Saturday, April 30, 2016

Letter 44 - Ike Says No - P. A. Nolte

1/ Dwight D. Eisenhower charges through a hallway.  Behind him are two heavy doors that have just slammed shut.  To his left and right, trailing slightly behind, are a handful of older men in appropriate business and/or military dress.  There are also two low-level officers.  One of them speaks.

Caption: 1954.

Caption: Muroc, California.

Knapp: Do you think that was wise, sir?  If the others come.  Or are already here.  What they are offering--

Eisenhower: Tell me...

2/ Eisenhower has stopped in his tracks and swung around, nearly causing a head-on collision with Knapp.  His face is calm and collected, but has raised a clenched fist.

Eisenhower: Do you SLEEP well at night, Knapp?

3/ Knapp steadies his glasses.

Knapp: Y-yes, sir?

4/ Eisenhower continues to march through the nondescript halls of the base.  The others have followed suit, but have all shifted to the opposite side of Eisenhower than Knapp

Eisenhower: Well, I don't.

5/ Eisenhower has stopped again.  This time, he is about to exit what must be an outer door of the facility.  It is just being cracked open by one of the other men.

Eisenhower: And I will not LAY DOWN arms so that someone-- or someTHING else might wield them FOR me.

Eisenhower: I will not be DEFENDED at the cost of mw OWN DEFENSE.

6/ Knapp watches the door slam shut.  Eisenhower is gone.  The rest of the men all filed out behind him.  Knapp is alone.  Over his shoulder, far in the background, the double doors begin to glow.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Letter 44 - Slick Operator - Perry Kent

This prompt reminded me of a little activist kerfuffle that happened in the Pacific Northwest some months ago involving kayactivists.

Panel 1
Interior, day, the oval office. A slick looking man in a suit passes the President of the United States a stack of photographs, though they aren't very distinct. The President of the United States of America sits at his desk. On the desk in front of the president is a file folder with a “TOP SECRET” on it. The slick man has a brief case on the floor next to him.

1. SLICK MAN: Mr. President, I'm here to talk about the activists in kayaks that are currently delaying the Slick Oil mining vessel.

Panel 2
The President flips through the photographs as he replies to the slick man.

2. PRESIDENT: Yes, I heard. We will deploy the Coast Guard to protect the mission.

Panel 3
The slick man pulls another bundle of papers from a brief case.

3. SLICK MAN: Thank you. But I came to talk about the PR problems our company is suffering due to the appearance of doing exploratory oil mining.

Panel 4
The President slams the papers down on the desk angrily. The slick man looks surprised by the outburst.

4. PRESIDENT: We contracted Slick Oil to retrieve the alien artifacts found in the arctic under the guise of exploratory oil mining. Go. Retrieve. Return. With all the risks and liabilities associated.

Panel 5
The slick man slides his papers back into his briefcase.

5. PRESIDENT (OP): And if Slick Oil tries anything funny, you'll find out just many three letter agencies we can shove down your throat.

6. SLICK MAN: Yes, Mr. President.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Letter 44 – Letter 45 – MK Stangeland Jr.

(5 Panels)

Panel 1: Image of a hand-written letter, being held by an unseen individual.

WRITING (1): If you are reading this, congratulations on your survival.

WRITING (2): I can only hope that this letter finds it way to those that come after, but it is with that same hope that I write this final letter, even as…

Panel 2: An unidentifiable man, clothed in a survival environmental suit, holds the letter and is looking at it. The paper – and several others like it – are held at an awkward angle, suggesting he doesn’t quite know what he’s looking at.

RAJOR: (Off-Panel) Carlin! What are you looking at?

Panel 3: CARLIN shows the papers to RAJOR, a larger man dressed much the same way he is.

CARLIN: I am not sure. Can you read this?

RAJOR (1): It is of the old script.

RAJOR (2): No one reads the old script anymore.

Panel 4: RAJOR discards the papers from CARLIN’s hands.

CARLIN: What if it is important?

RAJOR: Nonsense. There is nothing of importance here.

Panel 5: Long shot, showing the two wandering a post-apocalyptic wasteland that could easily have once been WASHINGTON, DC. Now, however, it’s a barely habitable graveyard of ruins. Nearby is a small caravan of men and women dressed much like CARLIN and RAJOR.

The letter lies on the ground in the foreground.

RAJOR: The only thing of importance anymore is survival.

