TPG Week 117: Something Unexpected!

| March 22, 2013


Welcome back to The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a returning Brave One in Jon Parrish, who hails from Stumpbottom, Kansas. As always, we have Steve Colle in blue, I’m in red, and we’re going to see all about

Life in the FZ

[Page 1][5 Panels]

Panel 1: A wide establishing shot of a very high end restaurant. Something similar to this: (
The POV is from the far end of the restaurant facing out over the tables. The tables have two people sitting at each of them. In the background, there are a row of large windows. It is night time.

CAP (TIFFANY): “I still can’t believe you got us reservations.” (See this? I’m in love, right here. Why? Because we have a voice-over caption, and we know who’s talking. The letterer could color this appropriately, and everything would turn out right. I’m almost in a swoon!)

Panel 2: A side view of Matthew Grover and Tiffany Finch sitting at a table next to one of the large windows. We can see other buildings in the background, but they are all shorter than the restaurant. Matt is sitting with an enthusiastic grin on his face. Tiffany is sitting, but looks slightly uncomfortable.

MATT: Impressed?

TIFFANY: Well, people usually have to make reservations a month in advance.

MATT 2: Three, but it’s no big deal.

Panel 3: A medium shot of Tiffany from Matt’s P.O.V. She’s looking out of the window nervously and brushing her hair behind her ear.

TIFFANY: You shouldn’t have. Really.

MATT (op): It was worth it, Tiff. (Consider changing the first two words to You’re. It comes across more personal that way.)

Panel 4: A view of Matt’s hands holding one of hers.

MATT: I’d do just about anything- (double-dash.)

TIFFANY: Matty, stop.

Panel 5: A side view of Matt looking out the window and seeing a silhouette of someone swinging toward the window. (Is Tiffany in this panel? She should be.)

TIFFANY: Don’t make this any harder.

MATT: Make what- (Double dash and question mark.)

We’ve got P1 down, and guess what? I’m kinda interested.

The panel descriptions are much better this time around. It looks like Jon has been putting in the work. It’s still sparse, but not so sparse as to leave you in a complete void. There’s more than enough space for the artist to do their work, flexing their muscles.

I’d tweak the dialogue a bit, but not much. What’s good about the dialogue, though, is that both names are apparent, on the first page, and it doesn’t sound forced at all. Very nice work with that, Jon. Very nice, indeed.

[Page 2][2 Panels]

Panel 1: A splash page of an FZ guard crashing through the window feet first while holding onto a black rope. The letters FZ are on his riot gear in bright pink letters. Tiffany is sheilding herself from the glass. Matt is in the foreground looking at the FZ Guard in shock.

SFX: KISH!!! (Two points to mention on this SFX: 1) Don’t overemphasize with more than one exclamation mark as it’s overkill, and 2) If using a new SFX like KISH! , make sure to make it count, like spelling it as KISSSHHH! It’s the difference between dropping a plate on the floor and a full blown smashing of a plate glass window.)


Panel 2 (inset): Matty is getting kicked in the face by the man’s boots. (Clarification, please. Is the guard still in swinging motion when Matt gets kicked in the face, or has he landed and is giving Matt a kick to the face? What causes the question is the two parts of the swing and kick. Instead of being kicked in the face as the guard crashes through the window, which would have been more dramatic, you’ve broken it down into two actions. Decide one way or the other, but my suggstion would be to have a splash or single panel full bleed as the flying glass extends off the page.)

SFX: THWACK!!! (If this action is simultaneous to the smashing of the glass, then it isn’t needed. If separate, then go for it, with only one exclamation mark, sir.)

P2, and the action hasn’t moved that much. We have the splash, which starts the story, but is it necessary? That I’m unsure of. Would I replace it? Not without having something else in mind. For right now, I’d leave it. I won’t call it fine, but since I don’t have anything better, I’m not going to ask for a change.

I get Steve’s request for clarification. Personally, I saw the kick still happening with the swing, because the panel is inset to the splash. I’m not seeing the guard being able to have the time to land and land a kick in the time it would take to get to the inset. That’s probably what the artist is going to do, also. But I understand the wanting of clarification.

Know what’s missing? Dialogue. I’d like to see the story advance some more, and that can be best done with dialogue here. Give it a thought. At least some screams.

[Page 3][4 Panels]

Panel 1: A downward view of Matt. He’s just been slammed to the ground.

FZ OFFICER: Matthew Grover, you are you’re under arrest. (This use of you are sounds robotic.)

