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TPG Week 45: When You Don’t Go Far Enough…

| November 4, 2011 | 15 Comments

Hello! Once again, we’re back in The Proving Grounds, and Brave One Yannick Morin has stepped up to the plate. Let’s see what he brings us this time in

 

Russian Reversal

 

Page 1 (5 panels)

Panel 1

Medium shot of a door made from reinforced heavy steel. On either side stand two GUARDS holding SMGs. The wall around the door is plain slightly cracked concrete – think underground fallout bunker (here, have some inspiration). A caged incandescent bulb is glowing above the door. (I was about to ask Yannick about the guards. Not who they are, but how they look. Yannick submitted two files to me: one containing the script, the other containing character descriptions. I don’t usually look at the character description docs, but I took a gander, and there it was. So, I’m not going to ask, because the artist is going to know. The artist WILL look at the character description doc.)

LIAM (OP): “COMRADE GODOUROV, I HAVE CALLED YOU HERE TO REVIEW OUR PLANS FOR OPERATION “ALEXANDREI”.

Panel 2

Medium shot of GODOUROV sitting at an old wooden conference table. Same kind of concrete walls behind him. A tactical map is spread out in front of him on a table. It’s about the size of a movie poster. (Okay. Immediately, we run into a problem. The first panel is useless. If this is the panel that follows it, what is the previous panel doing? Why is it not setting a scene? It’s just a couple of guards, a light bulb, and a door. It would have been better to start outside, generally outside the facility. Or cut the first panel totally, and give us a caption that says this is an undisclosed location. Right now, panel 1 is padding. The only thing interesting about it is the dialouge, and that can be moved down. Removing the panel doesn’t hurt the integrity of the story.)

GODOUROV: <YOU MEAN “ALEXANDER”?>*

LIAM (OP): DA, DA, EXACTLY, DO GO ON.

CAPTION: *TRANSLATED FROM RUSSIAN (Nicely done.)

Panel 3

Bird’s eye view of the tactical map on the table. It represents a subway station with its many levels: platforms, maintenance areas, restaurants, street access, etc. Tactical routes and positions have been marked out on it with a felt tip marker. We can see GODOUROV’s hand pointing at a detail on the map. (Your artist is going to hate you. Just letting you know. Your colorist, now that I think about it, won’t be too thrilled, either.)

GODOUROV: <WELL, GENERAL TCHERENKO, AS I SAID YESTERDAY WHEN WE WERE REVIEWING THE PLANS FOR THE FIRST TIME, OUR OPERATIVES WILL BE STANDING READY ON THE EAST PLATFORM, POSING AS CHECHEN NATIONALS.>

 

Page 1 (continued)

GODOUROV: <AT 0900, THEY WILL DON THEIR MASKS, RELEASE THE NERVE GAS AND DEPLOY NATIONALIST PROPAGNANDA.>

GODOUROV: <NONE OF THEM IS EXPECTING TO COME BACK.> (Are, not is.)

LIAM (OP): AND THUS IS MILITARY ACTION AGAINST CHECHNYA ONCE MORE JUSTIFIED IN THE PUBLIC’S EYE.

Panel 4

Medium shot of GODOUROV, pointing at a spot on the map. (What does his facial expression say?)

LIAM (OP): AND THE GAS?

GODOUROV: <THE CANISTERS HAVE ALREADY BEEN SMUGGLED INSIDE THE STATION’S MAINTENANCE AREA.>

Panel 5

Behind-the-shoulder shot of LIAM standing in front of GODOUROV on the other side of the table. We can see that he’s holding his right hand in front of his face but it’s impossible to tell exactly what he’s doing (he’s in fact holding his index finger under his nose like a mustache). (This is going to look strange when drawn.)

LIAM: EXCELLENTSKI, COMRADE GODOUROV, THAT IS ALL I REQ –-

TCHERENKO (OP): <LET ME THROUGH, YOU FOOLS!> (I’ve been reading a lot of political thrillers lately. As a first page, I’m slightly intrigued, which is all that is necessary to get the reader to turn the page. However, I also feel like I’m reading a late 90s Stormwatch comic. Let’s hope you keep the reader’s interest for at least three two more pages.)

Page 2 (splash)

Wide shot of the room: medium sized, containing only the aforementioned table and a couple of wooden chairs. In the background, TCHERENKO, angry and imperious, is standing in front of the open door, pointing at LIAM with his left hand and holding a semiautomatic pistol in the other. Four GUARDS are fanning out around him with their SMGs trained on LIAM. In the midground, halfway in the act of getting up from the table is GODOUROV who has a shocked expression on his face. In the foreground, LIAM is now fully revealed: he’s standing in a combat ready stance but holding his right index finger under his nose like a mustache. (Okay. Some things to keep in mind: foreground is closest to us, and background is the furthest away. Saying fore-, middle-, and background tacitly tells the artist where the camera is. Now, follow me: if the camera is near the wall opposite the door, then everyone but Liam will be facing the camera. If Liam is in a combat stance, then he should be facing the interlopers. That means the page doesn’t work, because you’re burying your lead. Now, the camera cannot be perpendicular to the door, because then your back-, middle-, and foreground notes then go right out the window. So, as described, this page doesn’t work. How would you fix this, Rich?)

TCHERENKO: <SEIZE THIS IMPOSTOR!>

CAPTION: AS PART OF A TWISTED EXPERIMENT IN SOCIAL STUDIES, LIAM MOORE WAS NEVER ASKED TO “GROW UP” OR TO “ACT HIS AGE”. AS A RESULT, HE HAS ACQUIRED THE ASTONISHING ABILITY TO COERCE ANYONE INTO GOING ALONG WITH WHAT HE’S PRETENDING TO DO. HE IS THE SECRET MAKE-BELIEVE AGENT IN… (“Coerce” is the wrong word to use. Coerce means someone is unwilling to do what is asked, so they must be forced. That’s not “astonishing,” and I didn’t see anyone forcing anything to be done. So, you need a different, better word here.)

