Friday, May 31, 2013

Planetary: A Dangerous Undertaking - Niel Jacoby

Panel 1: The Undertaker debuting at Survivor Series 1990 as the mystery member of Ted DiBiase's team.


Panel 2: Undertaker defeating Superfly Jimmy Snuka at Wrestlemania VII


Panel 3: The Undertaker walking to the ring with Paul Bearer.


Panel 4: Undertaker preparing to marry Stephanie MacMahon as part of the Ministry of Darkness angle.


Panel 5: Taker riding his motorcycle down the entranceway in his American Badass gimmick


Panel 6: Undertaker revealing himself at the 2013 Old School Raw where he returned to set up his Wrestlemania 29 match with CM Punk.


Panel 7: The Planetary crew in the stands of a Raw taping, all watching the people in the crowd, except for the Drummer, who is watching the in-ring action, a bag of popcorn in hand.





Thursday, May 30, 2013

Planetary – New Archaeologists For A Whole New Dig - Shaun Richens.


1. A MAN sits in shadow behind a desk. Only his hands clasped together on the desk in front of him and the eerie white glow of his eyes can be seen through the shadow.

The desk is expensive and lavish, made of dark wood.

The man’s eyes look straight at us, straight through us.

THE MAN: Roswell, global warming, the moon landing, all that giant monster shit in Tokyo…

2. Repeat panel. However the mans face has moved forward slightly. We can see his jaw line and his pearly white teeth as a grin moves over his face.

THE MAN: It’s all true. No bullshit.

3. Repeat panel. However now the man’s smile has faded and his eyes narrowed.

THE MAN: The only reason the world knows anything about this is because the government wants them to.

THE MAN: Scraps of information to keep the people busy.

THE MAN: Lies hidden with truth.

4. Repeat panel. However now the man has his hand out stretched towards us, ready to shake our hands.

THE MAN: Welcome to Planetary. I hope you can handle the real truth ‘cus you wont be quitting. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Planetary – Sleep Therapy – MK Stangeland Jr.

(6 Panels)

Panel 1: Long panel in the swamps of FLORIDA, where the top of CTHULU’s head can be seen poking up over the treeline. Off to one side, where the swamp is less forested, a PLANETARY vehicle of some kind that would be appropriate for this kind of thing is parked, with a touch of SCIENCE! instruments set up nearby. JAKITA WAGNER and THE DRUMMER are standing nearby, with DRUMMER looking at the instruments and JAKITA standing nearby.

Panel 2: ELIJA SNOW exits the thickest part of the swamp – he is removing goggles from his face. JAKITA and DRUMMER sit up and take notice as ELIJA approaches.

JAKITA: ItsAboutTimeYouGotBackDoYouHaveAnyIdeaHowLong…

DRUMMER: Jakita, you’re doing the run-on thing.

JAKITA: So tell me what happened in there already!

Panel 3: ELIJA takes the goggles off his head and points with his thumb over his shoulder.

ELIJA (1): Good news – big, green, and ugly’s reputation is overexaggerated.

ELIJA (2): All he really wants is to hit the snooze alarm and fin a place to sleep where people will quit waking him up.

ELIJA (3): Bad news – we have to figure out how to put Cthulu back to sleep.

Panel 4: ELIJA tosses the goggles to DRUMMER, who sloppily catches them.

ELIJA: Also, Drummer, your tech wasn’t worth $#*^ in there.

ELIJA: I’m pretty sure I still went crazy while talking to him.

Panel 5: DRUMMER looks at the goggles.

DRUMMER: So how do we put Cthulu back to sleep?

Panel 6: JAKITA and ELIJA both look at DRUMMER.

JAKITA: You’re the information guru, Drummer. You tell us.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Planetary- There May Be Trouble Ahead -Dan Hill


Wide panel : Day. An establishing shot looking out over the tops of a an oppressively hot looking jungle, stretching as far as the eye can see.

CAPTION: Brazil.

BLUE CAPTION: “I think I’ve found the opening, control.”

RED CAPTION: “Is the signal still going strong?”

BLUE CAPTION: “Roger. Fifty two pulses. A pause. Then the whole cycle starts afresh.”

Wide panel: We’re somewhere underground now. It’s dark, with a single shaft of sunlight firing through a crack in the ceiling. Through this same crack is a rope, down which JAKITA WAGNER is lowering herself. She’s dressed in tactical gear suitable for a jungle environment, a flashlight attached to her breast pocket.

The panel is mostly shrouded in shadow, but the bits we can see suggest this is some kind of abandoned temple.

BLUE CAPTION: “There’s something else.”

RED CAPTION: “Repeat that last message. We’re getting some feedback this end.”

BLUE CAPTION: “The pulses. They're getting closer together.”

