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TPG Week 73: Another Copyrighted Character!

| May 18, 2012 | 5 Comments

Welcome once again to The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a rare treat in a copyrighted character. The Brave One who brings it to us? Stephen Greaney! Let’s see how he does with

 

STARLORD: THE EARLY YEARS

 

© 2011 Marvel Comics

Star-Lord created by Steve Englehart and Steve Gan

 

 

SCRIPT PAGE 1

 

PANEL A: In a medium shot head-on picture we see a man (Starlord in fact. Why don’t you come out and say it?) flying through outer space unaided in any way. You can do an online image search of Star-Lord to see his original costume. (Or you could just provide a reference pic for your artist. You could then do away with the following character description I’ve highlighted in blue.) He wears a jogging style outfit, trimmed with broad white lines, a helmet with goggles covering his eyes and wears what looks like a metallic prize fighter’s championship belt. A big futuristic gun is attached to the belt with a metallic chord at his right hip. He looks like he’s enjoying himself with a grin on his face. In the background is standard Marvel outer space ala Jack Kirby’s beautiful cosmos.

 

CAPTION 1: MEET PETER QUILL, STARLORD. ONCE HE WAS LIKE YOU OR I. NOW HE IS SOMETHING MORE

 

PANEL B: In a close medium shot, we see Starlord in left profile. In front of him, to the left of the panel, we see a large burst of light. (“Close medium”? Is it “close” OR “medium”?)

 

CAPTION 2: THANKS TO…

 

STARLORD 3: WHAA– -?!!

 

PANEL C: Inside a large panel, in a medium shot we see Starlord hovering in space from behind. The background is filled with the somewhat see-through image of the Master of the Sun. He is an old man with long white hair, and a long white beard. In long flowing robes, (All of this should go in a separate document that your artist will use for character designs, not here in the script.) he is seated at a large throne. He has a stern look on his face as he points to Starlord with a boney right index finger.

 

STARLORD 4: MASTER!

 

MASTER 5: YES, MYSTICAL MASTER OF SOL AND YOUR HOME SOLAR SYSTEM. (Also provider of cosmic exposition! This line has no use other than info-dumping about the character. He’s not telling Starlord anything he doesn’t already know! One thing is sure, if I ever meet you in real life, you won’t hear me say: “Yes, editor-in-chief of ComixTribe and the website where you submitted your script!”)

 

MASTER 6: I’VE EXPENDED MUCH TIME AND ENERGY TO FIND YOU WASTING MY GIFTS TO YOU IN YOUR AIMLESS TOUR OF THE COSMOS! (Two things about emphasis. First, if you want to place emphasis on a word, underline it instead of bolding it. See how underlining stands out more? This is helping out your letterer immensely. Second, emphasis doesn’t mean anything if you do it for every third word. It ALSO has the DISADVANTAGE of making YOUR reader read OUT your LINES in stuttered and INELEGANT way IN their HEAD since THEY tend to EXAGERATE almost EVERY other WORD.)

 

Okay, it’s the end of P1, and I want everyone to notice what Stephen did here.

 

First, he lettered the panels, instead of numbering them. Lettering the panels is perfectly fine, just as long as you’re consistent. Remember, there are different ways of formatting a script. The key will be consistency (as well as logic). If the rest of the team can follow along with no problems, then the format is a win.

 

Second, he numbered the dialogue. And boy, did he! Let’s take a closer look at just what was done.

 

Lee Nordling, editor supreme and my mentor, would love this script. Lee makes all of his writers number the dialogue just like this. What are the advantages?

 

The biggest advantage is for the letterer. By numbering like this, they will know who’s supposed to be speaking when, and will arrange the balloons accordingly. This is not always apparent in every script.

 

Next, it keeps you, the writer, on track as to what’s being said. I’ve seen writers lose track of who’s supposed to be saying what and when. Numbering like this makes that supremely difficult.

 

Next, it’s helpful for the editor, because they can see at a glance how many balloons are on a page. (Yes, this is important, for all you wordy bastards out there.)

 

The downside to numbering like this? Format. You can’t use a program such as Final Draft, which will input labels (panels and characters) for you to select, making your job a little easier because you don’t have to keep typing Panel 1 over and over again. Just select it, and be on your way. Numbering like this doesn’t allow for that, because you don’t know how many balloons are going to be in a panel. So, this method is not good for programs that take care of the formatting for you.

 

Another thing he did with the dialogue is made it in all caps. This can help with visualization, since more than likely, the font the letterer is going to use will be all-caps, as well. This will let you know if you’re getting too wordy for a single balloon or not, at a glance.

 

Sentence case can be tricky, because lower-case words take up less space.

SENTENCE CASE CAN BE TRICKY, BECAUSE LOWER-CASE WORDS TAKE UP LESS SPACE.

