Over the years, I've encountered quite a few liars and jerks in comic book publishing. One such was a fellow who contracted me to write an introductory script for a comic book character he was calling "Soul". It was work-for-hire, but at a decent page rate, so I took the job. In retrospect, I need to thank Jove that the book was never published. On the other hand, I did work at an agreed-upon rate that was never paid. One of many such writing jobs I had over my time within that industry.
From what I understand, this particular publisher ended up expending quite a bit of money to create a comic based on a certain body builder who held, I think, the title of Mr. Universe. The project consumed the coffers of said publisher, which subsequently bit the dust. Yes, the comic book industry is not only full of slime, but full of very strange slime.
So, here it is. Yet another script for a project dead in the water:
James Robert Smith
(Artist: leave room in the panels on the first two pages for captions, some of them extensive, describing the featured character and her current disposition. I'll be spicing it up with some rather creepy, atmospheric stuff. Keep in mind that the situation with the woman is going to get quite horrific before it gets lighter, so keep things dark and shadowy, as sinister as you can.)
Panel One: We see a Caucasian woman, neither old nor young, neither ugly nor pretty. She's dressed plainly, in a long dress that reaches down past her knees but not to her ankles. A coat, too, that's about the same length. She has a bag in her hand, a bag with handles. There are some things poking out of it, such as bread, etc. She's obviously been shopping for groceries. Couple wine bottles, too. She doesn't quite look like a bag lady, but almost.
Panel Two: She's walking down the street. Long shot, from in front of her, looking down. We see the sidewalk, the edge of the street. No one really close to her on the street.
Panel Three: She's at her apartment building. It's a duplex. One side obviously looks unlived in. the windows are busted out, stuff sticking out of the windows. We know it's her apartment, because she's putting the key in the door.
Panel Four: Shot from inside. A blackness, with her silhouetted in the door. She looks really alone and vulnerable.
Panel Five: She's inside, now. Her hand is on a light switch. It's a big room with kitchen on her right, dining area on her left.
Panel One: She is looking at the kitchen counter. There's a rat trap, unsprung on the countertop.
Panel Two: She is looking near the refrigerator. There's a rat trap there, too, unsprung.
Panel Three: She has put her groceries on the countertop and has gotten out one of the wine bottles, corkscrew already in it.
Panel Four: She is looking at the floor of the dinging area/den. She is looking where the rat trap was.
Panel Five: She's leaning over, and can see the tip of a rat tail sticking out from under a chair, a chair with ruffles around the base, which conceals whatever's underneath it.
Panel Six: She's put the bottle on a table by the chair and has her hands on the chair to pull it aside. She has to look underneath the chair.
Panel One: Big panel. Splash panel. She has pulled the chair aside and is looking down at the rat trap, and it holds half a rat. The bottom half. The other half, upper half has been eaten. Guts trailing out. Blood smeared on the floor. A large and really nasty looking rat is chowing down on the dead one.
Panel Two: The rat is looking up at the woman, his hands full of gore.
Rat: "Hello, Missy. I see you're home. Thanks for setting this trap. I was really starting to get hungry, and this was so convenient. Thanks a lot."
Panel Three: The woman is screaming. Closeup of her face.
Panel one: We see a big flatbed truck with railing around the bed. It's full of men, all standing like cattle as it's coming to a stop.
Panel Two: Two guys getting off the big flatbed truck. They look very rough. Just short of bums. Unshaven. Dirty. The flatbed truck is full of guys who look just like them. There's a guy wearing khakis, almost a kind of uniform standing at the end of the truck with a pencil and a clipboard.
Khaki: Everyone file into the office, and we'll pay out your vouchers.
Panel Three: The two guys are standing in line at an office window. The guy in front is being given his money.
Clerk at window: Nine hours, less taxes, $33.14. Next!
Panel Four: The two guys are walking out the door, stuffing the money into their pockets.
Guy One: We bust ass for nine hours and walk away with thirty-three bucks and some change. What a world, eh?
Guy Two: Yeah. God bless the free enterprise system.
Panel One: We see our boys catching the bus, climbing on.
