TPG Week 196: Blackenstein Was Better…

| September 26, 2014



Welcome back to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a new Brave One in JP Polewczak! We also have Liam Hayes in blue, I’m the guy in red, and we’ll see what JP has to say about




Learning the Smell of Success Part I

Written by J.P. Polewczak


Just a quick note before we start. This script came in at an 11 in font size… Guess how happy I am?


Before we begin, I must make a point of your format. It’s nigh unreadable. All the elements are bunched together making it difficult to pick anything out. If I were an editor at a publishers, this would be in the trash already. Don’t let that happen based on something as simple as a format. I’m going to have to space this out just so I can make sense of it. There are no proper page breaks either. Again, I’ve added them in for the sake of Steven’s blood pressure.(Thanks, Liam. However, this means that there’s no Flawless Victory to be had here. So, just remember why it was lost, folks. Let’s forge on!)


GENERAL NOTE: David, our main character, is a professor as a university.  He’s teaching Marine Sciences 212.  (Pointless. Discuss your character descriptions independently of the actual script.) Setting for this series is a university lecture hall. (One setting for a whole series?)  It shows stadium-style seating about 20 rows deep with large projection screen where the stage would be (A reference for this would be great. Oh, and missing full stop.)


Panel 1: Shows a large image of a dogfish (see: Google Images Dogfish nose ) (Don’t be lazy. Link it for the artist.), close-up on the nose.  Call-out circle around the ampullae, a.k.a. the dark spots on the skin. (This is on a projection screen, but you didn’t specify that fact.)


NARRATION (Narration should be told in Captions. This, however, is not narration. The guy speaking is just off-panel.) (DAVID):   The year is 1678.  Italian physician and ichthyologist–


STUDENT (OFF): Ick-thee-what?


Panel 2: Full reveal of Dr. David Lorenzini (mid-30’s male Caucasian) (Add this information to your character description page/document.) holding a laser pointer, wearing a lab coat and standing in front of the large projection screen.  Slight shadow cast (I presume you mean he’s casting a shadow onto the projector screen? You didn’t say that, though.) and slight overlap of projection of the shark image on his face. (What’s your guy saying with his expression? What’s his body language, if any? Have him actually act.)


DAVID: Ichthyologist. One who studies fish? (Why does he phrase that as a question? It betrays the assertive nature of his dialogue.)(Balloon break.)This is Marine Science 212.  That

would imply you’ve met the prerequisite.


Panel 3: Student, sloppy, backwards hat, sitting in his seat, pencil in his ear (q-tip cleaning motion) and a smile on his face.  (What’s the shot here?)


STUDENT: Oh, well I’m a transfer student.(This line? It no makee the sensee.)


Panel 4:  Similar shot as Panel 2. (A wide shot for an expression? This is not effective use of space.)  David’s face is not impressed (see: Pop Culture Reference: McKayla

Maroney).  (Odd way of referencing. Again, actually link it.)


DAVID: Your parents must be so proud. (Break.)  As I was saying… 1678.  Stefano

Lorenzini is–

STUDENT (OFF): Is he your great-grandfather? (That’s oddly specific. Go with Are you related? It sounds much more natural. Also, we have no idea what David is called. Make a note of that in the dialogue e.g. Other than the name, there’s no relation. )


Panel 5: Showing the two in a cross section of the lecture hall, David on the left, Student in front row on the right.  David with his arm out as he requests a response from the student. ( His arm out is pretty vague. I’m having trouble thinking of a gesture he would be performing.)




DAVID: No, there’s no relation.  Unless either (Why is either there? Doesn’t sound like it should be.) he lived to about 250 years

it wouldn’t be possible, so logic isn’t your strong suit either.  (Break.) How, again, did you make it this far?


STUDENT: Uh my uncle’s a booster? (A booster? I’m unfamiliar with this term. Research shows me it’s someone who illegally supports a college athlete through financial means. How does that fit here? I could be misunderstanding due to cultural differences.)


DAVID: How fortunate.  (Break.)Without further interruption…


Page one down. I’d like there to be an establishing shot on this page. It’s pretty obvious we’re in a university (or a college for you strange folk over the pond), so you needn’t go for an external shot, but I’d like an internal one at least. Then you can get all the details out of the way (like the projector you didn’t place into the scene) and focus on the characters and their acting.

