Hello, and welcome to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week brings us budding comic scribe Kyle Raios. Kyle’s been patiently waiting for his turn, and it’s now arrived! Let’s see how he does.
(Kyle put his contact info here. I stripped it out. This is NOT a mistake. I just don’t want to be posting everyone’s private info for the world to see.)
Chapter 1 – The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg
Panel 1: An apartment complex in downtown Philadelphia. Fairly nice, wood floors. Things seem to be in order. We’re pulled back at the moment, the apartment in full view. It is night, and all the lights in the place are out. Only the full moon illuminates the apartment. Clearly too, we are several floors up. (I’m seeing right now, there’s going to be a lot of red. First things first. How is the reader supposed to know this is an apartment complex? Next, unless this is a studio or something very small, how is the reader supposed to see the entire apartment? If it is night and all the lights are out, where is the light to see the entire apartment coming from? Where is the window that allows the moon to be seen? How is the reader supposed to know we are several stories up? This is not a proper establishing shot.)
Panel 2: Pull in closer now, and we see Ben’s silhouette. Illuminated by the light flooding in through the picture window is a small, wooden chair. Above hangs a noose, tied tightly to the rafters. Ben is seen putting dog tags around his neck. He is all silhouette. (Hm. If we could see the entire apartment before, where was Ben? See the problem I’m having here? Where was the chair? Why didn’t we see the noose? Depending on how the individual sees it, he could be seen as taking the dog tags off, instead of putting them on. Lots of problems here, basically because this wasn’t set up correctly.)
Panel 3: Focal point now on Ben. Illuminated, save for his face, as he has his back turned to the audience. He steps onto the chair, one arm reaching up for the noose.
Panel 4: Largest panel on page, as his face comes into illumination. Ben places the noose around his neck. (I’m not going to ding you for not describing how Ben looks. That should be between you and the artist. What I AM going to ding you for is the fact that there is no description of Ben’s expression.)
Now, I’m going to tell everyone something. I abso-tively, posi-lutely HATE a silent opening page. I feel that, for a new series, you as a writer have too much work to do in establishing your world. I hate them, and to be honest, most new writers do it wrong.
This, however flawed, is done right. It is a silent, dark, quiet time, which is in keeping with the mood of what’s happening. While I would like some words, I don’t necessarily need words to get what’s going on. There is a time when you need to learn to shut the hell up. Kyle shut up. This page is good work. (Just do it justice by setting it up right!)
Panel 1: With the noose around his neck, Ben pulls a worn picture from his pocket. The audience cannot see the picture, and will not for sometime. It is horizontal, an ensemble shot. The back of the photo, which can be seen, is white and worn, clearly aged a bit and has been folded in several places, many times. (Okay. Some questions. What pocket does he pull the picture from? See how important that questions is? Jamie, WHY is that question important. And then, John Lees, tell me what my next question is.)
Panel 2: Ben has folded the picture, and is placing it back into his pocket. (Too big of a jump. Have him perform only one action here. I suggest the folding of the picture. To tell the truth, there is too big of a jump between the last panel on P1, and these two panels. Tyler, what would you do somewhere in these three panels?)
Panel 3: And with a quick kick, the chair is pushed out from underneath him. (No. You can’t show a “quick kick” this would be better in two panels: one showing his feet on the chair, and the next showing his feet dangling. This necessitates putting the camera at a relatively low angle. You don’t want to see his whole body for this.)
Panel 4: A pulled back shot, silhouette of Ben’s hanging body, involuntarily kicking as his body spasms, begging for air.
And here we are, second page in, and not a word said. Four panels. Your reader is about to go into P3, and so far, has spent less than 30 seconds on your book. That includes turning the page. That, Kyle, is not good. Like I said, you have WAY too much work ahead of you in setting up the world and telling the story than to start out with back to back silent pages.
Panel 1 – 3: Ben’s legs convulsing, kicking. A cloud moves past the moon, showing the passage of time. We don’t see his face here, only his convulsing legs. (So, this is a low-angled shot. And do you want to know how you show the passage of time? You have the clouds seen at the edge of a window/panel, and then they creep across, and then they’re at the opposite side of the window/panel. But, really, this is padding. Three panels of this?)
Panel 4: Close-up of Ben’s face, eyes wide, bloodshot. Focus on the eyes. (Why? How is this pushing the story forward? What is to be gained by seeing his face being asphyxiated?)