On Jakita, now off the line, as she begins to take in her surroundings. We can see she has a radio headset on and holds a handheld device that looks a bit like an iPhone.

RADIO (JAGGED): When did this start happening?

From Jakita’s POV. She’s flicking the flashlight around, pointing it into the recesses of the temple as she walks.

The flashlight reveals a piece of stone wall. An intricate carved pattern is set into it, all thick lines. The pattern depicts two spheres, possibly planets, in close proximity.

About five minutes ago....

Tight on Jakita’s feet as she continues to walk deeper into the complex. The floor beneath her is also stone, but there's a strange circuit board pattern carved into it that has begun to pulse with a blue light.

JAKITA: Control, the pulse is coalescing. It's a voice.

On Jakita, the temple suddenly lit up in a blue light, not too dissimilar to the blue in a flame. We’re tight on her so can’t see much of her surroundings at the moment.

JAKITA: I’m switching the scanner to audio output.

JAKITA: You’re going to want to hear this...

Large panel: A crane shot from behind Jakita. She’s in the large, main chamber of the temple complex.

The chamber itself is a perfect cube, the walls rising fifty feet straight up. They, and the floor , are all marked with the same intricately carved patterns-- all thick lines and circuit board lines. All of the lines pulse with the same pale blue light.

In front of Jakita, in the centre of the panel and towering towards the top of the chamber stands a statue of Darkseid.

SCANNER: All have fallen, only one remains...all have fallen, only one remains...all have fallen, only one remains...

Planetary - Cold Comfort - Grant McLaughlin

Panels one through three make up the top row.  Panels five through seven make up the bottom row.  Panel four is the focus of the page.

Drums sits at a computer, calmly doing his drummy thing with the search for information and the like.


Similar panel.  Drums takes a drink of his bottle of soda (I seriously can't remember if this was a one time thing or not.  If no, he's drinking that; if yes, he's drinking some nondescript energy drink).  A look of revulsion is on his face.

(1) DRUMS: -blergh-

Similar panel.  Drums holds the bottle out, looking towards the people on the other side of the desk (who remain off-panel).

(2) DRUMS: Hey, could I get a little heat subtraction over here?

(3) DRUMS: Lukewarm cola kills my mojo.

Switch angle to reveal that Jakita and Elijah are on the other side of the desk, fighting off some seriously intense killer robot dog contraptions.  Jakita is trying to prevent one robot's jaws from closing down on her.  Elijah is freezing a few others.  The battle is pretty intense and there are plenty more robots chomping at the bit to get at them.  Despite their predicament, Jakita has the presence of mind to look towards Drums.  She's P.O.ed.

(4) JAKITA: Drums, if you don't shut these down right now, I'm going to kill you.

Back to Drums.  He holds his hands up defensively, a surprised look on his face.

(5) DRUMS: Fine!  Jeez!

Drums works away again, similar to panel one.


Repeat panel six.

(6) DRUMS (quietly): The things I suffer for you guys.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Planetary - Intergalactic - Ben Rosenthal

1. A close up of a pair of drumsticks tapping away on a bar. A few empty shot glasses are next to it. Off panel the bar tv is in a loop, simply saying the words 'intergalactic'.

New York City.  1997. A bar.

CAPTION (The Drummer)
Forced night off. I hate forced nights off.
Nothing to do but get drunk and mess with the locals.

SFX (drumsticks): taptaptaptap taptaptaptap

TV (off panel)

2. The Drummer is tapping away. The batman in the background soup on a stool hitting the tv as he cannot work out why it continues to repeat the same word.  The tv is showing a news reader doing a story on space travel.

Stupid piece of crap.


CAPTION (The Drummer)
A bit of manipulating of the tv signal and I drive the bar owner nuts.
It's the small things that entertain.

3. We see three guys from behind as the approach and talk to The Drummer. He looks at the as the Tv in the bar behind him continues saying a single word on loop.

Hey man, we've been watching you tap away for the last half hour without dropping a beat.

We could use a guy like you. Want a job in the music biz?

CAPTION (The Drummer)
Ugh. Musicians.

Thanks. Already have a job. I work for--


4. Reveal of the four guys - it's Michael "Mike D" Diamond, Adam "MCA" Yauch and Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz -  the Beastie Boys. All have an expression on their face as an idea has popped into their heads.


THE DRUMMER (off panel)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Planetary - The Meta Man - J.D. Coughlan

SET-UP: Tying up one of the series' biggest loose ends, the Planetary field team finally tracks down the fictional man who escaped into reality from issue nine. He has since killed several people.

Panel 1: Wide shot. The fictional man's (whom I'll call "Meta") hideout; a disused subway tunnel. Jakita has him pinned against the wall. Elijah stands behind her confidently. Drums clutches his head in confusion behind him. Meta is a small, unassuming bald man dressed scruffily.

