Welcome back, one and all, to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a resubmission from Sean Mills, all the way back from Week 248. Liam is off this week, leaving Ryan Kroboth and I to do the heavy lifting with pencils and the red pen, respectively. If you want to see what was done first, go ahead. We’re all going to see what Sean has learned with his resubmission of
Forever Blue, Issue #1
Page 1 (four panels)
Panel 1: Rectangle. Bird’s eye view of a patch of barren wasteland. The ground is a dusty brown, with some scattered vegetation and rocks here and there. On the distant horizon are mountains. It’s daytime. The Nevermore is on the left side of the panel, while a second, different ship is on the right side. There are three figures standing in front of the Nevermore, and four figures standing in front of the second ship. The two groups are facing one another. There is a small shipping crate on the ground in front of the Nevermore crew. (An establishing shot, so I’ll forgive the wordiness.)
Lettering: Swine’s speech bubble will come from the lead character in the group of four on the right side of the panel. (At the risk of making the panel description even wordier, the artist should know a bit of something of who the groups are. It could be the Hatfields and the McCoys. I don’t care. They’d at least have a point of reference. That would alleviate the need for this note.)
Caption: The planet Rhyl. (Oooh! A period. Know what this means? I should have had rage-quit the first time around. See what happens when you give the benefit of the doubt? You get burned. Burned, I say. Burned!) (Forgive me. I’m under the weather, and I’m angry, so I have to get what joy wherever I can.)
Caption: The Kylee Basin.
Swine: I’m just supposed to take your word that everything is here?
Panel 2: Large panel taking up the bulk of the page. We’re facing Dackard, Mel and Mungo, standing and facing forward. Dackard is in front, Mel is standing on Dackard’s right, Mungo is over Dackard’s left shoulder. In the foreground, at their feet, is the shipping crate. In the background, behind them, is the Nevermore with the gang plank open revealing the cargo bay inside. The sun is high in the sky behind them.
Dackard has her arms crossed, smirking, her posture is casual, but she’s not slouching. The handle of her blue ax is protruding up over her right shoulder. She has a blaster in a holster on her right hip. Most of Mel’s face is hidden by her helmet, but her mouth is visible, and she’s smirking confidently. Mel’s body language looks ready for a fight. She has two daggers, sheathed on both hips. Both hands are resting on their hilts, though only one has to be visible. Mungo looks tough and dangerous, a large, futuristic-looking shotgun resting on his shoulder, the barrel pointed towards the sky. His finger rests near the trigger. (Well, it doesn’t look like much was learned from the last pass, was it?)
Dackard: My word has been good enough before, Swine.
Dackard: What’s the problem?
Mel: He seems a little antsy to me, Captain.
Panel 3: Swine from the chest up, with his three henchmen/goons behind him. Swine is smiling a dangerous, confident smile. The henchmen look equally tough and rugged, though their faces are all business and no swagger. All four are focused on our heroes.
Swine: That was before I became the most wanted man in this system.
Dackard, off-panel: Sounds like your problem, not mine.
Dackard, off-panel: We going to do this or what?
Panel 4: A shot of Swine’s waist, where he’s got his own hand resting on the butt of a gun at his hip. His fingers are twitching with movement lines.
Swine: I’m just wondering if you’d heard about the reward, Dackard…
Swine: And if you’d come to collect!
P1 is down. What do we have?
Well, first thing right off the bat is we have a name change. There were discussions last time around the Dolgar and Dackard were too similar, so Dolgar became Swine. It was actually my choice, but (and let me know if anyone besides Sean thought otherwise): I was being facetious.
A real name change is needed. An honest one. Swine is funny, and it works if that’s what you’re going for, but if you aren’t… Hanson, Meachum, or something totally different. Something original.
True story: a friend of mine knows someone who’s name is Harold Richard Alcock. This is clearly a sign that his parents didn’t love him. It would have been terrible going through school with that name. It might have been okay in college—might—but before then? Torture.
And yes, I said “Hanson.” Hopefully, some of you are being tortured with Mmmbop. If not, well, don’t say I never gave you anything.
I’ve got no real problem with this opening page. Cut down on the needless character descriptions. These should be recurring characters.