TITLE: RUSSIAN REVERSAL

CREDITS

Page 3 (5 panels)

Panel 1

Medium shot of four GUARDS charging towards LIAM who his holding up his left hand in a “stop” gesture.

LIAM: WAIT!

Panel 2

Behind-the-shoulder shot of LIAM pointing past the GUARDS back at a very surprised TCHERENKO.

LIAM: SEIZE THIS IMPOSTOR.

TCHERENKO: <WHAT?!>

Panel 3

Wide shot of the room. On one end, TCHERENKO, visibly agitated, is pointing at LIAM. In the middle, the GUARDS are stuck there, hesitating, looking back at their real boss. On the other end of the room, LIAM is pointing back at TCHERENKO.

TCHERENKO: <YOU SIMPLE FOOLS! CAN’T YOU SEE HE’S TRYING TO CONFUSE YOU?>

LIAM: NYET! NYET! HE IS THE REAL IMPOSTOR! I AM THE FAKE ONE! (HA! This should be good. Okay, as a reader, I’m now in. And you did it in three pages. Good work. Just make sure you don’t make me want to leave later.)

Panel 4

Close-up shot of GODOUROV’s hand firing a semiautomatic pistol in the air. (How are we supposed to know who’s hand is holding the gun? And more importantly, why should we care?)

SFX: BANG

Panel 5

Medium shot of GODOUROV, dead serious, holding his pistol pointing up. A bit of concrete dust is still falling from the ceiling onto his right shoulder.(The last bit is somewhat unnecessary. I’d rather you cut the last bit, since it isn’t doing anything to enhance the story or make it more outrageous.)

GODOUROV: <SEIZE THEM BOTH.>

Page 4 (3 panels)

Panel 1

Wide shot of the room. One of the GUARDS is handing GODOUROV TCHERENKO’s pistol. Two GUARDS are holding TCHERENKO with his arms behind his back. Another GUARD is holding LIAM with his left arm behind his back; he’s still using his right hand for his “mustache”. The remaining GUARD has his SMG trained on the two prisoners.

GODOUROV: <ARE THEY SECURELY BOUND?>

GUARD: <YES, SIR.>

GODOUROV: <GOOD. NOW WE CAN GET TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS.>

Panel 2

GODOUROV POV shot of TCHERENKO and LIAM side by side with the GUARDS behind them. TCHERENKO looks agitated and angry while LIAM seems rather calm.

GODOUROV: <MY GOD… THE RESEMBLANCE IS UNCANNY!>

Panel 3

Medium shot of TCHERENKO, suddenly very sentimental, his arms still locked behind his back by the two GUARDS.

TCHERENKO: <DMITRI, LISTEN TO ME!>

TCHERENKO: <I AM GENERAL STANISLAV ANTONOVITCH TCHERENKO. I WAS BORN IN KIEV ON NOVEMBER 14TH 1954. I AM A DECORATED VETERAN OF SOVIET RUSSIA’S RED ARMY.>

 

Page 4 (continued)

TCHERENKO: <DO YOU REMEMBER? ONE NIGHT, IN THE FALL OF 98, I FOUND YOU IN AN ALLEY, SET UPON BY CHECHEN DOGS. I BEAT THEM BACK AND EVER SINCE THAT NIGHT, WE HAVE WORKED TOGETHER AS BROTHERS SO THAT MOTHER RUSSIA COULD ONE DAY REIGN SUPREME ONCE MORE!> (Do you all see this? Yannick did two things here. First, he knew he was going to be a touch wordy, so he made sure to have only a few panels on here and leave more than enough space for the words. Second, he set up the expectation that Liam is going to say something absurd, pushing the reader to turn the page once more. This is what you all want to do. You all want to keep the reader turning pages.)

 

Page 5 (5 panels)

Panel 1

Medium shot of GODOUROV standing in front of LIAM with his arms crossed and a dubious look on his face.

GODOUROV: <AND WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY?>

Panel 2

Tight shot of LIAM making big puppy eyes.

LIAM: GODOUROV! COMRADE! I AM GOOD RUSSIAN LIKE YOU! RUSSIAN LIKE APPLESKI PIE! (See?)

Panel 3

Medium shot of GODOUROV in deep reflection, stroking his chin. In the foreground, LIAM and TCHERENKO’s silhouettes are framing the shot on each side. (You can’t show stroking… You know that. Bad Yannick! BAD!)

GODOUROV: <I SEE…>

Panel 4

Medium shot of GODOUROV imperiously pointing off panel towards the left.

GODOUROV: <DRAG THIS SPY TO MY PERSONAL INTERROGATION ROOM. I’LL DEAL WITH HIM SOON ENOUGH.>

Panel 5

Medium shot of TCHERENKO glaring triumphantly at LIAM. Both are still being held by the GUARDS. LIAM is impassive.

TCHERENKO: HA!

 

Page 6 (6 panels)

Panel 1

Medium shot of GODOUROV pointing at a very surprised TCHERENKO.

GODOUROV: <NOT HIM! THE ONE WITH THE OBVIOUSLY FAKE MUSTACHE!>

TCHERENKO: <WHAT?!>

Panel 2

In the foreground, medium shot of GODOUROV embracing LIAM who still has his right finger under his nose. In the background, TCHERENKO is being led away by the GUARDS, angrily shouting back towards GODOUROV and LIAM.

TCHERENKO: <YOU’RE A ####ING IDIOT, GODOUROV!>

GODOUROV: <WILL YOU EVER FORGIVE ME, MY OLD FRIEND?>

Panel 3

Medium shot of LIAM shaking GODOUROV’s hand using his right hand, so he’s now using his left hand for his mustache. Both men are smiling warmly.

