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TPG Week 215: Muddled Storytelling

| February 7, 2015


Welcome back, one and all, to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week, we have another submission from Fabian Andres. We also have Samantha LeBas in the calming purple, and I’m the jerk being mellow in red. Let’s see what Fabian has with


Notes: This story is written to be developed in black and white.

(Also, this was written in a 10 pt size. I raised it to 12. Why am I not pitching a fit? Because Fabian warned me that this second entry was at 10, and assured me it would never happen again. I’m holding him to his word. Who says I don’t give people a chance?)


Panel 1: Medium shot. Upper tier. It’s Nighttime and DARIO is in a poorly lit alley. We can’t really see much of what’s happening around him. He has a worrisome expression. DARIO is wearing an unbuttoned trench coat, revealing his white button-up shirt. (Where is the light coming from? What is he doing with his hands? Is he standing still or walking? Where is he looking?)

1. NARRATION (DARIO): How in the world did I end up in this mess?

Panel 2: Medium close up on DARIO. Upper tier. He’s facing us and is at panel left. He’s looking over his shoulder, laying his eyes on AURORA. The girl is standing in the alley as well, frozen in place and featuring a shocked expression, eyes wide open. She’s wearing a bulky black scarf that covers her mouth and a long, dark fabric jacket that reaches a point barely above the knee. The sleeves extend barely past the elbow. She also fashions(this means ‘make or styles’ as you’ve used it here. I don’t think you want her making jeans and boots in the alley. Words mean things.) gray jeans and short, black combat boots. (See visual ref 1.2)(If this is a recurring character, her description should be in a separate place. If she’s a one-off, then this is fine.)

2. AURORA: No… what happened? (I’m going to have a rant at the end of this page. Look for it.)

3. NARRATION (DARIO): Poor little Aurora… she’s terrified, and just as confused as I am.(How old is is Aurora? Her description sounds like an adult, but this makes her sound like a child.)

Panel 3: Long Shot. Borderless panel. We see a group of cops(how many?) at panel left, they’re pointing their guns at DARIO. They fashion(…) classic police uniforms and peaked caps. (See visual ref 1.3) DARIO is near the center of the panel. His body language indicates that he’s ready to start running towards(one runs ‘in’ a direction, not ‘toward’ it.) the other direction. His eyes are set on the armed men and his eyebrows are raised in alarm. AURORA is still behind him. The corpse of IAN lies in the floor (There’s a difference between the floor and the ground. Semantics? Probably, but we’re writers, and as writers, as Sam said—words mean things.), in front of DARIO. IAN is wearing a long, white lab coat, button-up shirt, dark pants, black shoes and round glasses. His head is covered in his own blood(Logically, there’s going to be obvious damage to his head and body, that would tell us what kind of injury he sustained, unless that’s unrelated to the blood on his face, in which case, lose it. Guy lying on the ground in a rainy alley at night already says, ‘dead’. Tell us where the wound is, and what made it.), as is his lab coat and part of the floor. The rain (We need to know it’s raining in panel 1.) carried(always in present tense, ‘carries’.) the blood away from the corpse.(Where is the camera?

4. COP: Stop right there!! Hands where we can see ‘em, fat-head!(underline the words you want to emphasize.)

Panel 4: Medium close up on DARIO. He’s got his hands in the air, barely above his head. His raised eyebrows, wide opened eyes and half opened mouth portray his fear and confusion.(If he knows whats going on, what the cops think happened, and what actually happened, he’s not confused is he?)

5. DARIO: W-Wait! This isn’t what it looks li-

Panel 5: Close up on COP. This is same COP that shouted in panel 3. He barks back at DARIO, still holding him at gunpoint.(Can we see Dario? If so, this is not a close up.)

6. COP: It’s exactly what it looks like, Mr. Rayne!

7. NARRATION (DARIO): How does he know my name? (Very nice. I like this caption.)

Panel 6: Extreme close up on AURORA. Lower tier. Her pupils have disappeared and her pure-white sclera is what’s left.(The iris is gone, too, then, isn’t it?) The skin around the eyes is covered in black, vein-looking strands that extend from her eyes towards her cheekbones.

  1. AURORA (WEAK): No… Not again, please… (And here, it’s done correctly. What am I talking about? Look closely, and those who know their punctuation will understand.)

(Let’s talk about specificity of language. I think, possibly, you are not saying what you mean. Look back through my questions on this page, they all come from you saying something specific, and not being aware of how that changes, or effects the way the images will look. In the case of the first panel and maybe panel 3, you could say it’s omission that creates problems. After that, however we are on to vocabulary issues. You say fashions instead of wears. You say close up, but it’s not clear if you mean that. Then you say the pupils are gone, but you mean her eyes have gone completely white. Say what you mean, Mark Twain said, “The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” Don’t let yourself end up with bugs.)

P1 is down.

First things first. I’m going to come out and say it, if I didn’t say it in his first entry: I don’t believe that English is Fabian’s first language. I’m going to go out on a (short) limb and call it Spanish, or some derivative thereof. And that’s only based on his name. Call me unenlightened. Me no care.