Content-wise, I’m not seeing to need to continue. Guy is talking about fish and then guy gets interrupted by other guy. Guy continues. Where’s the hook? I do like to give the benefit of the doubt and read three pages before I decide whether or to continue with a book, however.

(Sometimes, it’s like looking in a mirror…)

P1 is down, and really, it isn’t good. We have a character talking crap about someone being smart or not, when the writer doesn’t seem to be overly intelligent, either. The reason I say that is because there isn’t a proper introduction of anything: not the setting, not the characters, nothing. Great way to start out.

What happens on this page? A whole bunch of not-very-well-described nothing. And the dialogue? It doesn’t help anything. It doesn’t reveal much character, and it definitely doesn’t move the plot.

Okay, time to talk about jobs. As the writer, you aren’t doing yours.

Your job, as the writer, is to write the script. It’s the foundation for everything that happens next: editing, drawing, inking, coloring, lettering. If you’re going to write a full script, then you have to learn more about what you’re doing.

All of the elements need to have a space between them. This makes it much more legible. Liam did you an immense favor, and you owe him something to drink. Now, not only do the elements need space, the dialogue needs space, too.

You’ve read a comic. You’ve seen dialogue from the same person in the same panel broken into different balloons. Know who’s job it is to break the dialogue into different balloons? The writer’s. Yours. Not the letterer’s, and not the editor’s.

Do your job.




Panel 1: Back to Panel 1, Page ONE only a bit further out to show David. (So not back to Panel 1, Page ONE at all, really. What’s David doing? Damn, this is lazy.)


DAVID: Lorenzini was known for his work with sharks, other fish, (Sharks and other fish? So just fish then? Why specifically point out other fish. Just sounds odd.) and their



Panel 2: Tighter on David’s face.  As he gets back into the groove of speaking with an air of confidence.  Visually this would imply a happy facial expression with an open speaking mouth. (Just put what you want visually, then.)


DAVID: The uniqueness of their abilities above all other animals.


Panel 3: Back to Panel 1 (This is becoming confusing. Stop describing panels via other panels.), focusing on the image, not David.  Image has changes (Typo.) to a dogfish stalking a smaller fish. (Reference image?)


(This is like panel 1, but not. See how silly that sounds?)


DAVID: Their uncanny sixth sense which allows them to sense (Repetition of sense. ) the

bio-electrical fields in a vast space.


Panel 4: Viewport (Viewpoint.) from the stage to the uninspired lecture hall.      David’s face is in the direction of the screen, not the class. (David is facing the screen, or just turning his head and looking at it?)  Shaded heavily.  The students are shown as some sleeping, some attentive.  Diverse crowd scattered sparsely through the layout.  No great detail based on small panel size, enough to see slumping heads, even someone leaving out the doors at the top. (This panel would look better if you had David facing the class, giving his all, only to be met with apathy. That adds a minute amount of conflict, at least. As this is, I have no idea why he’s facing us.)


DAVID: This allows them to sense animals in distress, blood, or even the

slightest motion in the water.


Panel 5: Should be in horizontal sequence (What does that mean? In the same tier? If so, learn your terms.) with Panel 6 and Panel 7.  Close-up of David from mid-chest up, pointing to the hall.


DAVID: So let’s say you, over here, got a nosebleed.


Panel 6: Close-up of same student with confused face.  Pencil in nose. Eyes wide open.  Worried look.


DAVID (OFF): Because you were thinking too hard. Obviously.(Obviously. The writer is thinking too hard.)


Panel 7: (see: Panel 5, Page TWO) (What? Putting in the same panel without good reason is just laziness. Sure, if you want to show something happening in sequence, or suggest the passing of time, go ahead. But having the same guy doing the same thing for no reason other than you couldn’t be bothered to write another description? Lazy.)


DAVID: You don’t, it’s okay, this is just hypothetical. (This adds nothing.)(This whole page adds nothing.)


Panel 8: Similar to Panel 4, (Sigh.) David is now facing out and point (Pointing.) up into the top left (stage left) corner of the hall.

DAVID: A shark could sense it even way up there where the other future

leaders of America are sleeping soundly. (You didn’t specifically ask for a sleeping student to be placed there. The artist may not have drawn that.)


