Bloodstains On The Looking Glass

A ribald old-timey revue, featuring the Scots Flying Monkey Battalion and Shakey Pervy Pete, the Inelegant Dinner Guest.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Was I Bill Jemas' Ghost Writer?

I might've been, a little bit.


Discarded Futurama Script

I was in love with Futurama when I wrote this, and the book was being written by a guy who wrote for the show and was doing a great job on the comic, so it was a bit of a longshot. But I had a story idea I thought was funny. The problem was, I scrunched a 22 page idea into this short, short script, and it ended up never getting used. I still think it's pretty funny, but it should have been a full script.



By Gail Simone

PANEL ONE: This is a large panel, of a huge restaurant floating in space on a big round platform. It’s obviously busy, as many ships are docked to the huge dome that encases it.

The restaurant has a mammoth Neon sign, with a robot version of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee in neon:


Authentic Pre-Armageddon Italian Cuisine

and faux Italian accouterments. The Planet Express Ship is docked where we can see it, and our beloved crew is getting out. (If space provides, it should be parked at a handicapped docking port). This includes Fry, Farnsworth, Leela, Amy, Zoidberg, Bender and Hermes. Everyone is happy, except Fry, who is holding his back as if injured, and Bender, pointing his cigar at Fry angrily. Space providing, we might see a few other patrons entering or leaving, like:

1) A family of two headed mutants, pushing a hovering baby carriage, where the baby has two lollipops.

2) Two robots holding hands, obviously in love, in a tux and prom dress.

3) Anthropomorphized human/dog versions of Lady and the Tramp, both still chewing the same piece of spaghetti. Like, fur covered humans with dog faces and Lady and the Tramp coloring.

LEELA: Having a good time on your birthday so far, Fry?

FRY: Well, all except for that ROBOT MASSAGE. I think my SPINE is slightly dislocated!

BENDER: HEY! I spent TWO WEEKS learning SHIATSU for that massage!

AMY: I heard this place was really busy. Good thing you made reservations in ADVANCE, Hermes!




The gang inside the foyer of the restaurant. A snooty robot who is quietly ignoring Hermes is behind the little greeting podium, yelling at a flabbergasted Hermes. The robot is labeled “Snoot-Bot 3000”. The podium has a small sign saying:


18 to the fourth power

(NOTE: Please don’t write out the words...I didn’t know how to do a little fourth power sign!)

Hermes, getting his angry bureaucrat groove on, as the Snoot-Bot points to a room full of cryo-chambers, several of which have people in them already. A sign above the entrance says, WAITING AREA. One of the cryo-tubes that is occupied might say, “Smith, Party of two.”

HERMES: But we’re hungry NOW, mon! What are we s’posed to do until a table open up, I ask you?

SNOOT-BOT: Well, you COULD write a sonnet or paint a lovely landscape...

SNOOT-BOT: Or you could use our complimentary cryo-tubes. I’m sure it’s not any of MY concern.

PANEL THREE: The crew, sitting around a table with a candle in a glass in the middle. A violin-playing robot minstrel hovers nearby. Everyone has a child’s birthday hat on his or her head. Leela is talking to a waitress and holding a menu. Note, we must see a pair of small salt and pepper shakers, metallic and futuristic.


LEELA: Now, this ’spaghetti’ doesn’t have any OREGANO in it, right? I get UNPREDICTABLE and sometimes DANGEROUS reactions from oregano.

BENDER: I’ll have the beer pasta, the beer breadsticks, the beer salad with beer dressing on the side, and to drink...uh......hmmm... coolant.

FRY: Wow, party hats and crayons! This is just like when I almost graduated from High School!


PANEL ONE: Leela, choking, and holding her throat. Farnsworth is skeptically drawing on his activities placemat as the rest of the gang looks concerned.

CAPTION: Soon...

LEELA: ack...hukk...>choke!<

FRY: Leela!

AMY: She‘s choking!

ZOIDBERG: Someone call a doctor who isn’t in the middle of a nice meal!

FARNSWORTH: I must admit, this maze IS many, many twists and turns!

PANEL TWO: Leela, on the ground, still holding her throat. Zoidberg is kneeling by her, running a small hand-held instrument over her.

FRY: Help her, Doctor Zoidberg!

ZOIDBERG: According to this medical scanner, she’s already DEAD!

BENDER: HA! Serves her right for not being a ROBOT!

