TPG Week 190: Artist Turned…Writer? (Only the Shadow Knows!)

| August 15, 2014



Hello, one and all, and welcome to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a new Brave One in Morgan Wellborn! Morgan is an artist who’s trying his hand at writing. We’ll see how he does. We also have Steve Colle in blue, I’m in red, and we all get to see what Morgan does with

Champions of Pacifica


1. EXT. – Pacifica City – Midday (This is screenwriting-speak. It isn’t wrong, but I’m not the biggest fan of it. It often leads to laziness that most new writers cannot afford. For those that don’t know, this is an exterior shot of Pacifica City.)

Establishing Shot – Panoramic view of Pacifica City. A futuristic city located on the coastline of California. (I’d personally be asking for more details here. How far in the future? Are we seeing the ocean, given it’s on the coastline? Is there a city you could use as a present day model for the artist to build from? These are just some of the questions you may see coming at you based on the loose direction.) (I wouldn’t go too far into it, myself. I see Pacifica City as Gotham City: a character of its own, and as such, the artist is going to come up with architecture well beforehand. Since Morgan is an artist first, I’m also willing to let some looseness slide, as long as he’s going to draw this himself. If he isn’t, then more direction may be needed. We’ll soon see.)

Aamon Global Tower, standing 120 stories high, is the tallest standing structure in Pacifica City and located in the center of the metropolis. (Again, knowing the timeframe of the story would give a clearer idea of the design and structure of the tower and of the city in general. For example, is it a thousand years in the future like DC’s Legion of Super Heroes or closer to our present day?)

News and Police drones are circling the tower at a conservative distance. (Are they flying around the building or are they on the ground? The word drone , to me, doesn’t identify flight or ground level surveillance.)

The biggest problem I’m having here is the lack of direction of where the camera is placed. You have a lot of grander scale detail such as the overall view of the coastline city and then move in closer to focus on the tower and possibly the name on the building [or is it on the building?] and then even closer to see the drones. Then there’s the problem of a high angle or low angle shot, based on details such as the drones being airborne looking down or on the ground looking up. Give us more to work from.

Caption: Pacifica City. (What year? You say it takes place in a futuristic city, but you don’t give us an idea of the year. Also, you mentioned that it was in California, but don’t give the reader this information.)

Why do you stick simply with the caption instead of introducing dialogue in this panel? Wouldn’t it make more sense to pull your reader into the situation right away by having the news report begin here in a voice over? As a matter of fact, you could even introduce the fact that the name of the setting is Pacifica City by including it in the reporter’s dialogue. Just an idea. Either way, I think starting the news report here would be key in immediately pulling the reader in.

2. Traffic is backed up around the Aamon Global Tower, police cars block off intersections while various News vehicles are parked all around the perimeter of the blockade, the focus of the individuals on the street are towards the reporters. (Again, I’m seeing two different camera distances coming into play here: A longer shot of the traffic backing up and a much closer shot of the focus on the reporters. It’s a matter of what’s not only important to the story visually, but also in how much is necessary to pace the story properly. Do you need to show the traffic backing up? Do you need to show the focus on the reporters? Is one more important over the other or do you need to show both to get a better feeling and understanding of the situation? Can you incorporate the traffic issue into a panel that includes the setting up of the drones surrounding the building, therefore splitting the first panel into two? Here’s where you need to decide what’s truly important to the development of the story for the reader.)

Reporter: …police say have stated at least twelve victims people were fatally shot (Wounded or outright killed? Fatally shot is too vague and, to be honest, doesn’t sound like language used by a reporter.) during the violent take-over takeover of the Aamon Global Tower this morning. (Have any died? Were any seriously wounded? These are things that would be reported, especially given the dirty laundry nature of newscasting.)

The shooter was has been identified moments ago as Eisen Krieger, leader of the Neo Nazi group (Missing comma) Fourth Reich. (How was he identified? Who identified him? When was he identified and under what circumstances? This seems to be something that would be revealed upon investigation of security footage, which the news stations would want to have as part of their broadcast. That is, of course, unless the shooter identified himself to eyewitnesses. Things just seem to be moving really fast so far.)

Eyewitnesses at the scene report seeing the suspect entering an elevator immediately after following the shooting, (Period instead of comma here.) Police are currently searching the Tower floor by floor for the suspect… (This would read much better as something like Police have yet to locate Krieger’s whereabouts, with the assumption he is still in the tower. )

This may just be me, but when I read takeover , I picture a group of criminals taking control of the building, not just one guy with a gun. This is, after all, a 120-story structure, right? This kind of reminds me of the first Die Hard movie, but happening a lot faster. Another problem with the word takeover makes it sound as if the situation has already progressed to a point far beyond the man walking into the building, killing a dozen people, and heading for an elevator. Time has elapsed to the point that something more, perhaps a high-powered explosive, has been used to place the entire building and the people therein at serious risk. This isn’t a bank, but rather an entire 120-floor office building with probably thousands of people inside.