LIAM: NYET, COMRADE DOGOUROV –-

GODOUROV: <GODOUROV.>

LIAM: GODOUROV, DA. DO NOT THINK OF IT AGAIN.

TCHERENKO (OP) <IDIOOOOOOOOT!!!>

 

Page 6 (continued)

Panel 4

In the foreground, tight shot of GODOUROV, eyes closed with a large smile. In the background, we see LIAM from the back, walking out the door, still using his left hand for his mustache.

LIAM: MAYBE LATER WE CAN CELEBRATE WITH VODKA, CHESS AND TRADITIONAL DANCE, DA? FOR NOW, I GO DOSVEDANYA.

GODOUROV: <WHAT A GREAT MAN…>

Panel 5

Same shot of GODOUROV with his eyes closed and a contented smile. He’s all alone now with the open door behind him.

NO COPY

Panel 6

Same shot but GODOUROV has now opened his eyes and has a look of shocking realization on his face.

GODOUROV: <WAIT A MINUTE…>

So far, this is decently funny, but only because it is outrageous. It isn’t hysterical, but I can see this reaching for it. This is more The Pink Panther Returns than Murder By Death. That’s not bad, because both are funny, but I’d rather it was more Murder By Death. Something that’s played straight, but entirely absurd.)

Page 7 (5 panels)

Panel 1

Medium shot of GODOUROV, running away from us towards the open door.

GODOUROV: <… THAT WASN’T THE SAME MUSTACHE!>

Panel 2

Long shot of LIAM running down a corridor towards the right. It’s the same kind of corridor as in page 1’s first panel: bunker-type concrete and evenly spaced security lamps. Bundles of crates and barrels on pallets are aligned along the corridor’s length – your typical “action movie barricade” fare, low enough to see over, high enough to crouch behind. There’s a side corridor coming up at the right with two GUARDS with SMGs rounding the corner towards LIAM.

CAPTION (GODOUROV): “<SOUND THE ALARM!>”

SFX: AWOO! AWOO! AWOO!

Panel 3

Medium shot of the two GUARDS firing off panel towards the left at LIAM.

GUARD: <INTRUDER!>

SFX: FRATTATTAT! FRATTATTAT!

SFX: AWOO! AWOO! AWOO!

Panel 4

Medium shot of LIAM diving behind a pallet of metal barrels as one shot passes over him and another hits the barrels.

SFX: T-T-TINK

SFX: AWOO! AWOO! AWOO!

Page 7 (continued)

Panel 5

Tight shot of LIAM facing us, huddled on the floor with his back against the barrels with his right hand under his left arm, as if reaching for a holstered pistol.

GUARD (OP): <COME ON! HE’S UNARMED!>

SFX: AWOO! AWOO! AWOO!

 

Page 8 (4 panels)

Panel 1

Medium shot of LIAM now standing behind his barricade and facing right. He’s pointing with his right hand, as if firing a pistol in a two-handed firing grip. He’s obviously speaking the sound effects.

LIAM: POW! POW!

SFX: AWOO! AWOO! AWOO!

Panel 2

Sideway medium shot of the GUARDS. GUARD 1 is hit square between the eyes: he’s thrown back, a fine red mist coming out of his forehead. GUARD 2 is jumping sideways towards us, firing at the same time.

GUARD 1: UNGH!

GUARD 2: <DAMN!>

SFX: FRATTATTAT!

SFX: AWOO! AWOO! AWOO!

Panel 3

Medium shot of LIAM facing us and “shooting” from behind his barricade. Behind his left shoulder, concrete from the wall is exploding as the burst of SMG bullets hit it.

LIAM: POW!

SFX: AWOO! AWOO! AWOO!

Panel 4

Worm’s eye view of GUARD 2 lying on the floor: his eyes and mouth are wide open. Blood is pooling around his head. In the background, we see LIAM running around the corner into the side corridor. (Huh? What happened to the barricade?) You’re going to have to describe it better up top in order to get this down here. Otherwise, this is impossible.)

SFX: AWOO! AWOO! AWOO!

Page 9 (4 panels)

Panel 1

Medium shot of LIAM running towards us, a look of determination on his face. He’s talking into his obviously bare left wrist, as if he had a “communicator watch”. Speed lines galore if you wanna have fun.

LIAM: STRAY RABBIT TO HOME WARREN! COME IN, HOME WARREN!

“COMM. DEVICE” (ELEC): THIS IS HOME WARREN. GO AHEAD, STRAY RABBIT. (Where is this coming from? His wrist? Just making sure, because the letterer is going to have to know. Being explicit is never a bad thing.)

SFX: AWOO! AWOO! AWOO!

Panel 2

Behind-the-shoulder shot of LIAM running and talking into his wrist. A four-way intersection is coming up ahead. (Well, just call it an intersection. Technically, he’s already on one way, and then the way should continue across the intersection, making four ways. If it were three ways, it would look like a Y, and you would have said that. Reducing the number of words speeds you up some. You just have to make sure the ones you get rid of are unnecessary or redundant.)

LIAM: I’VE GOT THE CARROT BUT THE BRIAR PATCH IS BURNING. REQUEST IMMEDIATE EXTRACTION.

“COMM. DEVICE” (ELEC): COPY THAT, STRAY RABBIT.

“COMM. DEVICE” (ELEC): RENDEZ-VOUS AT DESIGNATED LZ. BLUE BIRD IS OSCAR MIKE. ETA 20 MINUTES. (What is Oscar Mike?)

SFX: AWOO! AWOO! AWOO!

Panel 3

Elevated view of the intersection. LIAM is peering around a corner, talking into his wrist with his “gun” up.