MATT: What? (This is a weak way of expressing his disbelief, as is the missing visual shock value of his facial expression in the panel description. This is a pardon me? way of responding, not a WHAT THE HELL –?! , so make sure to put that power into the acting.)(He’s also just been kicked in the face…)

Panel 2: A worm’s eye view of Matt and the FZ guard on the ground. The FZ OFFICER has his knee on Matt’s back. He is holding his handcuffs in his free hand. Matt is looking away from the reader at Tiffany. Tiffany is looking down at Matt with a serious look on her face.

TIFFANY: I’m sorry, Matty. I called the FZP.

MATT: You’re friend zoning me?!

Panel 3: A view from Matt’s POV of Tiffany throwing her hands up in exasperation.

TIFFANY: What was I supposed to do?! You weren’t getting the hints! You weren’t listening!

MATT (op): But- (double dash here)

Panel 4: A close-up of the FZ Guard’s hand pushing Matt’s face against the floor.

FZ OFFICER: Shut it, worm!

TIFFANY (op): Sorry, Matty…

SFX: Click click click!

Panel 5: A close-up of Matt’s hands, now cuffed, behind his back.

TIFFANY (op): But this is for your own good.

And this is where your story should have ended, believe it or not. A quick vignette of the life of a man whose affections aren’t returned in kind and the lengths to which the woman will go to to ensure the message is received. Good theme which applies to too many of us, right? So why go further? Let’s go a couple of more pages in, just to see where this goes…

Stopping here? I don’t know about that. I’ll be going further, myself. What I do know, however, is that this is hilarious! Echoes of Chris Rock, but taken to the extreme and without the profanity. Hilarious!

As for the execution of this page, I have no problems with it at all. I’m still blown away by the fun I just had in reading this.

[Page 4][5 Panels]

Panel 1: A side view of Matt sitting in a black van with brown seats. There are small bars over the windows. He is handcuffed and he looks like he’s still in shock.

FZ GUARD (op): Are you comfy?

MATT: Not real- (Double dash here)

FZ GUARD 2 (op): Fantastic.

Panel 2: A pull back for panoramic side shot of the van driving on a dirt road at night. There are trees in the background and the silhouettes of trees in the foreground. The van is black with the letters FZP on the side door.

MATT: Are there bathroom breaks?

FZ GUARD: You’re joking, right?

(Both of these bits of dialogue are needless additions. Cut them and let the visuals show the passage of time.)

Panel 3: Same angle. The van is now driving on a desert road at night. There are cacti scattered in the background and foreground.

MATT: Do you-

FZ GUARD: No. Whatever it is, no.

(Same here. Cut.)

Panel 4: Same angle. The van is crossing a drawbridge over a moat. It is sunrise. There are three crocodiles in the water.

FZ GUARD: Wake up, kid.

Panel 5: A long shot from behind the van driving toward the FZ, a massive prison that is either painted black or made entirely of blackstone. It resembles San Quentin State Penitentiary ( but has two more floors. There is a fence surrounding the building and searchlights aimed at the ground on each side of the road.

FZ GUARD: We’re here.

I’m stopping here. This is a lot of nothing, one full page of driving. It’s also a lot of overkill. Isn’t it enough that the FZP would arrest him? I get where you’re trying to go, but the story doesn’t need to go there to make it’s point nor to be entertaining. It’s like you were in a race, won the race, and now are doing laps for the sheer hell of it. Stop. Realize when your story has told its story. Anything else is going to detract from what made it successful.

Wow. That was fun.


Steve’s right, though. As a short, this should have stopped on P3. However, thought through and given a distinctive point of view, and this could easily be a series. Fun, satirical, and also making social commentary. If Chew can be successful, so can this.


I had fun with this. Let’s run it down.


Format: Flawless Victory.


Panel Descriptions: Very nice. I had no real problem in seeing any of the actions. Nice work, Jon.


Pacing: I was only a tiny bit put off by the splash page, feeling it didn’t do much to move the story forward, however, it was perfectly placed. How do we fix the problem? We add more dialogue both to P1 and P2. More of a buildup. That’s the only problem I’m seeing. By giving more of a buildup, you’ll have a bigger response to the absurdity of P2. (This is absurd in a good way, not a bad one.)


Dialogue: There wasn’t enough of it. What was there did its job, but there should have been more to really sell the idea. If you thought it through some more, this would be extremely fun, because no one would see it coming.


Content: This is something I’d pick up in a heartbeat. (How often do I say that?!) Again, as a reader, I found this to be extremely fun. It just needs to be thought through and played up to its best effect. This is a great idea. Just have fun with it, while doing the hard work.


Editorially, this needs guidance, but with only four pages, it’s hard to see how much. Steve is right in saying that P4 should have been silent. That’s for this story. However, as a series, this would be a great time to give a character’s world view. Meaningful exposition would ensue, and as long as it were clever, you’d be seen as a genius.


Work this up, Jon. Seriously. You have something here.

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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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