Sunday, July 31, 2011

Why Phonogram?

Has a song ever changed your life? 

Has a band ever made you question the way you think?

Has a genre ever help you define who you were at a given moment in time?

If so, then you already know what Phonogram is about, even if you haven't read it yet. 

Alright, so maybe not exactly, but the Phonogram series by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie takes those very same ideas and elevates them to something further. In the world of Phonogram, music is magic, powerful and mighty, wielded by a select group of people known as Phonomancers. Among them is David Kohl, who acts as the protagonist in the first story arc. Through the eyes of Kohl, we see the world of Phonogram as analyzed through the lens of Britpop, a genre of music that existed primarily during the 90's. But Britpop is not the point. Even if you have never heard a single Britpop song, you will get enjoyment out of this series (I know I did).

The message of Phonogram is far too big to be contained to one single genre of music. Music is magic is a pretty simple easy concept to grasp, but one with huge ramifications. I'm looking forward to see how our tenured writers and play-at-homers can manage this week.


  1. Phonogram is hugely hugely special to me, in fact it's the source of one of my favourite con memories. The after show party at Thought Bubble (a con based in Leeds, England) is always a good one. The party, usually in the casino around the corner from the con venue, is DJ'ed by creators themselves. In 2009 I remember Kieron Gillen's set quite vividly, and one song in particular.

    So there's Mr Gillen spinning the decks as it were (he wasn't actually-- it was all played off a laptop, but lets go with the imagery) and then Pull Shapes came on. A few exchanged glances between those in the know, those who had read Phonogram. And then-- in one glorious combined movement-- tens of geeks take to the dance floor and jig and strut like there was no tomorrow.

    Sneaking a quick glance towards the booth, I could see that Kieron was quite visibly moved by this fiction made reality by the medium of music. It was-- pun intended-- magic. To people who haven't read the series you won't have the clearest idea what the fuck I'm talking about. To those who have, you'll believe me when I say...

    Best. Con. Ever.

    Anyway, my script doesn't feature any of the main characters from either Phonogram series at all. But whenever I read Phonogram (and I'm a HUGE fan of the second series in particular) I always imagine the wider universe and all the possible stories Gillen and McKelvie could tell. So, here we are:

    PAGE 1


    In the centre of the panel stands a single FIGURE flanked by others. All of them face CAMERA and are bathed in shadow.

    CAPTION: London.

    SHADOWY FIGURE: We didn't know what we were doing with the last album...


    CUT TO: A CLOSE UP on the bottom half of a man's face. He's dressed in a black shirt and sat in a high backed leather armchair. He's illuminated by candlelight from off panel somewhere.

    MAN IN BLACK: Magic is a funny business.
    You live and learn.


    CUT TO: A WIDE PANEL of the same group from the first panel. The lights have gone up in the room revealing their identities. Filling the panel is the lineup of the Rolling Stones, circa 1968-- Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts and in the centre, Mick Jagger.

    We're in a study of some kind with bookcases and wood panelling surrounding the group. An exit looms behind them.

    MICK JAGGER: We're here to correct our mistakes.
    We're here to put you back in your box.

    CAPTION: 4th June, 1968.


    CUT TO: a MEDIUM CLOSE shot of the man in black, still sat in the leather chair. He wears a black shirt and trousers. He has short, cropped hair and possesses a charismatic, aristocratic face.

    MAN IN BLACK: Mr Jagger, isn't it?


    The man in black holds leans forward in his chair and holds out his hand to CAMERA, ready for a handshake.

    MAN IN BLACK: Pleased to meet you. Hope you guessed my name.

    MICK JAGGER (OFF PANEL): We know who you are...


    CUT TO: a WIDE PANEL of the Rolling Stones, similar to panel three. However, this time four other FIGURES have materialised around them. Musical notes dance around their heads.

    One of them is dressed in Mod clothing, another in Teddy Boy attire, a woman in psychedelic garb (think Maharishi era Beatles) and a man who looks remarkably similar to the singer Muddy Waters.

