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TPG Week 195: Nothing Learned (and it’s brutal)

| September 19, 2014


Welcome back, one and all, to The Proving Grounds! This week, we have someone who’s no stranger here: Luke Noonan! He’s been here twice before. We also have Samantha LeBas in purple, I’m frantic in red, and we’ll see what Luke does with an established character in

Harvey Dent: Red Right Hand



PAGE 1: six panels.


PANEL 1: page-wide establishing shot of grass and undergrowth on the outskirts of Gotham, with the familiar big city skyline filling the b/g. It’s night-time, and the scene is brightly lit by the moon. There’s a very light drizzle of rain. The city skyline has the familiar blimp and moody offices and skyscrapers but NO Bat-signal. Fireworks of red, green and gold are exploding over the city.


CAP (police band): *…ten-ten, disturbance with possible shots fired on Seacord Avenue, twenty-one Charlie respond…* (I have little idea what a ten-ten is. The problem with ten-codes is that what once started out as universal has now become regional. So much so that when 9/11 happened, agencies couldn’t talk to one another because they weren’t speaking the same language. Plain language is the new recommendation when talking on the radio. Also, there is absolutely no need for the asterisks.12)


CAP (police band) *…unit eighty-two Baker: ten-eleven at Drumgo Jewellers (jewelers?), nineteen Forest Way, with possible intruders on premises…* (15/27)


CAP (police band): *…ten-fifty-seven, ambulance required at thirty-nine Thames Cross Street…* (8/35)


CAP (police band) *…unit ninety-three Kelly: ten-fifty-eight at the corner of Edgar and Wallace, report of assault by four to five black males in their late teens, thought to be armed, report of shots fired at ambulance, unit respond…* (36/69)


CAP (Harvey): This is a special day for us. This is when it began. (12/81. You have GOT to be kidding me… Yeah, I don’t know if this is going to go over well… Prepare yourselves.)


PANEL 2: medium shot of Harvey Dent on his motorbike in his flak vest and leather (see visual ref) and he is putting his crash helmet on with head lowered so we can’t see his face. Though his bike has no headlight, he is lit by the moonlight.(How old is he here?)


CAP (Harvey): It’s not my birthday. Not my graduation day, or wedding day, or the day I proposed to Gilda. It’s not the day I first killed. Or first broke the law by looking the other way. (35)


CAP (Harvey, in italics): This is the day I was made. The day I stopped pretending.(12/47)


PANEL 3: med-shot of Harvey from the front as he has just wheeled the bike around on a grassy slope, he and the bike facing down the slope, though he is looking to his left (towards the right of the panel). We can see the lights of an approaching train reflected in the black visor of his helmet, and cast over his black leather jacket and the black metal of the bike.


CAP (Harvey): To stop trying to be in control, to let go of the wheel, and just let the pieces fall (wherever, I’d delete this word) that takes balls. (So would I, but there’s also missing punctuation, one way or the other. 22)


CAP (Harvey, in italics): Or madness. (Why italics? Is that meant to be a stressor? What should he have done, Alyssa? 2/24)


CAP (Harvey): To stop running from the world,(delete comma) and just to face it, head on… (12/36)




PANEL 4: long-shot of Harvey as he speeds the bike down the slope towards several sets of train-tracks which disappear into a wide tunnel, while a subway train covered in graffiti speeds towards the tunnel. From the distance between Harvey and the track and between the train and the tunnel, he is cutting it very fine, as they are all close to their destination. (There are problems here. The biggest is that I’m lost. If this were described left-to-right, what would it look like, Schuyler?)




PANEL 5: med-shot of Harvey as he speeds across the track just in front of the oncoming train. We are directly facing the train. In the driver’s carriage, the aging male train driver looks outraged at Harvey.


CAP (Harvey, in italics): That’s not so crazy.(What is not so crazy?)(4)


SFX (from tracks): BZZ-ZZ-ZZ-ZZ


SFX (from the bike’s tyres): hssssssss


PANEL 6: med-shot from the side, as Harvey speeds along the tunnel on the bike, facing from the right of the panel towards the left, while the train also speeds along beside him in the very close b/g. The tyres of the motorbike are smouldering(smoldering) (UK spelling, like tyres.). We can see the occupants of the carriage are, spaced evenly around, a homeless man asleep, a middle-aged black businesswoman reading a paper, and a teenage goth boy listening to an ipod. None of them notice Harvey next to the train. The inside of the carriage also is full of graffiti. The only light in the panel comes from the inside of the train carriage, and is cast over the right-hand half of Harvey facing the train, while the left-hand half of him facing us the reader is in blackness. (Where’s the camera? Morgan! You’re an artist. Tell me truly: can this panel be drawn the way it’s described? I’m going to say “no.”)


CAP (Harvey): But now I do have control of something. Not of the system, not of law, not of justice. But of me. Just me.(We need to work on this wording)(23)


CAP (Harvey, in italics): I guess I’ve had the best of both worlds.


CAP (Harvey): Now I am my city’s protector, her gargoyle(reaching), her knight. (9/41)


CAP (Harvey, in italics): My name is Harvey Dent. (5/46)


(The gargoyle comment crosses the line for me. There you stop merely obscuring the speaker’s identity for dramatic effect and start actively misdirecting. You are almost lying to the audience. They will lose faith in you.)


First, there is a grand total of 214 words in these six panels. Over a third—a third!—are in the first panel.


Some of it is mitigated by the fact that these are captions. Captions don’t take up as much space as word balloons, but still, there’s going to be a whole bunch of covered art on this first page.


Luke has forgotten to describe things from left to right, and then seemingly goes out of his way in order to be confusing. Panel 6? I shouldn’t have to work that hard on a panel that can’t be drawn.