Okay, English isn’t his first language. However, he writes in it extremely well. That, boys and girls, is an achievement. If it weren’t for the odd word usage here and there, you wouldn’t be able to tell.

That’s not going to save you from the rant, though, because too many of you do it.


I’m not going to give you a lesson in punctuation. I’m not an English teacher. I teach comics. You should be coming at this already knowing how to do simple things, like write sentences with correct punctuation. (‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.)

We all know how I feel about the comma-fail. There’s another piece of punctuation that’s been getting abused lately, and that’s the ellipsis. Learn how to use it, folks. I’ve done enough editing and correcting to say that a good portion of you don’t know how to use it. And it frustrates the hell out of me, because a lot of you are still going around calling yourselves writers. If you don’t know or are too damned lazy to put a period at the end of a sentence, you’re not a writer. The kindest thing I can call you is a storyteller. If you’re really a writer, you should be insulted by the word. (That’s my view. After you reach a certain level and have sold stories, your view may change.)

When you put words on paper, everything you do with those words are important. Punctuation is important, folks. It helps to make things clear (along with correct word usage and word placement).

Learn your damned punctuation. Give me a reason to be able to grow my hair out again.

As a page, this generally works. There’s a mystery set up as to what’s going on. Fabian seems to have started as late as he could to get the story moving. I’m always a fan of that. Is it enough to turn the page?

Your mileage may vary. (Kilometerage? Your kilometerage may vary? Sounds terrible, doesn’t it? Yardage doesn’t sound strange, but meterage? What kind of words would we lose if the United States went metric?) I don’t know if the dialogue does enough to engage. We’re supposed to make a decision based on the images and the assertation of the character that this isn’t what it looks like. I think it does enough. I’d turn the page to see what’s going on.

Anyway, a technical thing: I’m not a fan of the tiers. Saying how many panels are on the page? Sure! Go for it. But saying which panel is on which tier for every page? That turns takes the artist from collaborator to artmonkey, and no one wants to be an artmonkey. It isn’t wrong at all—sometimes, it’s needed. But for every panel and every page? No. Something to think about.


Panel 1: Mid shot. Borderless panel. Upper tier. DARIO is at the center of the panel, facing us. He’s walking through San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica as he lights up the cigarette in his mouth, covering it with one hand to avoid the wind from killing the fire. It’s nighttime, his face is mostly lit by the flame coming from his lighter and his eyes are set upon his cigarette. Behind him we can see the popular Reloj de la Avenida Central. (See visual ref 2.1) We see pedestrians walking in several different directions. DARIO is wearing a buttoned-up trench coat, we barely see the formal shirt and tie that lie behind the coat. He also fashions (Here: Stop doing this.) black pants and shiny black shoes.

1. CAPTION: 1 week ago. Costa Rica.

2. NARRATION (DARIO): A couple of years ago(comma) I left home(comma) (No comma needed here.) and came to Costa Rica, “the happiest country in the world”.

3. NARRATION (DARIO): I wanted to live far away from home…

4. NARRATION (DARIO): Far from my father’s dirty business and his unrelenting need for piles of cash and luxuries.(You do realize he is dressed in luxurious formal attire as he says this, don’t you? Is this meant to be ironic?)

Panel 2: Mid shot. Profile view. Middle tier. DARIO is at panel right and facing panel left. He stares at the starry sky. Several(3? 10? Specify.) pedestrians walk towards panel left, into a pedestrian crossing. In the background, we see that the cars have stopped.(How many? How do we know they’ve stopped?)


Panel 3: Mid shot. Profile view. Middle tier. Sequence from last panel. A man dressed in ragged clothes bumps into DARIO. The man is staring straight ahead. DARIO turns his head towards him in surprise. His expression indicates he suspects the man is up to something. (Where’s the camera? This could be seen as a moving panel.)

5. MAN: Quitese mae!

6. DARIO: Huh?

7. DARIO: Hey, yo hablo español!(capitalize)

8. MAN: Bien por usted, idiota…(why formal ‘you’?) (Because he doesn’t know him. And I haven’t taken Spanish in literally more than 20 years.)

Panel 4: Long Shot. Lower tier. DARIO is facing us. He stands in the walkway and at the center of the panel. He’s got his hands inside his pickets(pockets) and his eyes set upon them, as if he were looking for something.

9. DARIO: Great. That bastard stole my wallet…

Panel 5: Point-of-View shot of DARIO. Lower tier. He stands in front of a door. DARIO placed the key inside the door’s keyhole.(He teleports here.)

  1. DARIO: Well, at least he didn’t take the keys to my apartment. Home sweet…(Said aloud? Or Caption?)

(As I read this, I want more exposition in this scene. More should happen, we can have a fuller picture of Dario, this is sort of your best chance to develop his character and his motivation. Why don’t we see that?)


P2 is a failure.

I say this, because we’ve moved back in time, and there isn’t anything that really calls for it.

