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MW Annual 2017 - peer feedback


#129

Hey, strychnine5, I like your entry a lot. Good job of keeping a bigger picture than just having Huck helping someone out. That would be an easy pit to fall into with Huck, and this was a nice way to avoid it.


#130

Hey, this was a great story. I loved reading it. My one critique would be that it’s not very crook-y. If I’m reading a Supercrooks story, I expect some sort of criminal act. I had a hard time coming up with a premise for this myself, as all of my ideas didn’t involve any crookery. Perhaps if Roddy had gone back in time and stolen something, which Sammy saw on TV–a reference to a famous painting that’s been missing for centuries, although in the real time line it’s never been stolen. Something like that maybe? Very nice take though. The dialogue was great, characters strong. Very fun.


#131

Hi @WarrenB,

Thanks a lot for your feedback. I am glad that you didn’t find any structural issues. I appreciate I may have gone too big in terns of the character used and the twist. Will need to think of something more appropriate for next year.

Will let you know when I have something new for you to check out.

I am planning to feedback on peoples scripts just haven’t had the time lately. Will do yours next.

Cheers,

Stuart


#132

Hey man, I finally got around to reading your script - I thought it had a nice descriptive voice throughout, and a fairly clear narrative. I’m not sure if the concept really got to the root of EMPRESS though. You suggest that Emporia had a wobble around her first pregnancy- I thought this could have been explored/explained a bit more, because in the original run her core character trait is her love for her children (hence taking them away at great risk). This might have rung truer if it had showed, perhaps, an early attempt to escape Earth while pregnant.

I would suggest trying to trim your panels a little bit - you have a few pages with 8 panels (and a few repeated panels) which I think could get a bit cluttered for a five pager. Have a think about your dialogue too - at one point Dane says: “I HAVE ARRANGED IN ADVANCE FOR A BACKUP TEAM AT THE EMERGENCY EXIT” - that doesn’t sound very natural - maybe " I ARRANGED IN ADVANCE FOR A BACKUP TEAM AT THE EMERGENCY EXIT" or “I’VE ARRANGED FOR A BACKUP TEAM AT THE EMERGENCY EXIT”.

I enjoyed your descriptions of the environments and creatures etc, but also bear in mind what’s important and what isn’t from an artist’s perspective (the panel call for page 3, panel 3 seems to have loads of superfluous detail to me). This is just my opinion and there’s lots of solid stuff here - and actually my entry last year was guilty of lots of similar things. Just keep refining, simplify for the small amount of pages and always think ‘why would the characters do this?’ - hope that’s of some use!


#133

Finally re-read Supercrooks. You’re next on my list Warren!


#134

Thanks Skyward!
Yes, I do love those moment-to-moment transitions, and as you wrote, I guess it does make my pages too panel-heavy and I should work on that.
Again, thanks for the feedback!


#135

Hey, Raz-G, I really liked your Empress story. I could not come up with a decent story for that character, but I think you found a nice one here. I’m not sure how much some of the content stays true to the character that Mr. Millar created, but I thought that this was very well told. I agree with skyward that the pages are a little full in some places, but that’s hard to avoid in a such a short comic. The limitations will really make you grow as a writer! Good luck on future projects!


#136

Hey Warren, sorry it’s taken so long to finally read this - I just re-read Supercrooks as I wanted to give your script the critique it deserves.

I liked the main concept - that this is Carmine’s back-story - but it was over in a flash. I could understand your decision to frame the story as you did, but you gave over half your page real-estate to showing us something we’ve already seen in Supercrooks 1-4 - Carmine at the roulette table with a young woman. As this served as the lead in for the original story AND Carmine’s actions set the plot into motion, I think you could have got away with one or two casino panels at the start and one at the end to really maximise the action (alternatively, just frame the thing as a retro-style adventure) - something like the ball bouncing around on multiple panels is stylish, but seems like a luxury in a 4-page story!

Carmine’s little spree was great - I would’ve loved to have seen it get bigger, and riskier (as per his penchant for gambling) before getting caught. I wasn’t sure who the large guy was supposed to be that caught him, or why he was given the ultimatum, but I’m not sure it was too important.

Panel calls were very concise. The dialogue was spot-on and really captured that old-school hustler vibe from the book. I was hoping for a little more of a payoff with the action, which I think probably would have come naturally with more space given to the past burglaries - however, your existing structure makes complete sense for past AND new readers and DOES top and tail proceedings effectively. Hope you see what I’m getting at, and likewise I’d like to see any original/longer stuff you might put out!


#137

Absolutely fantastic crit. And well worth the wait.

I think you’re right in that I likely took the notion of this story potentially being the first exposure to the setting a little too far.