META: It doesn't matter! I know the truth!

ELIJAH: The truth is, you killed 27 people. I don't care what you are, that makes you a cunt in my book.

DRUMS: Hey, I'm getting some weird vibes off this guy...

Panel 2: Close on Meta. He is staring upwards, smiling, as if seeing the light of Heaven. Jakita glares at him, if possible to include her.

META: They weren't real. You're not real. I'm not real.

META: As I was going up the stair, I meta man who was not there...

META: Hehehehehehe!

JAKITA: Goddamn it, Elijah, I know the philoscientists wanna check this guy out, but if I have to listen to any more of this New Age hippie crapola--

Panel 4: Wide shot, same as Panel 1, but now Jakita and Meta's positions are reversed. He is holding her pinned to the wall. Jakita is shocked. Even Elijah breaks his facade; his body language alarmed. Drums clutches his head, bent over in pain.

META: Once you know the truth, the fiction is easy to rewrite.



Panel 5: Meta throws Jakita into Elijah and the Drummer, knocking them both over. Again, he should be a small, skinny guy, so this should look impressive.

META: I thought I had escaped before, but this is just another level of fiction.


Panel 6: Close on Meta. He is looking right at us, grinning, his eyes terrifying.

META: But I will break free. One page of script can't hold me.


Why Planetary?

Welcome to Planetary.

No, I'm afraid you don't get a say in the matter. We only recruit the best and brightest, whether they like it or not. So you should feel flattered. Or else.

What is Planetary, you ask? Planetary is one of those super-secret organisations you're always hearing lunatics and conspiracy theorists (same thing, really) rave on about. Except, we're not trying to hide anything. We're trying to bring the world's secrets to light. We find that which has been covered up and uncover it, for the benefit of all humanity.

We are mystery archaeologists.

You'd be surprised at the things those in power want to keep from the masses: Ghosts, superhumans, magic, giant radioactive Japanese monsters -- it's all real, and more besides. The people in the shadows think we all need to be spoon-fed reality. Planetary treats you like an adult.

But it's a dangerous job. Those shadowy people, supposedly looking out for us all, will do anything to keep their secrets, because their secrets are the source of their power. Because of this, we have a rather exceptional field team to take care of such bastards:

Elijah Snow -- One of those curious "Century Babies" granted the power to freeze things and tasked to watch over the 20th century (and, apparently, the 21st). He's over 100 years old, and while you wouldn't know it from looking at him, as soon as he opens his mouth you can tell. Grumpy, cold-hearted git.

Jakita Wagner -- She's a "punch-your-brains-into-mush-first-ask-questions-later" kinda lady. Although absolutely charming if you don't piss her off. Unless she just gets bored. She's one of our best uncovered superhuman secrets; her own origins exotic and mysterious. But that's a story for another time. Or never.

The Drummer -- Perhaps the next evolution of humanity, perhaps just a dipshit who watches too much TV, Drums has the ability to "see" information. Mostly from electronic media, but he can occasionally decode the vast swirling matrix of information we call the universe, too. He's the first human being properly adapted to the digital age. And he's an annoying, lazy-arse whacko.

The Fourth Man -- [REDACTED]

If you're very, very, very lucky, you will pass your whole career here at Planetary without ever meeting the field team.

Your salary is $1 million a year for the rest of your life. Even if you quit tomorrow. Which you won't.

Because, aside from the sweet pay, there's something Planetary provides that you just cannot turn down, something nobody can resist, the very reason we were founded in the first place: The Truth.

Good luck, and remember the Planetary motto...

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Thought Balloons on Tumblr

Hey all,

Ben here.  To coincide with our third year we have decided to put Thought Balloons on tumblr.

This is still the primary site, with the tumblr simply reposting our scripts but you should look us up there regardless, right?

That wasn't really a question.

Head on over to:


Three Years - Influences - R.A. Wonsowski

Panel 1 - WARREN ELLIS, STEVE DITKO, and JIM STARLIN are walking out of an art-house movie theatre.  The posters and the marquee advertise Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai (Now Playing) and Blade Runner (coming soon).  It's starting to rain, so while STARLIN flips up the collar on his jacket, DITKO puts on a snap brim fedora and ELLIS lights a cigarette.

DITKO (looking up the street):  Say, there's a Dunkin' Donuts up the block.  Anyone up for a cup of coffee?

STARLIN:  Perfect.

ELLIS:  I could do with a spot of tea m'self...

Panel 2 - Suddenly, as the trio walks up the street, the sidewalk rocks and buckles before them, rubble and a flash of lightning causing them to shield their eyes and faces.  ELLIS, cigarette in his teeth, tries to protect DITKO by jumping in front of him.

SoundFX:  DOOOM!