The first page isn’t strong enough to call for this movement. More needs to happen for the setup before this backward movement becomes viable.

Nothing that happens on this page explains what happens before it. Not enough happens here to warrant going further. This page is badly paced. More needs to happen on the front end in order for this to have any real effect.

And then there’s the terrible, terrible dialogue in the last panel. Having the guy’s pocket being picked is one thing…but then the teleportation to the house and stating that the keys were left as a continuation of that dialogue is just bad writing.

Now, I have a problem with the dialogue, but it’s only slight.

The captions on P1 were all in real-time. It was all happening in the subjective now of the story. Here on P2, though, the captions are now acting as a 1st person narrator. Generally, first person narration works best in detective stories. Is this a detective story? If it is, then the two tenses can work. If not, then there has to be a reason for the two tenses of the captions.

This page isn’t doing well for the story. There isn’t much impetus for forward movement. Yet. And we’re only going to get more of the same. Since we’ve moved backward in time, and we’re here in Boringland, we’re going to be here for a while. At least a full scene. It’s going to be terrible.

That’s my prediciton.



Panel 1: Over-the-Shoulder shot. Upper tier. We see the inside of DARIO’s apartment, it’s mostly empty and there is barely any decoration. Towards the center of the room we see a long couch. AURORA is on it, she has her feet up on the couch and her arms wrapped around her bloodied legs. Her chin is pressed against her knees. She’s looking up towards DARIO. AURORA is wearing a white tank top with thin straps and white shorts. She’s got no shoes on.

1. DARIO: …home!?

2. AURORA: Yes. You’re home.

3. DARIO: Wha-(delete dash, nothing interrupts) (Double-dash, because he interrupts himself. No ellipsis to follow.) … Who are you? That’s blood on your legs,(Question mark, delete comma, capital ‘A’) are you ok? (Terrible.)

4. AURORA: You ask too many questions. Interestingly enough, you didn’t ask how I got inside your apartment with no keys.(I’d delete this line, we know that, don’t we? ‘Who are you?’ kind of covers that, doesn’t it?)(Still terrible.)

5. AURORA: Let me ask a question now. Are you Dario Rayne? (Organic way to get the name in. Too bad the dialogue is terrible.)

6. DARIO: Y-Yes. Don’t know how you know that but please, let me take you to the hos-

7. AURORA (INTERRUPT): It was your father. He did this to me.

Seven. Seven balloons in this panel. This could be too many, depending on the amount of panels on this page.

Panel 2: Close up on DARIO. He’s looking directly at us with a confused expression.

8. DARIO: My father? What does he have to do with this, do you know him?(She just said she did… Right?) (Feel…mind…TEARING!!!!)

Panel 3: Close up on AURORA. She raised her head. Her chin isn’t touching her knees any longer. She’s also looking directly at us.

9. AURORA: Thomas Rayne, multi-billionaire sadist. Probably a worse father than mine. Close the door, please.

Panel 4: Two-shot Lower tier. DARIO sits next to AURORA with his arms crossed. He stares directly at her with a concerned expression.

10. DARIO: This is quite creepy, miss(Capital ‘M’, used as a name)… but I’m listening. What did your father do to you?(Weird question.)

11. AURORA: He sold me to yours.

12. NARRATION (DARIO): That’s how I met Aurora. She’s a freak(comma, why is she a freak?) but a smart girl(comma) nonetheless.

13. NARRATION (DARIO): I had nothing left in Costa Rica, I had lost my job and my girlfriend in one day…(This is new information, out of nowhere, does not relate to anything we’ve seen. Seems an odd addition. Either tease this at the top of page 2. Something like ‘… having the worst day I’d had in 2 years’, in panel one. OR ‘great, one more thing…‘ in panel four. This is too abrupt.)

  1. NARRATION (DARIO): So I decided to take Aurora to my father, just as she asked. That was a terrible idea. (We should probably see her ask.)

(Okay, big leaps in logic here. Let’s talk about that. You tag on the idea that Dario is having a rough go of it at the last second, I think that is your lead. We have to see that he’s desperate for a change, has nothing to lose, etc. We don’t have enough of a bond between Dario and Aurora from this scene to explain his interest and willingness to help her. They need to connect, and the audience needs to connect with him. We have to believe that he would board a plane with a strange girl and go looking for the man he has done everything in his power to distance himself from, right now it seems unlikely that he would.)

P3, and we’ve got major problems.

Screw the number of balloons in the first panel. I can live with that, seeing as there are only four panels on this page. My concern is all about the dialogue, though. What’s being said, and what’s being done with it from a storytelling point of view.

First, what’s being said.

I love bad movies. Everyone who knows me knows this. Let’s look at a movie like Godzilla vs Monster Zero. Great B-movie, right? I mean, it’s got Godzilla in it, for goodness sake! However, watch the movie and actually listen to the dialogue. It’s terrible! Some of the things said, and how they’re said…makes you want to go out and slap the first emu you find. It’s just a whole lot of not-good going on.

