TPG Week 67: Adaptations Can Be Tricky

| April 6, 2012 | 4 Comments

Hello, and welcome to another installment of The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a new Brave One in Lauren Sinclair. Let’s see how she does as she says

Farewell to the Master

(Lauren had a list of her characters with heir description on the first page of her script. Very good!)

Farewell to the Master

adapted by Lauren Sinclair

based on the short story by Harry Bates (Trivia time: This short story has also been adopted in comic form by Marvel in the seventies.)

PAGE 1 (6 Panels)

1.1 Extreme Wide Shot 3/4. This is a park in Washington DC. Most of the ground is grassy broken by white cement fixtures such as benches and water fountains. A huge saucer style space ship has landed in the park and dominates the upper half of the panel. The ships entry portal is open and the ramp is extended. GNUT and CLIFF are standing on the ramp talking, it is important to show that GNUT is roughly 2 times the height of CLIFF. The 3 DIGNITARIES are in the foreground framing the right and left of the panel. (Great description except ONE thing is missing: what time of day is it?)

CAPTION (Cliff narrating) – You misunderstand,” said Gnut, still gently, and quietly spoke four more words. (Nice use of the original text! I just hope you don’t hinder yourself with following too closely the original.)

GNUT – (Speaks incoherently.) (If you want this to appear as indecipherable gibberish in the comic, you have to call attention to it. Something like Note to the letterer works. Otherwise the poor overworked guy might just have Gnut say Speaks incoherently. )

1.2 Medium Wide High Frontal. Cliff is running down the ramp towards us. Expression: Terrified. (What can we see behind him? Is the spaceship taking off or is it still there?)

CAPTION (Cliff Narrating) – As I heard them a mist passed over my eyes and my body went numb. (Comma-fail)

1.3 Wide. CLIFF is in the foreground, facing away, he is running to catch up with the DIGNITARIES walking away in the background. The GENERAL and the STATESMAN are partially turned to look at CLIFF. The priest is further away and hasn’t turned as much. (What can we see behind the dignitaries? You’re leaving your artist in a blank void, Lauren!)

CLIFF- Please wait Sirs!! (Comma fail and you only need one exclamation mark.)

1.4 Medium ¾ Over the Shoulder. (You’re awfully precise with those camera angles. No need to be so specific. Let your artist have a little fun! If it’s not to your liking on the first pass, well that’s what thumbnails are for!) CLIFF is on the left side of the panel. CLIFF looks scared as he speaks to the DIGNITARIES who have all turned to face him. His hands are animated as he talks. The GENERAL and STATESMAN are mid-panel, and the PRIEST is right panel. All three are facing us.

CLIFF – My name is Cliff Sutherland. Please hear me out. I have a story that I must tell you. (Nice! You used underlining to emphasize a word! However, you might want to add an exclamation mark or two in there since Cliff’s supposed to be excited.)

CLIFF – After which you who represent the leadership and power of Earth will need to make decisions on how we as a race shall continue. (Is this the same character you described elsewhere as an early 20s ex-greaser with a leather jacket? He seems awfully well-spoken. Sure, I didn’t think he’d call the dignitaries daddy-o but I was expecting something more in line with his age and background, something less literary .)

1.5 t Medium ¾ Over the Shoulder. Less of CLIFF is visible and more focus on the DIGNITARIES. Think how a camera can shift focus from the foreground to the background. The STATESMAN is shrugging his shoulders. (Justin! This one’s for you! What’s wrong here?)

STATESMAN – Well go on then son. (Comma-fail)

1.6 Close Up on CLIFF’s face who looks terrified.

CLIFF – Thank you.

CLIFF – All of you must know by now something of what happened three months ago, if indeed you did not see it for yourself on television. (Once again this is really elaborate speech for a youngster. I think he would at least use contractions: if you didn’t see it . It might also be that you’re going for the feel and tone of the original piece. If that’s the case, then you’re doing it right. Be aware however that it’s not going to sound good in most readers’ mouths (ears, eyes – you know what I mean).)


Okay, so we’re at the end of P1, and this can be seen in two ways. First, if I’m not mistaken, Lauren is an artist. This is why the camera angles are so precise. She knows exactly what she’s after, and what can be drawn. So, if she is writing this for herself to draw, then everything is fine. That’s the first way to look at this.

The second way is that she’s writing this for another artist. If that’s the case, she still knows what she’s looking for, but is leaving out some details that the artist would need, such as what else can be seen in some of the panel descriptions. However, if she’s writing for another artist, then I’d take her to task about terminology. Terminology she uses for herself may not be the same others use. This is why we have something of a codified language in comics when it comes to camera angles. This way, everyone can understand.

Anyway, please keep these two things in mind as we go through the piece.

Alright. This adaptation introduces characters that were never in the story. I don’t think that this is going to be used to best effect for the story itself. As a matter of fact, I think it will be doing the story a great disservice. We’ll come to that soon.