The ten codes. I don’t mind them, really, but I want you to understand that there’s a growing movement to get rid of them. Plain language.


I’m going to say something, and no one should be surprised about my saying it. The dialogue here is terrible. Not wretched—it hasn’t sunk that far—but it is not “good” in the accepted definition of the word.


It’s overwrought. It’s damned near purple. It’s almost hurtful to read. Gargoyle? Really?


What is the dialogue saying? What is it that you’re trying to say through it? There was a point where it was just okay, and then you fell in love with yourself and continued to write, and then people weren’t wondering what was trying to be said, they were wondering how far you would go. And you went far, Luke. You went far.


And then to name him at the very last part on this page? Awkward isn’t the name. Clumsy is. I know you wanted it to be a big reveal at the end, but it doesn’t work because you overcooked everything that led up to it.



PAGE TWO: six panels.


PANEL 1: med-shot of a GCPD officer as he takes cover from gunfire behind the rear-end of his squad car, his pistol drawn, and speaks urgently into his radio. Bullet holes pepper the car rear bonnet, and one rear headlight is smashed. Another cop lies beside him on the sidewalk with a gunshot wound in the left ribs. (Rear bonnet? Isn’t that the boot? Rear headlight? I’m quite sure that’s called a taillight. I’m glad that we know front from rear, but we should also know some pretty common things, such as taillight. At least there won’t be any confusion.)


1st COP: This is officer Matt Royden requestin’ back-up and ambulance at seventeen Fox Lane, the back of Drumgo jewellery store, we have officer down! Three suspects armed and headin’ towards Forest Way, might be headin’ for Safire Street station…(Why isn’t he called Matt Roydon, 1st COP?)(38)


PANEL 2: med-shot of the subway turnstiles just inside the station, and the overhead sign reads: 22 St and Forest Way. Dizhuo (see vis refs) is jumping over the top of a turnstile. Behind him, Kui hurries towards the stiles, holding his knife up prominently, and is glancing back towards Benny. Behind Kui, in the b/g, Benny is emerging in a run from the bottom of the stairway. On the left of the passage before the turnstiles, the same businesswoman from Panel 6 of Page 1 recoils in fright as Kui passes, while a man in casual hoody, jeans and sneakers is also ducking away from the turnstile. On the other side of the passage from them, the goth teen from Panel 6 of Page 1 has backed up against the wall and stares at Benny’s gun in alarm. Visible on one wall is a poster showing a ring of silhouette paper cut-out people with linked hands with the title: OCCUPY WFC. (This is hard to follow, why is it so hard to follow? I’m going to figure it out.)(It’s hard to follow because it isn’t described either left to right or from front to back/back to front. It’s scattered.)


CAP (police band): *…Despatch to unit fifty-two Frank, we got a ten-thirteen at the rear of Drumgo Jewellers(Jewelers) at Forest Way, suspects armed, in the vicinity of twenty-second street station…*


BENNY: Outta the way, move!


KUI: <What?>


BENNY: <No matter, keep running!>


BUSINESSWOMAN: Aagh!(Lots of dialogue in this panel.)


PANEL 3: long-shot of the three of them as they rush down the second stairs and on to the subway platform: Dizhuo is stumbling and almost falling, Kui rushing after him and Benny alongside Kui. The platform is empty apart from the three jewel thieves. On the left of the panel, we see a train pulling away, going towards the direction the three of them have just come from, as it is heading into a tunnel-mouth level with the opening of the stairway they’ve just run down. (Moving panel.)


BENNY: Oh $#!*


PANEL 4: med-shot of the three of them as they reach the train as it is pulling away, with motion lines as it moves faster (Really? No.). Kui is the first to reach, and he is grabbing frantically at the nearest doors, while Dizhuo is a few paces behind, looking on in dismay. Benny is hurrying up to them, and looks troubled. (Moving panel.)


KUI: <Aw, Hell…!>


DIZHUO: <So what do we do instead, get on a different train?>


BENNY: <I’m thinking…>


SFX: hwwwuuuuuuuuooo


SFX: WH’DNNN-WH’DNNNUH(where are these SFX coming from?)


PANEL 5: medium side-shot of them as they talk. Dizhuo on the left of the panel looking exasperated, and Benny facing him on the right and looking serious, while Kui stands beside Dizhuo, looking depressed. The train hasn’t fully passed by, it’s still proceeding at speed behind Dizhuo on the left of the panel. In the b/g beyond them, directly ahead of our POV, we can see Harvey on his bike emerging at speed(?) from the gap between the train and wall of the tunnel, riding along the thin maintainence(maintenance) platform straight towards the trio (and us) with the light of the carriages reflecting off his helmet, bike and gear, just like in Panel 6 of Page 1. He also holds his nightstick poised threateningly in his right hand.


DIZHUO: <Mr Xiao, please. We’ve followed orders, but… if we don’t give to Yun Wei what he asked for, what about our families? He will kill all-!>


BENNY (over-lapping speech-bubble): <I know, quiet! Wait for me to reach a phone, there may be another way…>


SFX: hwwwooooooooooowww


SFX: WH’DNNN-WH’DNNUHH(Who is Mr. Xioa? The characters confusion is adding unneeded confusion for the reader.)


PANEL 6: med-shot as Harvey is riding past them, just behind Benny, and has just this second struck him in the back between the shoulder blades with his nightstick. Benny has been hurled forwards by the blow in surprise, and his uzi is firing involuntarily, the low-aimed spray of bullets striking sparks from the side of the train and one bullet hitting Dizhuo in the right leg just above the knee. The train is still speeding past them, and a few sparks scatter from the bullet holes.(This feels like a moving panel. I think you’d need two panels to show this well.)(It’s also impossible. I’ll tell you why at the end of the page. Oh, and yes, it is a moving panel.)




DIZHUO: Gaaargh!


