Bloodstains On The Looking Glass

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Scripty Sample-y

I get asked for script samples's the third of three short stories from Bop #86, and a personal favorite of mine. The idea was to spotlight three completely distinct elements of the book in seven pages each. This was illustrated by the very talented David Lopez.




Well, it’s my lucky day to work with three great artists on this book! David, any panel layouts are just suggestions, and if you have a better, more dramatic way to do this, feel free. Just as long as the basic actions are conveyed.


Current Huntress costume

Helena Bertinelli’s mobster look from the BATTLE WITHIN arc

Don Sigiorello, same arc.


PANEL ONE: Big panel, 2/3 page. Huntress, inside a formerly perfectly normal middle-class American two-story house. But a hardcore gang has moved in, and they’ve trashed most of the inside. There’s spray-painted graffiti on the walls (gang-style stuff), a twin-size bedspring mattress is leaned against the wall. The few furnishings have liquor bottles and ashtrays and crap on them, and the whole place is pretty disgusting. The ONLY area that’s nice and clean is the bigscreen tv and stereo components. In comparison to the first two stories, this one’s going to be a bit brutal. Think European crime comics, or Dark Knight with a uterus. Finally, the big living room has a staircase heading to the second floor.

In the center of this squalid setting is Huntress, in full fury, kicking a machine gun wielding gang member in a flying kick to his head. She’s PISSED OFF.







HUNTRESS CAP: This is my favorite time.

PANEL TWO: Outside the house, which has overgrown grass and weeds on an otherwise perfectly lovely suburban street. The street is lined with trees, and it’s Autumn, so the leaves are falling. The gang member’s machine gun is thrown through the front window hard enough to send glass shards flying everywhere.

THUG (off-panel, inside house): Wait. NO. DON’T.

HUNTRESS CAP: The leaves are falling.

HUNTRESS CAP: Gotham’s weirdly oppressive humidity becomes

bearable for a few brief weeks, preceding a cold that makes you feel

like your BONES are rotting from the inside.


PANEL ONE: The machine gun, laying on the lawn where it landed, in the overgrown weeds. It lies next to a chubby, unblinking baby doll missing an arm and a leg.


HUNTRESS CAP: It wasn’t easy getting him to TALK.

HUNTRESS CAP: Not easy stuff at all.

PANEL TWO: A ten year old Caucasian kid, with sunken, troubled eyes, close up. This scene is all flashback, David, so whatever method you like to use to convey that is fine. He’s in a nice school room, and he’s talking with Helena, who is a teacher in her civilian identity, but we don’t see her yet. Corey’s wearing a Green Lantern shirt, blue jeans, and looks like the weight of the world is on his shoulder.

HUNTRESS CAP: Last semester, Corey was one of my best students.

COREY: C’n I GO now, Ms. Bertinelli?

HUNTRESS: Happy, smart, and FUNNY in a way beyond his


PANEL THREE: Helena, looking down on him from her desk.

HELENA: Corey...

HELENA: I want you to know--I’m not exactly LIKE the other


HELENA: If you tell me what’s wrong, maybe I could HELP.

PANEL FOUR: Back to the ganghouse, inside, Huntress is holding the first thug by the shirt with both hands. He’s missing a front tooth and is barely conscious. At the same time, she’s moving slightly out of the way of another Caucasian gangbanger who has a samurai sword and has swung it at her.


PANEL FIVE: She kicks him, almost not paying attention, smashing him face first (and sword flying) straight into the bigscreen tv.

HUNTRESS: Sit down and shut up.

HUNTRESS: I’ll get to you in a MINUTE.

HUNTRESS CAP: Something in my tone must’ve, I don’t know...

HUNTRESS CAP: ...opened Corey’s floodgates. Because he

started talking.


PANEL ONE: Silhouette, Helena and Corey as Corey talks, in the classroom flashback.

HUNTRESS CAP: Through tears he tried his best to hide, he told

me that his brother Ricky had been recruited by some local gangbangers with ties to the worst of Gotham’s drug retailers.

HUNTRESS CAP: Here in the suburbs, maybe five blocks

from my school. From MY students.


PANEL TWO: Corey hugs Helena, who is surprised.

HUNTRESS CAP: Then he does something most ten year old boys

have FORGOTTEN how to do...he hugs me.