Something else that doesn’t mesh is the fact that you refer to Krieger as the suspect, but also say that he has been identified as the shooter. Is he suspected of being the shooter or is he, in actuality, the shooter? You decide.

The way you’ve written this dialogue reads like it should appear in multiple panels instead of just one. There’s a pacing to it. Part of the problem is that you haven’t actually focused in on exactly who is doing the reporting, but instead, have a variety of reporters who could be speaking this dialogue. Is it all coming from one person in particular? It sure sounds like it is, so why not focus in on that person? This way, you aren’t having to explain why this reporter is so important to the story as it progresses by singling her out amongst her peers. Unless she actually DOES play a significant role in the telling of the story. And just as an aside, are there camera people filming their respective reporters?

3. Close-up on female reporter touching her hand to her ear while relaying information to the viewer. The Reporter is dressed in a Red business casual suit, her earpiece has a built in mic, (So, you’re telling us that she isn’t holding a microphone in a roundabout way, right? Now, here’s a problem with the microphone not being shown: If her hand is over her ear, then isn’t she blocking or muffling the sound of her voice for the listener? It might be better to show the microphone going down her cheek.) and she is holding a media pad in her free hand. (She doesn’t have a free hand. She has another hand, but it isn’t free. One hand is touching her ear, one is holding a pad of some type. If she’s a regular human, she doesn’t have a free hand. Watch your wording.)

Reporter: Mayor Castle hasissued an emergency call to action for all active (On duty and off duty?) public servants in the city (The public servant thing is throwing me off. Aren’t garbage collectors public servants, for example? Do you mean law enforcement and potentially fire and rescue personnel? First responders?) …stand by… (Would she really say stand by or would she excuse herself for diverting her attention to her earpiece? It doesn’t sound natural.) I’ve just been informed that the Mayor has just announced an immediate evacuation of the area surrounding Aamon Global Tower

A few things to mention here:

First, all of this dialogue the reporter is speaking should be in three separate balloons with breaks at the interruption/pause points. For example, everything prior to her redirecting her attention should be in the first balloon with a double dash to end it as she is interrupted in her thought process, then have the ellipsis marks on either side of her excusing herself (with the balloons connected to show immediacy of the second from the first) and then have the balance of new information in a balloon that can be separate and not connected.

Next, for a first page, you’ve gone pretty damned fast without giving us cause for the final comment of an area-wide evacuation. Why? What have you told us that would cause such a drastic reaction from the Mayor? Nothing besides a one-man takeover of a 120-story tower that happened in the morning that same day, just a few hours prior, based solely on his fatally shooting 12 people and taking an elevator. There isn’t enough information and definitely not enough build up. Things aren’t falling into place. Give the reader something to grab onto, something to care about. Give us information both visually and through text, whether captions or dialogue, information that not only gives us a story of the situation, but also one that sounds natural when read. Have the reporter introduced and the location she is reporting from in the first panel. Make her sound professional and seasoned, not someone whose first assignment is this story. Choose her words, phrasing, and details effectively and carefully as it’s her job to be informative and direct. I don’t feel you’ve done enough research of actual newscasts to develop an ear for what they say and how they say it.

Have time pass beyond the initial attack on the tower so takeover makes more dramatic sense. Start the story further into the situation so we have more suspenseful build-up through the exposition. And finally, give us something to care about that will make us want to turn the page.

P1 is on the books!

While it isn’t a disaster, things aren’t looking good for the home team. Not at all.

First things first: art isn’t easy. It takes years of study and development and perseverance in order to be even a barely passable artist.

I’m not a fan of the artist-turned-writer. Sure, there are some good ones, but those are few and far between. And those that do it, have usually studied writing, or have seen writing for years from the scripts they’ve been paid to produce, and so they have a very good idea of what they’re doing. Or, if they’re really smart, they’ll bring on a co-writer. Then they’ll tell the co-writer the story they want to tell, and that co-writer—who is generally just a writer—will make sense of it all and turn that story into something that can actually be read and enjoyed.

As Steve has pointed out, this first page makes no sense at all from a storytelling standpoint.

I’m going to give a very slight pass on the panel descriptions. I’m going to assume that Morgan is going to draw this himself. So, the panel descriptions get a slight pass for now, because I’m assuming he knows what he wants to show.

I’m going to beat him up on the format a little, but pacing and dialogue a lot, though.

First, the format.

I’m not a fan of putting the panel descriptions in multiple paragraphs. Sometimes it’s necessary, but generally, it isn’t. I’m not saying that it’s wrong, just that I’m not a fan.

I will say that you’re wrong when it comes to the dialogue, though. All the dialogue needs to be labeled. (If they were singing, then all the dialogue should be LaBelled…)

This is for the letterer to know who’s talking and when. This is so you remember who’s talking and when. This is for the editor to know who’s talking and when. Being lazy now means questions will be asked later, and the script is supposed to answer most questions, not cause them to be asked.

Enough about the format.

Next, the pacing: it isn’t good.

This first page has three panels, and none of them make me want to turn the page to see what’s going on. Panel 1 is an overview of the city, panel 2 gets us closer to the action, and panel 3? It takes us right to the heart of Everything-Is-Stopped-Dead-Land, and we all know how much fun that place is.

