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TPG Week 26: Drawing Readers In

| June 24, 2011 | 9 Comments

 

Hello, one and all. Welcome back to The Proving Grounds, where we have our Brave One, John Lees, to regale us with another tale. So, let’s see as he gives us a tale of…

Rommel and Joe

PAGE ONE (1 panel)

 

Panel 1. Full page splash. We’re in a mythical forest in the daytime, filled with strange, exotic plants. Standing in a clearing in the centre of the frame are our heroes, Joe and Rommel. Joe is a 6 year old boy, dressed in shining metal armor, with a flowing red cape billowing behind him. He carries a massive, gold-hilted sword that seems far too big for a boy his size to hold, but he is wielding it with ease, ready for battle. Rommel is a massive Rottweiler with a saddle on his back and a Viking-style horned helmet on his head. He stands beside Joe, almost as tall on all fours as Joe is standing upright. The two are looking at each other, serious expressions on their faces. All around them, they are encircled by approaching demons (or “Demunds”, as they are called in this story). Some are walking towards Rommel and Joe, while others are clambering through the tree branches. Some wield swords, others knives, others axes. All are snarling viciously. (Well, except for the missing camera angle—this would be best as a side view—this is a pretty good setup. I like the view, I like what’s going on here. And I just started! Let’s hope you continue to hold my interest. Folks, this is how you start a story: a very strong image that pulls the reader in immediately. If the image isn’t strong, your readers are going to notice. Always help yourself, especially if you’re starting with a splash page. Good work here, John. Just make sure you put in a camera angle that works.)

 

ROMMEL: THE EVIL DEMUNDS ARE APPROACHING, JOE! LET’S KILL THEM ALL!

 

Title. ROMMEL & JOE…………… AND THE DREADED DEMUND SIEGE!

 

WRITTEN BY JOHN LEES

 

ART BY DAVID HASSELHOFF

 

COLORS BY HASSEL DAVIDHOFF

 

LETTERS BY HORATIO BLEEEURGH

 

EDITED BY STEVEN FORBES

 

 

PAGE TWO (5 panels)

 

Panel 1. Medium shot of Joe and Rommel. Joe is wielding his massive sword overhead, his mouth open in an angry yell as he stares out at us (and off-panel foes). Rommel is growling, teeth bared, looking off to the right of the frame. In the foreground, we can see clawed Demund hands reaching out towards the pair. In the background and on the left and right edges of the panel, the Demunds are closer, ready to lunge at Rommel and Joe from all directions.

 

JOE: MY MAGICAL SWORD, STORMSLICER, WILL CHOP THEM TO BITS! (And here, I’m liking the dialogue. This is dialogue that a child would say while playing make-believe. I like it. I think you captured it well. Just age him a tad. Eight or nine, methinks.)

 

ROMMEL: RRRR!

 

 

Panel 2. Long shot of Joe slicing a Demund’s head off with his sword. (And here’s where you fall down, John. If you have a long view, then you have to show everything else that’s going on in the panel. What’s Rommel doing? Now, who can tell me how this can be overcome? Yannick? You’re up!)

 

SFX: SHUNK!

 

 

Panel 3. Over-the-shoulder shot from behind Joe as he stabs another Demund through the heart. The Demund’s eyes are wide with shock, black blood trickling down its mouth.

 

SFX: SHICK!

 

DEMUND: URK!

 

JOE: TAKE THAT, STINKY DEMUND!

 

 

Panel 4. Long shot of Rommel, surrounded by a tight circle of cackling Demunds. Smoke is curling out of his nostrils, and his eyes are glowing orange. (Long shot? Again, more can be seen than is being shown. Joe should be seen.)

 

JOE (O.P.): FRY THEM WITH YOUR AWESOME MAGIC FIRE-BREATH, ROMMEL!

 

ROMMEL: GOOD IDEA.

 

 

Panel 5. Medium shot in profile of Rommel breathing out a massive fireball, engulfing three Demunds facing him in flames.

 

ROMMEL: ROOOOOAR!

 

DEMUNDS: AAAAAAARRGH!

