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TPG Week 245: Lots O’ Problems

| September 5, 2015

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Welcome back, one and all, to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week, we have Chris Vernon as our Brave One. We also have Liam Hayes in blue, and let’s welcome the pencils of Ryan Kroboth, who’ll be swooping in every now and again in order to help us visualize some things. Ryan will be appearing in the discussion thread, so head over there if you want to see a drawing or two.

Let’s all see what Chris does with

Rise of the Maximals – Issue #1

Before we begin, this came in with a thin font at a size of 11. I upped it to 12 and changed the font to something a little more robust. I don’t care about the font used, but you can all thank me for not making you squint at an 11.

(I know nothing of Transformers, so it’s going to be difficult for me to comment on the story.)

Page 1: (No, I didn’t do this. The coloring of the page numbers is all Chris. It isn’t wrong, but I don’t see the need for it. If there are page breaks, there’s no need to color the page numbers.)

Panel One:

Grimlock and Briq walk through a doorway and into a large hanger. Fonix looks up as they approach. (One panel in and its a moving panel. There’s also no establishing shot or anything. And where’s Fonix?)

Info Panel: AutoHum Research Centre, Earth.

Link Panel: 2144 AD.

Grimlock: Tell me this no accident.

Panel Two:

Fonix is standing before masses of charred metal. It is debris from two spacecraft that have been destroyed. Grimlock and Briq come to stand beside Fonix and survey the scene. (Ack. A another moving panel.)(If you look at panel 1 and then panel 2, you’ll see that panel 1 is normal, and panel 2 is in italics. Enough for a loss of the much coveted Flawless Victory? I don’t think so. But it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the story.)

Fonix: Unfortunately your suspicions were correct, Grimlock. The debris we collected is from two distinct vessels. (I’m a fan of underlining instead of bolding when I want a word to be stressed. This makes it more difficult for the letterer to miss.)

Panel Three:

Grimlock begins to drag around large pieces of debris. Fonix and Briq look on. (Another moving panel. This one can be drawn, though.)(You cannot “begin” to drag anything in a panel description. The character is either performing an action or they aren’t. “Begins” is for prose.)

Fonix: One is our lost cargo ship. The other is of an unknown configuration…

Link Panel: (Eh?) Though definitely Cybertronian.

Panel Four:

Briq looks to Fonix, very concerned with what he just heard.

Briq: The Empire?

Fonix: No, just built on Cyberton.

Were you writing a screenplay, this would work. (Actually, it wouldn’t, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make.) This is not a comic script so far. Your panels don’t work as panels. There’s moving parts, missing information, and you’re being vague to the extreme.

P1 is down!

Liam is right in that there’s a lot of information missing. An establishing shot would be great, because we’d then know exactly where we’re at. That would then set up everything else that follows in this scene.

What happens next, though, is a lot of moving panels. Remember, comic panels are static images. Movement is implied. The more you think in static images, the better your scripting will become.

As for the break in the dialogue in panel 3, that wasn’t necessary. And if you’re going to break the dialogue up like that then you don’t need to “link” the dialogue. Just label the speaker again. So instead of the “link panel” that doesn’t mean anything at all (it is very incorrect), it would have been better if it just said Fonix again.

This isn’t a good P1. There isn’t much of a reason for turning the page. There isn’t any real interest going on here, although there’s the very minor mystery of the origin of the metal. If this is supposed to be issue 1, there isn’t enough buildup for this to make any real impact to get the reader to turn the page.

(No page breaks.)

Page 2: (And just like that, no Flawless Victory.)

Panel One:

Fonix begins studying the debris once again, walking amongst it. He points out charring on some of the pieces. Grimlock is now arranging some of the pieces of debris, like a jigsaw puzzle.(More of the same. Did you do any study into how to write a comic script?)

Fonix: There is major scorching and buckling of the exterior hull panels consistent with plasma cannon damage. All signs point towards the Decepticons.

Briq: Sounds like they’ve gotten tired of our little Alliance.

Grimlock: Not Decepticons.

Briq (2): Then who? We sure as hell don’t fire on our own ships.

Panel Two:

Briq and Fonix come to stand besides Grimlock, who is looking down at his handiwork.(Moving panel.)

Grimlock: Me call Prime.

Panel Three:

A shot from above the three figures, looking down onto the scene. Grimlock has arranged pieces from the unknown ship’s hull, revealing a large insignia painted on it. It is the insignia of the Predacon Razorclaw – a large Lion’s head. Grimlock walks away from the other two figures, who stare at the scene in disbelief. (How can you show this in a static image? How? Did you not think about this at all?)(This can be shown as a static image. However, the verbiage is wrong. Schuyler, can you do this simple rewrite to make this a static image? You only have to change a single word. And Ryan, could you give us an idea as to what we’re looking at here? I know assumptions will have to be made, because Chris didn’t give a lot of information.)

Briq: What does it mean?

Fonix: I believe it means Megatron has lost control of his pets.

Not following the story at all, but that could be down to not knowing a thing about Transformers other than the fact that Shia Labeouf was in the movie. However, unlike Shia, your panel descriptions are killing my motivation.

P2, and like Liam said, more of the same.

The problem with this page—and with the story so far—is pacing. (Aside from another big problem that I’ll discuss later.)

Three panels, and the first two panels should be shifted back to P1, and panel 3 should be a splash to show the impact of what was learned. See how much better that would be?

Then there’s the other thing staring us in the face: the lack of static images.

