Mark’s Remarks – Marvel Age #118 (November 1992)

New Talent Department

We’re back on the New Talent Department beat. For those of you with short memories, I’ve run columns on how to break into the comics biz in general and Marvel Comics in particular for a while now (issues #102, 105, 107, 109, and 111, to be exact). By way of example I’ve been doing what no Marvel editor has the time to do: working with aspiring talent to bring their first submissions up to “publishability” level. We’ve gotten a serviceable plot, had the plot drawn, and now are at the script stage.

Submitted for your approval (and mine) is the script for this five-page Spider-Man versus Flag-Smasher story written by Jean-Jacques Dzialowski of Paris, whose name was selected at random by a MARVEL AGE assistant editor several administrations ago.

Okay, Jean-Jacques, take it away, and I’ll give my pithy commentary afterwards…


DZIALOWSKI/“Backsmash!”/PAGE ONE

  1. Caption The American Embassy, PARIS, FRANCE
  2. CRS Team Leader <…situation here remains unchanged. Terrorists belonging to the ULTIMATUM organization led by the American super criminal known as the TRAPSTER are holding people hostage for ransom.>*
  3. Caption <As our own local super celebrity seems to have taken a day off…**>
  4. Caption <…I’m sorry to say I just can’t see any quick and easy way to get this mess straightened out. It really couldn’t have happened at a nicer moment.>
  5. Title BACKSMASH!
  6. Caption “Que desiderat pacem,m praeparet bellum”
    “Let him who desires peace prepare for war”
    VEGETIUS, De Re Militari.
  7. Caption *Translated from the French.
    ** The PEREGRINE.
  8. Credits

DZIALOWSKI/“Backsmash!”/PAGE TWO

  1. 1 Caption Easy enough. I don’t even dare think things can still happen that quick anymore. Guess I’m just getting a little more pessimistic with each day that passes…
  2. Caption …or more realistic. Sure looks like everyone needs the amazing SPIDER-MAN!
  3. Trapster (TH) …No. NO! Not again! Not HERE!!! I didn’t come here to face him again! Why is he tormenting me?…
  4. Caption …Why won’t he leave me in peace??…
  5. Caption Why can’t a mere photo assignment this far from home be all quiet for once??
  6. Caption As if troubles were stuck to my back.
  7. Caption …WHY?
  8. Fx THWIP
  9. Fx KRAKK
  10. Caption Guess they are, yeah.
  11. Caption That’s the problem with being a hero. If you’re not looking for troubles

DZIALOWSKI/“Backsmash!”/PAGE THREE

  1. Fx KRAKataKRAKAKATOW
  2. Caption …troubles are looking for you.
  3. Flag-Smasher Is there no place on Earth where costumed fools won’t meddle with matters they do not comprehend?
  4. Smasher …with my sacred duty…
  5. Smasher … I will bring nationalism down!!! This obsolete concept that divides the world has to be destroyed along with its symbols!!! It is the only way to unite mankind and achieve world peace!!!
  6. Caption …Can you understand??!
  7. Smasher Guards, eliminate him. I’ve got more important work to do.
  8. Caption My mission cannot tolerate any more delaying, for time is counting down. The world becomes more violent each day because of its flawed structures. I must end this madness before it’s too late.

DZIALOWSKI/“Backsmash!”/PAGE FOUR

  1. Caption The money I’ll soon get will reassert ULTIMATUM’S power, therefore ensuring our success; my half-witted “ally” will draw attention to allow our escape and the time-bomb I’ll then detonate will…
  2. Caption …silence…
  3. Caption No! I cannot let him ruin what took so much time to build!!
  4. Caption Things don’t always happen the way you’d like them to…
  5. Spider-Man …do they?
  6. Caption Knocking out all the merry bunch was easy once led away from the hostages. And as they are now safe on the balcony outside…
  7. Caption …I can show my new pal how much disillusions often hurt you…

DZIALOWSKI/“Backsmash!”/PAGE FIVE

  1. Caption …hard.
  2. Flag-Smasher Fool! You do not realize! Should I fail, the world is doomed!!! Nations will grow jealous of each other, their lust for power will drive them at each other’s throats! World wars will break out! The Gulf war was only the beginning!! Armageddon can be aborted! By gathering the countries into one huge family, there’ll be no more dissensions, no more cause for war!!!
  3. Smasher I must succeed! I MUST!
  4. Caption No. Terrorism cannot be the solution, It’s just running away from the real difficulties.
  5. Caption Arguing with guys like him is a waste of time. They never change their minds. Doesn’t he realize he’s already doing what he seeks to prevent, he’s waging his own personal war!
  6. Smasher You don’t know what you’re doing!! You’re fighting against your own salvation!! The FLAG-SMASHER will make you see the light!!!
  7. Caption You can’t destroy what took so much time to build just for the sake of creating something new, This is way too radical, too easy. I can’t allow that. Guess we all do…
  8. Caption …just wonder which one of us truly is…
  9. Caption …FLAG-SMASHER??…
  10. Caption Terrorism does not help matters. Even to achieve world peace. Violence just breeds more violence. There are other, better ways. There must be.
  11. Caption “Peace hath her victories no less renowned than war”
    John MILTON, To Cromwell

Gruenwald, again, and my overall critique: Not bad. Here’s a page by page commentary.

