Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dex Parios - Interlude - Grant McLaughlin

This page would occur in the midst of a particularly heavy workload for Dex.  She's been burning the candle at so many ends it feels like she's added on a few extra so she can go through it faster.  This also means she hasn't seen much of her brother Ansel (who, for those who may not know, has Down's Syndrome).  Missing her and concerned for her, he's made her promise to spend some time with him, insisting they go to the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland's Old Town Chinatown (an exceedingly beautiful place).

Page layout would have four rows.  Panel 1 would be alone on the top row, panels 2 and 3 would be the second row, panels 4 through 6 would be the third row, and panel 7 would be the last row.

I've included a number of image references that capture the setting better than my words could.  Feel free to look at or ignore them at your leisure.

1 - Establishing shot.  An exterior shot of Lan Su Garden.  We see the garden's outer walls and some hints of the pavilions and buildings within, but the area is surrounded by the city itself as well - cars drive by in front, building reach skyward beside and behind the garden.  It's a mixture of the chaos without and the calm within.  Maybe have two figures walking towards the garden's entrance, one leading the other by the hand  (there's no good image reference for this - but some kind of 3/4 shot could be aces).

DEX (tailless): Is this really necessary?

2 - Move closer to see Ansel leading Dex by the hand towards the garden's entrance.  Dex wears a blindfold and is toying at it with her free hand.  Ansel looks back, a plaintive expression on his face (image reference).

ANSEL: B-but you you promised!

DEX: Sorry.

3 - Ansel leads Dex through the front door of the garden, their backs to the reader (image reference).

DEX: You're right.  Lead on, little brother.

4 - Looking directly at Dex.  She still has the blindfold on, although Ansel is in the process of taking it off.  A little pavilion is behind them, but its details are not important.

ANSEL: I k-know you're busy.

5 - Repeat shot, but the blindfold is off.  Dex looks out with a tired, exhausted look on her face.  Ansel can be beside her, either looking expectantly towards the sight before them or at Dex herself.

ANSEL: But I thought you might like this.

6 - Repeat shot, but Dex now wears a wide smile on her face, the exhaustion melted away.

DEX: Oh, Ansel...

7 - Switch angel to behind Dex and Ansel.  They're sitting side by side on a seat looking out across the pond, plants and pavilions of the garden.  Dex has her arm around Ansel and puts her head down on his lovingly (perhaps something like this or this).

DEX: I love it.

Why Dex Parios?



In a sense, it's all about Portland.

About a year and a half ago, I went down to Emerald City Comic Con on a near whim.  I was going to be flying to the West Coast for the first time in my life and figured if I was already out there, I may as well extend the trip somewhat to go check out a nearby city I'd been hearing a lot of good things about: Portland.

I fell in love.

Portland was something of a revelation.  It's a beautiful city that has an amazing vibe to it. I might be romanticizing just a little bit, but one thing that I found particularly irresistible and amazing is the city's seemingly intrinsic appreciation for the arts.  It's hard to explain, but everywhere you go you can't help but notice it - it's almost like there's something in the air.

I know I might be overstating things a bit, but there are few places where I've found myself happier than Portland, Oregon.

So what does this surprisingly long tangent have to do with Stumptown?  In one sense, not a heck of a lot.  But in another, quite a bit.

A heck of a city
Stumptown, originally published in 2009, was one of the first comic book series that I actively sought out based solely on the creator behind the book instead of because of the characters on the cover.  Simply put, Greg Rucka's name is what got my foot in the door.  And am I ever glad it did.

I met Dexedrine Callisto Parios, a hard-headed private investigator who is loyal to a fault and gets the job done - no matter the consequences.  These are only some of her many qualities, but one thing she definitely isn't is boring.  Stumptown may not necessarily be quite as flashy as some of the other stories or properties that Rucka has lent his prodigious talents to, but it is easily one of my favourites.  I devoured that initial miniseries and was thrilled when a second (equally enjoyable) volume hit shelves in 2012.

In the back matter to one of the issues, Greg Rucka writes about the importance of place to literary PIs.  As he puts it, where the character is based is just as important as who that character is.  And Dex Parios has Portland.  I understood this on an intellectual level when I initially read it, but actually visiting Portland let me understand it on an emotional level, too.

Union Station!
Coming back to the series after my trip to Portland, I found myself experiencing it in a completely different way.  I'd always enjoyed Stumptown, but re-reading was like looking on it with new eyes.  It suddenly mattered a lot to me that Dex's office was at Union Station, that she goes to Timbers games, and that she was shot beneath St. Johns Bridge - to name but a few examples.  All these things that were minor details were now integral elements to the characters and to their world.

I love Portland.  I know I'm still something of a tourist in that town, but every time I go I feel a little bit more at home.  Unfortunately, as someone who lives much closer to the East Coast of North America than the West Coast, actually visiting Portland occurs much less frequently than I would like.  Happily, spending time with Dex and her strangely familiar adventures enable me to spend a bit more time

So I hope you'll join me this week to explore the city and the comic book series that I love so much.

Also: comics!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

(Evil) Ryu - Cowardice - Arby Moay

Panel 1
External. We are in a Japanese-style garden. It is daylight, but it is dark because of a heavy rain. We look at Evil Ryu walking towards us. He is talking, angry. His eyes and aura glow red. His purple gi is torn and we can see some scorch marks on it.

Evil Ryu: You have the gall to call me a coward?


Panel 2
Zoom closer to Evil Ryu so we see only half of his body. He is still angrily talking to us (readers). The red glow in his eyes is now a darker red but more radiant, same as his fiery aura which now seems to also be burning the tiny little raindrops.

Evil Ryu: Look into my eyes and proclaim me a villain?
Evil Ryu: See where it got you!


Panel 3
Reveal Ken Masters as the person Evil Ryu was addressing. Ken is lying dead on the ground and very bloody. His gi is gone, save for the pants. He has scorch marks all over him, even burning out some of his hair. If possible, there should also be nearby lightning in the background.

Evil Ryu: Is not death the most cowardly state?

SFX: KRAKABOOM!

Ryu - Blazing Surge Fist- Travis M. Holyfield


Panel 1: Ryu stands in classic "Hadouken" pose, leaning forward, both fists thrust towards the audience.

