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TPG Week 14:Setting Up the Page

| April 1, 2011 | 0 Comments

Hello, one and all. Welcome back to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week, we have our own Tribe leader, Tyler James, submitting a script to the RED FONT OF DOOM!

Let’s see what he does as I highlight Setting Up the Page! Another thing to keep in mind: I’m the editor of this particular project, so what you’re seeing here are my direct edits. There may be a clarification here and there for TPG, but what’s here is generally unadulterated.

Enough of my yakkin’! Let’s dive in!


“Super Teenage Wasteland” Part II

Script by Tyler James

Page 1 – Splash (11)

Here we go, issue #2 coming hot off the heels the blockbuster issue #1.  How the hell do we top the awesomeness that was the first ish?  It’s going to be tough but let’s give it our best shot by opening big and with action.

It’s night time, full moon in fact, and we should be angled such that we see it is a full moon.  We’re in the middle of a busy Miami street, Ocean Drive or thereabouts, a nice, Miami nightlife backdrop.  In the foreground, we see the scared face of a LOWLIFE BURGLER, who is dodging traffic, running for his life.  I see him sort of being in the bottom left of the frame, peering over his shoulder.  He should have a messenger bag slung over one shoulder, perhaps one of the straps undone, and a few diamonds or jewels flying from it. (Just an aside: the Ocean Drive is underlined because Tyler added a link to the script. I highly advise all of you to do the same if/when you have something you really want the artist to get right. It’s reference, and they’ll love you for it.)

Leaping toward the LOWLIFE, having just bounded from the hood of a fancy car in the middle of the street, is SCAREWOLF!  Scarewolf should be leaping out, mouth agape, claws extended, ready to pounce on the lowlife.

But, coming up fast behind him, flying in superheroic style, is EPIC.

Matt, I’ll leave it up to you to pick the exact angle and choreography of this interaction, but to fill you in on what’s happened just prior to this, Scarewolf, a werewolf superhero, was in hot pursuit of the burglar.  Epic mistakes Scarewolf for the villain, and swoops in to intervene.  Scarewolf is none too happy about it.

EPIC – Sorry ugly, but werewolves just aren’t hot right now. (9)


BURGLER – Ahhhh! (1)


Okay, just a couple of things. Your format threw me off for a moment. I skipped over the Page 1—Splash thing and just dived right in, mainly because you changed formats on me. As long as you’re consistent and Matt knows what you’re doing, I’m good.

Second, I REALLY like the word count at the end of the line, and at the top of the page. It makes it MUCH easier on me. Thank you. It might be something I require from everyone that hires me. And it’ll be YOUR fault!

As a splash, this is pretty weak tea. You’ve effectively buried your lead. Here’s your setup: thief in the foreground, Scarewolf in the mid-ground, and I’m guessing Epic is in the background. That’s not dynamic, and the line comes off with bad timing because he’s not close enough to deliver it and give it much impact. I know you’re letting Matt do the choreography, but this isn’t a strong visual if this is what you’re seeing right now. I think that a better thing would be to have the thief running scared as an inset in the top left corner, and then pull out to show him running toward us in the foreground. Keep Wolfie in the mid-ground, but have Epic swooping in from the left, getting in his way, half-facing us (so we can see the Epic goodness) and half facing Wolfie. I think that would be a better visual, gets him closer to Wolfie, and lets him get in his quip.

Page 2 – 6 Panels (44)

Panel 1 – EPIC punches Scarewolf in the face, a powerful shot. (With the revamped P1, this now comes off better. Before, you had him coming in from the back. It would then take a VERY big jump to get him in front and doing any kind of face-punching. You can keep this if you change P1. If you don’t change P1, then this has to change to Epic getting in close to Wolfie.)

EPIC – Zombies are scorching.  Vampires are going strong.  The Blob is due for a comeback.  But, werewolves?  Not so much. (19) (I LOVE that movie. The original one, though, because Steve McQueen is cool as hell. The question is, will other comic readers get the movie reference, or are they immediately going to go to Fred J. Dukes? I’d do a quick poll and see what people thought. Gotta do it with comic readers, though. That’s going to be your true gauge.)


