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TPG Week 238: A Talent Hunt Entry

| July 17, 2015

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Welcome back, one and all, to The Proving Grounds! This week’s Brave One is no stranger around here: we have Rin Kiyoko stepping in! We also have Liam Hayes in blue, I’m the guy in red, and we’re all going to see how Rin handles

The Score

Note: This story is set in 2005, so the locations in the script – though based on present day Pittsburgh – could be amended to reflect Cyber Data’s urban renovations. Also, the Cyber Force members have 5 years’ fewer wear and tear on them than in the Rebirth issue 1. Impact’s face is still whole, and Cyblade’s figure has yet to be affected by childbirth or stretch marks.

So, this is a good a place as any to note that this week’s entry is a Top Cow Talent Hunt submission. This one didn’t make the cut. Let’s see if Rin made any mistakes that would have automatically cut him from the herd.

Page 1 (7 panels)

Panel 1.

Just before sunrise. We’re looking past Speider (a slim, 5’5” female, mid twenties, with Norwegian coloring, cybernetic limbs, wearing a winged headband, biker’s jacket, and a full skirt that covers her feet), (Put character description elsewhere. Don’t bog down your panel descriptions.) (This I don’t mind, if it isn’t a recurring character. If she is, then Liam is right.)who stands on the northern end of Pittsburgh’s Hot Metal Bridge. She’s looking east at two headlights in the far distance on the otherwise empty I-376. Her back is to us; she has one hand to her Bluetooth headset. (She is stood in the road? I think that’s what you’re getting at, but it’s unclear.)

(This is a confusingly written panel to start with. Mostly because you describe in the order of camera angle > character > background. See how you’re jumping all over the place? This would be much cleaner if you went background > character > camera angle. Then you’ll be setting the scene up, filling it with objects, and then directing our view of said scene.)

SPEIDER:

Speider to Heatwave. Target sighted, passing Four Mile Run park… (Why the ellipsis? Is she unsure?)

Panel 2.

Looking over the back of Speider’s head at the two headlights in the far distance. (This is virtually the same angle you had in panel one. Change it up.)

SPEIDER:

one civvie truck, with one driver and an armed guard riding shotgun with a shotgun. Four minute ETA. But, Heatwave… (Again with the ellipses. This is not how you use them.)

SPEIDER:

we might have a problem.

Panel 3.

Speider’s point of view: infrared imaging of the truck and seven-axled trailer straining around a curve in the road. The engine, tires, driver and guard radiate vivid heat signatures, the trailer emits neither heat nor cold. There’s an icon of a magnifying glass in the top left corner and lines of telemetry on the right. (Hold on, if we saw the headlights, why is it now turning a corner? How does that make sense? Surely it would have to be coming straight for us to see the headlights?) (Nope. I see headlights all the time on winding roads. Light radiates out in 360 degrees, and doesn’t stop until it’s stopped by something. We either see the source of the light or what the light is illuminating. Or, put it this way: ever watch a film where there’s a car on a winding road at night, but the headlights are never really pointed directly at the camera? Same thing here.)

HEATWAVE (elec) (OP): (This is not off-panel, it’s coming from the headset.) (No, this is correct. We can’t see the headset in this panel, just what the person is seeing. OP does that for us: gives us an electric balloon with a tail pointing off panel. It could also have been tailless. Personally, I would have gone tailless, but that doesn’t make this incorrect.)

Problem?

SPEIDER (OP):

The trailer rides on seven axles, turns like a pregnant whale, and shows as neither hot nor cold. You understand?

TEXT (beside magnifying glass):

12x

TEXT (telemetry): (too small to read) (This will need more of a direct note to the letterer. You can talk to your creative partners.)

Panel 4.

Heatwave is pinching his chin, concerned. He crouches on a steel pillar, wearing a call-center-type headset. As we’re looking from the east, any light from the rising sun hits him directly, and the background (west) is the night sky. (I’m not getting a good sense of place here. Where is this?)

HEATWAVE:

Yeah. I understand.

IMPACT (elec):

I don’t. What’s she talking about axles and turning for?

HEATWAVE:

It means, Impact…

Panel 5.