 

This is a good page. I like it. Just fix the technical problems. But it is a good follow up to the first page. Nice action, with just enough dialogue.

PAGE THREE (4 panels)

 

Panel 1. Medium shot of Joe standing amidst a crowd of Demunds. He’s smiling, holding his sword with both hands. (How is he holding the sword? Blade up or blade down?)

 

JOE: IT’S TIME FOR ME TO DO MY SPECIAL MOVE.. (Everyone knows how I feel about putting stressors in dialogue, but I think the last two words deserve it. I think it would help to bring it home.)

 

 

Panel 2. Long shot of Joe standing in front of a solid black background, his whole body and his sword glowing with energy. He is holding his giant sword pointing upwards overhead, and it is firing a bolt of electricity into the sky. Joe is looking skywards as he lets out his war cry. (Too many long shots. DRE! You around? What would be a better, more interesting view here?)

 

JOE: SUPER MEGA LIGHTNING-BOMB SWORD ATTACK!

 

 

Panel 3. Long shot of several Demunds being electrocuted by lightning bolts striking them from the skies above. (See what I mean about the long shots? Bring this in to a medium shot.)

 

SFX: KRAKADOOM!

 

 

Panel 4. Long shot of Joe and Rommel standing triumphantly in the forest clearing, the ground around them charred and smoking, the dead bodies of Demunds scattered all around. They are the last ones standing. Joe has his arms outstretched in victory, a big grin on his face, but Rommel looks on solemnly. (Another one? No. This one should be an overhead shot, methinks.)

 

JOE: THE DEMUNDS HAVE BEEN SLAIN, OLD PAL!

 

ROMMEL: BUT MORE WILL COME. STORMSLICER IS THE MOST POWERFUL WEAPON IN THE WORLD. THE DEMUNDS WANT IT SO THEY CAN KILL EVERYBODY.

 

 

Another good page, John. I like the story, you got an action scene done in three pages, along with some story, all with the sense of make-believe. I like it. What don’t I like? All the long views you asked for. Change that up. Other than that, this was good to go.

PAGE FOUR (5 panels)

 

Panel 1. Long shot reveal of Joe and Rommel, standing in the same positions as the last panel on the previous page, but in a drastically different situation. Now, we’re no longer in a fantasy forest, but in a suburban back garden on a sunny afternoon. Joe is now dressed like a modern-day kid, with shorts, a T-shirt, and Velcro-strapped trainers. His giant sword has been replaced by a small, cheap-looking plastic sword, and in place of his cape is a blanket tied around his neck. Rommel is no longer wearing a saddle and a helmet, and is looking up at Joe with his tongue lolling out.

 

JOE: LET’S GO BACK TO THE CASTLE AND COME UP WITH A PLAN TO STOP THEM!

 

 

Panel 2. Joe POV shot of Rommel looking up stupidly, his head tilted in confusion.

 

JOE (O.P.): HAVE YOU GOT ANY IDEAS, ROMMEL?

 

 

Panel 3. Medium shot of Joe and Rommel. Joe’s eyes are wide with shock, as he points his sword out towards the right of the panel. Rommel is looking over his shoulder in the direction Joe is pointing, letting out a bark.

 

JOE: OH NO! LOOK! MORE DEMUNDS! (Comma. I’m feeling much better than I did last week. But still, comma. You’d have failed the assignment, right here.)

 

ROMMEL: RUFF!

 

 

Panel 4. Long shot of Rommel and Joe. Rommel is sitting on the grass, scratching his ear with his hind leg. Joe has moved forwards, and is swinging the sword overhead as he lets out an angry battle cry. (More long shots, John? You’re sapping all the visual excitement out of this thing, John.)

 

JOE: RAAAAAAAAH! DIE, DEMUNDS!

 

ROMMEL: EAT THEIR FACES, ROMMEL!

 

 

Panel 5. Over-the-shoulder shot from behind Graeme and Sheena Haughan, Joe’s father and mother, who are sitting on garden chairs just outside the (off-panel) back door of the house. In the background, we can see Rommel and Joe at the other side of the garden.