LIAM: COPY THAT, HOME WARREN, 10-4, ROGER, OVER AND OUT. (Okay. Have to vent a little here. This is the military in me coming out. I hate it when people say “over and out.” When you’re talking on the radio, “over” means you’ve finished speaking. Your speaking turn is “over,” and you’re waiting for the next person to speak. “Out” means that your communication has totally finished, because you have no more to say. You say “out” when you’re done. “Over and out” is extremely improper because the first means you’re waiting for a response, and the other means you’re totally finished speaking. And it burns me up! I want to kill it! While it is wrong, though, it has also entered the public lexicon. Couple that with the attempt to be funny, and you can see this is just me ranting. And that’s all this was.)

GUARD 1 (OP): <I THINK I HEARD HIM!>

GUARD 2(OP): <THIS WAY! WE’LL CUT HIM OFF!>

SFX: AWOO! AWOO! AWOO!

Page 9 (continued)

Panel 4

Medium shot of LIAM hitting a “button” on his bare forearm. Make this a big dramatic moment.

LIAM: ACTIVATE TACTICAL STEALTH CLOAK!

SFX: AWOO! AWOO! AWOO!

Page 10 (4 panels)

Panel 1

Wide shot of a dozen GUARDS all converging in the intersection. They’re all coming from different directions, four from each corridor. It’s important that we only see them from the waist up in this shot.

GUARD 1: <WHERE DID HE GO?>

GUARD 2: <DIDN’T YOU GUYS RUN INTO HIM ON YOUR WAY HERE?>

SFX: AWOO! AWOO! AWOO!

Panel 2

Bird’s eye view of the intersection now jam-packed with GUARDS. One of them in the middle of the group is giving orders, pointing down one of the side-corridors.

GUARD: <HE PROBABLY DOUBLED BACK THROUGH ONE OF THE MAINTENANCE CORRIDORS.>

GUARD: <YOU TWO GO SOUTH AND YOU TWO GO NORTH. THE REST OF YOU ARE COMING BACK WITH ME!>

SFX: AWOO! AWOO! AWOO!

Panel 3

Same shot of the intersection. Two GUARDS are starting down each of the side corridors while the rest of the pack are going back the way LIAM came.

GUARD: <GO! GO! HE CAN’T BE FAR!>

SFX: AWOO! AWOO! AWOO!

 

Page 10 (continued)

Panel 4

Same shot. We can now see LIAM sitting down on the floor in the middle of the intersection with his hands hiding his face. (No. I knew you were going to do it, and you did. Evan! It’s your turn. Why am I saying no to this?)

SFX: AWOO! AWOO! AWOO!

And that’s it! Ten pages can go fast sometimes, can’t it?

Let’s run it down!

Format: Flawless victory. And I wasn’t expecting any less.

Panel Descriptions: Generally, they are okay. Still some issues, though, on converting what can be drawn into words, such as with P2. Then there was the problem on P10 that Evan is going to go over, but other than that—and the moving panel—this is very drawable.

Pacing: I have absolutely no problem with the pacing. Things moved smoothly, and there was no real letup. No hiccups at all in the pacing. Good job! (Maybe it went a little TOO fast, but that’s a Sign O’ the Times. Hey!Prince reference!)

Dialogue: I liked it! Sometimes Yannick took a medium-cut instead of a shortcut, but it wasn’t bad at all. There isn’t much I’d tweak with the dialogue.

Content: I liked the imagination! Literally! It was fun, which is always a good thing. As a reader, it might have gone by a bit too fast, but you could slow that down a bit by adding more words.

The caveat to that is that the words have to be funny.

I see the potential in this to be VERY funny. It isn’t there. It’s mildly amusing. I like the premise, but it isn’t as funny as it could be. It would work well on tv, but it loses something in comics. That’s something I want you all to watch out for. There are some things that comics just isn’t suited for, or isn’t best suited for.

Editorially, there isn’t much for me to do here. The biggest thing would be to make you punch it up in the funny department. I like the premise. It just needs to go further left field. You do that, and have an actual storyline to play straight, and I think you’d have something here.

And that’s all for this week! Check the calendar to see 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.

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  1. Project Fanboy -  B&N Week 48: Too Many Ideas! | December 8, 2011
  1. Hey, it’s not that bad considering that “in Communist Proving Grounds, red sees YOU.”

    “Panel 2

    Medium shot of GODOUROV sitting at an old wooden conference table. Same kind of concrete walls behind him. A tactical map is spread out in front of him on a table. It’s about the size of a movie poster. (Okay. Immediately, we run into a problem. The first panel is useless. If this is the panel that follows it, what is the previous panel doing? Why is it not setting a scene? It’s just a couple of guards, a light bulb, and a door. It would have been better to start outside, generally outside the facility. Or cut the first panel totally, and give us a caption that says this is an undisclosed location. Right now, panel 1 is padding. The only thing interesting about it is the dialouge, and that can be moved down. Removing the panel doesn’t hurt the integrity of the story.)”

    Hmmm… I see what you mean. That first panel establishes nothing but the door to the room where the scene happens. I used to have important info written on that door but I took it out in a later version of the script. I should have reevaluated the necessity of this panel but I didn’t.

    I like your idea of a larger establishing shot. I think I’ll replace the first panel with a satellite map shot of Russia (I’ll take a screenshot on Google Earth for the artist) with a caption appearing as a tactical computer overlay – kinda ilke a mission intro to a Modern Warfare mission. Something like this:

    Panel 1

    Satellite map of a region of Russia (see reference pic). A rectangle is drawn around a small portion of a mountainous range. This is a zooming reticle linked to an inset picture in the lower right corner. This inset shows a dirt track going into a large cave in the side of a cliff.

    CAPTION (SATELLITE COMPUTER): RUSSIA, 63.975961, 48.887329

    CAPTION (LIAM): “COMRADE GODOUROV, I HAVE CALLED YOU HERE TO REVIEW OUR PLANS FOR OPERATION “ALEXANDREI”.

