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TPG Week 234: Screenplays Aren’t Comic Scripts

| June 19, 2015

TPGFeatured_08

Welcome back, one and all, to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a new Brave One in John Long. We also have Liam Hayes in blue, and I’m the jerk in red. We’re all going to see how John does with

Fat Chance

Page 1

Panel 1

Full Page Panel.

In the dark of night the City is alive. A rather large city it is too. A city all alone on the edge of lake or river. (Minimalist and vague, but drawable.)(Uh oh! Do you all feel that? Prosaic, right? It wasn’t just me? No, I’m not setting the Line of Demarcation yet—that’s unprecedented, even for me—but I’m going to go out on a short, sturdy limb and say that it’s going to be set somewhere in this piece. And that’s a shame, really. I don’t like predicting doom and gloom.)

CAPTION: In this city you can always find action. Not the kind of action that will end you or get you in trouble with the Mrs. (okay maybe that kind), (The text in parenthesis relates to the previous sentence. Put it before the stop.)(This iSN’T WRONG. LIAM IS FROM THE uk, WHERE PERIODS ARE USED A LITTLE DIFFERENTLY.) but nothing over the top, just a good time. The city is also full of another kind of action. (You use the word action three times. Twice is pushing it. This caption also needs to be broken up into smaller chunks as not to smash the reader over the head straight away with a block of text.)

This is a waste of space. There’s nothing else to be said.

P1 is down!

What do we have here? It’s supposed to be an establishing shot of the city, at night. Like Liam said, it’s pretty vague. Not that it needs to be overly descriptive, but some more description helps. NYC is different than Tulsa is different from San Antonio is different from San Diego. An aesthetic would help. There’s no aesthetic here. So, we shall call this Antiseptic City, because I can.

What else do we have? Not much. We have a very small block of text that doesn’t tell us anything. It doesn’t do much of anything, let alone makes me want to turn the page.

This is boring. And padding. The worst kind of padding. Elderberry City.

(Page breaks. I’m so happy. Do you see what you people have done to me?)

Page 2

Panel 1

Half Page Panel

A city street with a bank on one side of the street and a deli on the other. (Okay, what’s happening here? A half page panel is a lot of space to waste on a street in which nothing is occurring.)

Panel 2

Out of the bank doors comes an explosion of a human shaped form (Huh? I don’t understand what you’re calling for here.) followed by a man in a bright costume (obviously a hero) (There’s nothing obvious about anything in a script. That’s why you’re writing it. Also, this is a moving panel.)

CAP: The superhero kind. (This caption is a continuation from the previous. Lead it in with an ellipsis.)

Panel 3

The fight (What fight?) between the super beings (What super beings?) continues in front of the deli which has an outside seating area. (No it doesn’t. You didn’t put it in the first time we saw the deli, so it doesn’t.) There are people in shock at the violence in front of them. (Again, no there isn’t.) Except one man.(Vague. What’re these beings doing exactly? What is that one guy doing?)

CAP: Yeah (Cut YEAH.) Superheroes, what would life be like without ‘em. (There are times when I think that correct punctuation would actually kill some of you. Like that missing comma. And that period that should either be a question mark or an ellipsis. (The question mark because obvious, or an ellipsis to help drive the sarcasm home. But not a period.))

Panel 4

The two super beings fight on, (Thin.) their costumes getting dirtier (Of which you haven’t described.)

CAP: Oh, right, so that’s me anyway…No Not the bright and FLASHY guy…the fellow sitting at the deli, in the back. (Why are these people sitting outside a deli at night? They might sit on the inside. Also, the guy no longer on panel. This should’ve been on the previous panel.)

Panel 5

Same as panel 3 (So the supes have gone back in time?) only zoomed in on a man dressed in dark colors sipping out of a cup (This is the one guy who wasn’t in shock, right? If so, he isn’t wearing dark colors or sipping out of a cup. Unless he’s a wizard and materialized them between this panel and the previous two.) not paying the slightest bit of attention to the fight like everyone else is.

CAP: Here I am, having some coffee and these two have to spoil IT.

Panel 6

The same as panel 4 only the man is gone and there is money for a tip on the table.

CAP: I hate this town.

I’m already bored.

That first panel does nothing. Why didn’t you just cut to the explosion? Screw tension, get us all up in that action.

P2. And I’m getting the feeling that John is a screenwriter. The reasons why are the vagueness.