SFX (from uzi): KA’KA’KAK


SFX: hwwoooooooww


SFX: WH’DNN-WH’DNNUHH(From where? I don’t know where these go?)


(Okay. I think I may have figured out a way to describe why your panel descriptions are so difficult to follow. You don’t start in a logical place. You start giving us so much information in such broad strokes that it feels disorienting. It’s like starting to draw a face from the nose out, instead of drawing the outline of the head first. The way these are written makes it really easy to gloss over important details. You need to focus. The is a recursion in the way you build your description that does not read well. It layers on itself in funny ways. You are wandering around in circles describing things a little at time. It’s really tricky to parse out what is happening when you do that.)


P2, and we’re still not in a good place.


Let’s go backwards: we’ll start with the dialogue first, and then move back toward the panel descriptions.


The dialogue here is better. Readable. Although, we also generally have to suffer through a case of the dropsies. Harvey’s internal monologue drops off for no good reason. We have the police band for some reason, but no ensuing thoughts from Harv. While that’s a good thing in that we aren’t subjugated to your overwrought dialogue, it’s bad because it’s now expected. It isn’t good.


The other thing wrong with the dialogue? Where’s the caption telling the reader what language they’re speaking? That would be very helpful, no? It isn’t like they’re aliens from some distant planet and thus, don’t really need a language to be identified. However, here on Eart (Yes, “eart”), the reader is going to expect that language to be identified.


At least half of these panels describe a moving action.


The sad, sad fact is that this is Luke’s third time through, and nothing has been learned. Moving panels still abound, as they did before. The panel descriptions are still difficult to read, as they were before. I don’t know if the dialogue is any better—I’m trying not to hurt myself overmuch in re-reading the other scripts. You all are more than welcome to, though.


When nothing has been learned, really, it just makes me sad. Not even angry. Just sad. Because a lot of time is spent on these. A lot of effort is put forth in correcting errors. I’ve literally written several volumes of books worth of material about writing comics. I’ve literally been doing this for 3 years. There is a huge archive to read through.


Was any of this done? Any growth shown?




I’m wasting my time.


Anyway, to give more direction that won’t be used: subways have platforms. That’s where people stand. The rails are lower than the platforms, because the wheels are underneath the train and aren’t enclosed by anything. The car rides on top of the wheels. There is no hump in the middle of the car, right? The platform is there so that the riders do not have to step up in order to board the train.

With that being said, how does Harv get from the place where he is on the tracks to the platform without a jump of some kind?


And that’s why that panel cannot be drawn.

PAGE THREE: six panels.


PANEL 1: med-shot of Benny as he is falling towards Dizhuo (who is off-panel)(on which side), as Benny’s head has just impacted with the glass window of a train carriage as it speeds past, smashing the glass into fragments and spinning him fast off his feet with it’s momentum. He is protected from cuts by his mask. The uzi is tumbling from his grip.(If someone’s head hits a moving train, wouldn’t it cause a whole bunch of damage to the aforementioned head? Am I crazy? [about this, not in general, no questions there]) (No, you’re not crazy. This character is dead because they’ve more than likely been decapitated.)


SFX: krrrssshhh


SFX: hwoooooow


PANEL 2: high-angle med-shot from behind Harvey: Benny has hit the platform on his stomach, hard. Beside him, between him and the speeding train, Dizhuo has slumped to the platform as Kui holds him up, supporting him with his right arm and gripping his knife defensively in his left hand, and the knife-blade is trembling. Dizhuo is grasping his leg just above the wound with his left hand and has lifted his mask with his right, sweating but looking calm. Both of them are looking up towards Harvey. The uzi lies on the platform near to Benny. At the right edge of the panel, we see Harvey as he has just swung the bike around in a tight circle to face the trio.(This description literally goes in circles. Starts with Harvey, ends with Harvey.)




KUI: Th-The Bat-Man…?!




PANEL 3: med-shot of Harvey from the front as he is dismounting from the bike, face still concealed beneath the crash helmet. On the right of the panel, we see the last carriage of the train is about to speed by.


HARVEY: What do I look like to you?(He just said that he looked like the Bat-Man. You can delete this line.)


HARVEY (italics): Do I look like the goddamn Batman? (This is a terrible line. Most have never seen the Batman, and he likes it that way. He wants to retain as much mystery as he can, and likes being thought of as an urban legend.)


DIZHUO (OP): <Kui, the Bat-Man is dead, this is the Russian: the “Cage-Beast”!>(Exclamation mark goes inside quote. This is a silly thing for this fellow to think, Harvey just spoke *presumably* with no accent. Why would he think that he’s the Russian?)


PANEL 4: close-up of Benny’s face as he lies on his stomach, and he is squinting up towards Harvey in pain. In the b/g beyond him, we see the end of the train as the final carriage speeds past.


HARVEY (OP): What’d you say? Hey!


HARVEY (OP, italics): The what beast?


BENNY: …Boss?


DIZHUO (OP): <This whole city is a trap, Kui!>


SFX: hwoooowww


PANEL 5: low-angle med-shot of Harvey, looking down at Benny. He has just lifted the visor of his helmet, and his expression is stern.(How did Harvey get on platform 9 3/4 here? He was on the narrow maintenance panel, they were on the main platform… did I miss something? Is he Two-Faced here?)


BENNY (OP, tiny lettering): Jesus Christ, it’s true…


HARVEY: I’m not your boss any more, Ben.


HARVEY (italics): But you used to be one of my best drivers. Landed on hard times?


BENNY: Mr(period) Two- (The period at the end of honorifics aren’t used in the UK. However, this should be a double-dash at the end to show the interruption.)


HARVEY (overlapping speech-bubble): Dent.