Page 1: Everything here is fine, but Spider-Man is aching for a clever line. A good rule of thumb is that characters should come on stage in character. While S-M is doing something characteristic, he could also be saying something characteristic in order to maximize character information in the limited space available. I would also want Spider-Man identified by name on this page by the Trapster, someone in the crowd, or S-M himself. I’d even accept it in a caption, though this is my least favorite solution. As far as the Latin quote goes, while I’m a personal fan of Latin quotes and it is apropos to the subject at hand, I think most of our readers would find it a bit pretentious in so short a story. I’d lose it to make room for a “Spider-Man?!? Whouuf!” from the Trapster.

Page 2: What you’ve indicated in captions belongs in thought balloons. Captions, even first person ones, do not have the immediacy or sense of “this-is-what-he’s-thinking-right-now,” and are generally used for after-the-fact narration. As for Spider-Man’s first balloon, it’s straightforward, but not distinctively Spidey enough. Spider-Man tends to have a more colorful way of expressing himself – even in thought balloons! In Line 2, the “no” connects with Line 4, but in between there’s a Line 3 that doesn’t relate. It’s not a good idea to interrupt sentence flow like this. Line 5: The Trapster’s? Hard to tell with your homogeneous caption style, which I’d have you convert to conventional thought balloons. Again, S-M’s lines 6, 7, and 12 are too morose for the irascible hero. In line 12, I’m not certain Spider-Man would generalize like this. I think he sees his own luck as different from most other heroes’ and would personalize this sentiment more.

Page 3: On the whole page which introduces the Flag-Smasher, he is not identified by name. Oops! Line 3: I’m not sure a man wearing a costume would make the distinction “costumed fools” – pot calling the kettle black and all that. He’d find a more personal way to identify his enemies. Line 4: “Sacred” sounds religious, and, though he may feel something like unto religious fervor when it comes to his mission, in this limited space I think the word “sacred” is misleading. Line 6: Spider-Man should have some snappy retort to this. He should also have made known what he thought of this second villain showing up where he only counted one. Spider-Man is the reader’s focal character, and through him we get what we’re supposed to think and feel about the goings-on. Don’t  leave us in the dark unless there is a grand purpose. (There doesn’t seem to be one here.) We need to have Spider-Man’s predicament (can’t attack while his gunsels are aiming at the hostages) hammered home here. This is the biggest dilemma of the story – the pivotal point, and Spider-Man’s reaction reveals character! Line 8: While a good statement of purpose, Flag doesn’t seem to be saying it to two guards. Maybe this should be a thought balloon.

Page 4: Line 1: Yes, definitely switch to a thought balloon here. Line 2: Needs to be clearer. Apparently he is expecting to hear gunshots and doesn’t, but the single word isn’t conveying this. Line 3 and 4: two different narrators, same caption effect – not good. Any device that makes a reader have to stop and think, “Now wait a minute – who’s saying this?” yanks the reader out of the story flow and hampers his/her enjoyment. Line 6: It could be a lot clearer how Spider-Man saved the hostages. Line 7: Wouldn’t Spider-Man be a little annoyed at someone who threatened the lives of innocents and call him something other than “my new pal”?

Page 5: Line 2: The speech to too long and needs to be trimmed. Between line 4 and 5, S-M has a spider-sense flash and it’s not explained what is happening. It makes a difference, since it is what enables him to avoid the blast in the next panel. Line 5: Spider-Man says arguing with guys like Flag is a waste of time, but what does he do? In Line 7, he argues with him. In fact he almost preaches something definitely out of character. His musing about being a “flag-smasher” himself – I don’t get it. I think it’s trying to be ironic, but it was Flag’s body that broke the flagpole. I think another ironic statement might work better here. Line 11: More heavy-handed moralizing. You could get this sentiment across as dialog providing you “spiderize” it a bit. Line 12: Another quote in a mere five pages! Well, it works better here than at the beginning, but I’d still lose it.

So there you have it. Generally script revisions this heavy are sent back for the writer to do. Editors will make word adjustments here and there themselves, sometimes even adding a line (usually in consultation with the writer), but nothing as extensive as is needed here. So at this point, the script is back to you, Jacques, for another go-around.

Folks, my editor and I hope to wrap up my New Talent Department columns in another installment so I can pursue other remarkable matters. By the next time we check in on our story, we’ll have an edited final version of the script, lettered on the artboard, inked and colored, so I can critique those phases of the creative process. So until next month, remember, submit no submission until it’s ripe and ready to fall off the vine.

–Mark Gruenwald