AMY: Um, Doctor, that’s a salt shaker.

PANEL THREE: Zoidberg, salting his arm and licking it with those drippy mouth things, as Fry tries to help Leela sit up. Leela is talking to the smiling and clueless waitress. Visually, for the next bunch of panels, Leela has little swirly spots and designs around her head to indicate that she’s not right, mentally.

ZOIDBERG: Yummmmy! Salted shellfish! >shllluurrpp<

LEELA: Waitress, are you CERTAIN they don’t use oregano in the food here?

WAITRESS: Oh, no. We use only OREGAN-OH’S! brand spice replacement products. They’re synthesized to be 1000% more potent!

LEELA: Uh-oh.

PANEL FOUR: The crew, getting off the PLANET EXPRESS ship back at their base, Leela and Fry in front. NOTE: They still have their party hats on. Leela still has the “dizzy spots” around her head.

CAPTION: Later, back at home...

FRY: Uh...Leela, I don’t mean to pry, but...

FRY: Why did you kick that waitress in the head?

LEELA: What are you TALKING about, Fry?

PANEL FIVE: Leela kicking Fry in the head. He makes a stunned face as he gets a good head-kicking, because of the pain caused by the kicking, which is to his head. Hermes is agape. Bender looks suddenly amused an interested.

SOUND FX: paf!

LEELA: I NEVER kicked any waitress in the head!

FRY: Ooof!

HERMES: Leela-girl! Whatcha gonna do a thing like kickin’ Fry in the head-bone for?

PANEL SIX: Leela kicking Hermes in the head.


LEELA: I didn’t kick Fry! I don’t know what you’re TALKING about.

HERMES: OW! Dang it all, woman!

ZOIDBERG: She’s HITTING everyone with that sorry excuse for a FLIPPER!

PANEL ONE: Leela kicks Zoidberg in the head while Bender holds his gut and laughs. Leela has her arms crossed and is looking away. We want to convey that she has no knowledge of what her foot is doing.


LEELA: Oh, you guys are just trying to tease me. I’m not kicking ANYONE.

BENDER: Oh, man, this is rich. She doesn’t even KNOW she’s killing you meatbags! hahaha!

PANEL TWO: As Fry and Hermes struggle to rise to their feet, Zoidberg is laid out cold. Farnsworth is scratching his chin, party hat still on. Leela is kicking Bender in the head, repeatedly.

SOUND FX: klang! Klong! krang!

BENDER: Aaaaaaaah! Quit jerkin’ my circuits!

FARNSWORTH: Fascinating! Apparently, her severe intolerance to that particular SPICE has caused her unique cellular structure to react VIOLENTLY without her brain’s consent!

FRY: Yeah, AND she’s kicking us all in the head!

PANEL THREE: Farnsworth pointing at Leela, while Fry looks nervous, rubbing the goosebump on his head.

FARNSWORTH: Fry, go distract LEELA while I come up with an ANTIDOTE!

FRY: But...but...her foot! My head! Remember?

FARNSWORTH: I need Bender to set the TRAP. Go, boy, GO!

PANEL FOUR: Farnsworth and Bender walking away. Bender is rubbing his dented metal skull.

Fry and Leela are OFF-PANEL here.

FRY: Leela, would you just...


FRY: OW! Now STOP i...




FARNSWORTH: Oh my, yes.

PANEL FIVE: Leela has just kicked Fry, whose face is black and blue, and who has a dopey grin on his face, as he clearly has no idea where he is anymore. BENDER pokes his head around the corner. IMPORTANT NOTE: Bender has a claw trap device on the side of his head. It’s held on with metal straps around Bender’s head. We see the metal straps, but not the claw yet, as he’s hiding it from Leela. Remember she still has the dizzy spots.

FRY: Heh. You’ve kicked me so much, I don’t even feel it any more.

LEELA: Oh, I have NOT. Quit LYING, Fry!

BENDER: Ohhh, LEELA! Could you come here for a minute?

PANEL SIX: Leela is in an almost manga-esque panel, as she leaps through the air with a spinning back-kick towards Bender’s head. Bender is smirking.

LEELA: I’m getting pretty ANGRY about all this TEASING about all this supposed KICKING I‘m supposedly supposed to be doing...!


PANEL ONE : Close-up of Leela’s foot as it’s caught in the claw trap on Bender’s head.


SOUND FX: klick!

