Welcome back, one and all, to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week we have Shawn Milazzo! The last time he was here, there were many jabs and body blows to my sanity. We have Liam Hayes back, and we also have Ryan Kroboth with a pencil assist. We’re all going to see if Shawn learned anything from the last time around.
We also have something a bit special this week. This script is one that didn’t make muster from the 2014 Top Cow talent hunt. So there’s that.
Let’s see what we have!
Panel 1: An elderly Mary Todd Lincoln (63) is lying on her death bed. Mary is dying from untreated diabetes. Bedsores cover her body. The room is dimly lit, the shades are pulled down on the windows, and an unoccupied rocking chair inhabits the corner of the room. (No. Nothing was learned. First panel. The last time around, Shawn was dinged for not giving the artist enough information. I’m in a white void, just like last time. Where is this? A house? A hotel? A hospital? They all call for different types of rooms, and none of that information is given.)
Caption: The Home of Elizabeth Edwards. (I’d separate these sentences into different captions for clarity.) Springfield, Illinois, July 15th, 1882 (Punctuation. Just like last time.)
Mary *faint groaning* (Go with the actual sound it makes.) uhhhh
Panel 2: Thomas Lincoln’s (17) spirit now sits in the rocking chair. A metal bar lies across his chest so he won’t fall out like, his mother had set up when he was dying from pleurisy. (Eh? This needs more. What is he wearing? What kind of metal bar? More description. This is vague.)
Thomas: *Cough* 11 years *Cough* *Cough* 11 years since I have died, Mama. Why wouldn’t you let me rest? *Cough*
Mary: Because, Taaad, (Taaad? Is that an accent thing?) I missed you. I missed you so much.
Well, I have no idea what’s going on, but that isn’t such a bad thing on a page one. Not sure why there are only two panels on this page, but hey ho.
And we’ve got P1 on the books.
It’s very easy to see why the submissions editor didn’t get past the first page. Extremely easy. Starting out in a white void and nothing to really grab the reader (in this case, the editor), it’s easy to say “No,” and then move on to the next.
I was going to be somewhat lenient with this script, but I decided against it. The reason is because this script is really a waste of time for us here. It’s taking up space. What’s to be learned here if the same mistakes from his previous script are present here, and that previous script may be of a newer vintage? This script is a year old. What’s the point?
So, it’s a waste of time. It shall be treated as such.
Quick rundown (let’s see if I’m right, based only on P1 and the previous script):
Stop using moving panels.
Use your punctuation better.
Give the artist the information they need to draw.
Stop putting undrawable lettering notes in the dialogue.
Now, let’s see if I’m right.
Panel 1: Day. We see Mary Todd looking at her mother’s casket at her funeral. Everything is dull-colored, except for Mary. Mary is just six years old. (Where is this? Time of day? Weather? Anyone else around? Mary’s expression? Clothes? More.)
Caption: Lexington, Kentucky, July 1825-
Panel 2: Mary throws a rose into the air to land on top of her mother’s casket, which is in the ground.
Panel 3: Rose in air.
Panel 4: Rose glides back and forth like a leaf or feather captured in slow-motion time. (Moving panel, this. Also, pretty sure slow-motion in a comic is impossible, save for slow the pace to a crawl.) (I can see this, using motion lines. The problem is that it’s wrong because the rose is too heavy to go back and forth like a leaf. It isn’t impossible to draw, it’s just defying the laws of physics.)
Panel 5: Men and women are congregating at the funeral while Mary stares at the African American slave woman standing closest to the reader. Scattered tombstones rest in the graveyard. The African American slave woman’s back is to the audience. (Poor character placement but it’s drawable.)
No story as of yet. How is this related to the first page? Was that supposed to be a teaser? All it did was confuse me.
P2 is down, and really, no one cares. There are reasons for this.
Who is this character that we’re following? I understand that we’ve moved back in time, but no names have been used yet. (Except for Tad, but he’s a ghost, so he doesn’t count yet.) We’re still in a white void. We don’t know why we’re anywhere yet, and nothing really happens in either location. Why should a reader care?
I want a new iPhone. I’m currently on the iPhone 5. I don’t get a new phone every year or every two years, basically because I can’t afford it. But I want the iPhone 6s. Not the 6S+. It’s too big. I don’t want/need a phone that big. I have an iPad. A phone that big would be useful to me if I didn’t already have an iPad, but since I do, I don’t need one.
Yes, I’m an iPhone person. I’ve had my phone for going on 4 years, and it’s only ever given me one problem. (I had to change the battery. The original one was slowly expanding, pushing the glass out of the frame.) I find iPhones to be very easy (remember: I’m not that smart), they are very well made, and because of that, they last for a long time and they hold their value.