Panel Two: We have a shot of them in the seat together.
Hank: God you stink.
John: You stink, too. And your breath would make a baby buzzard gag.
Hank: Oooo. That's a good one. You're turning me on, man.
Panel Three: They're getting off the bus, right in front of a liquor store.
Hank: Ah. Don't you just love it when Fate is speaking to you?
John: Yeah, I know what you mean. Let's buy some wine, man.
Panel Four: They are coming out of the liquor store.
Hank: Why'd you buy port. Port sucks unless it's chilled. Ain't much I hate worse than piss warm port.
John: We can take it back to your place and put it in the fridge, man.
Hank: Are your brains totally scrambled? You know I got kicked out of my room last week! Hell! You were there when the landlord had all my stuff tossed out on the street!
John: Oh. Yeah. I forgot.
Panel Five: Closeup of Hank's face.
Hank: Guess we'll be drinkin' piss-warm port!
We have a series of oblong panels across the page. Each panel should be narrow and stretch from one side of the page to the other.
Panel One: The two bums are walking along, and we see another bum following them.
Panel Two: They're still walking along, but the third bum has halved the distance.
Panel Three: He's now dogging their heels.
New guy: Hey, fellas! It's me!
Panel Four: The two bums are turned and are facing the third bum.
Hank: Well, well. If it ain't Fartocino!
John: Yeah, it's Fartocino! Our flatulent pal! Whatchoo want little fartblossom of the desert kingdom? You want a slug of the fruit-of-the-vine, don't you? Well, screw you, pal!
Panel Five: The two bums are again walking down the street, with Fartocino still right behind. Shot of them facing the reader, with Fartocino framed between them. He's much smaller than they are.
Farto: Aw, c'mon, fellas. Wait up! Share the wealth, why dontcha?
Panel One: The bums are all three sitting in an alley, away from the street. We are looking from their POV back out into the street where we can see some cars about fifty yards off. Hank and John are passing a bottle.
Farto: C'mon, fellas.
Hank: Why should we share with you? It's been a month since you shelled out for a bottle. What about a room? You got a room? Genius here bought a bottle of port, and everybody knows port ain't worth a damn if you can't chill it.
Farto: You know I ain't got a place. Not since Agnes left me.
John: Then you're out of luck. And, hey! It was you bought the port.
Panel Two: Closeup of John.
John: Oh, yeah. It was me.
Panel Three: Farto is standing, now, in front of the other two who are still sitting against the wall guzzling the brew.
Farto: Listen, guys. Share with me, huh? Give me some of that and I'll take you to where I was gonna go tonight. I'll take you guys with me.
Hank: Take us? Take us where?
John: Yeah. Where you gonna take us? To get some of your momma's ass?
Panel Four: Farto is really begging, now.
Farto: Pals! C'mon! You'd like this. I promise you'd like it. You ain't never seen nothin' like this guy, Soul. You oughtta see him. Me and the others been meeting to hear him every night, and you ain't never heard nothin' like this guy.
Hank: Whatchoo mean? Soul? What the hell's Soul? Some kind of singer? Some street musician?
John: Hell. I could go for some music. If he's good.
Panel Five: Farto is leaning in real close, his hand is almost on the bottle Hank is holding in front of him.
Farto: No, no. You guy's got it wrong. This guy don't sing. He...well, he tells stories.
Hank: Screw that. I don't want to hear no stories!
Farto: You don't understand! You gotta hear this guy. He speaks with different voices. It's like...it's like it's more than one guy inside of him. Whattaya say? Gimme a slug or two an' I'll take you with me. Tonight. Whattaya say?
Panel Six: Farto has the bottle turned all the way up, sucking it down.
Caption: Hey, asshole! Don't drink it all in one pull!
Panel One: Hank and John are following Farto. It's dark, and they're behind him about ten feet or so. They're leaning into one another, holding yet another bottle and talking low.
Hank: You don't think he'd try to knock us over, do you?
John: Farto? Hell! He ain't got the balls!
Hank: Yeah. You're right. What a pussy!