Panel 5-6: Wide shot of Ben, as his right hand scratches against his leg, just inches above the knife sheathed at his side. It is a desperate motion, as his face turns purple, his eyes almost bulging. His gaze is upward, not at his side. His mouth is open, gasping for air. (It’s magically delicious. That sheathed knife just came out of nowhere. Poof!)
As a page, this is mostly padding. And still not a word spoken.
Panel 1 : Ben has grabbed the knife, and he is now removing it from its sheath. (Where’s the camera?)
Panel 2: With one arm, with all the strength he can possibly muster, Ben has pulled himself several inches up, and has placed the knife blade against the rope. His arm is bulging with veins, hurting with the intense pressure now on it. His face is still purple, his eyes still bulging. (Prose writing. It’s getting some of the feeling across, but it’s still prose writing. Now, how do we know his arm is bulging with veins. What is he wearing [or not]? You haven’t said. I could say he’s wearing a leopard skin muscle-shirt, and you couldn’t gainsay me, because you didn’t tell anyone.)
Panel 4: The knife drops to the ground, clanging on the floorboard. (What happened to Panel 3? The good thing here is also the bad thing here: you skipped it wholesale. This gives you an opportunity to go back and make sure the two panels line up correctly, but it also should have been done in the first place.)
SFX: (What sound effect is supposed to go here? The letterer is going to want to know.)
Panel 5: Ben loses consciousness, and his arm has fallen to his side. He is tilted back, and his face is purple. The moonlight reflects his hanging shadow onto the floor below. (Okay. Time for me to do a quick google search. Be right back. Alright. I’m back. Just wanted to see how he could be hanging from the neck and tilted back. He can’t. So, this is an impossibility.)
Panel 6: Close-up on the rope. It is now hanging on only by a strand, and the strand is heavily frayed. (We should have been able to see this in the previous panel. Then the close-up would be warranted. Good place for a page turn, though.)
This is a better page than the last. However, it’s P4, and no one has said anything. Do you know what’s happened? Your reader has put it back on the shelf. You failed to keep their interest. If you’re lucky, they’ve spent a minute in the book. A minute. That includes turning the pages. You bored them, and so have lost the “Can I Have Your Money” game. They decided they could get more bang for their buck by getting a seventh ongoing Deadpool title.
Full Page: Ben has dropped , the noose still around his neck, but loose. He gasps for breath, his hands outstretched, his eyes still bloodshot, and the veins in his arm still bulging. Dust, just a bit, explodes into the air from the floorboards. The moon is in the background, another cloud passing over it. (Decent use of a splash page. It’s placed correctly, and it’s visually interesting.)
Ben: Ah-huhhhhhhhhh!!!!! (At last, someone speaks! Too bad it’s too late to be interesting.)
Okay, let’s run this down.
It isn’t good.
Format: Perfect. I’m not a fan of the italics for the panel descriptions, but I don’t have to be. All I really care about is consistency, and you were consistent with it. You also put in page breaks, which I was happy to see. Format, to me, is the easiest part of scriptwriting. Imagine my surprise when I see people get it “wrong.”
Panel descriptions: Not good. You didn’t do a very good job of an establishing shot, leaving out extremely vital info. There are also quite a few panels that aren’t thought out at all. You need to do a better job of visualizing what you want and getting it down so it can be interpreted.
Pacing: I like the panel counts, for the most part. There were some skips that can be smoothed over, and some padding that needs to be cut out, but I liked the pacing here. However, I feel that this passage should be in the middle or the end of the book, because it’s silent.
Dialogue: What dialogue? I’m going to call it a failure on that end, because there is absolutely nothing to read. Like I said before, you have too much to do as a writer standing up a new series. Five pages of silence to start a book just doesn’t work for me. I don’t know what the story is about, and the visuals aren’t enough to make me stick around. On the shelf it stays, then. Do everyone a favor, and at least start the story (dialogue) in the last panel of the first page. You’ll be happy you did.
Content: Despite what I said above, I liked the use of the silent opening page. It was done right. However, as a story, I don’t know what’s going on, and so I’d be leaving it on the shelf.
Without looking at the rest of the book (we’re only getting an excerpt here), I think that this is powerful enough to stay the way it is (silent), but it needs to be moved from the opening sequence. Tell the story, set it up, so that readers will come to know what’s going on and care about the characters as the story unfolds.
And that’s what I’ve got for this week. Check the calendar to see who’s next!
Category: The Proving Grounds