ELLIS:  Oh, very Simonson...

Panel 3 - In the sidewalk crater, the AMERICAN ZOMBIE (me) and SAMMY HAGAR THOR are holding each other up, both of us barely standing, scratched and smoke smoldering from our skin.  The trio look on in surprise.   SAMMY HAGAR THOR is holding Mjolnir by the strap, and is a bit delirious.

A.Z.:  Guys!  You have to help!  We barely escaped R'yleh - -

HAGAR THOR:  ...'s like a Roger Dean album cover on Heisenberg meth, man...

A.Z.:  Cthulhu is heading right for us!!

Panel 4 - ELLIS, DITKO, and STARLIN quick glance at one another, sharing a secret smirk.


Panel 5 - The AMERICAN ZOMBIE and SAMMY HAGAR THOR look on as ELLIS, DITKO, and STARLIN power-up anime style:  ELLIS, has drawn a pair of blue steel .50-caliber Desert Eagle pistols (and has somehow got three lit cigarettes between his teeth); DITKO levitates cross-legged in the air, his hands gesturing and crackling with magic, a third eye dead enter in his forehead; STARLIN stares down the barrel of a ridiculously large laser rifle, Kirby krackle seeping from his eyes.  In the crowd, we can pick out BILL HICKS, GREGORY PECK, STEVE McQUEEN, and DOROTHY DANRIDGE.

SoundFX:  co-MIX!!!

STARLIN:  Once again, my allies, Creation itself is on the brink!

DITKO:  Who is John Galt?

ELLIS:  ...wankers...


Three Years - Questionnaire - R.A. Wonsowski (the American Zombie)

Who is your favourite comic book character?

Most of my favourites are in the Marvel universe:  Iron Fist, Electro, Thor, Nextwave, pretty much all of Marvel's Cosmic Heroes.  Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol, Spider Jerusalem from Transmetropolitan, Lone Wolf & Cub, and Top Cow's Darkness are pretty great too.  But my all-time fave is probably Etrigan, the Demon.

He's the type of character that allows writers to really take risks, and bring out their A-games.  Look at his pedigree:  Jack Kirby, Matt Wagner, Alan Grant, Garth Ennis, John Byrne, Paul Cornell.  He's also the character that I would love to take the chains off and Vertigo-ize.

What is your favourite comic?  

Transmetropolitan.  Full stop.

Who is your favourite comic writer?  

Warren Ellis.  When I think of my favourite stories, Transmet, Secret Avengers "Run the Mission...", Planetary, the Ultimate Nightmare trilogy, Whilce Portacio's X-Force run, FreakAngels...I could go on and on, but pound for bloody pound, there is no better, more prolific, or more solidly entertaining writer than he.  He's the kind of writer that makes me realize I'm not completely insane.

Brian Wood is another inspiration to me, especially
DMZ and Channel Zero.

Who has been the most fun to write so far?
   Electro.  ThoughtBallooners know I've got a ton of ideas regarding my own take on Max Dillon, called Redemption Road, and he never fails to inspire me with some completely mental idea.

Which character do you most dread having to write?  

Batman or Superman.  I know they are every writer´s dream, but nearly 80 years of continuity and stories, some of them definitive, coming up with something original, that doesn't feel like a retread...brrrr...

Which non-comics character would you most like to write?  

Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, or Andrew Vachss's Burke.  I'll let you read them yourself and figure out why.
He writes as hard-boiled as he looks. 

Which script do you think has been your best so far?  

Etrigan the Demon.  Probably because I've thought about Vertigo-izing that character for so long, the mood and the rhymes and the feel, it all just came out right.

Which script do you think has been the best on the site?

Ok, let's see...

"Big" Ben Rosenthal's Captain Marvel just nailed both the history and legacy of the character in one succinct page...

Dan "Run for the" Hill's Unknown Soldier.  I said it in my comments on that page, that his take on the Soldier deserves to be illustrated and published.  The moment I read it, I jumped up and down, not just at the sheer bravura of the concept, but at the potential to further stories while still respectful of the previous bearers of the title.  Bonus points,as this was the best thing I read all year - absolutely inspiring (so much so, I was compelled to continue the tale).

Grant McLaughlin (with you, not at you) completely had me with the brilliant twist at the end of his POTUS script...

JD Coughlan (with you, not on you) ate my brain with his short-but-sweet, pulp-meets-time-travel Escapist page...

MK "Stranger in a" Stangeland's Nightcrawler was authentic, heartfelt, and spiritual at a time when I really needed it (thnx, sir)...

Niel "eye-ee, not ee-eye" Jacoby's Spider Jerusalem was timely, entertaining, and made me laugh evilly, making my wife look at me sideways.  It broke my brain....