HUNTRESS CAP: Says he knows I can’t help.

HUNTRESS CAP: “But thanks for LISTENING, Ms. Bertinelli.”

PANEL THREE: Helena watches Corey leave the room.

HUNTRESS CAP: Ten years old, and he already knew that the

Gotham mobs run the cops, even out here where the leaves

fall so fetchingly.

HUNTRESS CAP: “I know you can’t help,” he said.

PANEL FOUR: Huntress leaps to the side as bullets come stinging down into the floor nearby where she had been from the staircase behind her.

HUNTRESS CAP: “But thanks for LISTENING, Ms. Bertinelli.”


PANEL FIVE: Huntress leaps at the gun-wielding man, who is wearing only a white muscle shirt, brief underwear, and a black stocking cap on his head. Unlike the others, he shows no fear, even though he’s clearly in for a PUMMELLING.

HUNTRESS CAP: This is my favorite time.

HUNTRESS: I have a MESSAGE for you, sleazeball.


PANEL ONE: She smashes her fist brutally into his face. Helena’s not really the kindest of people, to be honest.




HUNTRESS: Are we clear on this? He’s OUT.

PANEL TWO: The thug, incredibly, smiling, even with a bit of blood on his teeth and one eye swelling shut.

THUG: Nah. We like Ricky.

THUG: He stays.

HUNTRESS: What did you...

THUG: He stays.

PANEL THREE: Huntress, holding him up by his shirt, points her crossbow right at his face.

HUNTRESS: You have no IDEA what you’re saying.

THUG: Yeah, witch, I do. I’m SAYIN’I don’t matter. You shoot me, they put someone else in charge.

THUG: Hey, how ‘bout, soon as you leave here, I go round to Ricky’s

house, and beat the crap outta his momma with a double-size BRICK, how would that be?
PANEL FOUR: The thug, up close, grinning.

THUG: I’m SAYIN’ next time I see you face, maybe Ricky’s

DADDY bidness burn down, with him IN it, could be.


THUG: Now get out my house, less you gonna find a pair

and SHOOT.

PANEL FIVE: Huntress’ eyes narrow.

HUNTRESS CAP: He means it.

HUNTRESS CAP: I forgot the rule.

PANEL FIVE: The thug, suddenly alone.

THUG: I’m SAYIN’ we both know you a PUNK, skank.

THUG: And you ain’t WELCOME.

HUNTRESS CAP: You can’t threaten a man with nothing to lose.


PANEL ONE: Helena, in her apartment, still in her outfit, but taking off her mask, a look of concern on her face.

HUNTRESS CAP: I’ve made it worse.

HUNTRESS CAP: I may have put Corey’s family in real danger.

HUNTRESS CAP: “I know you can’t help,” he said.

HUNTRESS CAP: He was right.

PANEL TWO: Huntress stares at the phone.

HUNTRESS CAP: Babs got me this teaching gig, when no one

wanted to hire me for the thing I love most in the world.

HUNTRESS CAP: She knew what it would mean to me.

HUNTRESS CAP: Damn. For Corey’s sake--

PANEL THREE: Helena, holding the phone.

HUNTRESS CAP: -- this is no time for pride.

HELENA: Barbara? I need some advice.

HELENA: No, not from you.


PANEL FOUR: Don Sigiorello, in his nightclothes, smoking a cigar, hurriedly packing clothes into a suitcase. This is his bedroom, and he’s a mob boss, so it needs to have that sort of old world elegance that costs a fortune.

HUNTRESS CAP: See, I thought I could BE her. Emulate her

methods. Go ‘undercover,’ with my own team , only using my own

family LEGACY as our entrance fee.

SIGIORELLO: Damn, damn, damn!

HUNTRESS CAP: Instead of beating up a thug in an alley, I envisioned putting whole MOBS away for GOOD.

PANEL FIVE: Sigiarello acts in surprise as Helena speaks, she’s been sitting in a chair in the shadows all along. She’s sitting in a chair next to an antique vanity. Helena is wearing a black powersuit and skirt, and looks every bit the elegant mafia princess.

HUNTRESS CAP: Only it’s tougher than it looks, way more

COMPLEX, as well.

HELENA: Hello, Don Sigiorello. You can stop packing.

HELENA: You’re not going ANYWHERE.