The large guy was pretty much just an extra. No back story, just big dumb muscle really. So you definitely didn’t miss anything.

Thanks for looking and offering such great feedback. I won’t be shy when my next few projects are ready to be shown off. Hopefully they’ll be up your alley.


#138

Thanks Rob!


#139

Okay, sorry again for the delay, but I didn’t want to short-change you, cos you did such a great job for me.
I’ll start with a few things that are probably irrelevant, but which may end up being the difference one day between someone saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a script.

Basically there’s a presentation issue, here – again, this may not matter, but if something looks unprofessional an editor may just pass it by or not read it with total concentration. So, in that vein, I would say that the formatting is really odd. The dialogue/captions have a huge left indentation but barely any right indentation. Also, there’s no differentiation between what is a caption and what is dialogue balloon. There were also quite a few typos, like the comma instead of a full-stop at the end of the dialogue on panel three page 1; or the missing “of” in panel two page 2’s “background the jewelry store.” Again, these are just little things, but I can imagine an editor saying, as soon as (s)he opens the file, “This guy isn’t a professional,” which just puts you on the back foot from the start and we all know editorial and creative decisions are very personal things. It’s silly: someone shouldn’t judge your story based on the formatting, but that’s why you should make it look professional – if there’s no indication from the formatting that this is the work of someone without experience, then that will leave only the story to be judged. As inconsequential as this feedback might be, it’s potentially also the most useful, as it’s easily actioned and is the most objective.

Another semi-objective thing I noticed (and I noticed it in another script as well) is that the panels are not necessarily clearly described for the artist. Take the first panel. “The gamblers are pros.” What do you want the artist to draw here? Maybe they’re in tuxedos? If so, then I would say it’s best to just say that. Perhaps there are there architectural differences (of which I’m not aware) between pro casinos and tourist traps? Well, whatever those architectural differences are, again I think it would be best to state them, because if I’m not aware of them I can imagine the artist might not be either.

Similarly with descriptions of intent, an example of which we can find in that same panel: “He’s trying to be a high-roller.” What is the artist meant to draw for this one? Is the artist meant to put a certain expression on the character’s face? Pompousness? If so, then to avoid the questions, you could just instead say “He has a pompous expression on his face.” (If you think the artist needs to be told a character’s motivation in order to properly render the character’s expression, then you can give both: “He has a pompous expression on his face, as he’s trying to be a high-roller” – just as long as at some point you say what you want the artist to draw.)

Okay, that’s it for the ‘reasonably-objective’ observations. Now into the clearly subjective things, which will probably be of less help but I hope you can find something in them too. First, small things, like word choice: in one of the captions on page one, you write about “catching waves till the sun comes up.” Great line, love the analogy – but it’s probably not a great enough line to repeat, especially in the very next word balloon. I would say you should either come up with some variation of this line, or else cull it from the balloon or the caption.

On the more substantive side, you said that you wrote the story for people who weren’t familiar with Supercrooks, but for me as the uninitiated I did get confused a few times. In particular, the captions at the top of page two leave me a bit perplexed. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had to go solo” implied to me that Carmine is now, in the present, going solo again. It was only when I read further into your script that I realized this wasn’t true. Then, in the next sentence, I wasn’t sure how the word ‘solo’ was operating: that is, is Carmine saying that, during his solo days, he pulled a few solo jobs; or is he saying that, before his solo days, he pulled a few team jobs? By the time I got to “It wasn’t long after I got my start” I was already in such a temporal vortex that I could interpret this sentence in three or four different ways!

Now that I’ve read your story, I understand what these captions were trying to say – and for someone who knows the story now, it’s all very clear. But when I first read it, with absolutely no idea what was going on, I had a few different ways to read this entire caption and so that may be something you want to keep in mind if you’re writing for new readers. You don’t want to over-explain, but you want to be clear with the word-choice. So, I think something like this might have worked: “The only time I ever had to go solo was very early on in my career. I’d pulled a few team-jobs before that but that otherwise I was completely inexperienced.” That probably doesn’t fit the voice of the character, but you see how it kind of clears up the ambiguity.

Another instance where I got confused by the captions was the one where Carmine says the cops thought his thefts were a coordinated string of robberies. Do you mean that the cops thought the robberies were committed a gang or group, rather than an individual? How would the fact that Carmine wasn’t on the scene give the police the impression that the robberies were committed by more than one person?