 

See the difference?

 

So, all of that is the good! Let’s take a look at the bad.

 

The panel descriptions need some work. Cut the fluff and get to what’s important. Character descriptions should go in a different document.

 

The dialogue… The dialogue is bad. Close to terrible. Pretty close to terrible. Yes, every comic is someone’s first, but that first should expose them to exposition that’s masquerading as dialogue, which is what you have here.

 

And all the bolding? Totally unnecessary. The bolding makes the dialogue drag, which makes it seem longer to read. I’m not much for placing stressors on words in a script, because if you’re not good at it, you could be “wrong.” By wrong, I mean you could be adding a stressor where a reader would not. They may “hear” it the way you want them to, but it could also strike them as inappropriate or wrong.

 

For the most part, go with plain text. No stressors on anything. This puts the onus on the reader, where it belongs. Let them decide whether or not they want to stress a word, and let them decide which word they want to stress.

 

As a first page, this is okay. If the dialogue were better, this would pass with no question. Just remember that exposition should not masquerade as dialogue.

 

(Page break) SCRIPT PAGE 2

 

PANEL A: In a close medium shot we see the image of the Master head-on. He stands in front of his throne now.

 

FROM OFF PANEL STARLORD 1: BUT MASTER I- – (This could have been said in a lot simpler way: “STARLORD (OP),” where OP stands for “off panel”.)

MASTER 2: ENOUGH. (I think the dramatic weight of this word would warrant placing it in its own speech bubble. You can split a character’s lines between two or more speech bubbles either for dramatic effect or if they’re switching to an entirely new idea.)YOU ARE NEEDED IN YOUR HOME SYSTEM. AN EARTH OVERLORD HAS MADE A DICTATORSHIP OF THE ENTIRE HABITED SYSTEM.

 

MASTER 3: HE IS WELL VERSED IN OUR WAYS, AND READY TO DEFEND AGAINST YOU.

 

PANEL B: In a close medium shot we see the Master’s image on the left of the panel, and Starlord’s figure to the right. The Master looks stern, while Starlord looks concerned.

 

STARLORD 4: I’LL NEED TO PREPARE- –

 

MASTER 5: YOU MUST TAKE ON THE FULL WEIGHT OF THE DICTATORSHIP AS ONLY YOU CAN, AND YOU MUST DO IT NOW.

 

PANEL C: In another close medium shot, we see a burst of light as both the image of the Master and Starlord both begin to disappear. (No. I can allow that they appear to be transparent, but they can’t “begin to disappear”. We’re dealing with static images and you can’t show changes like that in a single panel. With that being said, there are different ways this can be done. I want everyone to think visually. I want both Don’s (P and U), John Lees, and Kyle to describe how this can be rendered on the panel. I don’t want a panel description, what I want is your description of how this would look visually on the page.)

 

(NO COPY)

 

PANEL D: In a long establishing shot, we see the planet Pluto below. (How about a reference pic?) The burst of light has all but faded as the image of the Master on the left, and Starlord to the right is clear and in the foreground. The Master points down to Pluto.

 

STARLORD 6: HOW DO I DEFEAT AN ENTIRE DICTATORSHIP?

 

MASTER 7: ONE PLANET AT A TIME…YOU RECOGNIZE PLUTO? THE EARTH OVERLORD HAS A BASE AND A CHAMPION WAITING TO DO BATTLE WITH YOU.

 

PANEL E: From far below a few fighter spacecraft are launching. (How many exactly? If you don’t care, tell the artist, but give them a range, so they don’t draw just one. Also, if the ships are launching from the planet’s surface, I’m not sure we’ll be able to see them as far up as the Master and Starlord are.) The Master has begun to disappear in a burst of light. (Again? The light from the previous panel hasn’t even faded.) Starlord begins to descend toward the craft, (This is another instance of moving panel. Your artist will be able to draw Starlord already flying towards the planet, but not “beginning” to descend.) and calls back over his left shoulder.

 

MASTER 8: REMEMBER YOUR ASTROLOGICAL TRAINING. BECOME THE ESSENCE OF PLUTO TO DEFEAT YOUR FOES! YOUR POWERS AND YOUR ELEMENT GUN WILL SERVE YOU WELL. NOW GO!

 

STARLORD 9: HOW’S MY OWL ?! (What the…? Context please? Otherwise that makes absolutely NO SENSE AT ALL. I know he’s supposed to be somewhat crazy, but still…)

 

P2 brings us more.

 

Okay. Panel descriptions and the word “begins”. This is a word that generally should not be in a panel description. In general terms, it cannot be shown. Sometimes it can, but in general terms, it cannot. If someone draws a “beginning”, it will either not look like what it should, or it will look extremely awkward, if not both.

