Archive for January, 2008

Jan 20 2008

Movie Trailers

Published by under Comedy

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

Vantage Point and Harold and Kumar 2 are on the board today.

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Jan 19 2008

Quote Set of the Day (January 19)

Faith: not wanting to know what is true.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Philosophy: giving up on the concept of truth.

–Jacob Mallow

Capital punishment: giving up on the concept of Mallow.

–Agent Orange

Diplomacy, Superhero Nation-style: simultaneously offending the religious, the nonreligious and death penalty opponents.

No responses yet

Jan 17 2008

Ridiculously Crass Caption of the Day

Published by under Comedy

Ex-SECDEF Rumsfeld, Spiderman and Captain America

Rumsfeld only realized at the last second that he had left his blue-and-red suit at home. Even Captain America was sympathetic.

The picture was used in a 2005 Washington Post article on Defense-Marvel cooperation. On the Superhero Nation Scale of Cluelessness, I give its author a 7 out of 10.

  1. “It’s clobberin’ time!” is the first sentence. Ouch. Even if the article mentioned The Thing, that would be inexcusable.

  2. “…Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (normal human strength, no known superpowers)…” Heh.

  3. Use of the phrase “G-man”: solid. Use of the phrase “G-man” to describe a government bureaucrat: questionable.
  4. “Either Marvel Comics is really hard up for readers and needs an ultra-dynamic, Pentagon-heavy publicity gimmick to boost its sales, or Rumsfeld is finally ready to admit that only a superhero can extricate us from Iraq.” Translation: I don’t write for the editorial page, but I want to.

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Jan 15 2008

Course Syllabi

Published by under Writing Articles

This is a list of my course syllabi, posted mainly for my own recordkeeping.

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Jan 15 2008

David’s Script Excerpt: Pages 1-6

Published by under Art,Comic Book Art

PAGE ONE (five panels)
Panel 1. Establishing shot. This is a large panel that shows a spooky castle and a bit of the surrounding world. There are sinister mountains and dark clouds and lightning behind the castle. The castle should have a large base and two towers. Colorwise, the castle is half-shrouded in darkness and the rest of the shot should be dominated by grey and black.

CAP: On a far-away planet…

Panel 2. This is a small panel showing SILENCE, the main protagonist, cleaning as a prisoner.

CAP: This mute girl is a prisoner.

Panel 3. This is a small panel with two ogres, HACK and STAB, talking in the background. Hack is sneering. Both ogres have grey skin and empty, evil-looking eye. There’s a metal on his back without spikes.

HACK: Terrible job as always, Silence.

Panel 4. This is a small panel zooming in on Silence’s big, pleading eyes as she telepathically begs Hack not to hurt her.

SILENCE (telepathically): Please, I will do better.

Panel 5. A small panel of her and Stab. Stab looks like Hack, except he has a scar on the side of his face.

STAB: A worthless thing like you can never do better!

PAGE TWO (six panels).

Panel 1. This is a large panel showing Stab punting Silence into a cage a few feet away. He’s wearing a brown boot. Silence is surprised.

STAB: Back in your cage, Silence.

Panel 2. A small panel showing Hack and Stab bowing in fear in the background. Their attention has shifted away from Silence, but we can’t see what they are bowing to. We can, however, see the sinister shadow it is casting over them. (We’re getting this shot from Silence’s limited perspective, so we can’t see that the shadow is being cast by Silence’s father, VOLKRIG, who is off-camera).

VOLKRIG, in a sinister font: You idiots. Apparently you don’t understand the concept of a sacrifice ritual. I can’t sacrifice her if she’s already dead! Nor can I sacrifice you oafs. [Small text:] Not that I haven’t looked into it.

HACK (in a wavering balloon): Yes, master.

Panel 3: This is a small panel that’s a closeup on Silence’s face. Her expression is very frightened. To help make this picture look more askew, three strands of hair come over her eyes and rest on the tip of her nose.

SILENCE (thought bubble): Sacrifice?

Panel 4: Hack and Stab are standing up and looking warily away down the corridor. The reader should get the impression that the frightening speaker (Volkrig) has left.

HACK: How’d he know we were playing around with her?

STAB: You dummy! Don’t ask those kind of things. You know what happened to Clobber.