Panel 3 effectively stops all forward momentum of the story, and really, P1 is nothing more than an info-dump. You said, Here’s what you need to know! and then spewed it all over us, thinking we’re going to be interested.

We’re not. You did absolutely nothing to make us be even remotely interested, let alone care.

If this is called Champions of Pacifica, where are they? Where’s the allusion to them? You want to get us to something interesting, then you should be thinking about ways to do that. Providing the reader with an info-dump is not the way to go about it. That’s what you do when you want them to close the book and put it back on the shelf.

This page should probably have been five panels long. We get to see the city, we have the dialogue as a voice-over to start with on panel 1 as Steve suggested, and then we move in closer: a view of the building, possibly some footage obtained from inside the building showing some carnage, a view of the suspect, and then a view of the reporter as she looks up to find something in the air… (Assuming, of course, that this is a supers book, and at least one of the Champions is a flyer, or they’re flying in a Quinjet type of airship.) Maybe even two panels: one of her looking right at the camera, hand to her ear, and then next with her looking up, a wind whipping her hair. So, five or six panels.

The pacing hints that you’re not a writer, but the dialogue shouts it from the highest mountain.

Watch the news and read newspapers. Reporters write and speak in a very specific way. They give the news, they have a certain diction, and if they know what they’re about, they aren’t vague. Their words are often precise and to the point, because they have other things to get to, and a minimum of time/space to do it in.

This dialogue is atrocious.

Let’s forget the fact that it seems like you’re missing a word in the dialogue—a word that Steve provided for you. Let’s look at what was said, and how it makes no sense.

This is the uncorrected dialogue:

Reporter: …police say at least twelve victims were fatally shot during the violent take over of the Aamon Global Tower this morning.

The shooter was identified moments ago as Eisen Krieger, leader of the Neo Nazi group Fourth Reich.

Eyewitnesses at the scene report the suspect an elevator immediately after the shooting, Police are currently searching the Tower floor by floor for the suspect…

So, 12 people killed by a single guy. Twelve people, in a pretty large building. What’s the timeframe? Dunno. The only timeframe we’re given is that he was identified moments ago. Identified by whom, and how? Did he identify himself? Make any demands? No idea.

Then, we come to eyewitnesses , whom I’m assuming aren’t dead or wounded, reporting the suspect and an elevator. What does the elevator have to do with anything? I don’t know, because there’s a word missing. And after killing twelve people, the regular police—not SWAT or a specialized tactical team, but regular police—are doing a floor by floor search, which is going to take a couple of days and consist of a hell of a lot of manpower, because do you have any idea how many rooms there are in a building the size you’re talking? And everything has to be searched—if it can fit a man, it has to be searched. Offices, storage areas, bathrooms… All of that, for a single man.

Reporter: Mayor Castle hasissued an emergency call to action for all active public servants in the city …stand by… I’ve just been informed…the Mayor has just announced an immediate evacuation of the area…

Whoa, Nelly!

What is an emergency call to action ? Who is a public servant ? You do know that these words mean things, right?

And this is the problem I have with artists trying to be writers. Very often, they write nonsense. And the nonsense is written because they figure that writing is easy, so they can just put anything on the page and people will read it without saying anything.

They don’t do any studying, they don’t understand the craft, they don’t recognize the level of skill needed.

Do you know who public servants in your city are? Steve already mentioned the trash collectors. Here’s a few more: mailmen, city accountants, city lawyers, judges, records clerks, city treasurers, city human resources, parks and recreation, the water department, maybe the electric department, those who paint the lines on the streets, who cut the grass and trim the trees, city engineers, city planners… I could go on, but you get my point. All of these are public servants, because they work for the city. Hell, I work in my local 911, and where I work gets touched by a lot of different people, not just the police and fire departments. What are all of those people I just named going to do? What’s your plan for them?

You dumped info, but it wasn’t as interesting as you thought it was going to be, it sounds terrible, and really, there wasn’t enough of it to make it interesting. It could have been, but this fails on so many levels that I can’t even say that it reached for interesting but didn’t quite make it.

Let’s see what P2 does.

PAGE TWO [4 PANELS] (No page break beyond a few hits of the RETURN key )(And thus, the Flawless Victory goes the way of the dodo.)

1. Establishing Shot – Panoramic View – Eisen Krieger [EK] Stands next to the Roof-top access door of Aamon Tower, he is communicating with a third party via communication device in his helmet. (What kind of helmet? Military, motorcycle, or perhaps a hockey helmet? Specify. Also, what is he physically doing that gives us the indication he’s communicating via the device in his helmet? Have your character act.) (I agree with the acting, but the helmet should be part of the character design. I’m hoping. Benefit of the doubt.) At his feet is a large duffel bag. The exterior door to the rooftop is freshly welded shut, and is still smoldering. (A few questions here: Why was it welded shut? Hasn’t Krieger taken over the building? Was his intention to simply secure the roof and prevent others from joining him there? Who welded the door shut? Did Krieger weld it and, if so, where is the torch? You say that it’s freshly welded and still smoldering, but give no indication of it actually being done, with no visual cues being provided such as a torch and a welder’s mask. This needs to be enhanced.)(Me? I’m just hoping he has powers.)