Next, the dialogue. Using the dialogue from the story is fine, but when it gets read, the flavor is different than most comic readers are used to. I love me some Roger Zelazny. I read The Amber Chronicles (all 10 books) every year, almost without fail. You can see the evolution of language as the books progress. The first one was written in the 60s, and the last in the early 90s. Corwin’s voice is inconsistent as the language changes, but Merlin’s voice is more consistent in being modern. It’s something you can watch.

I’m not enamored of the dialogue here. It is too old-fashioned. Cliff may have sounded hip for his time, but now he sounds positively dated. Since this is an adaptation, I would adapt. Make the voices more modern, and thus, more palatable to modern readers. All of it? No, not at all. But passages where it is painfully obvious that this is an older work—yes.

PAGE 2 (5 Panels)

2.1 Medium Wide Low. We are now in a flashback and will be until page 10. The scene has changed to the 50’s style living of a family of 3. The son, about 8 years old, should be lying on his stomach with his arms propping up his head to watch TV. The parents can be sitting or standing together. The TV is showing a overhead view of the ship and a mass of people crowding around it. (If we have to see the television, you might as well have your couple sitting on the sofa, framing the shot with the TV in the center and the kid lying in front of it. That way, we can tighten the shot around what’s important: the TV.)

CAPTION (Cliff) – For two days the ship rested here, just as you see it now, without motion or sign that it contained life. At last, as the earth stood still and watched (The first time I read this, I mistakenly thought it was a TV news anchor waxing poetic. Then realized it’s Cliff telling the dignitaries about something that the whole world has seen on TV, something at least two of them – the Statesman and the General – must know much more about than Cliff. You’ve just butler-maided us, Lauren! You’re having a character tell other characters things they already know just for the sake of exposition. Another thing: since this and all of the following captions are Cliff talking to the dignitaries in a voice-over of what we see, all the text in these captions will have to be placed between quotation marks.)

2.2 Extreme Wide High. Scene is back in the park. Bird’s eye of half the ship, there is a space roped off, keeping thousands of people gathered around the ship at least 15 feet away from it. (Fifteen feet is still REALLY close for something potentially lethal like an unknown space object. Move the people back by at least 100 feet.) A square opening has appeared on the side of the ship and there is a ramp to the ground.

CAPTION – an opening appeared in the wall of the ship. (Now you’re not only having Cliff tell people a story they already know, you’re also telling the reader what he can already see! Comics are a visual medium; let the reader look at the pictures too.)

CROWD – *Gasp!* (OK here’s what I want you to do: instead of imagining the scene as if you were witnessing it first hand, picture the panel in the comic. Do you see that big GASP hovering over the crowd? Do you see how cartoony it looks? And now you know why you should take this line out.)

2.3 Medium Over the shoulder of the STATESMAN who is standing with the other DIGNITARIES at his side. They are all on the ramp in front of the portal, looking inside the ship was is black and featureless. KLAATU is visible walking towards us, he is followed by GNUT.

CAPTION – The visitor’s face radiated kindness, wisdom, the purest nobility.

2.4 Close up Low on KLAATU, his body is turned away slightly as he extends one arm to indicate the GNUT standing behind and to the side of him. He is smiling peacefully.

KLAATU – I am Klaatu this is Gnut. (Watch your punctuation.)

CAPTION – In his delicately tinted robe he looked like a benign god. (I’m sorry. I just can’t picture a twenty-something talking of delicately tinted robes and benign gods . And even if the speaker was a laureate poet, I could never buy that he’s holding up three important dignitaries with flowery speech such as this instead of getting to the point. I think the main problem with your lines is that you’re transposing dialogue from a museum recording in the original short story. A narrator on a recorded tape can afford to use extravagant imagery and go on wild tangents; people speaking face-to-face don’t have that luxury. At this point, I can already tell you most of this dialogue will have to be rewritten.)

2.5 Medium Low Rear. Behind KLAATU’s bare feet. We see the faces of the people he is addressing. They are all smiling like KLAATU. (I see what you’re trying to do here and the idea’s good. The problem is that it’s not very interesting to look at a pair of feet from the back (heel). I’m thinking about three other shots that could work. What about you, Adam? How many have you got?)

CAPTION – And then occurred the thing which shall always be to the shame of the human race. (This is a great cliffhanger line. Unfortunately, it occurs at the end of an even-numbered page so you have no reveal. The reader has already seen what happens when his eyes slipped over as he turned the page.)

At the end of P2, and we go into a flashback, and we’re going to stay there for the bulk of the story. I get it, but it isn’t something I’m happy about.

Know what the flashback is doing? It’s nothing but one huge butler/maid, telling the characters what they already know, for the benefit of the reader. If you don’t think about it too much, it’s fine, but as soon as you do, your head ‘splodes, just like mine did.

