Thanks. It wasn't harsh at all. I'll be better the next time.
Taj Gunn is up this week. Let's see what he's brought for us.
By Taj Gunn
Five pages, actually.
Story: A man uses the power of low-level powers to be a superhero.
Is that meant to be a "hook" for pitching purposes? If so, I don't think it's working Ė it's a bit clunky and doesn't really tell me anything about the story. If it's not for that purpose, I'm not sure what it's there for. If it is for that purpose, I think you need to take a closer look at what you're trying to say with the story and see if you can sum that up in a way that will grab the reader/editor.
Page 1: 5 panels
1-Wide panel. Skyline of nighttime New York City. The viewer will read a classic yellow caption at the bottom of the panel. This is Walt Allen's voiceover.
Cap: All my life. My friggin life. I thought I was special. I thought I was Somebody that can make a goddamn difference. I was half-right.
2-Box Panel. A shot of Walt Allen walking on a populated sidewalk. A wiry, Adrian Brody-type, he walks with a sad, dispirited [with a sad, dispirited what?] and alone. He is the only man in techno-color in a black and white city. He is surrounded by balloon-less sentences and thoughts, like a swarm above his head, yet small.
What, exactly, is a box panel? Is it just a standard panel? Why not simply call it a panel?
Was the city black & white in the first panel, as well? If so, it should be noted there. Actually, I'd advise a general description of what you're trying to do with the black and white vs spot color at the beginning of the script before going into the panel descriptions. Then you could just say, "this part is color" and the artist/colorist would know that anything not specified as color would be black & white.
Your description of Walt is a little thin. You've described his build, but what does he look like? How is he dressed? You can cover this stuff here, in a separate character description, or just talk it over with the artist, but you'll need to address it in some way. Even if you've gone over that stuff with the artist, you probably still want to specify that he's out of costume here.
Cap: Every time I walk the streets. Looking for trouble. Looking for bad men.
That sentence isn't making a lot of sense, as written. "Every night I walk the streets," or, "Every time I walk the street's I'm looking for trouble," might work.
Where is the dialogue for the swarm of sentences floating around his head? You need to provide that too - You can't just leave it to the letterer, because it's not the letterer's job to write it.
3-Box Panel, but wider. Above Walt's Shoulder. The viewer focuses on a single man, who is not in black and white, but in bright colors.
Other than being in bright colors, what does this guy look like? What is he doing?
Cap: 'Cause that's what I see in this world of ours. Colorless, sometimes.
4-Box panel. Close on Walt's eyes. Squinting. malice and hatred.
5-Walt's apartment complex. He's a small-time inventor whose products appear in infomercials so we see mechanical crap everywhere. We see no bed, books, and food anywhere. He doesn't need to do anything except build gadgets. Walt is seen sewing his "superhero" suit on a table.
No more "box panel"?
Are we supposed to be seeing Walt's apartment complex - the building he lives in? Or the interior of his apartment? You almost seem to be describing two different panels here.
I think you need two panels here, too (maybe 3). I think you need to show us Walt heading into his building as an establishing shot to get him leaving the street (which you could probably do with some modifications to panel 3 Ė or you could do in another panel here). Then I would show an establishing shot, showing us what his apartment looks like, as he enters. Then I'd get to the shot (pulled in closer, so we can better see what he's doing) where he's working on the suit.
And what does the apartment look like? A big industrial loft? A little one-room tenement roach motel? Well kept or falling apart? Neatly organized or hopelessly cluttered? Is he a sewing machine on his suit, or just sitting at a table hand-stitching it? Your descriptions need a bit more thought put into them, so your artist knows what you're looking for.
What does the suit look like?
Cap: Every night I build my suit. Every Night. I make money out of selling gadgets to large companies. The payís good.
This bit of dialogue doesn't seem to flow well. It seems out of order to me (like his suit is a gadget he's going to sell). I'd probably go with something more like... "I make money by selling gadgets to large companies, and the pay's good. But at night... at night, I build my suit."
Page Break - standard formatting is to include a page break at the end of each comic page, so the beginning of the next comic page falls at the top of the next page of the script.
Page 2: 5 panels
1-Wide Panels throughout. Silhouette of Walt Allen leaping from a building rooftop to a shorter building rooftop. The outline of Walt implies that he is wearing the suit. Itís a stereotypical superhero suit. In front of him, a water tower that he intends to leap on to
Is he leaping to a shorter building rooftop or is standing on a rooftop about to leap onto a water tower? There's a lot of difference there and he can't be doing both in the same panel.