My phone works fine, but I want a new one. And I don’t need 128gb. While I’d love to carry around that amount of stuff, I really don’t need to. All I really need is 64gb, like I have now. I don’t take a lot of pictures, I don’t take a lot of videos. I have a lot of music on my phone, though (all of the Prince music I own—which is about 98% of his entire output), and a lot of audiobooks from Graphic Audio. (Really, get these audiobooks. Full cast recordings, sound effects, and music. Get them. They have Marvel and DC books, if you need convincing.) What else do I need?
What am I doing about my wants? Nothing. I can’t afford it at the moment, so I just thought I’d mention it (and whine about it for a bit), and then move on.
Have I ever mentioned the instruments I want to learn to play? Let’s get through the next page, and I’ll go into that. (See? Foreshadowing.)
Panel 1: Little Mary runs towards the African slave woman with arms open. (What’s the other person doing?)
Mary: Mammy Sally!
Panel 2: We now see what Mammy Sally looks like completely. (Which is?) She kneels down to catch and hugs little Mary in her arms. A tear drops from Mary’s eye. (Hmm… This is bordering on moving panel. I don’t know how we are going to be able to see both the tears and Mammy Sally’s appearance if they are hugging.) (Moving panel. “And” will kill you almost every time.)
Mary: Why did Mother go to heaven Mammy Sally? (Punctuation: comma-fail.)
Panel 3: Over the shoulder shot of Mary talking to Mammy Sally in her arms. (He’s where the tears comes in. Think in panels.)
Mary: Will I ever see Mother again?
Mammy Sally: Of course you will (Comma.) baby.
Panel 4: Closer up over the shoulder.
Mary: When I die?
Mammy Sally: In African belief, the body sheds away, but her soul will forever stay with her children.
Panel 5: Mary stands in front of Mammy Sally while Mammy remains kneeling down. (Expressions?)
Mammy Sally: Your Mama’s soul will always be with you. It wouldn’t surprise me if you still see her. She may come visit you sometime.
Panel 6: Close up of Mammy Sally after a tear falls from her eye.
Mammy Sally: Yes, baby. Really.
I care not a jot about these characters. And what was the beginning about?
P3. Moving panels and punctuation and a story that no one cares about, but possibly the explanation of seeing ghosts.
At least there’s no undrawable notes to the letterer. (I still have hope!)
I want to learn the piano, the saxophone, and the guitar.
I have the sax, and I might finally have the time to learn to play it. (I’ve recently moved into town, so it isn’t a matter of at least a 30 min trek just to make it to town, and then possibly another 10-15 min to get to the location, which could make it at least a 90 min round trip.) I don’t own a guitar, but someone I know does, and may be able to teach me. And I don’t own a piano, but someone I know should be moving a piano to a place where I can reach it and possibly teach me to play.
It just becomes a matter of priorities.
Now, I’m a person who likes to understand. I don’t want to just learn a few chords and think that’s it. I want to learn the theory behind it. I want to learn to play and possibly make my own compositions. I want to learn to play. To create.
No, I don’t want to learn the drums. The drums never did it for me. And I don’t have a good singing voice. More bass than baritone. There aren’t a lot of songs in my comfortable range, and I know it. (One In A Million You is one of my favorites, though, and I can sing the fuck out of it when I’m alone.) But I figure if I could play the guitar, the sax, and the piano, I could play most instruments from there. (As well as being able to read music.)
I just love the sound of each of these instruments, though.
I need more jazzy sax music in my life. That’s easier and cheaper than an iPhone…
Panel 1: We see Robert Todd, Mary’s father, marrying Elizabeth Humphreys. (Now you’re just being outright lazy.) (Line of Demarcation.)
Caption: Not even a year would pass before Father remarried. (Where did this narrator come from? But late to the show, aren’t they?) (‘Splode!)
Panel 2: We see Mary and her brothers and sisters meeting Elizabeth for the first time. (No expression? Actions? Reaction? Setting? This is in space now because I say so. And everyone is getting along fine and there is no story.)
Caption: I prayed and prayed. I wanted my family back. I wanted my family to return to the way it was.
Elizabeth: Kids, I will be your new Ma.
Caption 2: But it never did.
Panel 3: Mary dreams of the Battle of Blue Licks. Indians rush onto the panel on horseback.
Panel 4: Kentuckian Militia gets slaughtered. (Ugh.)
Caption: I would always have terrible nightmares about the family legends I was told at the fireplace…
Panel 5: Close-up of a scalping occurring.