The same thing is going on with this dialogue.

Nonsense is being spewed, without even the benefit of correct punctuation. If you want to ask questions, why the hell would you separate those questions with a comma? Why are you separating questions with incorrect punctuation?

(Personally, I think it’s a conspiracy. An evil conspiracy to get me to quit editing, thinking that all of my efforts are futile in the face of the overwhelming numbers of bad writers out there. I refuse to submit, I tell you! I REFUSE!)

In four panels, we got a lot of information without any real basis for anything that surrounds it. Information in a vacuum. And there isn’t even a lot said! He asks two questions and makes a statement, and the first thing she says is that he asks too many questions. They’re even the correct questions! He wants to know who she is and if she’s okay—but he asks too many questions.

And the bad writing continues from there.

Then, the captions do something strange. It starts to weave in and out of the narrative. The top of P2 takes us in, and the bottom of P3 takes us out, which is in stark contrast to the use of the narrative captions of P1.

Are the captions going to be told in the subjective now, or are they going to be part of the framing of the story? It can’t do both. Pick one.

Finally, things are moving too fast. The guy comes home, sees a strange woman who’s bleeding sitting on his couch, is told she was sold by her father to his, and then he somehow decides to take her to his father. She doesn’t ask. He just decides to take her. (Hey! I’m only going by what’s on the page. He says she asked, but if it isn’t on the page, it didn’t happen.)

Is there any interest here? No. Why? Ah, that’s the question, isn’t it?

(Psst! Plotz-gal! That’s your cue for conflict analysis.)



Panel 1: Long shot. Upper tier. DARIO and AURORA stand in front of a street, they’re at the center of the panel, facing us. It’s nighttime. DARIO extends his hand, asking for(‘hailing’?) a taxi to stop while AURORA stands next to him. In the back we see a building. Several labels/signs indicate the building is part of an airport. Both characters now wear their outfits from Page 1.(What city are we in? There’s usually a cue where cabs wait for passengers at an airport. That looks a lot different than standing outside

1. NARRATION (DARIO): We took a flight to America, but as usual…(delete ellipses add comma) my father was nowhere to be found. (I don’t even have the words… Schuyler! Please tell us why this is extremely nonsensical. Calm down, Rin. I’m going to get to you eventually.)

2. NARRATION (DARIO): He was last seen in company of a scientist by the name of(comma) (No comma.) Ian Husk.(This narration does not go with this image. They aren’t looking for him yet. Are they? They’re just getting off the plane, why are we getting this information here?)

Panel 2: Long shot. Profile view. We see DARIO and AURORA walking on a busy street at night. They’re at panel right. Several well-dressed man and woman are scattered around. We see the entrance to a bar near the center of the panel. The entrance is decorated with bright lights and neon signs. (See visual ref 4.2)

3. DARIO (NARRATION): I heard Ian Husk frequents this bar, so we went looking for him. (This just turned into a terrible, terrible detective story. Hey! I didn’t use the word “terrible” enough. It should be a mantra, the word “terrible.” It almost has a subliminal effect. After every sentence, you should just see the word “terrible.” It may be a terrible thing to say, but it’s true. This is terrible. There, I think I’ve filled my quota for the word “terrible” on this page. Terrible, right?)

Panel 3: Mid shot Borderless panel. DARIO and AURORA walked(present tense) into the bar, facing us. DARIO stares straight ahead and AURORA looks around (Moving panel.). She’s close to DARIO. We can see several men, both well dressed and half-undressed, drinking, yelling and pretty much losing it. Female customers wear tight and elegant noir-style garments (See visual ref 4.3a) and the female waitresses wear much more showy uniforms. (See visual ref 4.3b)

4. AURORA: Dario, this is such an inappropriate place for a young girl like me.(I really don’t like this line. Again, it seems obvious. But a bigger question I have about it is, what do you intend for this statement to say about her character?) (Know what? I should have called it earlier. However, this is the Line of Demarcation.)

5. DARIO: You wouldn’t have stayed in the hotel room.

6. AURORA: Of course not. So… Where’s Dr. Husk?

Panel 4: Over-the-Shoulder shot. DARIO is at panel left and AURORA is standing next to him, as (at) his right. He tilts his head slightly to his right as he points directly towards IAN. We can see the scientist in the back of the bar, laughing and holding two waitresses by their waists. Both of them laugh with him.

7. DARIO: There.

8. AURORA: Disgusting. (Exactly. Disgustingly stereotypical of bad writing. I’m talking about the panel description.)

9. DARIO: Easy, he’s our only chance at getting a hold of my father. (Of course he is.)

Panel 5: Close up on IAN. Lower tier. He’s facing us and has a scared expression, his mouth is wide open and his eyebrows lifted as high as they can go. He looks like he’s seen a monster.

10. CAPTION: Seconds later.(Meh. Do you need this?) (With a big time-jump like this, yes, it’s necessary. And terrible. Remember the mantra? Terrible, after every sentence.)