CAPTION: Force: 3200 psi.

Panel 2: Close up on a shimmering blue energy sphere of pure Ki  as it erupts from Ryu's hands.

CAPTION: Velocity: 200 mph.

Panel 3: Ryu is a blur in the background as the blue energy sphere bursts into flames, creating wavering heat haze around it.

CAPTION: Combustion point: 1200 degrees Celsius.

Panel 4: Bison, hit squarely by the fireball, writhes in pain, surrounded by a field of flame.

CAPTION Hadouken.


(Dark) Ryu - The Madding Crowd, Part 3 (an interlude) - R.A. Wonsowski

Previously: JACK RYDER has been separated from his alter ego, the CREEPER, by a crazed SHADE the Changing Man. However, the minds are in the wrong bodies. After a frantic rooftop chase, JACK (in the Creeper's body) is stopped by vampire ANDREW BENNETT, who tells him that two doctors from Jack's past may be behind it all...

PAGE 5:

Panel 1- A dark room, illuminated only by the large plasma TV on the wall in the background. Projected on the screen is what looks like a fluorescent green alchemical circle on a dark screen. Upon the screen is bright blue writing that appears to be part Aramaic, part angelic glyph. To the left and right are pairs of computer monitors, one atop another, that seem to be running programming code. The screens illuminate two profiles from behind, silhouetting them. The one on the left, DR. SKOLOS, has thinning hair swept back and an exaggerated van dyke, the other, DR. YATZ, is bald. Both have visible rictuses in the backlight.

CAPTION: MetaPharma. Sub-level 6.
SKOLOS: Our agent's work proceeds apace.
YATZ: Nonsense! Shade is completely out of control! He is mad with grief over the George woman...

Panel 2- DR. SKOLOS points a thumb over his shoulder to a video feed behind him. He should be lit on his left by the plasma, now off screen. Again the rictus expression, but there is a sickly hint to him, like a freshly dug corpse. The monitor behind him shows JACK RYDER (who is bouncing around like the Creeper) followed by SHADE the Changing Man.

SKOLOS: Which makes him malleable. See? He is returning to us with his charge...
Off-Panel: Meaning what?

Panel 3- SKOLOS gestures angrily at another video monitor, his teeth gleaming in the dark. He is pointing at a security feed showing RYU, barefoot in his tattered and soiled karate outfit, catatonic and sitting crosslegged on the floor, a thin line of drool from the corner of his mouth.

Off-Panel: Dr. Wizor has grave doubt's regarding your course of action.
SKOLOS: Do you? You see our success with you, separating your animus from your anima. Your useless desires now empty...

Panel 4- Reveal of DARK RYU, in tailored slacks with a buckled leather belt and barechested, revealing a near-circular large gaping hole straight through his torso. Strings of rotted flesh dangle from its edges. DARK RYU's clenched fists, however, glow and smoke like hot coals. His expression is hard and disdainful.

SKOLOS: (off-panel) Leaving you, a walking surge of murderous intent.
DARK RYU: Just get on with it...

Panel 5- Foreground, DARK RYU's fist, now opened, hot with power. Background, SKOLOS and YATZ duck as the video screens explode in a shower of sparks.

DARK RYU: (off-panel) And get it done...

Panel 6- DARK RYU stalks toward us, away from the burning screens, leaving SKOLOS and YATZ behind, their anger smoldering, the tension palpable between the three.

DARK RYU: Or you may find yourself on the receiving end of my intent.

...to be continued...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ryu – Street Fighter VS Mortal Kombat – MK Stangeland Jr.

(Feel free to kick up the MORTAL KOMBAT theme if you’d like before reading this script.)

(6 Panels)

Panel 1: Location – a wooded arena, though we don’t see much of it here since RYU’s head and upper body take up most the panel.

RYU has his head lowered and his eyes closed as he concentrates in preparation for a fight. His hands are in front of him, with one hand clenched into a fist, which is pressed against the other palm of his other hand which is extended flat vertically.

RYU: (Text Box) I didn’t choose this fight.

Panel 2: RYU has twisted his body and stepped to the side to avoid getting hit by SCORPION’s infamous chain grab attack. He looks fully in control of the situation and maintains the same sense of calm he had in PANEL 1. The spike of SCORPION’s chain just narrowly misses him and flies by his chest.

SCOPRION: (Off-Panel) GET OVER HERE!

Panel 3: RYU reaches out to grab a segment of SCORPION’s chain as it continues to fly by him, this panel happening almost immediately after PANEL 2 – a lot of blurred motions surrounding RYU’s movements might be in order here to show just how fast things are moving.

Panel 4: RYU pulls on SCORPION’s chain to pull himself towards SCORPION – there is a look of sudden surprise from SCORPION on account of him failing to anticipate anyone actually attempting what RYU is about to pull off.

Panel 5: RYU hits SCORPION with a SHORYUKEN – ideally, the panel should have an ‘iconic’ feel to it.

RYU: SHORYUKEN!

Panel 6: RYU hits the ground and lands in an action pose, readying himself for his next move. SCORPION, in the foreground, is mid-recovery – he certainly felt RYU’s opening blow, but he’s about to regain his footing and composure before things really get going.

RYU: (TEXT BOX) I fear what might happen if I’m forced to finish it.


(END PAGE)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Ryu - Brothers - Grant McLaughlin

If Saboten hadn't beaten me to it years ago, I'd like to think I'd have written something like this.  However, since that's already been done, you'll have to settle for the following instead.

1 - Ken Masters meditates in a traditional Japanese garden, his eyes closed.  No one else seems to be around.  It is winter, with a fresh snowfall blanketing the world around him.  Ken sits beneath a majestic tree (also snow covered), with various aspects of Japanes gardens visible throughout the panel (perhaps part of a pond in the foreground and sideground, a bridge crossing the pond, a stone lantern or two, a little building in the background, etc).

KEN: You know, Ryu...

2 - Repeat panel.

KEN: I think I'm finally starting to understand where you're coming from.

3 - Ken (eyes still closed) looks over his shoulder, presumably to where he believes Ryu is.  Unfortunately for Ken, Ryu (who has been and remains off-panel) has thrown a snowball at Ken from the direction he is looking towards, which hits him straight on in the face.

