TPG Week 264: Give A Damn

| January 15, 2016



Welcome back, one and all, to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week, we have Gene Patrick as our Brave One. We also have Liam Hayes back in blue, Ryan Kroboth with his sharp pencils, and I’m the dullard in red.

Before we begin, I want to apologize for the erratic schedule with which the column has been coming out lately. I’m doing what I can to get it back on track. I do want to thank all of you for your patience.

Now, let’s see what Gene has to say for himself with


Hot rods! Ray guns! Loose alien women!

In post ­WW2 L.A. aliens have integrated into society after war with earth, a young hot ­rod racer and his street gang struggle to win a turf war with a rival gang of aliens (I know. The missing punctuation is killing me, as are the missing words. We’ve just started, and I already don’t have the strength…)

You fine folks won’t see this, but while there are page breaks, the page numbers still fall a few lines below it. I’m not feeling that hot, so I’ll be magnanimous, as long as nothing else wonky happens with the format.



Large panel, bird’s eye view of the cracking concrete channel running along the LA river at dusk. Lots of cars and people are in a big crowd surrounding the sides. Two hot rod cars can be seen with a figure between, they are about to drag race. Everything looks

pretty small, the view is too high to make out any other details. Reference 1

1. CAPTION: Friday night races, (Friday night races isn’t a place or time. It’s more of a concept. Separate it.) Los Angeles, 1958.

2. FIGURE: Ok, boys! (Quotation marks are for voice over captions.)


Close up on the spinning wheels of a black up hot ­rod as they kick up dirt, the engine screams mightily. (I don’t know what this sentence means. I think I know what it was supposed to mean, but I’d hate to assume. What I know is that this is panel 2 on P1, and I’m about ready to set the Line of Demarcation right here. Yeah, yeah. So much for my being magnanimous.)

3. NARRATION (Johnny): Straight and fast, Johnny. Straight and fast. (This is what quote marks are for. Though this should be ‘CAPTION (Johnny):’) (The real question is this: why is this in italics?)

4. OFF ­PANEL: ‘’ Ready! (So, there’s two different types of apostrophes to start this, and then unnecessary spaces around the word before the ending quotation marks. I feel like my life hates me…)



Same panel as before but focusing on the other hot ­rod, It was gleaming silver and clean. (If it’s focusing on something else, it isn’t the same panel as before. It’s a struggle, folks. And yes, I feel lots better, but still not 100%. That Line wants to be set…)

6. OFF ­PANEL: Set!




Close up of Johnny inside his car. He has short brown hair and wears a white t-shirt, a scar marked his right cheek. He had a determined look on his face. (Okay. I don’t think I’m going to ask anyone any questions this time around. I think I’m just going to suck all the fun out of this myself. Because I feel like my life hates me. Anyway, if he had a determined look on his face, then what’s his current expression? Tenses, folks. They’re important. And really, how many times have I said that main characters are going to be designed before the artist draws the first panel, so having a character description in the panel description (for main characters) is doing more work than you need to? Where’s my cracker? I feel like a parrot.)

8. NARRATION (Johnny): This is it. (Okay, that last caption wasn’t a voice over. This is actually internal monologue, unless he’s speaking from the future but in the present tense for some eldritch reason.)

The hot-rods should be fully described in panel one, or before the script if they’re recurrent, preferably with reference images. The page for me is something of a let down. I’d had like to have seen them speeding off in the last panel as a hook, instead of that flat This is it. hook you have. I feel short changed, like there’s not enough on this page.

P1 is on the books!

It feels like we narrowly escaped.

What happens on this page? I’ll be the first to tell you: a whole bunch of nothing. This means the pacing isn’t as good as it should be.

The page is boring. Technical mistakes aside, the page is boring, and boring is death. The technical mistakes just make me want to go and punch some grandmothers.

What can be done to punch up the page? I agree with Liam in that having them speed off would be good. Know what would be better? More dialogue/text fo the reader to know what was going on. What’s up with this race that it’s important? Why should we care about any of it? You’re building a new world—the least you can do is let readers know what’s going on.

If you have a lot of story to tell, in media res may be a way to start. If you don’t, then you want to start late, but do what you can to catch the reader up. There hasn’t been any effort made to catch the reader up or even make them interested in the story. Not good.

Now as I read this first page, I was reminded of a movie, The Giant Gila Monster. Basically, a giant gila monster ravages a countryside in the 50s. A young man in his hot rod blows it up, as well as his car. Fun movie if you’re into that (which I am). This? Not so fun.