The silhouette implies the suit, but it's a "generic superhero suit"? How does that work? Does he have a cape? Bat ears on his mask? You need to describe what the suit looks like. You can do it in the script or with your artist, it doesn't matter - but I can tell from what you're writing here that you haven't gone over it with the artist yet and I'm not even sure you know what it looks like.
2-Walt atop the water tower to scout for crime. The sentences above his head appear again and theyíre more intense. The viewer is in front of but far from him.
How is he posed up there? Standing tall with his cape blowing back? Crouched down looking menacing? Sitting and dangling his legs off the side?
Where are the sentences, that you need to give the letterer? How is the letterer supposed to make them "more intense"? By using brighter colors? (are they in color at all?) Or should the font for the sentences be bigger? Bolder? What are you looking for?
3-Same but closer. They are fewer sentences.
Less additional writing for you then.
4-Closer to Waltís face. A single sentence stands out. ďIím going to kill herĒ is said in front of Waltís face.
How does it stand out? Is it bigger than all the others? And is it really going right across his face?
What is Walt doing now? What's his expression?
At least we finally got an actual sentence written out. Now put it below the panel description so the letterer will find it.
5-Box panel. The Lonely Water tower, now vacant due to Walt leaving.
Box panels are back, but [flips ahead] gone again on the next page. I'm really curious what you're trying to do with these and why they come and go (apparently) at random.
Page 3: 4 panels
1-Largest panel of the page. Walt is atop a tall building. His back is to us. He is looking at central park. Since the character is sometimes colorblind, he sees one spec of color in the grey surroundings. The spec of color is the potential murderer.
How are we supposed to be able to look out across Central Park, from the top of a tall building, and spot a spec of color the size of a single person? A shot of Walt looking out across the park along with a zoomed-in inset panel (to show the colorful guy in the park) might work, but I don't think you can do it in one shot.
2-Ground level of central park. The whole background is black and white except for a man in an open red jacket and blue sweatpants. He wears a beard on his face and is a little fat. He grips something in the jacket pocket. It is a gun. We donít see it yet. Call him Jim.
Jim (thought): Bitch is gonna pay. She ruined my life, Five f---ing years of my life.
Yay! Thought balloons! I miss thought balloons.
3-Close on Jimís chest. His hand in the inside jacket pocket holding the gun.
If you want his hand in the inside jacket pocket, you need to specify that in panel 2. And you do realize, since we can't see the gun when it's in his pocket, that all you've got here is a close-up of a guy sticking his hand under his jacket, right? Seems like an odd thing to zoom in on, to me, unless you intended to show him pulling the gun out.
Honestly, I'm not sure why this panel is even here. It doesn't seem to be advancing the story.
Jim (thought): Goddamn bitch is gonna die.
4-Small panel. Jim sitting on a park bench, alone. Heís crying. A lonely Lamppost shines next to the bench. Somber and sad.
That's probably the most compelling panel on the page. Why are you making it a small panel?
Page 4: 6 panels
1-Over Jimís shoulder. His wife appears in front of him. She is a Brunette and beautiful. Nothing sexual, just heavenly appearance. Jim raises his head. She talks to him. Her nameís Melissa.
How is she dressed? What's her body language and expression? Is she sad? Determined? Angry?
You're flirting with moving panels here. You can't have Melissa appear and then have Jim raising his head in the same panel. Either he's looking at her or not.
Melissa: Iím taking the kids. I just want to get things straight.
2-Waltís Pov. Above Jim and Melissa. The talk continues.
Above Jim and Melissa, huh? What is he, perched on top of the lamp post? How did get there without anyone seeing him? Why haven't they noticed him perched up there? Maybe he can fly now, and he's hovering in mid-air? You haven't thought this through. If he needs a vantage point with cover that allows him to approach it unseen, then you need to provide that ahead of time
Jim: Aní then what?
Melissa: Weíre going to Maine. You get to see them once a week.
3-Jim's hand. Holding the gun. Shakily.
How do you propose to show that he's holding the gun "shakily" without being able to show movement? You could probably use motion lines but could end up making it look more like a seizure than a slight tremble.
I also think this would probably be a more interesting panel if you pulled back so we could see Jim showing Melissa the gun and Melissa reacting to it.
Jim (op): As you see, I made a promise. To kill you.
4-Walt, in costume, landing on Jim. The gun misfires. Melissa crouching in fear. The woman is screaming.
Does the gun misfire in the sense of an automatic that jammed and went "click" (in which case you need to specify that it's an automatic so the artist doesn't draw a revolver) or do you mean the gun went off but no one was hit? There's no SFX called out for a "click" or a "bang" so there's no clue there.
5-Walt, Like an arresting cop, mounts Jim. Walt wraps old rope on Jim's hand. Melissa looks in shock.