Panel 2 – Scarewolf crashes into a streetside falafel vendor stand.  The vendor dives out of the way.


VENDOR – My falafel! (2)

Panel 3 – Scarewolf leaps from the broken stand, claws out, bounding for EPIC.  Speedlines, fangs, he looks pissed.

SCAREWOLF – GRAAWWW!  He’s getting away! (4)

Panel 4 – Pull back, so that we see EPIC land another punch on Scarewolf, and also see the Lowlife running away from them down an alley.


EPIC – I’m saving him.  Kind of the point. (7)

BURGLAR – Thanks, cape! (2)

Panel 5 – Small panel, medium close on Scarewolf, recovering from the punch.  He’s now seething, ready to pounce again.

SCAREWOLF – Idiot! (1)

PANEL 6- Big panel bottom of the page, Scarewolf leaps at EPIC, mouth wide open, teeth bare, claws sharp and extended.  EPIC’s back is to us, and this time is too slow to get out of the way.


CAP (EPIC) – Hope my rabies shots are up to date. (8)

Page 3 – 7 Panels (110)

Panel 1- Close up, side profile headshots of Scarewolf and EPIC.  Epic is on his back, looking up at the angry werewolf, who is above him growling.  Scarewolf looks damn frightening here.

EPIC – Whoa, I was just busting your chops.  I’m on Team Jacob, I swear! (13) (Nice to get in the movie reference! And the hell of it is that I’ve never read the books OR seen the movie.)

SCAREWOLF – Hero or villain? (3)

EPIC – Huh? (1) (17)

Panel 2 – Pull back, down shot, show Scarewolf on top of Epic, pinning him down.

SCAREWOLF – Are you a hero or a vil- (7)

EPIC – Hero!  White hat!  One of the good guys!  I’m Er- Epic. (11)

SCAREWOLF – Grrr…Never heard of you. (5) (33)

Panel 3-  Shot of Scarewolf in a wolf crouch, sniffing the ground, trying to pick up the scent of the burgler.  EPIC is standing up.  He holds out his hands in a sort of mea culpa gesture.

SCAREWOLF – I’m Scarewolf.  Also one of the good guys. (8) (See, I like how this hearkens back to the good ol’ days of hero/hero fights over a misunderstanding. You got it done and out of the way basically in two pages. Kudos. Now, rewrite that second line. It gave me heartburn.)

SCAREWOLF – Thanks to you, a bad guy made off with half a mil in stolen jewels. (15)

EPIC – Oh…I figured with the fangs and the teeth, you were, you know- (12)

SCAREWOLF – Lycanthropy is a disease.  Just ‘cause I’m cursed, don’t make me evil. (12) (47) (Disease vs cursed. Here’s the thing: when people think of a disease, they think of something that can be contracted, like gonorrhea. They also think it can be cured. The thing about curses is that when people think of ‘em, they don’t think in terms of “cure.” They think in terms of “passed to someone else,” and “horror movie.” I personally go back to Lon Chaney, when talking about werewolves. Basically, I want you to pick one or the other and stick with it. Has he contracted a disease, or has he been cursed? And no, he can’t be cursed with a disease.)

Panel 4 – Small panel, close on Scarewolf. nose perked up as he catches the scent of the lowlife.

<sniff><sniff>  Got his trail. (3) (Who’s doing the sniffing and the speaking? Yeah, yeah. I know. Picky me.)

Panel 5 – Over the shoulder shot of EPIC, who gestures with his hand to for Scarewolf to hold up.  Scarewolf has already started bounding down the alley.