The top of the roof has three Landing-Pads that occupy two thirds of the space, the rooftop door entrance is located on the left side of the building.

EK wears bulky flex armor with a small mini-gun (Describe, as I’m seeing this little piddly thing looking like the pistol Will Smith was given in the first MEN IN BLACK.) (Really? A mini-gun, or minigun, is a downsized Gatling. I’m going to file that under body bag. )mounted on the right arm, his armor is decorated with Nazi SS and swastika insignias and spattered with blood. (In the grand scheme of things, I wonder where the camera is placed to get these details? And by the way, does he only have the mini-gun or does he have an arsenal a la Deathstroke?)

EK: Achtung! Ich habe Vaters Vermächtnis! Warten Extraktion am Treffpunkt. (All well and good that the dialogue is in German, but is it something that only the characters need to know or should there be a translation so the reader is in on the information?)

2. EK’s attention suddenly shifts away from the door (I didn’t see it written that he was looking at the door to begin with.), looking to the direction of the Landing-Pads. (Where’s the camera? How do we know he’s looking in that direction? Are the landing pads in the shot or is he looking off panel? And what is the expression on his face/in his body language, as he’s obviously reacting to hearing his name?)

Shadow (OP): Eisen Krieger!

3. POV from behind EK. A dark hooded figure [Shadow] is standing on top of a Landing-Pad with his arms folded. (Something that I’ve learned by watching ARROW is the variety of costume designs of dark hooded figures . For example, you have Oliver in the green costume that is clearly a super-hero design, but then you also have Roy Harper in the simple red hoodie. Then, going further, you can have the cloak with the hood like Marvel’s Moon Knight or their Cloak character, or go the direction of something like a ninja. You need to explore your descriptions a lot more. And as an aside, Shadow’s stance is kind of generic and boring. Finally, I have to wonder why you didn’t fully describe Shadow here as you basically had with Krieger. It’s pretty obvious this wasn’t done in a separate document if it’s being included in the script, so go the extra mile of telling us what they look like.)

EK: … (No ellipsis here.) I didn’t expect company so soon. (I don’t get this comment. He supposedly attacked the building in the morning and it’s now midday, as per your description in Panel 1 of Page One. It’s been a few hours, so how is it he didn’t expect someone to make an attempt to subdue him by now?)

4. EK extends his gun arm toward Shadow. EK’s mouth is agape as he appears surprised. (What you have here is actually the makings for two panels. The first would be an overly-confident aiming of his gun as he makes the slant-eyed mongrel comment and the second would be, more than likely, a closer shot concentrating on the change in his facial expression once he sees what’s actually confronting him in the next panel.)

EK: Very resourceful for a slant-eyed mongrel, but obviously… (Why wasn’t it mentioned previously that Shadow was Oriental? Wouldn’t this have been important to have in a character description?)

EK (Whisper): …outmatched.

5. Same view as PANEL 3 – Shadow has his left hand raised, around him are dozens of Mystical Shadow Ninjas with glowing eyes creeping into view, some standing next to him. (So, what you’re saying is that Shadow mystically summoned the other ninjas. Why was there no lead in to this, because all I’m seeing here is that the ninjas suddenly appeared as ninja typically do. What you could do is have these new ninjas coming from a shapeless black void or cloud that’s appearing from behind Shadow. Seeing as how it’s afternoon, this will make the blackness especially prominent in the daylight, magnifying the fact that they are mystical in nature. And as an addition, I’d have them all in movement, with the only person standing in place being the central figure of Shadow showing control over these beings.)

Shadow: *hand drawn mystic glyphs* (My head? It just ‘sploded. Just an FYI, for anyone who cared.)

A lot to talk about here:

You are moving way too fast through this story. I’m actually feeling like this is the second issue of a storyline with information having been established in the first issue, stuff we as the readers have missed. You had the reporter give certain details on the first page that seem to have no bearing whatsoever on what is happening on this page, with a seeming misdirection of his taking over the entire building and then having him on the roof with the door welded shut. How do these things correlate without backstory or build up? Then you introduce the hero, Shadow, in a haphazard manner and don’t build up the impending battle between them. And then, to top things off, you bring in the cavalry before you’ve had a one-on-one struggle between good and evil. What makes a hero is having the odds stacked against them and they still make the attempt and hopefully succeed at overcoming something they didn’t think or believe they could. I feel like this should be the last option, the climactic battle after all other attempts to defeat the villain have been tried and failed, not the first conflict of the book. Here’s an evil so powerful that he has taken over an entire 120-story building by himself, and yet, your hero has no struggle to overcome him. I’m seeing a touch of Godzilla vs. Bambi here, with the tables turned drastically in the hero’s favor.

