TPG Week 129: Lots O’ Problems

| June 14, 2013



Welcome once again to The Proving Grounds!

Before we get started, an announcement: we’re dangerously close to running out of scripts. Please, writers, we’re here for you, and we literally cannot do it without you.

Okay, with that out of the way, this week brings us a new Brave One in Danos Philopoulos. We have Samantha Lebas in purple, and I’m in red. Let’s see how Danos does with his

Big Bang


Page 1 (5 panels)


Shot of a farm house on a warm summer day. In the extreme foreground, a ladybug rests on a blade of grass or a chipmunk munches on an acorn, anything to enhance the feeling of serenity of the setting.


West Virginia, U.S.A(period) (Is this an omniscient narration or a character narration, make sure your quotation marks reflect your decision. Remember, in captions, quotation marks mean that someone is actually speaking in another location. Comics are not prose.)


Closer shot of the home’s porch. Seated in a wooden chair is Martha bathing in the warmth of the sun. She is a woman in her 60s. Leaning back relaxed in her arm chair with a teacup in hand. Wearing a light summer gown and slippers, she contently sips tea from a set of old fashioned porcelain china laid out on a table beside her. A leaf blows by. (This panel describes multiple actions; holding tea and sipping tea are two different drawings. Also pay attention to your modifiers. She is not sipping tea FROM the set of china. If you mean that the teacup is sitting on the table beside her, that adds a third place for that cup to be in this panel.)


Well I say(comma) ain’t nuttin’ lika cool breeze on a warm July mornin’ (period) (This dialect doesn’t read well, trying to translate this line pulled me out of the story. Why the quotation marks here, too? Looking down, I see you have it for all the dialogue. Remember, comics aren’t prose. The only time you use quotation marks are when you’re actually quoting someone, or a voice-over caption. That’s it.)


She sits up concerned, clenching the arms of her chair. The wind has picked up, her hair and dress now waving in the wind. More leaves blow around her.(What happened to her teacup? This is a moving panel.) (No it isn’t. Simple move, shown with speed lines.)


Well now(comma) what dis (eliminate ellipses, add question mark) (You are overdoing this dialect.)


High angle view and tight shot of her looking up. She has been swallowed in shadow. She’s looking up into the sky and directly at us in awe as the wind blows violently around her tipping her fine china over and totally messing her hair.(Porches, by definition, have roofs or coverings. You are going to have to consider that since you are trying to tell a story using lighting here. ) (This is impossible. You can’t have a high angle and then call for a tight shot. High angle means that the camera is up high and away, and a tight shot means that it’s close to the subject. These two phrases work against each other. Pick one and stick with it. We’ll talk more about it soon.)


(Why? Delete.)


Establishing shot (You’ve already established the setting, I don’t know why you’re using this terminology now.)

Low angle shot. She is now standing and looking up dumbstruck, her hand shielding her eyes. A massive angular and long alien Spacecraft (fit for storage and transporting) passes overhead blocking out the sun. (Another impossible shot. Here’s the reason why: She’s on a porch. Like Sam said, generally, porches are covered by roofs. So if she’s on the porch, showing her from a low angle means we’re in front of her, looking up. This means we’re seeing her, and we’re seeing the house behind her. If she’s looking up and out, we can’t see what she’s looking at, because we’re looking up and out at her. This means that the spacecraft is behind the camera.)


(whispers) Goo’ Lord(comma) help us (Why is she whispering? This comes back to the caption vs. dialogue question asked earlier, is this the first time she has spoken aloud?. Whatever the case it goes beside her name, not with the dialogue. Consider moving this panel to a splash on the next page, give people a reason to continue reading. You sew up the entire story of Martha here, there’s no intrigue.)

The dialect makes the dialogue difficult to read, and that difficulty makes it hard to connect with the character. I am not a fan of Southern dialects being overdone, as we Southerners do enough to make ourselves look stupid already, and this one is overdone. The lingual markers are inconsistent, she has trouble with the ‘th’ sound, but manages the ‘d’ in dis for this, then she drops a ‘d’ in ‘good,’ after managing the final consonant in what in the line before. I just don’t buy it. Foghorn Leghorn sounds like an Ivy League scholar compared to Martha. Is this the person you want to introduce your story to the audience?