KEN: When I'm not acting out and causing distractions, this is actually really relax--

SFX (snowball): paff!

4 - Ken sits in the same position, but his face is covered in snow, which drips off comically.  Perhaps have his angry open eyes visible through the mask of snow.

RYU (off-panel): You know, Ken...

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ryu - The Kun - Ben Rosenthal



1. The final tournament in Street Fighter 1.  A shot of Ryu's head snapping towards the reader as Sagat lands a blow with his knee to Ryu's cheek.

CAPTION:  Jinkaku kansei ni tsutomuru koto

CAPTION: Seek perfection of character.


2.  Ryu is picking himself up from the ground, bruised and looking worse for wear.  Sagat is winning this fight.

CAPTION:  Makoto no michi o mamoru koto

CAPTION:  Be Sincere.


3a.  A series of small, quick panels showing Ryu getting beaten.  This should go across the page. The caption should run across the top and bottom of these smaller panels to it looks like a flurry of attacks.  The first panel shows Sagat's fist connecting with Ryu's face.

CAPTION:  Reigi o omonzuru koto

3b.  This panel shows a knee connecting with Ryu's solar plexus.  

3c.  An elbow of Sagat is coming down hard on the base of the back of Ryu's neck.

CAPTION: Respect others.


4.  Sagat's hand is lifting Ryu's head up.  His hand all but covers the top of Ryu's head.  We can see Ryu's eye's have a red tinge to them.

CAPTION:   Doryoku no seishin o yashinau koto

CAPTION:  Put maximum effort into everything you do.


5.  Ryu is performing a devastation Dragon Uppercut on Sagat.  It is delivered with such force that it has ripped open Sagat's chest.  This is how Sagat got his scar.  

RYU: SHORYUKEN!


6.  Sagat lies on the ground, bleeding from the wound on his chest.  Ryu stands above him - eyes glowing red and face looking darker.  This is the first time he has tapped into the dark hadou - his face looks darker and distorted with anger.

CAPTIONKekki no yuu o imashimuru koto

CAPTION: Develop self control.


Why Ryu?




Uh, because he is all kinds of awesome.

Ryu, easily the main and most recognisable character from the Street Fighter video game series has been around for over 25 years.  From his first appearance in the original Street Fighter video game, Ryu has undergone many changes in these years - mostly built on in the comic series by Udon Entertainment.



Originally the victor of the first Street Fighter tournament (according to the video game) Ryu not only took the title but left a scar on rival Sagat's chest.  His only desire was to seek out stronger opponents and support his training partner and best friend Ken Maters.




However as the series grew in popularity Ryu's motivation and history has been expanded.  Through the prequels Street Fighter Zero series it is revealed that his Sensei Gouken, whom we originally were told was killed by Street Fighter II boss M Bison, was in actuality killed by his brother Akuma - a man who had been seduced by the darker aspects of the hadou (the mystical force that allows Ryu and Ken to throw fireballs and such).





Ryu's mission was to find Akuma and avenge his Sensei's death.  Later, this mythology was further expanded upon with Ryu at constant battle with the dark hadou.  He was constantly at war with it, fighting within himself as well as physical opponents.  It was explained that Ryu scarring Sagat in their bout for the Street Fighter final was a result of him giving in to this dark hadou.  Somehting he vowed never to give in to.  Akuma however has other plans.  Akuma wants to see Ryu succumb to this evil power so that they may  battle to realise who is the true master of their craft.



Recently (as in Street Fighter IV) players have the option of playing two Ryu characters - normal Ryu and an Evil Ryu.  This incarnation has Ryu consumed by the dark hadou, a hole in his chest and a thirst for blood and murder that cannot be fulfilled.



With a character who is constantly being fleshed out, the tenured writer's of Thought Balloons have a lot of wriggle room this week.  And don't forget - if you have a one page comic script about Ryu please feel free to post it below.  We even will provide feedback, cos we're nice like that,


Friday, August 22, 2014

Andrew Bennett - The Madding Crowd, Part 2 - R.A. Wonsowski

Previously, reporter JACK RYDER was given a lead on a conspiracy surrounding a new pharmaceutical company, chaired by two doctors who had hands in creating the CREEPER, and thought to be dead until now. RYDER's research is cut short when a deranged SHADE, THE CHANGING MAN, possibly sensing the reporter's own split sanity, separates the CREEPER from JACK, with the wrong mind in the wrong body.

Set-up: JACK, with the CREEPER's mind inside, chases SHADE up a fire escape and over Gotham's rooftops. The CREEPER, however, now inhabited by JACK's sane mind, balks at the first tenement ledge. He's considering going back down when a voice behind him tells him to stop, and that he is needed...

PAGE 4

Layout:
1122
1133
4455

Panel 1- We are looking over the CREEPER's shoulder at ANDREW BENNETT, who is standing on a rooftop steam pipe, the steam billowing about his feet. He is dressed in a duster coat, t-shirt, and jeans, hands in his jeans pockets and barefoot. He has a pair of military grade night-vision binoculars slung around his neck. Gotham's skyline is in view, the crescent moon has risen on a starless night and frames BENNETT's head like a broken halo.

BENNETT: My name is Andrew. I've been following the Changing Man, for far too long.

CREEPER: You mean the wacko in the technicolor dreamcoat? What's his story? Who's Kathy?

Panel 2- Profile, BENNETT looks through the binoculars into the distance, considering his quarry.

BENNETT: His "story" is that Shade is an interdimensional poet who can physically manifest madness through a vest he stole from another world.

BENNETT: Kathy is the woman he loves.

Panel 3- BENNETT steps down from the steam pipe to the roof, reaching into an inside pocket of his coat. The CREEPER stands arms folded as his skeptic-journalist self would, listening.

BENNETT: He believes that certain parties can help him access certain energies in the M-Zone to bring her back.

CREEPER: From where? Jersey?

BENNETT: The dead.

Panel 4- BENNETT holds the photos of Dr. Yatz and Dr. Skolos in front of his face. They are recognizable, bit the bits about the eyes and mouths are warped.

BENNETT: I'm not sure what these two are, really. But I've heard them called "necrologists". Supposedly they have mastered the clockwork of death and rebirth.

CREEPER (off-panel): And you know this how?