A lot of panels on this page. The good news is you can cut a few. Panel 7 isn’t needed, and panel 1 and 2 can be easily combined. As for content, why do I feel like I’m at school? This is just a lesson about fish. Why are you teaching me about fish? I could buy a book about fish if I wanted to know about fish. I didn’t because I don’t. Where’s the conflict? Where’s the story?




Okay, let’s get this out of the way first.


This is crap.


So, it’s official, and it’s early, so we can all relax. Let’s get into it now.


I’m not a fan of 8 panels on a page. It’s awkward. Either go 7 or 9, but not 8. It’s a no-man’s land. The reason is quite often the artist. Very often, it’s going to be two columns of four, which will confuse the reader as to read down before going across, or to read across and then down. The 9 panel grid works much better.


Okay, there are two elephants in the room. Since I can only take on one at a time, I’m going to go alphabetical: Laziness and Pacing.


Laziness! I hate it. If I mean, some laziness is inherent, and really isn’t laziness at all, but an economy of words and effort. When you write a new scene and start with an establishing shot, you don’t keep establishing the same place panel after panel. There’s no need for it. That’s just not using your time or effort appropriately.


However, to just continually refer to certain panels here and there, with slight changes…that’s lazy, and I’m not a fan of it. Not at all.


Pacing. There’s no pace here. It’s P2, and nothing at all has happened. I’m betting that the entire firs scene can be cut, except for a panel here and there, and not hurt the story. The sad part is, there’s no sense of story being told here.


As for the dialogue…there’s nothing here worth reading. It isn’t difficult to read, don’t misunderstand me about that. It just isn’t doing anything at all. After two pages, what’s the story about? What’s the sense of what’s the story is about, after just reading the dialogue? I have no idea.


I’m going to slap you around a little bit more on something else, too.


So far, I’ve counted three different fonts being used: Calibri, Times New Roman, and Trebuchet. Pick one, and stick with it. I picked one for you and applied it to the entire work so that people don’t lose their minds when they read this, but do yourself, your editor, and your letterer a favor by picking one and staying there.



Panel 1: Larger shot of David in front of the screen.  New slide.  Generic university PowerPoint slide with title Ampullae of Lorenzini with a cropped picture of the ampullae, more diagrammatic and not realistic. Essentially, black spots on a white background. (References for all this. Don’t make your artist do the legwork.)

DAVID: Here we see the features of the shark that allow it to have this super  

power of the marine world. (Oh, okay. I see where this is going now.)


Panel 2: An entire row of students sleeping. (You didn’t specifically call for an entire row of students. You called for a crowd scattered sparsely . The artist may not have drawn a complete row.)




Panel 3: Same as Panel 1, cropped down to just David with a picture of a ray behind now. (Another panel described through a totally different panel.) (see: Google Images ray fish ). (Provide reference.)


DAVID: Other species of fish have been found to have these organs as well. (That line is clunky and unneeded. Cut it.)


Panel 4: Girl is on her cell phone texting. Shot is from her viewpoint in her seat looking down at her cell phone text conversation.  We only know she’s female by her nails (painted) and skirt/crossed legs in the background.  (This girl has just appeared into the scene. She’s, as Steven would put it, magically delicious. You need to add her in when we first see the seating area.) Viewed texts on phones transcribed as:


MESSAGER: OMG kill me now  


MESSAGEE: IKR, (I doubt those employing abbreviations would also use commas.) so bored!


MESSAGER: Gilmores Pub l8r?? (I’m not believing this line dialogue, and I shall tell you for why. People tend to say either let’s go to a pub or, if they have somewhere specific in mind, let’s go to the swan and the diver (Yes. English pubs are actually called things like that. Judge us not.) I’ve yet to hear someone refer a place by using both a proper and common noun e.g. let’s go to the swan and the diver pub. See how that sounds odd? Cut Pub or Gilmores .) (What if it’s called Gilmore’s Pub? The problem is the missing punctuation. And since it’s text speak, I’m not going to rail about the missing ending punctuation in the first message, even though I should seeing as how the rest of the panel has ending punctuation. But I won’t. Consider yourself lucky.)


MESSAGEE: Def! I need a drink after this. (I’m with them.)


DAVID (OFF): It’s really quite fascinating.


Panel 5: Shot of David in front of the projection screen.  Now almost in the middle of the stage with shadow casting on. (On what?)  David is facing the screen looking at the ampullae under the ray (Under the ray? What does that mean?) on the projected image pointing with the laser pointer. (Pointing at what?)