    “Panel 3

    Bird’s eye view of the tactical map on the table. It represents a subway station with its many levels: platforms, maintenance areas, restaurants, street access, etc. Tactical routes and positions have been marked out on it with a felt tip marker. We can see GODOUROV’s hand pointing at a detail on the map. (Your artist is going to hate you. Just letting you know. Your colorist, now that I think about it, won’t be too thrilled, either.)”

    I ran into some problems when I tried to find some reference pictures for this. I guess I’ll need to make the maps myself with Photoshop, draw over them with markers and then scan those.

    “GODOUROV: (Are, not is.)”

    Gah. Right.

    “Panel 5

    Behind-the-shoulder shot of LIAM standing in front of GODOUROV on the other side of the table. We can see that he’s holding his right hand in front of his face but it’s impossible to tell exactly what he’s doing (he’s in fact holding his index finger under his nose like a mustache). (This is going to look strange when drawn.)”

    How about this then?

    Panel 5

    Medium shot of GODOUROV sitting at the table. LIAM is now behind him with his left hand on the other man’s shoulder.The panel cuts off just above GODOUROV’s head so we can’t see LIAM’s face (he’s in fact holding his right index finger under his nose like a mustache).

    “TCHERENKO (OP): (I’ve been reading a lot of political thrillers lately. As a first page, I’m slightly intrigued, which is all that is necessary to get the reader to turn the page. However, I also feel like I’m reading a late 90s Stormwatch comic. Let’s hope you keep the reader’s interest for at least three two more pages.)”

    The cheesy dialogue and oh-so-typical “let’s thwart a terrorist plot” are all intentional. I probably didn’t make it clear enough, but I wanted the basic plot to be as middle-of-the-road as possible so that Liam’s antics would really stand out.

    By the way, Liam’ Moore’s name is a reference to my own son’s name, WilLIAM MORin.

    “Wide shot of the room: medium sized, containing only the aforementioned table and a couple of wooden chairs. In the background, TCHERENKO, angry and imperious, is standing in front of the open door, pointing at LIAM with his left hand and holding a semiautomatic pistol in the other. Four GUARDS are fanning out around him with their SMGs trained on LIAM. In the midground, halfway in the act of getting up from the table is GODOUROV who has a shocked expression on his face. In the foreground, LIAM is now fully revealed: he’s standing in a combat ready stance but holding his right index finger under his nose like a mustache. (Okay. Some things to keep in mind: foreground is closest to us, and background is the furthest away. Saying fore-, middle-, and background tacitly tells the artist where the camera is. Now, follow me: if the camera is near the wall opposite the door, then everyone but Liam will be facing the camera. If Liam is in a combat stance, then he should be facing the interlopers. That means the page doesn’t work, because you’re burying your lead. Now, the camera cannot be perpendicular to the door, because then your back-, middle-, and foreground notes then go right out the window. So, as described, this page doesn’t work. How would you fix this, Rich?)”

    My bad here. I really wasn’t clear about the effect I wanted so I only have myself to blame for this confusing placement of the characters. I wanted this splash page to have a retro look with the hero facing us in the foreground of an action scene. Remember those old war comics where you had the cover with the Brave Sergeant facing us while the Dirty Nazis were bearing down on him? Or all the movie posters from 60s and 70s action movies? See, I’m still not being clear now! Anyway, I’m eager to see Rich’s ideas!

    “CAPTION: AS PART OF A TWISTED EXPERIMENT IN SOCIAL STUDIES, LIAM MOORE WAS NEVER ASKED TO “GROW UP” OR TO “ACT HIS AGE”. AS A RESULT, HE HAS ACQUIRED THE ASTONISHING ABILITY TO COERCE ANYONE INTO GOING ALONG WITH WHAT HE’S PRETENDING TO DO. HE IS THE SECRET MAKE-BELIEVE AGENT IN… (“Coerce” is the wrong word to use. Coerce means someone is unwilling to do what is asked, so they must be forced. That’s not “astonishing,” and I didn’t see anyone forcing anything to be done. So, you need a different, better word here.)”

    How about “convince”?

    “LIAM: NYET! NYET! HE IS THE REAL IMPOSTOR! I AM THE FAKE ONE! (HA! This should be good. Okay, as a reader, I’m now in. And you did it in three pages. Good work. Just make sure you don’t make me want to leave later.)”

    Well I do have explosions, gun fights and a car chase.

    “Panel 4

    Close-up shot of GODOUROV’s hand firing a semiautomatic pistol in the air. (How are we supposed to know who’s hand is holding the gun? And more importantly, why should we care?)

    SFX: BANG

    Panel 5

    Medium shot of GODOUROV, dead serious, holding his pistol pointing up. A bit of concrete dust is still falling from the ceiling onto his right shoulder.(The last bit is somewhat unnecessary. I’d rather you cut the last bit, since it isn’t doing anything to enhance the story or make it more outrageous.)”

    Yup, that’s a lot of fat. I could tighten it up by moving the SFX from panel 4 to the end of panel 3 and then eliminate completely panel 4. So panel 5 would be the new panel 4. With only 4 panels now in the page, that means the artist gets more space to have fun with panel 3’s wide shot.

    “Medium shot of GODOUROV in deep reflection, stroking his chin. In the foreground, LIAM and TCHERENKO’s silhouettes are framing the shot on each side. (You can’t show stroking… You know that. Bad Yannick! BAD!)”

    No, not the hose again!

    Medium shot of GODOUROV in deep reflection, with his hand on his chin. In the foreground, LIAM and TCHERENKO’s silhouettes are framing the shot on each side.