The basic problem is that you have a third person perspective in the original story, and you’re making it into a first person narrative in this adaptation. Couple that with the flowery language that you’re forcing into the mouth of your protagonist, and you’re making something that is going to be painful to read. Wait, let me rephrase: extremely painful to read. That’s better.

The pacing is off. I think you started too soon. Because this is an adaptation, you can do almost anything you want with it. I’d have started on P2, and added a panel that has Cliffy in a room with a panel of people in front of him. He’s debriefing them as to what he saw and experienced. Then go into the flashback, and end it just as you have it here. That cuts fluff, tells us something about the situation, and adds suspense/drama, all at once.

PAGE 3 (5 panels)

3.1 Medium Front. Show several people of diverse background watching off panel. SIRHAN is walking towards us from among the people . He walks with one shoulder forward because he is trying to hide something in the opposite hand behind him. SIRHAN’s teeth are bared.

SIRHAN – He’s come to kill us all!

3.2 Extreme Close Up. SIRHAN’s right hand, he is carrying a pistol pointed down. (Careful! If you tighten the shot too much, the reader won’t understand whose hand this is!)


3.3 Wide. This panel should be a negative image, the characters are in silhouette. KLAATU, on the left, staggers reacting to being shot. GNUT stands stiff in the background between KLAATU and SIRHAN. SIRHAN, on the right stands on the ramp aiming the gun at KLAATU. The gun is smoking. (Where are the dignitaries? Also, if the moment is captured as the shot is fired – hence the BLAM sound effect – what we’ll see is muzzle fire, not smoke coming from the gun. Also, reverse this. Here’s what you’ve done, Timewise: you’ve reversed the flow of time. If Klaatu is on the left, then he gets the bullet first. With Sirhan on the right, extending out his arm to fire, the gun is in the middle; and then the rest of Sirhan’s body is on the right. The way you have it now, Klaatu gets shot BEFORE the gun is fired! Not possible. Also, reverse the SFX and dialogue placement. Sirhan should shout before firing, not after.)


SIRHAN – The Devil!

3.4 Wide. KLAATU is lying on the ramp in the arms of the GENERAL and the PRIEST. His robe is now stained with blood from his wound. (Where is his wound? And where did the other people come from? They’re magically delicious!)

KLAATU – Is everyone okay? (No. See, the same way I have trouble believing a young photographer would sound like Tolkien, I have a hard time hearing an alien use the word okay . I think it’s a nice touch to have Klaatu concern himself with the well-being of everyone else when he’s just been shot, but I think it would sound more like Is anyone hurt? )

3.5 Medium. Gnut from the waist up looking off panel to the left.

CAPTION – The master was dead. If Gnut was still alive, or perhaps I had better say function-able (Don’t you mean functional ?), there was no sign.

P3, and we’ve got Time reversals as well as magically delicious characters, as well as unbelievable dialogue.

Time within the panel is extremely important. Everything has to go in a certain order to be believable. Once you break Time, there’s no going back. Since we read American comics from left to right, that’s how ALL the action should read: from left to right. That’s the way your Time has to flow. If you have your Time flow from right to left and everything else is from left to right, then you’ve just broken Time.

What does this do when drawn? It throws the reader out of the story, but they don’t know why. They know something’s wrong, and they’re looking for what, but may not immediately see it. They just know that something is bothering them.

Make sure your action flows from left to right. That’s how you describe it, so that’s how the action should go.

PAGE 4 (5 panels)

4.1 Extreme wide low angle. It is night time in the same park. On the left in the foreground we can see that there is now a marble tomb that contains KLAATU’s remains. On the tomb is engraved “KLAATU” and below that “With Earth’s Sincere Sorrow”. There is a speaker below the plaque that repeats a recording. Cliff is middle right panel beyond the tomb. He is walking towards GNUT and the space ship in the background and right panel. (What does this tomb look like? Is it like a stone sarcophagus? Is it a small mausoleum? A reference pic would do wonders to help your artist.)

CAPTION – As far as anyone saw, Gnut never moved again.

SPEAKER (KLAATU’s voice) – I am Klaatu, this is Gnut (Missing period and this line should be marked as electric rather than KLAATU’s voice . We can’t hear the voice so it could be Pee-Wee Herman’s and not make a lick of difference. The sort of speech balloon that the letterer should draw though, that’s important.)

4.2 Medium High Rear The back of Gnut’s leg lower leg is visible on the left. (So you got a shot of Gnut’s calf. What else should the artist draw?)

CAPTION – My photographs, taken in secret told a different story. (Comma-fail)

4.3 Closer. GNUT is no longer visible. CLIFF has lowered the camera to look at the ground with interest. (Oh? Was Cliff supposed to be visible in the previous panel? Was he taking pictures? You’ve never clearly established where Cliff was supposed to be and what he was doing, nor did you establish what Gnut was doing. You kinda mentioned it in dialogue in panel 1, but never explicitly stated anything.)