    All of these new figures are turned towards CAMERA, smiles on their faces and have completely black pupils. Phonomancers.

    MICK JAGGER: ...and we bought help.

  2. @Dan: Sympathy For The Devil is the only Stones song I like (and only due to GnR doing a cover of it), so kudos for alluding to it :)

  3. @Dan - what a great experience that must have been. Thanks for sharing it. I love these kind of tales where fans show their love for a medium in a sparatic way - and the fact that Kieron was there only makes it sweeter.

    I liked your script, with the only thing that threw me were the what I assume the captions not being labelled. It didn't allow me to get lost in the script, but study it to ensure I knew what was going on. A minor gripe though.

  4. Phonogram – Marie – Shaun Richens

    A little background information. This page was written whilst listening to When The Night Comes In by the band I Said Yes. A quick Google search and you can listen to the whole song on their site.

    One Page.

    1. BEN (a new character) sits riding the last tube home after a gig. He as sat on a carriage alone. We are looking at him from the shoulders up. He is facing camera. A sly smile on his face. He clearly has headphones in. A few small musical notes spring from around them. Only he can hear his music.

    The lyrics float around above BENS head. All lyrics are in bubblegum pink shade, the font should be curly and flowing in an almost organic way.

    LYRICS: Are you sitting comfortably then I’ll begin…

    2. The train has stopped. The doors are open. A beautiful dark haired girl has gotten on. MARIE is BENS age. She is walking to the seat nearest the door. It is opposite BEN.

    These lyrics are trailing behind MARIE as she boards the tube. Starting with the ‘A’ outside the doors the ‘Sin’ very close behind her (perhaps even on top of her t-shirt like its printed on.)

    LYRICS: A sorry little story about original sin….

    3. This is a page wide panel. On the left hand side we have the same shoulder up view of BEN. His eyes and smile a little wider. On the right we have MARIE who is sat across from BEN. She is smiling back at him. The centre of this panel is a gradual fade to white. Merging them to one.

    These lyrics dance alone the bottom of the panel.

    LYRICS: Take your seats darling let the house lights dim strike up the band or let the record spin…

    4. A close up on BEN’s music player. He is holding the headphone jack between his thumb and forefinger. He has pulled it out. This allows his music to flood the carriage.

    5. We are now looking straight down the length of the carriage. BEN sits in profile on the left. MARIE is in profile on the right. The whole centre of the panel is filled with white and black musical notes dancing all around. The edge of the panel is gradually blurred to white. Showing the world washing away as the music fills up everything.

    6. This panel is the same as panel 3. However this time all the background is white. MARIE’s eyes are closed her jaw open as if she hasn’t heard anything this magically before. BEN’s eyes are wide open they are fully black apart from speckles of white like a starry night sky.

    This set of lyrics sits on the fade between the two images in this panel.

    LYRICS: Oh baby be my extraordinary Juliet

    BEN: (SINGS) Oh baby be my extraordinary Juliet


    The idea came to be pretty much fully formed and for better or worse this is how it came out.

    Also Dan Hill I really liked your page. Some really strong visuals throughout. Thanks for sharing the con story as well.

  5. Dan - the "hope you guessed my name" line was cheesy as hell, but it made me laugh - out - loud - so I forgive you.

    Shaun - I'm not sure what David Kohl would make of Yes, but as a secret Jon Anderson fan myself, I appreciated this (even though I didn't know the song in question).

    One thing this week is proving to me is just how much potential there is in the Phonogram concept - it's a crime there's only been two series. Gillen & McKelvie ought to franchise out a whole Phonogram universe.

  6. @Dan: Nice idea for the script, but anything that follows that con anecdote is going to come up wanting, haha. No seriously, that sounded great. About the script, I'm not very well versed in Stones history, so I might be missing some of the references, but the idea of the team-up sounds like fun.