In screenwriting, you’re told to be relatively vague, so the director is able to do what they wish when it comes to filming. I’m getting that vibe here, because of the overwhelming vagueness.

And yes, it’s possible that I’m completely off-base here.

Anyway, this page is full of vagueness, and when we get to comic scripting, vagueness isn’t good. It’s the opposite of what’s needed.

You have superbeings fighting. That’s fine. What isn’t fine is that they aren’t described. Some writers aren’t good at choreography (this is something that needs to be worked on if you’re going to try writing superheroes for a living), but just saying they’re continuing to fight isn’t going to cut it.

What do I mean by “not described”? I have no idea who the characters are. Neither does the artist, because the characters aren’t even named. The artist is finding out who these characters are supposed to be at the same time we are, and that’s wrong. You’re basically keeping secrets from your artist, and that’s never a good thing.

I’m happy that we’ve gotten away from the prose, but not that we seem to have jumped right into screenwriting. Like Liam, I’m bored. I’m bored because I can’t “see” the action, and I can’t “see” the action because it hasn’t been described.

This just isn’t going well.

Page 3

Panel 1

City Street, same night. The same man is walking down the street with his hands in his pockets. Something explodes behind him. He doesn’t flinch. (What explodes? You’ve given the artist a silly amount of leeway. Let’s say the entire city explodes behind him. You can’t disagree because you didn’t specify.)(Explosion and non-flinching? You’re calling for a moving panel in a strange way. That “something” that explodes is just another example of vagueness.)

SFX: EXPLOSION! (This could be funny. Or, it could be an example of “I don’t have much imagination.” I haven’t decided yet.)

Panel 2

The man is walking along and the explosion settles while onlookers come out to see what happened. His cell phone rings (There’s no drawable panel in this. What were you visualizing? Describe that.)

Panel 3

The Man answers the phone. The scene is the same behind him only out of focus.

MAN: Sophia, to what do I owe this very typical pleasure?

SOPHIA(OP-From Phone): Well, TY you can owe me your company tonight, bro. We just got the last shipment and I need another hand unloading. They short changed me on staff…again!

Panel 4

The man, now known as Ty, (Why didn’t you just call him that at the start and dispense with the mystery?) is still walking along the street, which is still blurred. (He has no facial expression. Just remarking.)

TY: The Greek exhibit? Come on! You know I love spending time with you, but…

SOPHIA(OP): You hate spending time with my WORK; (Odd use of a semicolon.) I know…Please, I’ll get you a V.I.P. for the opening tomorrow. (Where’d the caps go? Software malfunction?)(Odd use of the word “with”. Is her “work” alive?)

Panel 5

Ty is still walking along the street. Street still blurred.

Ty: Damn it, all right you got it, anything for free food, booze and women. free food and booze anyway.

Sophia(OP): Perfect (Stop.) see you soon, you know the door. Bye.

Ty: Later (he hangs up the phone) (This isn’t a play. You can’t put actions in the dialogue. Especially in a static image. It’ll look like he hung up the phone but the conversation carried on.)(Line of Demarcation.)

What a dull page. A guy walking down the street talking on his phone. That’s what this page is. Oh, and an explosion for some reason.

Okay, we’re on P3, and we all know this is crap. So we can now settle down and no longer have to worry about it.

What does this page do for the story? What does it tell us about the character now known as Ty?

He’s not worried about the explosion. That’s fine. He’s very nonchalant about it.

I can’t tell If this is a comedy or not. We’ve got moving panels, we’ve got a total drop of the internal monologue, we’ve got a conversation that doesn’t seem to lead anywhere. Sounds like the Line of Demarcation was set just in time.

Page 4

Panel 1

Ty crosses the street; the world is back in focus. (Shame you haven’t described anything in it for us to see.)

CAP: My sister Sophia. She was always the smart one. sure she’s older, but I’m no slouch… (Wait… That was his sister? But he was flirting with her…)

Panel 2

We see Ty head into a parking garage.

CAP: I just slacked off is ALL? (Why is that a question?) Now she’s some big shot up-and-comer at the MUSEUM.

Panel 3

Ty gets into a car.

CAP: and this Greek Exhibit could be her big break.

Panel 4

We see Ty’s car pull out of the Garage.

CAP: Yeah, I’m proud of her, She is getTING me into free openings. (Really, what I would give for a writing entries that actually cared about punctuation. If punctuation were cared about, there would be a period instead of a comma in there.)