Panel Two: They're now being led down a really dark alley.
Panel Three: We can see some light at the end of the alley. They're almost at the end. Three shadows silhouetted against the light.
Panel Four: They're in this really big area formed by four buildings being built together. What we have is the illusion of a kind of amphitheatre. There's a fire going that's throwing off all of the light. (Give the scene a kind of mystical feel.) All of the bums are sitting around, looking down on a bar area where a lone figure is sitting.
Panel One: The three bums find a seat right in the front. There appear to be about thirty or so bums at this place. We get a long shot of the crowd of them, sitting there, being weirdly lit by the flames of the campfire.
Word balloons: Which one will it be?/No way to tell until he starts talking./I hope it's the girl. I like it when he talks like a girl./You make me sick./I don't care which it is./Shut up, all of youse.
Panel Two: We finally get a good look at Soul. He's dressed like a bum. But there is something regal about him. His rags are draped about him like kingly garments. His face, though rough with dirt and beard, is noble. He's holding up his right hand.
Caption: Shhh! He's gonna talk!
Panel Three: We see Soul's face. His eyes are glazed, rolling back in his head, as if he's trying to look up at something in the roof of his skull.
Panel Four: Similar shot, but his face is down, hidden in shadow. He's groaning.
Panel Four: He's looking out at the audience now, with a clear gaze, but his face is changed. Now, he appears to be a woman.
Soul: I am Mary. Hear my story and take heed.
Panel One: We se a great hall. It's full of people. Mary sits at her throne. The seat whre the king should be is empty.
Caption: I was a queen in my world, a place called Mangrove. My husband had died and I and my country had been without a king for two years. My advisors were prompting me to take a new husband, to give Mangrove a new king. The people wished it of me. And there were the legends.
Panel Two: We see a dark figure standing before the queen. He is like a shadow. Dark, his cape billowing around him. His eyes like bits of white, glowing light.
Caption: We didn't knwo where he came from. Some far off part of the empire, he hinted. But he had insinuated himself into my court. To my great pleasure., as it was well know.
Panel Three: Soul has his hand out, as if to invite Mary to take it. She is merely eyeing his outstretched hand.
Soul: My lade? I would have a word with you.
Panel Four: Mary has stood, taking the strange man's hand. Everyone is looking at them--the beautiful queen and the strange, dark man.
Mary: Away, everyone. Lord Soul and Your Queen would converese in private.
Panel Five: We see Mary and Soul standing there, hand in hand, in the center of the panel as everyone else is filing out.
Panel One: The two are moving away from the pair of thrones. Down the long stretch of carpeting laid before the thrones.
Mary: You have been considering my offer, Lord Soul?
Soul: I would consider any offer you made, dear lady. Any.
Panel Two: They are moving toward a window in the wall, a balcony beyond. Great curtains drape down from the window.
Mary: You know how I feel about you.
Soul: I know.
Mary: I've never know a man quite like you. You're...strange. But your consel has never proven to be bad, and you have a strength about you that I've never seen in any man. Not since...
Panel Three: They are both standing, now, at the window, just inside the balcony that looks down on the city far, far below.
Mary: You msut know how I feel toward you, Lord Soul. You must feel it.
Soul: I feel your emotions, yes.
Mary: Don't you, in turn, feel them for me? I cannot read you.
Panel Four: Mary has her hands about Soul's face, as if to grasp him. But he has his hands around her wrists, to stop her from embracing him.
Mary: You must!
Soul: No! I must not! If I give in and return your love, then I may not be able to do what the legends have foretold when the time comes. For your own sake, we must never marry.
Panel One: The two are frozen, still, he grasping her frail hands in his pwerful ones. The city still below them, looming a bit more importantly in the panel, they smaller.
Soul: I told you when I came into your court that there was a more important reason for me to be here.
Panel Two: Mary's hands are now by her side. She is looking down, toward the busy city streets and away from Soul.
Mary: More important than my feelings for you? Is that what you're saying? What could be more important than that.
Panel Three: Soul has moved out onto the balcony. One hadn is on eth stone railing, while he points out to the wide bay with the other.