HACK, in small text: I miss Clobber.

Panel 5: Hack and Stab are still talking. Hack convinces Stab to come out with him to Earth.

HACK, who has now cheered up a bit: I bet he’s asleep already.
STAB: Doubt it.
HACK: Too bad. I doubt you could be having fun on Earth, kicking puppies around. I’ll let you know how it went.

PANEL 6: Hack has turned away from Stab and is starting to march away. Stab looks very surprised, like he’s about to miss out on a fun trip to Earth. Stab follows after him.

STAB: Hey, wait up!

PAGE THREE (six panels).
Panel 1. Silence hears “Earth” and begins to imagine herself there. She’s never been to Earth, so make this daydream seem very fantastical and not particularly well-informed. Since the only thing she knows on Earth is what the ogre just mentioned (that there are puppies to kick) this daydream should have a lot of puppies in it.   Go crazy with this. In contrast to the first two pages, this fantasy should be bright and cheerful.

SILENCE, in a thought-bubble: Earth? There’s another world?

Panel 2. An alien bird drops onto the sill of a window that is high above her cage. She stares at it. (This should remind us how far away she is from freedom). Silence decides to break out here, so what we can see of the side of her face should be a bit harder and more resolute than what we had seen in the previous shots.

SILENCE, in a thought-bubble: I’ve got to escape!

Panel 3: She glances over at the hallway. Hack and Stab are gone. She smiles.

SILENCE, in a thought-bubble: Perfect.

Panel 4. This is a small panel that shows Silence exiting her cell.

Panel 5. This is a closeup of Silence’s bare foot pressing down on a stone button. She looks down at the trap trigger, worried.

Panel 6: This is the biggest panel on this page. A huge blade slams down right in front of her.

PAGE FOUR (five panels).

Panel 1. This is a small panel showing the blade rising. Silence breathes a sigh of relief.

Panel 2. Silence stands at an open door showing a mostly empty room with a purple portal in the middle. Two stone statues face the portal.

Panel 3. In the foreground, Silence stands in front of the portal, looking deep in thought and biting her bottom lip. She should look like she’s having some second thoughts. The portal is in the background, bathing her in a purple glow.

Panel 4. Silence is half-way in the portal.

Panel 5. Silence is tumbling through the portal.

PAGE FIVE (two panels).

Panel 1. Silence crashes to the ground as the portal closes behind her.

Panel 2. This panel should take up most of the page. Silence is surrounded by long distances of sand, rocks and desert.

PAGE SIX (five panels)

Panel 1. The camera has zoomed in on Silence’s hand picking up sand.

Panel 2. The sand runs through her fingers.

Panel 3. Silence looks up at the sun, squinting. She fans herself. Little drops of sweat are rolling down her cheek. In the background, we see a cloudless sky with a bird far off.

Panel 4. Silence has her eyes closed. She looks uncomfortable and her hair changes from blue and dirty to a clean and braided blonde. Red markings appear on both eyes.

CAP: Silence’s sudden freedom allowed her powers to manifest.

Panel 5 shows a shocked-looking Silence holding her hair out in front of her. Her skin is also clean.

6 responses so far

Jan 15 2008

Quote of the Day (1/15/08)

Catastrophe: I need advice.

Bartender: Don’t take vodka as a chaser.

Catastrophe: More, uhh, substantively…

Bartender: Don’t drink and drive.

Catastrophe: …

Catastrophe: I need a new advisor.

Bartender: That’s the spirit.

One response so far

Jan 14 2008

Five Ways to Write Intense Fight Scenes (Superhero and Fantasy)

This article will teach you how to write exciting fights.

1. Immerse us in the scene. Engage as many senses as possible, particularly the visceral ones (touch, smell, taste). For example, if the supervillain dropkicks his sister, you could work with the impact he feels, the impact she feels, the secondary impact of her slamming into something else, possibly the smell and/or taste of blood, and anything related to the superpowers of either. (Dropkicking the Human Torch should be a different experience than The Thing or Reed Richards).

 

Additionally, avoid anything that makes your readers wonder what’s happening. It may help to create a diagram of the scene so that you know what’s happening. One frequent area of confusion is how far away the characters are from each other.