I suggest adding another character, maybe an elderly husband, or a grandchild to this scene. Having the characters discuss the strangeness of the event, or exhibit fear for each other’s safety creates a more emotional moment. That interaction can help you build tension, which you need here.

We have P1 on the books, and we’ve got problems.

First, the technical stuff.

Danos, you need to do more studying of scripting terms and camera angles. Your terms are clashing with one another, and that’s never good. It’s going to cause the artist to ask questions as to which shot you want. The script is supposed to answer questions, not create more of them.

Before you start combining, think of which works best as an either/or situation. Do you want either a high angle shot, or do you want a tight shot? Which one works best and is more dynamic?

You also have to know where the camera is at all times. You go from a high angle shot to a low angle shot, and I understand what you tried to do, but you never turned the camera around to show what you wanted the audience to see. Realize where your focus is, and it should be that much easier for you. If you’re having trouble, try drawing it out. It’s only for you, and it doesn’t have to be pretty at all. It just will help you to orient the camera so that you know whether or not something can be drawn.

The dialogue. First, the technical aspect: there are no quotation marks in comic book scripting. As Sam said, this isn’t prose. The ONLY times you’re to use quotation marks in dialogue are when a character is quoting someone else, or you have a voice-over caption. Those are the only two times. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, go pick up and read a comic. The first page of dialogue on almost any comic will do. Look at the word balloons. Notice any quotation marks? Nope. They aren’t there. Why? Because this isn’t prose. You don’t need them to delineate as to when a character is speaking, like you do in prose. That’s what the word balloons are for.

The next reason is because you’re creating more work for the letterer. A letterer worth their salt is going to copy and paste, either using a three-tap method with their mouse, or a fast click and drag. Adding quotation marks slows them down, because they have to remove those if they copied the entire thing, or they have to be more careful when they’re doing their copying. One way or the other, it’s more work, and they’re going to tell you about it once they read the script. Do both of you a favor and cut it out.

Now, the reading of the dialogue: terrible. Not because of what’s said, but the dialect. Putting a dialect on a character adds some spice to their voice, but it is extremely easy to overdo it. Here, you’ve overdone it, and she hasn’t said much. What does that tell you? Your as-yet unnamed character has barely said 20 words, and the dialect is already grating. Not good. Not good at all.

As for the page itself, I’m not seeing much tension here. I disagree about adding another character (maybe someone could be in the house and she yells for them to come outside), but I do agree with the dissipation of the tension. The last panel, after turning the camera around, would probably be better off as an inset to a splash page that shows the immensity of the spacecraft. That was a good call that Sam made. Just make sure you use it to best effect: the splash should be on an even-numbered page, not an odd-numbered page.

Page Break Page 2 (5 panels)


Dusk. Far shot of a high tech government building (this is NASA HQ )(Why don’t you just say that it’s NASA HQ to begin with?)(What does a hi-tech government building look like? Most government buildings want to stay nondescript, so that people don’t know what’s going on inside them. Also, what’s around this building? Where is it set?)


NASA Headquarters

Houston, Texas (Why is West Virginia, U.S.A. paired as state/country and Houston, Texas paired city/state? Maybe something like: ‘Somewhere in West Virginia,’ would work better in your first cap, if you don’t want to list a town.)


We’re in the hallway just outside a door that reads Central Communications Room . Through the small window on the door we see inside the room as panic seems to have hit this place. A wide array of people in suits and lab coats are running around inside.(A little light on the information here, how many people are in the scene? Do we see a character we will recognize later? Running around is ambiguous, are they working on something, talking to each other, etc? What is in the room?) (It’s worse than that. This is a small window we’re looking through. The camera has to be far back enough to read the label on the wall, but still close enough to see something of what’s going on inside. Tricky. We’re only going to see a small sliver of what’s going on here. You can’t have everything that you’re looking for in this panel description.)


Establishing shot (Okay, the establishing shot generally works over a panel or two. Generally, those are going to be the first few panels. What’s being established are the place, who’s there, what they’re doing, and the time of day. Saying that this particular panel is an establishing shot is technically wrong, since you haven’t changed locations. You’ve just gone deeper into the location you’ve set when you went from one locale to another.)