HUNTRESS CAP: And I finally have to admit it--

HUNTRESS CAP: --maybe there’s a REASON why Oracle and

Batman have to be the way they are.


PANEL ONE: Sigiorello grabs a pistol from his suitcase.

HUNTRESS CAP: Maybe because, if they acted like PEOPLE--

SIGIORELLO: KNEW you were bad news, Helena. Friend of your

dad or not, the penalty for trespassing here is DEATH.

HUNTRESS CAP: -- they wouldn’t be able to do their JOBS.

PANEL TWO: Helena checking her lipstick in the big vanity mirror, opening her mouth wide. In the mirror, we see Creote is holding Sigiorello up by his gun hand, apparently crushing it.

HELENA: Yes, but death for WHOM, Don Sigiorello?

HELENA: You’ve already met my friend Creote, of course.


PANEL THREE: Helena stands in front of Sigiorello, who is on his knees, holding his bloody hand.

HELENA: Here’s how it’s going to be:

HELENA: Right now, the Gotham mobs blame you for the debacle

with the drug shipment from Singapore, the one that nearly

bankrupted the families.

HELENA: They’re on their way now to slit your throat on your own

billiard table.

PANEL FOUR: Helena picks up Sigiorello’s gun.

HELENA: I can save you. I’ve already made arrangements.


HELENA: We tell them your driver, Freddy, gave the orders without

your permission.

HELENA: I have forged documents in his handwriting under the front seat of his car. Bank statements, plane tickets. I can guarantee

your name will be cleared.

PANEL FIVE: Helena, smiles.

HELENA: In return, you will do me three favors; one, you will

close off the supply of narcotics to the Highland Hills area completely.

HELENA: You will shut down the gangs there. You will

offer our protection to the family of a young man named Ricky

Campbell. Anyone touches them, answers to US.

HELENA: And finally...

PANEL SIX: Helena faces an angry Sigiorello, who is still on the ground. She kneels slightly.

HELENA: Within one month, you will announce me as your

new CAPO.

SIGIORELLO: WHAT? I can’t...they’ll NEVER...

HELENA: Hush. Because you knew my father, you get one

small chance.


PANEL ONE: David, this panel is 2/3rds of the page, and it has to be EXTREMELY similar to the layout of the last panel of page ten of issue #82 of Birds of Prey, the scene where Sigiorello warns Helena.

Only this time, it’s the exact opposite. Helena is in control, warning Sigiorello, and she has her hand on his chin, making him meet her eyes, like he did to her in #82. This time, Sigiorello looks upset and scared.

HELENA: But if you fail...

HELENA: ...think of the very worst thing. The WORST thing.

HELENA: And then, think HARDER.

PANEL TWO: Inside a nice BMW car, Creote driving, Helena grabbing her cell phone. Helena’s smiling. It’s night, and they’re in the same clothes as the previous scene.

HUNTRESS CAP: Maybe it’s not such a bad thing, admitting you

need help once in a while.

HUNTRESS: Thanks for the back-up, Creote.

CREOTE: I enjoyed it, actually.

HUNTRESS: Hang on, got someone ELSE to thank.

PANEL THREE: Helena, on the cell phone in the car, smiling.

HELENA: Bar...Babs?

HELENA: Yeah. It went swimmingly. Thank you.

HUNTRESS CAP: Your family’s safe, Corey. That’s what counts.
PANEL FOUR: The car drives off into the night.

HUNTRESS CAP: So let’s see what OTHER impossible things

we can accomplish together, Oracle.

HUNTRESS (inside car): One last thing--that jacket Zinda’s

holding for me?

HUNTRESS (inside car): I’ll TAKE it.

Just To Clarify...

Some people have seemingly read my screed below as another bash against fan-fiction.

Nothing could be further from the truth, except for perhaps something that was very far from the truth, indeed.

Not only do I have nothing against fan-fiction, I think it's a vital and often hugely entertaining part of various genre communities, and I find the creators who rage against it to mostly be pretty silly. I submit that fan-ficcery is likely to create sales, rather than lose them, as it helps to build a sense of belonging and participation that cannot be manufactured by publishers. I LIKE that it's an end-user-driven process, and hat's off to those who engage in it. To me, it's a compliment.

