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TPG Week 13: Know What Can Be Drawn

| March 25, 2011 | 6 Comments

Welcome back to The Proving Grounds! This week’s Brave One is Jamie Fairlie, back again for more! Is he a glutton? I don’t know. Let’s see what he brings us!

Silver Defender: Chapter 1: Menace of the Runaway Test Pilot!
Chapter 1, Page 1 (5 panels)

Panel 1

Day time. Sunny. A wide shot of an expanse of arid land, almost desert, somewhere in southern California. There is no animal life visible, apart from a small bug in the foreground, though it does not have to be visible yet.  Some sparse vegetation is dotted around. For the most part, this area is flat, but there are some hill far away in the distance.

Cap: June.

Panel 2

Close up of a rock.

Cap: 1970.

Panel 3

Close up of some of the vegetation previously mentioned.

Cap: California.

Panel 4

Close up of the bug mentioned in panel 1. it appears to be going around it’s everyday business.

Cap: A few miles out of Warender USAF airbase. (Okay. I’m not a fan yet. I’m not caring for the captions, although I’m liking the sense of the desert. I think you should consolidate the info into one or two panels. Second, where is Warender? I did a search, but couldn’t find it in California. I couldn’t find it at all. If this is a made-up base, I’m all for it. I’d just like to know.)

Panel 5

Same shot of the bug, but the bug appears to be looking up into the sky. It at all possible the bug should look worried and amazed. (Watch your diction. The second sentence makes no sense if taken literally. If this is a regular insect, then it’s impossible for it to look worried or amazed. Secondly, you can’t show worry and amazement in a static image. Pick one and roll with it.)

Cap: About 10 miles south of Infinity City.

Sfx(quiet): vvvvvvvrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Bug(thought): fuuuuuuuuuck… (Hm. Interesting. Forget what I said about the “regular insect.”)

Chapter 1, Page 2 (Splash!)

Low shot looking up at an incredibly low flying plane flying overhead. The plane is banking towards the camera so we can see a bit more then just the underside. It is a very high-tech (especially for 1970) looking military single seater fighter plane. (Hm. I like the placement of the splash, but what is going on here that warrants the use of one? It doesn’t sound particularly exciting the way it’s described here. What’s the dramatic action that’s popping off the page and making everyone want to know more? I’m not seeing it, Jamie.)


Title: Silver Defender

Title: Chapter 1: Menace of the Runaway Test Pilot!

Chapter 1, Page 3 (4 panels)

Panel 1

Inside the cockpit of the plane. It is high-tech and fancy looking for 1970, but quaint and retro by today’s standards. The pilot is Chuck Smalls, a handsome chisel-jawed young man in his late 20s, who has a huge grin plastered all over his smug macho face. Dick’s voice is coming from the radio in this panel.

Chuck: HELL YEAH! This thing can really move! (Two balloons. Put each sentence in its own balloon. This will “sound” better when the audience reads it.)

Dick:(elec) I think you’ve proven that pretty well now, Lieutenant Smalls, now would you mind slowing down… (I’m absolutely LOVING the fact that you got the character’s name in here. It’s P3, and it’s organic. I love that. However, the wording here is a little clunky. It would do better as two sentences.)

Panel 2

Wide shot of the area revealing the air-force base, Which is little more then a few hangers, a tower, a squat concrete office and a strip of tarmac.  The tower is in the foreground, and in the not too far distance we can see Chuck’s plane. Dick’s voice is coming from the tower.

Dick: …you’re about 100 yards from the landing strip.

Panel 3

Outside the plane looking in at Chuck, who is staring ahead with a look of determination.

Chuck: Negative, Tower. I really want to see what this baby can do.

Panel 4

Close up of Chuck’s face. The expression that I want here is rather complex, but I’m going to ask for it anyway. It should look determined, but it is, in fact, almost suicidal self hatred. (You’re not going to be able to show this.)

Chuck: I am a test pilot, after all. (Comma.)

Chapter 1, Page 4 (4 panels)

Panel 1

Worm’s eye view from the landing strip looking up at the plane which is in a steep descent. Dick’s voice should be coming from the plane.

Dick:(elec) I hope you know what you’re doing, Chuck.

Panel 2

Wide shot of the plane, which is in the process of landing. Its rear landing gear has connected with the tarmac, but the nose is pointing up in the air. Huge amounts of smoke are billowing off the tires that are on the ground.


Panel 3

Close up of Chuck wrestling with the controls inside the cockpit. He looks determined, a bit scared and completely pumped full of adrenaline. (You’re not going to be able to show this.)

Chuck: I knew your parents called you “Dick” for a reason. (This sounds completely uncalled for. If Dick doesn’t respond to it appropriately, I’m going to call you on it. I understand it’s you trying to get the name in there organically. However, you can do it without being a dick about it. [See what I did there?!])

Panel 4

Another wide shot of the plane, which is still in the process of landing. All the landing gear is now on the ground. The plane has now skidded sideways so that it is perpendicular to the landing strip. Motions lines or some such thing indicate that it is still skidding.


(I’m liking the pace here, Jamie. Very snappy. I’m liking the characterization. Just don’t forget to tell the story as you go at this breakneck pace.)