Soul: You know the legends. The time is soon coming. I've told you to prepare.
Panel Four: Mary is beside him, now. From behind Lourd Soul, where he cannot stop her, she is embracing him.
Mary: What you say cannot be true. They are only legends. Waht is important is what is real. My feelings for you are what is real.
Panel Five: We see a closeup of Mary's face pressed against the cloak on Soul's back.
Mary: I love you, my Lord. Be my king. I beg you.
Panel One: Soul has now turned back toward the room. He is once again moving away from her, toward the thrones. She is behind, still at the edge of the balcony.
Soul: I have told you again and again that I am only here to help you. I cannot return the love you feel. I did not mean to make you fall in love with me. That is not my purpose here. I am only here to serve you and your people...
Panel Two: Mary, still standing there, is now angry, upset. Her hands are clenched in frustration. Her eyes are squinting in anger.
Mary: If you are here to serve me, then become my king!
Panel Three: Soul, himself dejected, stares at the floor. He stands in the midst of the room, alone. Mary is not even seen in this panel.
Soul: I cannot do that. I cannot. To save you, I must not fall in love with you. The pain would be too great for me...for both of us.
Panel Four: Mary is at a door, now. She is at at a door and has it open. Soul is in the foreground, facing her. Her back is to soul.
Mary: Then I shall not ask it of you again.
Panel Five: Soul is alone in the room, the door now shut.
Soul: I must save you.
Panel One: We have a splash page. We're looking down on a fantastic city. Like something out of ARABIAN KNIGHTS. Dome cathedrals. Streets. Huge, amazing structures glittering in the sun. In the center of the panel is a tower with a window set in it, a balcony leading out from the window. There is a vague figure in the window.
Caption: Yes, long ago I ruled a place called Mangrove. It had been my father's place before me, and I inherited it. A rich nation on a gleaming jewel of a world.
Panel Two: Closeup of the figure in the window. It's a woman, a beautiful woman with red, flaming hair flowing about her shoulders. She's leaning against the balcony railing, looking down on the crowded streets.
Caption: A rich nation, yes.
Panel Three: We see a crowd scene at a dockside market. You can see sailing ships at anchor. People are laughing, buying stuff from vendors, eating food.
Caption: We were happy and at peace, even if I had no king to rule with me.
Panel Four: But now there are dark warships in the water, making huge shadows over the people who are now looking up at the ominous craft.
Caption: And then, as Lord Soul had warned us, as the legends he had resurrected had foretold The Evil came.
Panel One: We see Soul standing, now. He's back in the alleyway, with the bums all around him, he's waving his arms, creating shadows on the walls, almost dancing, it seems. He has the face of Mary.
Soul/Mary: In Mangrove, for a thousand years, there had been a legend. Of the Evilness that would come in great, black ships to our golden shores. There had been a legend that in our time of greatest wealth, when we were at peace with all of our neighbors and when no great problem stirred our spirits...then would a fate most foul befall us.
Panel Two: Soul/Mary's hands are outstretched, reaching toward the crowd of bums whose faces are lit by the fire, in whose faces we see nothing but complete attention.
Soul/Mary: In our legends, the Evil would come from the sea. In a gigantic armada.
Panel Three: We see the bay at the city of Mangrove. And it is full of great, black galleons. A huge fleet of them that stretches to the horizon.
Soul/Mary: The ships would come in endless waves to our shores, and it was written that nothing we could do could stop them.
Panel Four: We see the black ships grinding against the docks of Mangrove, citizens running away in terror.
Soul/Mary: It was written that the Evilness would come to rest on our shores.
Panel Five: In this panel, the ships have moored, and untold numbers of shadow warriors are descending to the shore.
Soul/Mary: The legends said that the dark ones would come down, and that they would have no mercy upon us.
Panel Six: Shot of hands raised up to defend against the hacking, blood spattered blades that are falling down on the doomed.
Soul/Mary: We had been warned that there would be no mercy.
Panel One: A huge splash panel. In this one, the hordes of dark warriors are storming up the stairway that leads to the top of the tower where Mary was first seen in panel one of page nine. Her soldiers are fighting, but it is against a stacked deck. Really bloody battle.