Ryan "the K stands for quality" Lindsay...Squared Circle. (did you really think it would be anything else?)

Shaun "Ruffles have" Richens wrote the most sublime Peanuts strip, it would have been right at home printed in a newspaper. (Good Grief!)

Thanks again to all of these guys, not just for letting me play in their sandbox this past year, but for helping me become a better writer.  Here's to the NEXT year!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Three Years - Influences - Niel Jacoby

Inset Panel 1: A younger Niel Jacoby pulls a copy of the Fourth World Omnibus from his library's shelf. He is curious.


Full Splash: A collage of the sheer visual splendor of the Fourth World comics. Mister Miracle #1's cover, the double splash introducing Glorious Godfrey, The Glory Boat, etc.

Inset Panel 2: The younger Niel Jacoby has been blown back through 3 of his library's bookcases and lies frazzled in a pile of books. Think the opening scene of Back to the Future. The first volume of the Fourth World Omnibus has fallen to the floor in front of the bookcase, Kirby Dots emanating from it.

Niel(dazed): WILD!


Three Years - Questionaire - Niel Jacoby

Who is your favourite comic book character?
  • Daredevil
What is your favourite comic?
  • Either Garth Ennis' Hitman or Jack Kirby's OMAC
Who is your favourite comic writer?
  • Grant Morrison
Who has been the most fun to write so far?
  • Deadpool, I really like tempering goofy comedy with a crueler context.
Which character do you most dread having to write?
  • I don't think I'd write a very good Cyclops.
Which non-comics character would you most like to write?
  • Robocop.
Which script do you think has been your best so far?
  • My Pokemon script is definitely among my favorites.
Which script do you think has been the best on the site?

Three Years - Influences - J.D. Coughlan

Panel 1: Establishing shot of an early 19th century London street. A row of terraced flats. It is rainy and gloomy.

CAPTION: The Strand, London

CAPTION: November 24th, 1823

BYRON: (from inside a flat) Mary! Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley!

Panel 2: Inside Mary Shelley's flat. It is meagre and rundown. Lord Byron (reference), looking flamboyantly Romantic, pushes open the door and regards the room with distaste. It is dark; the shutters closed on the windows.

BYRON: You cannot hide away forever, woman.

MARY (O.P.): But that is what they want...


Panel 3: We now see Mary sitting at a desk, facing away from Byron/us. She holds up a newspaper, the British Critic, for Byron to see.

MARY: "If the authoress can forgive the gentleness of her sex, it is no reason why we should; and we shall therefore dismiss the novel without further comment."

BYRON (O.P.): Oh, Mary, pay no attention to--

MARY: Gentleness?

Panel 4: Close on Mary as she turns to Byron. She is furious. (Reference.)

MARY: They all loved my story when first it was released anonymously but now that I reveal my "gentleness" they recoil from it and from their previous statements!

Panel 5: Mary stands, she is restraining her anger, Byron is almost afraid of her.

MARY: I have been outcast my whole life for my beliefs about social equality because there are those who prefer to live above others! I have lived in squalor as a pauper with no home to call my own! I lost my mother as a child, and have known the deaths of three of my own children! And now... my beloved Percy too...

Panel 6: Close on Mary again. She is welling up.

MARY: Where is the gentleness in my life?


As an 18-year-old girl in 1816, Mary Shelley wrote the short story that would one day become Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus, one of the greatest works of fiction of all time. One hundred and eighty-eight years later, I read Frankenstein for the first time. It quickly became, and still is, one of my favourite stories ever. After reading a brief biography of Shelley that came with my copy of the book, I was inspired to unleash the ideas I had in my head and become a writer too. I figured, if she could produce an immortal classic with everything against her back then, what was my excuse?

Three Years - Questionnaire - J.D. Coughlan

Who is your favourite comic book character?

That would have to be Jonah Woodson Hex. That's why I made him my first ever Thought Balloons pick. It could be no one else. He is the most morally complex character I have experienced in any medium -- a true western anti-hero -- and if he does end up doing the right thing, he seems to hate himself moreso for it. He's also a surly cuss who hates people, so I can relate.

What is your favourite comic?

Presumably, this refers to a self-contained story and not an on-going series. And excludes the obvious choice of Watchmen. In that case, I'd say Marvels. Which is odd, since I'm mainly a DC guy. Many recommend Watchmen for first-time comics readers, and I'd say that they should read Marvels straight after. While the former breaks down superheroes, the latter builds them back up again and makes you realise why they are so inspirational.

Who is your favourite comics writer?

This is a tough one, but I'm gonna make the patriotic choice and go with a fellow Scot, Grant Morrison. His mad genius makes him the da Vinci or Mozart of comics. While many may be put off by the swirling maelstrom-like nature of his narratives, there is no denying that they always, brilliantly, have something solidly relatable at the centre.