11. IAN: Get her away from me!!!

Panel 6: Two-shot. Lower tier. AURORA and DARIO are facing us. She’s at panel left and is frowning. DARIO is at panel right and has a confused expression, with an arched eyebrow and a closed, circular-looking mouth. He’s also pointing at aurora with his left hand.

12. AURORA: Rude.

13. DARIO: What are you talking about, doctor(Capitalize)? She’s just a kid!

Panel 7: Mid shot. Lower tier. Ian is giving his back to us. He’s running towards a metal door. The door features a hanging sign that reads: EXIT.

  1. IAN: Just a kid!? You have no idea, don’t(do) you?

(Insert Page Break)

(Shaky characterization, here. Aurora’s line in panel 3 makes her character seem naive, and up-tight. She’ll show up bloodied and barefoot in a stranger’s apartment and fly out of the country with him, but she’s surprised by, or insulted by, a lewd establishment? Come on.)

P4, and really, I don’t know if I have the words.

This is just terrible, terrible storytelling. I mean, really.

We’re on P4. What’s the story about? Is it a mystery? If it’s supposed to be a mystery, what’s the inciting incident? Was that supposed to be it on P1? It didn’t feel like it, did it? What’s being investigated? Worst question of all to ask, why the hell are we here?

Has anyone watched the show 24? Of course some of you have. It was part of the cultural zeitgeist. Everyone knows that Jack Bauer was a badass, and very Batman-like in his pursuit of the bad guys. However, the show hearkens back to the serial movies of the ’40s, where things just kept getting in the way of the protagonist reaching their goal. Lots of things got in the way of Jack reaching his goal, and it seemed like failure was always imminent. You’d wonder what some of the pieces were there for, until you remembered that they had to fill up an entire “day” so that all 24 hours were taken up.

This? This feels like the same thing. The guy wants to find someone, but first they have to find someone else. It’s in the way; a mini-mission to overcome in order to get to the next part. Necessary? Not at all…unless this is a mystery.

However, this is crap. The Line of Demarcation says so.

So, he’s looking for his father. His very wealthy and well-connected father. What’s the timeframe here, though? By timeframe, I mean the year. Because here’s my problem:

If it’s in the present—why hasn’t a single phone call been made? We have an airport, we have taxis, so we have to have telephones, right? And in looking for a wealthy man, they have to have a majordomo. Hell, even a minordomo. This person would know how to reach the wealthy father, even putting obstacles in the way of the searcher. No very wealthy person doesn’t have an assistant.

If this is the present, I have two words: cell phones. Those two words imply a lot, don’t they?

The not-good is piling up.

FIVEnjh (No page break? No Flawless Victory for you! Come back, one script!)

Panel 1: Over-the-Shoulder shot. Upper tier. DARIO is walking towards IAN with open arms. His body language indicates his asking for an explanation. In the background we can see IAN looking past through DARIO. His eyes are looking down towards AURORA yet she remains unseen in this panel. IAN has a scared expression. His body language indicates his ready to run yet he’s frozen in place by fear. We see a wall not too far behind IAN. He’s in an alley. (More teleportation. Reminds me of great horror movies from the ’80s. Remember how the killer would chase their prey through the woods, never running, but the prey is? And you know that the killer is behind the prey, but then they suddenly appear from behind a tree that’s in front of the prey? Teleportation. Just like this.)

1. DARIO: Doctor, please… All I want to know is the location of my father, Thomas Rayne.

2. IAN: I-(delete dash)(Or the ellipsis.)… I don’t know where h-he is!! Leave me alone, please…

3. IAN: I don’t want to die!

Panel 2: Close up on DARIO. Upper tier. He’s got a confused expression and is facing us. He also scratches the back of his head.

4. DARIO: Die? No one’s here to kill you (comma-fail) Dr. Dusk… I just want to know whe-

Panel 3: Close up on IAN. Upper tier. He’s got a scared, crazy expression and is facing us. We can see how sweaty he’s gotten. His mouth is wide open and his pointing directly towards us. He has also pressed his back against the wall.

5. DARIO: What about her!? That monster… that failed experiment can deal nothing but death and damnation!! (You’re ellipsis crazed, aren’t you? It’s okay to admit it. I just looked at every panel on this page, and you have an ellipsis in every one of them. Stop. Just…stop. (See what I did there?!))

Panel 4: Two-Shot. Middle tier. DARIO is at the center of the panel, standing in front of the exit and facing us. His expression and body language remains the same. The lights inside the bar behind DARIO have shut down. At DARIO’s right and slightly behind him we see AURORA’s shadow (It’s at night, right? What’s casting the shadow?). We can’t see much of her except for her eyes. Her pupils have disappeared so we can only see pure-white sclera.

6. DARIO: Death and damnation…

7. DARIO: Doctor (comma-fail) you’re being quite rude to my little friend(comma) here.

Panel 5: Cut-In. Insert panel. This panel portrays part of DARIO’s face, focusing on his right eye. He has turned his head back towards AURORA. His eyes are wide open in surprise.