Full page panel of the two cars blasting off towards the reader with a roar. The cars are revealed to be more than just classic hot rods, they have massive alien engines attached along with other alien tech. A blue alien woman with three arms stands behind in their wake, she has a skimpy outfit and brunette hair. Her handkerchief fluttered in the air, her third hand still raised. (Hmm You’re going to have to be pretty pulled out in panel one not to see things such as this. No, I think you’re better off getting rid of the establishing shot and having the reveal serve as something of an establishing shot. Also, are we unable to see through the windscreens?)

The car on the right was a black hotrod with a large glowing green alien engine sticking up from the hood. The body was beat up and dented. In the driver’s seat sat Johnny. Reference 2 (Why is this in the past tense all of a sudden? It’s technically correct, but just unusual.) (No, it’s not correct. It’s only correct if this was in the past, and doesn’t speak at all as to what it looks like now. Now, here’s my observation: if Greg is going off of me saying that things should be in the past tense for clarity, I think he missed something. I was talking about actions. Actions should be described in the past tense in order to help stop moving panels.)

Trailing on the left is a silver hot rod with a glowing purple engine. The engine, massive and triangular, was connected to the back of the car. (Actually, it is wrong. I have decided. It’s throwing me right out of the script.) There is (Make up your mind as to which tense you want to use. Consistency is nice, even if it’s consistently wrong.)a very strange alien animal painted on the hood. The driver cannot be seen. The alien and human crowd is going wild. Reference 3 (Oh, I forget to even mention the crowd. I guess you could get away with that by silhouetting.)



I do admire what you tried to do here; set up a tone or expectation and smash it right out of the gate. Screwing with expectations is a great literary device. Still, I think you need to come at this from another way. The establishing shot hurts you.

P2, and we could be getting somewhere.

Except we aren’t. What we’ve got is more non-story.

Here are my questions: Why are some things in italics while others aren’t? I mean, look just above here. The label for the girl is regular, but her dialogue is in italics. Then the label for the sound effects are in italics, but the sound effect itself is regular. No rhyme or reason.

The questions still remain. Why are we here? What’s so interesting? What’s the story about? This page doesn’t do anything to answer any of that. We can’t even have fun with it because there’s nothing to really grab onto.

Let’s see if P3 starts to tell anything about the story.



Overhead view of the cars tearing along the cracked and broken concrete reservoir,

The silver car has caught up.

1. SILVER CAR: Finally got your own wheels, Johnny? (I don’t think they’d be able to hear each other over the sound of those engines, but sure.)


Close up on the driver’s side of the silver car. There is a green skinned alien, his scaly face is snake like. He wears a black leather jacket and has slicked back black hair. A cigarette hangs from his mouth, his reptile eyes and toothy grin combined for a very sleazy look. His name was Fallon. (Was? What happened to him? Poor Snakeman. I am being unfairly sarcastic here just to prove a point.) (It isn’t unfair. Gene can’t seem to make up his mind when it comes to tenses. This is fair game.)

2. FALLON: That wreck looks like it was through the war!


Inside of Johnny’s car. A picture of a beautiful brunette and a rabbit’s foot hangs above a computer system, He caresses the dashboard lovingly. (That’s not creepy.) (Ryan? You’re up. Your mission, if you choose to accept it: show the lovingly with a caress. That is your goal.)

3. NARRATION (Johnny): Don’t listen to em’, girl.


Small close up panel of Johnny’s hand hitting a glowing green button near the screen of his computer system.

4. NARRATION (Johnny): Let’s show him what a Vespa polyhedron engine can do.” (Gobbledygook that doesn’t mean much of anything. Vespa? They’re known for making scooters. Polyhedron means many flat surfaces in three dimensions. It feels like there was no effort put forth to actually say something science-y here. I personally love listening to Mr. Fantastic speak in the comics. (Not so much the films.) He’s smart, and it comes through. Same thing with Iron Man. Hell, even Batman can get somewhat technical at times. This? This is lazy.)



Johnny’s car leaps ahead in a blast of green energy. (More. Where is this coming from?)




Fallon’s driver side, he looks shocked. His mouth hangs open as his cigarette blows away (I should rage-quit here, but I won’t. It’s the panel description. I can be somewhat lenient.)

7. FALLON: Son of a ­! (Double dashes after ‘a’)


Interior of Johnny’s car, Johnny sports a large smile on his face.


I still doubt they could hear each other. An easy fix is to give them speakers to communicate/trash-talk with. That’s also a lot of space for little action. Cut pages two and three to one page and you have a great page turner for page three (what would have been page four in this script.)