Something I’d like to talk about is the pacing of the story so far and the inclusion of components that aren’t necessary to getting the story rolling. All of that stuff with the reporter? Though meant to create a dramatic scenario, all it did was take away screen time from the villain who could have told and shown the readers his personality, motivation, and intentions a lot more effectively than being spoon-fed ineffective exposition from a further-than-third person source who had no direct contact with the situation and is relying completely on the hearsay of people who may or may not know what’s going on themselves. Deal with the source and get the reader involved right off the bat. With that said, the first page could have been the establishing shot of the city, then closing in on the police and news drones to establish reaction to the situation and then zoom into the antagonist with some form of hook statement or action that would have enticed the reader to turn that first page. This second page? You have the opportunity to introduce the hero at the top of this second page upon the page turn, after spending some time with a few panels building the antagonist’s character and situation, or you could prolong the evil for Pages Two and Three and introduce the hero on the page turn to Page Four after hooking with his calling out the villain’s name, which would have named the antagonist without going the roundabout way through the news report. This avoids the middleman while still showing the law’s and news agencies’ interest in the situation. Mind you, this is purely suggestion and not direction on my part. ‘Nuff said on that topic.


And really, P2 is as ineffective as P1, only more insulting.

What does the villain say in German? No idea. Why? Because if we were German, then we’d know. If we’re interested, we’d look it up. But if we’re lazy (like most of us are), we just aren’t going to know, because the writer failed to do any sort of translation.

Translations are for nerds, anyway! They aren’t important. What’s important is what happens next!

And to be honest, what happens next makes me want to go and hurt multiple youth groups and children with multiple sclerosis. Lots of multiples.

Helipads! Know what a helipad is? It’s an area of wide-open space, so that a helicopter can land. If a rooftop has enough space to hold multiple helicopters, then it has a lot of wide-open area.

And you know what I’m thinking? I’m thinking that the Shadow teleported there. How? Only the Shadow knows! How did he know the bad guy would be on the roof? Only the Shadow knows! How did he know when the bad guy would be on the roof? Only the Shadow knows! How did he know the bad guy ordered a coffee and donut this morning? Only the…you get the picture.

So, here, Morgan tries to showcase the Shadow’s powers (besides the knowing, that is). He does this by teleportation, and by having other ninjas start to teleport in, as well. It’s a power showcase! If this were the Price Is Right, it would be a Showcase Showdown! And, to put my own twist on what Steve said, like a premature ejaculator, it came too soon.

Do you know what storytelling is about? No? I’m going to tell you.

At its very core, storytelling is about pacing.

I’m not talking about the story, I’m talking about the telling of the story. When you are telling the story, it is being done at a certain pace, and that pace will be different for different parts of the story.

There’s no pacing here. Steve feels like he’s lost, because the information given isn’t sufficient to what’s happening. He feels left behind, like this is issue 2 instead of issue 1. Me? I also feel that things are happening too fast, but that’s because the writer hasn’t yet learned how to tell a story.

We’re told that the guy is bad, and we’re supposed to know that he’s bad because he’s a Neo Nazi, has swastikas on him, and he’s throwing around racial slurs. Oooh! He’s a baddie, alright. Besides being racially insensitive, how is the reader supposed to know that he’s the bad guy?

As a kid, I really enjoyed watching the G.I. Joe cartoon. I didn’t get as deep into it as some people, but I enjoyed watching it. You’d see these aerial battles, with lasers going back and forth, and you’d see a Cobra plane get hit, but the pilot was always able to parachute to safety. Always. Lots of captured Cobra guys, never any Cobra deaths, not even when there were explosions going on all around them. As a child, it’s fine. As a teenager, you start to think, why aren’t these guys dying?

And better yet, why don’t the bad guys ever really hit anything? Tons of laser blasts or bullets or whatever being traded, and the bad guys never hit the good guys, or if they do, it’s superficial.

Then I started playing a gamed called Marvel Super Heroes, using the Saga system. It was a card based role-playing game (non-collectible), and in it, it explained a lot of things. One of those things it explained was the Goon Hindrance. Basically, this was a hindrance to certain types of characters (usually henchmen) that stated that they were easily beat up and would rarely ever hit what they aimed at.

Seeing this page puts me in that mindset. Your villain is a cardboard cutout, and your hero is a coward who immediately calls upon his goons. Maybe we’ll see how effective they are next page, maybe we won’t. I no longer care. I stopped caring as soon as I saw that it made no sense.

Then, all of a sudden, the Shadow becomes Artie. Why? Only the Shadow knows!

For those who don’t know Artie from the Marvel Universe, he is a mute mutant who is a telepath, but can only communicate using ideograms, leaving the reader (and the characters) to figure out what he’s trying to say.

So, the Shadow’s dialogue at the end of the page are hand drawn mystic glyphs. My head ‘sploded because I took it to mean that his hands were talking , drawing the mystic glyphs. Remember, he has one hand raised, so it’s possible. That’s my interpretation, because that’s what it says to me, so I’m sticking with it.

Another interpretation is that this is a letterer’s note, saying that the writer wants the letterer to hand-draw some mystic-looking glyphs.