Mary/Soul: And the legends were true. There was no mercy. They killed us all, with no mercy for young nor old, innocent or warrior.
Panel Two: The Throne Room where Mary was standing in the tower. We're looking in from the window/balcony she was on. There are soldiers standing around the door, waiting. The door is splintering.
Mary/Soul: At last, they were storming the very door of my own chambers, and I knew the end was coming. We had been too complacent, too content. We had not believed the legends left to us by those far wiser than we.
Panel Three: We see Mary, in her robes, with a black knife poised to either defend herself or to kill herself.
Mary/Soul: But I had determined that they would not have the pleasure of killing me. This I would not allow.
Panel Four: Mary has the knife to her breast. In the background, we can see the door has shattered and the evil warriors are overwhelming her men.
Mary/Soul: I was about to end it. When...
Panel One: The door is shattering inward, and we see not dark warriors, but Lord Soul standing there. Behind him, there are dark warriors from the ships, the bodies of dead soldiers who died defending Mary at their feet.
Soul: Mary. It is time. You must now allow me to save you.
Panel Two: Mary is rushing at him, the knife upraised to stab Soul. Behind him, we still see the dark warriors, as if they are frozen in place.
Mary: You bastard! You were with them! You're part of this evil force!
Panel Three: Similar panel, but now Soul has Mary in his grip as she is trying to stab him, his arm holding hers back easily.
Soul: Mary. Please.
Panel Four: She has dropped the knife, and is staring at the dark warriors who have still not changed, still not moved. (Artist: the people in the background must remain exactly the same in each of these panels.)
Mary: They...they're frozen. You've bewitched them, somehow.
Soul: Yes...in a way, you might say that.
Mary: Then, you've saved us? You've saved Mangrove? Is this what you've been telling me of for two years? Is this how you will save me?
Panel Five: Soul's cape is growing outward, like a great shadow that now takes up half the panel, obscuring the dark warriors and the broken door behind them.
Soul: Mary, this effect will last but a moment. Within seconds all will be as it was before I came in here. The dark warriors will storm in and they will kill you.
Mary: There is nothing you can do?
Soul: Unless you allow me to save you, then The Evilness will have it's way on this world as it has on uncounted others. There will be nothing I can do, and the last remnant of Mangrove will die with you. I can save only you. There is space only for you where I must put you.
Soul: Answer me! Quickly! Now! The dark warriors begin to stir!
Panel Six: We see a closeup of the hand of a dark warrior, the movement effect of it twitching.
Panel One: Once more we see Soul standing, facing Mary. Mary's back is to the viewer. Soul is facing her and his cape has now expanded to take in most of the room, becoming a huge shadow with only Soul's face and hands to mark where he is.
Mary: Yes. Take me, if it will save Mangrove.
Panel Two: Soul's cape now encompasses all of the panel, and Mary is vanishing into him like a person vanishing into black water. We see only part of her as she is vanishing into him.
Panel Three: The room is now empty of Soul, and we see the dark warriors rushing in, killing the guards who are still alive.
Caption: I cannot save Mangrove, Mary.
Panel Four: We see Mary in silhouette, looking up into darkness. She, too, is in shadow.
Caption: And there I was. Within him, but alone. For a long time.
We are back at the apartment with the bag lady and the rat. This will be a series of panels. The rat is between the lady and the door. They will be talking to one another as the woman is slowly trying to manuever her way to the door and escape, while the rat is doing his best to intimidate her and make her stay away from the door. Remember...this is a big rat. Not cat size or anything, but a very big rat...couple or three pounds.
Panel One: Rat is still sitting there with the half eaten rat, looking up at the lady who is cringing in horror, still.
Caption: The rat with the British accent was talking to her again.
Rat: My, that was a tasty treat. Ratmeat is quite a dish. You ought to try it, sometime, present company excepted.
Panel Two: He's now hopped up to the top of a lamp table that had been beside the chair the woman had moved out of the way. He's almost eye level with her, now.