Who has been the most fun to write so far?

Honestly, Deadpool. The only thing I know about the character is that he's supposed to be funny, and, according to those who know me, I'm supposed to be funny too. So I gave it my all and managed to crack myself up in the process.

Which character did you most dread having to write?

Usually, any of the ones I pick. Heh. Seriously though, I've always said that I'd never want to write the characters I love most, because I love them so much. My Batman script was perhaps most difficult for this reason; cramming everything I hold dear about that icon into just one page.

Which non-comics character would you most like to write?

The Doctor from Doctor Who. I love that show, and he's another iconic character to me. The show itself is an infinite playground of possibilities.

Which script do you think has been your best so far?

I don't know if it's my best, but I'm particularly fond of my Ozymandias script, simply because I included a few nods to the techniques used in Watchmen: symmetry, zoom-ins, broken glass symbolism, relevant voiceovers, quote in the title, etc.

Which script do you think has been the best on the site?

After three years, there's been far too many to read, let alone remember, but one from recent memory that stands out to me (and I still find myself thinking of it often) was Dan Hill's Krypto script. I picked Krypto that week, but, as I alluded to earlier, was not satisfied with my own script. Dan said everything I wanted to say about Krypto, but much, much better.

But they are, all my colleagues, magnificent in their own ways, and I look forward to contributing many more scripts alongside them until someone else realises their brilliance.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Three Years – Influences – Down The Rabbit Hole – Shaun Richens.


1. Ext. My small country primary school on a hot summers day.

CAPTION ME: I could tell you so many stories of how my passion for writing was sparked.

CAPTION ME: But like all good tales it’s worth starting at the beginning.

2. Int. Classroom a substitute teacher, who looks a heck of a lot like Captain Haddock from Tintin stands before his class in front of the white board. He is broadly smiling and clearly so very happy to be teaching.

CAPTION ME: He told us a tale that ended…

TEACHER: … You stumble and fall down the hole in your back garden.
TEACHER: Now what happens next? I want you tell me.

CAPTION ME: Anything could happen next…

3. A young me walks down a dark tunnel.

CAPTION ME: I remember the thrill of my pen on paper. My words could make anything appear at the end of this tunnel.

4. A young me sits a top a dragon, a long cloak around my shoulders blowing in the wind a crown on my head, a wooden short sword in my hand.

CAPTION ME: I made a lot of things appear.

5. The large old hand of my substitute teacher holds a copy of the Hobbit and hands it to me.

CAPTION ME: My teacher read my story. He told me I’d like a book of his.

CAPTION ME: So he lent it to me.

6. Close up on a computer screen.

The screen reads: And here I am still falling down that hole.

Three Years – Questionnaire – Shaun Richens.

Who is your favourite comic book character?

Truth be told, I am more of a creator guy these days. I tend to follow them from book to book rather than reading a particular characters.

Although as a kid I loved Gambit in the X-Men animated series a ton!

What is your favourite comic?

Fell and The Umbrella Academy are the two series that instantly come to mind. They are the single issues I will pull out every few weeks and re read and just get pumped to make comics.

Who is your favourite comic writer?

Robert Kirkman, it’s as simply as that. If it wasn’t for Invincible and The Walking Dead starting at Image I wouldn’t have gotten back into comics and wouldn’t be writing them today.

Who has been the most fun to write so far?

Jonah Hex for me was a hoot to write. I’m a sucker for all those old western tropes and loved getting a chance to play with some of them.

Which character do you most dread having to write?

Honestly, any that I like to much. It’s the characters I know inside and out that always prove the hardest to work with I’ve found. When you know all of a characters stories, finding your own tale can be daunting.

Which non-comics character would you most like to write?

I’d personally love to write a Fast and The Furious comic. I have a strange love for the franchise and think the over the top action and crazy car plots could make for one hell of a comic series.

Also as a kid I was a huge fan of the 3 Ninjas series of films and my inner child would jump at the chance to write an old ages comic set in that universe.

Which script do you think has been your best so far?

Two scripts stand out in my mind, Rainbow Dash and Peanuts. They both came one after another and at the time seemed like subjects I thought so far from my wheel house that I could never come up with a story for them worth telling. Perhaps because of this, the fact I found my in, so to speak and managed to write something I could be proud of makes them stand out.

Which script do you think has been the best on the site?

I have pulled out the script that stands out for me as the best for all my fellow current tenured writers.

Ben’s  Starship Troopers still stands out as one of his best for me. Its tightly written and perfectly paced. It captures the source material just right as well.

Dan has written so many scripts that I wish I had written but I’ve picked the script that I never could have written, Dan’s Krypto script. Mr Hill came at the week from an angle I never would have and ended up with a truly powerful and emotional script, that even now, just rereading had me touched.