    “So far, this is decently funny, but only because it is outrageous. It isn’t hysterical, but I can see this reaching for it. This is more The Pink Panther Returns than Murder By Death. That’s not bad, because both are funny, but I’d rather it was more Murder By Death. Something that’s played straight, but entirely absurd.)”

    Again, my bad. I should have put a note for the artist at the beginning of the script. I wanted an almost retro war comic feel: dramatic poses, square-jawed people, shocking close-ups… Once again, we see that the burden of clarity rests on the writer’s shoulders. As for the funnies, well I need to work on that. I’ll study John Lees’ Complete Big Boabby.

    “Worm’s eye view of GUARD 2 lying on the floor: his eyes and mouth are wide open. Blood is pooling around his head. In the background, we see LIAM running around the corner into the side corridor. (Huh? What happened to the barricade?) You’re going to have to describe it better up top in order to get this down here. Otherwise, this is impossible.)”

    Gah, another thing I forgot. Maybe I’ll have him jump over the barricade in this panel. And that barricade is composed of barrels on a wooden pallet – but I probably wasn’t clear enough. I’ll rewrite that earlier description.

    ““COMM. DEVICE” (ELEC): THIS IS HOME WARREN. GO AHEAD, STRAY RABBIT. (Where is this coming from? His wrist? Just making sure, because the letterer is going to have to know. Being explicit is never a bad thing.)”

    Instead of “COMM. DEVICE”, I should have written “WRIST”, or at least I should have specified that the sound is coming out of there.

    “Behind-the-shoulder shot of LIAM running and talking into his wrist. A four-way intersection is coming up ahead. (Well, just call it an intersection. Technically, he’s already on one way, and then the way should continue across the intersection, making four ways. If it were three ways, it would look like a Y, and you would have said that. Reducing the number of words speeds you up some. You just have to make sure the ones you get rid of are unnecessary or redundant.)”

    Duly noted. Just another English-based hurdle!

    “COMM. DEVICE” (ELEC): RENDEZ-VOUS AT DESIGNATED LZ. BLUE BIRD IS OSCAR MIKE. ETA 20 MINUTES. (What is Oscar Mike?)

    “Oscar Mike” = OM or as the military would say “on the move”. I was certain you’d know that one, Steven!

    “LIAM: COPY THAT, HOME WARREN, 10-4, ROGER, OVER AND OUT. (Okay. Have to vent a little here. This is the military in me coming out. I hate it when people say “over and out.” When you’re talking on the radio, “over” means you’ve finished speaking. Your speaking turn is “over,” and you’re waiting for the next person to speak. “Out” means that your communication has totally finished, because you have no more to say. You say “out” when you’re done. “Over and out” is extremely improper because the first means you’re waiting for a response, and the other means you’re totally finished speaking. And it burns me up! I want to kill it! While it is wrong, though, it has also entered the public lexicon. Couple that with the attempt to be funny, and you can see this is just me ranting. And that’s all this was.)”

    I’m glad I got you riled up over this because that’s exactly the effect I was going for. 😛 I did my best to cram as many “CB talk” terms in one sentence, just to show how Liam is always in “play” mode, like a child pretending to do a grown-up’s job without really understanding what anything means. That’s also why he can “speak” Russian just by putting on an outrageous accent and why he can shoot as many bullets as he wants out of his “pistol”.

    “I see the potential in this to be VERY funny. It isn’t there. It’s mildly amusing. I like the premise, but it isn’t as funny as it could be. It would work well on tv, but it loses something in comics. That’s something I want you all to watch out for. There are some things that comics just isn’t suited for, or isn’t best suited for.

    Editorially, there isn’t much for me to do here. The biggest thing would be to make you punch it up in the funny department. I like the premise. It just needs to go further left field. You do that, and have an actual storyline to play straight, and I think you’d have something here.”

    The script could have benefited from a couple more rereads and rewrites to inject some more funnies into it, I agree. At one point, I considered making Liam an actual 9-year old boy, but I was uncomfortable with having him in the middle of all that violence. It stops being funny when you put a real child in danger.

    Like you said, I need to strengthen the core plot, have a solid real-world conspiracy and throw Liam in there with his antics cranked up to 11. The juxtaposition of a real-life terorist plot and his childish approach to every problem should produce some top-notch comedy.

    Thank you, Steven, for the enlightening work you did on my script. It’s always a pleasure to shed a little blood on the Proving Grounds – it’s good for the circulation! And I’m confident that I’ll be able to beat some more gags out of this story.

    It’s too bad the “Russian Reversal” jokes were further ahead in the script. 😉

    Now where’s Evan? He said he’d write more than I did!

  2. Evan Windsor says:

    First up, my homework! I’ll do my own notes separate so this doesn’t get… unwieldy.

    Panel 2
    Bird’s eye view of the intersection now jam-packed with GUARDS. One of them in the middle of the group is giving orders, pointing down one of the side-corridors.

    Panel 3
    Same shot of the intersection. Two GUARDS are starting down each of the side corridors while the rest of the pack are going back the way LIAM came.

    Panel 4
    Same shot. We can now see LIAM sitting down on the floor in the middle of the intersection with his hands hiding his face. (No. I knew you were going to do it, and you did. Evan! It’s your turn. Why am I saying no to this?)

    I think there are two things wrong with this, also, by taking two guesses, I improve my chances that one of them was right!

    1) We have a wide, birds-eye view for panel 2-3. wide enough to show 12 different guards. For panel 4, we are still zoomed out, still top down, but we now have a single person on-panel, with his hands covering his face. This is not the best composition for this shot. It’s hard to draw details that zoomed out, and its hard to draw what’s happening to the face when you see the top of the head. It could work, but a different camera position might be clearer.

    2) You’ve changed the rules here. Up until this point in your story, Liam has always been drawn on panel as he really is, not as he is being perceived. He’s never drawn as the general he’s pretending to be, just as a guy with a finger mustache pretending. He’s drawn a guy holding his hand in the shape of a gun going “pew pew”, never as someone holding a real gun.