Panel 6: Long shot. IAN runs towards us with a deranged expression. His glasses are in mid-air, they fell. The wall he was pressing his body against is at panel left. DARIO and the exit, including the opened metallic door, are at panel right. DARIO is doing nothing but staring, in awe, at IAN. A pitch-black, ink-like strand protrudes from bar’s darkness, through the exit and into the alley. (See visual ref 5.6) The pointy-ended strand curves in the air, following IAN. It’s likely that we’ll have to give it a white border to avoid the strand from getting lost within other elements, given the fact that this is in B/W. (If I’m not mistaken, this panel breaks the 180 rule. Ryan Kroboth—do you think you could thumb this out? Or Morganza, if you’re around. Not the entire page, although I’d love that, but just this panel and the panel before it. So, Panel 4, panel 5, and panel 6. If I’m correct, you’re trying to lead your artist to a very bad place, Fabian.)

8. NARRATION (DARIO): Then it happened. Some sort of… shadow, I guess, came from within the bar…

Panel 7: Extreme close up on IAN. Lower tier. His eyes are wide open. They indicate that he’s in extreme pain. We can see vein-like strands surrounding his pupils.

9. NARRATION (DARIO): …and pierced through the doctor’s chest.(Suggest separate balloons) The shadow killed him.

(Is the doctor saying that he doesn’t want to die, then dying in the same scene too on the nose? You’re spoon-feeding the audience more than necessary. Pull back on that a little. Show us what’s happening, and trust us to figure it out.)

When I was a kid, I absolutely loved cartoons. Still do, but today’s cartoons, for me, leave me very cold. But the old cartoons—even the ones that are really before my time—those, to me, are the real gems.

And I don’t mean The Jetsons and The Flintstones. Never liked those. George Jetson annoyed me, and The Flintstones was little more than The Honeymooners in animated form. (Getting more cartoonish than Jackie Gleason already was in that show was a great feat, let me tell you.)

No, I’m talking about shows like Space Ghost, The Herculoids, Birdman, The Impossibles, the Blue Falcon, the SuperFriends, Hong Kong Phooey, Magilla Gorilla, Ricochet Rabbit, Secret Squirrel, Bullwinkle, Woody Woodpecker, Mighty Mouse, Courageous Cat, the Pink Panther, Heckle and Jeckle, Thundarr the Barbarian, Jonny Quest, Gigantor, Challenge of the Go-Bots, the Mighty Orbots, Grape Ape, Josie and the Pussycats, MASK, Pirates of Dark Water, Darkwing Duck, Galaxy Ranger, He-Man, She-Ra (what?! I know you watched it!), Jem (yes, you watched this, too!), GI Joe, Bionic 6, Scooby Doo, Batman, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Namor, Thor, Captain America, Spider-Man (different cartoon), Tom & Jerry, Looney Tunes, the Smurfs, Popeye, Richie Rich, Pac-Man, Q-Bert, Battle of the Planets, Voltron (loved the lions, hated the cars), Dragon’s Lair, Dungeons and Dragons, Superman (the old one, not the one that followed Batman: The Animated Series)…

How many of you remember all of those? I used to wake up early as all hell, watch cartoons like Hercules and the Marvel Power Hour while eating my cereal, waiting for the real cartoons to come on. Things that held my interest. It was a great time, being a kid in the 80s. Honestly, they don’t make ’em like they used to anymore. Some come close, though.

I also fell in love with b/w horror/sci-fi movies. We know this. Not scary compared to what was going on in the 80s, but still very, very good. Love it.

I recently had a discussion with a co-worker about tv shows. Her contention is that every show on (American) television is trying to sell you something. The reason she says that is because the shows are able to be produced because of the sponsors and their product placements. My contention was that there wasn’t any way sponsors with product placements could maintain the costs of a show. Not when there are so many new shows coming and going.

Then I read an article about the difference in shows between the US and the UK, and the reason shows don’t translate very well when re-done from there to here. It’s about who pays. In the UK, the people pay. Here, corporations pay (without trying to sell you something at every turn). That means the people of the UK are paying for quality shows, while we here have corporations throwing things at the wall, trying to see what sticks. When translations happen, they try to mimic what works in the UK for a US audience, but have to change things so that we’re used to it. Doesn’t always work. Know what was a translation? Three’s Company. And The Office. And House of Cards. And Sanford & Son. And All in the Family. And Whose Line Is It, Anyway? And Undercover Boss. And, of course, American Idol and the X-Factor, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, and The Weakest Link. That’s among a plethora of shows.

Why am I talking about this? Because it’s a sight more interesting than what’s going on in this story.

SIX (Another non-page break.)

Panel 1: Long shot. Splash.(Nope. Splash means one panel.) DARIO is in the middle of the alley, staring at his surroundings in both fear and awe. His eyes are wide open. IAN’s corpse is now accompanied by the bodies of all the cops that had DARIO surrounded. They have been slaughtered in the same way. Splattered blood can be found all around. We see AURORA behind DARIO. Her eyes are back to normal. She had come out through the exit.