 

I once read a script where a character was trying to wave smoke and dust away from them, using a hand that was holding a flashlight. Their other hand was free. I told the writer that that was going to look extremely awkward. The writer had already commissioned an artist, and showed some pages. That panel had the character looking like they were doing kung-fu with the flashlight. It looked terrible.

 

Don’t set your artist up for failure. A word that cannot be drawn, such as “begins,” is doing just that.

 

Remember this, folks: your career lives and dies on the strength of your artist. Marvel/DC doesn’t want to see your scripts. They want to see published work. Setting your artist up for failure is also setting you up for failure. Don’t do this. This is something that can easily be avoided.

 

Back to the page.

 

We have three panels that have a burst of light. Three consecutive panels on a five panel page. The light burst is acting as a transporter, and it is showing the comings and goings of characters. That accounts for two of the bursts. The middle one? It’s the end of the transport, so it’s necessary. However, there should have been a break between the second and third. The break is needed in order to let readers know what’s going on. This isn’t thought out well.

 

I know this is only P2, but I’m no longer going to mention the dialogue. I’m going to say it right now: it’s terrible, and it needs to come out wholesale. I’m only treating the dialogue as a guide for what you want to happen. It needs to be completely rewritten.

 

(Page break) SCRIPT PAGE 3

 

PANEL A: In a head-on close-up we see Starlord racing downward toward the fast climbing fighter spacecrafts. (A close-up shows only part of something bigger – like Starlord here. That means there’s no way we can see the spacecrafts in this panel.)

 

STARLORD THOUGHT CAPTION 1: “REMEMBER MY ASTROLOGICAL TRAINING, EH. I’M BECOMING PLUTO’S AGENT OF CHANGE. I HOPE I’M UP TO IT. HERE COME THE FIGHTERS!” (The only times you need quotation marks is if a character is quoting another (as I thought Starlord was doing before I saw you close your quote at the end of the bubble) or if you have spoken voice-over dialogue in a caption. Regular bubbles – even thought bubbles – don’t require them.)

 

PANEL B: In a medium shot inside a large panel Starlord engages the few fighter spacecraft that have come to do battle. He flies rings around them. He fires his element gun at one craft, and the craft explodes to pieces. The pilots fire their craft’s laser weapons wildly missing Starlord. (Justin, are you still around? We haven’t heard from you in a long time. What’s wrong here? And how do you fix it while keeping the gist?)

 

STARLORD THOUGHT CAPTION 2: “KILLING ISN’T MY FORTE. BUT IF IT’S THEM OR ME, THEY’VE GOT TO GO!”

 

STARLORD THOUGHT CAPTION 3: “DAMN! MY ELEMENT GUN IS GETTING STRONGER WITH TIME. DESTROYING MY ENEMIES IS JUST A THOUGHT AWAY.”

 

PANEL C: In a close-up of an enemy pilot, we see his anguished face as he instinctively raises his hands to protect his face, as the explosion of his space fighter craft engulfs him. We see Starlord firing his element gun at the space fighter. (What? No! If you show a “close-up of an enemy pilot”, you can’t show Starlord in the same panel.)

 

PILOT 4: BASE: HE’S TOO SMALL, AGILE AND FAST. WEAPONS CAN’T LOCK ON- –

 

PILOT 5: AHHH!

 

PANEL D: In a long medium shot we see Starlord from a bit behind in the foreground hovering. In the background the remaining fighter spacecraft streak away. Starlord holsters his element gun as he watches the departing craft. (This is a moving panel. Yannick, I want you to fix this. Do not rewrite it so that it is unrecognizable. Keep as much of the original wording as possible, while making this a static panel.)

 

STARLORD THOUGHT CAPTION 6: “IF THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO BE SOFTENING ME UP FOR THEIR CHAMPION, THEY FAILED!”

 

P3. Thomas, you need more study. You’re using terms without knowing what they mean. Close-up is one of them. I mean, it’s not an extreme close-up, which is good, but you’re still asking for the impossible. Some of these panels simply cannot be drawn the way you have described them, and that’s because of your camera angles.

 

There’s an easy fix, though. Don’t use camera angles as much. Every panel does not need them, and if your artist is any good, they’ll come up with something better, anyway.

 

Oh, and I lied. I said I wasn’t going to talk about the dialogue anymore. That was a lie. This dialogue reminds me of an older type of comic. Silver Age, maybe? Late 70s, where the Marvel Method was in full swing, and writers had to be overly verbose in explaining what was going on in the panels. That was okay for the time, but this is 30 years later, and you’re working full script. There’s no need for the dialogue to be this bad. It doesn’t need to work overtime, because you’re telling the artist exactly what to draw.