PANEL 6: med-shot of Harvey as he stands over Benny, who has raised himself up on his left elbow and is looking up at Harvey. Dizhuo and Kui haven’t moved. (Teleportation! When did he get off the bike?)


BENNY: Sorry, Bo–uh, Mr(period) Dent. Look, this ain’t exactly what it looks li-


HARVEY (overlapping speech-bubble, italics): You got ten seconds.


BENNY: I’m workin’ for Mr Yun’s business: the Snakeheads. It’s a long story…


HARVEY: In that case, you got twenty seconds. Here’s our train.


SFX (from behind Harvey): hwooowww


(If you want establish Harvey as being different than Batman, you need to… I don’t know, make him different than Batman. He reads very much like the Caped Crusader here.


Is he not Two-Face here? He’s all healed up? Why?) (It’s a DC thing. Harvey was just plain Harvey for a while. This should be sometime during 52, when Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman went away for a year. Harvey stood up and became a protector of Gotham. Don’t know why/how he was cured, or why/how he went back. And he’s different from Batman in that he killed a guy. Also, Batman doesn’t talk this much. Not when he’s looking for answers.)


P3, and someone should be dead, by all rights.


Besides that, we have more panels that are difficult to parse.


There’s also the fact that, while we have action, we have no real reason for the conflict. What have these people done? Where did the police band go? More dropsies.


Really, I’m bored. What’s Harv asking here? What does he want to know, and why does he want to know it? How did he know to go to the train? Batman reasons things out. Harvey isn’t as intelligent as Batman. This seems to have been either a coincidence or psychic ability.


No, I’ll just call it what it is: bad storytelling.

PAGE FOUR: eight panels.


PANEL 1: close-shot of a small black oval aerosol canister which Harvey is taking from his belt – it’s not an exact Bat-canister design, but blunter and more military-looking. If we can see any details around Harvey, they show he is in a moving train carriage.(So he has a utility belt, too? Nothing like Batman. So far the most you have done to establish that he has not just picked up the mantle of the bat is to show us that his not exact Bat-canister is not exactly like a Bat-canister.)


CAP (HARVEY): Took a little longer than that, but the Snakeheads didn’t need much introduction, they’d been around quite a while: Chinese gangs set-up to ship migrants out to the US and other places, for a price. They’re friendly with the good ol’ fashioned Triads. (GAHHHH!!!!!! My head? ‘Sploded. Someone, anyone who isn’t me, tell me why.)(43)


CAP (HARVEY): Takes most of their passengers two life-times to pay for their fare, so the Snakes are only too happy to give them a job in one of their brothels or sweatshops. (31/74)


CAP (HARVEY): But this had to be a new one on us…(huh? Delete ‘on us’ it’s confusing.)(10/84)


HARVEY: So, you took two of your cargo on your li(apostrophe)l late night shopping spree?(Too much text. Way too much.)(13/97)(It’s like there’s a competition with himself. Yes, I need a drink. Luke, you owe me a bottle of whiskey. Ah, who am I kidding? You haven’t listened to anything anyone has said thus far, why would I expect whiskey?)


PANEL 2: med-shot from over Dizhuo’s shoulder, as he sits on a train seat, holding his right hand up warily as if to hold Harvey and the canister at bay. Harvey is stood over him, holding up the canister for him, while the bike is parked behind him in the middle of the aisle of seats. Harvey isn’t wearing the helmet, it is mounted one of the bike’s handlebars. Kui is sat on a seat facing Dizhuo but one seat towards the left of the panel, looking worried for him. Benny is stood behind Harvey and to the right of the panel, looking at Harvey dubiously – Benny has pulled up his mask to his forehead, and his left cheek is bruised. (We’ve just crossed over into crap. Right here. Line of demarcation, folks.)


HARVEY: And you wouldn’t do it without Yun Junior’s permission, so he must be even crazier than they say.(huh?)


DIZHUO: <I don’t want to pollute myself with your Russian drugs…>(Russian?)


HARVEY: Tell your friend the bullet has to come out now, ‘cause he won’t get another chance tonight.


PANEL 3: medium side-view from Harvey’s right and Dizhuo’s left. Dizhuo has lowered his hand, mostly, and Harvey has put the canister close to Dizhuo’s face between his mouth and nose. Dizhuo stares at Harvey and looks very worried. Benny has stepped forward a pace and is in shot between them in the b/g, looking at Dizhuo.


BENNY: <He says you must take the medicine or he’ll leave you for the government agents to capture.>


DIZHUO:<…very well.>


BENNY: They’re not my pals. These are Yun Wei’s Mock Ducks – his decoys.


PANEL 4: extreme close-up on Dizhuo’s face as a thin pale blue vapour sprays from the aerosol into his nose. His eyes are squeezed shut.


DIZHUO: *hhhk!*


HARVEY (OP): “Mock Duck”…?(no? Why is the punctuation outside of the quotes?)(The UK is more sensible than the US about placement of punctuation and quotation marks. This is actually correct. I’m more stupefied about Harvey’s stupidity in not understanding the explanation he was just given.)


PANEL 5: medium high angle shot from over Benny’s shoulder. Dizhuo has passed out, his head leans back with his eyes closed and mouth slightly open. Harvey is looking at Benny, and has taken out a tiny pair of bandage scissors (vis ref). Kui is leaning forward and watching anxiously.(As a lawyer, Harvey would have a very complete knowledge of field medicine, wait, no, that’s not in any, way, shape or form true at all. Where did the scissors come from?)


BENNY: Yeah, clever, huh? Wei uses illegal migrants to do jobs and make drugs runs for him. If they get caught by the cops, he knows they won’t talk, ’cause he still has their families, and now the KGBeast is gunning for the Yun business all over town, it means less risk, ‘cause ducks are expendable. He put me in charge of these two.


HARVEY: “The Russian…” That’s what this one said before – they thought I was the KGBeast. What’s his angle here?