 

2. Don’t put in too many characters. Each additional character dilutes the fight and makes it harder to visualize the fight in real-time. I’d recommend capping your fights to 2-4 combatants at a time. If you want more fighters, I’d recommend writing the battle as a series of more limited duels rather than a battle royale with tons of fighters. If you have too many characters in a fight, it will probably lead to a fight that flits between each character, not sticking around long enough to show them doing anything interesting. (See Soon I Will Be Invincible).

 

3. Unlike comic books and movies, a novel does not accomplish much by having the hero mow down waves of faceless henchmen or creatures. A novelist doesn’t have visual special effects to show off. The main advantage of a novel is that its length allows it to sustain a deeper plot and better-developed characters. Fighting anonymous and hopeless enemies does not play to these strengths.

 

4. Be creative. How do your characters interact with the scenery? Brainstorm a few items or props that are in the scene and try to work in a few when a combatant gets desperate. Using props helps remind readers that the characters aren’t fighting in a vacuum.

 

Also, try to have your hero use his powers in an unexpected way. We’ll expect a shapeshifting hero to copy a guard or the villain to infiltrate the villain’s lair and rescue his girlfriend. But we’d be more surprised if he copied his girlfriend and got captured in her place.

 

5. Let your hero improvise. Throw a few wrenches in his carefully laid plans. If your supervillain really is a genius, surely he will anticipate some of the things your hero will try and prepare accordingly. (The forcefield generators will be within the forcefields, dammit!)

 

6. Be suspenseful. These elements should help.

–Stealth and desperation. Typically, heroic efforts that are stealthy and/or desperate are more suspenseful because any false step could result in failure. In contrast, it’s less suspenseful for a hero to barrel into the villain’s lair because readers know that there’s no chance a faceless mook will kill the hero. But the faceless mook actually DOES present some risk to a stealthy hero that cannot afford to be seen–it’s still not likely that the mook will stop the hero, but he could alert somebody that might.

–Ticking clocks. If the hero has 15 minutes to defuse the bomb or two days to stop the villain from taking over the world, that adds urgency to the plot. My favorite example of this was D.O.A., where the main character gets fatally poisoned and has to solve his own murder.

–Strong side-characters. If we feel for the damsel-in-distress, we’d care a lot more whether the hero can rescue her. We’re more likely to feel for her if she’s well-developed and has a distinct personality. I recommend looking at Teri Hatcher’s Lois Lane in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

–Suicidally determined heroes. If the audience knows that the hero’s only goal is beating the villain–not coming home alive–then it raises more doubt about whether he will survive. Whether he does or not, there will be more suspense. I’d recommend checking out Pacific Rim here.

 

7. Keep it as short as possible. Generally, fights should be the climax of their chapters, rather than the bulk. Dragging out a fight scene for pages typically feels pretty tedious. The worst-case scenario is that the fight will feel like a scrolling list of hits the hero and villain are landing on each other. I’d recommend checking out the last 20 minutes of Man of Steel here. Failure.

200 responses so far

Jan 13 2008

Quote of the Day (1/13/08)

Dr. Darpa: Virtually every Office of Special Investigations agent uses a firearm as his primary weapon, but the vast majority of our kills are executed with non-gun weapons.

Captain Carnage: Every one of the criminals we deal with has steel-like skin, dodges bullets like they’ve gone out of style, or both.

Dr. Darpa: Over the past twelve years, I’ve been modifying tank-mounted machine guns to compensate for those unusual characteristics. I have created a handgun so horrifically lethal that Congress has limited its sale to NATO countries.

Captain Carnage: You mean…

Dr. Darpa: The Western Cannon.

Captain Carnage: I thought it was a myth!

Dr. Darpa: Mythically deadly, perhaps. With a full mound of ammo, it weighs roughly half a ton. It has three rates of fire: “full automatic,” “wall of lead,” and “dodge this.

No responses yet

Jan 13 2008

Quote of the Day (1/12/08)

Captain Carnage: The assassins have bugged your car with a tracking device. Driving it could be highly dangerous, particularly if you believe really strongly in that whole no-killing thing.

Lash: …

Lash: What do you have in mind?

Carnage: If you lend me your keys for the day, I have someone in mind whose skills will discourage anyone from tailing you ever again.

Lash nervously hands over his BMW keys.

