TPG Week 56: An Unexpected Surprise

| January 20, 2012 | 8 Comments

Hello, one and all! Welcome to another thrilling installment of The Proving Grounds! This week, we’ve got a new Brave One in Don Urquhart. Let’s see what he has as we look at




Page 1 (five panels)


Page 1, Panel 1

This is a wide-angle shot at eye level that fills the top half of the page. There’s a gorilla-sized robot (it will also be referred to as SideArm) on the left side of the panel. It’s standing at attention, head turned to right side of the frame. The letters NNYPD marked on its chest. Diana is standing next to the robot (middle to middle-right of the frame). Her right hand is touching the side of her helmet. They’re situated on a street corner in front of an open-to-the-street coffee shop called The Grinds. I’d like to have a hint of a few pedestrians, but more importantly a barista in the shop. Also, I’d like to try and fit a street sign on the corner marked 8th Ave, and West 37th street (Some of these details depend on how much will fit into the panel real estate). (Okay, right off the bat we start out badly. Generally, the first panel is going to be an establishing shot. That means we have to have a Who, What, Where, and When. We have most of that. We’re missing a When. Now, since Don went so far as to put the characters exactly where they’re supposed to be, he’s missing something. What? He’s missing the direction they’re supposed to be facing. In order to clearly show the lettering on the robot, it will have to be facing the camera. Generally, that means its back will be to the barista. Which way is Diana standing? And if the robot is to the left of the panel, Diana cannot be standing next to it if she is in the middle to middle-right of the frame. That’s impossible. Finally, where is the barista that is supposed to be important? Not only where are they, but what are they doing? See? Information like that shouldn’t be guessed at.)

DIANA: All right, Abby, we’re off the clock. Ready for a coffee? (More study is needed. Unless this is a voice-over caption, there are no quotation marks in dialogue. This is a gimme.)

CAPTION: New New York, 11:52 am, July 13, 2032. (This should be a small banner at the top left corner of the frame.)(This note should be before the caption, and the timeframe, while definitely not wrong, should be in the panel description so that the artist can find it. Consolidation. The creative team shouldn’t be looking hither and yon for information they need to do their jobs. This bit of missing info affects the penciler, the inker, and if you have one, the colorist.)


Page 1, Panel 2

This is a medium view of Abby’s at chest level. She’s sitting in a tech chair at a three quarter angle to the camera (we’re looking at Abby’s left side). A bunch of multi coloured wires spill out of the top of her head like spaghetti. They droop down the back of the chair then loop up out the top of the frame. There are two more tech chairs behind Abby that are occupied by two women with similar wires sprouting from their heads (the chairs are arranged back to back at a 120 degree from each other). Abby has a slight smile. She has a coffee cup in her left hand that has a slight bit of steam coming out of it.

ABBY: You’re late again, Diana. I’ve already got mine. (Who’s Abby? Is it the robot that was standing at attention last panel? Where did all of these robots come from? They could easily have been seen from the last panel.)


Page 1, Panel 3

Close up of Diana’s face. She has a slightly pissy expression.

DIANA: No one likes a keener. (A quick search on Urban Dictionary tells me that the word keener is more than likely used incorrectly here. Used outside of local slang, the use of this word is going to throw people right out of the story. They won’t have any idea what you’re talking about. That includes people like me.)



Page 1, Panel 4

Close up on Abby. She has a full smile.

ABBY: Glad to see you’re still surly. Why didn’t they beat that out of you at the Academy?


Page 1, Panel 5

Medium angle shot looking down the counter of The Grinds. Diana is on the left side of the frame looking towards the barista on the right side of the frame. In the background behind Diana we see the busy street (try to fill with pedestrians, cars, and buildings going into the distance to emphasize perspective). Diana is holding up four fingers in front of the barista’s face. (If the barista is on the right side of the frame, how are 4 fingers being held up in front of their face?)

DIANA: Guess I’m just too surly and tough.

DIANA (new speech balloon in much smaller font to indicate a more hushed tone directed at the barista): Quadruple shot espresso.

Page 2 (nine panels) (Five panels to nine? That’s a large jump, Don.)


Page 2, Panel 1

This is a medium view of Abby in her tech chair. She’s on the left side of the panel facing directly to the camera. She has the coffee cup up to her lips obscuring her mouth, nose, and chin. Her eyes are looking to the right side of the frame. On the right side of the panel we can see Cara looking over her right shoulder addressing Abby from her tech chair. From this position, we should see mostly the back of Cara’s chair, and the mess of wires coming from her head. (This? This is drawable.)