    You’ve set up a pattern with your readers that what you are showing is REAL. And then he is invisible for two panels and suddenly appears. This changes the rules, and is jarring. You have two options:

    A) Go back, and establish different rules. Very early on, have your artist in one of the panels, draw two identical Tcherenkos. This would work best if it is clearly done as a POV shot from Godourov. This establishes to your reader that sometimes what they see is real, and sometimes what they see is the illusion.

    B) Follow the rules. You could stick with the rules you established, and always, always, always, show what is really happening. This means that he needs to be seen with his face covered (or alternately, “holding up” an invisible cloak, which frees up his face to look about trepidaciously) on all three panels. The guards will be confusedly talking about how he is nowhere to be found, when he is clearly (to the reader, at least) right in front of them! Then, panel 4, instead of him suddenly appearing as soon as the guards are gone, we can show him smiling or winking at the camera, or have him “removing” the cloak or something like that.

    My two cents, I think following the rules is the MUCH better choice.

    So there we go, maybe a half-yannick worth of notes (yes, you are a unit of measure now). Hopefully I answered my shoutout correctly, back in a bit with my general notes!

    • Interesting! I’ll address both of your guesses because I think they’re both valid. Moreover, I’ll adress them both AT ONCE!

      I think both you and Steven have misunderstood what I was trying to do on this page and that’s ENTIRELY my fault. What I wanted to show was the corridor packed with guards – I mean shoulder-to-shoulder packed, thick enough to actually hide Liam from the reader. Then, when the guards disperse, we can see Liam hiding his face.

      What didn’t help here was me confusing a BIRD’S EYE view with an ELEVATED view (I’ve fortunately learned since then). What i was looking for was an isometric view of a corridor crowded with enough people to hide one person sitting on the floor.

      So I’m agreeing with you that I should stick to the rules I’ve established and that’s what I did. I just wasn’t good enough in describing my panels to convey what I wanted to the artist. I mixed up my caera terms and – worst of all – I hid things from the artist as if he was a reader, a capital offense in my eyes.

      In fact, what I maybe should have done is tell the artist the EFFECT I was looking for and let him sort out the way to set it up. How does that sound?

      By the way, looking at what you wrote, it seems a yannick worth of comments is 1000 words. 😛

    • I’m late, I know. Been crisis time around here, but it’s starting to shape up.

      Anyway, Evan is right in everything I wanted him to hit. He just overshot the mark a little in the last point.

      It isn’t that Yannick changed the rules. It’s just that he forgot in a bird’s eye view looking down, we should still be able to see Liam. He didn’t hide him on purpose, he just forgot to mention him.

      What would have been better is to show panels 2 and 3 as static, head on, from the waist up of the guards. Panel 2 shows giving directions, panel 3 shows them taking off, and then panel 4 shows no one. Panel 5 is the reveal! Pan down a bit, and show Liam squatting, hiding his face. That would have gone over a lot better than what he had here. Just make sure there’s something in the background at all times that doesn’t move, to ground Liam as being in the same place when you pan down. That object, while the reader won’t notice it consciously, will be immediately noticeable if it isn’t there, because there will be little to say that Liam hasn’t moved when we pan down.

      Thanks for the comments, Evan!

  3. Evan Windsor says:

    First off, wow! A lot of fun to read. This was maybe my favorite TPG to read so far! Make this into a for real comic and I will gladly give you my money for it. I say this up-front, because while I’m going to try to come up with another half-yannick worth of nitpicks, my experience with the script was overwhelmingly positive.

    Here we go!

    Page 1, Panels 1-2. This dialogue seemed a bit off to me. You have the character who is ostensibly speaking english refer to the op as “Alexandrei” and the guy speaking Russian correct him to “Alexander” (pointing out right here, that what he said was translated from russian). So you have a person speaking English, with a little bit of Russian mixed in, and a person speaking Russian with a little bit of English mixed in. In the larger context of your story this makes sense (now that I’ve read your story, this bothers me less), but when I was reading this for the first time, this was confusing to me. Just have him speak Russian, pointing out that he’s using an American name not a Russian one seemed out of place.

    Page 1, Panel 3: “AT 0900, THEY WILL DON THEIR MASKS, RELEASE THE NERVE GAS AND DEPLOY NATIONALIST PROPAGNANDA.” I think this works better with the Oxford Comma, but that’s a style choice.

    Page 1, Panel 4. The fact that you have your very childish character asking about “gas” here, cracked me up on the second read.

    Page 1, Panel 5. I’d like to see just a little bit more urgency/setup here prior to the page turn. Maybe move the “Seize the impostor” to before the page break. Rather than “something is happening -> Fingerstache impostor”, i think “there’s a disguised spy -> It’s just a guy with a finger” might be a better setup/reveal. That one might be personal taste though.

    Page 3, Panel 3: “NYET! NYET! HE IS THE REAL IMPOSTOR! I AM THE FAKE ONE!” I read this wrong. Since “fake one” is another way of saying “impostor”, I read this as “he is the impostor, I am the impostor”, which is not what you were going for. You may want to reword this for clarity’s sake, though I love the idea of him referring to himself as the “Fake impostor” and it phases nobody.

    Page 5, Panel 5: Tcherenko doing a triumphant laugh here seems a bit out of character to me. I’d put him having a sigh of relief and a “finally…” or something. To me, the neener-neener laugh, seems like more of a Liam move, and by having Tcherenko not do it, it sets up a contrast between the two. ESPECIALLY if you have Liam do it later.

    Page 8, Panel 1: I think you can have a bit of fun with the sound effects he makes here. Maybe a “Bang! Pow! PACHOO!” Even better: Add a “click. click. Dang! Need to reload!” later

    Page 9, Panel 2: Oscar Mike means “on the move”, right? I got it. Or I’m wrong, and totally didn’t.

