TPG Week 74: Don’t Be Gross

| May 25, 2012 | 7 Comments

Welcome once again to The Proving Grounds! This week, we have a returning Brave One in Talisha Harrison. Let’s see how she does as she brings us another tale of her character in


The Forgotten Ones

Copyright 2012 Talisha Harrison

Page One

Panel 1 (establishing shot distant long shot) It’s mid afternoon at Seminole State College Sanford Lake Mary Campus. We’re right outside the student services building (right across from the administration building see reference photo). The campus is busy. There are students walking to and fro. A few sit at the round picnic tables. Near the tables on the right side are three vending machines and a long bulletin board. (Nice establishing shot! It would have been even better if you had actually linked to the reference photo but I’ll give you points for thinking about it.)

CAP: Information. It’s what we learn. (Standard practice would require you to specify that this caption is in Tzedek’s voice – like this: CAPTION (TZEDEK) . However, since this is such a short piece and there’s no other captions from an omniscient narrator, we can let it slide.)

Panel 2 (close medium shot) We see a bulletin board that’s filled with business cards, places for rent, etc. and three missing person flyers. (Another nice panel. What Talisha’s doing here is good: she first established the scene and now she’s framing closer to where the action is going to take place. It’s the same principle when you first show a building and then a wide shot of an interior room.)

CAP: We gather it from different sources.

CAP: It’s what I seek so I can bring the missing home.

Panel 3 (Close up) we now see Rowry B. Watson aka Tzedek for the first time. She’s standing in front of the bulletin board (we don’t see the board, we just see her) dressed in plain clothes. She’s staring intently at the board. (This however, I like less. Where was Rowry in the previous panels? When did she move in front of the board? She’s magically delicious! Don’t have magically delicious stuff in your panels, folks. If something was there all along, place it in the first panel. If it just came in, use a panel to show how it came in. This also causes another problem: how is the reader supposed to know Rowry is standing in front of the board, looking at it? All we can see is her face. There’s nothing linking this panel with the previous ones.)

CAP: This is my office.

Panel 4 (close up)

Flyer of a pretty white young woman (think Natalie Hollaway, Elizabeth Smart, etc)

Name: Jamie Wallace Age: 22 DOB: July 12th 1990 Gender: Female Race: Caucasian Eye Color: Blue Hair Color: Blonde Height: 5’4 Weight: 120 Last seen: October 11th 2011 If you have any information please call 1-800-434-1792.

CAP: She has the police, media, and even the whole nation’s attention.

Panel 5 (close up)

Flyer of a cute White boy with this description:

Name: Oliver Sebastian Moore Age: 6 DOB: September 2nd 2006 Gender: Male Race: Caucasian Eye Color: Green Hair Color: Red Height: 4’3 Weight: 95 Last seen: November 30th 2011. If you have any information please call 1-800-434-1792.

CAP: He has a high chance of being found-dead or alive. (Put some spaces in on either side of that dash line.)

Panel 6 (close up)

Flyer: A young black woman with this description:

Name: Nicki Bianca Roberts Age: 16 DOB: June 30th 1996 Gender: Female Race: Black Eye Color: Brown Hair Color: Brown Height: 5’2 Weight 112 Last seen: September 8th 2011 If you have any information please call 1-800-434-1792.

CAP: She doesn’t. She’s been overlooked and labeled a ‘runaway’.

CAP: She’s been forgotten

Panel 7 (long shot)

Determined and resolute, Rowry walks off leaving the bulletin board in the background. (Careful! If this is a long shot, the artist won’t necessarily be able to go for subtle emotions on the character’s face. Also: in which direction is Rowry walking?)

CAP: (Start with an ellipsis here. Anytime a character starts speaking in a balloon or caption and finishes his thought in another one, use ellipsis at the end of the first one and the start of the second one.) But not by her family, and not by me

See? This is what hard work and determination will get you. Talisha has upped her game, folks. She’s been putting in the work, and it shows.

This is a pretty good page. It starts well, and while it ends predictably, it ends well. There isn’t much to change here. Just some small guidance. Good work, Talisha.