CARA: You have an incoming ten code, Command 3. (However, what I don’t like is this character telling someone else about something. This character isn’t with the others. I’m not getting why they have this info, nor why they are passing it along. And as dialogue, why is she telling them they have an incoming ten code? Why not just say what the ten code is? Why only go halfway?)


Page 2, Panel 2

This is a shot of Abby from the waist up. There’s a new transparent screen, filled with techno-babble graphics, floating in front of her. Abby has her right hand up to the new holo-screen to manipulate the virtual controls. If there’s enough room in the panel, it would be nice to have the left hand putting down the coffee mug with a little bit of coffee splashing out, as if put down quickly. (New transparent screen? Where’s the old one? That’s first. Second, where is the hologram being generated from? Third, why have it filled with garbage if it doesn’t mean anything? Why even focus on it? Waste of space. Fourth, you can have all of that by pulling the camera out some, but not far enough to show much of other people/things. You just have to say so. This also takes the emphasis off the garbage on the hologram. Fifth, why have someone else give her information if she can get the same info from the hologram, or other means of communication? Sixth, I used to work in dispatch for a fire department, and we worked next door to the police dispatch. It takes a LOT for a police officer to be called back to duty, especially if they just got off. There better be a huge emergency that will take a LOT of officers. Otherwise, she could have been on her merry way.)

ABBY: Officer Hawthorn, you’re back on duty. There’s a 10-30 at 219 West 37th street. (Is Abby supposed to be the dispatcher? Why is she at a coffee shop? I’m lost.)


Page 2, Panel 3

This is a wide-angle shot (maybe even the same shot used on page 1 panel 1, but with a little more focus on Diana and the robot). Diana is in mid stride between the coffee shop window and the robot. The barista in the background is holding up his hand, and he’s shouting. (You’ve committed yourself to a nine-panel grid. You will not be able to have a wide-angle view. Not without seriously hampering the page somewhere. Right here, I’m going to say that you need a LOT more study. Pick up either Watchmen or From Hell. Both Alan Moore, both a masterclass on the use of the 9-panel grid. Now, if she’s between the the window and the robot, which way is she facing? In or out?)

DIANA: 10-4, Command.

BARISTA: Hey! Still want that coffee?


Page 2, Panel 4

Repeat view of page 2 panel 1. Cara is snarling in this panel. Abby’s head is tilted down, but her eyes are looking to the right side of the panel towards Cara. There should be a hint of concern in her facial expression. Abby has her right hand extended, so she can touch the holo-screen. A small graphic surrounds her fingertip that reads secure channel (the lettering should be mirrored, so that it would read properly from Abby’s perspective). (Why would what we can see on the screen suddenly start making sense, Don? How about continuity? Either all or nothing. Make up the artist’s/colorist’s mind for them.)

CARA: You might want to remind Officer Hawthorn of her specific duties.

SOUND EFFECT: BEEP (The effect should be very small and located close to the finger graphic.) (All notes to the letterer go before the colon.)


Page 2, Panel 5

Close up of Abby’s face. She continues to have a concerned look. Her eyes should still be looking to the right side of the panel.

ABBY: (The lettering should be slightly smaller than normal. Abby is trying to be discreet.) Careful, Diana. You’re being big-brothered. Remember to let your SideArm do the heavy lifting. You’re there to defuse situations and give tactical commands only. Nothing cow-girl this time. (I like the note, just not the placement.)


Page 2, Panel 6

Close up of Diana’s face. She’s angry.

DIANA: Is it Cara? Tell her to eat a . . .


Page 2, Panel 7

Close up of Abby’s face. She’s slightly embarrassed.

ABBY: Diana, I’m the only one on a private channel here.


Page 2, Panel 8

Repeat view of page 2 panel 6. Diana’s face should still be angry, but more neutral compared to her expression in panel 6.

DIANA: . . . lot less, ‘cause she’s looking kind of fat.


Page 2, Panel 9

Repeat view of page 2 panel 1. Abby is looking down, and has her hand on her forehead. Cara is in the background. She’s fuming.

SOUND EFFECT: slap (The sound effect should be very small and located somewhere near Abby’s forehead.)

CARA: I know you two go way back, but if she screws up this time, I’ll have her badge.