SCAREWOLF – See ya, kid. (3)

EPIC – Scarewolf! Hold up a sec… (5) (8)

Panel 6 – Wide panel, full length. Pull back, Scarewolf’s back is to us, on the right hand side of the panel.  On the left, we have a gust of wind, speedlines, off in the direction to the left, where EPIC just flew away.  Some club promotion papers and such blowing about, and maybe Scarewolf’s fur blown in that direction as well..


Panel 7 – Wide panel, full length.  Same exact angle shot, only the gust of wind heads back in the opposite direction, and returned is EPIC, who holds the Lowlife in one arm, and an open satchel of diamonds in the other.  Again, Scarewolf’s back is to us, he’s facing EPIC.


EPIC – We good? (2)

Page 4 – 6 Panels (52)

Panel 1 – EPIC swoops down, Superman style, one leg first, onto Beanie’s balcony a little later that night.  We see the big telescope from Issue 1, but no Beanie here (he’s inside the room.) (This should be angled on the outside, either from the left or the right, so that we can see Epic and the telescope, but so we can’t see into the room.)


Panel 2 – Beanie is sitting on the floor of his bedroom.  Beanie’s not a very organized kid, so there should be plenty of half conducted experiments, taken apart electronics, and plenty of books on the shelves.  If we see any posters on the walls, there might be an Einstein with the tongue sticking out.  On the floor next to Beanie, there are two or three massive anatomy textbooks, some printed out x-ray type scans of Eric’s brain, his laptop, and some pieces of a model brain.  (Something like this.)  He probably has one of those pieces of model brain in his hand, inspecting it.  He should have an open laptop on the floor next to him as well.   Behind him, Eric enters through the balcony entrance to his room. Eric brings one hand to his head, starting to take off his mask.  Beanie isn’t startled by Eric’s sudden appearance…he’s been doing this a lot lately.

BEANIE – How was patrol? (3)

ERIC – Punched a werewolf.  Caught a jewel thief. (6)

BEANIE – Cool. (1) (10)

Panel 3 – Eric, now with his mask off, leans over and starts tapping some keys on Beanie’s laptop on the floor.

ERIC –  But…was it cool enough? (5)

SFX – Tap-ta-tap-tap

Panel 4- Wide, large panel.  We’re peering over Eric’s shoulder, close on Beanie’s laptop screen.  What we have is the website for (Capes Gossip Zone) the TMZ for superhero news.  The answer is no, EPIC is nowhere to be seen on the website.  Front center, though, is a picture of CALI-GIRL, punching out RHINOR on the beach.  The headline reads “Cali-Girl Stops Rhinor Rampage.”  In the sidebars, there might be a couple of links to Top Videos, and at least one of them is a Cali-Girl interview, too.  Video link headline, “Bienvenido a Miami, Cali-Girl.”  And maybe a second video link captioned “Watch BOOMBOX freestyle!” with a headshot of Boombox.

ERIC – Hmmhg… (1)

Panel 5 – Front on shot of the two boys.  Eric, looking down at the laptop, a little dejected.  Beanie has assembled the brain model on a stand in front of him, and is placing the last piece.

BEANIE – No love for EPIC? (4)

ERIC- It’s all Cali-Girl.  What’s a hero gotta do to get on the caperazzi’s radar? (15)

BEANIE – Cheer up, buddy.  I have good news… (6) (25)

Panel 6 – Medium Close on Beanie, who holds the completed brain model in his hands.

BEANIE – I’ve figured out why you lose your powers around the ladies! (11)

I like this page. I know it kinda screws up your plotting a little, but this page would do better as an odd-numbered page. If you decide to print the book, it’s going to end up on the left, and then, all the reader has to do is glide on over to the right in order to continue. That’s no good. You have a mini-cliffhanger here, and while the reveal isn’t dramatic, you can build it up a little by making the reader work for it by turning the page. You do that by putting it on the right, making it an odd-numbered page. What do you use for filler? Extend the fight out a bit. Either that, or do a little more character development between these two.

Page 5 – 7 Panels (153)

Panel 1 – We have a two shot of Beanie (left) and Eric (right), sitting on the bedroom floor.  Beanie is holding the model brain in his hand.  Eric is looking at it, interest piqued.

