Sunday, June 5, 2011

Why X-Men First Class?

You haven’t noticed a theme?

Let me just firstly say, I have seen the movie and it is awesome. You should all definitely see it.

Triggered during puberty (in most cases) by a heightened emotional event, the X-Men use their powers to fight for people who both hate and fear them. However, this isn’t your space travelling X-Men, nor your time stream sliding X-Men. No, this is the X-Men First Class, and as such we are dealing, for the first time here at Thought Balloons, a limitation on our scripts.

Usually we are free to put out characters in any setting. However, due to the movie being set in the 60’s we have decided to do the same. So not only are we to write a script about the X-Men’s first class, but it is to be based in the 1960’s.

What does this mean for our scripts? To begin with the X-Men have not yet been ‘outed’. The world does not know of the school in Westchester where high powered teenagers train in the art of war. It also gives us the chance to, like the movie include some real world historical events within our scripts. Could we see the X-Men reacting to the singing of the Civil Rights act? Will it be revealed that the X-Men were instrumental in the moon landing? Or perhaps as peace keepers during the riots of 1969?

As for the line up of the First Class? Again, we’re going to have to stick to one of two options – the movie line up or the original line up from the comics. The tenured writers have an interesting task ahead for them this week, and I for one am interested in seeing how they tackle it.

Feel like giving it a go yourself? Post your script below!


  1. Part of the reason I loved First Class so much was the period in which it was set. The sixties (and the cold war era as a whole) is a period I find endlessly fascinating.

    To me, there was a period at the beginning of the 60's when the world was America's oyster, a heady atmosphere of optimism and hope for the future was building.

    Nothing gold can stay.

    The following scene takes place just over a year after the events of the film X-Men:First Class (which end in October '62 if I recall).

    I don't usually like using more than 6 panels per page, but seeing as I only have a short space, why not?

    Again, apologies for the weird formatting.

    WIDE PANEL. We're in Central Park, New York. It's early afternoon on a surprisingly warm November day, the bare trees in the park the only clue that it's winter.

    In the centre of the panel is a stone table with a chessboard pattern on it, the game already in progress. Next to the board sits a small portable radio. On the left of the table ERIK sits on a wooden chair. To the right of the table sits CHARLES in his wheelchair.

    Both men are dressed casual smart. This is (former) friends catching up-- not business. Around them other people go about their own games.

    CHARLES: I heard the rumour.

    ERIK: Which one? There are so many.

    CHARLES: The train robbery in England.
    An interesting way to get funding.

    CLOSE UP on Erik's hand as he moves a pawn towards Charles' front row.

    ERIK: An army needs a war chest.

    CHARLES (OFF PANEL): An army?

    A CLOSE UP on Charles' hand as he moves a rook across to protect his king.

    CHARLES: Don't you listen to the news?
    Doctor King, the space race, we're on the edge of something exciting--

    A profile shot of Erik looking towards the right side of the panel, across the table at Charles. This panel and the next form one shot of the two facing each other across the table. The panel gutter separates the shot into two distinct panels.

    ERIK: Empty promises, Charles. There is no 'New Frontier'--


    A profile shot of Charles, a worried look across his face.

    CHARLES: The radio...

    SFX: *Klik*

    WIDE PANEL. A similar view to the opening panel. Erik and Charles look at each other in disbelief. The other people around them have all stopped playing and are turned towards the radio too.

    RADIO ANNOUNCER: --apparently official, President Kennedy died at 1pm Central Standard Time, 2 o'clock Eastern Standard Time...
    ...some thirty eight minutes ago...

    Another profile shot of Erik. Again, this panel is a single shot separated into two panels by the gutter. Erik looks across the table at Charles, his arm outstretched.


    Profile shot of Charles, his head bowed slightly. Erik's hand touches his shoulder.


  2. I like it Dan, and the writing is solid. I just don't understand the sadness of the two at the announcement of JFK's assaination. It seems to come out of left field. While I agree that they would be shocked, I can't see why it would effect them to the degree shown here. Sure they would be upset, as I am sure many people were - but did Kennedy mean anything to the mutants?

    Also, if Erik admits to robbing a train, why is Charles still happy to sit and play chess with him? Surely Charles' sense of morality would see him at very least try and lecture Erik.

    Sorry if I sound too harsh, man. The writing is very solid, I just don't get the characters motif.