BENNY: Heh, I dunno, but someone must be paying him a lot of rubles to go after Yun Wei. Wei would cut your rubles off and make them earrings for his girlfriend, know what I mean? He’s worse than his father.(Too much dialogue for the panel, or for a normal attention span really.)


PANEL 6: close shot of the bandage scissors as Harvey uses them to cut through the blood-stained cloth of Dizhuo’s pant-leg in a small vertical cut, exposing the bullet wound.


HARVEY: Hmm. So we don’t have enough street-level patsys, we have to import ‘em?


BENNY (OP): Isn’t their fault, really. Back home, this bunch are followers of Falun Gong-


HARVEY (over-lapping speech bubble): Who’s Falun Gong? A new Triad?(Doesn’t make sense for him to interrupt with this question)


PANEL 7: medium side-shot of Harvey from his left and Dizhuo’s right. He is looking down carefully at the bullet wound in Dizhuo’s leg, and is holding a tiny pair of forceps, poised with their tips just touching the bullet wound. Kui is now sitting on the same side as Dizhuo, one seat away, watching.


BENNY (OP): Falun Gong is a spiritual movement, kinda like Taoism, based around balancing good and evil in the human body, or something.


HARVEY: Good luck with that. So why are they here?


PANEL 8: extreme close-up on the forceps as they slowly pull the flattened bullet partly out of the wound.(Why is he a field medic? Are you thinking of Alfred? This is driving me nuts.)


BENNY (OP): A few years back, the Chinese government got strict and decided they didn’t like the movement, declared it was a subversive superstition, y’know, against the state and all that, and started a crackdown on anyone caught practicing it. And when the People’s Republic crack(cracks) down on something, you really know about it.


BENNY (OP, small lettering): Ouch…


HARVEY (OP): That makes these people political refugees…


BENNY (OP): Hey, don’t ask me, I just work here.(Too much dialogue for the panel.)


(This is so dense.)

P4, and you know what? This page is a complete travesty.

Let’s look at it.

First, for those who have been paying attention, we knew Luke was in trouble as soon as he had 8 panels. This is a no-man’s land. It isn’t a nine-panel grid, and it pushes past the normal limit of seven panels. It’s just a bad place to be. That jumps out immediately.

Follow me, now. The next part is important, and will explain my explosion.

I’ve said it before, and I guess it needs to keep being reiterated: the more panels you put on the page, the fewer words can fit in a panel, because words cover art. More panels means smaller panels. That’s simple physics. So, if more equals smaller, you can’t fit a lot of words into a smaller space.

So why the fuck are there 97 words in the first panel? That’s 16 more words than P1, panel 1. I don’t get it. I don’t understand it.

This is what happens when you don’t pay attention, when you don’t care, when you’re just trying something out. “Ah, I’ll write a script, sell it to Darcel, and make some money. I’ll run it through The Proving Grounds first, though. I haven’t tried writing anything in years, though, and I won’t go back and see if I’ve learned anything. It’ll be alright…”


Notice that I didn’t even count the words in the rest of the page. I’m trying not to give myself an aneurysm.

From Bill Cosby: Himself:

Have you ever seen a conniption? You don’t wanna see ’em!

My wife’s face…split! It split, and the skin and hair split, so there was nothing but the skull. And orange light came out of her hair, and fire shot out of her eye sockets, and began to burn my stomach!”

That’s what I’m feeling right now. I feel like having a conniption, because I’m honestly feel like I’m wasting my time.

Hopefully, everyone else is learning.

This is how you construct a story that doesn’t make sense. And this is the reaction you garner when you do it.

PAGE FIVE: eight panels.


PANEL 1: medium side-shot of Harvey from his left and Dizhuo’s right. Harvey is holding up the forceps with the flattened bloodied bullet in their grip, and he is looking down at Dizhuo’s leg, while lifting the bloody cloth of Dizhuo’s pant-leg up slightly to see the skin underneath.


HARVEY: This guy’s leg is covered in old scarring, interrogation burns…(Interrogation burns? Is that a thing people say?)(They do now…)


BENNY: I told you they were strict.


BENNY: Is it true what they say about Batman, that he’s dead somewhere? And that’s why you’re… doing what you’re doing? (If you’re going to have an ellipse, learn how to use it. No lessons. I’m just trying to get through this.)


PANEL 2: extreme close-up of the forceps in Harvey’s hand, and he is dropping the flattened bloodied bullet from their grip into a tiny clear evidence bag.


HARVEY: I’m doing what I’m doing because of me, not him. Now, gimme a second – here’s what you’re gonna do…(Not a satisfying answer, for anyone.)


PANEL 3: close-shot of Harvey writing in a tiny notebook.


HARVEY: This is the home number of the Deputy Mayor of Housing Development. Soon as you get off this train, you’re going to call him from a payphone, give him my regards, and tell him that every one of your ducks and their families is coming to work at his house for a while…


PANEL 4: med-shot of Harvey as he extends his left arm to give torn-out page to Benny, who reaches to take it relucantly(reluctantly), looking troubled. In his other hand, about chest level, Harvey is also holding a tiny synringe(syringe) with a tubular sheath. He holds it by the tubular body, not as if he is about to inject someone with it.(Where is all this stuff coming from? The belt? We need to see him going to the belt for it.)(Magically delicious.)


HARVEY: …because if they don’t, this whole city is going to know about the hookers he used to beat up, starting with the ten-cent tabloids. Tell him I’ll be in touch about their visas. I wrote it all down, don’t leave anything out.(Way too much text, will not fit.)


BENNY: Bo–, um, I mean, Harvey, sir, look… if I betray Yun Wei, he’ll skin me alive!


PANEL 5: med-shot, like the last, but Benny is now holding the tiny note and reading it, while Harvey extends the synringe(syringe) for him to take.