 

GRAEME: I’VE NOT TOLD ANYONE ELSE BUT MITCHELL, (Ah! Interesting. Except for the damned comma that shouldn’t be there. Threw me right on out. Punctuation police.)

 

SHEENA: AND MITCHELL WOULDN’T…?

 

GRAEME: HE’S MY PARTNER. I’VE KNOWN HIM FOR YEARS. HE HELPED GET ME INTO CID. I CAN TRUST HIM. (You need to get rid of one of two words. Either “I’ve” or “he.” I suggest “He.”)

 

This, folks, is how you continue to engage the reader. I’m going to talk more about this at the end. Aside from John trying to suck the life of it with his camera angle selection, this is pretty good.

PAGE FIVE (6 panels)

 

Panel 1. Long shot of Sheena and Graeme (both in their mid 30s) sitting on garden chairs around a small table (More long shots! John, you’re killing me.). We can now see the wall of Sheena’s house just behind them, its shadow putting them in a shade that contrasts with the sunny surroundings of Jimmy and Rommel at play. Sheena is perched on the edge of her chair, looking anxiously at Graeme. Graeme, meanwhile, is sunk back into his chair, grave-faced and sullen.

 

SHEENA: WHAT ABOUT THIS SOURCE? ARE THEY RELIABLE?

 

GRAEME: THEY’VE GOT NO REASON TO LIE. AND I’M NOT JUST TAKING THEIR WORD FOR IT. ONCE THEY POINTED ME IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION, I WAS ABLE TO JOIN THE DOTS MYSELF PRETTY EASILY.

 

 

Panel 2. Close-up of a worried Sheena.

 

SHEENA: BUT THESE AREN’T JUST PETTY CROOKS. THEY’RE OTHER COPS, PEOPLE YOU HAVE TO WORK WITH. IS THIS A CAN OF WORMS YOU REALLY WANT TO OPEN?

 

 

Panel 3. Close-up of Graeme, shouting angrily.

 

GRAEME: PROSTITUTES, WEAPONS, DRUGS… McKENNA AND HIS MEN ARE MIXED UP IN IT ALL.

 

GRAEME: FOR AS LONG AS I’VE BEEN A POLICEMAN, I’VE HAD TO DEAL WITH THIS IDEA THAT WE’RE ALL CORRUPT. IT’S NOT TRUE, I KNOW THAT. BUT STUFF LIKE THIS MAKES US ALL LOOK BAD!

 

 

Panel 4. Another close-up of Graeme, but now he’s looking downward, fingers pinching the bridge of his nose, appearing to be in the midst of a sigh.

 

GRAEME: McKENNA’S LIKE A KING IN THE SERIOUS CRIMES SQUAD. I’M BARELY IN THE DOOR. WHO’S GOING TO LISTEN TO ME IF I SAY HE’S DIRTY?

 

GRAEME: BUT IF I DO NOTHING, I’M NO BETTER THAN THEY ARE.

 

(more)

 

 

PAGE FIVE (continued)

 

Panel 5. Medium shot of Sheena and Graeme at the table. Sheena is looking hesitantly at Graeme, her hand rested on the table. Graeme, meanwhile, is now leaning forward, a small smile on his face, his hand resting on top of Sheena’s on the table.

 

SHEENA: LOOK, I’M NOT GOING TO TELL YOU TO DO NOTHING. I KNOW YOU WELL ENOUGH TO KNOW YOU’LL ALWAYS DO WHAT YOU FEEL IS RIGHT, NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE SAYS.

 

SHEENA: I’M JUST WORRIED ABOUT JOE.

 

GRAEME: NOTHING WILL HAPPEN TO HIM, OR YOU.

 

 

Panel 6. Over-the-shoulder shot from behind Graeme, looking at Sheena. She is looking down sadly at Graeme’s hand resting on her hand.

 

GRAEME: WE MIGHT NOT BE TOGETHER ANYMORE, BUT YOU KNOW I’LL ALWAYS TAKE CARE OF YOU.

 

Know what? That’s where I’m going to stop. Right there.