Why? Why do we need to see his guy do everything? Can’t you cut to the museum? Better yet, can we go back to the supes instead of following this guy?

Another page that doesn’t do a damned thing.

What’s this page doing to either tell the story or reveal character? Part of it reminds me of Prince’s song Sister (which is about incest), but other than that…did we really need this page? Do we really need these two pages? What happens if we cut the “action”? Nothing, I don’t think. I haven’t looked ahead.

Basically, this is just bad storytelling. And the more it goes on, the more it feels like it was written by a screenwriter. One that didn’t do enough studying of this medium before trying to write in it. More about that later.

Page 5

Panel 1

Outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the clouds have rolled in and the sky does not look friendly. Ty’s car pulls in to the loading dock behind the museum. (Clouds? This is still night, right?)(Moving panel.)

Panel 2

Outside the loading dock it is dark but for a few lamps on the back of the building. (These lamps weren’t in the previous panel, right?) Ty has parked next to the stairs the lead up to the loading dock and then on to the door into the shipping/receiving office. (Does that last sentence even make sense? Rin, break it down. Don’t break down what it was SUPPOSED to say, please break down what it DOES say.)

CAP: This place has always given me the creeps. You Know the kind, THE Hair on the back of your neck rISING kind of creeps. (Your caps have gone mad again.)

Panel 3

Ty is out of the car and heading up the steps when the back door opens! It’s Sophia coming out to greet Ty. (Moving panel.)

Sophia: Thought that was you. Saw you drive up on the security monitor.

TY: DID YOU? Isn’t that what security is for?

SOPHIA: Come on. We have work to do.

Panel 4

They enter a hallway the leads to the back of the loading area inside the museum.

Sophia: It’s going to be just you, me and Tom for this one. Everyone else…well (Comma.) like I said (Comma.) short-changed.

TY: Right, so you and Tom still–

SOPHIA: Professional, that’s it yes.

CAP: Bet you are. (This dude is pinging on my creepodar.)

When is something interesting going to happen?

P5. I guess being interesting is left to me, since John can’t seem to manage it.

I distinctly remember the first day of getting off the bus at Parris Island. Or, more correctly, getting off the bus at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. It’s in South Carolina, and it was in October, so it was still pretty warm out.

If you’re a recruit, you don’t come to Parris Island during the day. You’re delivered there at night. My recruiter told me not to take anything with me except my ID and a little bit of money, because everything else would be provided for me. I said goodbye to my family, and then got on a bus that took me to Penn Station. Then I went to La Guardia Airport and took my very first flight anywhere. I met up with some other recruits while there. We flew to South Carolina, and then we went from one airplane to another (a very small one), and from that plane, we went to a bus. This was the bus that would take us to our destination.

I saw a lot of people on that bus. It was a quiet ride. Most of them were scared. I was a little apprehensive, but it was the beginning of an adventure. I was shocked, though, to see guys on the bus with fresh haircuts. Didn’t they watch the videos showing there were haircuts coming? It was October, and I hadn’t had a haircut since September. I didn’t see the need to waste the money.

The bus pulls up and stops. It’s nighttime, and I’d been up for a decent amount of time. Add that to eating very little and stress, and you could understand that I was tired. That tiredness washed away when the Drill Instructor came on the bus. He looked badass. He was followed by another guy. Then the yelling started. “Get off my bus! Get off my bus now! Go stand on my yellow footsteps!”

I was on my way.

The first few days are nothing but administration. You have paperwork to fill out and sign, you have to get rid of your clothes and get your uniforms, you have to get another physical, you have to eat, you have to be yelled at, you have to be shuffled from here to there, and it’s all just a mind game in order to break you down and get you used to listening to orders in a time of war.

I understood it. Guys were dropping out of my platoon like flies. It was mainly the older guys who had lived some life before joining. They figured they didn’t need this shit: getting up before dawn and sweating your balls off as you exercise for an hour or two, then going to the barracks and showering and shaving, and then forming up to get ready to go to the mess hall, shoveling food down your throat, and then going back to the barracks or to a classroom in order to learn more stuff. The first couple of weeks is mainly yelling and exercise so that the wheat gets separated from the chaff, and then the real work can begin.

Here’s what they don’t tell you about boot camp: it’s fun! Sure, you’re learning the basics on how to be a Marine, and thus, be a killer, but there’s also down time, jokes to be had as you’re doing work details, and just all kinds of jokes to be had with the drill instructors. Full Metal Jacket is no lie, but an entire film could be made just from Boot Camp itself. The nicknames are true, the way you’re treated is true, but what’s missing are the times when you don’t have anything to do.