BEANIE –  I’m going to use some polysyllabic words here, so try to keep up. (13)

ERIC – That means big, right? (4)


BEANIE – Moving on… (2) (19)

Panel 2 – Shot of Beanie, holding the brain model in his hand.  He’s removed an outer section, showing an inner part of the brain. [See reference here and here.]

CAP (BEANIE) – Your powers- super strength, speed, flight, near-invulnerability, and optic energy projection- are regulated by the caudate nucleus, a region in the center of the brain that controls voluntary motor functions. (31)

Panel 3 – Closer on the brain model, but now the caudate area is lighting up with glow effect.

CAP (BEANIE) – Whenever activity to the caudate spikes, however, your powers shut down. (11)

Panel 4 – We pull back, get a down shot of the two boys.  Beanie hands the brain model to Eric.

ERIC – You lost me at polysyllabic.  What causes the spikes? (9)

BEANIE- Being around girls youre attracted to. (6) (15)

Panel 5 – Shot of Eric looking at the brain model and scratching his head.  Beanie smiles at him.  (Beanie should have an expression to match the last balloon. Maybe something like he’s in pain, but with a smile? A scrunched up face?)

ERIC – So, wait…I don’t need to avoid all girls, then?  Just the hotties? (13)

BEANIE – Right.  And that shouldn’t be too tough.  They tend to avoid you.   Burn! (13) (I like this line. Just move the “burn” to a separate balloon.)

ERIC – This sucks!  How am I supposed to be a super hero in Miami?  Hot chicks are everywhere! (17) (43) (Ignore this one at your leisure, but I’d stress the last word here. My own personal thing. You don’t have to do it.)

Panel 6 – Eric tosses Beanie a slightly irked look.  Beanie’s enjoying this.

BEANIE – Avoid beaches and soriority houses for starters. (7)

ERIC – Go on, laugh it up. (5)

ERIC – I am glad about one thing though… (7) (20)

Panel 7 – Shot of Eric, holding the brain in one hand, and looking down at his crotch.

ERIC – At least the problem is in my brain, and not in my…you know… (14)

Page 6 – 5 Panels

Panel 1 – Big panel, top 1/2 of the page or so.  We’re now on the other side of the world, in an African jungle, day time.  CHESTER WEBB, an African-American male, 45, in a tattered business suit is in the foreground, running for his life.  Also in the foreground is his bodyguard, TERREL JOHNSON, a former linebacker (huge.)  Johnson is also running, but has just been grazed in the shoulder by a spray of bullets.  (Bullet impact effect, please.)  The bullets come from a jeep full of AFRICAN THUGS, one of whom is standing up in the jeep and firing a machine gun at the two men.


JOHNSON – AGHH! Keep runnin’, Mr. Webb! (5) (Two balloons. Put his scream in the second one.)


CAP – As a United Nations negotiator AND the father of thirteen adopted children, I’ve dealt with my fair share of conflict. (20) (26) 

Panel 2 – Down shot, looking down through the jungle trees as Chester Webb runs for his life.

CAP – The first rule of conflict negotiation: Always keep your cool.

CAP – Applicable whether you’re sitting at the bargaining table with leaders of the G-12…

Panel 3 – Chester Webb is now crouched behind a large tree in the jungle, hiding, as the jeep cruises on by.  Throw a big cobweb somewhere on the tree for foreshadowing purposes.  He’s gasping for breath.  He’s standing on a sort of thatchy, wood and leafy mix on the ground.

CAP – …O0r running for your life from Angolan warlords. (I know it didn’t come across well. He used a zero instead of an oh.)

WEBB – <Huff><Huff>

Panel 4 – Close on the ground by Chester’s feet.  We see it’s giving way beneath him.

CAP – The second rule of conflict negotiation:  Always look for common ground…

WEBB – Gone. <Huff> Oh thank G- uh?


