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TPG Week 150: Bad Fan Fiction

| November 8, 2013

TPGFeatured_05

Welcome back, one and all, to The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a new Brave One in Steven Applebaum, who’s bringing something unusual to us: a sequel to the terrible Super Mario Brothers movie. (Yeah, I said it. It was a terrible movie. I recognized that even as a child. Age has not made it any better.) I’m alone this week. Let’s see what Steve has wrought, shall we?

Page 1 of 25

Page 1

 

Panel 1

 

INT. PORTAL GUARDIAN CHAMBER

CAPTION: Deep in the desert, a chamber is discovered… (And already, things don’t start off well. No Flawless Victory for format here.)

DAISY and a MYSTERIOUS MAN stand within a dimly-lit chamber while several workmen climb down a rope to join them. The dome-shaped chamber is littered with passageways leading in opposing directions. Sunlight filters through the hole in the ceiling, revealing thousands of metallic eggs placed around the chamber wall. (This is impossible to draw. I get the gist, though.)

A single pedestal stands at the chamber’s center, upon which a metallic EGG sits. Thick cables connect into a control panel at its base.

DAISY is wearing a purple and pink-schemed version of Mario and Luigi’s jumpsuits. It’s form-fitting, the waist cinched in a way that accentuates her curves.

A MYSTERIOUS MAN in desert gear—robe, his face obscured by goggles, cloth over mouth and a turban—stands beside her. A FRY GUY FLAMETHROWER is strapped over his shoulder.

Panel 2

Daisy approaches the pedestal.

 

Panel 3

 

Ornate hieroglyphics cover the stone wall in front of the console.

View from behind as the MYSTERIOUS MAN gazes upon this wall, hand feeling the stone.

 

Panel 4

 

DAISY’s necklace glows blue, reacting to the proximity of the monument.

We’re one page in, and I’m not feeling it.

For all intents and purposes, this is a silent opening page, and as such, it isn’t working. The movie this is purporting to be the sequel to is 20 years old, didn’t do that well either financially or critically, and doing a sequel to it in a comic form is going to be a hard sell. To open the book with a silent page is ludicrous. There’s too much worldbuilding and setup to be done for a silent opening page to be acceptable in any way, shape, or form.

The only good thing about the page is that there’s a minor mystery as to why the amulet is glowing. (And in every picture I could find of Daisy, she was wearing an amulet, not a necklace. I don’t care about the movie being translated to a comic—you’re not going to get by with realism here. You’re going to get more readers if you go cartoony.)

Is it enough to get someone to turn the page? Dunno. Let’s see what the second page holds.

Page 2 of 25

Page 2 (Ever feel like you’re typing into dead air? You’re sending the signal, but no one’s receiving? If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said “learn how to make a page break”, I’d be able to start my own line of comics. This, too, has cost you a Flawless Victory. Formatting really is easy, folks.)

Panel 1

The workmen stand in bewilderment as the thousands of eggs begin to glow an eerie blue light, an energy building in the chamber. (Where’s the camera? That’s first off. Secondly, in drawing “thousands” of anything, your artist is going to hate you. That is, of course, assuming they take this job, which is looking less and less likely.)

Panel 2

A network of glowing lines spread out over the surface of the EGG now that its activated. (Which egg? Is this the same egg that was in the center of the room? If yes, how is the artist supposed to know that? If no, which egg is it? See how this is going to cause a lot of questions to be asked? That’s the first thing. I won’t even go into the moving panel aspect of this. In order for this to be shown effectively, you need at least two panels. It may not be interesting enough for those two panels, though.)

Panel 3

Beams of energy shoot from the EGG, hitting the chamber wall in the center of the hieroglyphics. (I take it that the camera is behind the egg. Beams? That’s going to be harder to do. You see, in order to show the beams hitting something, you’re going to have to have the camera one place, but in order to show “beams”, the camera should be in profile to the egg. These two angles do not compute. A single beam would be best, actually.)

Panel 4

The chamber wall ripples like water. (That’s fine. You have characters speaking in this panel. Where are they? Can they be seen? If yes, then you have to place them in the panel description. If no, then you have to add an annotation saying they’re off panel. One way or the other, this is wrong.)