Panel 5- BENNETT smiles wide, his fangs bared, his eyes open, blank,  and glassy. We see the nervous face of the CREEPER reflected in his eyes, as JACK realizes he's over his head...

BENNETT: Because I've been dead. And reborn.

BENNETT: And I myself have been torn in two directions too often to count.

...to be continued...

Andrew Bennett - Into the Woods - Travis M. Holyfield


Panel 1: A forest in winter. Andrew Bennett surveys a scene of carnage. A body lies before him, twisted and broken, discarded carelessly. There is blood, bright against the snow. Bennett is wearing an overcoat, the collar turned up.

Panel 2: Bennett's POV. Two sets of human (vampire, anyway) footprints lead away from the body, into the darkness of the forest, and the swirling snow.

ANDREW BENNETT (Caption): Two of them. The snow is starting to fill in their tracks. That means a good head start.

ANDREW BENNETT (Caption): I'll never catch them on foot.

Panel 3: Bennett shrugs his overcoat off. He is bare-chested underneath. (For the ladies. And some of the fellas.)

ANDREW BENNETT (Caption): Not on two feet, anyway.

Panel 4: Bennett crouches down on all fours, his form beginning to blur and shift.

ANDREW BENNETT (Caption): Changing shape is painless. There's no rending or twisting. No tortured gnashing of bones reknitting.

Panel 5: The blurring form resolves itself as a huge wolf. The markings on the wolf's fur match the colors of Bennett's hair.

ANDREW BENNETT (Caption): It's like having a word on the tip of your tongue and the sweet relief of recalling it.

 Panel 6: Wolf-Bennett runs off into the forest, pursuing his prey.

ANDREW BENNETT (Caption): You aren't a man becoming a wolf.

ANDREW BENNETT (Caption): You're a wolf remembering that it isn't a man.

END OF PAGE

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Andrew Bennett - To Catch a Thief - J.D. Coughlan


Panel 1: A dark bedroom. It is night outside the open window, with the curtains flowing in the breeze. There is a body in the bed, under the sheets. In the dark corner, a face is half-illuminated. It is Skinner Sweet (from American Vampire). His eyes are cruel and he bares his fangs in a grin.

SWEET: (small) Never smile at a crocodile...

Panel 2: Skinner walks out of the dark corner, towards the bed, still grinning wickedly.

SWEET: (small) Don't be taken in by his welcome grin...

Panel 3: Over Skinner's shoulder as he looms over the bed, reaching out a hand to the sheet. We cannot see who is in the bed in the darkness.

SWEET: (small) He's imagining you inside his skin...

SWEET: (small) No, you nev...er...

Panel 4: The sheet thrown back to reveal Andrew Bennett. He grins and points a revolver (loaded with gold bullets, of course) at Skinner.

BENNETT: Smile.

END OF PAGE

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Andrew Bennett – Vamp Runner – MK Stangeland Jr.

(6 Panels)

Panel 1: ANDREW BENNETT is in a nightclub, dressed in dark colors and wearing a pair of shades as he tried to remain inconspicuous. This is for naught, however, as there is a perky and excited looking woman – ALICE - poking her head out from the other side of the short wall that BENNETT’s otherwise empty booth is attached to.

Panel 2: ANDREW BENNETT reacts with surprise as ALICE speaks up.

ALICE: You’re a vampire, aren’t you!?

ANDREW BENNETT: !

Panel 3: ALICE leaps over the wall to get into the booth next to BENNETT. BENNETT, on the other hand, looks at ALICE with a WTF look on his face.

ALICE (1): FANGS!

ALICE (2): I see vampire fangs!

Panel 4: ALICE leans in on BENNETT, practically throwing herself at him. BENNETT looks like he’s trying to say something, but is speechless.

ALICE (1): Take me!

ALICE (2): Make me yours!

Panel 5: BENNETT, still not sure how to react to this situation, scoots away from ALICE.

BENNETT: …

ALICE: Is something wrong? I can go clean up first if you’d like.

Panel 6: BENNETT plants his face against the table in front of him. ALICE looks confused.

ANDREW BENNETT: (Mumbling) This is why I hate romantic vampire stories.

(END PAGE)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Andrew Bennett - Would You Ever? - Ben Rosenthal



1.  A vast ocean.  There is no land in sight.  in the middle of it is a small raft.  It has been pieced together by wreckage.  It has a sail erected, but it is joined to the main raft area - it is acting as shade, not as a sail.

CAPTION (Andrew)
This is why we don't travel.


2.  A reveal of  the person on the raft - it is Andrew Bennett looking gaunt.  Scorch marks can be seen on his face and naked torso from where the sun has pierced through the sail during the heat of the day.

CAPTION (Andrew)
When I was young, I remember playing a game of 'Would you ever' with classmates.

"Would you ever kiss a teacher?  Would you ever drink your own pee?" Stuff like that.


3.  Andrew is looking at his hand.  He is weakened.

CAPTION (Andrew)
Right now....


4.  Andrew is biting his ring finger off.


5.  A wide panel, with Andrew drinking his own blood from his severed finger.

CAPTION (Andrew)
...I'd kiss Mrs 'Moleface' Maquire.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Andrew Bennett - I, Last - Arby Moay


PAGE 1

Panel 1
Day. We are in a forest. While the trees and grass are still green, there are now signs of rot in some places. We look over the entrance of a big cave, dark on the inside. Andrew Bennett is walking towards the cave with a dead rat in his hands. No other animal should be seen anywhere else.

CAPTION: Before all this...


Panel 2
Inside the cave, Andrew Bennett drops the rat and sits down, half of his body consumed in the shadow of the cave. He looks solemn, and a little gaunt.

CAPTION: The world's most heinous criminals, outside of Gotham and Metropolis, sentenced with the capital punishment often get to request what their last meal is.


Panel 3
Andrew Bennett picks up the dead rat and dangles it in front of himself. He shows his fangs, ready to eat.

CAPTION: I murdered the entire planet, including the masks and aliens that run and fly around it.


Panel 4
Close tight on Andrew Bennett's mouth as he bites the rat's head of.

CAPTION: And this is all I get before I starve to death...


Why Andrew Bennett?

...because FANGS, BLOOD and VAMPIRES!