Basically, this is bad writing all over. Steve mentioned Die Hard, and I can definitely understand why—there are hints that feel like it. Die Hard, however, is a great movie, and this is quickly sliding into crap. The dialogue? Have you read any of this aloud? First, it’s bad, and second, there isn’t enough of it. Third, fourth, and fifth are that it’s bad, which is saying something where there isn’t a lot of it to read.

Let’s see where P3 takes us.

PAGE THREE [ 5 PANELS] (Again, no page break. Not even a few hits on the RETURN key for good measure.)

1. The horde of Shadow Ninjas race toward EK, attacking him with shurikens and small explosives. (Why would these Shadow Ninjas have explosives? Aren’t they mystical? And what about other weapons common to a ninja?) EK fires his mini-gun wildly into the group of ninjas hitting a few, their bodies explode into ash clouds from the gun fire. (I’m having trouble picturing a mini-gun doing this damage, but then again, I don’t know what the mini-gun looks like. Must be pretty powerful, though, as it seems to be Krieger’s only weapon ) (Where’s the camera? It could be in a few places.)

EK: Ich werde auf jeden Abfall letzten einer von euch verdammten Maden lagen! (Huh? You realize that pure gibberish would get you just as far with your average reader, right? Here’s the thing: This shouldn’t be a matter of showing off one’s knowledge of a language for the sake of alienating their readership. Keep it simple or translate so the reader is in on the character’s feelings. I remember Nightcrawler and other X-Men of other languages having very basic expressions like Gott in Himmel that the readers could actually look up to get the meaning while still getting the cultural feel for the character. Consider that approach.) (Or, they could glean meaning from the context. This? This is just you being obnoxious, Morgan.)

2. Two Shadow Ninjas manage to grab each arm on EK and restrain him. EK grimaces as he struggles to break free. (This is two panels worth of action, not one. The first is the attempt to restrain and the second, the struggle to break free from the restraint.) (Basically, a moving panel.)

EK (Thought): (Why is this a thought and not spoken aloud in disbelief? This could even be considered a burst, or shouted out speech.) Theninjas I hit turned to dust!? … (No ellipsis here.) An Occult Fighter!?! (Always place the question mark before the exclamation mark, as it’s a question first and then exclaimed speech.) (That kind of hurt to read, to tell the truth. Know what I do? I ask my bilingual friends how they think. When they speak English, they think in English, when they speak another language, they think in that other language. Usually, they’ll think their private thoughts in whatever language they learned first or use the most, because that’s what’s the most comfortable to them. So, from my experience, he should be thinking in German. That’s first. Second, I don’t agree that this should be a thought bubble. Not even a caption. This should be cut, and then taken out back and ritually sacrificed, so that you can gain the ability to write decent dialogue.)

3. EK suddenly reels back in pain as shurikensimpact his head and face at high velocity. (Waitaminnit… He’s restrained, and he’s still being attacked by shuriken? I don’t think I have the strength… Steve might have to carry me for the rest of this.)

EK: NNNNNNnnnnnngh!!! (Wouldn’t something like ARRRRRGH!!! be more effective and appropriate? What you’ve written sounds like he’s got something stuffed in his mouth, like a large balled up cloth.)

4. EK throws the off the Ninjas as he hunches over in pain. (How does he throw off both ninjas in one shot, especially given they managed to restrain him so easily? And again, you have two actions here, with the throwing off of the ninjas being a separate action from the hunching over in pain.) (I can see it in one. It wouldn’t be fun, but I can see it in one.)

EK: NEIN!! It will take a lot more than toys to stop me! (Did anyone else try reading this aloud, or was it just me? If so, did you throw up a little in your mouth?)

5. Extreme close-up on EK. His face is scared (Did you mean to write scarred ? He doesn’t sound scared. And if you did mean scarred , wouldn’t it be cut up as scars occur after the cuts have healed? Only you know what you meant.) (And here I was, thinking only the Shadow knows!) and bloody, a few stars still imbedded in his face, he looks up at Shadow with his teeth gritting.

EK: Your occult sorcery won’t save you.

When I get to you, I will crack your skull open, scoop out your brains and feed them to you before you take your last breath! (HURK!!!!)

The dialogue is getting worse. Given there is so little of it throughout the script so far, you need to make the most of what you do have and then add even more. Look at your panel count per each page so far and then look at how little dialogue there is. It’s a fast read made faster by a low panel count and low word count.

This page was terrible. Krieger was easily subdued and attacked by the Shadow Ninjas, even though Bambi did have a few shots at his opponents before being held down and used for target practice with shuriken. But ask yourself: Given these are not actual people being killed by his shots, but wraiths, does it really count and do we really care? And another aside: Don’t these Shadow Ninjas act exactly like the ninjas of The Hand from Marvel Comics when they are killed ? (Shhhhhh!!! You weren’t supposed to notice that!)

You should have definitely put up more of a resistance for your villain here. You have completely devalued your attempt to make him seem invulnerable and utterly evil as an antagonist. In a weird sense, you’ve made him the character to root for, partly because you haven’t dedicated any more time or effort to showcasing the actual hero, Shadow.