Chapter 1, Page 5 (6 panels)

Panel 1

Inside one of the hangers at the base. It is well lit by overhead lights, and sunlight coming in from the open doors in the background. It is pretty tidy, but there are various bits of jet engine and other plane parts lying next to a jet engine being worked on by James Dze’mul. James, a young Achumawi engineer looking sharp in his overalls, is looking up, distracted from the jet engine he is working  on by the sound of Chuck landing. (Wasted panel. It’s not doing anything to push the story forward or to reveal character.)


Panel 2

Outside again. Wide show of the plane, which is now stationary. The cockpit hatch is open, and Chuck is in the prosess of climbing out. James and Dick are both running towards him, from different sides though, as James is coming from the hanger and Dick is coming from the tower. (No. That’s WAY too fast for Dick to get there. James, though? If you’re able to get the hangar in the view, you can intimate him coming from there.)

Dick: Dick jokes again, Chuck? Grow up. (Comma. And I like the response. It reveals character.)

James: Wow,  Lieutenant, it sounded like you really put that plane thought its paces! (I’m getting a definite Billy Batson feeling here. Definitely a “golly gee” and “aw shucks” going on here.)

Panel 3

Still a wide shot. Chuck and James are walking towards the hanger. Chuck has thrown his helmet to James, who is catching it. In the background we can see Dick inspecting the undercharge of the plane. (No, I’m not going to correct the spelling mistakes. Why? Because everyone should be able to understand what he’s getting at. However, Jamie, you’ll want to make sure you’re using the right words.)

Chuck: That’s my job, Tonto. I probably did a bit of damage to the landing gear, but nothing the best engineer on the west coast can’t fix!

James: Shucks,  Lieutenant, I don’t think I’m… (I called it, without even looking down this far!)

Panel 4

Chuck has stopped and turned to face James to address him properly.

Chuck: Of course you are, there’s nobody else I’d trust to work on my planes. In fact, me and some the other pilots are having a drink this evening if you want to come along. (Clunky.)

Panel 5

Shot of James over Chuck’s shoulder. He looks amazed to be invited to a drink with the pilots.

James: Gee, Lieutenant, that sounds great! (Scary sometimes, innit?)

Panel 6

Wider shot. Chuck is now walking away looking back at James over his shoulder.

Chuck: 7.30, O’Neally’s Bar. Be there. (If this is supposed to be the military, there’s a definite way to say the time. This isn’t it. Technically, you’re saying to be at the bar at seven thirty in the morning. Time for some research, Jamie!)

Major Thomas(op): SMALLS!

Chapter 1, Page 6 (5 panels)

Panel 1

Wide shot of Major Thomas as he storms towards Chuck. He looks rather angry. (He’s magically delicious! Why is that, Jamie?)

Major Thomas: What in God’s name do you think you were doing, Smalls? (Comma. And I’m almost surprised you didn’t have him say sam hill. Almost.)

Panel 2

Medium shot from the side as Chuck and Major Thomas glare at each other. Thomas is a good 2 inches shorter than Chuck. (Nope. You’re going to cut off their feet, which will be important in the next panel. What you really want is a long/full body shot for the next two panels.)

Chuck: Testing a plane, Sir.

Panel 3

Similar angle. Thomas has now gone up on his tiptoes to be the same hight as Chuck. He is pointing angrily at the plane. (See what I mean? If you leave it the way it is, it’s going to look like a mistake by the artist. That’s not something you want to do to your artist. It would look like their fault, when it would really be yours. Pull the camera out so that their entire bodies can be seen, and you alleviate the problem. Now, what’s Chuck’s body language say?)

Major Thomas: Do you have any idea how much that prototype cost the US taxpayer?

Chuck: May I be frank, Sir?

Panel 4

Medium shot of Chuck. He seems pretty angry too now.

Chuck: I don’t give a damn how much it cost.

Chuck: I did nothing that couldn’t not arise in a combat situation. Do you want your boys going up in an untested plane? (Couldn’t not arise? Gotta hit you for this one, Jamie. What did you really mean to say here?)

Panel 5

Medium shot of Major Thomas, who has calmed down a bit, but is still red with rage.

Major Thomas: That doesn’t excuse you endangering all the people who work at Warender Airbase. (Pretty clunky.)

Chapter 1, Page 7 (5 panels)

Panel 1

Side shot of Chuck and Thomas (Side shot. That’s nice. What does their body language say?)

Chuck: I know what I’m doing, Major. I’ve been doing it for over a decade.

Major Thomas: Don’t remind me Smalls. Just remember that you’re not as in demand as you used to be.

Panel 2

Shot of Thomas over Chuck’s shoulder. He still looks reasonably angry.

Major Thomas: When you started here test pilots were the ‘In Thing’. Every boy in the states wanted to be you. But they moved on, Smalls. No one cares about the air-speed record any more. Hell, we put a man on the moon last year. (Hm. 43 words here. You can really cut this down to about 35 or so. And don’t forget your punctuation when you rewrite this. You missed the comma.)

Panel 3

Medium shot of Thomas pointing angrily at Chuck.