Panel 5- Down shot of Chester falling down through a big, dark pit.


CAP – …but try not to lose your footing in the process.

PAGE 7 – 4 Panels

Panel 1 – Okay, what’s happening here is that Chester has fallen down a long pit, and landed, suddenly, in a giant spiderweb.  So, he’s not injured.  It’s dark though, so I’m think maybe we can do this as an all or mostly black panel and try to convey it with the lettering.  Show white block letters against the all black vertical panel, sort of spiraling down.  [Other ideas?]

CAP: The third rule of conflict negotiation: Prepare for the unexpected.


Panel 2 – Close on Chester Webb’s hands as he strikes a pack of matches, and the flame lights up.

SFX [Striking a match]- FWK! FWK! FWKSHHHH!

Panel 3- Web holds the matches in front of his face.  It’s dark and it casts a light onto his face, which is already lit up in horror as he sees a monstrosity in front of him.  Maybe we also see some of the spiderweb behind him, which he is stuck in.

CAP – Of course, there are some situations…

Panel 4 – Big old panel, at least the bottom half of the page, if not more.  We’re behind Chester  Webb, his back is to us, and we can see he’s caught in a giant spiderweb at the bottom of the pit, which leads into a large cave.  Chester is holding the lit pack of matches in his hands in front of him.  And standing there in front of him is the largest, scariest, hungriest giant spider you’ve ever seen.  We’re talking 3 times the size of Chester himself.  Let’s also get some skulls and skeletons of dead tribal people littering this cavern.  Also important, we’re gonna need an old SPEAR, maybe sticking up, from a skeleton, and within grabbing distance from Chester, though he does not see it yet.  (I want to shadow the back of the spider some. Two reasons: first, it’s more dramatic. Second, it’s only a match. It won’t give off enough light to illuminate the cavern.)

CAP – …you can’t negotiate your way out of.

PAGE 8 – 6 Panels

Panel 1 – The spider bites Chester on the right side of his neck.  We’re back in the cave.  Chester dropped the pack of matches, which have caused some leaves on the ground to catch fire, providing the only light.    (Nice! Kinda creepy! I like it.)

CAP – My children, all thirteen of them, were orphans once.


SFX (bite)- SCLHOMP!

Panel 2 – Chester elbows the Spider in the face. (Nope. Act this one out. If he’s actively being bitten by the spider, there’s no way he can elbow it in the face. I’d rather see a kick of some kind, instead. That’s more plausible.)

WEBB – Get!

SFX (elbow) – WHUD!


CAP- I adopted them over the course of a twenty-five year career that’s taken me to some of the poorest, most war-torn regions of the planet.

Panel 3- Chester reaches for the spear by one of the tribal corpses, as the giant Spider looms large above him, about to strike. (Two panels. He needs to see it first. So, have him looking around for a weapon first, and he grabs it in the second. He can look around while the spider is recovering from the kick he gave it in the previous panel.)

CAP – They’ve brought untold joy into my life.

CAP – I’ve given them a shot at a better life. (I don’t like the use of the word “life” twice in such close proximity. And this caption sounds rather self-serving.)

Panel 4- Chester jabs the Spider in its mid-section with the spear.



CAP – I’ll be damned if they’re made orphans again.

Panel 5 – Chester pulls away from the spider web, webs still clinging to him, the Spider gnarls in pain and anger nearby.  It’s not dead yet.


CAP – Run.

Panel 6 – Chester in the foreground, running like hell, big spider, spear still stuck in him, behind him, turned, enraged, and ready to give chase.


CAP – Run, old man!

CAP – Your children need you

PAGE 9 – 5 Panels

Note- Panels 1 – 4 on the same row, maybe top 1/3 of the page.  Leave room for big panel 5.

Panel 1 – Shot from behind Chester, it’s all dark, but he’s running toward a light source.