I’m curious, have you started another story now. Because that’s how this reads. It goes from woman dying with ghost son to girl losing her mother and her father remarrying. The reader has no idea they are the same people. We, who are actually reading the script have no idea how the two “scenes” are related in any tangible way.
P4, and really, once the Line of Demarcation was set, everyone relaxed. I felt the relaxation on a cosmic level. They were just waiting for me to set it. (I probably should have set it on P1.)
So, I’m currently working on a story that an artist wants to draw. During NYCC, after the convention day, a group of us ComixTribe members would get together and walk the city to find somewhere to eat and drink. One night, we got together at this Thai place, and the artist and I started talking about watching television in the past: how cartoons would play from early in the morning on Saturday until about noon, and then it would be a kung-fu double feature, and then there would be a few hours of down time before gathering back around the tv at 8pm in order to watch the HBO movie of the week. It was fun reminiscing, seeing how alike we were. We were schooling one of the writers on kung-fu movies, and the artist said he had a story he wanted to tell in a similar vein. I told him that if he wanted to, I’d work on it with him. He took me up on it.
The story is going to be four issues, and I’ve plotted the first two. I want to plot all four before moving on to the actual scripting part of it. It’s turning out well so far. It’s fun, taking a skeleton and putting meat on it.
I won’t take much credit. In the Created By box, it’ll say it’s the artist’s (because I believe that’s fair), but scripted by me. It’ll be good. I’m looking forward to it.
I’m looking forward to the end of this pain, too. I think this is the last page coming up. Deep breaths, people. We can push through.
Panel 1: Close-up of Mammy Sally lips. (Where are we? Why is this panel important?)
Mammy Sally: Oh, Great Loa, I am forever your Priestess!
Panel 2: We see the Indian’s head turned, war feathers in his hair, his face is obscured by a raised scalp. (What? Which Indian? Who? Huh?) (I think we’re in the dream/nightmare. I know I am…)
Panel 3: We see Mammy Sally’s hands shaking an instrument made out of bone. (What kind of instrument? Is it a saxophone? I say it’s a sax. You haven’t said, so I can’t be gainsaid. Hey, Ryan, why don’t you try your pencil at this panel description? Just for shits and giggles. You gotta keep your pimp hand—I mean, your art hand—strong.)
Mammy Sally: Show the little girl her true path, for it’s her duty to destroy the white man’s wrath!
Panel 4: Little Mary Todd tosses in her bed. (Moving panel.)
Panel 5: The Native American turns his head towards the audience, and now we can see that he is actually African and wearing war paint that makes him look like a demon. (Moving panel.)
Caption:… And sometimes I would have nightmares about Demons.
Panel 6: Mammy Sally sacrifices a chicken.
Panel 7: Mary opens her eyes in shock.
And now this? Maybe I’m being cranky and confused because I am ill, but the storytelling here is so poor I am actually shocked. As a simple outline this goes:
Old woman is dying and speaks to her son’s ghost > Old woman as a girl at her mother’s funeral > Old woman’s father remarries and girl has bad dreams > Chicken sacrifice.
This is all made worse by your incredibly sparse panel descriptions which are skeletal at best. Scrap all this and start again. Make sure page one doesn’t confuse everyone. A first page shouldn’t do that. Actually describe what we see in each panel. You needn’t over do it, just use broad strokes. And make sure it flows logically and clearly.
Liam has stopped, so I can, too!
Let’s run this down!
Format: Flawless Victory! At least there’s one good quality about this script. It isn’t redeeming in the slightest, but it’s a good quality.
Panel Descriptions: I don’t have anything good to say about the panel descriptions. There are few panels with enough information in them to actually be drawn.
Pacing: If this were somehow made into a comic, this would all seem very disconnected. The reason for that is because no one except Sally is named in a place where the reader can see it. They don’t know anything that’s going on, and with nothing to connect the pages, it seems like a colossal waste of time (which it is). What’s happening here that’s of interest? We went five pages in, and the story didn’t really seem to start until P5—maybe. Even then, it didn’t make any sense. Readers shouldn’t have to wait around for something to happen. You do them a disservice when you do.
Dialogue: There wasn’t a lot of it. Punctuation problems, and just a real listlessness to the script. Nothing made any real sense, and nothing that was said was enlightening. Five pages of useless dialogue is five pages too much.
Content: As a reader, I’d be lost. This is crap. I wouldn’t care.
Editorially, this is a waste of time.
I don’t understand the logic of submitting something from last year’s hunt. I don’t understand submitting something you know has problems, especially if you submitted something prior. Wouldn’t you think you’d have the same problems if you didn’t fix up the script? I don’t understand what was hoped to be learned. Nothing here was said that wasn’t said in the previous script that was submitted.
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.