HARVEY: Forget Wei and the business. I’ll deal with him. But give your wingman here a shot of this to wake him up, then sit tight ‘til the Deputy Mayor picks you up. The families can move in tomorrow.


BENNY: What about KGBeast? He’s still out there…


PANEL 6: med-shot from over Benny’s shoulder. Benny is looking at Harvey, who has just this second put his crash helment(helmet) back on, the visor still up. Harvey is looking at Benny.


HARVEY: Wei is the bait, Beast is the predator. One big stone.(huh? What does that mean?) Leave ‘em both to me.


BENNY: Y’know, I always wanted to drive the Mayor’s limo through the middle of Grant Park at midnight…(We’ve crossed the line from cryptic into nonsense.) (We crossed that line as soon as we got a bike onto a train, and no ticket taker has come through…)


PANEL 7 (panel in-set): extreme close-up of Harvey’s left hand as he uses a pocket-size hand-tazer(taser) on the panel-button of the train doors. Sparks spray from the over-loading panel-button. The tazer(taser) is similar to the canister: black and sleek but no-frills, not quite Bat-style.(Oh, and it’s black, too? Not like Batman at all. At least give him a color to differentiate him from Batz.)


HARVEY: He’s not Mayor yet, and don’t get any ideas. Get them ready to move.




PANEL 8: med-shot of Harvey on the motorbike as he has just sped out through the open doors of the speeding subway train as it turns a corner, the momentum carrying the bike straight over the curving empty tracks beside the train. Our POV is facing Harvey along the empty tracks he’s flying over, though the tracks lead slightly to our left/the left-hand side of the panel (see vis ref). Through the carriage doors, we can see Benny watching him go from within the carriage, holding on to a hanging passenger-grip as the air in the carriage is sucked out the open doors, as if blown out by a fierce wind. In the bottom right-hand corner, we can see a couple of rats scurry away in fright towards our POV beside the empty track. Along the side of the train, we can see the graffitied words SON OF THE DRAGON sprayed in orange letters wreathed in red flames, the word SON ending just in front of the open carriage doors (which is why the letter S of SONS is missing), the rest of the words continuing along the train as it curves around the corner. The letter O in SON is a black and white yin-yang, while the letter O in DRAGON has a yellow lightning flash through it exactly like the Flash symbol in reverse, pointing from upper left to lower right. The scene is lit by lights from within the train carriages and by a couple of yellow lights in the tunnel, as per visual ref.(Too much, just tooooooo much.)(I don’t have the words.)


CAP (BENNY): Good to see you’re back, Sir.(should be in quotes if spoken aloud)


CAP (HARVEY): The drug was Russian, a meta-fentanyl cocktail the Bat had synthesized himself. Told me it was an improvement on something he borrowed from ex-military Russian mob hitters.(What drug? — What he gave the guy to knock him out? Oh, wait there was a casual mention of drug running a few pages ago, are we back to that? That was the plot point? I missed it. I thought we were dealing with human trafficking, my bad. Another case of too much.)


CAP (HARVEY): Fine. I admit it. You’re ahead of us, Bat.


CAP (HARVEY, italics): Now keep watching…(huh?)


(I cannot follow the thought process in the captions. I read a lot of dark and twisty voice overs, I have nothing against them. Here, though, Harvey seems to be in dialogue with someone else, and you aren’t moving us through the other side of the conversation. It’s more like hearing someone on the phone than being in someone’s head.)


P5, this is crap, yadda yadda, I’m waiting for Sam to stop so that I can stop, so we can all get off this crappy-go-round…

PAGE SIX: seven panels.


PANEL 1: low-angle view of a high rise apartment building, one of several grouped closely together in a Manhattan-style cluster (see vis ref for an idea) with the moon high above, partly hidden by dark clouds.


CAP (HARVEY): “The Duckblind.”


CAP (HARVEY): This was Yun Junsai’s fortified private retreat and safehouse, known only to a few trusted individuals, and to me. He chose to hide it in plain view, surrounded by witnesses. But it wasn’t strategics that made him set it up here, I’ll bet the view reminded him of Beijing, where he grew up. Despite his line of business, Junsai was the sentimental type.(Too much. See Brubaker for how to do what you think you are doing. Crime Noir style VO has to punch, it can’t role out like idle prose.) (I…I threw up a little in my mouth.)


CAP (HARVEY): When the apple falls far, it falls hard.(This does not mean anything, it’s not an idiom, and it wasn’t set up as a metaphor earlier.)


PANEL 2: med-shot of Harvey sat on a chair in a sparse living room, moonlight coming in large slanted shafts through the large window out of shot. He doesn’t wear the crash helmet. His expression looks cold, his nightstick across his knees. There is a desktop computer on a wide desk in the b/g, with a well-stocked bookcase to the right of it, and to the left of the computer is a four-foot statue of Shang Yang, matching the public statue (see vis ref) and looking in the direction of the window and the light.(Where are we?)


CAP (HARVEY): It’s good to have family you can trust.


CAP (HARVEY): I remember one fourth(capitalize) of July, my father drove me down to Vermont to visit my grandparents. They were never ones for the city. (So, he’s Canadian? Or, is he from Maine? That’s the only way to be driven “down” to Vermont…)


CAP (HARVEY): The morning of the fifth, dad was still sleeping off a bottle of Kentucky bourbon, so my grandma and grandpa took me with them to see the grave of Calvin Coolidge, the thirtieth President. They said they went every year.


PANEL 3: med-shot of the grave of Coolidge, with that of his wife and son on the left and right (vis ref). The grave has a wreath and number of bunches of flowers on it, with a few on his wife’s grave and some on his son’s. In the b/g is a pretty dawn sky.(Too many scene changes without connection, you are jumping around.)(We really are in House of Pain!)