DAVID: Okay, I think that’s enough for today. Any – (You want an ellipsis here instead of your dash (which should be double dashes) as David isn’t interrupted.)


Panel 6: (David?)Turns around and faces an empty lecture hall.  Shot similar to panel on last page. (Ugh. Not even specifying what panel you’re referring to now. That’s the epitome of laziness. The ennui has set in on us both.)  A few students still sleeping and a person half out of the door at the top.


DAVID…questions? (Lack of proper formatting here. Did you reread this at all?)



I’ve given you the three pages I promised. I’m still not interested. I can see where this is going, but you’re taking an awful long time to get there. Is this really the best way to start this story? Can’t you throw us into some conflict first, be it action or otherwise, and then cut back to this? So far, I’d say you have about one page of actual story in these three pages. And it’s uninteresting story at that.

P3, and we still don’t care.

When I was a child, my parents had an old black and white television. Fifteen inches or so. Not much smaller, not much bigger. My mother used the television to watch her soap operas as she cooked (and believe me, you wanted her watching the television as she cooked, because otherwise, the food could turn out to be inedible. One fried chicken dinner was burnt on the outside and raw on the inside. Totally inedible. We had McDonald’s that night.). I inherited that television as a pre-teen.

I didn’t have cable in my room, but the signal was very strong, so I never had to go through the rigamarole of futzing around with the rabbit ears. What happened, though, as I watched shows like Haunted Hollywood and Dr. Demento, was that I acquired a love for b/w horror movies. And not just the good ones, either, but the bad ones as well.

I like to believe I have an understanding of crap. I enjoy crap, when there’s a reason for it. Any movie by Ed Wood? Crap, but with an undeniable earnestness to it. Roger Corman? Sometimes crap, sometimes not, but always done to the best of his ability with what budget he had. (The difference between Corman and Wood isn’t level of craft, it’s level of talent.) Movies you’d see on the likes of Mystery Science Theater 3000? Crap, and they make fun of them for being crap, but they’re enjoyable for all of that.

Blacula. Blaxsploitation movie that’s both great and terrible. So is the sequel. But it also spawned terrible movies such as Blackenstein and Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde. (The latter is a better movie, because Blackenstein is truly abysmal.)

This? This puts me in mind of the bad movies that I love. (It also helps that I’m watching Madhouse with Vincent Price, and then will go to House of Wax afterward.) However, even Blackenstein moved faster than this. (No, really, seek out the movie and then watch it. It’s terrible, but better than this.)

Like last week’s entry, the elements are here, but no idea of how to tell a story with them yet. I’ll rail about that in a little while. Liam hasn’t stopped, so I can’t, either.



Panel 1: David sitting at a bar with a shot glass in front of him, no lab coat on, plain-clothes.  Bar is crowded, but not cruddy looking, (Here’s a tip. Always try to describe in a positive voice. By that I mean describe something by what it looks like as opposed to what it doesn’t look like. Your writing will flow much better. I see a lot of writers do this, and their writing is weaker for it.) meaning things are still shiny and less grimy with flat screen TV’s hanging in the background.  David’s head hung beneath his hands, elbows on the bar.(Still no establishing shot to be found.)




Panel 2: Whitney, another doctor at the university, in biology, (Unnecessary detail.) enters.  She steps up behind him. (She enters and steps up behind him? Two distinct actions here so this is a moving panel.)  Same view as panel 1, but now with Whitney in the left shot.  Can’t see her face, she is standing behind him.  Bartender fills the shot.


WHITNEY: Another successful day feeding young minds?


Panel 3: Whitney sits to the left of David and leans on the bar looking at him.  David picks his head up. (Expressions?)


DAVID: I swear to God, the sharks understand this material more ( Better works better here.) than any of



WHITNEY: You’ve got that right.  


Panel 4: Close-up panel of Just Whitney.   (What’s Just Whitney doing?)


WHITNEY: Vodka tonic.


WHITNEY: This is just (Cut Just .) the way of the world now.  You pay for a degree, you don’t

earn one.


Panel 5:  Close-up Front shot of a distressed David throwing the shot back. (Distressed while throwing back a shot? Hmm… I’d have thought he’d be more wincing due to the alcohol burning his throat.) (Basically, you can’t show that emotion while doing this action.)




Panel 6: Close-up of David looking toward Whitney with a bubbly face.