    @Shaun: That page is as sweet as molasses. Most of the characters in Phonogram are pretty selfish and/or neurotic, so that touch of "just a nice quiet moment" really makes it pop against everything else.

  7. Cheers for the feedback guys.

    @Matt: I almost went all meta with it and wrote a script about that night. Perhaps I should have. The Stones previous album before Beggars Banquet (which Sympathy for the Devil appeared on) was called 'Their Satanic Majesties Request'. My idea behind the script was that the Stones had unleashed the devil when making that record and Sympathy for the Devil was their effort to trap him in music.

    Also when recording the song, the studio caught fire. Again, this could play into the script quite nicely.

    @Shaun: I liked this page. Whilst I have no clue about the song or the band featured it nicely captured that vibe of being out at stupid o'clock in the morning and connecting with a complete and utter stranger over the most inconsequential of things (in this case music).

  8. Forgot to add this to my last comment for the process junkies.

    Kieron posted a full script up for the first issue of the second series of Phonogram on his blog.

    The blog's a pretty good read actually and he updates it quite frequently (even Thought Balloons got a mention on there recently).

  9. Longtime reader, first time caller. I hope this one doesn't bring down the curve.

    by: zu

    The year is 1995. Britpop is in full bloom.

    The setting is the club from the issue 2 of Rue Britannia, decked out at the height of Britpop's power. It's after-after hours. Which means, roughly 10 a.m. on a Sunday. There's a long, long rectangular table with people sitting all around it and at the main end is Britannia. She is impressive, regal and now it's time to lay down business. Further down the table are people from Britpop bands. Pick your favorite ones to be closer to the goddess.

    Kohl is younger than we're used to and eager to be here, at the middle of the length of the table, moving closer, closer to the goddess.

    Last and most important point: If you know a better way to draw this, do that instead.

    1.1 Wide of the full table. Not just a scene-setter, but it should let the reader know: heavy shit and heavy people are happening here.

    CAPTION: "Richey is uncooperative." That's all she said. She wouldn't dare expressly ask for an assassination, that would be undignified.

    1.2 The assembly turns, in good enough synch.


    1.3 and look at Kohl.

    CAPTION: It was unspoken. It was understood.

    1.4 Kohl, looking directly at Britannia, nods. Something is wrong about the nod, apparent only to the readers.


    1.5 Kohl looks down solemnly, accepting his charge.
    CAPTION: I am Britania's proud soldier. I fought the important fights, wore the flag and this was my reward. This was bollocks.

    1.6 Closer on Kohl, his face now impassive.
    CAPTION: This was the moment I knew I would betray Britannia.

  10. @Zu - welcome! Great way to get started my man. Great script.

  11. Dan - a pretty cool concept. I like your back story for it all. Jagger V the devil seems *very* Phonogram to me.

    @Shaun - This page is so simple, or appears as such. I like that, it's beguiling. You could get lost in this page. That's a good thing.

    @zu - Much like I got stung with my flickering reference this week (and it was only a joke), your panel of a nodding head would be hard to do. You need explain how it is off and why the audience knows this.

    Otherwise, I like the dialogue, the last two panels work for me. Not a bad page, please come again and add more in the future.

  12. @Zu Really great opening page. You dove write into Phonogram lore and handled the characters really well I thought. You made use of some cool images throughout although as Ryan has said the nod motion would be a difficult thing to put across affectively on panel. Other than that though loved it. I really look forward to seeing more of your work.

    @Dan Hill Thanks for the feedback, and for putting up with link to Kieron's blog. I meant to do it myself to share some of the Phonogram love about.

    Lastly huge thanks to Ryan, Matt and Rol for your feedback. I always like to hear what you guys have made of my work. Its the only way I can grow as a writer. I am glad my approach to do something a little more sedate than most Phonogram stuff was enjoyed. I wanted to capture my connection to music in the page. For me its a personal kind love I have for music and that was something my characters shared.


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