(Okay, this page has two things wrong with it. First, it needs to lose about 3 panels. You tried to stuff a lot in here, and it isn’t working for your pace. You just slowed the pace down a lot because of the amount of panels. Not good, especially when you’re calling for shots that you can’t have because of the panel count. Secondly, from a standpoint of logic, how is a dispatcher going to take the badge of an officer? It’s P2, and I have absolutely NO idea of how officers in your world work. You can play with expectations, but you can’t lose people. You’ve lost me, because this makes no sense. )

Page 3 (four panels)


Page 3, Panel 1

The camera is at eye level, and is at a quarter view to the right side of the robot (its back is facing frame left, its front facing frame right). SideArm is crouching down into a sprinters starting position. A transparent version of the robot is standing in the exact same place. (I’m hoping this will convey the motion of the robot moving from standing to crouching. If not, the drawing may require several renderings of the robot throughout the standing/crouching action.) Diana is standing on the far side of the robot. (Ah! Excitement time! This here, folks, is the first time we’ve had something I like to call ghosting in a script. It could have been handled just a bit better: I would have reversed the order of the description, while still getting the same thrust across. Now, ghosting: remember those old Spidey comics where he’s moving so fast around an opponent that he seemed a little faded, with one final image showing him bopping someone on the noggin, and that image was in full color? That’s what Don did here. THIS is how you get movement into a panel WITHOUT it being a moving panel! BRA-FUCKING-OH! It only took a year for someone to do it. My only question: where’s Diana?)

DIANA: Mount.


Page 3, Panel 2

This is a full-framed shot of Diana’s figure. Diana is in the process of mounting onto the back of the robot. Her left foot is on the far side of the robot’s back (there will be hump in the middle of the its back that will look similar to a small motorcycle seat). Diana’s right leg is up in mid kick (I’ll be trying to catch that look of someone kicking their leg over a bike seat). Both of her hands are planted just behind the robot’s shoulder blades, where there is a pair of bike-style handles. (The note here about the saddle and handle doesn’t need to be here overmuch. I like it because I’m coming to it without a character description, but this is going to be something you’re going to work out with the artist. So, thank you, but it isn’t necessary here.)

DIANA: Max speed. Full sirens. 219 West 37th. Shock and Awe.


Page 3, Panel 3

This is the largest panel of the page, and is a wide angle shot. The SideArm robot is leaning forward in a mid-running stride, facing page right. Diana is riding on its back. The robot’s light-bars are flashing blue and red. The background (buildings, pedestrians, cars, etc.) should be horizontally blurred to convey great speed. (Okay, so we’ve got He-Woman riding Battle-Bot. That works for low-tech, but for hi-tech, it makes for better sense for the robot to be a suit of armor or a smoother mode of transport. Robotech comes to mind. This seems to me like you also have a line of toys thought about, and while being toyetic isn’t terrible, I think it may be harming the story. I can’t get behind riding Battle-Bot like this.)

SIDEARM ROBOT: Officer requesting Shock and Awe. (tech-style speech bubble)

SOUND EFFECT: REOW-REOW-REOW (The lettering should be very large, but out of the way, or behind Diana and the robot.)


Page 3, Panel 4

This panel is a close up of Abby’s head. It should be very small in the bottom right corner as an overlapping panel to page 3 panel 3.

ABBY: You’re authorized for Shock and Awe.

Page 4 (five panels)


Page 4, Panel 1

This is a wide-angle view with the camera at eye level height. The panel runs the full width of the page. We’re located inside a small convenience market. There are two checkouts in the mid ground, double sliding glass doors in the middle of the background, canned goods on the left back wall, and soda filled refrigerators on the right back wall. (Where’s the camera? I keep getting lost. What are the doors you refer to? If the camera were placed, then I’d be able to get a better sense of where everything is. I can tell you right now, though, that something is off. The camera placement will tell me what.)

In the mid-ground, Ganger 1 is licking the face of his hostage (a cashier). He’s restraining her with his left arm around her waist, and holding a knife to her throat with his right hand. The cashier looks terrified. Ganger 2 has his left hand in the cash register (he has a lead pipe in his right hand). There is an enraged and agitated third ganger (Ganger 3) in the foreground. He’s pointing a pistol (something like a Glock 9mm semi-auto) at the camera. The barrel of the gun should be highly foreshortened and blurred to give the feel of being right in the readers face. (Why is it that the cashier’s sex is an afterthought? Not that I have anything against a guy licking another guy’s face, but the artist is going to need to know this.)

Artist note: I’ll have to do a test sketch to see where Ganger 3 looks best. He could be in the middle of the frame with one ganger on each side, or Ganger 3 could be placed on the right side of the frame with the other two gangers on the left side. (That sketch had better be pretty good, because I’m now completely lost. This needs to be completely rewritten: set the place, the camera angle, and then place people from left to right. And if you want the barrel of the gun highly foreshortened, then you’re going to lose a lot of the detail you just put into the panel description. If you can visualize this, Don, then you need to do a better job of describing it.)