CHESTER – <huff> <huff>

CAP – Light!  I see-

Panel 2 – Pull back, we’re outside of the Cave, looking down and see Chester has run and just barely caught himself from falling a long way down.  The mouth of the cave opens to a steep cliff dropping down hundreds of feet.  Maybe by skidding to a stop, Chester knocks a few rocks off the side of the cliff, and they’re in mid-fall.


Panel 3 – Over Chester’s shoulder, we see the Giant spider ambling toward him.  It’s dark, so we probably only see certain aspects of the spider, mostly in shadows.  Creepy spider eyes a must though.

SFX (Spider feet) – Thulch! Thulch! Thulch!

Panel 4 – Close on the Spiders gnarly face.


VOICE (Off-Panel) – Mr. Webb!

Panel 5 – Biggest panel on the page.  A small UN helicopter hovers outside the mouth of the cave.  It’s got a guy piloting it, and JOHNSON, Chester Webb’s body guard, is hanging out of the side door.  He tosses a rope down towards Webb with his right hand.  Remember he was shot in his left shoulder, so it should be tattered there and a little bloody.  He calls out to Webb.

JOHNSON – Let’s get the hell out of the jungle, sir! (I’m not liking this line at all. If he needs to say something like that, why not a simple “let’s get the hell out of here, sir”?)

I won’t bore you with the rest of the script. These are full scenes, so we’ll end it right there.

Let’s run it down.

Format: I’m going to call Tyler an over-achiever here. Except for the small flub of not naming Scarewolf’s dialogue, this is something to behold, from an editing standpoint. He put the word count at the very top of the page, and then counted the words in the balloons twice: per balloon, and per panel. That made it EXTREMELY easy for me when it came to looking at the word count for panels I thought might have been crowded. Those that I’ve worked with before know that I do this on occasion when I edit, in order to show just how many words are being used and covering the beautiful art. If you do something like this, it should help you to rewrite and be more concise.

Hell, that’s enough right there, isn’t it? No? Okay.

Panel descriptions: There are times when you can see exactly what the writer is going for, and there are times when you can’t. I generally don’t have a problem in seeing what Tyler’s going for. He’s also an artist, which helps, because he knows what can and can’t be drawn. However, there are times when he’s not as dynamic as he could be, as evidenced in the first page splash. He didn’t set up the page as well as he could have, and I’ll come back to that. But as straight panel descriptions, this works for me. Also, he has something in there that was quite impossible. Try acting things out to see if they work. Grab a partner, if necessary. I do it all the time to my wife. Hell, use action figures. (I know you have ’em!) Put them to use.

Pacing: It’s off, but only a tad. I think he should move his reveal to another, right handed page, so that the reader has to get even MORE involved by turning the page in order to get the answer. This means Tyler needs to add a page somewhere. Since this is issue 2, there are plenty of things he can do in order to make that page up. Story points from the first issue that could be picked up and used.

Ah, but you’re thinking that adding a page now means he has to add TWO pages, or else he has to cut a page! And you’d be right. Later on (P10, really), I ask him to cut a page, because it isn’t doing much to push the story forward at that point in time. It was really just padding, and the trimming of it didn’t hurt the integrity of the story at all.

Content: From a story perspective, I think it works. Yes, this is the second issue, but there is enough there to catch people up while still pushing the story forward. This is a series that is meant to be all ages (skewed just a touch older), and that hearkens back to a time when heroes fought each other over misunderstandings all the time. Spidey’s fought just about the entire Marvel Universe at some point, over some misunderstanding or another (probably instigated by Jameson). Same thing, here. He just got it over and done with in a couple of pages.

The big thing here, though, is the setting up of the pages/panels. There are a couple of instances when it just wasn’t done as well as it could have been.

The first was the first page. He effectively buried the lead by putting them in the background. That’s not thinking it through, especially when it comes to the second page and the actions there. The second was with the spider. If you think things through and act them out, you’ll be much more effective in grabbing your audience and keeping them as you spin your yarn.

That’s all I have for this week. See the calendar for who’s next!

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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.

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