 

(Page break) SCRIPT PAGE 4

 

PANEL A: In a long medium establishing shot we see a grand hall, it’s (“its”) walls lined with cheering men, women and children. (The WALLS are lined with people? Are they suspended by cables? Meat hooks? Or are there balconies that the artist is going to have to assume exist?) In the foreground is a female 3-D news reporter. A 3-D camera floats in front of her. (I fail to see how the reporter and the camera being 3D affect in any way the way the panel should be drawn since we won’t ever see what her report looks like on 3DTV. Also if the camera floats in front of her, how are we going to see her?)

 

REPORTER 1: I’M REPORTING FROM THE GREAT HALL OF FREEDOM HERE AT THE PLUTONIUM BOMBER’S SUPPORT BASE UNDERGROUND ON PLUTO.

 

REPORTER 2: WE ARE ALREADY UNDER ATTACK FROM THE VANGUARD OF THE ALIEN FLEET, THE SO-CALLED STARLORD.

 

PANEL B: In a close medium shot we see the Plutonium Bomber enter the great hall. He looks very much like an astronaut in a spacesuit carrying his transparent helmet, and wearing a large backpack. Metallic cords lead from the backpack to the Plutonium Bomber’s arms and hands. (More info that should go in the character description document.) Well wishers run to him as all assembled clap and cheer.

 

REPORTER 3: IT’S THE PLUTONIUM BOMBER! ONCE JUST ANOTHER MANNOW SO MUCH MORE. (Wasn’t this how you described Starlord on the first page? It’s only P4. Are you really running out of ideas already? If it is to show parallels between the two men, it isn’t working well. Who’s cheering for Starlord?)

 

PANEL C: The Plutonium Bomber is drawn to the camera (What do you mean here? Are there missing words?), as he speaks to the reporter with her back facing us.

 

PLUTONIUM BOMBER 4: THE OVERLORD IS OUR WAY. I AM HIS POWER TO SPLIT THE ATOM. STARJERK AND HIS INVADING FORCE ARE ALREADY HISTORY.

 

PANEL D: In a medium shot we see the Plutonium Bomber in the foreground. He looks calm and composed. Lining the walls the crowd chants.

 

SFX: THE PLUTONIUM BOMBER IS OUR GUARDIAN AND CHAMPION! THE OVERLORD IS OUR SAVIOR!!! (1. This isn’t a SFX, it’s spoken dialogue. Shorten it if you want it to appear as a sfx, because… 2. It’s highly unlikely that a whole crowd of people is going to say exactly the same thing at the same time. 3. One exclamation mark is enough.)

 

So, it’s P4, and we’ve switched locations. Great! Where’s the establishing shot? Every time you change locations, you should have an establishing shot, or an establishing shot should be fast in coming. What you have here is better served with an establishing shot to start off with.

 

No, saying where you are isn’t enough. The reporter is giving that info, which is good, but it would be better as a voice-over in an establishing shot.

 

Am I being nit-picky about people lining the halls? A tad. But only because I want you to think through what’s being said. Clarity is important. Look at Panel C. That is not clear. What’s supposed to be drawn there? Or how about the reporter’s camera? Clarity.

 

(Page break) SCRIPT PAGE 5

 

PANEL A: In a close medium shot the Plutonium Bomber has boarded his air/spacecraft. The craft is made so that the Plutonium Bomber stands as he flies. The craft has short wings, and large jet-like thrusters. He wears his transparent helmet. The rocket jets are just starting to fire. (You have to stop telling your artist that people or things are “starting” or “beginning” actions. Either you show them doing the thing or question or not. There’s no in-between when you’re dealing with static images.)

 

(NO COPY)

 

PANEL B: In a distant long shot the Plutonium Bomber streaks into the atmosphere on his spacecraft. He speaks to himself.

 

PLUTONIUM BOMBER 1: SO LONG LOYAL MINIONS. (Comma-fail)

 

PANEL C: In a distant long shot we see the Plutonium Bomber flying upward as Starlord flies downward, and the two meet above the surface of Pluto. The Plutonium Bomber is on our left, with Starlord on our right.

 

PLUTONIUM BOMBER 2: I’M AUTHORIZED TO TELL YOU TO JOIN US, OR DIE.

 

STARLORD 3: JOIN YOU? I’D RATHER DIE!

 

PANEL D: In a close-up we see the Plutonium Bomber head-on with an evil look on his face. The air sizzles as his backpack atomic weapon powers up. He points downward. Starlord hovers nearby. (Once again, you can’t have close-ups of one character while still showing other characters in the same panel. In fact, since it’s a close-up of the Bomber’s head, we won’t even see him pointing down.)