Page 2 (seven panels)
Panel 1: Dackard and Mel from the waist up. Dackard looks curious. Mel is looking to Dackard, equally curious and surprised at the news. Her body has relaxed.
Dackard: Reward? What reward?
Mel: I wouldn’t mind hearing more about a reward.
Panel 2: Bust shots of Swine and Goon #1. Both Swine and Goon #1 look alarmed, their eyes wide, their hands slightly raised.
Swine: You mean you didn’t know about the price on my head?
Panel 3: Back on Dackard, Mel and Mungo with full body shots. Dackard’s arms are uncrossed. She is reaching for the blaster on her hip, her body shifting into action with one foot back. Her eyes are narrowed, her face leery. Mel has drawn one of her daggers. The blade is white. Mel is crouched slightly, ready to pounce. Her smile is an excited sneer. Mungo seems startled at the sudden shift in action.
Mel: Your whole head?
Dackard: What are you playing at, Swine?
Dackard: How much is this reward?
Panel 4: Back on Goon #1 and Swine from the shoulders up. Goon #1 looks calm and matter-of-fact as he speaks. He has a hand raised about chest-high, as if shrugging. Swine still looks alarmed and worried.
Goon #1: 8,000 digits.
Panel 5: Same angle on Swine and Goon #1. Swine has a hand raised, as if he’s about to smack Goon #1 in the head. Swine looks royally pissed off. Goon #1 is flinching in fear.
Swine: Shut up!
Panel 6: Dackard, Mel and Mungo from the waist up. Dackard has her blaster drawn in her right hand, her face is all serious business. Mel has her dagger up and ready. She is still smirking. Mungo is fumbling with his shotgun, and he looks worried.
Dackard: What the hell is going on, dirtheap? This was supposed to be just a simple shipment delivery!
Dackard: You can’t expect me to look at every wanted poster that comes over the network!
Mel (small): That crate isn’t worth 8,000 digits.
Panel 7: Looking over Dackard’s right shoulder at Swine and his four goons. Her blaster is raised. Swine and his goons all have weapons drawn. Swine has a small blaster, but his hand is lowered. He looks angry. Goons #1, #2 and #3 all have weapons of small to medium size, all of them standing behind Swine and aiming at our heroes. Goon #1 still looks a little scared, but Goon #2 and Goon #3 look serious.
Swine: I thought you were going to ambush me!
Swine: And look, here you are, ambushing me!
Dackard: You brought it up!
Swine: You’re not going to take me alive!
P2 is down, and this is a better P2 than the previous go. We’ve got some levity, we’ve got the cusp of action, and every reason to turn the page.
I can’t even complain about the details in the panel descriptions. They’re generally necessary considering there are multiple characters in each panel.
I’m enjoying this. Two weeks in a row? Is this a record?
Page 3 (five panels)
Panel 1: Zoomed out shot showing both groups pointing their guns at each other, including Mungo, who is no longer fumbling with his shotgun. Dackard and Swine stand between the two groups, shouting angrily at each other. They are visible from the ankles up. Everyone looks furious. Dackard and Swine are angrily shouting. Dackard has her blaster aimed at Swine, he has not yet raised his weapon.
Dackard: I don’t want to take you anywhere!
Dackard: I came here to do a job and get paid!
Swine: Are you insane?! I’m not about to pay you for the shipment just so you can turn around and collect the reward right after!
Panel 2: Same shot, only zoom in slightly on Dackard and Swine so that they are visible from the knees up. Their crews can be visible at the edges of the panel. The crews are unchanged. Dackard and Swine are the focus, their expressions still angry and shouty. They have moved a little closer together. Dackard has lowered her gun slightly, while her other hand is pointing at Swine. Swine has raised his blaster at Dackard.
Dackard: It’s not like that! Pay me what you owe, you sludge-feeding pirate!
Swine: Over my dead body, gutter garbage! (Gutter garbage? You can do better than that. I’d consider that a placeholder until something better trundles along.)
Dackard: That’s clearly about to be arranged, exhaust breath! (This, too.)
Swine: You know what I meant, creep! (Mm. Women aren’t usually called “creep.”)