  3. After having just gotten back from seeing the movie, I have to say "Dag nabbit!"

    Here I had a script all prepared for when my turn comes later this week, and now I know it just won't cut it. Have to go back and write something entirely new. >__<

  4. @Ben, cheers for the feedback.

    The sadness at Kennedy's death is probably more me imposing my own opinions onto the characters (something a writer really shouldn't do).

    When Kennedy gave his acceptance speech in 1960 he coined the term 'New Frontier' to indicate unexplored areas of space, science and peace that the U.S could reach. There was a sense in the early 60's that America could achieve anything if they put their minds to it. This was the same speech that inspired James Meredith to enroll and become the first black student at the University of Mississippi, so I figured that the same speech (and by extension the man who made it) would be important to mutants too.

    Perhaps Erik wouldn't be as upset as Charles, hence why he's merely comforting him.

    Charles lines after Erik's line about the army were supposed to be the start of a lecture before the broadcast cuts him off. This is definitely a fault in my writing as in retrospect it really doesn't come across at all.

    I agree that the character motivations are hazy and perhaps I've forced the characters to fit the setup/scenario (another no no). I did have an alternative version of this scene that was just the lyrics of Sam Cooke's "Change Gon' Come' playing over the two of them playing chess before the announcement kicked in.

    Sorry for the lengthy reply. Once again, cheers for the feedback. The points are all salient (especially the part about Charles not chastising Erik) and there's definite food for thought there.

  5. X-Men First Class – Origin's

    Panel 1. Xavier is sitting in his study, in his wheelchair. Beast stands watch as a random assortment of young mutants sit in desks around Xavier. One has raised his hand to ask a question.

    Xavier – Yes, child what is your question?

    Mutant 1 – like how did you find the original X-men,

    Xavier – which one, each story has its Unique adventure.

    Mutant 2 – Cyclops!

    Panel 2. A Younger Xavier kneeling down next to a desk in a public school classroom. Cyclops is holding his eyes with his hands trying not to open them. Xavier s hand is on his shoulder consoling him, letting him know its OK.

    Xavier Narration – I found Scott In his own High school. After his power manifested he was frightened he might hurt someone, so I brought him back to the mansion.

    Mutant (off panel) – what about Beast!

    Panel 3. - Xavier in a small Lab with a young Hank McCoy. Hank is holding up a test tube showing the Professor his newest achievement. Xavier is pleased and congratulates Hank.

    Xavier Narration – Hank was a brilliant scientist when I found him, he came back to the institute with me to help with my scientific research.

    Panel 4. Xavier is standing now, bending over to say hello to a small girl, jean Grey. The young girl is shy but Xavier presents a comforting exterior.

    Xavier Narration – And Marvel girl although, just a young child, had already developed her powers to such a point that I had to use my own to suppress them!

    Mutant (off panel) – what about ice man, did you meet him in the arctic or in a secret military base?!

    Panel 5. Xavier in a car. In a suburban neighbor hood, a family is out on their lawn having a BBQ, Xavier is watching, a young iceman is visible, in his ice from hold a bunch of beer cans, the father has used his son instead of getting a cooler.

    Xavier – no, Long Island.

    Panel 6. Xavier still in his study. Another child has raised his hand Beast is now giggling to himself.

    Xavier – OK lets move on to...

    Xavier – uh, yes child?

    Mutant – what about Angel? You skipped him..

    Panel 7. Xavier rubs his neck awkwardly trying not to show his true emotion, beast is now on the floor doubled over with laughter. We only see his feet in the air.

    Xavier – well..angel....

    Panel 8. Xavier sitting on a park bench reading a news paper. He notices bird poop(or angel poop in this case) on his right shoulder.

    Xavier – he sort of found me...

  6. Hey Michael, thanks for the post. It was a fun, albiet disturbing read. Good work.

    I would make the suggestion of giving your script a proof read. As the resident 'horrible speller' I can tell you that these guys will POUNCE on any grammar or spelling error - all in love of course :)

  7. Dan - you went for the obvious play... I know, because my own script involves exactly the same moment in history (though from a completely different angle). Good work, powerful scripting. It's interesting that you chose to "impose your own feelings on the character's reactions" since that is exactly what JMS was accused of doing in his 911 issue of Amazing Spider-Man - the infamous "Dr. Doom sheds a tear" scene. I don't think yours is quite so out of character though and certainly Charles would be saddened by JFK's death. Erik too is a complex character so it would be possibly to imagine a similar response for him - but you'd need to set that up / explain it away more in the script. The chess game fits with what's already been established in the X-movies, both the Stewart/McKellan combo and XMFC.