 

PLUTONIUM BOMBER 4: I AM THE POWER OF PLUTONIUM. I AM THE DESTROYER. I WILL DESTROY YOU! PERHAPS A DEMONSTRATION, AND YOU MAY YET JOIN US? (Trivia time: there’s no actual physical relation between plutonium and the planet Pluto. Plutonium was called thus because it came two positions in the periodic table after Uranium which was named after the planet Uranus in 1789. The element between these two? Neptunium of course. In closing, there’s no uranium on Uranus, no neptunium on Neptune and, no, there’s no plutonium on Pluto either. See what I mean now when I keep saying writing comics requires you to become a Junior Scientist? Now, with that being said, it would be better if he said he were the power of Pluto. You wouldn’t even risk getting it confused with the Marvel character of the same name since we know we’re talking about a planet.)

 

PANEL E: The Plutonium Bomber’s atomic weapon has powered up fully. The air sizzles around his hands and arms as an amazing amount of atomic energy is launched from the gloved hands and arms. The Plutonium Bomber has fired his weapon at his support base far below.

 

PLUTONIUM BOMBER 5: MY SUPPORT BASE BELOW… NOW YOU SEE IT…

 

Know what I hate? I hate it when I start thinking. Follow me, now: we call the planet Pluto, right? If it has native inhabitants, what do they call the planet? See what I mean?

 

Anyway, it’s the obligatory smack-talk before the fight. We’ll get horror and determination from Starlord, we’ll get some butt-kicking, and then we’ll be wondering why this story had to be told.

 

(Page break) SCRIPT PAGE 6

 

PANEL A: In a worm’s eye view inside a large panel, we see people in the underground support base being irradiated, their skeletons showing, like a giant x-ray is taking place. The underground base is completely destroyed as a mushroom cloud starts to form above. Still far above the cloud the Plutonium Bomber speaks. (Whoa! You have THREE panels here! One panel for showing the irradiated people, another panel for showing the mushroom cloud and a third one for showing the Plutonium Bomber high up in the sky.)

 

PLUTONIUM BOMBER 1: (When one line ends with an ellipsis, start the next one with an ellipsis if it’s the continuation of the same sentence.)NOW YOU DON’T! (And now I am no longer supported! I’ve just cut off my own supply line, Starlord! Are you impressed yet? The rest of the people of Pluto are certain to support me now!)

 

PANEL B: In a smaller panel, in a long medium shot, in the foreground we see that there is a large grin on the Plutonium Bomber’s face. Starlord gets away from the mushroom cloud as fast as he can fly in the background. (Just so we’re clear: the PB was on the left, with Startlord on the right, and the planet beneath them. That’s the triangle, right? Now, PB shoots down, killing people. Fine. Now, in order to get this image, you have to have the PB turn his back to Starlord so that we can see his smile. The mushroom cloud will be in the mid-ground, with Starlord turning tail and flying off in the background. Where does any of this make sense? It can’t be drawn any other way, because any other way makes this impossible.)

 

(NO COPY)

 

Two panels, which I have absolutely no problem with from a pacing perspective. It’s good to go from that end.

 

What I have a problem with is the feasibility of the second panel. If two people are fighting, or soon to be fighting, they generally aren’t going to turn their backs on one another, especially if they have ranged energy weapons. There’s no other possible way the panel can go down as described.

 

Actions have to make sense. The pacing is good, but the actions aren’t thought out. I’d rather have the shock and horror than have this.

 

(Page break) SCRIPT PAGE 7

 

PANEL A: The Plutonium Bomber lets the full force of the mushroom cloud hit him, as everything else has vaporized. (First, the mushroom cloud itself exerts no force in a nuclear explosion. It’s the initial shockwave and the intense heat that does the damage. Once more: Junior Scientist! Second what do you mean by “everything else”? The base? The unmentioned city? The planet’s entire surface? His ship? His clothes?)From inside the mushroom cloud a laugh emerges.

 

SFX: HA, HA HA (This isn’t a SFX. It’s actually a spoken line for the PB. And comma-fail.)

 

PANEL B: In a medium head-on shot Starlord rushes away from the still rising mushroom cloud in the background. His face a mixture of horror and anger…

 

STARLORD THOUGHT CAPTION 1: “THAT FREAK JUST KILLED HIS ENTIRE SUPPORT STAFF. THAT MUST BE HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE…”

 

PANEL C: In a large panel we see a close-up of Starlord’s face contorted in anger and fury. (Why are you asking for a large panel of a close-up of Starlord’s face? Wouldn’t the space be better used in one of the previous two panels? To show something that would need a large panel in order to wow the reader?)