PANEL TWO: Leela, standing on one leg, the other caught on Bender’s head claw-trap. We see the backs of the heads of the rest of the gang. Fry is clearly out of it, grinning through his bruises.


FARNSWORTH: She’s trapped! Hold her down so I can inject her with the ANTIDOTE.

FRY: I have noticeable swelling in my brain!

FRY: Happy birthday to me!

PANEL FOUR: Leela’s face as everyone leaps at her.

LEELA: Eeeps!

PANEL FIVE: A big cartoon-like cloud of battle-dust, where we see bits of the characters as they stuggle to hold Leela down. The word balloons come from the dust cloud.




PANEL SIX: Leela is in her bed, with the gang standing around her. They all (except Leela and Farnsworth, and Bender of course) have bandages wrapped around their scalps, and Fry has two black eyes. Bender has big dents, but the claw is removed. Fry is whispering into her ear...


LEELA: I’m really sorry about the kicking thing, everyone. I guess I shouldn’t eat Italian food at all!

FARNSWORTH: That’s solid advice for ANYONE, actually, but I’m glad the antidote worked, and you’re totally CURED.

FRY: Hey, Leela, now that you’re not kicking me in the head anymore, how about you and I...

FRY: whisper whisper whisper!

PANEL SIX: Fry, turned away, smiling, not noticing that Leela is about to kick him in the head, her foot inches away from his skull.

FRY: Heh. Yeah, she is so INTO me!

LEELA: (black scrawl)

PUBLIC DISCLAIMER: It’s well-documented that over 80% of Italian restaurant food is now safe for human consumption--enjoy some today!


You Need A Pet

...and it needs to be a greyhound.

I'd been seeing them for years outside Wal-marts and pet stores. Little doggy fenced-in-areas run by dreadfully serious people, talking about rescuing these greyhounds; little concentration camp victims by the look of them (even the healthiest greys are painfully thin). Apparently they don't get treated well by their trainers during their first four or five years, when they can be competitive racers. So sad, but not interested, thank you.

Then, on my husband's birthday (he LOVES dogs) we walked yet again by another of these little impromptu dog selling stands, and this one big goofy guy named BUD grabbed his attention. My husband stopped to pet the dog (because that's just good karma) and Bud instantly loved him, and wow. The lady in charge of the operation, a very funny woman from England, gave a bit of the shpiel, and kept telling Scott to take the dog for a walk, which she rightly knew would hook him completely, so Scott said no.

He came and told me about the dog, but he knew I wouldn't go for it. The dog we have (a sheltie) is great, but very very standoffish with other dogs, and we didn't think he'd take it well. Add in that it rains a lot here so walking a dog isn't always possible, and it seemed very unlikely. Oddly, I don't know why, I insisted on at least SEEING the dog (white and brindle, with eyes that melt your soul!), when Scott had the common sense to try to avoid seeing him again.

In the end, I was the one who took Bud for a walk. Greyhounds are massively powerful runners, they can go from zero to 45 mph in a couple seconds, but Bud was so happy to go for a walk, and when I reached down to look at him, he gave me this huge lick on the face. TOTAL LOVE.

We talked with the lady a little bit. Turns out you can't just take the dog--they have to come to your house and see how he'd live. And she didn't want to talk much about the racing, for good reason we'd find out later.

Anyway, long story short, we waited the week and then did the little home visit, and both Bud and the lady cried when she left. But Bud, who we renamed 'Scuro (short for Chiaroscuro), quickly found the bed we'd bought him, and played with the toys. And surprisingly, our other dog, Static (named after the comics character), didn't get too upset. Nervous maybe, but not angry.

Over the next couple days, Scuro absolutely made himself at home. And he's become such a part of the family already. He adores attention, loves to cuddle (if you lay on the floor he spoons right up, it's hilarious), loves to go for walks...he's just a huge bundle of love. Greyhounds sleep most of the day and'll never have a lazier dog, but when they run, holy crap they're fast!

We did a little bit of research on racers, and...ugh, it's bad. Many many of the dogs are simply shot in the head once they are no longer competitive. They're fed the worst food imaginable, what's called 4d meat, that comes from, I kid you not, diseased and infected animals. It's so bad, they can't even use it in regular dog food. They're not taken care of at all except to train as racers part of the day, and they spend up to 23 hours a day in small metal crates with thin cardboard or carpet to lay on. They frequently get injured during races and are not cared for. They often get sick or die, and are simply replaced. There's more, but you get the idea.