DAISY

Amazing…

MYSTERIOUS MAN

Princess, I don’t think this is safe.

 

We’re two pages in, and we finally get some dialogue!

Your artist isn’t going to stay long, or if they do, they’re going to have a lot of questions for you. The point of the script is to curb the amount of questions being asked. This is doing the exact opposite of that. This is causing questions to be asked. This means you aren’t doing your job as the writer.

I’m not getting a Super Mario Brothers feel here. I’m getting a Tomb Raider feel. I’m expecting both Indiana Jones and Lara Croft to come tumbling out somewhere, running for their lives as something big chases them. If that’s what you’re going for, why use SMB in this, anyway?

You’re two pages in, and I already don’t care. Your readers aren’t going to care, either.

This is supposed to be the inciting incident for the story. I get it. The problem is that I don’t care. You haven’t done any explaining of anything. It’s hard to care about anything when we don’t know what’s going on.

So far, a whopping sixteen words of copy are present for the audience. Sixteen words over two pages. This is not a good start.

Page 3 of 25

Page 3

 

Panel 1

A sudden surge of energy emanates from the console, blasting Daisy onto the ground. The MYSTERIOUS MAN runs towards her in the background. (This is a moving panel.)

MYSTERIOUS MAN

Daisy! (This is very familiar, no? Is she Daisy to him, or Princess? Or is this a Solo/Leia thing going on? And of course, that brings us back to Indiana Jones.)

Panel 2

The MYSTERIOUS MAN props DAISY up in his arms. DAISY’s jumpsuit is torn up and deep gashes are cut into her arms.

MYSTERIOUS MAN

Princess, are you alright?

DAISY

I’m fine. I just feel weak…

Panel 3

Close-up on DAISY’s face as she looks past the MYSTERIOUS MAN (in the foreground) in horror.

DAISY

Oh, no…

Three panels? That’s all we get?

Your pacing is off.

Here’s what it feels like: you had a screenplay, and you tried to adapt it to comics, but in doing so, you don’t really understand how a comic works, so you’re flying by the seat of your pants.

Things you can do in film cannot be done in comics. Comics are too expensive to create and too expensive to buy to be wasting time and space like this. So far, I haven’t seen any reason to keep any page here. This is supposed to start the story, but no one cares. And that’s a terrible, terrible thing to say when you’re only three pages in.

The good news? There’s a page break.

Page 4 of 25

Page 4 (Page break. Le sigh…)

Splash Page

 

DAISY and the MYSTERIOUS MAN look upon the chamber as dozens of creatures swarm from the portal. Some leer aggressively while others climb the chamber walls. Several HISS.

The MYSTERIOUS MAN cradles DAISY in his arms while the workmen look on in fear.

So, we’ve got a splash page. Does it work?

Not in the least. Let’s break it down.

Dozens of “creatures” swarm out of the portal. What portal? My point exactly. Is it the wall that rippled? More than likely, but I have no real idea, and I should. What about the beams that were emanating from the egg? Are those still turned on? Again, I have no idea, and I should. Leering aggressively? Really?

What kind of creatures are they? Forget for the moment that the character descriptions should not be in the panel descriptions. You did it both for Lara and Indy… Sorry. Daisy and Indy. Why no description of these creatures?

And then, the ultimate in being lazy: you say they hiss, but give no indication of dialogue from them for the letterer to work with.

And then there’s the teleporting workmen. They appear, they disappear, they reappear… How many are there? I don’t know. Several. Their role? Well, if they’re wearing red shirts, they’re going to die. (It’s a Star Trek thing, for those who don’t know.) Other than than to die, I have no idea as to why they’re there. And where exactly are they in the panel? Dunno.

There are a lot of “dunno’s” here. Here’s what I do know (and it admittedly isn’t much): “dunno” is not an adequate answer to a question that requires one. This is not Socratic learning, where the asking of the right question is as important as answering it. You have to ask the questions before the rest of the team does, and answer them so that they don’t have to ask. That’s your job.

The good news? This page is correctly placed.