Melissa: what do you want?
6-Walt in close up. He talks to Melissa.
Walt: You calling the cops and walking away. Nothing to see.
If this is a close up of Walt, we can't see who he's talking to. We can assume its Melissa, but it might be the lamp post for all we can see. That's why I prefer having both characters at least partially in-panel during conversations. That's not to say you can't ever go in for a dramatic close-up while someone is speaking, just keep in mind that you're breaking the connection between the characters when you do - so the payoff should be worth the sacrifice.
Page 5: Splash
Walt walking the sidewalk. Everything is in color. He walks next to a newsstand. The newspapers have the same police deposit [I think you mean composite] sketch picture on them. The face resembles Walt wearing a cowl mask and T on the forehead of the mask. They all say "Superheroes among us!" or "Masked man rescues woman"
Now, on the last page, you want to tell your artist about the T on the mask? That should really have been spelled out before you typed, "Page 1." At a minimum, the complete costume description should have been provided when the costume first appeared.
I'm a little confused about everything being in color now. What are you trying to say with that? I'm guessing it's supposed to be a reflection of Walt's new outlook on life as a superhero?
Also, what is Walt's body language and expression? Is he trudging along in a funk like before, or is he brimming with satisfaction and basking in the attention his alter-ego is receiving?
And what time of day is it? Is it night again, or daytime now? (Which might make me wonder if he's only colorblind at night)
Cap: She asked me, "Who are you?" I told her and the others, "I'm change, Iím Progress, Iím Hope." [I think those commas should be periods]
Not bad. It was nice little story. Nothing terribly earth-shaking, but the color-blindness as a superpower is kind of clever. I'd say it works as a character intro.
It didn't drag. The page turns were okay, if not stellar. It didn't grab me by the throat and scream, "You HAVE to read more!" but it didn't drive me away either, and that's half the battle.
You need to work on your descriptions, so the artist has enough to work with, and watch out for things that won't work when drawn (like the ant-sized guy in Central Park).
The dialogue went a little clunky in spots, but nothing that wouldn't be servicable with a bit of polish.
I'm also not thrilled with the narration dropping off and then reappearing at the end. Generally speaking, voice-overs should be used consistently if you're going to use them at all.
Lastly, you never named your characters where the reader will see it. The reader will never know the hero's name is Walt, or the other guy is Jim, or the girl is Melissa. The other two don't really matter, but I would think you'd at least want to name the main character.
That's about all I've got. What do the rest of you think?
Thanks. It wasn't harsh at all. I'll be better the next time.
I try not to be too harsh, particularly on someone's first submission. And if I do seem to come down hard on someone it's only to make them better.
I hope you were able to take something from the critique, and I look forward to seeing your future work.
Plus you get a kick out of it :-p
A good review and a good first attempt Taj.
Welcome to the proving grounds. I't been quiet of late as Steve and Calvin had either moulded everyone into a not so awful writers.
Glad to see some new blood, now we wanna see you improve. I haven't been around much lately.. million and 1 uncomic related things going on (as well as a couple of comic things) but I'll take a look and try and add a comment or two (if Calvin's missed anything)
Storywise, I think Taj knows what he wants out of his story better than anybody else here has demonstrated, he just doesn't know/hasn't learned how to write it yet. He presents us with really strong ideas for the material he's working with.
That's all I really have at the moment. It's looking pretty solid right now, but it didn't totally grab me yet.
Sorry, I've really been sucking at offering feedback in the Proving Grounds.
First off, nice work, Taj! I really like your story here, with an interesting way of portraying Walt's superpowers. I also like the way you handled Jim, and his confrontation with Melissa. This is more a suggestion than something you'd need to do, but if page-count allowed for it, I think you could really afford to draw out the Jim/Melissa scene, make it longer. Hitchcock once said that if we see a bomb and it goes off, then that's a shock, but if we see the bomb and it DOESN'T go off, then that's suspense. Similarly, if you establish early on that Jim has a gun and he's planning on killing Melissa, you can really up the tension by extending the scene, give Jim a little speech about happier times or whatever. Like I say, it's no biggie, and you might be wanting to keep this brief, but it could be something worth trying.
The story itself is strong, and could be the basis for a compelling comic. But while I don't doubt your creative chops, your area of weakness seems to be writing in comic script format. Just a whole lot of the technical touches and stuff the artist needs to know that you need to keep in mind while writing in this format, Calvin pretty much pointed it all out already.
You've got the idea, which is the hard part. I think doing some more study of other scripts, or reading Steve Forbes' Bolts & Nuts and Lee Nordling's Comics Pro Prep, could really help polish up your scripting technique.