DAVID: Oh hey, Whitney! When’d you get here? (Huh? Was this supposed to be a joke? I didn’t get it. Anyone else get it?)


We’ve got a smidgen of conflict on this page, but its far too little, far too late.


P4, and nothing of real consequence is going on here.


I’m still looking for a place where I can say Ah-ha! This is where the story starts! I haven’t found that place yet. I still think you’re clearing your throat, getting ready to tell the story instead of just telling the story. None of this is interesting to read.


Characters need to do two things: they need to do things, and they need to emote as they do it.


Know what I used to do? I used to beat Liam up constantly over the lack of facial expressions for the characters he was writing. Constantly. He finally got tired of me beating him up over it and started putting them in. This is why he’s beating you up over it.


The pace is killing me. I’ve got nothing but hate in my blood over the pace. I want to be interested, or at least vaguely amused. I’m neither. Blackenstein? At least that amused me with how terrible it was. Here’s a review of the movie, and here’s the movie itself. Don’t everyone thank me at once. When a movie such as this is better than a comic script from a newbie, then the newbie has done all sorts of wrong.



Panel 1: Whitney is carrying David as he leans on her shoulders, walking down the campus street.  Typical townhouses on a quiet street.  Street lights providing the light. (Expressions?)


DAVID (SLURRED): Don’t you think thaaat we are meant for something more? (You could do with ramping up the slurring here. Just a little.)


WHITNEY: Of course, Dave.


Panel 2:  They approach a door to one of the houses.  Dave is holding his keys out and Whitney is struggling to hold him up.  She is grimacing.  He has his eyes closes (Typo.) and is yelling into the sky.


WHITNEY: Okay, Dave, give me your keys.


DAVID: I’m a doctor.  Whoooo do they think they are?


Panel 3: Whitney drags him to the couch.  Set up of the room is staircase in the background, couch in the foreground, entry door on the left side of the view. (You’ve jumped a bit with this panel. Break it up with another of them entering and then Whitney putting him on the couch. Also, you’re vague with the room. Is it messy? Tidy? Barely lived in? Get some of Dave’s character in there.)




Panel 4: David falls back onto the couch.  Arm hanging off. (Technically a moving panel, since David needs to be on the couch in order for his arm to hang off, not falling back onto it. You had the image in your head, though. You just worded it wrong.)  Whitney standing to the right. (Expressions? Acts? Anything? It seems like you’ve given up.)




Panel 5:  Tighter shot of just the door frame with Whitney.  The door is open and Whitney is standing in the threshold.  David is lying back on the couch. (A shot of Just Whitney, but you’re going to describe what David is doing even though you did that in the previous panel?)


WHITNEY: You gonna be okay, Dave?


DAVID (OFF): Yeah, yeah.  I’ll see you tomorrow.


Panel 6: Close-up of a sleepy David.  Eyes closed, mouth open, leaning back (He’s leaning back on it, now? A second ago he was lying on it.) on his couch.



More internal conflict, but it’s let down by poor execution and a boring hook.


Still waiting for the story to start. Waiting for a point where the reader will be interested. Is anyone interested here?

Vincent Price was a great actor, even when he was hamming it up.

Why don’t actors play with fire anymore? Be on a burning set? Something to do with safety, I suppose.

That? That was a segue that didn’t go anywhere, but it’s still more interesting than this script.



Panel 1: FLASHBACK.  Setting is David’s living room as a child, (How old a child? A child can be anywhere between three and thirteen. That’s quite a gap.) circa 1985.  Shot is off (Of.) a television screen, (Stop.) it’s a grainy, older tube television.  A Great White shark is swimming, seen from underneath.


NARRATION: ( CAPTION .) Summer, 1985


NARRATION (TV) ( TV (ELEC): )…the Great White stalks his prey


DAVID’S MOM (OFF): Don’t sit so close to the screen.  


Panel 2: Young David sitting in front of the TV, his mom on the couch reading a TV guide.  From left to right:  TV, David, area rug/space, Mom on couch.  (This needs more. What are they wearing for instance? What’s the house like? You’ll need to research the fashions of the 80’s. Was David’s family poor or rich, suggested by their living conditions? See all the great moments of character building you’re missing? Oh, and their expressions. Thin. Very thin.)




DAVID’S MOM: Yes, Davey?