(Page break. You were off to such a good start and then you went and fell back into a mistake you regularly make every time you submit.) Page 2

Panel 1 (establishing shot)

Four days later. It’s late evening and we’re now in Deltona, FL (How is the reader going to know this? You have no captions hinting at the time lapsed or the change in city. For all they know, this is still taking place in Sanford, although later in the same day.) at a foreclosed residential property-it’s a manufactured home on lot out in the boonies. In the foreground there are many trees. Having just jumped down from a tree, Tzedek is hovering midair above two guards who are shooting at her as she tightly grips her sword ready and eager to cut them down. (I’m going to assume that the sword is going to be described in the character description document so I won’t ask what type it is. I’m also going to assume the guards are described there too. However, what I have trouble with is those trees. Can we even see the property you’re describing behind them? What sort of trees are those? However, I’m glad to see you froze the moment to show Tzedek mid-leap. That shows me you’re learning! There’s one important detail missing however: are the guards missing her or is she impervious to bullets? If so, do they bounce off her body or do they harmlessly pass through her?)


CAP: These guys take women off the streets.

Panel 2 (long shot)

Tzedek has brought her sword down killing them with one strike. (Why a long shot here? I think you’d want to show this in a medium shot to better depict the action. In fight scenes, the reader wants to know how things go down, if you pull out too much, you’re robbing them of that fun. And where’s the camera?)

CAP: Forcing them to become sex slaves.

Panel 3 (medium shot)

Tzedek kicks in the door of the house. (The question is even more important here: where’s the camera? Are we outside with Tzedek or are we inside, watching the door getting kicked in towards us? Don’t get lazy now!)

CAP: That’s how human traffickers work.

Panel 4 (long shot)

Tzedek moves fast as the last two guards race towards her guns blazing. (You’re taking shortcuts, Talisha! Where’s the camera? Where did these guys come from?)

CAP: They may be a small ring in the scale of things, but their effect is huge.

Panel 5 (long shot)

Tzedek with her speed and agility swiftly cuts them down. (Same here: you’ve stopped describing panels for your artist and you’re just storytelling now. Don’t tell him what happens; tell him what he should draw.)

CAP: Not a lot of monsters to kill tonight.

And here we are with P2, and we have some backsliding.

Camera angles, while not all-important, help both you and the artist know what can be drawn. Always describe things from left to right, because that’s how we read. But most important of all—describe! They’re called panel descriptions for a reason. Describe what you see, in a manner that the artist can interpret as instructions to draw. Don’t just tell what happens.

However, even with the backsliding, you’re showing progress!

Now, you just have to make it interesting!

(Page break) Page 3

Panel 1 (establishing shot)

We’re now in the master bedroom of the home which is dimly lit. There’s a king sized bed, a flat screen TV, and couch in the room. There are eight women in the room sitting down on the floor, the couch, and the bed. They’re bruised, dirty, and sweaty. They’re different ethnicities ranging in age from fourteen to twenty-five. One of the women is Nicki Bianca Roberts. The women are terrified and confused as to Tzedek’s presence. Tzedek’s back is facing the reader her head is turned to the right as she looks at a scared Nicki who has a questioning gaze on her face. (HUGE gap in border time here. One panel we have Tzedek running towards goons who are firing at her, the next she’s opening a door to a room filled with kidnapped girls. What happened between those panels?)



TZEDEK: YOU’RE GOING HOME TONIGHT, ALL OF YOU ARE. (For a greater dramatic effect, I’d split this line in two speech balloons.)

Panel 2 (medium shot)

Tears and relief have filled Nicki’s eyes as well as the rest of the women in the room who are in the background. Tzedek is embracing Nicki, reassuring her that she and the other ladies are now safe. (Has Tzedek knelt down for this or did Nicki stand up?)

TZEDEK: IT’S ALRIGHT, THE MONSTERS ARE GONE. (Change that comma for a period. You want a hard stop here instead of a soft pause.)

