54 posts tagged comics
Another exercise, because my hands are slow to warm up tonight. Take a finished page or two and write a script backwards out of that.
I chose two pages from BATMAN 405, which was the second part of Miller and Mazzucchelli’s BATMAN: YEAR ONE.
I chose these because the actual script pages were reprinted in the BATMAN: YEAR ONE collection that was issued in 2005 (along with new digital coloring which is, for my money, as good as new digital coloring over formerly-analogue colors have ever looked, anywhere, by anyone, ever. Richmond Lewis, everybody.) and figured it’d be fun to compare and contrast.
Another rule: I’d not let any panel description go longer than the Twitter-shape of 164 characters. Dialogue wouldn’t count — there’s another school of thought/lesson/screed about that for another time — or panel numbering. Panel descriptions all had to be less than a tweet in length.
Storywise: Jim Gordon and his partner Sarah Essen have just come from questioning Harvey Dent as to whether or not he might be dressing up like a bat and beating up poor people. Batman, turns out, was hiding under Dent’s desk. As Gordon and Essen drive away, a delivery truck nearly hits them, running through a red light, clearly out of control.
Here’s the original pages:
Across the top Batman, silhouetted by the glowing-blue predawn, spins as he hears something wrong, even all the way up here, crouched among antenna and water tanks.
inside his car, GORDON clutches the wheel between two fists. the cigarette falls out of his mouth as a delivery truck blasts past —
CAP (GORDON) Maybe it’s pills —
CAP (GORDON) — maybe it’s a heart attack —
inside that delivery truck, the DRIVER clutches the wheel in agony, trying to hold on against the incipient heart attack, rigid, pushing himself back.
CAP (GORDON) — maybe it’s both but that doesn’t matter —
CAP (GORDON) — he’s out of control — his foot must be pressed to the accelerator —
GORDON swerves alongside the careening TRUCK, headlights shining in wet asphalt. A BAG LADY drags her shopping cart across the street and into its path…
CAP (GORDON) — oh, no — that old woman —
CAP (GORDON) — can’t let this happen —
CAR SFX skreeeeeee
CAP (GORDON) — come on you heap move —
Above, BATMAN jumps, cape exploding outward —
— as below, GORDON yells to ESSEN as he starts to PHYSICALLY EXIT HIS VEHICLE —
ESSEN LIEUTENANT —
GORDON Take the WHEEL.
The BAG LADY stares dumbly into the headlights, catching a flash of chicken wire somewhere past her.
As ESSEN grabs the wheel while sliding over, GORDON leaps from his CAR onto the side of the TRUCK — the vehicles racing RIGHT AT US —
CAP (GORDON) — damn — no time —
CAP (GORDON) — no time —
— while BATMAN, above them, grabs onto a streetlight, knees bent like an Olympic gymnast —
— as GORDON reaches in through the passenger side window, desperately grabbing for the wheel. The DRIVER gritting his teeth, unable to help —
CAP (GORDON) — can’t reach —
CAP (GORDON) — no time —
CAP (GORDON) — it’s over I’ve blown it —
The TRUCK smashes into the SHOPPING CART. BATMAN tackles the HOMELESS WOMAN out of its way. GORDON, clinging to the passenger door, tries for the steering wheel —
What did we learn, Charlie Brown?
Well, Miller’s still calling shots here more often than not. The longer and longer I’ve written comics the less and less interested in that control I become; besides, if you write your shit the right way the variations of interpretation any artist worth a good goddamn will come at you with will all be what you wanted or better anyway…
There are no significant coloring notes at all nor environmental ones — the rain it would appear was entirely Mazzucchelli, the time of night and everything else Lewis, smartly working backwards from the following issue.
The SFX getting overlapped by the van wasn’t in the script either; when viewed alongside Mazzucchelli’s autobiographical strips included in the volume (worth the price of admission), this kind of intelligent application of superficially silly comic shit, and their seamless integration into this mundane world, seems the kind of thing he grappled with across the entire process (and still maybe has doubts about). It’s weird that Miller’s still using them — it seems to me very antiquated from such a modern writer — but that’s my own bias speaking and Miller’s sfx work has always been a lot of fun. budda budda budda.
I didn’t get that the cart’s wheel was broken until reading Miller’s script; that’s me, though, not paying close enough attention. You don’t need it either way, really, to still get, very viscerally, what’s happening.
I fucked another thing up, too, with the time: i explicitly say the light is pre-dawn, but it’s not… because dawn comes at the end of the next issue, at the end of a sequence that THIS scene kicks off, one domino into the next.
All of the edits cut between the unique players of the scene, only bringing them together at the end. None of these physical elements overlap until Gordon reaches into the window — the second to last panel before all the four main characters in the sequence collide. Or almost collide.
We even have to intuit that Batman watches above THIS scene and not another, although, remembering he started off in Dent’s office like Gordon and Essen, it’s hardly a stretch.
If at the end of 20 Batman’d leapt down onto crooks somewhere else that has nothing to do with the scene with Gordon, the edits would have still worked; no “rules” would’ve been broken. In fact the effect could’ve been interesting — provided there was a story reason. Think of the raid on the empty house at the end of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, for example.
There is no physical foreshadowing between the agents on 19 — we don’t see the driver in panel 2, Gordon in 3, or either in 4 — just their vehicles — as we cut between actors and elements.
Cutting follows pretty traditional axis-oriented edits and angles. There’s nothing here a human couldn’t replicate.
Look at that last panel as written: lots of stuff happening all at once. I’d suggest even too much of a plurality at play, here, that Miller overwrote what could be drawn — truck hits the cart AND a dumpster, knocking both over AND Gordon off the truck already and rolling… Mazzucchelli’s simplification of the final panel against the direction as written made not only for a clearer visual but a strong page-flip — page 20 of the issue opens with Gordon hitting the street, then a black panel, then he comes to, confused — as are we. It’s all smart editing. I’d assume that’s on Mazzucchelli but it could’ve just as easily been original editor Denny O’Neil.
Am begining to think my love and adherence to replicating a pre-digital en-dash (not easy in the age of markup and digital lettering) comes from Frank Miller comics.
There’s something about the shape and structure of page 20 that I love — and i’ve used it a ton in my work. I suspect it’s being drawn to the 4:4 tempo a simple 8-grid creates visually. Mazzucchelli uses it a lot, Pope does, too. Lapham’s STRAY BULLETS… i could go on and on. I love the 8-grid. I dunno that i fell in love with it because of Mazzucchelli’s work necessarily but I love that it’s all over his pages.
I want to take another pass and see if i can tighten it up even further as an exercise, strip away absolutely everything but the fewest possible words. Turn it into a, like, Amy Hempel riff. But that’d take more time than I want to give it and i’ve already faked my hands into typing two pages worth of script and have more to go AND an hour to run yet tonight.