 

STARLORD THOUGHT CAPTION 2: “HE’S GOT TO BE STOPPED. I’VE GOT TO FOCUS, FOCUS ON THE EVIL OF THE PLUTONIUM BOMBER, FOCUS ON HIS DEFEAT.” (“And fast!” Sorry, Superfriends flashback. Like I said, the dialogue is very reminiscent of that age.)

 

So, if P6 was the bang, P7 is the boom. Really, it’s nothing but fluff. Two of these panels could have been used differently. That last panel, especially. Remember when I said horror and determination? That’s it right here. Panel B was the horror, panel C the determination.

 

It’s still fluff, and could have been done in a single panel, and the fight could have been started by making this a four-panel page: combine B and C, and start the fight in the new C and D. So, we have some padding here.

 

Now, if the cloud is rising, and the Starlord is flying away from it, doesn’t that imply that he’s flying up, rather than “out”? Because of that implication, having him hiding behind an outcropping of rock seems like teleportation. Clarity. The artist will thank you for it.

 

(Page break) SCRIPT PAGE 8

 

PANEL A: In a long medium shot the Plutonium Bomber emerges from the mushroom cloud as if it were nothing. He has an intent and determined look on his face.

 

PLUTONIUM BOMBER 1: NOW LET’S FIND THAT STARJERK. HE’S SEEN ME USE MY POWERS… HE’S GOT TO BE INSANE WITH FEAR!

 

PANEL B: In a close-up Starlord rests on the surface of the planet next to a concealing outcropping of rock. (If it’s a close-up, we’ll only see part of Starlord, not enough for the reader to understand where he is.) He has a very focused and concerned look on his face.

 

STARLORD THOUGHT CAPTION 2: “THIS EARTH OVERLORD MUST BE PURE EVIL TO HAVE THE PLUTONIUM BOMBER AS HIS CHAMPION.”

 

STARLORD THOUGHT CAPTION 3: “THE PLUTONIUM BOMBER HAS TO DIE. HIS INHUMANITY CANNOT STAND, AND NEITHER CAN THE OVERLORD.”

 

(This whole panel does absolutely nothing to reveal character or further the plot. It could be completely taken out and not be missed. Thus, this is padding.)

 

PANEL C: In a medium shot the Plutonium Bomber descends to the outcropping of rock supposedly concealing Starlord. He’s lost in thought. (How are the characters placed relative to one another? Who’s lost in thought, and why? Only the Silver Surfer has time to navel-gaze as he fights, because he’s just biding time until he’s annoyed enough to unleash the full fury of the power cosmic. For either one of these two to be lost in thought right now makes no sense.)

 

STARLORD THOUGHT CAPTION 4: “HOW CAN I DEFEND AGAINST PLUTONIUM EXPLOSIONS? DOESN’T MATTER… HE’S GOT TO DIE.”

 

(More padding.)

 

PANEL D: In a close medium shot Starlord looks up as the Plutonium Bomber descends enough for Starlord to see him. (Where’s the camera? Is one character facing us and the other back to us? Or is this a side shot?)

 

STARLORD 6: YOU PIECE OF FILTH. HOW COULD YOU KILL ALL THOSE PEOPLE? (You messed up the numbering. This should be 5, not 6. It affects the rest of the page.)

 

PANEL D: In a close medium shot the Plutonium Bomber descends closer to Starlord, his fists raised in rage. The Plutonium Bomber gloats in amusement. (Who’s fists are raised in rage? The sentence tells me PB, but common sense tells me Starlord.)

 

PLUTONIUM BOMBER 7: ACCORDING TO ORDERS THOSE PEOPLE WERE ALWAYS EXPENDABLE. I JUST EXPENDED THEM.

 

PLUTONIUM BOMBER 8: YOU’RE ABOUT TO DIE, AND YOU’LL BE BLAMED FOR THE OTHER DEATHS. YOU’RE AT MY MERCY, AND I HAVE NO MERCY.

 

Padding. That’s what this page is. You’re trying to make a page count, it seems, and are filling the space by having these guys thump their chests instead of fighting.

 

Aside from that, you have a problem with being clear. Your sentences are saying one thing, but common sense is saying something else. Panel D is a perfect example of that.

 

I’m not an English teacher. I shouldn’t have to tell you the basics of writing. You should know how to use your tools…unless you consider yourself an apprentice. What say you, Thomas?

 

Hopefully, we’ll get to a fight next page. I’m tired of chest thumping/padding.