GANGER 1: Mmm . . . (small sized lettering)

GANGER 2: Come on! Grab ‘n go, yo!

GANGER 3: You got more than that, Gramps!


Page 4, Panel 2

We see the top half of a terrified, elderly grocery manager. Ganger 3’s pistol is pointed between the old man’s eyes. I’d like to try this shot as Ganger 3’s POV. There should be an isle stretching into the background to give the shot some depth. (Isle is another word for island, and generally used to mean a smaller island, at that. The real word you’re looking for is aisle. If your artist drew a small island behind the manager, you couldn’t be upset with them. This is where another set of eyes helps, because you didn’t get flagged for it in the spellcheck.)

MANAGER: There’s a safe out back.


Page 4, Panel 3

Medium shot of Ganger 1 restraining the cashier from behind. He’s got his mouth next to her ear. (What’s her expression through all of this? You never mention it.)

GANGER 1: Ooo . . . just enough time for me to get to know you.

CASHIER: Please, no! (The text and balloon should be small and wriggly to make it look like a whimper.)




Page 4, Panel 4

Medium shot of Ganger 2. He’s looking forword (towards Ganger 3 who is off-screen behind the camera) shaking a fist full of money from the open till.

GANGER 2: We don’t have time for this $h!t! We need to get the f*@& out of here! Cops are coming!



Page 4, Panel 5

Close up of Ganger 3 holding the gun muzzle directly into the camera with more foreshortening and blurring on the gun barrel. He looks very agitated. (This isn’t going to work. This needs to be rethought.)

GANGER 3: Couple hundred just ain’t gonna cut it!

Page 5 (four panels)


Page 5, Panel 1

This panel will run the full width of the page. Its a wide-angle shot of the double glass door entrance. The SideArm robot, Diana on it’s back, bursts into the grocery market. The two doorframes are bent in, and there is a field of glass shards exploding away from the doors. The action should move from the left of frame to the right. The robot’s light-bars are still flashing blue and red.

DIANA: PD! Drop your weapons! (The speech bubble and text should be physically behind the doorframes and shards of glass.)(Why? It makes no sense that I can see. Why are you calling for this?)

SOUND EFFECT 1: CRASH (If possible, it would be nice to incorporate this sound effect graphic into the glass artwork.) (This is easy enough to do.)

SOUND EFFECT 2: REOW-REOW- (Try to place this sound effect behind the shards of glass and doorframes.) (Again, why? Where is the sound being emitted from? The Battle-Bot?)


Page 5, Panel 2

This is a shot of Ganger 3 from a worm’s eye view. He’s turned away from the manager, pointing his gun back towards the door (pointing to the left side of the frame), and firing a couple of shots (two muzzle flashes, two ejected cartridges). Ganger 3 looks crazed, and the grocery manager looks terrified. (What do we see in the extreme foreground, then? You wanted a worm’s eye view for a reason. Do we see a furred—excuse me—metallic leg/arm? A foot in a stirrup? What?)

SOUND EFFECT: PAP PAP (Obviously, this is the gunfire and should be placed close to the muzzle flashes.)


Page 5, Panel 3

This panel is a view of the SideArm’s torso, right arm, right shoulder, and head. The camera is a three-quarter angle to SideArm, so we can see Diana and some of her body peeking around the robot’s right shoulder. One of the bullet trajectory lines hits the robot’s torso (add sparks). The other trajectory line runs past the robot’s shoulder as a miss. SideArm has its right arm extended. Six compartments along its right forearm are now open. The robot’s right hand is balled into a fist. The sirens and light-bars have now stopped. (I’m lost. Is it still on all fours, or has it stood?)

SOUND EFFECT 1: CLANG (This is the sound effect for the bullet hitting the robot’s torso.)

SOUND EFFECT 2: whizzzzzzz (I’d like to try and work the lettering into the trajectory line of the missed gunshot. The font should be small and semi-transparent.)

SOUND EFFECT 3: click click click click click click (These six clicks should be placed around the forearm. One for each open compartment.) (This panel is going to be pretty busy from a sound-effect standpoint. I don’t think it will work well.)