The next morning, a smoking and sooty Agent Orange approaches Lash.

Lash: Dear God. You were the driver? Do you even have a license?

Agent Orange: I have good news, bad news and worse news. Which would you like first?

Lash: … there’s bad news besides learning you were the driver?

Lash: …

Agent Orange: You definitely won’t save a bunch on your car insurance.

Lash: The worse news?

Agent Orange: It won’t be an open-casket funeral.

Lash: …

Lash: Dare I ask what the good news is?

Agent Orange: Captain Carnage bet that open-road road tests are so easy that even I could pass one. I sure showed him! Hah. He didn’t even know that alligators are green-red colorblind!

Later, Lash confronts Captain Carnage.

Lash: You handed my BMW over to a goddamn lizard.

Carnage: It proved surprisingly easy to determine who was attempting to follow his… unorthodox driving style. We made four arrests. So his skills proved quite effective.

Lash: Which “skills?” I’ve definitely ruled out anything driving-related.

Carnage: Limb-regeneration and gullibility.

Lash: Gullibility?

Carnage: Did you know license tests occur on country roads in the middle of the night and are graded by SWAT officers in helicopters?

Lash: …

Lash: I hate you.

No responses yet

Jan 12 2008

The Anglosphere Cringes, Part 4

Published by under News

The government of Northern Ireland has managed to simultaneously embarrass comic-book fans and English speakers in general.  According to its website:

Six super heroes swept into Belfast today to help launch a unique new comic aimed at promoting and defending the rights of small children.

Herbie Healthy, Sophie Safe, Archie Achiever, Emer the Eco Girl, Donna Does-a-lot and Rory Rights… joined Junior Ministers Gerry Kelly and Ian Paisley Jnr at the headquarters of the play agency, PlayBoard, to unveil the “Super Six” comic to a group of primary school children.

[end quote]

Some quick thoughts.

  1. Northern Ireland has a “play agency.” !?!

  2. I think any self-respecting three-year-old would burst into tears if forced to read any comic book about Donna Does-a-lot or Emer the Eco Girl. In fact, even conceiving these comics is an attack on the dignity and rights of children.

  3. “super heroes” and “super powers” look awkward. I recommend “superheroes” and “superpowers”. Would you want to read Super Hero Nation? That sounds like a Japanese drinking game.

No responses yet

Jan 11 2008

Scene of the Day (1/11/08)

A commenter asked “what do they teach at the Office of Special Investigation’s Chariots of Fire Driving Academy?” A very good question.

[start scene]

Agent Black is waiting in the CFDA’s front-lobby, which looks like an airport terminal. Beyond the glass walls, cars chase each other on a practice course.

CFDA RECEPTIONIST: I’m sorry, we’re out of spaces for the Defensive Driving course. Can I interest you in Offensive Driving? Just sign these liability disclaimers.

BLACK: What do they teach in Offensive–

A car triple barrel-rolls onto the car it had been chasing.

BLACK: …

BLACK: Do you have a pen?

One response so far

Jan 10 2008

Quote of the Day (1/10/08)

Agent Orange:  At the Office of Special Investigations, “Chariots of Fire” isn’t just a classic
film.  It’s also the name of our driving school.

One response so far

Jan 09 2008

Quote of the Day (1/9/08)

Agent Orange: In Canada, keep your friends close and your automatic weaponry closer. The nation is a rabbit’s den of sinister plots and dark secrets.

Agent Black: Canada has dark secrets?

Agent Orange: The darkest!

No responses yet

Jan 08 2008

Superhero Nation: The Movie

It’ll have ridiculously confusing time travel, wholly implausible use of a space station as a doomsday device, and more national landmarks than you can shake a standard-issue NASA laser pistol at. But Hollywood will want a name that can appeal to a global market. I’ll call it… Planet of the Capes.

No responses yet

Jan 08 2008

Boy Scouts 1, Assassins 0

Published by under Comedy,News

In comic book stories, “Boy Scout” is generally used as a pejorative for any character that’s too heroic (usually Superman). Maybe knocking the Boy Scouts isn’t a good idea…

Boy Scout Grabs Attacker’s Knife, Saves Maldives President from Assassination.

I wonder which Merit Badge he was going for.