P3, and you know what? I’m in the mood for Kid ‘n Play. Ain’t Gonna Hurt Nobody is playing through my head. And that’s exactly how I feel in reading this page. The characters aren’t going to hurt anyone, but the dialogue definitely will.

Just to make it official: this is crap.

Everyone feel better now? No? Stomach slightly upset? I know. I’ve got some Pepto, but only enough for the first five readers. I suggest not even thinking about food for a while.

This page was supposed to be a fight. Do you know what happens in fights? Fighting happens. It’s supposed to be a struggle.

1988. I’m 14 years old. My father orders the Mike Tyson/Leon Spinks fight on pay per view. Iron Mike is all the rage, along with Freddy Krueger. Everyone had a formula for beating Mike. He was undefeated, and was kicking ass usually by way of knockout, usually in not more than three rounds. Mike was not one to be messed with.

Leon Spinks was also no slouch. He was undefeated, as well. It was a match made in heaven.

There were other fights on the undercard, but no one really cared about those. My father, bless him, had invited friends over. They got to watch the fight for free. We had a packed house. You could feel the energy in the air.

We’re now getting to the main event. The fighters are given instructions in the middle of the ring. The fighters go to their corners. My father, for whatever reason, goes upstairs for something, figuring he has time.

He’s up there too long.

91 seconds later, Spinks has been knocked the eff out. My father missed it, and was extremely pissed that he had spent so much money on the fight, and all there was was 91 seconds of it.

That’s what happened here. Your villain is defeated in 91 seconds. (Less, really, if you want to be honest about it.) Your reader? They feel cheated. It’s P3, and they still have no story.

They know some guy killed some people, but they don’t know why. All they know is that he’s a bad guy.

They know that the Shadow believes in overkill, kinda like the Punisher.

That’s all they know, besides the fact that you’re a bad writer.

What’s the story about? Dunno. (I don’t even know if the Shadow knows this one.) Why are we still reading this? That’s what they’re going to ask themselves. (Readers of TPG are probably wondering what I’m going to say next. I’m still going because Steve is still going. He’s still going because I like to get at least a full scene out of a submission. We all have our crosses to bear.)

This is just…really, really un-good.

PAGE FOUR [5 PANELS] (Another missing page break.)

1. A group of Champions (The resident super team, right?) have arrived in the courtyard near the entrance of the Aamon Global Tower. Police, FBI, and members of the Omega Corps (Who are the Omega Corps? Another super-team?) rally around the three Champions, Tachyon, Phantasm, and Talon that have arrived on the scene. (Do you have character profiles somewhere for these people? If so, then you should have included Shadow and Krieger in that list. If not, then you haven’t done your job and given the artist the necessary information.) (Teleportation! They’ve arrived, but no thought given on how they got there. They just appeared.)

A woman, Beatriz Cruz [Demoness], is standing next to an SUV and talking to the Phantasm, rising raising her hand to him to get his attention. She is wearing glasses, black business attire with a short skirt and heels.

FBI: What in the blue fuck is going on up there!? (Another example of where the question mark takes precedence over the exclamation mark.) It sounds like a goddamned war zone! (How can they hear what’s going on on the roof of a 120-floor building? There were no examples of extremely loud sounds designated during the massacre on the previous page, so what happened?) (There are no examples of any sound effects at all. And again, go back to Die Hard for the sounds of the rooftop battle. The first one, not the second.)

Phantasm: We need a way to get to the roof undetected…

Beatriz: I can help you with that. Beatriz Cruz, AGT Security. (The second sentence, of her self-introduction, should be the result of having established contact, not trying to make contact, with Phantasm. At this point, she’s still trying to get his attention.)

2. Beatriz explains the route to the roof and is handing the Phantasm a key card, suddenly everyone is looking up at the tower, Talon is pointing up in horror. (Are all of these actions supposedly happening simultaneously? This reads more as film direction. You’re going to need a couple of panels for this to happen properly.)

Beatriz: There’san express elevator in the second sub-level of the parking garage, (Period, not a comma.) It’s used for VIP’s and pilots. (Pilots?) Here,take this… (Even the dialogue here needs to be divided up to match up with individual actions.)

Talon: They’re falling! (Who is falling?)

3. POV from the groups location looking up at the tower, several Shadow Ninja bodies and debris are falling above them.

FBI: Everyone (Comma) move away from the Tower! Move BACK!!(As fast as the bodies are falling, is he seriously going to spend the time saying Everyone, move away from the Tower! ? I don’t think so. And Move BACK doesn’t have the same degree of panic and immediacy as Get back! , which is said by another character right after he gives this direction. By the way, you call this person FBI, but is that a single person or a group of people all saying the same thing at the same time? Hard to tell. Specify.)

Talon: Get back! (Redundant.)

4. A body tears through an the SUV next to Beatriz, (How can we tell it’s a body? Hasn’t it already torn through the SUV?) while others are slamming into the ground and exploding into ash on impact, Phantasm is behind Beatriz with his cloaked arms (So he’s wearing a cloak. Didn’t know that ) around her trying to shield her from the falling debris.