Page 5 of 25

Page 5

Panel 1

INT. Mario Bros. Apartment — Day

CAPTION: Mario Bros. Apartment

Luigi is sitting on the couch in the living room. Narration emanates from the TV. (What narration? What is Luigi doing as he sits on the couch? I have no idea how this is set up, and neither does the artist.)

MARIO (Where is he? He wasn’t listed in the panel description.)

Luigi, will you quit moping!

LUIGI

Yeah, yeah…

Panel 2

Mario extends a spoon towards Luigi. (Mario is what I call “magically delicious.” He’s just suddenly there, waving a spoon. This is not good.)

MARIO

Come and eat!

Panel 3

Luigi gets up from the couch. (He stands. Why is this a panel? In reality, this is wasted space.)

SFX

(off-panel)

KNOCK KNOCK

Mario looks left, arm around Daniella. (Your format is jacked. And Daniella? She’s also magically delicious. And this is going to be a moving panel.)

MARIO

It’s open.

This is where I’m going to stop. It only gets worse from here, devolving to nothing but panel numbers with dialogue in it, not even a description.

Let’s run it down.

Format: Needs work. There are descriptions of how to format a comic script all over the web. Hell, you don’t even have to leave the ComixTribe site in order to find them. Again, format is about consistency, and there are caveats to that. Format isn’t hard to do or come by, but you have to stick to it.

Panel Descriptions: These are nearly useless. They don’t do a good job of describing much of anything, and the artist is going to end up asking more questions than anything else. This doesn’t come close to doing its job.

Remember, the script is a blueprint for the rest of the team. The job of the writer is to tell the team what he’s seeing. If your vision isn’t strong enough to write down and let others see what you do, then your comic won’t get made. Others have to see an approximation of what you do. This script does not facilitate that at all.

Pacing: Horrible. I want to cut everything that I’ve seen so far and get a better opening. There’s no dialogue to keep the reader interested, there’s no action that happens in which the reader just has to find out what happens next… There’s nothing here to pull the reader in. Little mystery, no silliness, and definitely no fun. And, when it comes down to it, that’s the saddest part of all.

Dialogue: There isn’t enough of it here to really gauge anything. What I can say, though, is that there are ample opportunities for actual dialogue to be present, and few of those are taken. That first page should have been rife with information. Instead, we get next to nothing. Inexcusable.

Then there’s Indy, and his relationship with Daisy. Just what is their relationship? How intimate are they? He starts out calling her Princess, then it goes to Daisy, and then it goes back to Princess. It gets her name and title in, sure, but there are other, better ways to do that. Hell, he could have called her Princess Daisy if necessary. This isn’t done. Nothing that is done with the dialogue makes sense.

Content: A comic book that is the sequel to a movie that flopped hard and is largely forgotten after 20 years is not the best material for a new property. As a reader, this isn’t my cup of tea. I understand that there are those who love the characters and the world. Mario has been a staple and a fixture in gaming since his introduction in Donkey Kong, and his popularity has only grown, seemingly exponentially. I admit that I’m not a gamer, not that into Nintendo, and don’t get the fascination with Mario. However, that doesn’t stop me from understanding that people like Mario. None of that likeability was in evidence here.

Editorially, this needs a complete rewrite. Is there a market for the characters? Possibly. A market for this particular property? No, I don’t believe so. I don’t often say this, but I personally believe that putting time, effort, and money into this project is a waste. Personally, the most I’d do is write up a pitch and send it around to publishers and see if they bite. I’d do this before even trying to gain the rights for it. If the publisher doesn’t think they can sell it, you’re not going to be able to by self-publishing unless you’re independently wealthy. There are other, better properties to pursue. Even though everything seems to be getting a remake nowadays, this is something they’re steering clear of.

If you decide not to heed the advice, go and learn the craft of comic scripting. Then hire a capable editor. One that’s going to keep you on task of writing and telling a story instead of letting you do bad fan fiction.

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

Also, we’re dangerously close to running out of scripts. We have only 1 script in the queue! If you want to have your script critiqued and don’t want to wait, now is the perfect time to do so!

Like what you see? Steve and Sam are available for your editing needs. You can email Steve here, and Sam here. My info is below.

 Click here to make comments in the forum!

 

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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 stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

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