Long shot of the South Tenth Street Bridge, the Monongahela river far below. Impact leans wearily against the arch’s leftmost support. There are rivet-like bulges underneath his skin, and a headset on his head. Heatwave, at the top of panel center, crouches atop the crosspiece of the first arch, looking to panel left (east). Ripclaw stands by the arch’s rightmost support, looking up at Heatwave. He also wears a headset. (I’m having a hard time placing any of these characters. Which Arch?)

HEATWAVE:

either we’ve got the wrong truck, carrying the wrong – possibly radioactive – cargo behind lead-lined walls, or…

HEATWAVE:

we have the right truck, but wrong information. We’ll know which after the heist. (This is your page turner. Cut the page here.)

Panel 6.

Looking past Impact’s astonished face as he looks up at (off panel) Heatwave. Ripclaw is running away from us (south), along the deserted bridge. (Ripclaw is running away but Impact is looking at Heatwave? Huh?)

RIPCLAW:

We’ll know which after I obtain better information.

IMPACT:

Dude! Get back here!

IMPACT:

Heatwave, Ripclaw’s breaking rank, ‘bout to do some crazy s#!t! (I see what you did. You combined Impact noticing Ripclaw and turning back to Heatwave in one panel. Don’t do that.)

Panel 7.

High angle looking down at Ripclaw. He has jumped over the (western) side of the bridge. We see the Monongahela river far below. (More. What is he doing? What’s it look like?)

HEATWAVE (elec) (OP): (Again, from the headset not off-panel.)

Ripclaw! Get back in position, dammit! We’ve planned this score for weeks, you’re not gonna fu– (He’s saying all this as Ripclaw is mid air? I don’t think there’s enough time for this.)

RIPCLAW: (Note to letterer: this balloon to cover the end of the last.)

Dom?

This is an overpopulated page. I’ve already given you the solution.

Okay! We’ve got P1 on the books.

I know exactly why this didn’t make the cut. It’s a problem of confusing panel descriptions and pacing.

As soon as he started talking directions, I tuned out editorially. Here’s something that I don’t think people realize: as you look at a panel, the only directions that make any sense to the reader are up, down, left, and right. Nothing else matters. Cardinal points? We don’t care. It doesn’t matter. It’s only going to confuse, and the script is not there to cause confusion. The script is there to tell the team what’s going on.

This is about as clear as mud, because since the camera angles can all change the direction of where we’re looking, the cardinal points don’t matter. If Rin had stuck with up/down/left/right, this might have come off better. Might. It definitely wouldn’t have been as confusing.

The next thing is the pacing. Liam is right in that you should have cut this earlier. Personally, I would have cut it at panel 6. That’s a bigger, more understandable action shot to leave hanging than panel 7.

I truly enjoyed the organic way the names came through. That worked for me.

You did something that I liked that Liam didn’t, though: you played with time in panel 6.

Panel 6 shows Ripclaw running away, deserting his post, and Impact looking at Heatwave. That’s what it shows. What it says, though, is that Impact wants Ripclaw to come back, and then he talks to Heatwave. This is totally acceptable, because the action matches the last thing said in the dialogue. What happens before that helps tell the story more fully. I have absolutely no problem with that.

Page 2 (7 panels)

Panel 1.

Ripclaw barely clings with one hand to the stern of the speedboat Cyblade pilots towards panel right (east) (See, this was fine until the “east” part.). Use motion lines / choppy water / blur the background to suggest the breakneck speed she’s racing at. Note: Cyblade wears a Bluetooth headset. Also, include a raincoat on the boat. She’ll wear it later.

CYBLADE:

Robert. (This line and the previous are awfully casual for what’s going on.)

HEATWAVE (elec) (BURST): (Note: originates from Ripclaw’s and Cyblade’s headsets.)

Cyblade, stop the boat! Ripclaw, get your ass on this bridge, now!

Panel 2.

Looking from southwest to northeast over the river. In the midground, Cyblade speeds the boat towards panel right (eastwards). Ripclaw is taking the passenger seat nearest to us. In the background at panel right, on the raised road high above the far bank, Ares leans out unsteadily from behind the covering trees.

CYBLADE:

Dylan, if the truck has 38 tires and turns heavily, it’s carrying a lot more than our Serum. Robert’s right. We need more information.

HEATWAVE (elec):

What we need, Cyblade, is to use our code names while on mission! We also need to–

ARES (weak):

Want me to stop ‘em, Heatwave?

Panel 3.