Panel 3: Same shot, only zoomed in slightly more. The crews are now off panel, with only their weapons visible, bunched together on either side of the panel. The main focus is Dackard and Swine, who have once again moved even closer together. Both of them should be visible from the waist up. Both are still angrily shouting, both have their weapons raised now.
Letterer: Both Dackard and Swine will shout in this panel, but their word balloons should be covered-up by the larger, more imposing electrical word balloon.
Dackard: Kill him!
Swine: Kill her!
Pryce (Elec): Hey Captain, you got a second? (Where does this come from? Where does the tail lead to? And comma-fail.)
Panel 4: Same shot as Panel 3. Dackard and Swine both look confused now. They’re both looking up, as if they’re not sure they heard that right. The weapons of the other crew members are no longer visible.
Swine: Uh…is that for you?
Panel 5: Same shot as Panel 4. Dackard looks calm and places her left hand at her ear, answering her communicator. Her head is turned slightly, away from Swine and towards the reader. Swine has his arms crossed. He looks grumpy and put-upon.
Dackard: Yeah, Pryce, what’s up?
Swine (small): No, really, take all the time you need.
Pryce (Elec): If you’re wrapping up out there, I just got a call about a new job. Something about the Sono Mining Corporation.
Pryce (Elec): They’re offering us 100,000 digits!
P3, and we’re still looking good…except for the name-calling.
It gets to be pretty juvenile. Some would say “just bad,” but I wouldn’t go that far. (Okay, I would, but really, I’m not in the mood to go that far. Under the weather, remember?)
Let’s just move on to P4. I’ve got a headache, and the aspirin I took…WAIT! I have something in my bag to take! Yay!
Page 4 (six panels)
Panel 1: Focus still on Dackard and Swine, but now we are zoomed out so that they are visible from the knees up. Both look shocked at the number announced. Dackard still has her hand to her ear. Swine’s arms are uncrossed, his mouth is hanging open.
Dackard: Come again?
Pryce (Elec): 100,000 digits, Captain. They want us to drop by their mining asteroid ASAP.
Panel 2: Focus on Dackard in a full body shot. She is now facing Mel and Mungo, with the Nevermore in the background. Her left hand is still at her ear, while the right hand with the blaster is now casually motioning at them to head back to the ship. Dackard’s face is all business. Mel and Mungo look a little confused. They’ve both lowered their weapons to their sides.
Dackard: ASAP is our speciality. (A little on the nose. They should all already know this. Sounds fun, though.)
Dackard: Pryce, prepare for launch. Mel, Mungo, get back to the ship. We’re done here.
Panel 3: Focus on Swine from the waist up. He is smiling and happy. His blaster is back in its holster and his hands are raised.
Swine: You could probably use some help with a job that pricey.
Swine: My boys and I are readily available for, say, 45 percent…
Panel 4: Waist up shot with Dackard pointing her blaster right at Swine’s nose, only a few inches away. She has turned her back to the reader, the blue ax on full display. Her face is all business, while his is nervous, his eyes wide and looking at the barrel. His hands are now raised up over his head. (Usually, if someone has their back to me, I can’t see their face, either. At least it’s not a gratuitous ass-shot.)
Dackard: What a generous offer. But you still owe me for the delivery.
Dackard: Pay up and I’ll go right back to not knowing about the paltry price on your head.
Panel 5: Dackard has lowered the blaster and has turned completely towards Swine. The blaster is raised slightly at her side (These two sentences conflict on initial reading.). From the bust up, Dackard and Swine exchange a thumb drive. Dackard’s face remains stern and business-like. Swine is sneering confidently.
Swine: Why don’t you just stay here and we’ll finish this, once and for all? (This doesn’t make much sense. Finish what? Gives an intimation of prior history, but it doesn’t really do that much. This could have been set up better, earlier.)
Dackard: Maybe next time.
Panel 6: Focus on Swine from the waist up, still sneering with overconfidence. He’s lowered his hands. Behind him, his goons are brandishing their weapons, each one just as confident and wicked.
Swine: You’re not leaving here alive.
Swine: And we’ll be the ones taking that job.
P4, and this is nowhere near crap. This is far and away better than the first iteration. I might even want to edit this, which is saying something.