Panel 3: Same as Panel 2, but David spun around and his mom is looking up at him from her TV Guide Magazine. (You can easily merge this panel with the previous and save yourself some space. Especially considering this is a seven panel page.)


YOUNG DAVID: When I grow up, I’m gonna be a shark.


DAVID’S MOM: Is that right?


YOUNG DAVID: I’m gonna swim everywhere. (Cute.)


Panel 4:  Close-up on David’s mom.


DAVID’S MOM: I don’t mean to disappoint you, but you’re already a human.


Panel 5: David standing up with a smile, sharks on the screen behind him, and his arms out at his side like fins. (I’m unsure of what arms pretending to be fins look like. Bent at the elbow? I don’t know. Be more specific when calling for something unusual such as this.)


YOUNG DAVID: Nope! I’m a shark!


Panel 6:  David in mid-air jumps on the couch landing on his mother’s lap.  Mother’s expression is bracing for impact. (Moving panel.)


NO COPY (His mother says nothing? Really?)


Panel 7: Close shot of David’s mom holding him while he lies on her lap. (Like in a cradle? Or just a hug? Be more specific. And add in expressions.)




DAVID’S MOM: Well, Mister Shark, what will you grow up to be? (He just said. A shark. Wasn’t she listening?)




It took six damned page to get to a place where I finally feel that the story has started. Six pages. And even the start of the story here isn’t that strong.


But you’ve taken too long. People gave up and went home no later than P4. There’s no reason to read.


However, let’s take this in the way you have this laid out. I’ll start by asking a question or two:


Why do you have a flashback here? What purpose is it serving here?


You got your guy drunk, and then he gets put to bed by a person who’s hardly introduced (what is she to him?), and now a flashback. Is the flashback supposed to be a dream? A memory? Why is it here in the first place?


Honestly, this is where you should have started the story. Let’s pretend for a moment. Let’s pretend that you had actually written something interesting in the first scene. Let’s also pretend that you’ve said something interesting in this one, and that this scene is three pages long.


If you were to open the book with this scene, make it interesting, and stretch it to three pages, you could then keep the padding that is the first scene of this piece. It has more impact when it follows this flash/memory/dream.


This page isn’t interesting in itself, but it starts the story. That has to be capitalized on. Right now, it’s being squandered.



Panel 1: David sits up with an excited look in his eyes.  View is of just him with a very young and glee filled face. (A face shot or close-up would suffice.)


YOUNG DAVID: A great white? No, a tiger shark!


DAVID’S MOM (OFF): (Why is she off-panel anyway?) That’s an idea.  How about a scientist who studies sharks? Even a

doctor! (Cut that last line.)(That last line made me vomit in my mouth a little. Very blunt.)


Panel 2:  David looking up at his mother while sitting next to her on the couch.  View is from behind David with his mother as the focus. (What’s his mother doing?)


DAVID’S MOM: Of course.  It pays better than being a shark too.  Besides, you need to

learn more about sharks before you go out and become one! (Cut everything apart from It pays better than being a shark. The rest of it isn’t needed.)


YOUNG DAVID: Okay, mom.


Panel 3: David running back to the TV, holding a stuffed shark toy. (Where did the toy come from?) (Magically delicious.) Shot shows him in mid-run back to the TV, his mother smiling in the background.


NARRATION (TV) ( TV (ELEC): ) known as the Ampullae of Lorenzini


Panel 4: David points to the TV as his Mom gets up.  View from TV, mother in the background walking, mid-stride.(Moving panel.)


YOUNG DAVID: Mom, (Exclamation mark instead of comma.) mom! That’s our name.


Panel 5: David’s mom is just about out of the room, and faces back in, smiling at David.  Close-up shot of just her in the threshold of the room.


DAVID’S MOM: Sure is.  (Break.)Now time for you to get washed up for dinner, Mister Shark.(If she had called him Doctor Shark, I would have punched a baby ferret square in the face.)


Panel 6: Similar to Panel 4, Page SEVEN, (Arfg.) David looks away from the screen toward where his mom should be. To his left, our right.  Still the glow now on the side of his face. (What? I don’t know what any of this panel description means.) (By now, I’ve stopped paying attention to anything that looks like similar to panel x. It all looks like Ipsum Lorem to me after that.)




DAVID’s MOM (OFF): Yes, sweetie?