How does a dog come through a puppyhood like that and still be such a wonderful, happy, loving dog? I don't know, but they do. I've never talked with a greyhound owner who didn't absolutely adore his/her dog. It's an interesting thing, but when these dogs DO get rescued, and go to a nice home, they go through a little bit of the puppyhood they missed out on. You can see puppy behavior, and it takes them a few days to learn house manners, but they do learn FAST, and I cannot tell you how rewarding it is to have such a beautiful, loving animal in your home.

If you're thinking it might be hard having a traumatized animal in your house, let me allay that fear. That's just not how it is. These dogs are grateful, happy, non-cringing dogs. They fricking ADORE you and let you know all day long. They love milk-bones, walks, playing in the yard, toys, and just laying at your feet. I'd have to say, Scuro is one of the most loving, fun, joyful dogs I've ever met. The ONLY evidence we have that he had bad times is that he seems to have a lot of bad dreams, but we put a hand on his head or belly and he calms instantly. Other than that, he's simply a big hilarious goobe. He lays on his back with all four long legs in the air and his tongue out one side of his mouth, and he's impossible not to love.

All I'm saying is, think about it. There's probably a greyhound rescue op near you already. You'll be doing a good thing, yes, but you'll be repaid a million times over. You will LOVE this dog.

Just saying.


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Best Advice Ever About Writing, Period, Part One

First in a series of odd little scraps that shouldn't have had the impact they did. And yet, I wouldn't trade them for all the writing seminars and scholarly manuals on the subect that have ever existed. These are bits that stuck with me, or that hit me like a hammer in the brain.

When I started writing, it was mostly as a columnist, a little parody thing on the comics industry. I didn't take it very seriously, as I felt it was a pretty meaningless and tawdry endeavor. In fact, I honestly felt that it'd be just a snide little column I'd be sick of immediately (and I was already losing enthusiasm, as I'd picked easy targets and shot at them sort of moronically, I felt).

But this very strange thing happened...people started reading it. Holy SHIT! That had never ocurred to me. And suddenly, I felt this invisible and unwelcome weight of responsibility. Responsibility to myself, and responsibility to the people who bothered reading my stuff. I stress again, I was a hairdresser, just goofing off for whatever reason...because I'd been flattered, because I was curious, I can't say. I'm sure narcissism was in the mix as well. But I never, ever, considered myself a writer, and when people used that word to reference me, my urge was always to say, "No, no, no, you don't mean me, you mean someone who has worked and studied and filled notebooks with unpublished brilliance."

Anyway, the point is, I felt like a skeeve doing fake Wizard interviews and other obvious targets. I wanted to write something funny, but riskier, and I didn't want to write the same shit every week. The responsibility to the readers was to produce something worth their time, I thought, but the responsibility to myself was to make sure I didn't take the easy way out. Silly parody column or not, I wanted to be proud of it.

And that, right there, became my made-up definition for whatever the opposite of the word 'hack' is, that you want to take risks and be proud of your work. Whether it's writing the great American novel or writing porno box covers. You CHOOSE to either be a hack, or that other thing. And you don't ever really stop choosing. One day you make the wrong choice, but tomorrow you go back to having the goal of producing a well-made thing to the best of your talents, however limited or gifted you might be.

Early on, in the process of writing the column (You'll All Be Sorry at, I started hearing from editors and creators about doing pro projects, based on my ridiculous work. Dan Raspler was an early supporter (more about him in part two...he gave me the second best piece of advice ever, and I'm sure he didn't even realize it). But there were many, and some pro creators offered me the chance that many comics readers would kill for...the chance to co-write a project with them for a major publisher.

I turned them all down flat, basically. Partly because of stage fright, but also because, again, I felt that writers are different, that I couldn't possibly be one. Where was my writing education? Where were my stacks of unpublished film scripts? Why hadn't I ever been in a writing workshop? I felt, honestly, that my taking a writing job meant one less job for a REAL writer.

A few things started to, was that people I really idolized started judging my work as actual writing, not merely as silliness. If Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Lea Hernandez, Garth Ennis, Mark Waid, Tom Peyer, and Joe Quesada write to offer you encouragement unasked for, it's impossible to not at least entertain the notion of going pro. But then Lea Hernandez and Scott Shaw went further.

Scott, bless him, read my stuff and rather than simply talk to me about it, he showed it to Bongo Comics, and he INSISTED I write springboards for them. No one person is more responsible for my changed life than Scott, and he did it out of sheer kindness.