How will the assassin explain this to his boss? “I was about to stab Gayoom. And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for that meddling kid!”

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Jan 08 2008

Superhero and Supervillain Naming Conventions

This article presents six tips about what works and what usually doesn’t when you’re naming your superheroes and villains. Find out why Mischief-Man is much worse than Mayhem.

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252 responses so far

Jan 07 2008

Interested in Accents?

Published by under Writing Articles

If you’re trying to capture the sound of a dialect, check out the Speech Accent Archive.  I think it’ll help a lot with inflection, but probably not so much with phrases distinct to a region.

Incidentally, I think that political scientists usually agree that candidates with Midwestern and Southern accents perform better.

No responses yet

Jan 07 2008

Quote of the Day– 1/7/2008

Agent Black: Several years ago, the OSI concluded that Dr. Savant had a secret identity and identified three suspects, including another Social Justice Leaguer. All attempts to determine which one have failed. Until now.

Captain Carnage: Why?

Black: Because he’s every freaking one of them.

Carnage: …

Carnage: And that threw y’all off for several years?

Black: He has three secret identities. That was, uhh, a great deal stranger than I had anticipated.

Carnage: Hell, boy, this ain’t no shit. In the Gulf War, I passed out in a Kuwaiti sandstorm and woke up in Costa Rica. Surrounded by decapitated kangaroos.

Black: …

Black: Wow. That’s strange.

Carnage: Or it might have been Iraq, surrounded by decapitated Republican Guardsmen. It’s hard to keep all the details straight.
Black: …

Black: …

Black: You’ve been talking to RETCON, haven’t you?

Carnage: How’d you know?

No responses yet

Jan 07 2008

My spies report…

The UN plans to “use Spiderman to fight evil,” according to the Associated Press. (Wait, doesn’t the UN already have its own superheroes?)

The article mentions that…

John Bolton called it an “act of desperation… you can have Spiderman in a comic book all you want, but it’s not going to change public perception.”

John’s wrong. Adding Spidey to a comic book always changes public perception about its quality. For example, take Spiderman: Get Kraven. It made it to issue six, out of a scheduled seven. Get Kraven would not have survived to two.
Just how bad was Get Kraven?

Get Kraven #1

Kraven 1

Makes you wonder what they did for 2-6, right?

Savor excerpts of a review of #1:

It works, in the same way that selling Pokemon toys to children works. The characters don’t go challenging any boundaries, except those of good taste.

Spidey’s appearance is best quickly forgotten…

Get Kraven #2

Kraven 2

Incidentally, the mini-WTC logo is the only reason this comic should not be burned.

Excerpts of a review:

it’s about as witty as two-day old vomit down the back of the sofa. It’s as funny as a draft notice in 1967 [hey!] It’s as clever as a Ph.D thesis in pig-latin*…

Namor swims up and gives him some advice about Hollywood…

SUMMARY: Renting a bungalow. Scott Baio. Six pages.

*Which is different from regular theses… how?

Get Kraven #6 (skipping 3-5 for everyone’s well-being)

Kraven 6

Wait… the WTC logo is gone.  Light it up!

If you actually bought this, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Here are some excerpts of a five-star review of #6.

The Rothsteins weren’t the head of the snake. They need to go to Beverly Hills…

It turns out, Ned is playing a role playing game with the Chameleon because it’s healthy, according to his shrink. The Chameleon snaps, he takes a spear and runs towards Al…

The story ends with Nickles [THE F***ING DOG] wondering that this was supposed to be a seven issue series. And that it’s weird that he waited to the last page to talk!

Anyway, the point is that Spidey got Get Kraven to issue six. After that, world peace should be a snap.

In any case, he can sell a comic that will be heavy on the preaching and light on the miracles.

No responses yet

Jan 06 2008

The Superhero Nation Mission Statement

There are mad scientists. There are political scientists. At Superhero Nation, you get the worst of both worlds.

(Maybe this is why we haven’t had a mission statement up to this point).

No responses yet

Jan 06 2008

“I DEMAND COMEDY”

Published by under Uncategorized

Earlier today, I added a I DEMAND COMEDY button to the sidebar (under New Here?)  That will make it easier for the comically minded to find what they crave, rather than be bogged down with articles on writing or Campaign 2008.