Inside the CCR. Government officials and scientists are gathered around a wall sized monitor in a room full of computer screens and high-tech gadgets. Some are running hectic in different directions dropping papers from piles of printouts while others stare transfixed at the screen. There’s a barely visible image on the screen but it’s full of static. It appears to be an alien face. Large head, big black eyes. The speaker spout out a message in alien language (This is a scene from a movie, not a comic book panel. How many people are we dealing with here? What distinguishes the officials from the scientists?) (Grammar is important. It leads to clarity.)


It all began a few months ago(comma) with an undecipherable message on a snowy computer screen. (Melodramatic much? Also, is this a voice-over caption, or is it a narrator? In either event, who are they talking to?)

SPEAKER (Is this coming from an actual speaker, or is the alien the speaker? Confusion.)

(Made up alien text) (If the message is written on computer screen, why would it come through a speaker? Where is the speaker in the room? Do people turn to look at it? What causes the initial chaos if we are only now hearing [or seeing] the message? Also, you need to give your letterer a little more information about the way you want this text to look.) (This is lazy. No, let me rephrase. This is damned lazy. There, that’s better. How is this lazy? Because what you’re doing is you’re leaving the entire message up to the letterer: content, tone, and length. Instead of actually writing a message and letting the letterer put it through a set of wingdings or somesuch, you took the lazy way out. That feeling you have right now? That’s shame, and it’s well earned.)


Tight shot on a team of scientists and mathematicians hunched over a desk full of printouts and computer working tirelessly in the background. They look exhausted, ties loosened, sleeves rolled, faces drained.(How many people? How is the camera positioned so we can see their faces and their hunched posture?)


I don’t know(comma) Ted. This language It seems to be based on an advanced algorithm but It’s just too complicated to decrypt. (This is nonsensical. This feels like a pedestrian imitation of what scientist would say, it carries no meaning, and does nothing to advance the story. Essentially, all languages are based on advanced algorithms.)

SCIENTIST 2 (TED) (No. Not good. If you’re going to name these characters, name them correctly. Who is Ted, where is Ted in relation to the others, and so on? Labelling the speakers isn’t the same as giving them names. You’ve got a label here with a name as a subset, instead of the other way around.)

So(comma) what are we gonna do?


Low angle shot. A family of two parents and an infant child sitting in its thier living room staring dumbstruck at the same broken up image of the alien face on their tv screen being broadcast on the nightly news. Their baby lays on the floor cries hysterically.(You need a sound effect, or a dialogue balloon to communicate that the infant is crying. This panel should not be on this page. It’s a strange scene change. If you are trying to show the universal concern about the event, one family in their living room isn’t enough.)


Sure(comma) the authorities tried to keep it under wraps as long as they could. In the end they just let the world know(comma) and prayed there was someone out there with the answer(delete space) . (Answer to what?) (This could also be a voice-over caption, but there’s a problem: there’s no one identified as being spoken to or speaking. And as for the grammar… I don’t mean for this to sound rude at all, but is English your first language, Danos? Some of the errors I see are those I commonly see from those who have English as a second language. If this is your second or even third language, bravo. Really and truly, because I only speak one language. If this is your first language, time for a refresher course.)

Inconsistencies in the way the alien language is presented are making this a hard sell. Is it transmitted by speech or in text or both ways? Have the scientists already become aware of it when we first see them? You are hanging your hat on a flimsy idea of code-breaking that doesn’t seem well-informed. You have to account for the chaos at NASA beginning before the message comes through, right now it doesn’t make sense.

We have P2 on the books. It still doesn’t look good for the home team, but it definitely isn’t terrible.

The first thing is visualization. This can be a challenge for new writers, because a lot of times, they aren’t visualizing and then writing what they see. Instead, they’re just writing, and hoping others can visualize what they wrote. It’s backwards, and it can get you into trouble.

Let’s take a look at panel 2 here. That’s an example of backwards writing: it looks like you just wrote, and then hoped that the artist would be able to visualize it. Not good. You have to switch that around. You have to visualize every panel in your head, and then describe what you see. After a while, you’ll be able to get away with shortcuts: you won’t have to visualize every panel, just the important ones, or the more complicated ones. Those you want to make sure you get right.