The other is Lea Hernandez. I'd loved her work (her art is joyful like few others), particularly her writing, which I found adult and subtle and full of vitamins. And she asked me to write a comic for her to draw, something we could co-create. Which, okay, that's just nuts. If I'd turned that down, I knew I'd hate myself. To this day, I can't really say in words how amazed I am that Scott and Lea took a shot with me, in an industry where most people want to keep the doors CLOSED.

Anyway, I agreed to both, and was suddenly in a bit of a panic. What the hell did I know about writing stories? My columns, to be gracious, might have shown some style or ingenuity (maybe!) but they weren't real stories, not like the comics I loved.

Weirdly, right around this time, and my memory on this is vague. I was reading an interview with a writer, and he thanked his mentor, and the interviewer asked what he had learned from this mentor. And the writer said, "He taught me to always look for the truth in a scene."


As I say, it was powerful enough to split my cranium, and make me forget both the writer and the mentor. "Always look for the truth in a scene." That's it, that's what separates the Mamets, the Brubakers, the James L. Brooks, etc. from everyone else in their fields. They look for the truth in each scene.

Let me elaborate a little, although I suspect some people may have already had that spark go off that hit me so white-hot at the time.

So much of any multi-character story is about what I call necessary choreography. You have to introduce your characters, move the story along, place events carefully, etc. But what if you do all that, what if you do it brilliantly, and yet, your work is as flat and lifeless as a dead turd?

It's because you forgot the truth. The best writers can find more truth in an animated film about dancing cats from Mars than a hack can find writing about his own life. Is the truth of the scene allegorical? Let's take the Lord of the Rings films. There's humanity in them, greed, lust, faithfulness. That's a kind of truth. Hobbits don't exist, but they're nonetheless true.

Watership Down is a perfect example. It's about bunnies, and the behavior they exhibit doesn't exist in nature. And yet I defy anyone to avoid worrying about the rabbits at the book's climax. That's truth.

If you write a scene, and two people are talking, and they're advancing the plot, and the reader feels nothing, you have to ask this real? Is this life? Because nearly every human conversation is so dense with context and meaning...every bit of real life interaction, if you take it as a snapshot, is a story with a million beginnings and no endings whatsoever. WHY are the characters having this conversation? How do they relate to each other? What do they think of each other? How much is being left unspoken? But most importantly, what is it that they need to convey, and what is said about them in the manner they convey it?

Back to the choreography. In my work, and I'm betting this is the same for most, getting a character from place a to place b, to engage character b in situation a, is like an endless goddamned nightmare of choices, 99.9% of which will be wrong. They'll be false. "Hey, this guy left his keys in his car! Let's go!" is false, it's a cheat. Even the least sophisticated reader or viewer knows that you're breaking your end of the writer/reader contract. And yet, the story is almost never getting a character from place a to place b. It has to be done, but it's rarely compelling. You can MAKE it so, and great writers often do, but just as many handily cut all the bullshit right out, as a courtesy to readers, so that they're not forced to slog through seeing our action hero take the goddamn bus.

The point is, find the truth of the scene, even if that truth only makes sense to you. Craft is important, vitally important, and nothing to be ashamed of. But if you haven't, in the end, got some truth in the script...why did you bother writing it? Let someone else write Steven Segal's movies. Let someone else write the next shitty sitcom. You have work to do.

Who knows, this might not have been what the mentor's words to his writer friend meant at all...but if I'd known what he really meant, odds are my head wouldn't have popped off. This is why people are justifiably suspicious of 'high concept' one-line pitches. Because the truth, and the devil, and God, are all in the little decisions.

Find the truth in the scene. Go back, read a favorite book, or comic, with that thought in mind, and I can almost guarantee you that you'll see exactly what I mean. Now read a piece of crap, and I'll bet you can see they ignored this simple credo.

I do want to add one final thought. Writing your own truth is a wonderful thing. Writing ABOUT truth is usually unbearably awful, and if you preach in your writing, you probably deserve whatever beatings you receive.

That's it, it may mean nothing to you, but it changed the way I look at writing. People ask me about writing all the feeling is that they're waiting for someone to give them THEIR writing mantra. I can't do that, no one can. I can, at best, let you share my own.

And it's okay because I stole it in the first place.

Part Two to come soon, all about why having a plot where the UN building is threatened makes you an ass.