Created by J.M. DeMatteis and Tom Sutton, Andrew Bennett is a 400 year-old vampire who hunts down his own kind. He is also unique in his ability to resist the urge to feed on human blood. Most of his vampiric life is dedicated to hunting down Mary, the Queen of Blood, who, sadly, also happens to be his ex-lover. And still kinda is. Tragic.



2011 was a bad time for the vampire genre, what with a certain "saga" running its rounds and making it synonymous to romance novels. And that "saga" was also actually pretty successful, money-making-wise, and so DC, being a business that wants to make money, tried to bank on that. When the New 52 came around, I, Vampire was relaunched with Andrew and Mary being younger, and more... naked. Fortunately, they hired Joshua Hale Fialkov and Andrea Sorrentino to write and art the book, and they made the book look good. They gave us blood and lots of it and they gave us a well-written, and beutifully rendered romantic and tragic story. Did I cry while reading the thing? Well, I can neither confirm nor deny that.



So what is up with Andrew Bennett?

Well, he's a vampire who hunts down vampires, but only the bad kind of vampires. The ones that can't be saved. The ones who are unable to resist the urge to feed on human blood, unlike himself. Thing is, he's the only one who can resist. He met another dude who he thought could, but that was a mistake. Oh, have I mentioned that his ex-lover, Mary Queen of Blood, is the "mother" of all the bad vampires? Yeah, there's that.




What can he do?

He can do whatever vampires can do.

He is immortal, so long as he continues to consume blood, animal blood or bottled human blood in his case,

He is invulnerable to most forms of injury, and if he does get injured, he can regenerate through drinking blood.

He has superhuman strength and stamina.

He possesses the ability to transform into a bat, a wolf, and even into mist.

He also has some form of psychokinesis, which kinda allows him to influence people into doing what he wants them to do.

He can also turn people into vampires.

He's also good with the sword, the wooden stake, and the axe.




Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Creeper – Interview With a Batman – MK Stangeland Jr.

(6 Panels)

Panel 1: JACK RYDER sits in a chair with a smug look on his face. In the foreground, hidden behind a chair and looking across his desk at RYDER, is his TV PRODUCER.

PRODUCER (1): This can’t be real! You managed to interview BATMAN, of all people?!

JACK RYDER: Believe it.

PRODUCER (2): How did you even pull that off?!

Panel 2: The streets of GOTHAM - CREEPER is sitting on top of the BATMOBILE as BATMAN is getting into the vehicle.

CREEPER: How to acquire all your expensive technology?

BATMAN: None of your business.

Panel 3: BATMAN is chasing after JOKER. CREEPER is trying to follow behind BATMAN. JOKER is trying to flee from them both, but mostly trying to get away from CREEPER.

CREEPER: How do you sleep when all the criminals you put away get back on the streets so easily?

BATMAN: I don’t have time for this!

Panel 4: BATMAN and CREEPER are both chained to a rocket. BATMAN doesn’t have his utility belt, but looks like he’s getting out some other hidden gadget that will help the both of them escape.

In the background, RIDDLER and THE PENGUIN are watching alongside a number of PENGUIN HENCHMEN as they anticipate the end of both the heroes.

CREEPER: How do you manage to prepare for every eventuality?

BATMAN: I’m trying to concentrate here.

Panel 5: BATMAN and CREEPER are on top of a warehouse. BATMAN has turned to CREEPER and is pointing at him, looking even more grim and moody than usual.

CREEPER: With Gotham’s crime rate, why do we never see heroes from other cities helping you clean up the streets?

BATMAN: I am warning you, I am formulating your defeat as I speak.

Panel 6: Return to the situation of PANEL 1, where JACK RYDER is once again seated across from his unseen producer. He still has his smug look on his face, and is presently pointing to his head.

JACK RYDER: The trick was to look past what was coming out of his mouth to decipher what he was actually saying.


(END PAGE)

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Creeper - I Am Jack's Self-Deception - Grant McLaughlin


1 - Jack Ryder stands in his bathroom, standing at the sink and looking into the mirror.  As the reader, we have an over the shoulder shot, seeing Ryder's back and his reflection in the mirror.  He looks terrible.  He's clearly exhausted, his face bears evidence of various injuries (black eye, cuts, bruises, etc), and so forth.    While he's looking at the mirror, it's clear he's really looking at nothing.  He wears a dress shirt with a tie, but the whole outfit is kind of unkempt.  His hair is a mess, his tie askew, sweat stains at the armpits of his shirt - that kind of thing.  The bathroom is dark but for a single light above and it's impossible to tell what time of day it is, whether he's coming home from or headed off to work.

CAPTION (JACK): When you have insomnia, you're never really asleep and you're never really awake.

2 - Jack walks away from the bathroom mirror (which is no longer visible), still in the midst of his zombie-esque exhaustion.

CAPTION (JACK): With insomnia, nothing is real.

UNSEEN FIGURE (an uneven bubble, with the outer black surrounded by a gaudy yellow): Hey!

3 - Jack turns to look over his shoulder.  While he's responding to what he sees, his body hasn't really registered it and that zombie-state remains.

CAPTION (JACK): Everything is far away.

JACK: No

4 - Straight on shot of Jack, who is once again standing in front of the mirror.  Although we still can't see what he sees, he now looks to be wide awake (and more than a little on edge), holding his hands on his head, unable to fathom what he sees.

CAPTION (JACK): Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy

JACK: No, no, no!

5 - Switch to a straight on shot of the reflection.  As you may have gathered, the Creeper is the figure looking back at Jack.  He holds the same pose, except he smiles crazily.  Maybe go for something in the vein of this classic.

THE CREEPER (same uneven bubble style): Yes, yes, yes!

CAPTION (THE CREEPER) (caption coloured to reflect his colour scheme): I know this because Jack Ryder knows this.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Creeper - The Madding Crowd, Part 1 - R.A. Wonsowski

OK, so I decided to try my hand at another multi-parter, kinda like I did last year with Hellcat, Galactus, and Armor, but a little longer (hopefully). Call me crazy...