1. NARRATION (DARIO): No. It wasn’t a shadow, I know better.

2. NARRATION (DARIO): It was her, it was Aurora.

3. NARRATION (DARIO): She slaughtered a bunch of cops in seconds… without lifting a single(suggest deleting this word) finger.

4. DARIO: I should be terrified…

Panel 2: Mid shot. Lower tier. THOMAS is facing us. He stares ahead with a menacing look. Behind him we see the main street where the cops came from. Two muscle-men stand at his sides. They’re dressed in black suits and pretty much look like bulky gangsters.

5. THOMAS: But you’re not. You’re in awe… you admire such raw power. Don’t you, son?

Panel 3: Two-shot. Lower tier. DARIO is at panel left. He has an angry expression. AURORA is at panel right, next to DARIO. Her head is slightly tilted to a side. She’s also expressionless, as if she were sleepwalking.

6. DARIO: Father… what are you doing here? What’s going on?

7. AURORA (WEAK): It’s you… (You’ve already had Dario call him father, we know it’s him.)

Panel 4: Close up on THOMAS. Lower tier. He’s facing us with a calm expression. He snapped his fingers.(Should we get a ‘snap’ SFX here?)

6. THOMAS: Oh, right…

7. THOMAS: Ink.

8. THOMAS: …

9. THOMAS: Was that the correct code word?(Too long between cause and effect, here. I suggest having him ask ‘what was the code word?’ or something similar, first. Have ‘Ink’ be last word on panel.)

Panel 5: Long shot. Profile view. AURORA has fallen to the ground, unconscious. DARIO stares at her in fear. His expression also portrays confusion.

10. SFX: FUMP.

11. THOMAS (OFF): Yes, it seems it was the correct one.(You can keep this measured reaction, it’s good. Probably the strongest characterization so far, but have it reflect any changes you make to the panel above. He should answer his own question.)

12. DARIO: Aurora?

Panel 6: Two-shot. The two muscle-men are closer to us, as if they have walked closer towards us. Their body language indicates they’re ready to beat someone up.

13. THOMAS (OFF): Gentlemen, take care of my son.

14. MUSCLE-MAN: Yes(comma, capital ‘S’) sir.

  1. NARRATION (DARIO): Seriously, how in the world did I end up in this mess??

(Well this is contrivance. How does the dad know they’re there? Tell us, use one or two lines to do so, otherwise this pulls you right out of the story. The cops are there in no time flat, already we are rationalizing that, give us something to work with, so we don’t have to stop and figure it out. Keep the story moving in a way that makes sense.)

More crap. I don’t even have the words.

Are we done yet?

I know! Felix and Rin… How about you two run down this page for us? Only the page.



Panel 1: Point-of-View shot of DARIO. Upper tier. We his hands tied, with a rope, to a wooden chair’s armrests. His pants are covered in blood. We can see bruises and scratches on his skin. He’s not wearing his trench coat anymore, and his sleeves are rolled up.

1. NARRATION (DARIO): This cheap sunnova *****(I suggest trailing off instead of ‘bleeping’ we know what comes after ‘sunova’ and this looks cheesy. Also why cheap?’) . How can he call himself my father?

2. THOMAS (OFF): Son…

5. NARRATION (DARIO): Commanding thugs to beat me up… I swear, he’s going to pay. (See? Now we’re back to the subjective now within the captions. Why?)

Panel 2: Mid shot. Profile view. DARIO is at panel left. He lifts his bloodied head and face to look straight at his father’s eyes (Moving panel.). DARIO’s wet and messy hair covers part of his face. THOMAS stands tall in front of him with a calm expression and his hands behind his back. In the background we see a metallic wall, they’re in an abandoned warehouse.

4. THOMAS: Listen, it wasn’t my intention for you to get involved with this.

5. THOMAS: How was I supposed to know the little runt was going to trace (track?) you down to Costa Rica?

6. THOMAS: At the very least(comma) it’s your fault for leaving home… for recklessly escaping from my protective wing. (Not mind-rending, but terrible all the same.)

7. DARIO (WEAK): Heh. How can she do what she does? Tell me.

Panel 3: Mid shot of THOMAS. He takes a step to a side, his body facing us diagonally. He directs his eyes to the back, where we can see AURORA tied to another wooden chair. She’s tied up with chains instead. She’s also unconscious, her head is hanging forward just like when a kid falls asleep on a bus. (Moving panel.)

8. THOMAS: I don’t know. I’m no scientist, son. I didn’t create her.

9. THOMAS: I’m a businessman, all I do is reap the benefits.

Panel 4: Two-shot. Middle tier. This is a sequence from panel 4 in page 3. DARIO sits next to AURORA with his arms crossed. He stares directly at her, in awe and with his mouth opened, as she extends a hand with an open palm. Several dark tendrils protrude from her skin. She stares at them as well.(Should this be visually distinct, as it is a flashback?)