Yeah, I know. Just as it was getting interesting, right?

Anyway, let’s run it down.

Format: Flawless victory!

Panel Descriptions: Pretty damned good. EXCEPT for the fact that you tried to kill this with too many long views. Change up the view, John. Change up the view. Other than that, I had no problem with the panel descriptions.

Pacing: I don’t say this often, but the pacing of this was absolutely PERFECT. You got in and out with the action scene in three pages, then you brought us to the real world, which was cute and heartwarming. Then you brought us some intrigue and caring. Really, this was very well paced. There was no time to get bored (excepting the shot selection). Good job here.

Content: Nice. From a reader’s perspective, I want to read more. I’m instantly engaged. You did that with a powerful visual on the first page, and engaging dialogue within the first few pages. Then you move to parents for what turns out to be both an intriguing and a nice scene. Good work. Very easy to be drawn in.

Editorially, there are some problems. Thankfully, not many.

Shot selection is near the top of the list. I’m not a fan of some of the calls you made. Long shot after long shot after long shot. Not good. Boring. And do you know what boring is? Death.

And if you think I wasn’t going to call you on the fact that the parents aren’t named where a reader can see it, then you don’t know me that well. Shame on you. Shame! I’m shaking my finger at you. Shake-shake!

Okay, that’s it for this week. See the calendar for who’s up next!

 

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Category: The Proving Grounds

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

Comments (9)

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  1. John Lees says:

    Thanks for the edit, Steve! I’m mentally kicking myself for all those long shots. Normally I hate even putting two of the same shot type in a row if I can avoid it. But here, I didn’t even realise I was repeating myself – it must have been a total brainfart that made me overlook it!

    I’m also annoyed at not having Graeme and Sheena mention each other by name. I’m SURE I’d done that. But maybe I accidentally trimmed it out when cutting the dialogue to slim the word-count. I’ll need to go back and look.

    Glad you liked it overall though, Steve. Thanks again!

    • Yeah, I know you know better, but here’s the thing: it’s always good to get another set of eyes on something, because we’re generally too close to our work to see the problems.

      And I DO like it. I think this would be an excellent follow up to Big Boabby. (Plus, I noticed, it was generally linear storytelling!)

      • John Lees says:

        Yeah, now every time I write an opening to a story that starts at the end, I punch myself in the face. Good training for writing something more linear!

        I was telling Tyler it’s something I’m probably putting on the backburner until I can get the details of the story arc figured out more clearly in my head, but it’s good to know it would be worth pursuing further after “Hard as Fuck”.

  2. Awesome work you guys!

    John…I need to draw this story..

    • Jon, I’d love to see this “rectored.” (That’s a new word, just for you.)

      I think you two should talk… And I hope you like drawing dogs…

    • John Lees says:

      If it contributes to my plan to hold you and your art skills hostage for all eternity, then that sounds like a plan to me!

      But seriously, the story is told largely from the perspective of a young boy and a dog. Should this go into development, it’s going to be a story where the art is at the forefront over dialogue. So it would need an artist as great as you to pull it off.

  3. Tyler James says:

    Having read the whole thing, I can tell you Jonathan would KILL on this story. Nice job, John!

  4. John, that was absolutely ASTOUNDING!

    I love the way you set up this wonderful imaginary world for Joe and immediately engage us emotionally by having it threatened in an intriguing way. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful storytelling!

    Just one thing – and I hate myself for bringing it up – I think you have a typo on page 4, panel 4:

    “JOE: RAAAAAAAAH! DIE, DEMUNDS!

    ROMMEL: EAT THEIR FACES, ROMMEL!”

    Shouldn’t the second line be Joe’s too?

  5. John Lees says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Yannick. This was a script where I really wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. I figured if I got it right, it had the potential to be a project good enough to follow “The Standard”, but if I pitched it wrong, it would be truly disastrous. Good to see the positives seem to outweigh the negatives, at least for the opening few pages. It renews my confidence in developing this story further.

    And thanks for picking up on that slip, Yannick. Another “dur” moment for me.

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