 

(Page break) SCRIPT PAGE 9

 

PANEL A: In a long medium shot, the Plutonium Bomber in his craft rises above Starlord. He remains on the ground. The Plutonium Bomber’s suit starts powering up for another explosion, as the air sizzles around the Plutonium Bomber’s backpack. Starlord raises his element gun, and aims at the Plutonium Bomber. (Once again: Where’s the camera? Is one character facing us and the other back to us? Or is this a side shot? I’d think the PB facing us would make a better looking panel but you’ve given Starlord a spoken line which he’d then have to deliver with his back to us. If you reverse it, you’ll be making it very hard for the artist to show both characters without the PB’s ship hiding Starlord. And if you make it a side shot, you lose a lot of dramatic punch. This is why it’s important to consider the art and the dialogue as a whole instead of separate components. Ask for images that reinforce your dialogue and write dialogue that fits with your images. Right here, your dialogue is in the way of a potentially great image.)

 

STARLORD 1: BY ALL THAT’S HOLY IN THIS UNIVERSE, I SINGLE YOU OUT FOR DEATH. THE MAGNITUDE OF YOUR EVIL FOCUSES MY INTENT LIKE NOTHING ELSE. I FACE YOU AND YOUR DEATH DEALING POWERS UNAFRAID! (You got some weird mix of epic and vernacular going on here – something that pops up a lot of times in your script. “THE MAGNITUDE OF YOUR EVIL FOCUSES MY INTENT LIKE NOTHING ELSE” – the first part of the sentence is heroic and uplifting while the second part falls completely flat, as if you couldn’t think of an equally elevated comparison and relied instead on an all-made-up expression.)

 

PANEL B: In a close medium shot Starlord fires his element gun at the Plutonium Bomber before his suit reaches full power. The Plutonium Bomber raises his hands to launch his atomic weapon at Starlord. (Remember sentence mapping? The first sentence is wrong. Here’s what you’re saying: the Starlord is firing his element gun before his suit reaches full power. You’re saying that Starlord is wearing a suit, and is firing his gun because the suit hasn’t reached full power yet. That’s what the sentence says. That’s not what you mean for the sentence to say. You mean for the sentence to say that Starlord fires his gun before the PB’s suit reaches full power. And you’re doing that consistently over the past couple of pages. Now, there’s also a difference between firing and launching. Things can be fired, but objects are launched. A rocket fires so that the spaceship is launched. See the difference?)

 

PLUTONIUM BOMBER 2: FOOL!

 

PANEL C: In a large panel, at Starlord’s eye level, in a medium shot we see Starlord in right profile. Starlord is still firing his element gun at the Plutonium Bomber. We see the aborted launch of the Plutonium Bomber’s atomic weapon. The energy from Starlord’s element gun engulfs the weapon, and the Plutonium Bomber. Starlord screams.

 

STARLORD 3: GRAAHRRR!

 

PANEL D: In a small panel there is a blinding flash of light.

 

PANEL E: At eye level in a medium shot the light fades (You can’t show fading lights in a comic. This can’t be drawn.)to reveal that the explosion was contained by the energy of the element gun. The Plutonium Bomber was destroyed in the explosion. His protective suit was not meant for such treatment. (You’ve just said what happened but you didn’t describe anything. What should the artist draw to depict the effects of the outcome of the confrontation?)Starlord is on his knees for all his exertions, head-on with the remains of the explosion behind him. (So he turned his back on the explosion? This isn’t clear at all!)

 

All that chest thumping for a fight that ended in two panels.

 

This is decompression at its worst.

 

This wasn’t even really a fight. Barely any insults were tossed about. Where’s the tussle? Where’s the striving? Heroes are only as good and memorable as the villains they fight. PB was overmatched from the start. Kinda stupid, too. If ships were destroyed by a single blast, and you know that your suit takes time to power up for each shot, I personally wouldn’t have been fighting. Hubris and stupidity don’t have to go hand in hand.

 

And again, the lack of clarity is hurting your scripting.

 

 

 

(Page break) SCRIPT PAGE 10

 

PANEL A: To the left, above Starlord’s eye view is the large transparent image of the Master. On the right is Starlord, who listens while pointing his element gun straight up, as water gushes out into Starlord’s mouth as if from a water fountain. (Um…is water supposed to be coming out of the gun? Again, your sentence structure leads to a failure of clarity.)

 

MASTER 1: ONLY ON PLUTO… YOUR SINGULAR FOCUS UPON THE PLUTONIUM BOMBER MUST HAVE EXPONENTIALLY INCREASED YOUR ELEMENT GUN’S POWERS, WHICH GAVE YOU THE ABILITY TO CONTAIN THE EXPLOSION, AND DESTROY THE PLUTONIUM BOMBER WITH HIS OWN WEAPON. (The Master is really a master of exposition. He’s just summarized the outcome of the fight. This is how they used to do it in the old days. Do you know why? Because writers back then didn’t trust the art to come out clear enough to be understandable, what with the simplistic linework, limited color palette and untrustworthy printing processes. With today’s techniques and technology, you can dispense with this sort of after-the-fact exposition.)