4.4 POV of CLIFF looking at GNUT’s foot. There are several chalk lines drawn on the ground near the foot. It should be very clear that GNUT is standing on top of at least one of these lines. (Are the chalk lines random lines? Words? Drawings of some sort? Graffiti?)


4.5 CLIFF looks up at the robot startled.


? (This is a comic book trope that has fallen out of use here in America. Usually, when we want a character to show surprise, the artist draws him with a shocked expression and that’s sufficient. The use of exclamation and question marks over the character’s head is found more in cartoony books (like DARKWING DUCK or THE SIMPSONS) or in European bande dessinée.)

Seeing as this is an adaptation, you could be adding all kinds of (good) dialogue on this page. Five panels, and there are words in only 2 of them. I thought he was telling a story to the dignitaries? What happened to that? I read the story in order to understand what you were doing here, and there is so much that could be said to heighten the tension and illuminate things for the reader that it isn’t funny. This is a missed opportunity. You’re making this a fast read.

PAGE 5 (6 panels)

5.1 Medium. In the foreground CLIFF sits stretched out on a stone bench. It is still late at night. He has a blanket draped over his lap, and his camera on top of the blanket. He has other supplies including a coffee thermos and a sack lunch. GNUT can be seen in the distance beyond him. CLIFF is looking at his watch, expression bored. In the corner of the panel there should be a small clock face that indicates it is 2am (Let’s see if I get this right: Cliff sitting on a bench in the foreground with Knut further back in the distance. This is some sort of surveillance op, right? So Cliff should be facing Knut, not the reader, right? That means we can’t see him being bored because he has his back to us.)


5.2 Same as previous. CLIFF is drinking from his thermos. GNUT is in the same position. The clock face should now indicate it is 2:45.


5.3 Wide Angle High. CLIFF has abandoned the bench and is walking towards us carrying his belongings. He is cheerful. GNUT is not visible. Time is 3:30. (I’m even more confused now. Did you invert the shot without telling the artist? Because Cliff is now walking towards us, AWAY from what he came to watch. If you did invert the shot, it won’t be clear that Knut has disappeared because we can’t compare this shot to another similar one where he’s present.)


5.4 Medium. CLIFF sets down his stuff on the ground next to KLAATU’s tomb. His back is to us. Still 3:30. (Knowing what the tomb looks like would come in handy here as it would tell the artist how much of Cliff is visible.)


5.5 Closer on CLIFF still facing away. He has straightened up, suddenly. Still 3:30.


5.6 Close Up angle rear. CLIFF turns his head towards us. We can not see what he is looking at but his eyes are wide with terror. Still 3:30. (We’re going to set one thing straight before we continue with the rest of the script. Up to this point, I didn’t say anything about you using screenplay terminology to describe your camera angles. My limit has been reached however with Close Up angle rear . You’re not writing this for a movie director, Lauren, you’re writing this for an artist. Camera angles should be the simplest information to give the artist and the most important thing for him to get right. At this moment, I don’t think the terms you’re using are making that info clear for him – or for me – and as such, you’re not doing your job as a writer and I wouldn’t be doing mine as an editor if I let it stand. You’re going to have to go through your script and change all of your Medium Front and Wide Angle High for the proper terms which you’re sure EVERYONE in the comic creating community will understand: wide shot, medium shot, tight shot, close-up, elevated, inverted, bird’s eye view, worm’s eye view, character POV and behind-the-shoulder. For example, Medium ¾ Over the Shoulder is an extremely convoluted way to call for a behind-the-shoulder shot. Sure, there’s a loss of precision from using these simpler terms but there’s one thing you need to remember: artists are creators too. If you don’t leave them any freedom for framing the panels, they just become instruments to your creative will – and no one in this industry wants to become that. So I encourage you to let the artist breathe, see what he has to propose, engage in a productive dialogue with him and mostly trust his experience as a visual specialist. You’ll see far better comics emerge from this type of partnership than with your dictatorial panel edicts.)


It’s P5, and you’ve just landed your entire readership into the land of What The Hell Just Happened?

On the previous page, you talk about the pictures Cliffy took telling a different story, but in this silent page, you don’t say anything about what that story is. You give no reason at all for why he’s there at night, and you’re boring the hell out of the reader because nothing is going on. Dialogue here would have really helped, but instead, you chose to try to be mysterious and only left us scratching our heads while wondering what’s semi-decent on television to watch tonight.

Stakeout? WHY is he staking out?

This is a short story. Generally, short stories don’t have the space to have a lot of silent panels, let alone a silent page. There’s too much work to do. And, again, seeing as this is an adaptation, you don’t have to work that hard to put words on the page. You just have to decide which are the best words to use. You didn’t do that here. You copped out, and in doing so, left all the readers wondering if this is the same story being told.

