that freed me up to spend a lot of the time between issue releases to try to get some marketing and promotion going.

But as I said, all that is super challenging because there’s so much content. It’s hard to get on people’s radars — whether you’re trying to get places to cover the book or just reaching out directly to readers on social media and asking them to check out the comic. I think the critical thing is, if you’re someone like me just getting their first comic out there — you’ve got to look at it as an investment. Because realistically, you’ll probably not make money on this, and if anything, you’ll likely lose some money. So I went in expecting that, but I wanted to bet on myself and wanted to take a chance on this.

And the goal at the end of the day is to get readers, sure — but also to have this book to use as a calling card. I went in knowing that this 4-issue miniseries was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the story I wanted to tell with “Halloween Team” — so the ultimate goal, in a lot of ways, is to find some way where these issues will enable me to continue the story. Whether that’s because we’re able to attract the attention of a publisher — or by some other means — I don’t know for sure. But that’s the dream.

INDIE COMICS ZONE: How do you engage with your fans and build a community around your work?

DANNY BARAM: With “Halloween Team,” I created dedicated pages on Twitter and Facebook where I post about the book. So that’s been fun and hopefully gives us that “official” presence where people can find us online. But for me personally, I try to just be myself on Twitter and post about things that I like or am passionate about — and in doing so, hopefully, attract like-minded people. I always try to give shout-outs to comic books I’m reading and enjoying, and to their creators. Same as I do with movies and TV.

I grew up in a small town during that period where it was still a little shameful to be a comic book fan, so I love the fact that we’re now in this time and place where all of us comic nerds can find each other super easily and geek out together about what we like. I’ve been trying to do other things too.

During the pandemic, I started a podcast just for fun. Still, I have used that to have fun conversations about “Halloween Team” with Matt. I started a blog on Goodreads, where I’ve written some mini-essays about the book timed with each new issue’s release. I’d love to get back out there to conventions, although I’ve still been hesitant with COVID and all that. But in the before-times, I was a regular at San Diego Comic-Con, WonderCon, and other cons. So it’d be incredibly fun to go and promote our new comic. My dream would be to be on a panel! So if anyone reading this can make that happen, let me know!

INDIE COMICS ZONE: How do you see the comics industry evolving in the future, and what role do you see indie creators playing in that change?

DANNY BARAM: This is a big question! I think the challenge is that we can put out a book like “Halloween Team,” and feel confident that it compares well from a story and art standpoint to anything being released by the major publishers — but the book ends up being very difficult for prospective readers to find.

I love Comixology in many ways, and have used it for years — but, especially since they started using the Amazon UI — the discoverability functionality is pretty poor. From browsing their home page, you don’t get any real sense of what’s new and notable on the indie side. They need way more and way better curation. I work in digital distribution for movies and TV, so I’m very familiar with platforms like Apple that sell video content.

And Comixology should be at least as good for discovering comics as Apple TV is for discovering video. They should be better because there’s so much comics content out there severely in need of promotion. Comixology needs a lot more curation and a spotlight on indie books. They need to create ways for a smaller book to “go viral” and rise up the charts in the same way that an indie movie can on Apple. So I really hope Comixology improves in this way.

Still, it also opens the door for another digital comics storefront to step up. That’s part of why I wanted to make sure that “Halloween Team” was also available on GlobalComix because they seem to champion smaller books — and it looks like they have a lot of exciting updates coming in the near future. So I really hope we have better digital storefronts in the future. It would also be great to see some new, easier system for indie creators to get print versions of their comics in brick-and-mortar stores. Like some aggregated indie distributor that could make the process really easy.

I also hope we see more pipelines for talent to be discovered by the big publishers. Some of these publishers have submission portals, but you must wonder how many submissions are considered. I do think it’s a big moment though for indie creators. Social media and digital comics democratize the industry to some extent, so I think we need to keep supporting each other and get industry influencers to champion us as well.

INDIE COMICS ZONE: How do you stay motivated and inspired to create new work, despite challenges or setbacks?

DANNY BARAM: As a writer, I stay pretty motivated because I’m constantly imagining new ideas for stories that, over time, build and build until I almost have no choice but to get them down on paper and dive in headfirst. That said, it can be really challenging to find the time and energy to sit at the computer and write when you also have a full-time job with long hours.

For me, I try to give myself deadlines to work towards. Maybe they’re driven by a contest I’m entering, an event I’m attending, or just a particular window that I want to have work completed by. With “Halloween Team,” for instance, my initial motivation was to have something to release for Halloween. So that was the driving force in the planning of the first issue. Still, this last year has been a tough one in many ways.

Last summer, I got COVID for the first time, followed by a months-long bout with Long COVID that continues to affect my daily life. It’s made writing a lot more challenging because I’ve been dealing with lightheadedness and dizziness that often get triggered by staring at a screen too long or too intensely. So it’s been tough to get back into a good groove because I’m a pretty intense writer when I really get into a zone. So I’ve had to really pace myself. But hey, you’ve got to turn those setbacks into fuel where you can, so I’m trying my best to channel all the craziness of the last year into my writing — and hopefully, it produces some compelling results.

INDIE COMICS ZONE: What projects are you currently working on, and what can fans expect to see from you in the future ?

DANNY BARAM: I’m still working on various scripts for Film and TV, and I hope to have more to talk about there soon. But as far as comic books go, the focus for the moment is really on “Halloween Team”. Issue #3 (of 4) was just released at the end of February, and we’ve got Issue #4 coming soon (stay tuned to my Twitter @DannyBaram and/or @HalloweenTeam22 for updates. We want to make as big a push as possible to get people to check out this book. It’s a big, fun, spooky adventure that fans of properties like Stranger Things or Buffy will, I think, really enjoy. So we really appreciate all of your support — and if you haven’t yet given it a read, check out Issues #1-#3 on Comixology/Amazon or GlobalComix (get all three issues here). And if you like the book, help us to spread the word! As mentioned, the hope is to be able to tell more of this story, as there’s a lot more to tell.

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