My advice to overcome this kind of hurdle would be to get trusted friends/colleagues/other who aren’t familiar with the story to read through your script, and to let you know if anything is unclear. I can’t give better advice on this one because I notice this within my own writing: I’ll read something back after a week, or a month, or years, and go, “What did I mean here?” So I guess that’s another option, if you have the time: wait long enough that you forget what you wrote, and read it with completely fresh eyes (and be very critical of yourself). Other than that I’m stuck on this pitfall in my own writing, so I can only tell you to be aware of it – but on the bright side, I think everyone, including all my favourite writers, have problems like this. Peer review before publication is a massive part of many writers’ processes. I know on the other thread some people were saying that not all writers (e.g. Asimov) do this, and I’m sure that’s correct – but at least some great works are written this way; so, for as long as unclear phrases are an identifiable issue within your work, I’d suggest using this review process as a way of getting around it. Plus, the more feedback you get in this area, the more likely you’ll learn where you’re going wrong, too; so after a time it may not be an issue anymore and perhaps that’s the path to Asimoviness.

As for the story itself, I quite liked it – it’s a simple story, but for four pages I thought you put in a nice amount of complication. It’s sort of meant to be upbeat, with the “Don’t let failure stop you from looking for the next opportunity” moral, but you undercut all that by showing that you can be always upbeat and yet always fail. Or that, if you do succeed, you might lose all the rewards of your success anyway because you were looking out for your next opportunity. It complicates a well-known simplistic moral with a bit of reality, and that’s the kind of thing I personally enjoy. I read someone else say that they felt your story was inconsequential, and to a degree I understand that, but only to the degree that (without having read it) I think Supercrooks is probably inconsequential. That is, a mod described Supercrooks as Ocean’s 11 with supercriminals, and for me I felt that Ocean’s 11 was a bit of fluff and that’s not my bag. If that description is accurate then I think the criticism of your story being inconsequential is unfair, because I found more of consequence in your four pages than I did all the Oceans movies put together. I admit that it’s still a small consequence but if you made it too weighty or heavy you’d be breaking the spirit of the comp by going outside the bounds of the original’s tone. But I do say that without having read Supercrooks so I may be pulling this out from deeper in my ass than the rest of my ramblings!

Well, that’s a long missive, but again I really appreciate what you did for me so I hope that I was able to give you the kinds of insights that can help things along. Cheers, Warren!


#140

Thanks Matthew, this was absolutely great.

One thing I find really interesting and I know I’ve only got a small sample size to go off of (1 short script a piece), but I think the two of us come at story telling from slightly different directions.(Not meant disparagingly just an observation that we likely have very different influences. I’m over explaining because text is sometimes hard to get across intent.)

Anyway I note that because I think that’s exactly what makes your feedback so useful to me. For instance, I’d have never come to the conclusion someone would think tuxedo for professional gamblers. It just never occurred to me that it needed more explanation. I’m not 100% on where you live, so it may be a regional thing but they show professional poker on TV here in the states. And the guys that are playing at the highest levels, aren’t nearly that stylish, they’re more member’s only jacket than cummerbund. But yeah the point was no little grannies playing penny slots in the back ground really.

For the record I’m always up for work shopping stories and ideas. If you’re open to it, feel free to hit me up anytime. Doing crit and feedback was a big part of how I learned to write.

(Although be warned, I thought the Ocean’s movies were good fun. Not high art by any stretch but solid popcorn fare.)


#141

Thank you for so much for the feedback! You are right on point that there should have been some kind of villainy going on. I love your idea about the painting and am happy to hear you enjoyed the story! Made my day!


#142

Hello All,
It was a lot of fun writing a short, simple HUCK story.
This is the script for “Finding Baby Whale”


#143

Oh, sorry, the tuxedo thing wasn’t a real example – it was just meant to be illustrative. That is, whatever you wanted to be drawn (whether it be members-only jackets or whatever), it’s best if you say that rather than let your artist guess. The tuxedo was just a silly little example to illustrate my point – that’s something that can be drawn, whereas “they’re high-rollers” cannot.

I think that absolutely we have different tastes – there’s one bit of feedback that all three of my reviewers agreed on, and that I actually got last year as well, and that is that eight panels is too many for a page. When I hear that, I go, “Ah, these guys maybe aren’t Watchmen/Sandman/Maus etc fans.” For what it’s worth, I think your tastes are much more attuned to what’s required for this competition. Mark has said that he thinks about 6 panels is right for a page.

In terms of story-content, I think again the ‘lighter fare’ is generally what is more preferred in this case. I’ve said it before, but when I read the losing scripts last year, there was one that just knocked my socks off. I thought, “Shit, if this is the losing one, the annual is going to be amazing!” And I’m not saying it wasn’t; just that it wasn’t really catered to my tastes. So I’m always a bit wary about making a comment on someone’s plot, here, as I’m very aware my tastes are not necessarily attuned to the tastes of the judge(s).