PAGE ONE Layout:
112233
444555
666666
666666

Panel 1- JACK RYDER is sitting at a table in a nice-but-not-overly-posh restaurant. The other chair at his table for two is empty, and the tablecloth is cleared except for an empty coffee cup and saucer at the empty place, and a fresh one at JACK's elbow. An older MAN IN A SUIT walks away from JACK'S table, and JACK watches as the MAN brushes his fingertips on a rubberbanded manila file (thick, but not to bursting) that he is leaving behind.

CAPTION (Jack):  Something amiss at the new med wondercompany, MetaPharma...

Panel 2- On top of the papers inside the open manila file is the annual report for MetaPharma. The cover has a photo of two men in suits and white lab coats. One is older, bald and wearing small frameless glasses, the other is a little younger, his goatee waxed pointed and straight.

CAPTION (Jack):  Very amiss if these two are still alive. Dr. Yatz, the man responsible for making me the Creeper...

Panel 3- Close-up of JACK looking over his shoulder as the glass of a window breaks behind him.

CAPTION (Jack):  ...and Dr. Skolos, the demon-shrink that made us insane...
SoundFX: KriSHH!

Panel 4- Mid-shot of JACK being yanked from his chair by a large, glowing and translucent giant fist (which should be inked with heavy hash strokes). JACK struggles against its grip.

(Off-Panel): I know she's here. You will tell me...

Panel 5- Zoom in a touch, but same POV as panel 4. It looks as if the CREEPER is being split from and torn out of the face of JACK RYDER by glowing tendrils (drawn similarly to the fist).

(Off-Panel): ...one of you...
JACK/CREEPER: nnNNGAHHH!!

Panel 6: We see JACK and the CREEPER are separated and held above the floor suspended by the glowing translucent fists. They are now revealed to be projections of madness emanating from the sleeves of the lava-lamp-like duster coat of SHADE THE CHANGING MAN (he should look like his early Chris Bachalo Vertigo days, long red hair, facial stubble, etc.). SHADE is insanely furious, screaming, standing amidst upended tables and shattered glass.  The CREEPER is grimly struggling aloft, but JACK is wide-eyed and cackling maniacally.

SHADE: Where is Kathy George?!?
JACK: AAHH-HAHAHAHAA!!

....see you next week...

Why (Beware) the Creeper?

Because Steve Ditko. And therein lies the problem...
Ditko in his studio, 1959.
Of course we all know Ditko was the creator of Marvel icons Spider-Man and Dr. Strange. After an abrupt departure from the House of Ideas, he went to the Charlton group where he created the Blue Beetle and the Question. It was during this period that he discovered the writings and philosophies of Ayn "Atlas Shrugged" Rand, and that's when things get interesting...
Bear with me here...
Rand's views are known as Objectivism, best summarized as a mathematical axiom A=A, or that which is, is. It is a complete rejection of anything that cannot be proven as a reality, and a central idea of this is that right and wrong, love and hate, are born out of reason, and not faith-based morality. This ethos would then be championed by those who build themselves from the ground up, not by those who are granted material or social advantages from the get-go. There are echoes of this in both Peter Parker and Stephen Strange, as well as Ted Kord and Vic Sage. Ditko's self-published Mr. A is the purest distillation of this, and alienated him from many of his contemporaries. In fact, the Creeper's alter ego, Jack Ryder is an obnoxious extreme of the Randian ideal; even his television show, "You Are WRONG!" reflects Ditko's mindset. Unfortunately, this flew far in the face of the counterculture at the time. Free love, anti-war sentiment, and psychedelia were the hallmarks of '60s youth. Psychotropic drugs, LSD and psylocibin mushrooms in particular, were altering perceptions, subjugating reality and replacing it with a chemically altered mental state. A was now a non-A, and to Ditko, that way lay madness.
His big yellow debut...
The Creeper, then, is a backhanded morality tale. Jack Ryder is the unwilling subject of Dr. Yatz, given both experimental technology and an injection of unknown pharmacological slurry. With these he can switch back and forth between being Ryder and being the Creeper, who is agile, hypernormally perceptive, and strong. However, over time, the Creeper develops his own personality, first 70s kooky prankster, then 80s mischievous goofball, then downright twisted and insane in the 90s. The more Ryder let's the Creeper out, the more dominant he becomes, until finally they become a worst-case-scenario multiple personality disorder.
I also used to be a French woman. Oh those crazy Vertigo people...
My very first pick here at Thoughtballoons was Kirby's yellow horror, Etrigan. But his human host, Jason Blood, has been trying to keep his Demon contained. Ryder does not share that same strength, and the Creeper escapes again and again, wreaking more havok all the time. Some 21st century writers have tried to inject the demonic into his origins, but to me, that cheapens the character. It absolves Ryder of his responsibility for the Creeper's actions. Rather, it is a partnership between consciousnesses, a downward spiral into madness, and proof that you don't have to be crazy to be a hero...
So...what are YOU doing after the Why?
...but it sure helps.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Shredder – Future Erred – MK Stangeland Jr.

(RAPHAEL has found himself in a dark, war-torn version of the future. Here, he’s confronted by what at first glance appears to be the SHREDDER.)

(4~ Panels)

Panel 1: SHREDDER removes his mask as he holds RAPHAEL in the air, revealing himself to actually be a future version of RAPHAEL – SHREDDER!RAPH. His armor is redesigned to fit the turtle’s body structure. His face lacks his typical red mask, but he has a number of scars and where future versions of RAPHAEL normally have an eye-patch, his missing eye is instead flowing with dark, mystical energy.

SHREDDER!RAPH: Why would I want to kill you when you offer us a second chance?

RAPHAEL: You…Me…?!

Panel 2: SHREDDER!RAPH drops RAPHAEL, who fails to catch himself on account of shock.

SFX: thunk

SHREDDER!RAPH (1): Yeah. I’m who you become.

SHREDDER!RAPH (2): Or I was.

Panel 3: RAPHAEL holds his sais as he picks himself up, positioning himself like he’s ready for another bout against his future self. SHREDDER!RAPH is unimpressed.

RAPHAEL: I’m going to need a better explanation than that!

SHREDDER!RAPH: I’ll give you one.

Panel 4: This and the rest of the page should flow together as if they were one large panel, even as they have their own individual pieces. The whole of it is highlighted against a backdrop of the same kind of energy flowing out of SHREDDER!RAPH’s missing eye, and should be arranged so that it starts from the corner of SHREDDER!RAPH’s missing eye and then flows to fill the rest of the page.