Panel 3 (close medium shot)

The next day: (Once again: how will the readers know this? Even the reporter doesn’t say when the previous scene took place.) A news reporter (It’s Vanessa Echols from Channel 9 see picture here: ) on the TV breaks the news to viewers about the missing women who’ve been found. (Unless you’ve gotten explicit written permission from them, never use real people in a comic. At least, you’re not naming her but still – same face, same channel, same job? You’re gonna get sued. Also, specify if this is seen on a TV screen or if we see this as if we were on the scene. Right now, it’s not clear for your artist.)

VANESSA: POLICE SAY THAT THE VIGILANTE TZEDEK KILLED THE MEN WHO WERE PART OF THE HUMAN TRAFFICKING RING. (You’re trying to fit a story into three pages so you need to cut back on anything extraneous. A reporter telling us what we’ve just seen is extraneous. Try to find something else for her to say. Maybe rumored ties with organized crime to expand later on this plot? Maybe social commentary to tie in with your opening page? Or better yet, cut the panel out entirely to make room for something I’m going to talk about in a bit.)

Panel 4 (long medium shot)

Now we see Nicki hugging her mother and father after being reunited. Vanessa continues to report the story.


Panel 5 (medium shot) (Medium shot? You forgot to establish your scene! How will the reader know where Tzedek is? Fortunately, you have a panel you can cut out above.)

Eatonville, FL. A week later, (And again: how should the reader know this? You were doing the same thing in your previous script when you kept saying things like a few minutes later . Use captions if you want to signal the passage of time or a change of locations. Since you already have inner monologue captions for Tzedek, I strongly suggest you integrate that info into her narration. Otherwise, having an additional omniscient narrator might cause confusion.) TZEDEK stands in front of another bulletin board outside a community center that has missing person flyers on it (the people feature are men, women, and children of color it would be nice to use real flyers of missing persons). (Indeed, that is a nice idea, but I’d try and get permission from the authorities and the families first. Not to mention that you’d have to provide your artist with the flyers instead of leaving it up to him like you’re doing here. And if you do get permission to do this, add a caption somewhere to tell people those are actual missing persons, otherwise most people will assume this is all fiction and your nice gesture will be all for naught.) Tzedek’s back is facing the readers.

CAP: The number of missing continues to grow. It doesn’t stop, neither can I.

Panel 6 (close medium shot)

TZEDEK is now off panel. We see a close up of the missing person flyers on the board. (Your real flyers would go here since we won’t really be able to read them properly in the medium shot of the previous panel.)

CAP: They won’t be forgotten.

CAP: No Justice. No Peace.

And now, we have a huge problem. We’ll come to it in a moment. Let’s just run this down.

Format: If not for forgetting the page breaks, you would have had a flawless victory!

Panel Descriptions: The first page was pretty good! And then you fell back into your old ways. Work on the new ways. You’re getting better. Just stick with it.

Remember that the script is a set of instructions, primarily for the artist. Clarity is the first job. You did well with the first page, and then totally backslid over the last two. That’s frustrating to read. Concentrate. Stay focused. You’re showing progress. Just buckle down and think it through.


Pacing: For three pages, this isn’t badly paced. You have an introduction, you have some action, you have a resolution. Beginning, middle, and end. There isn’t much that can go wrong with three pages.

That said, you could add more dialogue. You have the space for it.

Dialogue: It isn’t terrible, there just should have been more of it.

When you have a really short story like this, then everything has to work overtime in order to get a feeling of completeness from it. You should probably keep around 6-7 panels a page, up from 5-7, and there should be more dialogue. Only one page has less than six panels, but there should be more dialogue for the panels here.

Content: I like the ambition. You tackled a big subject in a very small space. Ambitious.

However, as a reader, I have a problem. I have no idea at all about your hero: I don’t know who she is, I don’t know what her abilities are, I don’t know why she does what she does. That’s the problem with shorts and new characters. Readers don’t know anything about them.

The good thing is that if there’s interest in the character, then readers will want to see more of them. If there isn’t interest, then the concept could die on the vine.

From reading this, I have no interest in the character. Why? Because I don’t know her. Right now, she’s a Batman knock-off. What’s making her stand out in reader’s minds? Not much at all. As a reader, I’m disinterested.

Editorially, this is a mess.