PAGE 6 (5 panels)

6.1 Low angle medium. KLAATU’s tomb in the foreground (This is why it was important earlier to know what kind of tomb was built for Klaatu: if it’s in the foreground, it’s going to hide some of the action. Knowing its size would even tell us if this panel can be drawn at all since something as big as a mausoleum would surely block our view of the characters.). CLIFF is on his feet, he has turned suddenly look behind him. Behind CLIFF is the enormous figure of GNUT on all fours looking off panel to the right. This can be a Zollie effect where GNUT size is exaggerated and he is blurry. (No. First of all, it’s spelled zolly (a dolly zoom for us unwashed masses). Since I’m dealing with COMICS, I didn’t brush up on my MOVIE terminology, so I had no idea what you were talking about and had to wade through a bunch of Wikipedia entries about people whose first name is Zollie. Chances are that the artist will have no idea either. Once again: if your artist can’t understand what you want, then you’re not doing your job as a comic writer. Second, what you’re calling for is a camera effect. At this point, I don’t think I have to remind you once more that you’re writing a COMIC, which is a static medium: every panel is a frozen moment in time. There can be no movement of any sort, especially not camera zooms. If you want the camera to focus on Gnut, you’ll have to do it in a separate panel.)

CLIFF – Sweet Jesus!! (I’m having a really hard time with this character’s tone. Don’t forget that in the original story, Cliff’ speech pattern s are based on the Idea that a 1940s writer had of how young people talked. And to be perfectly honest, they gave everyone the same voice in these short stories at the time. Characterization was about indicating who made the sandwiches while others made the plans. Even though this is an adaptation of a 1940s piece, you’re still writing a comic in the 2010s so you have to take into account your readers’ sensibilities. Don’t aim for the most slavishly faithful adaptation. Instead, impress upon it the issues and sensibilities of your time. Farewell to the Master was able to say something to and about the people back then; make your adaptation do the same thing for the people of today. And you got an extraneous exclamation mark at the end of this line in case you thought I was forgetting.)

6.2 Extreme Close up. The deformed face of KLAA2 takes up the whole panel. Expression: Angry. (Last panel, you were focusing on Gnut. Now this panel is a close-up of Klaa2. The first thing most people will think is that Gnut has transformed into Klaa2. You’ll need to show us Klaa2 first before jumping to an extreme close-up of his face.)


6.3 Two shot. (I’m not supposed to have to use Wikipedia to understand what you’re saying, Lauren, and neither is the artist!) CLIFF is looking up at us, and KLAA2. (If Cliff is looking up at us AND Klaa2, then this is either KLAA2 POV shot or Behind Klaa2’s shoulder shot . Doesn’t that sound a lot simpler and yet clearer than Two shot ?) Expression scared. KLAA2 is poised to attack.

KLAA2 – RAWR! (Rawr right back atcha, baby.)

SPEAKER (OP)- I am Klaatu, this… is Gnut. (Has the speaker been broadcasting this line in a loop? Because we haven’t seen this line in a while. And this would be an elec balloon.)

6.4 GNUT and KLAA2 are wrestling in the foreground. Their fingers are intertwined as they struggle. (You have a gap in border time here (that’s forgetting some footage on the cutting room floor for you movie people). Before Gnut and Klaa2 can be shown grappling as you describe them, you have to show Gnut getting into the fight. As it is now, one second Klaa2 is poised to attack Cliff and the next he’s locked in combat with Gnut.)GNUT towers over the creature so his arms point down while KLAA2’s are pointed up. (This is useless. It’s like saying Cliff is walking so his legs bend at the knees. I wouldn’t be so hard on you with this if I thought you had provided the artist with everything he needs in the rest of this description, but that’s not the case. Describing panels is a delicate balancing act between giving out all of the required information and not swamping the artist in extraneous details. That’s why you should always strive to make your panel descriptions clear, concise and complete. We’ll call these the three Cs of panel describing. Nice!) CLIFF and KLAATU’s tomb are visible behind them.

6.5 Medium wide. GNUT over powers KLAA2 (How? That’s the usual problem with fight scenes: you can’t get away with just snapshots as the reader will want to know how one of the combatants got the upper hand on the other. You need to decompose your action in multiple beats which lead to multiple panels (or ghosting as you’ve done here).For example, if you want Indiana Jones to disarm a Nazi soldier with his whip, you need 1. A shot of the Nazi pointing his gun at Indy with the latter with his whip at the ready, 2. A shot of the whip wrapped around the gun and 3. A shot of Indy pulling on the whip, thus disarming the Nazi. Right here, you need to tell your artist how Gnut wins this fight.) and throws it away from CLIFF towards us. Ghost GNUT to depict his movement.

So, we’ve got a case of the dropsies and bad pacing once more.

Worse, we’ve got a change to the story that I don’t think has made this adaptation any more interesting. In fact, I think it’s made it more confusing.