I also think it makes swell practice for aspiring writers, particularly genre authors. I think it's crucial to know when to put fan-fic away, if one is genuinely trying to get one's work published. Fan-fic can be a set of training wheels sometimes (I say this not condescendingly, but as a simple observation of ficcers I've watched in the past), and it's important to know when to take those wheels off.

Also, I don't get why fan ART is somehow okay, but fan WRITING is obviously the work of morons and regression cases. Our industry should be grateful for readers who are dedicated enough to want to share their own visions of stories and characters we publish. Alas, the self-hate and contempt that riddles comics on every level is at work here.

I do have to add here that I no longer read any fan-fic. The major companies (as well as common legal sense) strongly suggest that it's not a good idea. But if you want to write your own stories based on my work, it's certainly fine with me (although the publishers may disagree).

It harms no one, delights and satisfies many...I don't get the controversy, frankly.


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Next Week On This Blog...

...a very surprising thing Joe Quesada did that almost no one knows about.

You'll be surprised, 'cause it's surprising.


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Best Writing Tips I Ever Got, Part Two

Okay, I was GOING to post about a tip I got, an unintentional one from Dan Raspler, that changed EVERYTHING about how I look at story. He didn't mean it as a tip, it was sheer exasperation.

It's awesome. Trust me.

We'll get to that.

Instead, I'm going to talk about something else, something that's probably more vital. If I had to convey ONE idea to new writers, this would be it. I'm not wise, I'm not the smartest person on Earth, and I can't seem to waterski properly. But this much I know is true.

Okay, just like all of you, I started comics when I was young, and I would sometimes become frustrated with elements of a story. A character might have their dignity taken away, or behave in a way that I felt lessened them. These are characters I love, how DARE they behave in ways less perfect than I envisioned for them?

Naturally, I immediately blamed the writer. Again, how DARE they ruin this character? It's obvious that they hate Scuba-man (or whoever) AND their audience (me) and why was I still giving them money, anyway?

Later, years later sometimes, it would turn out that oftentimes, I couldn't even REMEMBER most stories I'd read featuring these beloved characters, but, again, oftentimes, I could remember quite well the ones that made me mad, or upset, or distressed. In hindsight, these were some of my favorite stories.

I got a lightning bolt to the head one day, while reading an interview with the brilliant musician, Laurie Anderson. I'm just typing here with no thought of order, so bear with me, and see if it knocks you on your ass like it did me.

First, a sense memory experiment. Think of the most expensive perfume or cologne you've ever smelled. You may not have loved it, but you can smell the wealth, the complexity. You know someone put it together with care and thought.

Now think of the cheapest, Wal-mart-iest crap fragrance of any kind...that crazy ass sickly sweet lavender bath shit your grandma uses, or those nightmarish lilac perfumes they ought to sell at gas stations.

Why does one grab your attention, make you snap your head up, and why is the one that's pure sweet, and imitating a fragrance that's one of nature's most beautiful, almost unbearable?

Here's why. Because, at the center of the expensive perfume, underneath the 'good' scents, there's a bad scent, intentionally placed. A smell that if that was all you got in the bottle, would likely make you throw up. There's a deliberate element in there designed to slap you right across the goddamn chops, and before you can be appalled, the 'good' mix of scents takes root.

On the other hand, all Wal-Mart thinks you want in your bath ball is an overpowering floral smell. And it turns out, we don't really want that.

There's a lot of science in scent technology, obviously, and it goes beyond me, but one thought is, in nature, it's the bad smell that warns you, that grabs your attention, or perhaps, if you're lucky, makes you want to mate, you dirty bastard. That scent is the one that attacks your animal brain in a way endless bouquets of gardenias never will.

Laurie, never the easiest or most pandering musician, applies that theory to her music, thus:

" "A few years ago, Brian began collecting little perfume bottles, just because he liked them. Then he began mixing the scents, making these incredible combinations. Now occasionally he goes to a big factory to do it. So when we did our last record, rather than sitting around afterwards talking about how we mix that, or who played bass, he took us all to a perfume factory, where we made a perfume. The secret of a really good perfume, Brian taught us, is that at its very core is something very, very stinky - civet - because the purpose of the nose is danger, to alert you. After that happens, then you can put on the pleasant smells. But first - wake up! So that's one of the things we've paid attention to in making this record, that at its core is something that's repellent, because those are the things that interest me."