Rat: Now, then. Let's get down to the business at hand. You, my dear Missy, have a job to do.
Panel Three: The woman has backed away from the rat, her arm up to ward him off should he leap at her.
Lady: I'm going crazy.
Panel Four: The rat is pointing at the woman. Have the rat in the foreground, large, with the lady up against the wall, looking small and vulnerable.
Rat: No. You've been crazy. All due to the nature of that...creature. Soul, his name is. Pfaugh! His name makes me nauseuous.
Panel Four: Closeup of the rat, laughing.
Rat: Ha! I made a funny. Can you imagine what it takes to make me nasueous?
Panel One: The lady is still against the wall, but she seems to be sliding along it, trying to edge toward the door. The rat has his eyes slitted, watching her.
Lady: Go away. You're not real.
Rat: You can't command me. Not yet. Later, you can. But right now I take my orders from a higer power. Right now, what's needed is to whip you back into shape.
Panel Two: The lady has encountered a small table with a vase on it.
Lady: What? Wha? What do you mean? What are you saying?
Panel Three: The rat is leaping at her, his claws reaching for her face.
Rat: I'll show you what I mean!
Panel Four: Missy's left hand is outsretched, pointing toward the rat. There's a bolt of energy coming from her fingertips.
Panel Five: The rat is flying across the room, looking as if he's electrified.
Panel Six: An action shot of the rat smacking against the wall and boucning to the floor where he lies prone.
Panel One: The bag lady is standing right next to the front door, staring at her hand. There is a questioning look on her face. Of amazement.
Lady: (whispering to herself) What? What did I do?
Panel Two: We see the rat sitting up, smoke rising from his body. His eyes are squinted, in pain.
Panel Three: The rat has his eyes open, now. He's looking over at the bad lady.
Rat: That's the ticket! See what you can do when you try?
Panel Four: Same shot, but the rat is staring at the open door, through which we can see the bag lady as she is running out into the night.
Rat: Oy. This is going to take a while.
Panel One: We are back in the alleyway, with all the bums staring at the tattered figure of the storyteller who calls himself Soul.
Panel Two: Hank and John and Farto. Hank is turned toward Farto.
Hank: That was really weird, man. How did he do that? Look and sound like a woman, I mean?
Panel Three: Farto has his hand on Hank's jacket, drawing him in close, looking him in the eye.
Farto: He didn't just look and sound that way...he was her.
Hank: Get outta here! It's a trick. The guy oughtta be on television.
Panel Four: Farto is now wagging his finger in Hank's face.
Farto: It ain't a trick. You'll see. You'll see when the next one comes!
Panel Five: Hank and John are standing up. All of the rest of the bums are still sitting down, looking toward the fire, toward Soul.
Hank: Nah. It was cool. But me and Fante here are getting out, maybe try to find a room.
John: Yeah. We'll see ya later.
Farto: I don't know. I don't think you're supposed to leave, yet. I mean especially if that other one comes.
Panel Six: Hank is standing there, looking down at Farto. Just Hank standing, Farto squatting.
Hank: Other one? What other one?
Panel One: This is a splash panel. We see Soul. We can tell it's Soul, from the way he's dressed. But Mary is gone from his body language. The form he had when we first saw him is also gone. He now looks really, really scary. Imagine the form of the ten most scarred heavyweight boxers you've ever seen, multiply it by 100, and that's the hulking figure facing the bums, his face hidden by the hood of his robes.
Soul: Did I hear somebody say they were leaving?
Panel Two: John and Hank have quickly squatted back where they were.
Panel Three: It's Soul, but looking like a hulking, huge figure. There is no grace in him, anymore. He's standing in front of his audience, in a threatening posture.
Soul: My name is Hazzard. You're all a bunch of maggots and you're going to sit and listen.
Splash page: This is just Soul's new face. He's drawn back his hood and we see the face of a man who's been through one thousand battles. Scars everywhere. Eyes like fire. A mouth like a slash. A nose that has been bashed too many times to count.
Soul: My name is Hazzard. I have a story to tell you. Listen to me.Caption: He wasn't asking.