Welcome to yet another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week’s Brave One is Don Pankievicz, who brings us Little Sister, which, as I stated last week, is a story that will be appearing in the Journeymen anthology by our own Noel Burns.
Like last week, my notes will be in red, and notes for TPG will be in blue.
With that, let’s go see what Don’s done, shall we?
Little Sister is an 8 page original comic script about a scared little girl, afraid of a monster that lives in her closet. She has an older brother who is a proud little hero, ready to defend his baby sister’s honor. He gives her some good advice and we see what happens when she takes it.
She is a pretty, pony-tailed, doe-eyed little girl of four years old or so. She is meek and quiet. She idolizes her Big Brother.
He is as rugged and handsome as a six year old can be. Fearless (in front of his little sister) in his underpants and billowing blue cape.
A truly vile character as creepy and dark as they come. His mouth is huge, full of long fangs dripping with saliva. (What I like about this is that there are only three characters, and Don pulled them out of the panel descriptions and put them at the beginning of the script for the artist. Can you do the same thing? Of course you can. Doing this cuts down on having the panel descriptions being overly long.)
PAGE ONE (twO PANELS)
Panel 1. This first panel is the largest and takes up most of the page. A pretty young girl (LITTLE SISTER) plays on the floor in the middle of her pretty pink bedroom wearing her pajamas. Toys lay scattered about and her closet is a prevalent feature. The closet door is open slightly and we can see a pitch black interior. The girl’s attention is on her toys. (This is pretty good, but which way is she facing? Is she facing us, or is she facing the open closet door? The artist is going to need to know this. Good start, though.)
Panel 2. In this panel the girl’s focus is on the closet door. We get a better look at her cherubic young face as she looks up from her toys, still holding her favorite doll. She is afraid . The closet door has opened up a little, showing more darkness and casting a shadow towards her. The sfx should emanate from the door. (You’re going a bit too fast here. Add a panel of the door opening a little, with the creak, and THEN show the girl’s face. You can’t really get both in here the way you have it. Not and do it real justice, anyway.)
PaGE TWO (fIVE PANELS)
Panel 1. Little Sister is captivated by the closet door. Her face shows a mix of emotions as she stares, transfixed. She’s scared, worried and ready to bolt. She is not aware of a small hand reaching towards her from off panel. It is the hand of a small boy, BIG BROTHER. (Okay, this one is going to be a little tricky. The artist is really going to have to frame this well. A close-up of the girl, with the hand coming in from off panel. The door won’t be seen.)
Panel 2. In this panel Big Brother’s hand clasps Little Sister’s shoulder. She has turned her attention towards him and is falling backwards towards the floor. Her face filled with the expression of horror. She screams and Big Brother growls. (This is going to be pulled out some. Just letting you know. And what is the brother doing?)
Rrrraaahhhhh!!!!!!!! (Reverse these two. He should growl first, and her scream is second.) (Remember, always place your dialogue in the order in which you want it to be read.)
Panel 3. We see Big Brother as he stands near Little Sister and in front of her bed. He is wearing only his underwear and a blue T-shirt with the letters JHA emblazoned on the front. A blue towel acts as a cape around his neck. He is all smiles, delighted by scaring his baby sister. (Where’s the girl? Still on the floor?)
Mom says lights out.
Panel 4. Little sister cowers on the floor, her doll clutched tightly to her chest with one hand, the other arm propping her up off the floor.
Panel 5. Big Brother now looks concerned as he realizes Little Sister is truly terrified.
Hey, I’m sorry.
Page THREE (fOUR PANELS)
Panel 1. Big Brother offers his hand to Little Sister but she brushes it away as she gets up off the floor. (Moving panel. All of this cannot happen. He can offer and she can brush, but she can’t be getting up.)
Leave me alone.
Panel 2. She turns towards her bed, still clutching her doll. She storms passed Big Brother who now looks sorry for his actions.
Panel 3. Little Sister sits on her bed holding her doll. Her toes dig at the carpet as she looks at her feet. Big Brother speaks from off panel. (I take it this is a child’s bed? Because that’s the only way her feet can dig into the carpet as she sits on it. I have a 10 year old girl, and if she sits on the edge of her adult bed, her feet dangle.)
BIG BROTHER: (OP)
Panel 4. Little Sister looks up, her big, doe-eyes wet with tears. Her lips are trembling and sad. She holds the doll limply in one hand and with the other she points to the dark closet.
LITTLE SISTER: (WHISPER)
There’s a monster…
PaGE FOUR (fOUR PANELS)
Panel 1. Big Brother puffs his chest out and holds himself in a very heroic pose. His blue cape is somehow blowing in the wind. His jaw is thrust forward and his face almost glows. The JHA insignia is prominent on his T-shirt.
Have no fear, ma’am…
Panel 2. Little Sister sniffs back a tear and almost smiles as Big Brother steps onto her bed, using her shoulder to help himself up. (Where’s the sniff? And she doesn’t almost smile–she has a small smile on her face.)
Panel 3. She looks up at her brother adoringly as he stands, hands on hips, on her bed. His cape once more appears to be magically flowing behind him. She looks at him in awe.
As a member of the Junior Hero Alliance it is my duty to protect you.