That’s why some of my more formal comments will hopefully be of most help to you – differentiate between captions/dialogue balloon; bring the right margin in on those balloons/captions; read for typos/missing words/spacing errors/etc; and if you want members-only jackets (or whatever), then say it. These are the more boring comments, but ones that cut across taste, and could be genuinely useful as first impressions from an unknown writer can be invaluable.

It’s funny, cos when I read your feedback for everyone here, I thought “Oh this guy has been around the block a bit,” and as soon as I opened up your script I thought “First script ever.” If an editor thinks that, then they’re potentially only going to give it a glancing view, if they do even that – cos whose first script is ever worth reading? Not mine, that’s for sure.

I know, by the way, that this is nowhere near your first script, but I just got that impression from the look. And, regarding typos, etc, there’s always that old dictum “If they didn’t care enough about their script to read through it properly, why should I?” Silly stuff – when I first became acquainted with these notions, I thought, “So even if my story’s good, people might turn me down because I left out a full-stop?” And the answer is that the editor/agent might not know your story is good, because they have lots to read each day and are looking for excuses (rightly or wrongly) to say ‘lazy’ or ‘amateur.’

It’s wrong, but we can’t change the world from this position – just navigate our way through it. So I hope that you can use my more formal observations, as they are outside the bounds of “taste” and are fairly ubiquitous.


#144

Fantastic discussion points.

I happen to like Watchmen, Maus, and Sandman quite a bit. In my opinion it was less “8 panels are too many for a page” than “these 8 panels are too much for a page”. (I’ve currently got a 12+ panel page in the script I’m working on. But it is there for a very specific reason.)

As dense as Watchmen is contextually. Most pages that rely on all 9 panels in the grid, without any expansions bare this in mind. The wordier pages tend to allow for backgrounds to fade away or become more sparse in order to fit everything in, whereas panels with little or no text are the ones that called for very specific background set pieces and much more visual texture. A 2"x3"** panel can’t have multiple characters an expansive background a caption, and a word balloon, it just gets to be more than can all fit in one place with any semblance of clarity.

**2"x3" is roughly what you get per panel on the strict 9 panel grid. It’s a little more or less depending on gutter size and trim measurement

Re: formatting, I’ve honestly never sweat that too much for comics. That, said I’ve never had a complaint on it before, so never had to think about it. Nearly everything I’m doing was cribbed from other people working in comics and their scripts. I just went with the formats, that I tended to find easier to read. If this were screenwriting or some other draconian format to write in, like screen writing, I’d certainly tow a tighter line with it.

I’ll definitely give it some thought moving forward for sure.

Typos, there’s no excuse. I just missed them on the edit pass. With any luck and diligence those things don’t make it all the way through a production process.


#145

This is why there is always great value in getting someone else to take a look over it before you submit. With your own script sometimes you can miss the glaringly obvious and a second pair of eyes is invaluable.


#146

Agreed 100%. In this case my second set of eyes happened to be another art school graduate.

(I need more literate friends to call me on my nonsense.)


#147

I Passed mine through eight different persons (All pals, all work in the medium to some extent, all with a better English formation that I have) before submiting it.

And STILL, one typo (An important one) was missed.


#148

Have you really seen a script with no distinction made between captions and dialogue? From a professional? Or one where margins are huge on the left but very small on the right? I’ve read quite a few scripts and while there is a massive variety they all look tidy.

Re: the panels, my most panel-laden page (page 3, with 10 panels – one of which is just a small inset) had very few words (there were quite a few silent panels, as this is where the action happens), so it was a considered move. That said, I don’t want to defend my work, because that’s not the point of getting peer-review: you flagged it, the other two reviewers flagged it, and it was flagged last year as well. I think that, whatever my own opinions on comics-making, for this competition I should make my submission next year 6 (or max 7) images per page. That just seems to be where this particular group seems to be.

On the more broader issue of other comics, I never really noticed any panels in Watchmen where there wasn’t important background detail – what Moore/Gibbons did very well was, on pages where there was a lot of text, they had pictures that almost told another story (or in some way gave a separate stream of relevant information). I’m sure that doesn’t hold true for all pages, but the ones my mind is flashing to now have a lot of text and a lot of important visual information while also being on that 9-page grid.

Still, as I say, these kinds of considerations don’t matter too much for me here, as they’re obviously not working for me in this particular instance. I’ll probably write something with a sparser panel spread next year and with a more ‘light’ touch to it, if I can find a way of making that interesting for me. I’ll check out the annual this year though, too, to see if there is a trend towards ‘Oceans-11-y’ type of stories (with 6-ish panels per page), and if there is I’ll combine that with all the feedback you guys have been so generous to give me in order to create something that might be more appropriate for this particular competition.