P3, and there’s still no reason for being given in this piece. I won’t call it a story yet. Nothing has happened yet to warrant such a strong word.

I want something to hook into. I want to be able to root for someone outside of xenophobia. I want a reason to keep on going besides the fact that Liam hasn’t stopped yet.

One more page of nothingness and I’m going to set the Line of Demarcation.



Fallon’s massive car engine ignites, creating a giant explosion of purple fire.



Overhead of the cars on the track, Fallon has almost caught up to Johnny.

2. FALLON: Nice Vespo you got there. (Vespo or Vespa? There’s a difference. I don’t even think you care.)


Front view of both cars, Fallon yells over at Johnny. Johnny is looking over at him with a scared look.

3. FALLON: it used to be, anyway! (This should lead in with an ellipsis.) (Capitalization. I dunno. It could be useful…)


Small panel. Fallon flips a switch under the dash.

4. FALLON: Loser.


Overhead of the cars racing towards the finish line. Fallon’s car emits some sort of electric shock wave. It radiates from Fallon’s car, running through Johnny’s car. Johnny’s car sputters. (How is this visually presented? What’s actually happening to it? This, incidentally is your page turner for page three.)

5. SFX: Sput…Sput…Sput



Interior of Johnny’s car, Johnny slams at the buttons on the computer systems. The computers are down and all of the lights on the console have went out. His car sputters loudly.

6. NARRATION (Johnny): 1. He EMP’d me 2. The engine…The systems

3. It’s all fried



Overhead panel. Fallon crosses the finish line while Johnny’s car sits there stalled just short. (This needs more.)

8. NARRATION (Johnny): 1. All the saving. 2. All the work. 3. for nothing

9. SFX: Sput

There’s too much on this page. But I’ve given you a good solution with cutting pages two and three into one page. That solves a lot of your pacing issues thus far.

Line of Demarcation.

This is crap.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we should go celebrate. I suggest drinking. Drinking is always good when there’s crap to wade through.

There are things to learn, but I’m going to go through it all at the end.

I won’t even rant, although I should. I’ll say this, though: I wish more writers put in more effort. Take that as you will.



Fallon stands outside of his car, lots of people crowd around him, his arm around the blue alien girl who started the race. He has a huge cocky smile plastered on his face, waving to the mixed crowd of aliens and humans.

(No dialogue? It’s silent cheering? He doesn’t even gloat? Boo.)(Shhhh! No booing! The more silent this is, the faster it goes, and the quicker we can all get outta here!)


Johnny approaches Fallon from behind, Fallon has a large patch of the same alien creature from his car sewn on his jacket along with the words INVADERS above it. Johnny is pointing at him and screaming. He is in a rage.

1. JOHNNY: Fallon, you son of a bitch! You know how hard I worked on that car!? (If it’s legal, meaning within the rules of the race, why is he pissed? I say this because he hasn’t accused him of cheating.)


Fallon turns around and Johnny is right in front of him, a sneer on Fallon’s face.

2. FALLON: Not my fault that rust heap broke down on ya’!

Go cry to someone who cares, loser.


Johnny punches Fallon with a loud crack right in the face. (More. You’re being vague.) (Hm. I wouldn’t say that. I’d say that this leaves enough room for interpretation for the artist.)




Fallon has spun around and leaning against the passenger side window, one of his arms is inside the car. He is bleeding. The blue skinned alien girl stands back, looking scared. Johnny is behind him yelling.

4. JOHNNY: You’re nothing but a cheatin’ snake! (Ah. There’s the accusation.)


Fallon swings a wrench right into Johnny’s face with a smash. (More.)(See panel 4.)




Fallon stands over Johnny with his wrench, a vicious look on his face. Johnny is on his hands and knees, blood poured from his mouth. (Johnny’s expression here? I imagine it’s pain, but still.)

1. FALLON: I’m a Slaan! Call me snake again and you’re dead!


Side shot of Johnny, he is in position to spring up from the ground, a switchblade in his hand opens with a click. Johnny looks furious. (Hmm No, I would go for an inset of the switch blade. This is just going to look weird.)(And that switchblade? It’s magically delicious. Don’t force your artist into a bad storytelling situation. Remember, Rob Liefeld often can’t tell if a character has one sword or two from panel to panel on the same page…)

2. SFX: SNIKT! (Look! No italics anywhere! And it’s Wolverine!)


Johnny stares at Fallon fiercely, pulling his arm back, (Who’s arm?) switchblade in hand. Fallon holds his wrench, ready to strike.