LETTER (1): Stemphen Blades

LETTER (2): 44th President of the United States of America


Monday, April 25, 2016

Letter 44 - North of the Border - Grant McLaughlin

Lettering note: This page is made up of multiple different letters written by different people (the Canadian Prime Minister previous to the one in each panel).  Ideally, the handwritten lettering of the captions boxes would be different in each instance to help demarcate the different writers.

Also, I apologize that this script is a lot of inside baseball, but Canadian politics is kind of what I do, so I hope you can forgive me indulging myself slightly.

1 - 1873.  Alexander Mackenzie, Canada's second Prime Minister, sits in his office in the West Block building of Parliament Hill, holding a letter in his hand.  An envelope with a hand-written "2" lies on his desk in the foreground.

CAPTION (SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD) (1): I will not lie.  I did not think you would defeat me.

CAPTION (SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD) (2): But now that you have attained the premiership, there is a terrible truth I must pass on to you.

2 - 1896.  Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Canada's seventh Prime Minister, sits at his desk in the House of Commons.  He is the only one there, the lights are low, and he reads a letter.  He cocks one eyebrow at the contents he reads, holding the entire missive and envelope in his hands (the hand-written "6" might be partially visible on the envelope.

CAPTION (SIR CHARLES TUPPER) (1): Within our land's depths are creatures of a truly hellish aspect that thirst only for death and destruction.

CAPTION (SIR CHARLES TUPPER) (2): I know you will find this news difficult to believe.

3 - 1921.  William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canada's tenth Prime Minister, sits at a briefing by departmental officials.  Some wear military uniforms, others civilian attire.  Many charts, maps, and photos sit spread out on the table.  Their specific contents are not necessarily clear, but everyone wears serious expressions.  An envelope with a hand-written "9" may be visible among the documents.

CAPTION (ARTHUR MEIGHEN) (1): But the relevant ministries will have abundant proof to show you the truth of this threat.

CAPTION (ARTHUR MEIGHEN) (2): Not only to our country

CAPTION (ARTHUR MEIGHEN) (3): But to the world.

4 - 1963.  Lester B. Pearson, Canada's fourteenth Prime Minister, looks terrified as Mounties try to barricade a door, shadowy and dark creatures only partially visible as they try to get past.

CAPTION (JOHN DIEFENBAKER) (1): Past administrations have done everything in their power to hold these dark forces at bay.

CAPTION (JOHN DIEFENBAKER) (2): It is a thankless task, for the nation cannot know the dangers living beneath their feet.

5 - 1993.  Jean Chrétien, Canada's twentieth Prime Minister, stands outside in the snow, watching a military exercise of advanced military vehicles digging into the ground.

CAPTION (BRIAN MULRONEY): But the monsters must be held back and I'm sorry to say that the task now falls to you.

6 - 2006. Stephen Harper, Canada's twenty-second Prime Minister, stands in a secret weapons facility, looking on at even more advanced technologies being put together.


7 - President Blades sits in a briefing with his allies from China and France (perhaps their representatives are on video screens, with their country marked below).  Blade

BLADES (1): Canada?

BLADES (2): Why would we want them in this alliance?  I want countries who are useful.

Letter 44: "The Under War Diary"--David Press.


1.1: We’re going to open on PRESIDENT BLADES, in half-tier thumbnail panel, laying down the scene. He’s in a bunker-like place; surrounded on all sides by metal. His hair has been white since Issue 24, but now it’s shaved down to a buzz-cut. There’s considerable scruff around his sharp Roman-chin. He’s also not dressed in a suit—he’s in a t-shirt and jeans. He looks like he’s been running; his face is covered in sweat.

BLADES:              They said we would only be down here for ten years.

1.2: Taking up the rest of the first tier—a shot on Blades’s face.

BLADES:              Well, clearly, they made a rough estimate.

1.3: Wide shot of the UNDERGROUND bunker Blades is in. It’s an old missile silo and throughout we see people bustling around in uniforms. The bunker is kind of like District 13 in the Hunger Games books, because people are all wearing the same uniform.

CAPTION [TIME/LOCATION]:  The White Bunker. 2030. Ten years after the World War 3 cease fire.
CAPTION [BLADES]:    “It’s been ten years since they came to take six hundred of us and end the planet.