Mail call would be considered strange to those on the outside. We’d sit in the area between the bunks, and the DI would stand at the quarterdeck, and he’d call names. We’d be sitting Indian style with our legs crossed, because that would help us when we got to the rifle range. We’d have to get up when our name was called, move swiftly to the quarterdeck, take the mail with a loud clap, and then move back to our position. If the recruit were no longer with us, we had to shout “Dead, sir! Dead!” We were preparing for war, and in war, people die.

Boot Camp was a lot of fun. You’re told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. You’re learning everything you can. How to rappel off a building, how to throw a grenade, how to properly shoot a rifle and a crew-served weapon, how to cross an obstacle course, night fire, some hand-to-hand combat…and you’re getting paid for it! I had a good time there.

And that’s a basic overview of Marine Corps Boot Camp. Not too exciting, but at least the story went somewhere, and was more interesting than what we’ve been reading.

Page 6

Panel 1

The two enter from the darker hallway into a brightly lit, rather large room with crates and pallets lining the walls. There are some tables in the middle with various artifact-y things lying on them. Next to one of the tables stands a tall, handsome man and next to him sits a pallet that has not been unpacked.

TY: Hey (Comma.) Tom.

TOM: Ty!

SOPHIA: Boys! (What? They only greeted each other.)(Bad storytelling.)

Panel 2

The two men turn to look at her. (You can’t turn in a static image.)

SOPHIA: Let’s get started.

Panel 3

The three work hard. Opening crates (Put some effort into your writing, please.)

Panel 4

Tom opens one of the crates and something falls to the floor. (How? What? I’m saying it’s a model of a pirate ship and there’s nothing you can say or do to convince me otherwise.) (Pirate ship? Where’s your imagination, Liam? It’s an ancient, mechanical dildo! It’s got a handle at one end like an eggbeater.)

Panel 5

Ty finds the item and as he is about to look at it when Tom cries out as the crate he was working on is about to tip. (You never described the fact there were crates on the pallet, let alone how high they were stacked.)

Panel 6 (inset)

Ty Pockets the item as he rushes to help Tom. (He has model pirate ship sized pockets? I’m not seeing it.)

Steven must have called this already (Liam knows me well, folks!). This is dull, terribly written, and it only gets worse. Your panel descriptions are thin to the point of uselessness; they read more like a synopsis instead of functional scripting.

Rethink. Rewrite. Resubmit.

Liam has stopped, which means we’ve all gotten our freedom! Let’s run this down, and we can get on with our lives.

Format: Flawless Victory! I don’t think any more needs to be said about that.

Panel Descriptions: These need a lot of work. As Liam says, they’re very thin, and there are moving panels. Like I said before, I believe this is the result of a screenwriter, not a comic scripter. This needs more study. A lot more. Vagueness does not become a comic script. The artist needs to know what to draw, and that information isn’t evident here. Remember, there’s a dildo shaped miniature pirate boat with an eggbeater handle in there that the artist will never see unless told.

Pacing: There is none. In order for things to have a pace, something has to happen, and nothing happens here. That’s terrible. This story doesn’t move, and it feels extremely padded out. Six pages, and the first four could be cut. What do superheroes have to do with anything that happens in the next pages? Nothing. It seems tacked on. If this somehow started at or near the museum, then that would be saying something. But it has to be interesting. None of this is.

Dialogue: Serviceable. I’m not a huge fan of it, but I don’t dislike it, either. Basically, it doesn’t do much. When the story isn’t being told in the art, then the dialogue has to do the heavy lifting. However, that isn’t the case here. Here, you just have a guy talking to the audience like he’s a private eye, and nothing seems to be moving forward. Where’s the fun in that?

Content: This goes back on the shelf, which is saying that the cover was interesting enough to pick the comic up in the first place. I’ve been doing reviews lately over at jaycrowcomics.com, mostly trying to take the comics from comiXology Submit because Marvel and DC get too much coverage already, and I’m seeing a lot of bad comics there. This would be right at home there: a bad comic that no other publisher will take and only the most curious will pay to read.

Editorially, this needs to be completely rewritten—but only after you learn how to write for the medium. It isn’t that difficult, and you don’t even have to leave the ComixTribe site in order to learn. Just go the Bolts & Nuts section. It’s all right there for you.

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 stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

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