Panel 4-1: SHREDDER – OROKU SAKI – stand above the slain bodies of MASTER SPLINTER, DONATELLO, and MICHELANGELO. He holds LEONARDO by the neck and prepares to kill him.

SHREDDER!RAPH (1): He killed ‘em. All of ‘em. My brothers, Master Splinter. Even Casey Jones.

SHREDDER!RAPH (2): Almost killed me too. I barely escaped, and then spent years planning revenge.

Panel 4-2: RAPHAEL stands triumphant above the dead body of ORODU SAKI and holds SHREDDER’s helmet in his hands above him like he’s just claimed the worlds greatest trophy.

SHREDDER!RAPH: And then killed him and seized control of the Foot. I tried to use them to do some good in this world. In my family’s memory.

Panel 4-3: SHREDDER!RAPH – now appearing in his present armor, but without all the battle scars and with both his eyes. He leads an army of FOOT NINJAS into battle.

SHREDDER!RAPH: I think you can tell that didn’t work out too well.


(END PAGE)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Shredder - Family Ties - Grant McLaughlin

1 - Shredder walks amongst a room filled with plenty of defeated Foot soldiers.  They lie all around the floor, beaten to within various inches of their life.  In the centre of the room is the source of this beating: a bruised and tired Splinter.  He kneels in exhaustion from the exertion of fighting so many ninja.  Shredder heads towards him.

SHREDDER: The Foot Clan was once a family.

2 - Shredder kneels by a fallen member of the Foot Clan, holding his arm to take his pulse.  While near Splinter, his attention is on the prostate figure whose arm he holds.

SHREDDER: Like you and your turtles, I once cared for every man and woman who joined the Foot, watching with pride as they matured and developed into true warriors.

3 - Shredder lets the arm fall to the floor, directing his attention to Splinter.

SHREDDER: But with time, I grew bored of their personal trials and tribulations.  All I cared for was that they accomplish what was asked of them.

4 - Shredder now stands above Splinter, a group of Foot soldiers stands around them.  They are in silhouette, standing just outside the reach of the room's light, but the Foot logo on their foreheads stands out, a bright crimson in the darkness.

SHREDDER: Unfortunately, your family has proven itself more than equal to the pathetic failures that I once called my own.

5 - Repeat panel, except the shadowy Foot soldiers have stepped forward to reveal themselves as Foot soldier robots.  Their skull-like robot faces glare menacingly towards Splinter.  The crimson Foot Clan logos are joined by the bright, evil red of the robots' eyes.

SHREDDER: Happily, I've found a better one to take its place.

Shredder - Callback - Ben Rosenthal


1.  A close up of Shredder's leg, strapping on his spiked leg guard.

CAPTION (Shredder)
Oroku Saki.

That was my name.


2.  A close up of Shredder's arm as puts on the glove with spikes.

CAPTION (Shredder)
I no longer need it.

Nor the feelings and emotions that go with it.


3.  From behind, Shredder is putting on his helmet with both hands.

CAPTION (Shredder)
I have a new name.  A name to put terror into the hearts of all.

I am--


4.  Cut to a different area/time.  The Shredder has just revealed himself to the Turtles for the first time.  We see from behind the four Ninja Turtles.  They are looking up at an imposing Shredder, looking threatening.

SHREDDER
The Shredder!


5.  A close up of the four turtles.  They aren't scared nor intimidated.

RAPHAEL
A kitchen utensil?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Shredder - Happy Birthday - R.A. Wonsowski

Panel 1- ME, my WIFE, and my KIDS (10 and 6 years old) walk into an Olive Garden Italian restaurant, greeted by SHREDDER at the Maître'd podium. He is holding menus and waving a hand into the table area. I am mildly surprised, but WIFE grabs my arm nervously. The KIDS think being greeted by a man covered in knives is cool.

SHREDDER: Wonsowski. Table for four. Welcome to Olive Garden.

Panel 2- SHREDDER takes our order, writing on his pad of paper. He is imposing, and not making WIFE any more comfortable...

WIFE: I'll have the seafood Alfredo...
SHREDDER: YOU'LL HAVE CHICKEN!
WIFE: Yesthechicken!

Panel 3- SHREDDER is tossing salad in the giant salad bowl with one claw, while a Foot Clan NINJA grates Parmesan cheese using SHREDDER'S extended other arm, over my younger KID'S lasagna. WIFE is taking a large swallow of red wine. The breadstick basket is empty, and my older KID bravely holds it out to SHREDDER.

OLDER KID: Can we please get more breadsticks?
SHREDDER: Your table will be dominated by their garlicky goodness.

Panel 4- The older KID has a slice of chocolate mousse cake with a candle sticking out of it in front of him; the younger KID laughs and claps as SHREDDER leads a trio of Foot Clan NINJAS in song. Even WIFE is looking at ME with an impressed look upon her face.

SHREDDER: Sing, curse you! SING!
NINJA TRIO: Na-na-na-na-nanaaa, dadah - You say it's your birthday.... Na-na-na-na-nanaaa, dadah - It's my birthday too, yeah....

Panel 5- With a mighty mid-air slash, SHREDDER cuts my credit card in three with his claw. I stand shocked with my wallet in my hand as my FAMILY laugh at my shame.

SHREDDER: Diner's Club?!? You call yourself a man? Have you no MasterCard?!

Panel 6- WE all leave together, to-go boxes in hand, waving goodbye to SHREDDER, two Foot Clan NINJAS high-fiving behind him. WIFE's got her arm around me affectionately and my KIDS are rambunctiously happy. SHREDDER waves back...

YOUNGER KID: I wanna come back for MY birthday!
SHREDDER: Thank you, come again...or I'll destroy you all!

Why Shredder?

Because movie...
Oh, God, burn it with fire!
OK, despite my feelings about Michael Bay leaving flaming bags of dog doo on my childhood's doorstep, you cannot deny the impact the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have had on the comics landscape and on popular culture in general.
That's better...
Keep in mind that the Turtles hit the industry when comics were serious business. The direct market and local comic shops were developing, Frank Miller was tearing it up on Daredevil and Ronin, and Dave Sim was championing the independent small press and creating Comics by-gosh Literature. Maybe comics were taking themselves too seriously...
The Original.
Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman were a welcome shot of fun the arm of comics needed, and they skewered all of the above like a katana through a pizza box. The isotope that gave Matt Murdock his radar sense and blinded him, was the same one that mutated the turtles. Though they referred to themselves as ninjas, they acted more like sewer samurais. Though the cartoon was far goofier than the semiserious comic, the honor and heroism were TMNT's constants.