The grammar. Again, if you’re not a native English speaker, then bravo. This is my personal thing: I give non-native speakers a lot of slack when it comes to grammar. Why? Because they’ve taken the time and made the effort to learn my language. Since they’ve put in the hard work to learn an admittedly difficult language, I can do no less than to put in the work to make sure that they’re understood before it goes to the rest of the creative team. This is me, and that’s my view on it.

If, however, Danos is a native English speaker, then it’s your responsibility to make sure you’re clear. Grammar is the key to that clarity.

A double standard? Quite possibly. And you know what? I don’t care. Why don’t you go out and write a letter in a foreign language, and let a native speaker read it. They’ll probably hit you for grammar and syntax. Some of it may be confusing to them. But, if you’re generally understood, you may also earn their respect, because you’ve made the effort.

Okay, the dialogue. Dialogue is there to help make the story clearer. Know what the scientists were speaking about with advanced algorithms? That sounded like it was from a sci-fi movie from the 50s. And I should know, because I constantly watch sci-fi movies from that era. The problem with it is that it sounds dated. Not just dated, it doesn’t sound genuine. As Sam said, it is pedestrian, nonsensical, and carries no meaning, because every language is based on advanced algorithms.

Go read a book. Footfall, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Alien invasion, translations, drama, and more. Hell, I’d read it now myself, if I had the time.

Anyway, the dialogue here isn’t doing much to enlighten the reader about the story. The captions are helping some, but because you actually can have quotation marks in a caption, it leads me to ask if this is a voice-over or a narrator. Not even an omniscient narrator, because this seems to have its own distinctive voice and point of view.

We’ve got five panels here, but the story isn’t pushed forward all that much. That means that most of this page is padding. You could have condensed this to two or three panels instead of needing five.

PAGE BREAK Page 3 (4 panels)


Extreme close up shot of curtains drawn together and just visible the tape stuck between them keeping them shut. A small gap between the curtains of this apartment window frames the view outside. It is day and in the background is the Saint Basil’s Cathedral of Moscow’s Red Square (the building with the swirly cone tops). (What? An extreme close up of drawn curtains. The focus here is the curtains, not what can be seen in the gap. This is a waste of a panel. You don’t need to show the cathedral if you’re just going to name the location in a caption, anyway. You could cut this panel entirely.)


Moscow, Russia(I would tell you to close quotes, but I don’t believe they are necessary to begin with.)


Mid shot of the room. Its dark and decadent. Torn wallpaper shows the brickwork underneath. The window curtains are taped together tight, extinguishing almost all the daylight trying to creep in. Littered all around the floor are monitors, consoles and cables. In the center of the room rests the only piece of furniture, a desk piled with computer gear, wires and plugs running all around. A skinny long haired bearded fellow (think Tom Hanks in Castaway) sits in the dark behind the desk amidst the machinery. He looks excited and is quite possibly naked judging from what parts of him show form behind it. His face is lit from the only light in the room coming from the screen in front of him and he’s wearing a headset mic.(The ‘quite possibly naked’ thing seems odd. Why?) (Definitely could have cut the first panel. This is a pretty nice panel description. I’ll even let the spelling mistake go because it doesn’t hamper the understanding of the panel. However, the monitor screen isn’t the only source of light. You also have the crack in the curtain to contend with.)


It wasn’t until a couple of months later until that some mad recluse in Russia was able to figure it out and translate the code. (Here, your grammar is going to take a hit. The corrections are in red, of course. That’s first. Second, this isn’t a code. A code is a message that has been purposely obscured so that only the person with the cipher can translate it back and read it. Often these are all the characters in a word, sometimes it is the arrangement of the words, and if you want to get really deep, it can be certain letters within the words themselves. Cryptonomicon is a great read with a very large dose of code-breaking in it. Anyway, this isn’t a code, this is a message that just happens to be in another language. See the difference?)


Overhead shot of his head and PC screen. On the screen is a NASA official hunched over a mic and looking up at him.

NASA OFFICIAL (voice coming off computer screen)

and you’re sure, son? (Comma-fail.)


Estab shot (Gah! Okay. Once you’ve established a location, there is no need to establish it again. You only establish new locations, not a location you’ve already been to during the course of the story/issue.)

Back at the NASA HQ communications room. The giant screen now shows the Russian’s smiling face as it looks eerily lit by his computer screen. Underneath the screen the crowd of NASA officials and scientists are exploding in joy and cheers with papers being thrown into the air.