How are readers supposed to know this is a clone of Klaatu? Right now, on this page, how is the reader supposed to know?

In the original story, Gnut fights a super-sized gorilla. I have no idea what that was about, and I have even less of an idea what this is about. Like I said, more confusing.

Dropsies: if the recording is on a loop, it should be in almost every panel. It’s another change to the story, but one that is material, and has a purpose (I peeked at the end). If you’re going to do something, do it right.

Panels, depending on their size, can hold an average of five seconds worth of Time within their borders. (Again, this is dependent upon their size.) So, the recording should be in at least every other panel, if not every panel.

And I was incorrect in calling this page badly paced. It’s badly paced, coupled with laziness.

Fight scenes don’t always have to be choreographed by the writer. It helps, but it doesn’t have to be. But you have to give the artist enough space to do their job. What does this mean for you? First, you have to show the threat that is Klaatu, then show Gnut to the rescue (on all fours? Really?), and then show them tussling, then show Gnut throwing Klaatu away, and the consequences of that throw on Klaatu. You didn’t do that. You’ve got five panels on here, and this could have easily held seven.

Tell the reader what’s going on (if they’re still around) so they can stop scratching their heads. I promise you, their heads are sore.

PAGE 7 (5 panels)

7.1 Wide Full shot angle high. KLAA2 laying in the foreground in an unnatural position. The creature is dead. (OK you’ve told us what’s in the foreground. What’s in the background then? Or was this just a shot of Klaa2?)


7.2 Medium profile of GNUT kneeling by the KLAA2 upset at it’s condition. Behind the robot CLIFF seems impressed by it’s compassion. ( Its , not it’s . And how are you going to show that a robot is upset ?)

CLIFF – What is it Gnut? (Comma-fail)

7.3 Close up. GNUT is partially in the foreground looking over the animal. CLIFF forgets his fears and stands over the robot’s shoulder.

CLIFF – What are you doing? Can I help you in anyway? Somehow I don’t believe you are unfriendly. (Every time Cliff opens his mouth, I want to chew up my keyboard and spit out YouTube comments.)

7.4 Medium high. GNUT has KLAA2 slung over one shoulder and is walking away from us to the ship in the background. CLIFF stands mid way between GNUT and the ship. (Your placement here makes no sense at all. All three of them were at Klaatu’s tomb (KT). Gnut (G) picked up Klaa2 and is now walking towards the spaceship (S), leaving Cliff (C) behind. In short: KT – C – G – S. Why do you have Cliff standing between Gnut and the ship? Did he run there to stand in the robot’s way?)


7.5 The ship portal is open now. GNUT, carrying the KLAA2, is visible inside. CLIFF is sneaking into the ship behind him.


I’m not going to call it bad dialogue, because it’s lifted from the story. What I’m going to say is that Cliffy’s dialogue is inappropriate for the audience reading it now. It needs a definite refresh for today’s readership.

The last panel is bothering me. Well, the last two panels. Fine, the last three panels. Ready? Here we go.

Gnut (G), Cliffy ( C) and the spaceship (S). With me so far? This is what you did.

Panel 3: GC-S (Gnut and Cliffy are close, and the spaceship is off somewhere.

Panel 4: G-C-S (Gnut walks toward the spaceship, Cliffy has to run to get between the two, and the spaceship is off somewhere to the right.)

Panel 5: C-SG (Cliffy is sneaking into the spaceship, behind Gnut, who’s already inside and can be seen.)

Le huh? Cliffy gets moved around a lot. Personally, I think he’s a mutant who can teleport. How he gets between an already-walking Gnut and the spaceship is beyond me, but then we’re supposed to believe that Gnut passed him, went into the spaceship, is still visible inside said ship, and Cliffy is sneaking in? That’s a huge jump in Border Time, and is also implausible. Depending on how big and deep the spaceship is (tesseract anyone?), Gnut will not be seen if you want Cliffy to sneak. The way you have it, Gnut will more than likely be only a few feet inside the door. That means Cliffy is waltzing in, not sneaking. You want Cliffy to sneak? Add another panel showing Gnut out of sight, with Cliff sneaking in. What you have right now doesn’t work, either in panel count or together as a page.

PAGE 8 (5 panels)

8.1 CLIFF is in the lower corner of panel. He is awestruck by the interior of the ship. They are in a vast 50’s sci-fi laboratory. There can be various science apparatus. Along the wall there are containment tubes filled with liquid. In many of the tubes there are different animals. GNUT is laying the KLAA2 down on a table. (How big is this room?)


8.2 Medium profile. CLIFF, left of panel, touches the outer glass of one of the tubes. Expression fascinated. Inside the tube, right of panel, is another KLAA2.

CLIFF – These are clones. All of them look like KLAATU.