Grant wrote a clinic during the Planet of the Apes week. In one page he introduced us to, and fleshed out two strong and fully formed characters, whilst having them explore the themes at the very heart of the material, a wonderful piece of writing.

J.D used some elegant time changing and minimal, yet powerful captions to craft one hell of a page during our Alfred week. J.D really showed how much you could do from a craft point of view with a single page. It’s the kind of writing that I want to deconstruct so I could learn from it.

MK showed a skill during the Top Cow Talent Hunt Week that I am still very jealous of. The dude can write one hell of an action scene. He creates drama and movement in each panel that makes the combat and action feel fast and brutal in a way I can still only dream of achieving.

Looking back at Niel’s work I thought I’d found my pick for him a dozen times, the guys written so many wildly different and brilliant pages. But then I hit this script with a beat boxing rap battlin’ Etrigan and it couldn’t not be my pick. I remember reading this for the first time and with each new panel loving it more and more. That’s good comics!

Ray’s ongoing tale of redemption hit a crazy new high with his Electro page. This tale of one man trying to become more than he was for his family, set to the back drop of some of the craziest characters in the Marvel universe truly makes for a sage that is as big and bold as any of the great comic book adventures.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Year Three: Influences - George Lucas – MK Stangeland Jr.

(5 Panels)

Panel 1: The setting should be analogous to a booming old wild west style town. The location is near the front of the town, where a sign hangs that reads “LucasFilm”. GEORGE LUCAS is sitting on top of a tauntuan, wearing a wild west-style business suit. A wagon pulled by two other tauntauns is nearby, which has a couple of STORMTROOPERS sitting at the reigns.

Standing around GEORGE LUCAS are a handful of characters from his movies as well as a handful of unaffiliated fans.

CAPTION: With the town no longer in his hands, the man who had founded it prepared to leave and head on out into the sunset.

Panel 2: Exterior view of a building that looks kind of like a saloon. Sounds and sights suggesting a celebration going on inside surround it. A sign over the building’s door reads “FAN HEADQUARTERS”

CAPTION: Some took the news as reason to celebrate.

Panel 3: ‘Twin Panel’, showing two things happening at once.

One part of it shows a crew of MICKEY MOUSE robots/droids/clones (workers) assembling a train station, complete with a set of signs that have names of other DISNEY properties on them, such as DISNEY HEADQUARTERS, MARVEL, and PIXAR (as examples).

The other half shows a crew of other MICKEY MOUSE workers demolishing a building with a sign that reads LUCASARTS.

CAPTION: Even as the new owners began to put their own imprint on the town.

Panel 4: GEORGE LUCAS looks at those who have gathered around him as he prepares to move out.

CAPTION (1): As he prepared to leave, those who still believed in the town’s founder asked why he had chosen to leave, and how he could trust what he had built and maintained on his own for so long to a new entity and an unknown future.

CAPTION (2): In response, he said that he believed it was finally time for him to move on to a new adventure. And that while he was no longer in command, there was still hope that the new leaders would be willing to call on his knowledge if it was ever needed.

Panel 5: GEORGE LUCAS and the wagon ride off into the sunset, leaving the town and the crowd behind.

CAPTION (1): As he finally left them behind, if there was one thing they could all agree on, it was this:

CAPTION (2): That in whatever calls he may have made while he was in charge, however questionable they may have been, from the time he built the town until the time he sold it, there was one theme they all had in common…

CAPTION (3): …That they were all done on his own terms.


Getting to Know MK Stangeland Jr. (MK II)

Who are some of your other favorite comic book characters?

As my ‘Why?’ post for him should have made clear, I’m probably a bit of a Dr. Dinosaur fanboy. I even said as much at the time. And it still stands. Nothing against Atomic Robo, but I find his prehistoric nemesis to be a far more entertaining character in and of himself. In an alternate universe where it’s Dr. Dinosaur who’s the main character of his own comic where his plans of mad science are regularly stopped by a rotating cast of heroes (Robo among them), that’s probably my favorite comic book.

I also feel compelled to mention Stephanie Brown – AKA Spoiler, AKA Robin, AKA Batgirl. Maybe I’m just caught up on the Steph bandwagon since I wasn’t even aware of the character for most of her history, but what I read of the character in Bryan Q. Miller’s Batgirl series quickly made me a big fan of her and her undying, perky upbeat optimism.

Other characters I have a particular fondness for include Taskmaster, Beta Ray Bill, Komodo, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Who is your favorite comic artist?

If there’s one artist that makes me particularly happy to see comic art from, it’s actually two – the Japanese duo most frequently known as Gurihiru. Their art might not be as realistic or complex as other artists, but what it most definitely can be described as is something that I think is an essential quality for comics that far too many seem to forget about these days – fun.