 

PANEL B: In a panel composed much like the previous one, we see a flash of light as the Master and Starlord reach for each other and begin to disappear. (No, and you know why by now.)

 

MASTER 2: NOW YOU MUST REST BEFORE YOUR NEXT ENCOUNTER WITH THE DICTATORSHIP. YOUR OWL WILL BE GLAD TO SEE YOU. COME(Again with the owl? Am I missing something? Even Wikipedia doesn’t mention any owls.)

 

PANEL C: In a large panel taking up the entire bottom tier of the page is an underground alien control room. (How is the reader supposed to know this is an “underground alien control room”, much less on Pluto?) The aliens can’t contain their joy. Two aliens embrace in the background. The aliens are cute without being silly looking. An alien in the foreground speaks.

 

CAPTION 3: PLUTO IS THE PLANET OF REGENERATION AS IT’S (“its”) RIGHTFUL POPULATION KNOWS.

 

CAPTION 4: WE TRANSLATE THE FOLLOWING.

 

ALIEN 5: THE REMAINING ALIENS HAVE LEFT THE PLANET. WE CAN VISIT THE SURFACE AGAIN AT WILL!

 

(I’m at a loss for words. It’s like you tried to throw an Outer Limits twist at the end there but it’s simply impossible to care for it since you’ve never established anything that created expectations for you to dash in the end. This panel could be entirely cut out and it would actually IMPROVE the story.)

 

THE END

 

Oh, dear me. Let’s run this down.

 

Format: Flawless victory! Congratulations!

 

Panel Descriptions: Bad, but I’ve seen worse.

 

You have some moving panels in there, you have impossibilities, but worst of all, you aren’t clear in a decent amount of panels. Artists can ask a lot of questions, but the one question no artist should ever ask is “what did you mean by this?” If they are asking that question, then it is a failure on your part as a writer.

 

You need to think things through before going on with your panel descriptions. I fly by the seat of my pants a lot, because I know where I’m going. If something new crops up, I know enough to go back and fix it at the earliest point possible. No, not everyone can do that, and that’s why I say you need to think through your panel descriptions.

 

You also have to learn to know what can and cannot be drawn, or what should be drawn, and why. You have some things in there that just will not work.

 

Study your scripting terms.

 

Pacing: Overall, pretty bad.

 

I didn’t say it before, but I’ll say it here: I’m not a fan of bolding the panel descriptions. It’s not a necessary step. You were consistent with it, though, which is all I care about. Just because I don’t care for it doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. All it means is that I don’t care for it. Don’t take it as a ding, because it isn’t. If you want to bold your panel descriptions, go right ahead. Just remain consistent.

 

This is padded out, and the “fight” is a non-fight. In all reality, this is a story that could have been told in about four or five pages.

 

And that last panel… Exactly what is it doing there? It’s apropos of nothing, and doesn’t enhance the story in any way, shape, or form, coming out of the blue like that. If you’re trying to add a twist, you need to have a subject that it twists on. Something like this: the Starlord is the guardian of the universe—who’s also a three-toed sloth. See what I did there? I set up an expectation, and then I twisted it. There was no setup for your “twist.” That last panel needs to go.

 

Dialogue: Criminal. That was some of the worst dialogue I’ve read in a while. Some of it could be explained away, but we’re no longer in that age. Like I said, this needs to be ripped out wholesale and started over from scratch. We can keep some of the essence, but the dialogue has to be updated for today’s audience.

 

At least there was no butler/maiding going on, so that’s a good thing.

 

But like I said before, I like the caps, I like the numbering. Just watch out when you’re doing the numbers. You don’t want to misnumber, like you did.

 

Content: As a reader, I’d want to know what it was I just read, and why I read it. What was the purpose of this story? Was this just a random encounter in order to up his experience points? That’s how it reads. There’s no reason at all for this story to be told.

 

Editorially, this needs a lot of work. I wouldn’t call it a total rewrite, but what I’d ask is what is the purpose of the story, and then work toward that goal, cutting out anything extraneous to it.

 

I would change the PB and make the fight longer. Instead of chest-thumping, there would actually be a fight. That would bring this to about seven pages.

 

All the dialogue would be cut, so that it could be rewritten.

 

But those are the three big things: the story needs a point, there needs to be an actual fight, and the dialogue. Fix those, and the panel descriptions are secondary. It’s just a map that shows a single path on how to get somewhere. There are different ways to get to the same place. The panel descriptions are important, but having a point and decent dialogue are more imporant.

 

And that’s it for this week. Check the calendar to see who’s next!

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Category: Columns, 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 [email protected] for rate inquiries.

Comments (5)

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  1. Urm… there’s isn’t a TPG calendar anymore…

  2. Excellent Proving Grounds Steven. Also want to say, I like the new forums.

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