You show growth on the first page, and then slide back into old habits on the last two. A total rewrite isn’t necessary, but giving your character a reason for doing what she does within these pages is also necessary so that readers know.

Using the name and likeness of real people is something you’ll have to get permission for. That can be pretty easy. If they’re not in comics and don’t plan to be, then you’re just playing to their vanity. But you have to get that permission in order not to be sued. And it seems like you want to be sued, because you have lyrics that aren’t yours in other stories, which constitutes copyright infringement. Look at the suit of Anthony Twist vs. Todd McFarlane. McFarlane named a fictional mobster Antonio Tony Twist Twistelli after Twist, and Twist won a defamation case against McFarlane. If McFarlane had permission, it would have been fine. To quote a cartoon, If Woody had gone straight to the police, this would never have happened.

The use of real flyers of missing people can be seen in one of two ways: either genius, or as disgustingly exploitative. That’s a very real problem, and there isn’t much middle ground. Asking for permission for something like that is very sensitive—and you have to ask for permission, in order to not be seen as totally exploitative and turn a lot of readers off. If you don’t ask for permission, then you’re going to be seen as disgusting and greedy and wrong. And unless you personally know someone who’s missing, asking the family of a missing person for permission to use a flyer in your story is going to be exceedingly difficult. You’d be making money off their loss, and that’s just wrong. (The only way around it is if you’re not making money off the story, because any monies made would be given to charity.) Not even wrong. Wrong isn’t strong enough of a word. I don’t say this often, but this would be gross.

Don’t be gross. Use fake people.

I have a story I’d like to tell about missing people, myself. Remember the missing kids on milk cartons? Well, I was going there. I never thought of using real missing persons for this story, because the idea of that is gross. The story isn’t for charity, or to raise awareness of the missing. It’s for me, and using real missing people, found or not, is gross.

And that’s all there is for this week. Check the calendar to see who’s up next!


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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.

Comments (7)

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  1. Talisha Harrison says:

    Thank you for your comments! I will rewrite the story (well pages 2 and 3) and resubmit it. I not going to be making any money off this story as far as I know but to be on the safe side I won’t use real people.
    I also have another three page story that I’ll submit (which isn’t about Tzedek it’s another character and I’ll hope you’ll like her name (LOL) )soon. I think I like writing shorts because it’s a challenge to fit things into an even smaller space. I’ll check back later to see more comments. I’m gonna work even harder to get this right. Thanks! I also joined the forum.

    • Tyler James says:

      Nice job, Talisha. Way to keep working hard at your craft!

    • Great work Talisha, and I remember reading some of your earlier submission as well, so congrats on the improvements! I enjoyed reading your script and Steve’s feedback, as like you, I am currently writing shorts (mostly 4-pagers).

      I’m also having some difficulty with striking the balance between getting straight to the point of the short, but at the same time including panels that explain the transition between what happened in the previous panel and what will happen in the next one (e.g., the transition from page 2 panel 5 to page 3 panel 1).

  2. A very big improvement and excellently paced for three page story!

    I have to agree with Steven on not using real missing people. Even though your story isn’t gratuitous, you`d still be connecting real missing people to the idea of sex slavery.

  3. Jules Rivera says:

    Man, it’s so odd to read your scripts and see stuff about Central Florida there. My old stomping grounds for nearly 20 years. It’s a blast from the past.

    I have a question with regards to use of real people in comics for the Tribe Chieftans. What is the policy regarding designing a character who might resemble someone famous or someone you know in real life, but otherwise changing their name and background? I recall reading Wanted, whose main character is a dead ringer for rapper Eminem. The GN goes on to say their “Fox” character was based on Halle Berry. Did Mark Millar and company get signed permission from Mr. Mathers or Ms. Berry ahead of time to use his/her face for the GN? Or is only using a face a legal gray area? Legally, I’ve heard you can’t copyright only a face.

    • Tyler James says:

      Personally, I’m a fan of “casting” your comics. Thinking of your work as a potential multimedia property is something to consider. (worked out well for the avengers, no?) I don’t think Samuel l. Was asked if his likeness could be used for fury. Pretty sure he would have agreed though, being a cool mfer after all.

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