Looking over Ares’ left shoulder as he clutches his head in pain. In the background, the speedboat races to panel left (east). Both Cyblade and Ripclaw are looking towards Ares. (Why is Ares in pain?)

HEATWAVE (elec):

What I want, Ares, is for everyone to stay in position, everyone to return to their positions, (Kind of the same thing, really.) and everyone to stop interrupt–

ARES (weak):

Yeah.

ARES (weak):

Those things aren’t happening.

Panel 4.

Looking behind Heatwave’s head as he stares at the distant speedboat racing away from us (eastwards). He has one hand to his headset.

HEATWAVE (small):

Tell me about it.

HEATWAVE:

Heatwave to Speider. Change of plan: don’t follow the truck, get in front of it. Be on-site to help Ripclaw and Cyblade do…

Panel 5.

On the Second Avenue exit of the Hot Metal Bridge, Speider’s stooped over, her skirt raised to thigh level, splitting her left tibia from her left fibula, each ending in half a foot. Her right leg has already been split, so she appears to have four limbs below her knees – two vertical, two at 90 degrees. In the background, the truck – on the far side of 6 intervening, empty lanes – drives towards panel left (west). (What? This needs rewriting for clarity.)

HEATWAVE (elec):

their impromptu, mission-threatening, defy-my-orders crap. (Cutting the dialogue in two for no good reason is jarring and annoying.)

SPEIDER:

Copy that, Heatwave.

SPEIDER:

Speider to the terrible two? (Why is this a question?) I’m joining you, so tell me where, when and what.

Panel 6.

Speider sprints with long strides towards panel left (west) on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. Her skirt has lifted enough so we can see that, with four “legs”, she always has one limb planted, one limb back, and two limbs in transition. The truck’s headlights (on the I-376 “plateau” above and behind her) are at panel right in the distance. (Again. This is just confusing to read.)

RIPCLAW (elec):

Speider, sprint onto the Birmingham Bridge. I’ll stall it there. You and Cyblade scan the insides.

SPIDER:

Copy that, Ripclaw.

HEATWAVE (elec):

Stall it on the Birmingham?!” We planned to rob it on the South Tenth! I didn’t spend weeks and weeks planning…

Panel 7.

Speider is climbing, halfway up the outermost support pillar of the Birmingham Bridge. As she now has 8 limbs (each radius has separated from each ulna), one arm and leg can grip the pillar like tongs while the other arm / leg reaches for higher purchase. (Why does the artist need to know the exact bone?)(I understand the question. Every artist worth their salt should know anatomy, because it’s important to their job. However, the calling out of each specific bone feels unnecessary to me.)

HEATWAVE (elec):

reconnaissance, test runs, mustering the last of our supplies– (Again, you’re splitting dialogue into more than one panel when has no business being split.)

SPEIDER:

Heatwave, you gotta learn to roll with the punches. It’s survival of the most adaptable, y’know?

I’m lost. What the hell is happening? Lorry wasn’t what they expected so guy jumps off bridge onto speedboat and some other guy gets a headache so someone else turns into a spider person and climbs a bridge. What?

I was looking forward to a cool heist, but this went off the rails. I realize things aren’t supposed to go the character’s way all the time, but this isn’t the way to go about it. It’s made much worse by the amount of characters you introduce in such a short time. Do we need to see all these guys? Can’t we focus on one or two?

P2 is down.

This stopped being interesting when I saw the speedboat.

Ripclaw jumps from the bridge. I don’t mind that. Bridge-jumping happens all the time. My question is simple: how did he know the boat would be there to catch him? His leaving position seemed like it was a spur of the moment thing. Why would the boat be there to catch him? This is where it stopped making sense to me. If it were planned, that would be one thing. It wasn’t.

The anatomy lesson is another put-off. We’re all happy you know your anatomy. I don’t. If I were editing this, I’d have to research what you wrote in order to ensure your facts are correct. Just one more thing I’d have to do. Then after that was parsed and visualized, I’d have to check it to ensure it made sense. It’s a slowdown of the process.

And then there’s the cutting of the dialogue. Liam is right in that it’s totally unnecessary and gets in the way of enjoyment. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t do it, but it should be done when there’s a purpose. I’m not seeing a purpose here.

I like that you’re getting all the characters shown as soon as possible. I also like the fact that everyone seems to have a role. No one is just standing around in the background, posing. This can happen a lot in team books. (Poor Nightcrawler. He generally gets to stand around a lot, because writers don’t know what to do with him. With the exception of Claremont, few really knew what to do with him.)

