Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thumbnails for p. 9 (obstructed story)

Our penultimate page. Stepan has just been transported to the shadow world by the shadow whom he bound to his will. But he had also agreed to turn the shadow loose in exchange for the journey. And so:

1) The once-kneeling shadow (Shadow 1) is now on his feet.
Shadow 1: Release me!
Caption: Do I dare?

2) The shadow has grown larger, more shapeless.
Caption: Do I have a choice?
Stepan: I'll keep my word, shadow. You're free!

3) The shadow is now huge, threatening, but Stepan is uncowed.
Stepan: Now—where's Arnthan?
Shadow 1: You don't command me now, boy—
Voice off-panel (Shadow 2): A MISTAKE!
NB: Shadow 2's panel has a distinctively wispy border throughout.

4) From far left, Shadow 1 and Stepan gaze at the ruin of the shadow world, which grows lighter and more fixed in shape as it moves to the right of the page. At the extreme right, we see Artham's once-again disembodied head on the ground. Glowing at the center of the wreckage is the map. A few pale shadow forms lie prone. Closer to Shadow 1 and Stepan is Shadow 2, a stricken look on its face.
Shadow 1: What—What's going on here?
Shadow 2: We've made a dreadful mistake!
Stepan (in the clutch of Shadow 1, looking at the disembodied head): Arntham!

5) In a wispy-bordered caption, Shadow 2 explains what happened while a borderless panel depicts what he describes. (NB: An alternative to this panel follows the script below.)
Shadow 2: We thought the danger lay in the mapmaker, so we slew him on arrival—

6)Close-up on the map, aglow and destructive, while Shadow 2's panel tails off-panel.
Shadow 2: —But the threat is in the map itself! We brought it here, and now it's petrifying everything!

7) Shadow 1, one arm still clutching Stepan, gazes determinedly at the wrack and ruin while Shadow 2 looks distraught. Stepan is tugging to remove Shadow 1's grip.
Shadow 1: Then we must destroy it!
Shadow 2: But it's deadly to our kind! You cannot go near it!

8) Stepan holds Shadow 1's arm away from him and stands freely. The shadows listen to him speak.
Stepan: But I can. What's more, I can consume it utterly with my magic.
Shadow 2: You would do this?

9) Stepan looks at the first, threatening shadow, whose hand now rests gently on Stepan's shoulder.
Stepan: I'll save your home, and I pledge to protect it hereafter. I only ask for Arntham's head and safe conduct back to my world.
Shadow 1: I give you my word, boy.

10) Stepan, silhouetted himself by the glow of his magic, is viewed from behind as he destroys the map.
Upper caption: My magic takes the map away...
Lower caption: ...but it gives me something in return.

Okay, here's the alternative for panel 5:
The text is the same. The scene sets the two shadows and Stepan in the distance looking at the reader. In the extreme right foreground: Arntham's head. Poking into the extreme left foreground: the fingers of one of Arntham's dismembered hands. Never the twain shall meet!
Okay, the constraints. I had to have a silhouette in every panel. With my shadowy men on their shadowy world, that's easy. I also had to use found art or found dialogue. Since I want Isaac to have a chance to use one of those awesome Basque folklore characters on page 10, I tried to find some usable found dialogue. Folks—not easy! Either the crowds I was in were too loud actually to make out intelligible speech or what was intelligible was too contemporary and specific to be of use. (Washington politics and synagogue gossip have no place in this story!) Believe it or not, the best I could do was "What's going on here?"—genuine overheard dialogue, just not very colorful. C'est la guerre.

Finally, I had to conceal something that will be revealed by Isaac on the final page. It's good and concealed, all right, as the concealing is entirely suggested by Stepan's final caption. The constraint didn't specify a concealed object, after allso Stepan is concealing some information.

Anyway, that's what I've got. Isaac: you're left with found art and a wordless sequence, and I reckon you've got to get Stepan (and Arntham's head) back home. Everybody: feedback very welcome!