8.3 Close. GNUT stands near a table that has a glass cover. KLAATU is lying unconscious and naked on the table. (Ken-doll naked or shampoo-commercial naked? Because naked-naked may earn you a mature rating.)

RECORDING – I am Klaatu, this is Gnut. (Electric speech bubble – come to think of it, where does this sound come from?)

8.4 The glass cover has been lifted off the table by a mechanical arm. GNUT is working on a machine in the background. KLAATU has sat up and is leaning forward. He appears to be exhausted and props himself up on with his hands. Cliff is in the foreground amazed as he speaks to him.

CLIFF – But? (I want you to say that word out loud, inflecting it as if you were asking a question. You should then understand why this question mark should be replaced with an ellipsis.)

CLIFF – You are not the same Klaatu that was in the tomb? (Same here. It’s not as much a question as it’s a disbelieving statement.)

8.5 Close up on Klaatu smiling serenely.


Talk about dragging things out! This thing is dragging! I’ve already saved you a page, and I can save you another: the stakeout page. Cut that down to two panels and have the fight on that page, as well. Then, instead of this being P8, it would actually be P6, which would be much more palatable.

The pacing is killing me as much as the dialogue (character voice and general lack of dialogue) and character placement.

Now, if Cliff was sneaking before, why is he being bold now? The two don’t mesh, and you’re not giving the reader any reason for his seemingly sudden influx of courage. Know how to fix that? Dialogue.

PAGE 9 (5 panels)

9.1 Pull back. KLAATU turns his head to address GNUT, Only GNUT’s lower body needs to be visible here.

KLAATU – I am dying…

9.2 Medium profile. KLAATU puts a hand on CLIFF’s shoulder. A comforting gesture. (What’s Cliff’s expression here?)

KLAATU – I see you don’t understand.

KLAATU – By using your recording of my voice Gnut has been able to restore me. (Comma-fail)

9.3 Medium angle rear. Negative image. Background is black, details are white. KLAATU is sitting on the table facing away from us. CLIFF is beyond him listening. (If this is all in silhouettes, it doesn’t matter which way Klaatu is facing: it’s going to look the same anyway. This is also the second time you’ve pulled this. The first time was fine. The second? There’s no need for it here. No reason at all.)

KLAATU – But the recording had imperfections.

KLAATU – Perhaps very slight ones, but they doom the product.

KLAATU – None of Gnut’s experiments lived more than a few minutes.

9.4 Close up angle high. CLIFF talks frantically his hands are animated. (Describe what his hands are doing at the exact moment you’ve frozen in time to build this panel. They won’t be animated.)

CLIFF – But that is because the recording device used was imperfect!

CLIFF (link)- So if your servant had access to the apparatus that made the recording.

CLIFF (link)- The flaws could be canceled out, and you’d live! (These two last lines are essentially one single sentence. Why are you putting them in separate bubbles? There’s absolutely no additional dramatic impact created from having the rest of the sentence in its own bubble. You’ve actually lessened the impact by doing it this way.)

9.5 Two Shot. Gnut from the waist up, he has suddenly turned to face CLIFF.

GNUT – Get me that machine! (As a robot, does Gnut have a special-sounding voice? It’s important to know because you’d need to tell the letterer to use a special font or balloon shape for him.)

And so we now have the explanation of why the clones are there. I’m kinda meh about it, personally. You have the explanation for them being there, but not for the gross deformities, nor how one of them escaped, snuck past Gnut, and attacked Cliff. It’s a mystery, eh?

Like I said, I don’t think the attacking clone adds anything to the story. Yes, it (barely) makes more sense than the gorilla, but all it really does is add some action where none is necessary. You would have gotten more drama out of having one die, and then another show up right after, and then having Cliffy be utterly flabbergasted as to what’s going on. I think that would have served you better than the attempt at action.

PAGE 10 (6 panels)

10.1 Medium shot. CLIFF is standing with GNUT on the ramp of the ship. (And what are they doing apart from standing there?)

CLIFF – Gnut I promise. I’ll get the original equipment. I’ll get it. (Comma-fail)

10.2 Over GNUT’s shoulder looking down at CLIFF.

CLIFF – Gnut. Listen carefully. I want you to tell your master…

10.3 Close up of CLIFF. His hands are in front of him as he speaks. (What is he doing with his hands? Pleading?) His expression is pained.

CLIFF – …that what happened to the first Klaatu was an accident, for which all Earth is immeasurably sorry. Will you do that? (PERFECT use of the ellipses in these last two lines of dialogue. Well done!)

10.4 Wider profile shot. GNUT has leaned down and speaks to CLIFF as though he were a child.

GNUT – I have known this.

CLIFF – But will you to tell your master? Just those words? As soon as he is well?

GNUT – You misunderstand.

10.5 Close up. FLASHBACK over. CLIFF is center panel talking to the DIGNITARIES. The ship is still behind them. The portal is in the process of closing. (No. You can’t have Cliff, the dignitaries and the ship on panel and call this a close-up. A close-up only shows part of a person or object. This is at least a medium shot.)