I don’t find that there are too many characters. It isn’t crowded. The story just isn’t unfolding well.

Page 3 (7 panels)

(You sure love seven panel pages, don’t you? A seven panel page has to make do with smaller panels, leaving some of your more interesting moments less interesting. Mix it up a bit.)

Panel 1.

Cyblade’s face, in the foreground, looks towards the background (Another thing that can’t be drawn.) where Speider pincers the top of the pillar with her legs, while her arms reach up to grip the bridge proper. (What is she gripping? The entire bridge? Huh?)

SPEIDER:

Okay, guys. I’m on the bridge.

CYBLADE:

I see you.

CYBLADE:

Ripclaw, I’m in position, waiting on you…

Panel 2.

In the foreground, Cyblade walks towards us (east) (See that “east” direction? No one cares. No one can tell.) on the sidewalk, putting on her raincoat. (Wait, where did the boat go?) Behind her, Ripclaw’s arm protrudes from a screen of bushes. (He’s suddenly in a “screen” of bushes? Why not. Nothing else has made sense so far.) A spike has been fired from his wrist to intercept the truck driving away from us at panel right. The Birmingham Bridge runs left to right at the top of the panel. Speider has jumped off the bridge towards the trailer’s roof. (How can we see something so small like a spike when we’re also zoomed out enough to see the entire bridge?)

CYBLADE:

to do your thing.

Panel 3.

Speider has landed on the roof of the trailer. Ripclaw’s spike has sliced through an outside tire on the driver’s side (which has exploded due to pressure release), and is now slicing through an inside tire. (Another instance of putting too much in one panel. This one is more workable, though.)

SFX (roof):

TOMP

SFX (outer tire):

BOOM

SFX (inner tire):

Hsss

Panel 4.

The driver, wearing a Cyber Data baseball cap, has his head out the window, staring at the flat tire. On the trailer roof, Speider is pulling her headgear off. Wires connect her headgear to her skull. (Another panel of two actions overriding each other.)

DRIVER:

Aw, hell. Gerry, neb the other side. Feels like we’ve got blowouts there, too, yinz better believe. (“Yinz”?)(I have no idea what “neb” and “yinz” mean. Well, I looked up “neb”. It means “beak of a bird or tortoise” or “mouth.” Yinz is a second-person plural pronoun, used mainly in Western Pennsylvania. So I learned something. These lines of dialogue are torturous when read with the new understanding.)

TEXT (baseball cap):

CD

Panel 5.

The driver stoops, (Stoops to whose level?) inspecting the damaged tires. (He’s stopped instantly, and is inspecting the tires? Magical.) The 7 foot tall guard (shotgun in one hand, knocking with the other) bangs the rear of the trailer. Speider’s hand holds the headgear near the end of the trailer roof. (What? Just her hand. What is she doing exactly?)(This panel shows an unfortunate compression of time. This needed one more panel to show the stopping, but then something else of importance needs to happen, too. To go from driving to being out of the cab is too big a jump.)

DRIVER:

Too much damage to changed (“Change it”.) ourselves. We’ll need to called this one in, less our passengers can fixed (Fix.) this. (I don’t think Rin made mistakes here. Methinks this is dialect. I’ve never been to Pittsburgh, so I wouldn’t know, but I know that Rin is too careful a writer to make these mistakes.)

GUARD:

Yinz there! Can yinz helped us out? (This Yinz thing… Is it a thing? Somebody explain to the poor fumbling Englishman.)

SFX:

NOK NOK

Panel 6.

We need to see: the roof of the trailer (where Speider’s outstretched arm holds her headgear so it points down, and inside, the trailer); enough of the trailer’s side to see that the back is lowering like a drawbridge; the guard’s head, addressing the inside of the trailer; that Cyblade runs towards us. (This is several panels at least. I also have no idea what Speider is doing. Her headgear? A helmet? And she’s pointing it at the lorry? Why? Doesn’t it work when she wears it?)

SPEIDER (whisper) (OP):

Cy: (Colon?) my infrared’s iffy, and it’s too dark to see without using the flash. You’ll have to check it out yourself.

GUARD:

tires blown out, wondered if yinz guys could helped out by–

CYBLADE (burst):

Are you alright?