I read that and felt like I'd been shot in the face. Of fucking COURSE. Of COURSE you have to have that element, that note, that scent, that makes the reader say...holy CRAP, what is THAT?

As a writer, I can assure you, that reaction is a thousand times better than someone saying, "well, that was nice!"

There's an old sales joke about the difference between a pig and a chicken in a ham and egg breakfast. The chicken is involved, but the pig is COMMITTED.

Same with writing. How many stories have you read, where in the end, you felt that the writer was pandering to you, giving you exactly what the message boarders say they want, giving you the empty calories of, "Here, this is what you asked for. I've written it just as requested."

Does anyone really want that? Lavender foaming bath balls, stinking so bad you have to leave the house, that's what that is.

I'm a writer. It's my job to lie and cheat and deceive you. To trick you, to upset you, to make you feel bad at times, to make you dislike the characters we both care about so much. Anyone can give you an X-men issue full of 22 pages of fastball specials and Wolverine killing robots. It takes a writer to have Wolverine do something stupid or awful, and let you feel a little bit of that, and still (hopefully) bring you back.

This is my number one complaint about/piece of advice for fan-ficcers. Of the few pieces I have read, there was often quite a lot of talent there, but just as often, the story was all about providing that dream crossover, that hoped-for battle between two beloved characters--in short, they were event stories, written to scratch an itch, certainly, but with little concern to the bigger issues that make a story more than a fun fight scene or superpowered orgy...the things that make a story something that engages the mind and emotions and heart.

A perfect example is Marc Andreyko's Manhunter. This book hasn't sold in the numbers it deserves, but the people who DO read the book (including just about every pro I know) love it DEEPLY. They love it with ten times the white hot fury that a whole raft of better selling books engender. And why? Because Marc is a WRITER, and Kate, the Manhunter, is flawed to pieces, makes stupid mistakes at least once an issue, and is vastly more real than any number of caped stiffs in the Top Twenty. And that makes his stuff more interesting than a great many fairy-laden webcomics, superhero trappings or not.

It can't all be flowers. I often hear would-be writers pitching their dream DC or Marvel project, and I can't get away from the cloying scent of lilacs in abundance. Yes, we want our heroes to triumph, but if there isn't also the possibility, of failure, of temptation, then I submit this question to you--what in god's name is the point? If you truly love your readers, you will do them the very great favor of poking them with an ice pick, just a little, when they reach down to smell your roses.

I can't tell you how many times, at the beginning of a story that is deliberately set up to make the reader think CONCEPT A, I get letters saying, "Hey! You did CONCEPT A! You've ruined this book!" Then, when the story shows that CONCEPT A is in fact PLOT TWIST B, and not CONCEPT A at all, well, let's just say I live for that shit.

Readers are smart...they know who has come through for them in the past, and who left them hanging. Even if I don't care for a Grant Morrison first issue at all (pretty rare occurance, to be frank, as I love Grant), his history with me says that he's likely screwing with me, messing deliberately with my expectations, putting the smell of the wolf urine in the middle of the lovely garden of floral scents. The thing is, you have to keep that promise with readers. If you go dark where there previously was light, you have to make it work, you have to be truthful. That's the difference between stories you damn well know are mandated because of a corporate crossover, and those that are tended by a gardner who cares.

This is why I don't usually lose my noodle if CreamSodaGirl has a story arc that seems wildly out of character. Because, in the end, most of the best stories I've ever read made me unhappy or uncomfortable at some point. You can do formula stories, full of fanservice (I have a different definition for this word than me, it's not about boobies), but in the end, I think you've likely cheated your readers out of their hard-earned money, in which case, shame on you.

By all means, when you write your stories, pick some flowers. Pick the prettiest, the most aromatic, if you like. But keep in mind, you might want to carefully place a wasp's nest just in the shadows.

Hey, this is very BEING THERE!

Let me finish with the same warning. I don't know what the hell I'm doing. I just showed up in this chair one day and started typing until I found sentences I like. My advice to you is that you never, and I mean EVER, take my advice. Go, write, be, have lunch, dawdle, write some more, write, write, write some more, and ignore the crazy Oregon redhead.

But you might give some small thought to putting a rabid rat in your next birthday bouquet.