IVAN (voice coming from room’s wall giant screen)

Ya, ya.

Zey vants ze peace. (This sounds like German. The Russian word for yes is ‘duh,’ If you replace ‘ya’ it might come through better.) (I thought yes in Russian was dah or da. But, ye, the rest of it sounds German.)

Naked guy in Russia cracks the code, all right. Why do they believe him? Someone should check his calculations before they start celebrating. It doesn’t seem like a room full of highly trained scientists would take a him at his word. The Cold War was kind of a thing for NASA, seems like if any group was going to be skeptical of a Russian it would be them.)

P3, and we still haven’t moved forward that much.

Sam summed it up nicely: naked Russian translates the message. That’s it. Know what’s missing? The message itself. What does it say? I have no idea, and neither do the readers. All they know is some guy translated the message.

There is absolutely nothing here to make the reader want to turn the page. This is an odd-numbered page, so there should be something to make the reader want to read on. There’s nothing. Yes, there’s the minor mystery as to what the message says, but is that really enough to go on? I don’t think so.

There is a LOT of potential in this story. There is so much that could be done. We’ll talk about that in the rundown. However, as of P3, this isn’t living up to its potential. It’s not even all that interesting, and it should be.

PAGE BREAK Page 4 (3 panels)


Shot from space. In the foreground hundreds of alien spacecrafts similar to the one in the first page are making a beeline and heading towards Earth.


We were so certain that they had our best interest in mind. We just surrendered ourselves to them. (Why? Because one guy in a bad apartment in Moscow said so… this is getting unbelievable.) (Truly. There are contingency plans, just in case things aren’t what they seem. And, yes, we would have taken the translation, ran it through ourselves just to make sure, and then had every linguist on the planet pore over every nuance before we went so far as to show up anywhere without a fully armed military complement…and then, we still wouldn’t show up unarmed. That’s the realistic response. I understand there is a difference between real and comics, but if you want readers to suspend disbelief, you can’t go very far outside of the norm. You have to build up to it. A great movie that does this is Die Hard. He goes from cop to superhero over the course of the movie, and it’s a gradual thing, so that you can believe.)


Close up outside shot of the cockpit windows from one of the approaching alien crafts. From inside the craft the alien pilot smiles slyly.


Turns out that crazy genius dude’s English wasn’t all that great (How’s about some ending punctuation?)


What he really meant to say was piece . (Move the period to inside quotations around piece, change double quotes to single, since you are referring to the word itself, not an actual utterance. Punctuation aside, this plot point doesn’t work. he did say: ‘piece’ or ‘peace’ since they are homophones the difference between the words is in their spelling, not their pronunciation. If he explained the meaning of the word, ‘peace,’ to the scientists, it is more than a problem with his English, he mistranslated the alien text. If he said ‘peace’ and believed he meant it, it was not a product of bad translation from Russian to English.)


Estab shot

Ground view of Earth, a desert like landscape, day. In the background the land has been turned into an alien outpost with a landing strip and all kinds of bulky alien machinery huddled in the center of the site fit for drilling into the ground. The spot has been turned into a mining or drilling station and carrier vehicles are scattered around it or flying into the air above. In the foreground, a newscaster shouts excitedly into his microphone over the noisy bustle and pointing at the alien site behind him.


Today marks the third anniversary from of the very first landing. Until now(comma) all they seemed to be doing is building these mining stations all around the planet. Most of them were many miles inland and away from the major cities– (Change to period, nothing interrupts the speaker, and this is a complete thought. This went in for three years without anyone checking, or questioning Ivan’s work? Really?)(41 words in this balloon. I’d think about breaking it down into smaller pieces. You have the space.)


From the first landing(comma) things didn’t seem to be slowing down. Some thought they were working on humanity’s salvation(comma) while others saw it as a hijacking of our natural resources. In truth(comma) no one could really explain what it was that they were doing. (That first sentence doesn’t make any sense. The word ‘seem’ makes the sentence read as if in reality, things did slow down. I think you’re telling us that they didn’t. This is creating a contradiction.)