Panel 7.

View from behind Cyblade. The guard blocks off Cyblade and is so tall we can’t see the trailer behind him properly. Her arm, however, is reaching around him, open palm pointing at the trailer. Note: we can’t see the interior, but we CAN see the thick, insulated walls of the trailer. Speider’s hand and headgear, too. (How tall is this guard? I mean, seriously. He’ll have to be as tall as the trailer for this shot to work.)

CYBLADE:

I heard a gunshot! I’m a trained nurse, I can–

GUARD:

Step back to the berm, nebby! If anymore tires blowed, the jag could– (I have no idea if these terms are slang or what they mean, but I can tell you’re over doing it.)

Panel 7 (inset):

Close up of Cyblade’s open palm emitting concentric (and otherwise invisible) waves of energy, much like the Wifi symbol.

CYBLADE (OP):

(No dashes.) but with my first aid skills, I can–

This is all a jumbled mess. It’s like your combining separate actions into panels with other separate actions. This just obscures the importance of said actions and defocuses the panel, which is made worse by the amount of panels you have on each page. Nobody is going to be able to see a thing. Which doesn’t really matter because the shots you’re calling for are mostly impossible anyway. Poor pacing is also a factor as characters seems to be teleporting and instantly ditching modes of transport.

This could have been a fun heist thing. I was actually interested in the beginning, up until Ripclaw jumped off the bridge and took the story down with him in his descent. We didn’t know what the plan was beforehand, or the risks involved if it went wrong, so we’ve no reason to care when it changes.

Let’s run this down.

Format: Flawless Victory! I wasn’t expecting anything less, though. a

Panel Descriptions: These need a lot of work, because it seems like you’re going out of your way to confuse and lose. Ditch the cardinal directions forever. The only time they should be used is if we’re looking at a map or in dialogue. Don’t use it to describe directions in the panel description, because they’re meaningless there.

I don’t care about technically correct. What I care about is clarity without having to work too hard for it. Doctors have to be exacting because if they mix up the ulna from the tibia, terrible, terrible things will happen. We don’t need to be that exacting. We can say “elbow” or “shin”.

Yes, maybe it’s a shame that you have to dumb down your script for others to be able to follow you. Boo to the hoo. You want people to work with you? Be a joy to work with. Or, be so damned good that they’ll overlook the tedium of the script.

Finally, try to simplify your panel descriptions as much as you can. Group things together: location, population, action. Where things are at, who’s in the panel, and what they’re doing. Some of your panels are a mess, and some have too much going on. Because they have so much going on, it’s a challenge to process, and when it’s a challenge to process, it slows down the understanding, and that slows the entire process down.

Pacing: We have three pages here, each with seven panels. However, within those seven panels, too much gets done, while not a lot gets done. Characters perform actions that don’t have a basis in reason within the context of the story. Things just happen, and with seven panels per page, there isn’t a lot of room for variation.

The good thing about the pace is that we get to see all the characters on the team, and again, they all have a role to fill. The bad part about the pace is that the actions taken don’t make sense, and some things are too compressed, such as the disappearing boat and the truck stoppage.

Dialogue: I don’t have much of a problem with what was said. I have a small problem with how it was said, and that was before we met up with the people from the Pitt. Like Liam, I thought that the breaking of the balloons was annoying, because where it finished, nothing of much important was happening to warrant the breakage. Finish the thought, then move on to the next, unless the thought has to deal with what’s going on in that next panel.

Dialects can be challenging. One the one hand, you want to be authentic. On the other, if you go too authentic, then you cross into being unintelligible. You crossed that line. It was like we were in another country. It was terrible. Dialect has to be applied judiciously. Flavor, not the main course.

Content: As a reader, I’m unimpressed. Things happened that lost me, and I shouldn’t be lost within the first few pages.

Editorially, I understand exactly why this was passed over. If this were handed to me as a contest entry, I wouldn’t have gotten off the first page before moving on to the next script. Very easy to dismiss because it goes for confusion very early. Not good.

A complete rewrite would be needed for this. Get rid of the confusion, and make sure things are happening for a purpose, and that they also make sense. Liam was right in saying that this goes off the rails as soon as Ripclaw jumps from the bridge. That’s on P1. P1 is too soon for a story to go south.

But those are the main reasons the editors of Top Cow would have passed on this.

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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