10. CAPTION: 1 week ago.

11. AURORA: Don’t be afraid, I can control it. Your father’s scientists did this to me.

12. AURORA: And I discovered they did the same thing to you when you were my age, but something went wrong(comma) and they stopped.

13. AURORA: I can teach you how to use it.

14. DARIO: Use it?

15. AURORA: Yes. We can use it to take revenge(comma) and free ourselves from him.

Panel 5: Close up on DARIO. Lower tier. We’re back in the present. DARIO lowered his head.

16. NARRATION (DARIO): I never thought she’d kill with it. She said she could control it.

17. NARRATION (DARIO): But it doesn’t matter anymore…

18. DARIO (WEAK): Dad…

  1. DARIO (WEAK): You know what you did create?

Another bad page. I mean, really. We’re just jumping all over the place now. Yes, it connects, but the story is not well-told at all.

I’m hungry. Cheesecake, anyone?

(Insert page break)


Panel 1: Extreme close up on DARIO. Lower tier. His pupils have disappeared and his pure-white sclera is what’s left. The skin around the eyes is covered in black, vein-looking strands that extend from his eyes towards his cheekbones.

1. DARIO (WEAK): Me.

Panel 2: Long shot. Borderless panel. Middle tier. DARIO is standing with flexed legs and arms. Around him, in the air and ground, we see pieces of the chair he was sitting on, broken and shattered. He stares directly at THOMAS with a menacing expression and an open mouth. Several pointy dark tendrils protrude from his body and aim directly at his father. THOMAS is frozen in place. His body language indicates that his ready to run.

2. DARIO: Die!!!

3. NARRATION (DARIO): That’s it. My life is over, I’ve lost everything.

4. NARRATION (DARIO): In the end… he won. My father took everything away from me, and gave me… this.(Meh, he’s dead, did he really win?)

Panel 3: Mid shot on DARIO. Lower tier. He’s facing us and is also carrying AURORA on his hands. She’s fast asleep. In the background we see a wall splattered with blood.

5. NARRATION (DARIO): Aurora said this wouldn’t end with my father’s death.

6. NARRATION (DARIO): She said he’s just a cog in the machine. (I want to see this.)

Panel 4: Aerial shot. Lower tier. DARIO has walked past through the warehouse’s exit into a dark lot, still holding AURORA. Several other warehouses can be seen next to the one he came out from.

7. NARRATION (DARIO): My father might have won his fight against me.

8. NARRATION (DARIO): But Aurora will win her fight against him.(Again, he’s dead, the scientist is dead, what’s left?)

Panel 5: Aerial shot. Lower tier. Sequence from last panel. We have zoomed out a little bit, revealing even more warehouses within the lot.

  1. NARRATION (DARIO): I’ll make sure we end this…

(This is all about suspense, or lack there of. There is no dramatic tension in this story, we are not waiting for anything to happen, you haven’t set up a mystery, or anyone for Dario and Aurora to pursue. It’s all sewn up, and I think you mean for this to be the beginning of a larger story. If that’s the case, this is too much, too soon.)

Woohoo! The end!

Let’s run this down!

Format: Started off strong, but then the lack of the page breaks at the end killed ya.

Panel Descriptions: Meh. Moving panels abound, missing words here and there, wrong words here and there… I can attribute some of that to English not being the native language.

Understand this, folks. The panel descriptions are the foundation of the script. Sure, there’s format, which helps us to read it, but the panel descriptions are where its at. It’s what tells the artist what to draw. They have to be clear. If they aren’t clear, questions will be asked, and those could easily be avoided. Something to work on in the future.

Pacing: Terrible. These pages felt both like they dragged and flew by.

Things need time to develop. Nothing here was developed well. Too, too fast. Dead body, sudden cops, jump to the past, sudden appearance of strange person in the house, an unlikely decision to find someone who can’t easily go missing, a nonsensical “search”, and then we catch up to the present and move forward… None of it makes sense when you stop to think about it, and a lot of it could have been done in the dialogue.

Too, too fast.

And conversely, because nothing really developed, because we didn’t have any real conflict, it seemed to drag. Why were we reading? Dunno.

Dialogue: Punctuation. That’s all I’ll say about that.

The dialogue is terrible. Some of it just makes me want to Hulk-rage at unicorns for not having two horns, and giraffes for not being zebra’s. It needs to be ripped out wholesale, and then rewritten so that things make sense.

How do we make sense of it?

After ripping out the bad (all of it), we need to have it rewritten, and then we need to add more. More dialogue. To cover the holes in both logic and storytelling.

Content: This is crap, but the reason is because the story doesn’t know what it wants to be. It could be a lot better. Right now, the reader doesn’t know if this is a mystery, a revenge story, or what. It’s muddled. That’s what makes it crap.

Editorially, this needs to be rewritten. Being clearer all around. Really. Rewriting is best.

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

Like what you see? Sam, Liam and I are available for your editing needs. You can email Sam here and Liam 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 for rate inquiries.

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