1.4: We can see the CHANDELIER—the massive structure that the Builder’s built hovering in the space just past the Moon [reference:]—pointing at the Earth. Its turbines are charged up and it’s firing a thin laser at the Earth.

CAPTION [Blades]:    "It was unannounced."

1.5: A thinner panel, but still taking up the rest of the page of Manhattan expanding in a great big globe of light.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Why Letter 44?

I love political science fiction. Transmetropolitan, Battlestar Galactica--William Gibson’s work—any science fiction that seems like it might happen five minutes from now.

That’s why I dig Letter 44—the Oni Press series written by Charles Soule and drawn by Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque. It’s about the 44th President of the United States, Stephen Blades, who finds out on his inauguration day that there are aliens in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Blades reads the letter from his predecessor, Francis Carroll, claiming that the reason there were a housing bubble, a recession, and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq was that there was something being built in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Carroll justified the reason for the build-up was to finance a one-way trip up to the belt headed by a civilian/military astronaut task force to see what the “Builders” are up to.

I’ll spare you rest of the summary, but I love this series. It’s probably one of my favorite creator-owned series running. I’ve been devouring Soule’s work over the course of the last two years and he’s been a pretty big inspiration to me to start putting my best foot forward when it comes to writing comics. He’s one of the reasons why I’m here at Thought Balloons, so thanks for having me. Soule’s tagline for the series is “House of Cards meets 2001.”

And while I don’t expect you to use the characters from the series if you’re not familiar with the book, I was thinking it would be a good use of our collective creative muscles to turn our eye towards that logline and interpret and create our own West Wing, or House of Cards, or The Thick of It meets 2001, Alien, or melon-farming Interstellar, (which I just saw last week and oh god. To say the least, I prefer this series.)

As always feel free to leave a comment with your take on the series and have fun with it!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Deal With The Devil - Bridge - P. A. Nolte

1/ Caucasian male.  Mid-30's.  Bearded.  Looking over his shoulder nervously.  It is dark, and he is wearing a heavy jacket.

2/ From below, he tosses a large duffle bag, bursting at the seams, off a secluded bridge.

3/ Looking over his shoulder, it hits the water below and begins to sink below the active current.

SFX: Sploosh

4/ The man crosses over in front of his parked, running car.  The outline of someone sitting in the backseat can be made out, but not much else about the interior.

5/ Now in the driver's seat, the man grips the steering wheel.  The figure behind him, a literal devil, leans forward and grins.

Devil: Now.  About your reward...

Friday, April 22, 2016

Deal With The Devil: "2016 US Presidential Election"--David Press.

Sorry to infect this place with the baloney that is the primary race, but when this prompt came up this was the first thing that popped into my head so I just ran with it. Fortunately, it's short.

2.1:Cutting away to TED CRUZ. I love these things screenwriter Craig Mazin, Cruz’s freshman year roommate at Princeton, has been saying about Cruz. []. This is to give you an idea of the tone that I’m going with here. So Cruz here is standing on top of a tractor in front of a white Baptist Church. He’s wearing a Jean Tuxedo (jeans, jean-shirt, jean jacket), and shouting into a microphone like he’s a heavy metal lead singer, but he’s not—he’s a twat.

CRUZ:                And Iiiiii promise you, North Texas- that Pro-lifers will burn in Hell.

[Unattached]:        CRUZ CRUZ CRUZ!

2.2: Cut to: the interior of a dorm room at PRINCETON. Craig Mazin sits at his desk, typing on a typewriter while younger TED CRUZ stands on his bed, carrying on in a similar manner to the previous panel.

CAPTION:             Princeton University.

CRUZ:                    Ah tell ya, Craig, folks are going to hear from me. I’m gonna change politics!

CRAIG [Thought Balloon]:  I tell you, I’m going to get famous off this blowhard.

2.3: Sitting in an office, young Ted Cruz shakes the hand of a LAWYER who is radiating heat. Like waves of heat off this shady character’s backdraft.

CAPTION:             The Law offices of Karuthers and Pittant, LLC.

LAWYER:              Well that’s a fine deal, Ted. We’ll make you president, and protect your…rampages.

CRUZ:                    That’s all I want, Mr. Karuthers. Nobody is going to vote for the Zodiac Killer.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Deal With the Devil – Card Shark – MK Stangeland Jr.