Panel 4. Big Brother jumps off the bed in full Superman pose. Little Sister has dropped the doll and claps gleefully. (I don’t know what that means. Full Superman pose? Are we talking about his flying or his landing? See the difference?)
PaGE FIVE (fOUR PANELS)
Panel 1. Profile shot of Big Brother as he stands grim faced at the closet door. He reaches towards the doorknob.
Panel 2. Little Sister is visible over his shoulder as Big Brother faces the reader. She is biting her fingernails in anticipation. She cannot see his face but we can and he winces as if slightly afraid, an emotion he would never let her see.
Panel 3. Big Brother stands in front of the now open closet. It is now filled with light. There are clothes and more toys, old sneakers and a pair of snow boots but no monster. (Where is the light coming from? It was dark before. If the light is coming from a lightbulb in the closet, then how was it turned on? If the light is from the room, then say so. So, where is the light coming from?)
Panel 4. In this panel Big Brother has shut the closet door. There is a click from the door latch. Big Brother has turned from the door and towards Little Sister who is still biting her nails, not convinced.
PaGE SIX (fIVE PANELS)
Panel 1. Little Sister has scooped up her dolly and is crawling under the covers. (Moving panel. What’s the single, still action here?)
Panel 2. Big Brother stands over Little Sister. She has the covers pulled up to just below her chin. Her doll lays on top of the covers close by. She looks at her brother with pleading eyes.
What if it comes back?
Panel 3. Big Brother looks over his shoulder at the closed closet door.
Panel 4. He has turned back to his sister and is very serious. He tucks the doll in next to his sister. (Moving panel. Where is the camera supposed to be? What is the single action?)
If he does, just remember one thing. Being scary is a monster’s job. If you’re not afraid he’s not doing his job.
Panel 5. Big Brother now stands at her bedroom door, his hand on the light switch, ready to leave.
LITTLE SISTER: (OP)
What should I do?
PaGE SEVEN (sIX PANELS)
Panel 1. Big Brother looks back at his sister. He has thrown the switch and the room is dark except a beam of light that comes in from the hallway outside the bedroom. The beam lights his face and her as she lies in bed. (Impossible. Where’s the camera? If it’s in the room, and the light is from the hallway, AND if he’s looking back into the room, the light is at his back. His face CANNOT be seen. The light could illuminate her face, but not his. It has to be in shadow. So, where’s the camera?)
Don’t be afraid.
Panel 2. The light is completely gone now as Little Sister clutches her dolly and looks at the closet. (If the light is completely gone, how can we see anything? Even a small light source would be nice.)
Panel 3. The closet door creaks open with a long creak.
Panel 4. Little Sister’s eyes are closed and the covers are pulled tight against her. The door continues to creak from off panel.
Panel 5. A long, dark figure, SCARY MONSTER, steps out of the closet.
Panel 6. Scary Monster is halfway across the room.
PAGE EIGHT (fOUR PANELS)
Panel 1. Little Sister’s eyes are still shut tight. Scary Monster hovers over her, it’s face close to hers as it stares down at her. Drool hangs precariously from it sharp, exposed fangs, ready to drip onto the girl’s sweet face. It’s eyes are malevolent and scary.
Panel 2. In this panel Little Sister’s eyes have popped open and she wears a smile. The monster is surprised and looks puzzled, it’s brow furrowed questioningly.
Panel 3. The monster is backing away from Little Sister, it’s arms stretched out in front of him as if to ward her off. She is sitting up in bed, her doll falling to the floor.
Panel 4. The lights are on again and Little Sister has resumed her play in the middle of the bedroom. She is playing with her doll and she has a new toy as well. It is the monster, now shrunken, wearing a dolly hat and having tea with the gals. Big Brother has his head poked into the room.
Lights out, remember?
And from the monster.
SCARY MONSTER: (SMALL)
Nice! Just a few things I want you to concentrate on, Don.
The first are moving panels. There are a few in here. Think in still images. This will only help you and your artist, because you’ll know what the action is that you’re trying to convey. This will force you to think about the panels a little bit more.
The second thing I want you to think about are camera angles. This script is mostly drawable, but you have a couple of vague spaces, or places where you’re almost tricking the artist into having to think harder than they should.
This should only take a little bit of cleanup. Nice job! I liked it!
Okay, let’s run it down, shall we?
Format: Flawless victory. (Some disclosure: Don wrote this in Final Draft, and it was sent to me in that format. FD makes formatting easy.)
Panel Descriptions: Pretty good! There were some vague points that needed to be cleaned up, as well as a few moving panels, but overall, this is a script that can be drawn.
Pacing: Pitch perfect. Don got in fast, and got out with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of fun. Could he have had more words? Yup! Is it detracting from the pace of the book? Not at all. The only thing is the added panel at the beginning. But really, the pacing on this is great.
Dialogue: Great! This is something I can see kids saying to one another, and as such, I had absolutely no changes to make to the dialogue. Nicely done.
Content: As a reader, this would be fun to read. I loved that last page. I thought it was perfect, and I literally laughed out loud when I got to that last panel. Nothing but fun within the pages of this story, and there was no fat here at all. I loved reading this story.
Editorially, despite the red, there wasn’t much to do here. Just a little tightening here and there, a little clarification. This story was sound, and Don did a very good job with it.
And that’s all I have this week. Check the calendar to see who’s next!
Category: The Proving Grounds