Page 5, Panel 4

This is a large panel that runs the full width of the page. It’s a wide-angle view of the market from Diana’s POV as she’s looking over the SideArm’s right shoulder. Six glowing, swirly taser lines run the length between the robot and the taser targets (each target has two lines attaching them to one of the robot’s forearm compartments). Ganger 2 (dropping the money) and Ganger 3 (who is firing a shot into the ceiling) are arched back in pain. Ganger 1 is using his hostage as a shield. The cashier is arched in pain. The manager and few customers are recoiling in the background. (Customers? Where did they come from? Did I miss them? I’m thinking they’re magically delicious. Let me go check. Yup. No customers. They’re magically delicious. Not good.)


SOUND EFFECT: TZZZZZ (Each taser should have this sound effect running along the swirly taser lines.)


That’s enough. Let’s run it down.

Format: Nearly flawless. It was consistent, but not flawless. Put the notes before the colons for the dialogue and sound effects.

Panel Descriptions: Not good. Most of the time they’re confusing. I wasn’t in much of a white void, which is a great thing, but you left out a lot of necessary information from the artist. This needs to be worked on.

Pacing: You got to action in four pages, so I’m okay with that. However, you’ve got some fat to trim. Five panels to nine panels and then down to four panels? That means you didn’t think it through. Not good. The action was where it needed to be, but how you got there was very choppy.

Dialogue: From reading it, it reads pretty well. From what it says, some of it doesn’t make sense. So, you’ve got two things going on here: I can imagine people saying the dialogue, but I can’t imagine WHY these people would be saying certain things. You’ve got a nice tone, but you have to watch what’s being said, Don.

Content: I wouldn’t read this. A cop riding a humanoid robot like a pack animal? Dispatchers at a coffee shop? One dispatcher going after an officer’s badge? It’s like you wanted to have retro science fiction, and didn’t do any studying at all about police procedure. I’d have been upset if I paid money for this. That is no joke.

From an editorial standpoint, this is a mess, possibly from concept on up. It isn’t making sense to me, and I’m not that smart. If it doesn’t make sense to me, it won’t make sense to others, who are more than likely smarter than I. There are a lot of things that would have to be reworked in order to make sense, and then it could possibly work.

Bonus: You used ghosting, and you did it mostly right! Again, BRA-FUCKING-OH! Send me a short script, no more than 8 pages, and I’ll do script-editing for free. It took a year for someone to try it, and you did a VERY admirable job of it. You desrve something for that. Shoot me an e-mail, Don, and we can work out the details.

And that’s all I have. Check the calendar to see who’s next.

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Category: 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.

Comments (8)

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  1. Conner MacDonald says:

    I waited up to read this Steven, and Don, and I wasn’t disappointed. I’m happy to finally have, not only a term, but an example for “Ghosting.” I had been wanting to use it somewhere in my writing, but honestly saw it as a little daunting. I try to keep my panels pretty bare bone simple and it seemed like “Ghosting” would over complicate it. But you Don went balls in, and tried something I had been afraid to. You earned those 8 edited pages. Actually, your use of sound effects alone earned you those 8 pages in my opinion. I freaking love onomatopoeia, its my second favorite word to say, and one of my favorite things period.
    I’m also down for a comic book about cops that ride robots. Its very Saturday morning cartoon.

    And Steven, could you possible give any further advise on “Ghosting”? Or possible direct me to where I can read some “Ghosting” in script format?

    P.S Assuming your DonU on the forum Don Urquhart, I recommend spending more time there… I’m getting lonely.

    • DonU says:

      Yup. That’s me. I was thinking of posting a completed five pager in the forum (one line pitch, script, finished art and lettering). I know I could use your feedback. I’m working through the art right now.

    • Yannick Morin says:

      Don’t worry, Conner! I should soon be riding again, scorching the face of the forums with my blistering wit!

    • John Lees says:

      I used some variation of “ghosting” in an early draft of The Standard #3. The scene was removed in a rewrite, and I honestly can’t remember if Steven thought I did it right or not. But this makes me want to try it again at some point.

  2. DonU says:

    Thank you, Steven, for taking the time to edit this for me. This has been a wonderful learning experience.

    You should have seen me smack my head the day after I submitted this script. The very first thing I noticed was no quotation marks.

  3. John Lees says:

    See, I must have been watching too much Community lately, because to me, “ghosting” can only refer to the outlawed activity in pottery class, of two students re-enacting the infamous Patrick Swayze/Demi Moore scene.

  4. Yannick Morin says:

    “Right here, I’m going to say that you need a LOT more study. Pick up either Watchmen or From Hell. Both Alan Moore, both a masterclass on the use of the 9-panel grid.”

    I’d also suggest Warren Ellis and Ben templesmith’s FELL which was an actual experiment toying with the 9-panel grid.

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