Johnny is stopped, being held by the arm by an older man in his thirties. (How is he holding him? What’s Johnny’s reaction? Stop being so vague.) He wears a

brown leather jacket, his hair is dirty blonde and graying. Reference 4

4. MAN: Cool it, Johnny!

5. JOHNNY: He fried my engine, Kirk!



Fallon’s swings his wrench into Johnny’s ribs while Johnny grapples with kirk. Johnny is yelping out in pain. Kirk is furious, looking at Fallon.



Kirk punches Fallon right in the nose with a loud crunch, Johnny on his hands and knees between them.



Fallon is knocked out cold, sitting slumped against his car. Blood was all over his face and shirt, his blue alien girl cries over him.

8. OFF ­PANEL KIRK: Let’s get you the hell out of here, kid (Right here. I’d rage-quit right here, but it looks like Liam has stopped.)

Okay, your pacing needs work for the reasons I’ve laid out, but you also need to beef up your descriptions. You’re missing vital information. As for content, this is something I can get behind, but it needs work.

Since Liam has blessedly stopped, so can I. Time to run away—I mean, run this down.

Format: There are page breaks, and everything is in its right place. Flawless Victory. That being said: watch the spaces above the page breaks. There’s no reason for them to be there.

Panel Descriptions: They’re okay. They aren’t terrible, but they could use a little more work. Liam is right in that you are sometimes vague. There’s room for improvement here.

I have no idea as to why there are some things described in the past tense here. I really want an explanation for that. Out of the kindness of my heart I’ve given you a possible out, but what I really want is the truth.

Pacing: Six pages were gone through, and there’s no indication at all as to what the story is about. There’s a lot of worldbuilding that needs to be done, but instead of doing that, the decision was made to give absolutely no information as to what the story is about or even give a proper hook. Terrible. It’s a waste of space.

There isn’t enough dialogue to carry the actions here. Again, I refuse to call it a story. That’s giving you too much credit.

Here’s what the first six pages were about: a race. Okay, it was a race. What does the winner get? There has to be a reason as to why they’re racing. That’s not stated anywhere in these pages. Who are these characters? Why are they in this race? Giving some indication as to why things are happening would really help the pace. That’s done by adding words.

Right now, this is a fast read. Part of that is necessary due to the fact that this is a race. You want it to be snappy. Large panels with few words. You’re trying to get readers excited. However, that has to be mitigated by this fact: it’s a new story on a new world/timeframe, and the reader has to have some reason to continue reading. Adding words will slow it down some, but it won’t make it drag—if you’re good.

Dialogue: I’m going to talk about the words themselves, and then I’m going to talk about the technicalities.

The words are okay. They aren’t terrible, but they definitely aren’t riveting. The reason they aren’t riveting is because there aren’t enough of them. What’s there is passable, but it doesn’t really tell you that much, and by being boring, most readers are going to put this back on the shelf pretty quickly.

There are several things I don’t understand from a technical standpoint. First, why is almost all of the dialogue in italics? What purpose does that serve?

Then there isn’t even any consistency for that, because there are instances where nothing is in italics. What. The. Hell.

Why are there quotation marks around the dialogue? Why didn’t you have enough care to at least fix the apostrophes into quotation marks in that one instance?

Why are there often spaces between the ending punctuation and the ending quotation mark? Why are there often spaces between the starting quotation mark and the first word of the dialogue? Nowhere in literature or any class taught will tell you to do that. (When I first learned to type, lo those many years ago, we were taught to put two spaces after any ending punctuation. That has changed, and it took a little bit to get used to, but it was a relatively easy habit to break. What you’ve done though, Gene, I have no explanation for.) Again: What. The. Hell.

And then there’s the missing ending punctuation there at the end. Yeah

Content: As a reader, this is crap. Six pages without any reason for being. This goes back on the shelf, and then I pick up that issue of Stabbity the Bunny I’ve been eying. (No, really. I have a couple of issues of it. I just wish there were a real audience for it to allow it to get to the shelves.)

Editorially, I’d hand this back to you and tell you to give it back to me when you actually give a damn. I’m not looking for perfection, but at least have some pride in the work. Writing for comics is not that difficult once you learn a few rules and the reasons why they’re there. After the few simple rules, it’s about story, spelling, and punctuation.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that it’s easy. It’s a different way of thinking and for some, real effort has to be put forth in order to achieve being anywhere near good. However, things should at least be studied. This is the internet age. If you found me in this little corner, then you can find information (for free, even!) on how to approach scripting. Give a damn. It will take you further than you think.

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

Like what you see? Liam and I are available for your editing needs. You can email 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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