In what is no doubt not a coincidence, whenever I see their name attached to a project, I generally feel safe in assuming that whatever the book is I can expect to enjoy myself reading it, and I’d feel little concern about having to defend or wave of concerns of questionable elements while handing it to a new, potential comic reader and telling them “this is why I love comics.”

Since your last questionnaire, who has been the most fun to write & which of the scripts you’ve written is your favorite?

How can I possibly pick? There have been so many fun characters to write and so many scripts that I love – Peanuts, Dr. Dinosaur, Deadpool, and more.

But if I were to pick one that stands out, I’d choose the unlikely pairing of heroic man and villainous ape known as Baker & Grodd. They’re a duo that I first put together during Animal Man week, then unexpectedly made a return for Planet of the Apes, and in both instances proved to not only be a fun pairing, but very well received by the readers as well.

Odds are that they’ll make a return sooner or later. Potentially when you least expect it.

At the very least we’ve still got a Gorilla Grodd week that’s yet to be utilized, and it would darn near criminal not to put these two back together when that time comes around…

Which non-comics character would you most like to write? 

This could probably vary from week to week based on my mood (last time I named the Animaniacs and Freakazoid!), but these days I think I’m currently feeling partial to Nintendo’s Mario or Samus Aran. The real Samus Aran, mind you, not the imitation wannabe from Other M.

Not that I’m expecting to ever get the opportunity, Nintendo being who they are, but I think it would be especially fun to try the challenge of writing an all-ages style Mario comic that maintained his trait of hardly ever saying anything the audience can actually understand.

Which character, if any, do you most wish you could re-write your script for?

If I make it easier by counting only the scripts written since officially becoming part of Thought Balloons!, I’d love to take a re-do on my What If…?” script. While I love to be able to write my scripts as thought they were part of a larger story that could theoretically be taken out of or put into a full 20/22/whatever page comic, I think that this opportunity was one instance where trying to write that way backfired on me.

It’s particularly disappointing on a personal level for two major reasons – one, because it was during a week that I myself choose; two, because it was based on a continuation of both one of my favorite one-shot comics and actual “What if…?” issues, the Newer Fantastic Four. So aside from it being a sub-par script, it also feels like a bigger let down because of what it came from.

Which script(s) have been your favorite on the site?

Aside from the scripts I pointed out since the last questionnaire I wrote from this site, the new additions I’d add to my favorites written on this site include:
* J.D. Coughlan’s “Pugilarchy” from Wrestlemania, due to a small part of me wishing it was a more accurate representation of real politics than it is;
* Shaun Richen’s “Contacts” from Peanuts, due to how much it read like a genuine Peanuts script;
* Ben Rosenthal and Rol Hirst’s script from the Christmas 2011 North Pole Week “Luke Cage’s Sweet Christmas” (Part I & Part II), a two-part script written in the vein of Twas the Night Before Christmas which provided me a second prompt for the week when I felt compelled to write a Part 3 conclusion;


* Matt Duarte’s “Elseworlds” from the special DCnU Pitch week, because I’m jealous for not having thought of it myself.

Any lessons you’ve learned while writing at Thought Balloons?

One thing I’ve learned is that giving feedback and criticism is sometimes harder than you might think. Especially if you’re trying to give meaningful feedback.

It’s one thing to read a script and just say “Nice job”. Most the scripts that show up on this site are decent at the very least, and a majority of those are even better. Saying nothing more than “Nice job” is something that can just as easily be accomplished with the use of the stars. But to actually think of something meaningful to say that’s not being pulled out of nowhere, that takes more effort.

It’s especially true when – as seems to be the case for a lot of scripts I read – what I’m aiming for in my scripts and the style/tone I write with is different from what other people are aiming for. And you can give absolutely the nicest piece of feedback/criticism in the world, but if it completely divorced from what the author has tried to write, it isn’t worth the words it’s made up of. It’s one thing to point out where someone can make an improvement, it’s another to suggest they go a direction with their writing that doesn’t suit them.

It’s all a tad regrettable, since the amount of feedback I give on other people’s scripts these days (or lack thereof) makes me feel like I’m slacking in my involvement in the site a lot of the time.

What do you think has been your biggest improvement while writing at Thought Balloons?

While I think everything has improved at least a little, I think the part that’s gotten the biggest improvement has been the pitch and submission process. I’d already had experience writing scripts - comic and otherwise – prior to learning about Thought Balloons!, even having developed my own scripting style, trying to sell people on what I’d written was a skill I was effectively clueless on.

Since then, I’ve managed to see some great examples, get some great feedback from other Thought Ballooners, and all in all I think I’m leaps and bounds above where I used to be in this area. While I’m certain my pitch skills could still use some improvement, at least I’m not nearly as clueless about it as I used to be.