And their archenemy was evil to the core.
Shredder, 1984
Eastman has said the inspiration for Shredder was a cheese grater, and Laird had no desire to use him beyond the first story arc. Oroku Saki became a member of the ninja Foot clan to avenge the death of his brother, and rose through their ranks to create an empire built on smuggling and assassination.  Brutal, ridiculously intelligent, and completely without honor, he would cheat death again and again.
Turtlllllesssss!
In the cartoons, he gains access to alien technology supplied by Krang, creating robot ninjas (cool) and henchmen Rocksteady and Bebop (not cool). The cartoon actually fills an important piece of back story: Saki defeated a tengu demon called a Shredder, but at his brother's death, succumbed to its evil. It also hints that he is the source of his own failures; in one future timeline, he becomes the emperor of New York, but the responsibilities of his conquest overwhelm him, and surrenders to the Turtles first chance he gets.
I have the po...oh, sorry, wrong cartoon...
In a departure from previous films, where Shredder is portrayed as a Japanese Fagin recruiting gang teens to the Foot to commit crimes because Evil, Michael Bay's Shredder (portrayed by William Fichtner) is an isolationist domestic terrorist. Gone are the swords in favor of guns...but maybe that's OK. Maybe, 30 years after his creation, Shredder has come full circle, and is once again, like Eastman and Laird intended...
Shredder, 2014.
...one vicious villain.
Cowabunga.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy - Mudered You - Arby Moay


Panel 1
Tight on a green-skinned cyclopean alien. He just got his brains blasted by one of Rocket's guns.

Rocket (OP): Blam! --
Quill (OP): --don't say it.


Panel 2
We are in a hallway, inside a ship. Peter Quill and Rocket Raccoon are hiding behind some rubble while two other green-skinned cyclops fire on them with blasters.

Rocket: What? Why?
Quill: It's kinda bad.
Rocket: "Bad"? Quill, it's a great catch phrase!
Quill: Debatable. But what I mean is that it kinda implies that we're here to murder these guys--
Rocket: --I am here to murder these guys!


Panel 3
Same. Gamora has just dropped behind the aliens.

Quill: --instead of saving the Draekkarian dignitaries.
Rocket: What's the difference?
Quill: Well, one implies that we're heroes, the other implies that we're criminals.


Panel 4
Same. Gamora beheads the two aliens with one swoop of a sword.

Rocket: Quill, I am a criminal! --
Quill: --no--
Rocket: --and so are you!
Quill: No, I'm--Well, yeah we are. But that's not--
Rocket: --what?
Quill: It's not--


Panel 5
Same. Gamora stands before Quill and Rocket. Quill looks up at her.

Gamora: --Quill.
Quill: Done?
Gamora: Yes.
Quill: Alright. We'll continue our discussion on the next hallway full of baddies.
Rocket: Fine.


Guardians of the Galaxy - Hostile Takeover - R.A. Wonsowski

Panel 1- STAR-LORD, wearing his mask as well as a shirt and tie, collar unbuttoned and tie unblocked, in a cubicle facing three computer screens, sloshing a drink in a ceramic coffee mug that reads "Hexus, the Living Corporation". His posture should be anxious and stressed, holding a finger to his earpiece like he's shouting into a phone.

CAPTION: Peter Quill. Star-Lord.
STAR-LORD: NO! NO! Sell, dammit!

Panel 2- GAMORA with her sword drawn, wearing a very stylish suit with a slit up the long skirt, out of her chair about to leap across a conference table at a fat cigar-chomping two-headed blue-skinned alien in a cheap three-piece, pushing his chair back in fear. Stacks of paper are spread across the table...

CAPTION: Gamora. The most dangerous woman in the universe.
GAMORA: Your brains or your signature will be on this contract!

Panel 3- DRAX, bare-chested in a double-breasted suit, stands in front of two display screens, facing down a Skrull and Badoon similarly attired and wielding a laser pointer. One screen has an image of a generic unbranded super hero (a brown-haired Superman with no S on the shirt) clutching his stomach in panicked pain with text that reads "This looks like a job for Krypto-mucil!" The other has a picture of Ego, the Living Planet with a relaxed expression, with a caption that reads "ORB-O-LAX. Oh, what sweet relief."

CAPTION: Drax. The Destroyer.
DRAX: ...with effective marketing we can crush the Deesee universe by next quarter!
BADOON: Quite. Quite.

Panel 4- Lower half of the page. On an exchange floor, ROCKET RACCOON perched atop the shoulder of GROOT, both wearing ties, surrounded by business attired Kirby-esque aliens packed tight waving hand signals off-panel. ROCKET is firing a large laser bazooka over the crowd while GROOT is stabbing a finger furiously into the keypad of a paper-roll calculator.

CAPTION: Rocket Raccoon and Groot. Mercenary accountants.
GROOT: I am GROOT.
ROCKET: NO! Adamantium at 7 and 5/8!
CAPTION: Can the Guardians stop the corporate domination of the galaxy by Hexus? Find out in this titanic tale we could only call...NOT BRAND HEX!...A Wonsowski-Giffen joint.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Guardians Of The Galaxy - Q Fast Q Furious - Niel Jacoby

Full Splash: We see Q of the Q in the Guardians Of The Galaxy's home base, Knowhere. The team is shocked to see this unknown interloper, while Rocket is shooting a laser rifle at him. Q is unimpressed, as we can see the lasers have gone, and are going, straight through him. Q has tried to blend in sartorially with the rest of the crew, leading to a garish outfit that mixes every outfit on the ship, including Groot's.

Q: Are you quite done? Because if you don't think something as miniscule as the future of this entire galaxy is more important than a little target practice for your pet here, I can find some other group of outlaws to help out.

Star-Lord: ...I'm listening. And stop it, Rocket.

Rocket: I don't wanna!