(1 Panel)

Panel 1: DEVIL is standing at a casino-style dealers table. He’s stylized to be mostly human, and wearing a highly impressive suit, though his skin is red and he has a pair of horns on his head. His face sports about the most sinister-looking shades you can imagine, and his haircut is as sleek as can be.

On the other side of the table are a number of individuals who have stepped up to play whatever card game has been set up, and the DEVIL is presently dealing out their cards.

TEXT: After losing a golden fiddle in George, the Devil thought he might find more success in Las Vegas.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Deal with the Devil - Curse of Desperation - Perry Kent

Panel 1
Interior, night, tent. George sweeps several Egyptian artifacts off a table inside of his field tent. He is the only person in the tent. Several candle lamps light the tent.

1. CAPTION: Egypt, 1922

2. GEORGE: This expedition has been a waste. Is this fitting a Carnarvon? No. This is…


Panel 2
George stands away from a dark, slick stranger with a concerned expression.

4. STRANGER: What if I offered you the chance to write history?

Panel 3
The stranger holds out a rolled up piece of paper.

5. GEORGE: I don't know who the hell you are.

6. STRANGER: I'm the one offering you a deal to save this expedition. To leave your mark on history.

7. STRANGER: All I need is a little quid pro quo.

Panel 4
George signs a piece of paper as a stranger stands by the table.

8. GEORGE: Fine. I get your game. But you better delivery, though I doubt you can.

Panel 5
The Stranger rolls up the piece of paper while wearing an evil grin.

9. STRANGER: Oh, I can. Have you heard of “Tutankhamun”?


Why a Deal with the Devil?

A deal with the devil.

A common enough trope that we should all be familiar with. You make a deal for something you want, but you give up something vital. And what almost always turns out to be too much.

At some point you'll be offered a deal. A deal that will blind you to everything else. A deal so rich in upside that it goes right to your head. But you can't have an up without a down. We have to keep in mind that all deals have consequences. And we need to think of whether we can handle those consequences before we've shook the hand and signed the paper.

This week I chose “deal with the devil” as a cautionary message. Don't run so fast toward what you want that you forget to look where your feet will land.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Paranormal Romance: "The Flipper and the Girl"--David Press.

1.1: We’re in an outdoor pool where streams of SWIMMERS are doing laps. There’s a tile pool deck framed by giant trees stretching in the distance. Just to the left of the panel there’s a COACH in shorts and polo, blowing out his whistle.

1. CAPTION [Time/Location]:    Fairfield, Connecticut.
SFX:                      TWEEE!
2.COACH:             Everyone out of the pool!

1.2: Switching to the other side of the panel where the swimmers climb out of the pool and among the male and human bodies are bodies of people who are most definitely not human. They’re grin skinned with webbed fingers and toes, no hair, and small fin-like mohawks. They’ll be called FLIPPERS. They all gather around the short, stout Coach.

3.COACH:             All right, Flippers, get some good rest tonight because we have New Haven tomorrow afternoon.

1.4: The swimmers begin heading into their separate locker rooms. In the crowd, we can see one FLIPPER stepping close to a GIRL with short-cut dirty-blonde hair that is pasted to her small head. She tries not to notice him.

4.FLIPPER:            Hey, I’m Finn.

1.5: Now we’re in a heavily wooded area where FINN and ELOISE are walking along a lakeside. They’re dressed like your average high school kids: tights and skirt, cardigan and a fun hat for Eloise; varsity jacket and converses for FINN.

5.CAPTION:           “…I’m Eloise.”
6.FINN:                    What do you like to do for fun?
7.ELOISE:                Well…I…don’t have much time for anything else but swimming.

1.6: Let’s take a look at these two young people from their backs as they skip rocks across the surface of the placid lake that reflects the trees all around them.

8.FINN:                I get that. Sometimes I feel like swimming is all I’m meant to do. Y’know?
9.ELOISE:            Yeah…because you’re a—
10.FROM OFF:         FREEZE!

And then two police officers arrest Finn for a drowning near the lake...

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Paranormal Romance - A Mournful Cry - Perry Kent

Panel 1
External, evening, countryside. DONELL stands over a bloody corpse lying on the ground. In one hand he clutches a bloody knife. It is twilight and they are in a field.

1. DONELL (caption): She always comes…

2. DONELL (caption): Always.

Panel 2
A bright light illuminates DONELL as the stunningly beautiful BANSHEE appears a few meters from DONELL. She is speaking to him even as she appears.