  1. I’m also trying to identify which of my articles are the most popular and highest quality.  I’m moving these articles to categories marked Reader Favorites.  For example, Reader Favorites:  Comedy is a collection of my top comic work.  So far I think I’ve listed 5 of those.  In a day or two, I’ll have sifted through my ~600 posts for the best 15-30.
  2. I’m also working on a Reader Favorites: Writing Advice.  I haven’t started this yet.  That’s clearly less of a priority because most of my writing articles are relatively easy to find on the sidebar.
  3. I may add another category or two.
  4. You can see all of the Reader Favorites at the aptly named Reader Favorites:  All Categories.  That won’t make much of a difference until I start adding entries to Reader Favorites:  Writing Advice.
  5. I’m trying to clean up my category headers to be more precise.  Postings that are listed as Comedy are now only those that are primarily meant to be funny and not, say, writing articles that occasionally are funny.

No responses yet

Jan 05 2008

Common Problems with Powersuited Superheroes

Are you writing a novel or comic book about a powersuited hero, like Iron Man or Steel? Powersuit stories often suffer from the following problems, many of which are easy-to-fix.

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39 responses so far

Jan 05 2008

6 Common Problems with Superstrong Superheroes

Beat’em-up superheroes like the Hulk and Superman often suffer from these six problems.

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20 responses so far

Jan 05 2008

Seven Common Problems with Psychic Characters

Writing a novel or comic book/graphic novel about a psychic character? Here are some recurring challenges.

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259 responses so far

Jan 04 2008

Characteristics of the Day

Published by under political science

  1. He’s a few blast-caps short of a detonation.
  2. He’s like the R.L. Stine of political scientists.
  3. He’s a few receivers short of a spread.

No responses yet

Jan 04 2008

Why Notre Dame? What’s it like?

These are my observations about the Notre Dame experience. Hopefully this will help you decide if ND is the right school for you and give you the details you need to demonstrate your commitment to the admissions staff (assuming ND is right for you).  If you’re into application strategies specifically, please see Getting into Notre Dame.

Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Jan 03 2008

9 Easy-to-Fix Problems with Superhero Design

This article will help you design your superhero’s appearance for a comic book or novel cover-art. No matter what your style is, you can avoid these 9 mistakes that cause a superhero’s appearance to sink the story.

Common Flaws of Superhero Appearances

  1. The character’s appearance lacks a distinct theme.
  2. The character looks lifeless.
  3. He looks unrelatable.
  4. His appearance is inconsistent with his personality.
  5. His appearance is inconsistent with the story’s mood.
  6. His costume is too campy or demeaning.
  7. His appearance makes his secret identity implausible.
  8. The details of his appearance are inconsistent.
  9. He has too many accessories.

Continue Reading »

157 responses so far

Jan 03 2008

Texan Headline of the Day

Dallas Police, Officials Discourage Random Gunfire.”

Uhh… what were the Dallas police doing before?

On a side-note, I think the Dallas police will find that it’s easier to cut murders by reducing targeted gunfire.

No responses yet

Jan 03 2008

SPAAAAAAAAAAARTA!

Published by under Writing Articles

Michael Totten took a picture of this sign from Lima Company.

Lima Company sign, courtesy of Michael Totten

If Illinois’ performance in the Rose Bowl is any indicator, units also get attacked less if they look like Trojans.  

I think the geometry of fires is a set of rules and conditions related to several battalions operating in a close area.
No Marine has been injured in Fallujah for months, leading to interesting techniques to maintain troop alertness.

When Marines are around, it probably isn't just complacency

There are also some borderline-amusing stories about bizarre and dangerous strategies from Iraqi kids to get Americans to give them candy.  (Well, yes, making fake speedbumps on the road will get Marines to dismount, but…)

No responses yet

Jan 02 2008

Crocodile Terrorism: Tragicomedy, with an Emphasis on the Comedy

Quote of the Day:

Agent Orange: Few things are more pathetic than the crocodile terrorist. Yep. They can’t even do that right.

The Crocodile Intellect

And they talk like thisssssss…

We already knew that mammals > crocodiles, but this also indicates that mammal-insects > crocodiles. But Spiderman foolishly let the crocodile escape, which is further proof that alligators > mammal-insects.

One response so far

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