    And for my page 10 suggestions, see my other comment.

    What’s the word, Yannick? Sufficently verbose?

    • Thank you so much, Evan! I’m glad you liked it! But why wait? You can send me money right now and I’ll email you the rest of the script! 😛

      Let’s have a look at your nitpicks now…

      Page 1, Panels 1-2 – “Alexander” is the actual Russian way of saying… Alexander. “Alexandrei” is apparently nothing more than Russian-sounding. I had a friend of mine from Kazakhstan – a fluent Russian speaker – check all of my Russian, making sure every word and name I used was plausible. it seemed “Tcherenko” is actually more Ukrainian than Russian but I let it slide because it sounded so cool!

      Page 1, Panel 3 – What’s an “Oxford Comma”? You lost me…

      Page 1, Panel 4 – Gas. I like it! In my next version of the script, I’ll have him snicker here.

      Page 1, Panel 5 – “Seize this impostor!” on page 1? SOLD! yeah, you,re right, it does a better job of setting up the joke.

      Page 3, Panel 3 – I see what you mean. You’re right, it’s kinda confusing. “Fake impostor” it is then!

      Page 5, Panel 5 – Once again, you put your finger right where it hurts. Evan, you really have a knack for finding out out those simple yet elusive things that make or break a script. You’re right: I’ll make Tcherenko “grow up” a bit in this panel.

      Page 8, Panel 1 – Of course! I should have thought of that! Thanks!

      Page 9, Panel 2 – Right on the money with Oscar Mike. You played Modern Warfare too, huh? 😉 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_Marine_Corps_acronyms_and_expressions

      As for you being sufficiently verbose? I’d say you got a good start! Thanks again for taking the time to give me your thoughts!

      • Evan Windsor says:

        GODOUROV:

        The Oxford Comma, aka Serial Comma is in a list of 3 or more items, a comma that goes right before the word “and”. It is grammatically correct to use it, or to not use it, and it comes down to a style choice.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_comma

        One argument for using it though, is that by adding the oxford comma it more closely matches the cadence of human speech. When people are talking, they typically will add a small pause after every item.

        Now, as I said, it’s a style choice, not a rule with a clear right and wrong, so you can choose to use it or not, but when I am writing dialogue, I typically throw it in. So the line I started this comment with would maybe be slightly better as:

        GODOUROV:

        It’s a relatively small nitpick as far as nitpicks go, but I will jump at any opportunity to start a conversation about the oxford comma.

        • Evan Windsor says:

          The comment system ate your dialogue since it thought it was HTML. Here it is:

          GODOUROV: AT 0900, THEY WILL DON THEIR MASKS, RELEASE THE NERVE GAS, AND DEPLOY NATIONALIST PROPAGNANDA.

  4. Rich Douek says:

    Wide shot of the room: medium sized, containing only the aforementioned table and a couple of wooden chairs. In the background, TCHERENKO, angry and imperious, is standing in front of the open door, pointing at LIAM with his left hand and holding a semiautomatic pistol in the other. Four GUARDS are fanning out around him with their SMGs trained on LIAM. In the midground, halfway in the act of getting up from the table is GODOUROV who has a shocked expression on his face. In the foreground, LIAM is now fully revealed: he’s standing in a combat ready stance but holding his right index finger under his nose like a mustache. (Okay. Some things to keep in mind: foreground is closest to us, and background is the furthest away. Saying fore-, middle-, and background tacitly tells the artist where the camera is. Now, follow me: if the camera is near the wall opposite the door, then everyone but Liam will be facing the camera. If Liam is in a combat stance, then he should be facing the interlopers. That means the page doesn’t work, because you’re burying your lead. Now, the camera cannot be perpendicular to the door, because then your back-, middle-, and foreground notes then go right out the window. So, as described, this page doesn’t work. How would you fix this, Rich?)

    Hey Yannick,

    I think you can get the effect you want by just reordering where everyone is placed. The key thing in my mind is that the purpose of this panel is to reveal Liam’s trickery. So that’s the most important element. In my mind, the second most important element is Tcherenko, as he is the one speaking, and the one being impersonated. Therefore, those two elements should be in the mid-ground, with Liam at the center of the panel, and Tcherenko off to his side, pointing at him.

    The next important element is that there are guards training their guns on Liam – but the guards themselves are not really important – we don’t need to see their faces, or convey much about them other than they are pointing guns at Liam. Therefore, we’ll put them in the foreground, with their backs to us. We’ll use one or two of them to kind of frame the scene, being mostly off panel – we can just see their helmets, shoulders and guns. (as shown in the lower left corner of this classic Captain America cover: http://bit.ly/rrj8S8)

    The least important element is Goudorov being shocked – so he’ll be in the background, behind Liam and Tcherenko. For extra cleverness, lets put him in between Liam and Tcherenko, foreshadowing the fact that he’ll have to choose between them soon.

    This means the door Tcherenko burst through is where the camera is, and the placing of the characters would imply that he rushed in before the guards, but I doubt anyone would call you on that, especially since it’s a comedic story.

    Well, that’s what I would do… hope it passes muster!

    Great script, Yannick! It was a fun read.

    • I love what you’ve done with the panel. Especially the bit about placing Godourov between Liam and Tcherenko. Love it! I like the way you analyzed the scene and placed the characters according to their importance in the action. It’s a trick I’ll certainly apply the next time I’m stuck.

      Indeed, I was a bit worried about the gap in border time with having Tcherenko so far into the room so fast but, as you say, it’s a comedy so maybe we can cut a little slack to logic so we can get a nice effect.

      Thank you for your expertise! I’m happy you liked the story! 🙂

    • Thanks, Rich! That works perfectly!

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