THE EMPTY SPACES #2.5: Awful...
A Psychodrama Spacefiller
By Bradly E. Peterson
In the last column, I posted the following script page, and asked you to tell me what was wrong with it. I've heard some of you mugs pipe up, and you are doing very well! Let's examine this mess, shall we?
PANEL ONE: The cowboy looks up to see the entire Mescalero nation has him pinned down.
COWBOY: "WELL, I'LL BE A THREE-TOED TREE SLOTH!"
Now, this would seem to be okay, but it's not. Now, we have no idea where the Cowboy is pinned down. It's cool to be brief, but DAMMIT, be specific! We can sort of guess what sort of expression the Cowboy has from reading the dialogue, but that's not really enough. He could be expressing scared, surprised, determined, amused or any number of other emotional states, but the writer hasn't said what it is.
My main complaint with this panel is that the writer needs to state what he wants CLEARLY. If the artist doesn't know what the writer wants, then the artist can't deliver what the writer wants. Of course, there should be contact between writer and artist other than dropping off the script, y'know? The artist and writer are going to need to be on the same page, so to speak.
I can't begin to tell you how much this panel SUCKS!
heh... Well, I'll try.
The entire Mescalero nation stands on the canyon wall with phasers set on "cinnamon toast". They are shouting and some are waving banners above their heads saying "Go Redskins!" and "John 3:16" and "HI MOM!". There is a squadron of buzzards circling over the Cowboy's head as he looks up. The Outlaws are riding hard into the mouth of the canyon on the left side of the panel shouting and shooting (I can't let them catch me! er... Sorry. Started channelling the ghost of Marty Robbins for a second there. heh...), and hauling bazookas and submachine guns with about seventy-five Pershing Tanks in the distance closing in as well. The outlaws, of which there are eighty are 1/4 Mexican, 1/4 Caucasian, 1/4 Chinese & 1/4 Armenian/Dutch.
Separate Word balloons from outlaws: "THERE HE EES! GIT HEEM!" "YEEHAW!" "BASTID OWES ME TWENNY DOLLAHS!" "BADGERS? BADGERS? WE DON' NEED NO STEEENKEENG BADGERS!!"
COWBOY: "NOT ONLY HAVE THE OUTLAWS AND THE POSTAL INSPECTOR TANK BRIGADE FOUND ME, BUT THE ENTIRE MESCALERO NATION IS UP THAR ON YONDER CANYON WALL!"
Now, if this were a comedy, this might work as a splash page, but DAMMIT, this is TOO MUCH stuff to cram into one panel! If it's not a comedy, then this book is in serious trouble. heh... As for Wally Wood or maybe even Jack Davis being able to draw this panel, oh yeah... That's where I got the idea. Those guys were stuffing everything imaginable into every panel! And most of the gags worked, too. (NOTE: Sergio Aragones could draw this one with his eyes closed, AND do it faster than anyone. heh... BP) In a more serious story, putting all the stuff in there would of course be ridiculous. I'm reminded that keeping the story in the time period you picked is important. Don't put in things that haven't been invented yet. This means doing research. Lots of it.
Main problems: Too much going on for one panel. Writer has the character stating the obvious. What is shown in the panel doesn't need to be spoken This is what I like to call "repetitive redundance" or "redundant repetition". It's like saying that God is omnipresent everywhere, eternal all the time, and that he's omnicient and knows it. heh... (That's from a National Lampoon record, by the way.)
Like Rush's Neal Pert would say, "SHOW, DON'T TELL". No need to say the exact things that the artwork is showing. Give the reader a little credit for having a brain, ok? heh... Tattoo this on your brain.
PANEL THREE: The cowboy draws his pistol.
PANEL FOUR: Close up of the pistol.
PANEL FIVE: Cowboy opens the thing that spins around that you put the bullets in, and sees that there are only three bullets in the gun.
PANEL SIX: Cowboy looks at the Mescaleros
PANEL SEVEN: Cowboy looks at pistol
PANEL EIGHT: Cowboy looks at Outlaws
PANEL NINE: Cowboy looks at pistol.
PANEL TEN: Cowboy looks at Postal Inspector Tank Brigade
PANEL ELEVEN: Cowboy looks at pistol.
Now, I've seen this sort of thing work a couple of times, but this is too much. Too repetetive. It's predictable too. Notice in panel five, besides a problem I'll address in panel twelve, that the writer refers to "the thing"? STUPID! No, no, no... If you don't know about something, don't write about it. Learn the names of the things you're writing about at the very least. If you're writing about a part of a car, know the name of the part. If something relates to the story in some way, DAMMIT, you need to know as much as you can about it. This means research. Lots of it. Oh... uh... Was that repetitive? Was it also redundant? heh... Let's move on...
PANEL TWELVE: Cowboy closes pistol as he jumps out into the center of the canyon
COWBOY: "NOW, (BOLD) THAT'S (END BOLD) WHAT I CALL A FAIR
DAMMIT! Too obvious. Been there, done that. And so have hundreds of others. No need to do it again. The MAIN problem I've got with this panel is that the writer has asked for two separate and distinct actions to appear in the same panel. Well, how is the Cowboy supposed to to that? Did he snap it closed and THEN jump into the line of oncoming fire? They're worded as one action, but it's two actions. I suppose the artist could make a ghostly figure to represent where Cowboy was standing when he closed the "thing" on the pistol, and have action lines or after-images show the jump to the place where the solid looking Cowboy makes his stand. Maybe.
The main problem with the entire page is that there's TOO MANY PANELS! There's no room for the detail the writer appeared to want unless of course the page was laid out like this:
The lesson? State what you want simply. Keep it brief, but give enough detail to let the artist know what you want. The K.I.S.S. principle is needed here. "Keep It Simple, Stupid" Hammer that principle into your heads and know it like you know your own name, but only if you actually know your own name. heh...
NEXT WEEK: you'll find out... heh, heh, heh...
(The contents of "The Empty Spaces" do not neccessarily reflect those of COMICON.com, it's managers, members, friends or relatives, and are solely those of Bradly E. Peterson, who is, quite frankly, a bit off. All contents are © 1998 Bradly E. Peterson, and should not be used without permission, but ask and ye shall recieve. He's easy, that guy. "The Empty Spaces" is a Psychodrama Press production, and let's just leave it at that.)
Bradly E. Peterson
"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds"
(Albert Einstein) http://www.fastlane.net/homepages/drama/
[This message has been edited by Bradly E Peterson (edited 11-23-98).]