This does not make sense at a very basic level. I am not buying it. NASA gets a message from intelligent extraterrestrials, goes public with it, and takes some dude at his word that he’s cracked the inscrutable code. Then for three years we sit around and applaud the aliens? I don’t know, I just don’t know. Where are we in time? Present day? Is this three years earlier? It feels like the reveal that Ivan got things wrong should bring us to the present.

In the words of the incomparable Scott Bakula (as Sam Beckett): Oh, boy. You have managed to integrate ideas from two of my personal favorite pieces of science fiction and garble them into one so/so story. One part To Serve Man (an episode of the Twilight Zone by Rod Serling), and one part Hitchhiker’s Guide by Douglas Adams, nothing feels new. What’s worse, even borrowing from two great examples of sci-fi writing, the story never gets off the ground. I am not accusing you of plagiarism, I just wanted you to know that the kind of story you are telling has been done well in the past. So, it’s not that it can’t work; it’s just that it isn’t right now. I read the rest of the story, but the explanation of events offered on this page is not sufficient to support the conclusion you reach.

You need to decide whether this is a character story (right now, it’s not) or a parable (right now it’s trying, but it needs a moral) or a social allegory (in which case the reaction you describe needs to mirror the society we actually live in; I cannot imagine us accepting aliens we couldn’t understand who didn’t look a thing like us because one guy said we should.) There is no attempt by the aliens to send an ambassador, or try to translate between languages. You have shown no governmental reaction. You glaze over very problematic moments, like when the people in charge decide to declassify the information and go public. What is the urgency? Is there an immanent threat? Why does this need to be deciphered more than the government needs to preserve order? You have a lot questions to answer before this story is done.


Not much going on here, except that there are a lot of questions to be answered. Sam covered them nicely.

What’s going on on this page strains credulity. No, that’s not true. It snaps it. We still don’t know why they’re here, we don’t know what they want. All we know is that they came and started drilling. This isn’t even a bad episode of V (old or new). This is just bad storytelling. All those questions Sam asked? They have to be answered, or at least thought about, in order for the reader to really respond.

It’s P4, and I’m not caring about what’s going on. I don’t have enough information to care. That’s a bad thing to say. It means you haven’t done your job.

PAGE BREAK Page 5 (5 panels)


Day. Aerial view of the same mining site but now totally deserted except for the football field sized hole in the ground and some alien machinery and support beams scattered around and left behind.


And then one day, just like that, they all just seemed to have disappeared. Just skedaddled outta here, leaving nothing but these holes that stretched hundreds of miles into the ground. (Skedaddled? I’m very heavily leaning toward native English speaker. Just letting you know.)


Zoom out, aerial view of US continent, more holes visible.(There’s not a US continent, there is a North American continent, though…)


Zoom out more to shot of earth from space,(period)


We never found out what their plans for us really were.


Same shot of Earth but on a computer screen with alien text and indicators.


Same panel as above but with alien champagne like glasses clinking in the foreground






We’re nearing the end of the story, and with it, hopefully, some insight as to what the story is about. It feels like it’s coming. Hopefully, we’ll get over the hump.

But here’s the terrible, terrible part. Because it’s coming. The end is nigh, so this question has to be asked.

Why have the translated alien language here, when it wasn’t being translated for us before? Nevermind the fact that you were damned lazy about it, it doesn’t strike me as good storytelling. You’re trying to put in a twist, but unfortunately, it’s falling down on the illogic you’re heaping on us.

PAGE BREAK Page 6 (6 panels)


Estab shot

Similar shot as the one used of the NASA control room but this time we’re in an alien space craft. In the centre there’s a wall sized screen with a view of the Earth. Below it seems like the aliens are celebrating. They could resemble humans in height and form but with strange coloured skin and typical alien large heads with large black eyes and dressed in spacesuits. One stands out, to the right; he’s holding his glass high and delivering a speech. (You’re describing the aliens here, but didn’t do so when they showed up on the monitor in their very first appearance. This is backwards.)

Alien 1

<Just a few seconds more and we’ll be rid of that hindrance(comma) and well on our way with the project.>

<Luckily(comma) we faced no opposition, and we can proceed with the building of the intergalactic highway that the rest of the universe can profit from.