I’m getting a fun vibe here, without the overt sexuality that was in the first iteration. Do I feel that the panel descriptions are a little much? Yes. That’s because they’re crowded. Do you have to tell the artist every little thing that’s going on with the characters? No, I don’t think so. Give the artist some leeway to do their thing.
This script is micro-managing, and it doesn’t need to be.
Loosen your grip a bit. It’ll be fine. Do we need to be from the waist up and other things like that? Nope. Let the artist know what’s in your head, but this could be a lot looser. Some artists like it when you’re very controlling, but most don’t.
And if you’re not micro-managing, then your panel descriptions will be a lot shorter. Shorter means faster to read, and faster to read generally means faster to write, and faster to write means you can get on to writing other things, like better dialogue in places. See how that works?
Page 5 (five panels)
Panel 1: Focus on Dackard from the bust up. She has narrowed her eyes, and has raised her blaster in one hand. She fires three red laser blasts in quick succession. The barrel of the gun moves from left to right across the panel with each shot, with ghost images for the first two shots. (Mr. Kroboth? Methinks you’re up.)
SFX: Pew! Pew! Pew!
Panel 2: Swine has his arms wrapped around his head as he ducks, his face one of fear. Behind him, his three goons are taken out with shots to their shoulders. Their faces are marked with pain and shock. (Okay, I know that I harp about acting a lot. That’s because a lot of writers have characters standing around doing nothing as they talk. However, I would like to think that if characters are being shot at, there doesn’t have to be an instruction to the artist about facial expressions, especially if people are actually hit. It’s a waste of time. Now, if they were just standing there, impervious, then I’d have said something about their facial expressions, but as it currently stands, I wouldn’t.)
SFX: Thuck! Thlak! Splick!
Panel 3: Zoom out to full body shots. Dackard has turned her back to Swine and is walking quickly towards the gangplank of the Nevermore (How can the reader tell she’s walking quickly?). Her hand is returning her blaster to its holster. Her face is all business. Behind her, Swine is lowering his arms and coming out of his crouch, looking worried. His goons lie in a pile behind him. The package remains on the ground, untouched as Dackard passes.
Goon Pile: Glurrg…
Dackard: I said we’re done here.
Dackard: We made the delivery. We got paid. End of transaction.
Dackard: Enjoy your dumb crate. Be grateful that you get to keep your head.
Dackard: I’ve got more lucrative places to be. (Four lines. Four balloons. Someone tell me what would have been better here and why.)
Panel 4: Focus on Swine’s bust as he waves an angry fist. He’s furious.
Swine: This is no way to conduct business!
Swine: You’ll pay for this! (There are times when reading this crosses from fun to being a chore. It’s lines like this that do it.)
Panel 5: Head and shoulders shot of Dackard, from slightly behind. She doesn’t look back. She’s on the gangplank, so the ship is visible in the background. The corner of her face remains serious.
Dackard: Open a tab.
I’m going to stop there. Let’s run ‘er down.
Format: Flawless Victory! (Just barely. I stopped where I did because it seemed like the end of the scene. There was no page break for P6. I’m only giving FV’s for what I’m reviewing, not the entire piece. So it “wins” on a technicality. Be thankful.)
Panel Descriptions: Not bad, but too micro-manage-y. (Yes, I said it. Live with it.) Camera angles are a good thing to have and keep in mind, but when you’re going deeper like bust shots, hip shots, knees and ankles…it gets to be much. Most artists won’t find this fun to draw because it’s too controlling. Let go a little. The world won’t stop spinning because you did.
(And yes, last time around, I called you out for being a micro-manager. Like I said earlier, there were some things you didn’t learn.)
Pacing: Much, much better. This was fun to read because things were happening. There was no point in time where I was bored because the story stalled. Good job in…ahem…picking up the pace. (I’m here all week, folks! Tip your servers…)
Dialogue: Not bad. Better than last time. However, there were some lines that were worse than my jokes. Yeah, that needs to be worked on. Nothing a decent editor can’t help you out with.
Content: Again, better. As a reader, I wasn’t put off by Dackard literally showing her ass this time around. This was something I could read and not want to punch the world in the face.
Editorially, this needs a nudge here and there. Nothing disastrous happened, which is a great thing. This is going in the right direction. Really, all you need is a decent editor to keep you on track.
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.