3. BANSHEE: You tempt fate, Donell McCaffrey.

Panel 3
DONELL and the BANSHEE kiss in a passionate embrace of two long lost loves.

Panel 4
BANSHEE breaks away from DONELL, a sadness on her face. He looks after her longingly.

4. BANSHEE: I must go.

Panel 5
A tear rolls down the BANSHEE's cheek as she lets loose her mournful cry.


6. DONELL (caption): ...always...


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Paranormal Romance – Do Vampires Dream of Undead Sheep: Sparkless Romance - Dr. Ludwig Von Helsinger (As told to MK Stangeland Jr.)

(Way way back when (over 5 years ago now!), before I was officially a member of Thought Balloons, I wrote a play-at-home script for DRACULA week. The script below was spawned as result of that script, an adaptation of part of a stage play that I tried working on for a short time that I haven’t ENTIRELY given up on one day completing yet.)

Panel 1: DRACULA sits at a bus stop somewhere in NEW YORK CITY. He’s wearing a black suit, with a black shirt and black tie, black shoes, and even black sunglasses, which all highly contrast his blood-drained white skin.

Sitting next to him is LUCY, a young woman who’s dressed for some kind of generic but decent if unglamorous job. She is looking in DRACULA’s direction. DRACULA looks back, annoyed and confused.

LUCY (1): Are you a vampire?

LUCY (2): I only ask because you have such white skin.

LUCY (3): Except, with the sunlight out…

Panel 2: DRACULA bares his teeth at LUCY, trying to look menacing. LUCY, however, looks excited.

LUCY (1): I knew it!

LUCY (2): What kind of makeup are you using?!

Panel 3: DRACULA is a mix of confused, annoyed, and disgusted at LUCY’s behavior as LUCY looks she could practically get up and do a little happy dance.

DRACULA (1): Woman, where…

LUCY (1): …does the blood flow strongest through my neck?

LUCY (2): I’ve often wondered that myself, but I think…

DRACULA (2): What kind of…

LUCY (3): Place have I been hiding all your life?

DRACULA (3): Just who do you think…

LUCY (4): You are?

LUCY (4): Why, only the man I’ve…

Panel 4: DRACULA practically explodes at LUCY, having had enough of whatever madness she’s spouting.


DRACULA (2): Would you STOP!

Panel 5: DRACULA looks angrily at LUCY as she recomposes herself.

LUCY: You’re right…

Panel 6: LUCY has laid down on the bench with her head o DRACULA’s lap. Her arm closer to DRACULA loosely grabs around the back of his neck, her other arm hands out loosely. Her neckline has been undone, LUCY having cleared her neck to make it easy for DRACULA to access. The scene might almost be sensual if it weren’t so ridiculous.

DRACULA looks down at LUCY, he has absolutely no idea how to react; he’s beyond even the point of knowing if he should be surprised and confused anymore.


Monday, April 11, 2016

Paranormal Romance - Love Hurts - Grant McLaughlin

I'm going for a deep cut for my script this week. Longtime readers may remember my particular iteration of Dracula and Frankenstien('s monster).

1 - Night time. Establishing shot of "The Devil's Due" bar. As per usual, the parking lot is mostly empty, with only a handful of vehicles present.

DRACULA (from within): I simply cannot abide this obscene literary fad!

2 - Dracula sits at the bar, gesticulating wildly, his frustration getting the better of him. He wears some rather fancy and stylish clothing, somewhat out of line with the low key ambience of the establishment. Frankenstein stands behind the bar, pouring a bottle of crimson red liquid into a tumbler.

DRACULA (1): Why not Paranormal Noir?

DRACULA (2): Paranormal Non-Fiction?

DRACULA (3): Paranormal Self-Help?

3 - Frankenstein passes the tumbler towards Dracula, but he is too busy continuing on his tirade to pay much notice.

DRACULA: This insistence on such a reductive premise only serves to perpetuate unrealistic stereotypes!

4 - Dracula pauses, an elbow on the bar, his hand supporting his head. He looks sullenly into his glass. Frankenstein starts cleaning a different glass, asking a question of his friend.


5 - Dracula holds the same position, but his eyes look up towards Frankenstein.


6 - Dracula puts his head on top of his arm on the bar, covering his head with his other arm, as if he's trying to hide.

DRACULA (quietly): I don't want to talk about it.