    Michael - I didn't see that one coming and it raised a smile. I'm not sure it'd be allowed in the otherwise grim-toned X-books, but I appreciate the effort at levity.

    Because Ben beat me to it, I'll leave off the proofreading for today.

  8. @Dan - I don't mind the page. You instantly sort of know what's going to happen from the start, dates and all, but there's some simple emotion on the page. I think Erik and Charles always make good friends/adversaries on the page.

    My rule of thumb for music to JFK's assassination is always Stand By Me, but that's because I'm a massive Wanderers fan.

    @Michael - an interesting script but it feels like it builds to the punchline awkwardly. This is very much an indie Strange Tale style page. Goofy, not in continuity, and doesn't ever need to be followed up on.

    @Rol - you aren't making Magneto move the 'magic bullet' are you?

  9. Landfall

    This is almost a splash page, with one page-size panel and a small inset panel in the lower left-hand corner. A conversation is carried out through captions, which also serve to lead the reader’s eye. This page is set a little over a year before the climax of X-Men: First Class. If I could do a comic series that served as a companion to the film this is what I’d write—a dirty, gritty war movie take on the universe to serve as a counterpoint to the Mod Sixties vibe they had going on in the movie.

    Panel 1: Huge, panoramic shot of a Cuban beach. The page should leak tarnished beauty. The tan-brown sands are stained by blood and char, the crystal waters are littered with wrecks and discarded weapons, and corpses lie every few feet. The sun dips low in the horizon, silhouetting a line of soldiers, marching towards the camera, in a dusky dusty light. The soldiers are young Cuban men, determined but green. Some of them look nervous, afraid unwilling to be there. Variation is key—this is not a military outfit. Give the men a wide range of expression and posture. Some are professional, marching perfectly. Most are not. Some don’t even know what they’re doing. Their uniforms are raggedy as well, and they’re certainly not U.S. You should be able to find pictures online and on old newsreels. The camera for this Panel is situated somewhere in the nearby jungle brush, and very close to it we spot the leader of the line—a burly, shadowed figure lifting a low-hanging branch and creeping into the woods.

    CAPTION (CIA DIRECTOR DULLES): Brigade 2506 has established a beachhead, sir.

    CAPTION (KENNEDY): How exactly do you know that?

    CAP (DULLES): We—

    CAP (DULLES): We have an agent with them who reported back.

    CAP (KENNEDY): God dammit! I ordered, specifically ordered that we do not assist the brigade, that we do nothing that Castro can trace back to us! There are to be no U.S. fingerprints on this operation! What happened to that?!

    CAP (DULLES): If you’d hear me out, sir, he’s not United States. As far as Castro’s concerned—

    Panel 2: This is the small, inset panel. All it shows is a hand with some conspicuous knuckle scarring illuminated by a cherry red cigar.

    CAP (DULLES): He’s Canadian.

  10. @Rol It was an obvious event I admit. I actually had another idea surrounding the event and Magneto (while we're at it I'm just going to state that Fassbender should be the next Bond btw).

    @Ryan Cheers :) Stand By Me would have been a good choice too actually come to think of it. I agree about the Charles/Erik thing. They were easily the best thing about the movie too.

  11. Aryeh - nice, ties into the movie and THAT cameo, and makes me smile in the same way.

    Ryan - yeah, yeah, you're psychic... or you just read the title in the schedule. ;-p

    Dan - yeah, I can imagine a Fassbender Bond. Especially if it was set in the 60s.

  12. @Dan - I really like this piece. It's some effective dialogue work, which I always enjoy. Whether or not you're imposing your opinions on the characters, I think Erik and Charles stopping their petty bickering to take in the tragic news works.

    @Michael - I agree with the general sentiment expressed thus far. You've written a fun, lighthearted script, which is something we don't get to see enough of in comics nowadays. However, I also agree that a bit more time at the editting table would help this page become even better.

    @Aryeh - Have not seen the film, but I really like this page. As I've said before, we don't get that many full (or near full) splash pages here at thoughtballoons, but when they're well-written, they can be quite effective. This one is well-written. Your description and the leading captions do exactly what you want them to do, moving naturally towards your conclusion / punchline. Nice stuff!

  13. Well, it seems that the three of us went for the Kennedy thing, but luckily my script (which will be up tomorrow) is different enough that we won't end up all calling our lawyers, haha.


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