CAP (HARVEY): My grandpa always said he was our best President. “Since him, we’ve had a lot of good talkers. But Cal Coolidge was a great thinker… Seems more an’ more, it’s a rare kinda fella that can step up and do both at the same time, when it counts.”


CAP (HARVEY): “Let’s see if you can’t outshine your daddy, huh, Harv…?” (Why are these lines attributed to Harvey, if you are showing us a flashback, why isn’t Grandpa Dent speaking?)


PANEL 4: med-shot of the eight-year old Harvey in the graveyard, his grandpa on his right, his grandma on his left. His grandma smiles down at him, while his grandpa stoops slightly and is holding a silver dollar coin just by Harvey’s head, as if he plucked it from behind Harvey’s ear. Harvey is looking at the coin and smiling.


GRANDPA: Huh… look what I found.


GRANDPA: How ‘bout that?(And now you are going to presume to tell us where Harvey got his coin? Harvey Dent got his coin from Marconi. That’s cannon.)


PANEL 5: close-shot of Harvey, back in the present, unmoved from his position in panel 2. His expression is still cold.


CAP (HARVEY): Innocent times.


CAP (HARVEY, italics): Time to get back on the clock, Harv…


CAP (HARVEY): Yes.(Why is this here?)(Oh! I get it. And it’s not well done, either.)


PANEL 6: med-shot of Harvey. He is standing by the chair, expression serious, left fisted hand at his side, holding his nightstick at stomach level in his right hand, looking ready for action. A sliver of light has appeared on the right of the panel, and in the light we see a Taiji chart wall hanging (vis ref) on the wall just to Harvey’s left, directly facing the window.


WEI (OP, tiny lettering): [illegible-illegible-illegible-]hahahahahaha!


PANEL 7: med-shot of Wei and his girlfriend as they’ve both entered through the door, light spilling in from the passage outside. Wei is looking puzzled to see Harvey, and is still holding the door handle with his left hand, having just swung it open inwards, while holding a half-finished bottle of champagne. His girlfriend is staring in amazement at Harvey.


HARVEY (OP): Hello, Wei.


WEI: What the £@%!? Who the…? H-how did you get in here?(The pound sign is weird here.)


HARVEY (OP): I’ve seen the blue prints for half the buildings in this city. You’d be surprised what pulling strings down at Housing Developments can do. You should ask your daddy.


(I want to SEE Harvey use some of his cunning. It’s all happening off panel. He needs to be more active. We see him knock Benny down with a nightstick, and now that I think about it, we never saw him retrieve it. Tsk tsk. He’s done a little triage. Other than that, he’s ridden a motorcycle, taken the train, been shown sitting and then standing. I am not sold on Harvey as the hero Gotham needs or deserves.)




Really, I’m just skimming. But in my skimming, I’ve noticed what Sam noticed. Hopefully, I’ve made sense of it.


Harvey is Harvey, and the one in italics is Big Harv, or Two-Face.


If that’s the case, you’ve descended into stupidity, and I’ll tell you why:


Harvey and Two-Face are the same people. They know the same things. Harvey cannot tell Two-Face memories as though Big Harv doesn’t already know them.


Let’s say you have a brother. Not just a brother—a conjoined twin. You go to a park, and some kids are mean to you. It’s now years later…are you going to tell your brother something as though they weren’t there—as though they were never there? Or are you going to reminisce? “Hey, Joe, remember when we were eight and went to the park, and those boys threw rocks at us?”


What you’ve tried to do is trick the reader, which is fine, but in doing so, you’ve confused the letterer and the editor, because you have the same naming convention for both characters. You’ve named them both Harv, instead of saying that one is different than the other. The italics isn’t doing it, because it isn’t enough. It sounds like a stressor, instead of someone else actually speaking.




I think we’re coming near the end, though.

PAGE SEVEN: seven panels.


PANEL 1: med-shot from the side of Harvey as Wei walks towards him. Wei’s girlfriend walks close behind Wei, but remains in the b/g. The Taiji wall hanging is in the middle of the panel, facing us, and there is a set of filing cabinets beneath it and to the right. There is a round coffee table in the close f/g, bottom right-hand corner, with a leather armchair behind it.


WEI: I know you… you’re the Two-Face – or at least, you were. Niiice work. Who’s your surgeon?(Nope, no one says ‘the Two-Face’…. nope.)


HARVEY: I got medicare. And the name’s Harvey Dent. So, how is your father, Wei?(I got medicare doesn’t make sense. He didn’t ask how he afforded it. He asked who did it? Can’t be a sting without a set up.)


WEI: Older than ever. Those cigars he liked really took their toll, I always said they’d catch up with him. Heh, you can still smell them in here. His lungs must’ve looked like barbecue beef! But he’s where he belongs now: in the old country. This city’s no place for old men.(And now a Cohen Brothers reference, or were you going for Yeats? Is he making a reference? I can’t tell how you are building him. Is he a thug? An intellectual? Both?)


PANEL 2: med-shot of Wei, as he is putting the champagne bottle down on top of the set of cabinets in the previous panel. He is grinning at Harvey, but not in a friendly way. Wei’s girlfriend is stood close behind him, her left hand touching his left elbow, her right hand at her side. She is looking at Harvey coldly.


WEI: Y’know, I always wanted to meet you: the Duke of Duality, Mister Two-Face, Big Bad Harv. Here’s the man who let’s fate decide whether people live or die, he leaves it up to God to choose what happens, whichever way the wind blows, even when it comes to his own skin. Now that takes some set of balls…(So glad we get to return to discuss Harv’s half-charred testicles more.)


HARVEY: Well, here I am, Wei. I hear you’re being hunted by a bear: Anatoli Knyazev.