Phantasm: Miss Cruz! Look out! (Again, all of this takes time to say, so eliminate dialogue that takes up that time needlessly.)

5. Ground Level Close-up on the Shadow laying on the ground after smashing through the SUV. (If he smashed through the SUV, wouldn’t his body still be in the SUV, not on the ground?) His hood is missing, also the top of his head is ripped open, whats left of his brains are inside his gaping mouth. (I seriously just slapped myself in the forehead. Are you freaking kidding me??? You actually took the threat literally and made it a complete and utter joke. That’s beyond ridiculous. Then there are things like how much time it would require for Krieger to escape and retaliate from the Shadow Ninjas, how he got his hands on Shadow, and how much time elapsed as he ripped open Shadow’s head and jammed his brains into his mouth. Given that you never gave any indication of Krieger being able to do more than make a threat, making him a powerless villain, you’ve gone and done the absurd by having everything happen behind the scenes. I still can’t believe you went there. Wow.) Beatriz‘s high heels are seen standing next to Shadow’s head, along with Phantasms boots.

Beatriz: … (No ellipsis.) Puta merda! (Given that it means HOLY SHIT! , I think you should have used a burst balloon.)

Phantasm: …his brains…that fucking madman fed him his own brains! (Get rid of this. Honestly, you’re making this worse than it already is by pointing out what is already more than obvious.)

This went from being a bad execution of a story to being something along the lines of SCARY MOVIE or worse. You’ve made a spoof of your own story and I can’t imagine why (Say it with me: Only the Shadow knows!). I just know how. I think you had something that could have been salvaged with a bit of thought, redirection, and a bit of work, but this caught me completely off guard in the worst possible sense. I’m stopping here. Let’s hear what Steven has to say.

Yeah. Just going to run this down.

Format: All it takes is some page breaks. I could live with the lack of labels for all the dialogue. Although it’s easy to see that it’s wrong in other comic scripts, and there have been many that have come through TPG, I could have lived with it. What I can’t live with, though, is the lack of page breaks. Why? Because I say it a couple of times a month. No Flawless Victory for thee.

Panel Descriptions: These could have been better. Again, I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt, because I’m hoping you’re going to draw this yourself. However, there are times when things just don’t make sense, even if it’s just a sketch/note for yourself. So, these need some work.

That being said, if you aren’t drawing this yourself, these need a LOT of work. Shot selection, camera placement, character action, character emoting…all of these are important to give to the artist. These things aren’t all present at one time in any single panel.

Pacing: HA! There’s no pacing here. Pacing implies things are happening, and doing so for a reason. Nothing happens for a reason here. The bad guy is doing something because he’s bad, and the good guys are there to stop him because that’s their job. Deep motivations, right?

All of this moves too fast, as Steve has already stated. Instead of five pages, this could easily have been eight. When we’re told why characters are doing certain things, from a storytelling perspective, then the reader will be much more forgiving. There has to be a reason why things are moving fast. There are no reasons given. There is no story here. Without story, there is no pacing.

Dialogue: It went from bad to worse to wretched—and that’s being kind. There isn’t a lot of it here, and what’s here would make Mother Teresa into an enraged, violent person intent on punching people everywhere in the ‘nads. Male or female, young or old—if you were in striking distance, you’d be struck.

Before you go about adding more dialogue, study how people speak. Listen to real people—not television shows, not movies, not comic books or novels. Go someplace and listen. Go to the mall, to the food court, order some food, put in some earplugs (but no music/podcats/audiobook/what-have-you), and listen. Listen to e’erybody, and see what they’re talking about. See how they form their words, their diction, their vocabulary. Listening is an extremely important part of writing, and you haven’t done nearly enough of it.

After you’ve listened, start writing what you heard. The flow, the pauses, the false starts, the tangents. This is how people talk. Do you have to do all of that? No, not at all. But it gives you a starting point.

After you’e done that, start writing dialogue for your characters. It’ll take a while to develop a character’s voice, but if you keep at it, you’ll be fine. Once you feel you’re in a better position to write dialogue, rip out everything you have here and then add different, better dialogue.

Content: This is crap.

Seriously, before you invest more time and effort into this project, learn how to write for the medium. Even if it’s just a hobby, it deserves your respect. This could outlive you. Do you really want someone to come back and say He was a decent artist, but an absolute crap writer ? Learn how to write in the medium. Take your time. The story isn’t going anywhere. And when you’re ready to come back to it, you’ll find that the story will be much stronger for it. Right now, though, No one will touch this.

Editorially, this needs a total rewrite—after you learn how the medium ticks. Once you learn that, a rewrite will be automatic. Just take this version and throw it away. Write other projects in the meantime. Smaller projects. Get the hang of it. Then come back. This project will be much stronger for it.

And that’s it for this week! Check the calendar to see who’s next!


Like what you see? Steve and Sam are available for your editing needs. You can email Steve here and Sam 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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