Major Thomas: So keep in mind that no one would give a shit if you received a dishonourable discharge.

Panel 4

Wider shot. Thomas is still angrily addressing Chuck, who has crossed his arms and is looking defensive. Dick is approaching Thomas.

Dick: Major Thomas, Dr. Wilson is waiting for you, Sir. (Period.)

Major Thomas: Right. Oh, and Smalls, I see you’ve been trying to spend time with my daughter Murial recently. (The last line needs to be in its own balloon. And then, it doesn’t match that well with the panel description. The panel description should match the last thing said.)

Panel 5

Thomas has turned to leave, but is looking back at Chuck over his shoulder.

Major Thomas: Don’t. (I like this. It made for a very nice beat. Good work.)

And that’s where I’m going to call it quits, folks.

Let’s run it down.

Format: Perfect. ‘Nuff said.

Panel Descriptions: You want to watch your spelling. There are times when you could be unclear, Jamie. Not good. Also, watch for what type of shot you’re asking for. What you’re seeing in your head may not always be what you’re putting down. Think dramatically.

That being said, you must learn what can and cannot be drawn. You can’t show self-hatred. That’s prose. That will never come across in art. It will look like something else. Complicated emotions are hard enough to draw. There are times when you’re asking the impossible. The simpler the emotion, the easier it is to be drawn.

Pacing: Snappy! I liked it. However, there’s a problem. It zipped along a bit TOO fast, so that I didn’t get a real sense of the story. I peeked ahead, and things don’t start happening until around P16. There’s characterization, but not much storytelling in that time. Get some story in there in order to slow the reader down and get them interested.

Dialogue: There isn’t much I can say here. I liked what I read. It was mainly characterization, though. There was just a whiff here and there that hinted of things to come. There wasn’t anything that was terrible, though, and that’s always a good thing.

Content: From an editorial pov, this needs only a little guidance. Spelling in order to be clear, and making sure the pace doesn’t go so fast that readers are unable to keep up. They have to get their money’s worth. As a reader…I’m interested in the bug. Strange, but a thinking bug isn’t something you see every day. So I’m interested in the bug’s story. Hopefully, the rest of the story will be interesting enough so that the bug doesn’t carry it.

That’s all for this week. Check the calendar to see who’s next! (I think it’s going to be a treat!)


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Category: 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 for rate inquiries.

Comments (6)

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  1. John Lees says:

    Well done, Jamie!

    I’ve gotten to read a little further ahead in Silver Defender, and it keeps on getting better. Readers might notice a lot of similarities to a certain other, more famous superhero, but the way Jamie plays on that and subverts it is inspired.

    I agree with Steven’s corrections. Some of those things are impossible to draw. I probably didn’t pick up on that when I was reading the script because I’m prone to making the same mistake.

    A good start to the story, Jamie. You should write more!

    • No, John, you don’t make that mistake. I think you used to, on the very first draft of The Standard, but after I beat you ’round the head and shoulders about it, I think you cut it out with the things that are totally impossible to draw.

      (It’s jokes, folks! I don’t beat him nearly as badly as he deserves! [waitaminnit…])

  2. Wow, theirs no where near as much red as I was expecting with this.

    Thank you, Steven for another great edit. As always, you are completely right. As far as the complex emotions are concerned I was working on the basis that if I described how the characters were feeling the artist could work out what they wanted to take from that and drat something simpler. I am willing to not do that though if you think its a bad approach.

    ‘Chuck: I knew your parents called you “Dick” for a reason. (This sounds completely uncalled for. If Dick doesn’t respond to it appropriately, I’m going to call you on it. I understand it’s you trying to get the name in there organically. However, you can do it without being a dick about it. [See what I did there?!])’

    Great! I’m glad that Chuck is coming across as a bit of a prat here, because that’s what he is (at this point anyway). I am finding it a rather hard balance here trying to make him somewhat likeable, but also a bit of a tool.

    The lack of getting to the point it something that has been bugging me about this for a while now. Never mind page 16, I don’t really get to the point until chapter 3. Of 6. Oh, plenty of stuff happens before then, but its all well worn superhero guff which has been done before by people better at writing than me. (not that the later stuff is super duper original or anything, but not quite as ‘see that before’). Until then I’ve been trying to work in as many hints that something a little different is going on without giving it all away completely, which is pretty hard.

    John, thank you for the support, I think I’ll try and write some more after I’ve gone over what I have to make these corrections, and look for more of the same type of error.

    And the bug. Oh, I have plans for that bug.

    • If it doesn’t really move to issue 3 of 6, then it sounds like it’s nothing a good dose of editing won’t help you to cure, Jamie.

      And, yeah, I’m interested in the bug.

      • Yeah, if I thought that this was even vaguely publishable I would be thinking about getting an editor about now, but as John pointed out it is rather similar to a somewhat better known character, so I’m not sure it is publishable.

        • If it’s satire, it’s publishable.

          Look at The Pro. It was the Justice League, and they admitted a prostitute into their ranks. It was pretty funny, too.

          You could do some cosmetic changes, and as long as you end up in a new place, you’d be good.

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