WEI: Heh, it’s not me I’m worried about, Harvey. It’s these little migratin’ ducks I got working for me. See, the Beast whacked five of them since the weekend, tryin’ to undermine my new venture. If the rest of them panic anymore, it means they can’t fly straight, I’m gonna have to put ‘em all down. Can’t bear to see ‘em suffer any more…(Too much. Why is dropping ‘g’s?)


PANEL 3: med-shot of Harvey from over Wei’s right shoulder. He looks more casual in stance, the left corner of his mouth raised in a half-smile.


HARVEY: Yes, I heard about your venture. “Mock Duck” was a racketeer in New York’s Chinatown – one of the first, one of the best.


WEI: Riiight, he was the one started the Hip Sing Tong. They said he survived a point blank shot in the throat, an’ that he could shoot a gun in both hands, with his eyes closed. Your old man make you learn the classics too, huh?


HARVEY: I went to law school.


PANEL 4: low-angle shot of Wei and girl from behind, and Wei’s left hand is resting on his left hip, while his girlfriend is stood casually beside him on his left, and she is putting a knife handle-first into his left hand with her right hand.


WEI: Only trouble is, Mock Duck ended up betrayin’ his own people to the cops. An’ if there’s one thing I hate, it’s disloyalty, ‘specially to your own kind.


WEI: You know what they said about you, Harv? That you’re workin’ for the cops now. You’re workin’ with the Bat-Family…


PANEL 5: close-up on an incoming black and red rifle-grenade (see vis ref) just before it hits the outside of the window. The nose of the shell is about three inches from the glass, and we can see the glass is about three inches thick. The shell’s trajectory is level, as if it was fired from a corresponding window across the street. Our POV is from outside the window. Through the glass, we can see Wei and his girlfriend looking at the window in alarm, Wei is same place as before but with the knife held in his left hand, while his girl is a couple of steps back from where she stood in the previous panel.


PANEL 6: close-up of Harvey as he drives his left elbow into Wei’s collarbone, Wei recoiling back from the blow in pain. Wei is holding up the knife his girl handed to him prominently. Our POV is from over Harvey’s right shoulder, and we can see Wei’s girlfriend ducking behind the armchair in the b/g.


WEI: …!


PANEL 7: med-shot of the window, from within the apartment, as the rifle-grenade detonates against the protective glass with a yellow-orange flash, the force of the blast blowing a jagged but circular hole about four-foot across in the glass, with the surrounding glass still in the window frame now densely riddled with cracks. Jagged chunky fragments of glass like hailstones shower into the room from the centre of the blast, and scatter out in all directions from the edges of the blast. In the centre of the yellow-orange burst, we can see the broken and fragmented black outline of the body of the rifle-grenade as it disintegrates, while the head/shell at the front has already been disintegrated completely.




(I am a pretty smart girl. I have read Faulkner, and liked it. My reading comprehension skills are not lacking. I am not just randomly bragging on myself, I said that to say this. You are making this too complex. We have a healed Harvey, as a good guy. A missing Batman, who Harvey talks to, a political scandal, Russian and Chinese gangsters, drug running, human trafficking, a New York branch, and a Calvin Coolidge centered flashback, and an explosion. There are too many moving parts. It’s not coming together, it’s not a mystery, it’s confusion. There is only one more page, but I can’t I just can’t. It’s time for the speech I have been wanting to give you since page 1.


I love Batman. I love Gotham. I think it is sort of hallowed ground. Here’s what this looks like, you picked up the Batman universe in a bar after a few too many drinks. Made some small talk, got to know it a little bit, and then you somehow convinced it to go home with you. The next day you woke up and gave it some excuse about needing to get work early, or driving someone to the airport, and kicked it out. So, the universe slinked away wearing its clothes from the night before and awkwardly carrying its shoes in its hands. You never exchanged numbers and it shows. Later on, you started telling your buddies about how cute it was and how into you it had been and the story spun out of control. The details were wrong, you were mixing bits up, and when you couldn’t remember, you made something up instead. It looks like that.)


She stopped, so I can stop, and run this travesty down. (I already said this was crap, right? And that I basically just skimmed near the end? This page? Skim City.)


Format: Flawless Victory! And that’s the only good thing about this.


Panel Descriptions: Too wordy. The more words you add, the more confusion you bring. They should be described from left to right, giving only the important points. You give a whole lot more than that, and you lose us. It’s crap.


Oh, and moving panels.


Pacing: Things happen, but you tried to cram twenty pounds of shit into a five pound bag. This story needs to be simplified. A simple through-line. That’s all that’s needed. Instead, you have the character bouncing here and there without any rhyme or reason.


On top of that, you slow everything down by trying to ram a fuck-ton of dialogue down our throats. (Yes, that’s the technical term.)


Just not good.


Dialogue: We’ve already mentioned the fuck-ton of dialogue. Most of it is unnecessary, and because of that, very hard to get through. None of it is wretched, but 98% of it is just bad. It doesn’t lend itself to being read at all.


Dialogue is supposed to reveal character and move the plot. You revealed some character, but instead of moving the plot, you took it out back, shot it in the knees with a cannon, ran over its head with a planet, and then decided to gut-check it with a lightsaber.


Content: As a reader, this isn’t readable. ‘Nuff said.




Fuck me. Really. Third time through, nothing learned, and you went backwards with the density of dialogue.


There’s no studying done here. If I went and counted a random bit of dialogue from P6 or P7, I’m almost guaranteed to come back with about 40 words in a single balloon…on a 7 or 8 panel page.


Before this gets a rewrite, learn to really write for the medium. Right now, you have the elements, but you aren’t putting them together. You need to write in order to get better. It’s easy to see you haven’t been writing, or else you would have learned something.


And now, I’m done wasting my time.


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.


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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 for rate inquiries.

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