This is as good a time as any to stop. The whole script is reading like, and I have a inkling that it is, a superhero origin story. Now, the thing about superhero origin stories is, they’re usually quite boring. Readers, myself included even though I’m not a fan of traditional superheroes, want to see Doctor Shark out there bashing heads and kicking arse. They want to read a superhero comic to read about a superhero being a superhero. Not only that, but you’re pitting yourself up against the big boys of Marvel and DC. I mean, why should anybody read your superhero when they have better recognized and better told superheroes at those two companies. I’m not saying this to dissuade you, only to inform you about the reality of your situation. The odds of your success are pitted against you, I’m afraid.


Technically speaking, this needs a lot of work. You spend a lot of time describing panels by referring to other panels. The artist is going to be jumping all over the script. That’s just annoying. It also exposes your laziness. There’s also a lot of missing information in your descriptions. Be sure to provide references for your artists. Especially if you’re going to call for something specific. Don’t treat your artist like a chump. Treat them like royalty. Give them compliments. Feed them many delicious candies. They like that.

Content-wise, this is not good. As I said before, you need to start in the thick of it. I like the character moments of child David’s enthusiasm versus adult David’s disillusion. Perhaps you could pit the two together, having them reflect to create a nice layer conflict, all the while threading it between some actual superhero antics? I don’t know. It’s your story. These are just ideas. In any case, what you have here isn’t good. It’s due for a rewrite. As you do that, read your dialogue out loud. You’ll be able to hear where it sounds unnatural. Finally, proof-read it.


Let’s run this down.


Format: No separation of elements. No page breaks. Not knowing the difference between what narration is and what a caption is. No Flawless Victory for you. (And everyone thank Liam for adding spaces and saving your sanity.)


Panel Descriptions: Lazy, moving panels, not well described, no acting, no emotions.


All of these things have been described throughout the piece, so there’s no need for me to go over it again here.


Pacing: I’ve seen sloths keep a better pace than this, and were more interesting to watch.


Here’s what you did: you loaded up on the panels, putting six and seven panels per page, but you didn’t do anything interesting in any of them. Literally, of these seven pages, the first five could be cut and not hurt anything. Not a single thing.


So, the first five pages are padding. Eu du Elderberry, for those who’ve been following me for a while. Basically, it’s bad storytelling, because even when the story really starts on P6, nothing of any real interest happens.


Conflict. You tried to have some with the student, going for a Young Frankenstein vibe ( That’s ‘Frahnkensteen.’ ), but it doesn’t work at all.


In the first full scene of Young Frankenstein, Frederick is denying who he is and what his family has done as he talks with a student. It’s an amusing back-and-forth that gives his world view and how he sees his grandfather. At the end of the scene, he gets so worked up in denying the work of his grandfather to this student that he stabs himself a scalpel. Funny stuff, and it served a point.


What was the point here with your teacher and student? Besides to give a name/relationship to the grandfather, there isn’t one. It’s a waste.


Seven pages, and nothing interesting happens. If that isn’t a pacing problem, then I don’t know what is.


Dialogue: The dialogue generally isn’t bad. The real problem is that there isn’t anything worth reading in it.


I’ve already spoken about how it’s your job as the writer to break up the word balloons, so I won’t beat that horse.


However, again, the purpose of dialogue is to reveal character and move the plot. Precious little of either is done.


Finally, make sure your dialogue isn’t too blunt. I think Liam saved us all from a splash page of the guy proclaiming himself to be Doctor Shark, which would have ended up with me on the news, being under arrest for assaulting all the ferrets I could find, not just baby ferrets. There’s a time and a place for blunt dialogue, but it’s usually in fun and it’s usually worked up to. None of that was happening here.


Content: As a reader, I’d have been pissed off in this, because none of it is worth reading. There isn’t one panel that is worth spending time over, and that’s really sad to say. When a travesty of a movie like Blackenstein is time better spent than reading this, then it’s a sad state of affairs.


Editorially, you need to do a few things before you start your rewrite—and it does need a complete rewrite. The first thing you need to do is to study format and terms more. After that, learn to tell a story in the form. You do that by reading and writing more. Learn to think in still images. Learn to write dialogue that actually moves the story along.


Work hard. Put the lessons to good use. I’m looking forward to your next piece.


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

Like what you see? Sam, Liam and I are available for your editing needs. You can email Sam here and Liam here. My info is below.

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Category: Columns, The Proving Grounds

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at for rate inquiries.

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