Isaac said...

I think this looks really good. It does an especially good job of keeping the tension high (!) while also delivering the necessary exposition. That's a tough pair of objectives to accomplish. Well played.

Some suggestions:

1. More ogres, Mike! I mean, show more shadow creatures (or parts of them) in the backgrounds. Maybe you're already intending to do that. Also, give enough "terrain" marks in each panel that we can see the terrain is shifting from panel to panel.

2. I'm not sure whether the shadows' dialogue is supposed to read as archaized / Shakespearean, or whether it's supposed to be consistent with the colloquial speech of the other characters. "What's going on here" sounds colloquial, but the response sounds pretty formal ("slew" sort of leaps out at me, but there are other tweaks of idiom you might consider)...

3. I think Stepan should promise to destroy the map, not to consume it. The careful reader will know that he's not actually destroying the map, but the shadows won't.

I'm not sure which of the versions of panel 5 I like best, though I think I'm leaning toward the one with the head in the foreground.

Very glad to see we're moving ahead with this now! And boy, do I have my work cut out for me...

Mike said...

Thanks for the encouraging comments and helpful suggestions! My quick replies:

1. "More ogres" are already part of the plan, though it's hard to tell from the abbreviated thumbnail--I drew at finished postcard size, so I didn't have a lot of room). But it never hurts to be reminded!

2. Gotcha on the dialogue; I will revise. I think I wrote "slew" because I cringed on hearing the word"*slayed" in the new Beowulf movie (I had free passes, and my students
were itching to see it, so we went...[shudder])--it was my way of
restoring the linguistic balance in the universe. But yeah, "killed" would work just as well
(though it takes up more space in the lettering!). You'll get a
chance to offer further dialogue tweaks once I've posted the pencils, I reckon.

3. I dithered on "consume" vs. "destroy," actually, but you're right: Stepan doesn't have to
give the shadows any hints. "Destroy" it is.

As for panel 5, I'm also leaning toward the second version (with the head in the foreground). The other version takes us out of the main narrative sequence too much, I
think. Why start with a flashback NOW? From another character's
perspective, yet? Plus the extreme foregrounds can look creepy, which
would be a plus.

And again, sorry for the delays, but I did try to THINK about this page when I had a spare moment but couldn't actually draw; and I have every confidence that you'll bring our story to a suitably satisfactory conclusion.

Mark McGuinness said...

"Washington politics and synagogue gossip have no place in this story!"

Actually, I think it would be funny if in the background two shadow creatures were talking and one turned to the other and said, "Oy, this George Bush. . what a Meshugeneh!"

Isaac said...

Re: the obviously awful Beowulf movie: our pal or colleague Carl Pyrdum has done a pretty funny post about Grendel's mother's footwear.

I'm sure this is not the most ridiculous aspect of the movie. Probably the dragon's parentage wins that particular medal. But it's definitely among the many awful things.

So, Mike: was this version better or worse than the Christopher Lambert version?

Mike said...

Mark: That would be pretty funny, actually. Might kind of ruin the tone of the piece, though.

Isaac: Since Carl has spared himself the experience of the Beowulf movie, he may not appreciate the fact that Grendel's mom's stiletto feet are prominently introduced when she strides into the screen and they fill the (3-D!) foreground. At the preview screening I attended, this got perhaps the biggest laughs of the evening.

As for the comparison with Beowulf 2000, well, Beowulf 2007 is better AND worse. It's better in that, despite everything, it's pretty watchable, which Christopher Lambert's movie really wasn't; it's worse in that, amazingly, it's actually LESS faithful to the original, despite being set in a post-apocalyptic future and ALSO setting up Grendel as Hrothgar's lovechild.

Avoid, avoid...

Mike said...

Edit: Despite the fact that Lambert's Beowulf 2000 is set in the post-apocalyptic future, etc. Sorry for the misleading syntax. Zemeckis's Beowulf takes place in sixth-century Denmark, as expected.