Tight shot of the other aliens in the crowd celebrating. Two of them aliens are talking to each other

Alien 2

<Getting to Arrakan 5 will be so much quicker now.>

Alien 3

<I know! That trip was always such a snore. Almost cut my holidays in half.>


Back to screen shot of Earth but with an alien number on the bottom of the screen that resembles a timer counting down (similar to that used in the end of the Predator film I guess before he blows himself up).


<Shhh,,(change to ellipses or delete one comma) shhh. Quiet down. Look!>

<Three !>


Same shot of the screen and dial with a single digit alien number


<Two !>


Same shot but with a simpler single alien digit


<One >


Black Panel




Let’s just run this down.

Format: Not bad. Could have had a flawless victory if not for the missing page breaks as well as the missing label for the reporter. Sometimes, it’s the little things.

Panel Descriptions: They could use some work. A lot of the problem is visualization. Sometimes, you’re just not visual enough to pull off what you’re attempting. Like I said earlier, some of these descriptions look to be backwards: instead of describing what you were seeing, you were just writing and hoping the artist could visualize it for you. Not good.

Pacing: Your pacing is off. There is a lot that could have been done here. You could have gotten a lot of story across if you had started what turned out to be someone’s internal monologue on P1, panel 1, instead of waiting until P2, and then doing it only intermittently.

You also have panels that don’t do much to move the story forward. You could have been combining panels or just cutting them completely, which would have stopped the drag that was going on in this story. It was slower than it needed to be, which is a terrible thing to say, because it was also very light on dialogue.

Dialogue: The dialogue here is a total and complete failure. There are several reasons for this.

I’m going to set aside the misuse of quotation marks. Let’s talk about what gets said, and what doesn’t.

P1 has a woman with a terribly over-used dialect who essentially says nothing. Her entire page could be cut, and you wouldn’t miss much of anything. But what she says and how she says it does nothing to push the story forward, and only succeeds in getting on the reader’s nerves. The purpose of dialogue isn’t to get on the nerves of your audience. The purpose of dialogue is to illuminate the art in order to tell the rest of the story.

Then, we have the narrator who’s speaking in the captions. This is not an omniscient, 3rd person narrator. No, this is a person. This person has a point of view. There is nothing wrong with having a point of view. It would be difficult for a person to not have one. (We call those people reporters, by the way.) What’s so terrible about this person?

They never once appear onscreen. They talk to us (the reader), but they are unnamed and unidentified. They’re just there, talking. It totally takes the reader out of the story, because they’re expecting to see someone. There’s no one there, though, and they’re left wondering whom it was that was speaking. That should never have happened. Since the narrator had a point of view, they should have shown up at some point in the story.

The way to beat that is to take the point of view out of the captions, leaving it as an omniscient narrator. This way you’re getting the story across, but note that in doing this, you’ll lose the flavor and tone of the captions. They’re going to be cold.

Of course, you could just add the person to the story. It wouldn’t take much, and after cutting out the padding, you’ll have the space.

The message. The translated one: we never get the translation. That’s a terrible, terrible oversight on your part. Part of that oversight is because you were damned lazy with what the message said to begin with, leaving it up to the letterer. You should have written the message, and after Ivan (who never gets named where readers can see it, and is a stereotypical name at that) translates it, it should have been read by the audience, at least on the last page. You didn’t do that. Instead, you went the inscrutable route and decided to leave everyone in the dark about it. Not good.

And then there’s the translated dialogue of the aliens. Totally incongruous with what was set before. How do you reconcile the message that was sent with the final couple of pages from a storytelling standpoint? I can’t. That’s a problem,

Content: This is not a good story. It isn’t told well, it doesn’t follow a simple path of logic, it doesn’t even follow a twisted path of logic. It just doesn’t make any sense, and asks the reader to make a lot of jumps that they generally wouldn’t make. It’s called forcing. When you force a character to do something that normally wouldn’t happen, you’re forcing the action in order to get the outcome you desire. That forcing started on P2, and went all the way to the end. As a reader, I wouldn’t have enjoyed this story.

Editorially, this needs a rewrite. You have to decide what you want this story to be about, and how you want to get there. Then we’d aim the story to reach those goals. But it needs a complete rewrite in order to get to where you’re wanting to be.

And that’s almost everything. Again, we’re dangerously close to being out of scripts. We need you. It can’t get plainer than that.

See you in seven, and check the calendar to see who’s up next!

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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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