It’s frustrating. There are myriads of places with information on how to write comic scripts. On what’s necessary. And they generally all say the same thing: static/still images. I say it in my Bolts & Nuts column, and I damn near say it weekly here at TPG. There’s only one person I know who has read the entire archive (which is a feat, because it’s a LOT of reading as the archive grows), and one other who’s attempting it. Does this mean everyone should read all the entries before submitting? Not at all, but I don’t do TPG just for the person submitting. I do it so that everyone wanting to learn can do so.

There are obvious trends to see. A lack of page breaks is the biggest, but so are moving panels. Then there’s punctuation (which I thankfully haven’t had to harp on yet).

When the tools and information is there for the taking, it’s frustrating when they aren’t used to their potential. And it’s free!

Pacing and moving panels. That’s what’s killing this piece so far.

Page 3:

Panel One:

A robot sporting the same insignia as the destroyed ship (Razorclaw’s brand) is dragged through a corridor by two larger robots that also have the same insignia. The one being dragged is kicking and thrashing, trying to escape their grasp. (Vague. Where is this?) (See how an establishing shot could have been very helpful here?)

Predacon: Please! Please! Not this… Oh, Primus, no!

Panel Two:

The robot is dragged into a room, where several other ‘Predacons’ are waiting, standing beside an operating table and an Autobot Proto-Pod, which is hooked up to some equipment, making the whole scene very creepy. (More vague.)

Predacon: You can’t… Please. What did I do?

Panel Three:

The robot is tied down to the table. His face is etched with fear as he continues to plead for his life. (Jump in time. Out of interest, can transformers show emotion on their faces?)(Depends. In the 60s-80s, Dr. Doom an Iron Man were able to show emotion on their faceplates. That practice has stopped because we’ve realized it didn’t make sense, but it’s happened.)

Predacon: Just let me… I’ll do anything! Let me talk to him!

Panel Four:

The robot is powerless and can do nothing but look down as a ‘Predacon’ technician opens his chest cavity, revealing his Spark. (How? What? Why?)

Predacon: Get your hands off me! Get ‘em off me! NO!

SFX: Ke-tshhhh

Panel Five:

The robot’s body falls lifeless as his Spark is completely removed. The technician, holding the Spark, moves towards the Proto-Pod.

SFX: Zzzzziiiw

I don’t think I need to explain why moving panel are bad at this point. Do some research on your own time. You don’t even have the leave the Comixtribe site. Just read a bunch of other Proving Grounds entries. It’s why we do this. So people can learn from the mistakes of others. (I promise, folks, I don’t read ahead when I make my comments.)

I think it’s all already been said. Establishing shots and moving panels.

And really, I’m bored.

Page 4:

Panel One:

The Spark is placed in the entry port of the Proto-Pod. (Don’t know what that is or where it is.)

Panel Two:

The technician steps back as the Pod comes to life. (Don’t know what this looks like.) Light streams from the seam of the lid of the Pod.

SFX: Bwwwvvvv…

Panel Three:

The light fades and the Pod opens.

SFX: Kre-cheh

Panel Four:

A Proto-Matter sized ‘Predacon’ steps from the Pod, unsure of itself, taking in its new form. (Part of this cannot be drawn.)

Panel Five:

The new Proto-Matter ‘Predacon’ is delighted to be alive, smiling widely.

Predacon: Heh… Ha! It worked! Haha!

I have run out of reasons to edit this. You’ve seen it all before, people: a lack of research leads to a lack of good writing. There’s no reason why mistakes like this should be being made. I can understand one or two moving panels, yet this is nothing but. And you’ve submitted to Comixtribe, so you know it exists, so there’s no real excuse.

Like I said earlier, go and read some other TPG entries and B&N while you’re at it. I have no desire to waste my time on this any more.

Liam has stopped, which means I can, too! Let’s run it down!

Format: No Flawless Victory here. Page breaks, people. They aren’t hard. I don’t mind that the first panel isn’t in italics and the rest are, but I do mind the lack of page breaks.

Panel Descriptions: Moving panels and vagueness. Give better descriptions of where things are happening, and describe things in still images, and you’ll be that much better.

Pacing: Here’s where things really fall down. None of what happens here is really interesting, and the reason for that is pacing. I gave a suggestion for fixing the pacing for the first two pages, but then without any real context for the next two pages, it’s a challenge to care about them. Pacing.

Also, the first couple of pages suffer from a dearth of panels. Fewer panels with minimal dialogue means a fast read. Adding more dialogue will keep the reader on the page longer. There’s a lot left to say here. Things that will illuminate what’s going on for the reader and draw them into the story.

There’s a saying when it comes to writing: start late and leave early. Basically, start as late as possible in a scene, and leave as early as possible in order to make the reader want more.

Keeping that in mind, this doesn’t feel like the start of an issue. It feels more like a scene nearer the middle. It feels like something is missing, and that’s not how a first issue should feel, especially with such a short opening sequence. It feels like we came in too late. There’s no context for anything that’s happening, or for anything that comes afterward. There isn’t enough setup.

Dialogue: There isn’t enough of it, which sounds strange. Two pages of Fonix espousing what was found, and then two pages of pleading. It’s boring, and the pleading was grating. None of it built any real interest in what was going on. Dialogue should do two things: reveal character and move plot. What did it reveal in the pleading?

More dialogue is almost always good. It’s generally easier to cut down on the dialogue than it is to add more to what’s already there.

Content: As a reader, I don’t care at all about what happens. This isn’t because I’m not a Transformers fan (I’m not), but because the writing doesn’t draw me in. More setup is needed in order to draw me in.

Editorially, this needs a complete rewrite. More needs to happen, and it needs to be interesting, while also being able to be drawn. A lot of this cannot be drawn because it’s too vague. Not necessarily a white void, but close to it. That needs to be fixed.

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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