CLIFF – then the great Robot spoke four more words to me. He said You misunderstand… (Missing capital letter in the first sentence and missing colon in the second.)

10.6 Close up on the ship portal as it is almost closed. Through the opening we can see the back of GNUT, from the waist up, walking away from the camera. (This is a very anticlimactic ending: you’re showing us Gnut’s back through a half-closed door. I understand you have to make it clear he’s about to leave Earth, but at least have him turn towards the reader so his inscrutable gaze adds something ominous to the ending.)

CAPTION – I am the master


It’s another change to the story. In the original, Cliff never reveals what Gnut says to him. Does this change make sense? Yes, if it were in a debriefing. A close-up of Cliff as he says the last words, or the stunned expressions of the dignitaries as Cliff says the last words off panel. Either would work. But the way you have it here doesn’t.

Let’s run it down, shall we?

Format: Flawless victory!

Panel Descriptions: I’m not the biggest fan. I don’t like the use of film terminology, and especially the zolly effect, which cannot be drawn. (A zolly effect is a camera on a dolly zoom, in which a single object keeps the same aspect ratio, and the background either gets larger or smaller. Impossible to draw without losing the reader within the story.)

The camera angle terminology is killing me. On top of that, you’re pulling a Liam Hayes: you’re putting your expressions into their own sentences, instead of folding them naturally into a sentence. More often than not, you’re using the word ‘expression’ instead of just saying what the expression is.

Also, watch your character placement. You’re going to have a lot of head-scratching from the readers if you draw this yourself, or if you’ve got a strong artist, they’re going to ask questions or make changes in order for things to make sense. Don’t do that to them. Think things through.

Pacing: Let’s call it un-good. You take some huge chunks out of Border Time, and this thing also drags. You took 10 pages to do something that could have been a snappy 6. If you wanted it to breathe a little, it could be 8. But 10 is too much for this story. Not good. Get rid of the unimportant stuff, up the word quotient, and this starts to be in better shape.

Dialogue: You have a case of the dropsies. There are whole pages where you could have Cliff speaking and he doesn’t, which is making the story drag because it doesn’t seem interesting. You also have a case of wanting to be too close to the source material. I don’t mind lifting dialogue, as long as it is appropriate for the readership. A good portion of what Cliff says is not appropriate for the readership. That needs to be addressed. The dialogue needs to be updated.

Content: Here’s where you fall down completely.

First, this isn’t interesting. You added characters, but they didn’t add anything at all to the story. What was the point of them being there? You seem to have gotten the most mileage out of the priest, but at the same time, what was your reasoning for having him there? What is the agenda of this Trilateral Commission? (See what I did there?)

You also have a plot point that is never explained. What am I talking about? The picture. P4, you mention a picture, but never explain what it is, or its significance. Why is it important? Because it is what gets him to do the stakeout on P5. Important plot thread, and you dropped it totally, so the story doesn’t make any sense from then on.

The framing device is also extremely weak. I mean, the story is told almost entirely in flashback, and there is no impact to the present. That’s not the point of a flashback. The point of a flashback is to show how an action in the past is impacting something or someone in the present. What’s the impact here? Who’s being impacted, and what is that impact? Those questions aren’t answered in this piece, so it is incomplete.

As a reader, I’d be extremely dissatisfied with this story. I’d be expecting one of two things: The Day the Earth Stood Still (the original movie), or something that was closer to the source material in spirit. This is neither. This doesn’t have a warning (movie), nor does it say anything about us as a society (story). It doesn’t do anything at all, which is why I said you fall down completely.

It’s fixable, though, editorially. After reading this, I’d ask you some pointed questions on what it was you were trying to do with this piece, and then do my best to get you there. Correct your panel descriptions (unless you’re going to be drawing this yourself), fix the plot holes, and give this story the thrust that it’s missing. It’s easily fixable, but you just have to know what you want to do. Changing the ending to one of my suggestions (as well as adding a reason for the Trilateral Commission to be there) will give the story purpose, which is something it is lacking now.

And that’s all there is for this week. 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 (4)

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  1. Lauren S says:

    Thank you so much!

    -I was trying to stay closer to the original dialog and tone of the story. I can see how this was a bad choice.
    -First draft I used the gorilla, but changed it to a clone to simplify the explanation of Gnut’s activities.
    -use of the trilateral commission was for social commentary.
    -I hate the first page, and I would definitely make the change to the ending you suggested.

    -Editor’s question: This is a story that has been adapted before but there has always been “fat” added that made it unrecognizable. My goal was to tell the story in the same spirit it was originally written.

  2. Liam Hayes says:

    “On top of that, you’re pulling a Liam Hayes”

    Objection on the grounds of defamation and mild truth!

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