Thursday, December 29, 2011

Regarding What Has Gone Before and a Modest Proposal

Marvelman has left a new comment on your post "And So This Is Christmas Plus More Sex <http://www.jimshooter.com/2011/12/and-so-this-is-christmas-plus-more-sex.html> ":

It's a small world. I came on this blog to recommend that Jim take a look at Azzarello & Chiang's Wonder Woman. I highly recommend it. However, I'm not sure that each issue contains as much exposition as it should. I think it's possible a new reader would find herself lost. Which brings me to two questions... 
1) Jim, how do you feel about the "what has gone before" pages which are now printed on the first page of many comic books?

2) Do you think it is alright for some books in a line to be directed at a general audience and others to be intended for comics-savvy readers? Or, would that just lead confusion about what a brand (e.g. Marvel, DC...) represents?

ANSWER:

RE:  "...how do you feel about the "what has gone before" pages which are now printed on the first page of many comic books?"

I guess they're better than nothing, but some of the ones I've seen are badly written and do as much harm as good. They usually shouldn't be necessary, in my opinion, though occasions may arise that warrant them. I used introductory text pages in "Alpha and Omega," the serialized Solar: Man of the Atom #0 story published by VALIANT. In most cases, a writer should be able to get across the essential information very briefly, in a caption, perhaps, or a bit of dialogue. Then, as the story progresses, in organic and inobtrusive fashion provide more introduction of characters, situations, etc. I think I did a fair job of it in Turok Son of Stone #2, the script for which we have just made available for download.

Things often go wrong with those introductory texts.  Unless they're written by a skilled writer, they often contain not enough information, too much information (becoming long-winded and tedious) or irrelevant, confusing information. The intro text for Captain America and Bucky #624, for instance, says this:

“1941. ORPHANED AFTER THE LOSS OF HIS FATHER, JAMES “BUCKY” BARNES BECAME THE MASCOT AT FORT LEHIGH AND GAINED A REPUTATION AS A NOTORIOUS TROUBLEMAKER (my italics for emphasis). AS WORLD WAR II LOOMED, BARNES WAS SELECTED FOR A ONE-OF-A-KIND SPECIAL ASSIGNMENT WITH THE ARMY: TO BE THE NEW PARTNER FOR STEVE ROGERS, AKA CAPTAIN AMERICA. AFTER SURVIVING COUNTLESS HIGH-RISK OPERATIONS, BUCKY WAS ULTIMATELY LOST, PLUNGING INTO ARCTIC WATERS AND PRESUMED DEAD…"


As I read the story, somewhere in the back of my mind I kept wondering when Bucky's troublemaker past would be a factor. Turns out it wasn't. So why mention it?

Ah, but the main problem with those intros is that too often the writer of the story relies on it to provide all the information necessary, and therefore doesn't even make an attempt to communicate things we need to know to understand the story. Which inspires the intro writers to be even more long-winded and tedious.

RE:  "Do you think it is alright for some books in a line to be directed at a general audience and others to be intended for comics-savvy readers? Or, would that just lead confusion about what a brand (e.g. Marvel, DC...) represents?"
 

Again, that shouldn't be necessary. But, since weeding out the unskilled comic book writers (somebody used the term "professional fanfic writers") isn't something that the major companies are likely to do soon, maybe giving them a playpen of their own and getting real writers to do the heavy lifting on cornerstone titles would be worth a try. It's an idea. I can even imagine DC or Marvel trying it. Good one.  But...how sad that things have come to the point that quarantining the professional fanfic writers and letting them do stories aimed solely at readers steeped in the lore seems reasonable.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

And So This Is Christmas Plus More Sex

First, a Few Items

An Apology to Mark Waid

Mark Waid wrote this scene, which I showed as an example of an out-of-character use of Aunt May for the purpose of a shocker:
I had no idea that Mark had written that scene, not that it would have mattered. I’m an equal opportunity complainer. Anyone may find him or herself honked at here.

Here’s where I went wrong: I judged the scene against Aunt May’s character as it was when I was at Marvel. The Aunt May I knew of was a very old-fashioned woman, the epitome of propriety, who no more would have had sex out of wedlock than my Victorian-era Grandma, who was born in 1888. But, I’ve been told that Aunt May became a little more of a modern Golden Girl subsequently, and that the scene is not out of character for her. Okay.

Sorry, Mark.

In case I haven’t made it clear enough previously, I regard Mark Waid as one of the best and brightest writers I know or have heard tell of.  Have you read Irredeemable?


A Disclaimer

Please understand that when I do my analyses of various issues or hold forth on various subjects like sex in the comics, by no means am I trying to tell you what you should or shouldn’t like. If a scene I find irrelevant, out of character or unsound for any reason happens to work for you or tickle your fancy, so be it. If a book I disparage is your favorite, so be it. We have no argument.

People like what they like. No one has to justify what they like or defend why they like it.

Most of us here have enough comic book background to understand and appreciate things that might fly right over the heads of the uninitiated. That’s cool. Today’s comics creators are creating the stuff for us to a great extent. While I think that might be a limiting factor regarding the growth (or survival) of the business, foolish business strategy and evidence of poor craftsmanship or bad judgment, so what? It’s not up to me to tell them what to do or tell you what to enjoy.

That’s why, in my rants, I take care to separate my comics-savvy reactions from my what-the-hell-is-a-new-reader-going-to-make-out-of-this reactions. What is the writer thinking or not thinking? All I’m trying to do is give anyone interested a peek at the man behind the curtain.

Same with the other perps—I mean participants. The artist, the editor, the publisher and the corporate overlords.  All I mean to do is provide whatever insight I can, given my training and experience.

Nobody has to agree with me. It’s okay, I’m used to it.  : )


On That Subject

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Sex and Drugs – Part 2": 

Jim,
I love the blog and read it daily, but I have to disagree on one point: You can't really compare a movie and a comic book title. There is no fat in a movie because of the time constraints;they have to cram a whole lot into an hour and a half or two hours. It's more like a one-shot. Having to deal with a continuing narrative is completely different isn't it? They don't just tell a story and it's done. It goes on and on and on. They really have to flesh the characters out quite a bit more. Maybe I'm looking at it from the wrong angle.
Again, I really enjoy the Blog! 
Neil  
Posted by Anonymous to Jim Shooter at December 27, 2011 1:21 PM 


ANSWER:

I respect your right to disagree. I think you are wrong. Are there differences between writing for comics and movies? Of course. Movies have time constraints, comics have page and panel restraints. Each medium has advantages and disadvantages. But, the basic obligations of the writer are the same. No matter how many comic book issues have preceeded the one in your hands, no mattter how many will follow, the one in your hands is the unit of entertainment you bought. The movie you are watching is the unit of entertainment you paid to see. They ought to be worth the price. That comic book, that movie, should be well-crafted. Well-crafted, from the writer's perspective, means no irrelevant, confusing or non-sequitur parts. No shock-surprises that require prior knowledge to grasp their significance. Nothing to weaken or muddy the story. Nothing to ruin or compromise that unit.

That said, being usually a serial medium, comics do offer the opportunity to do continued stories and long-term continuity bits, teasers, slow builds and continuing sub-plots. I talk about how to do such things starting here: http://www.jimshooter.com/2011/11/how-to-do-continued-stories-and-next-or.html 

A lot of movies these days have sequels or spawn a series. Bad directors, actors with clout demanding self-serving changes, interference from the producer or studio and film editors often compromise the screenwriter's work, but I assure you that a screenwriter with any chops at all strives to make each movie, each unit of entertainment work as well as if it were the only one.

Some screenwriters use techniques similar to the ones explained starting on the post linked to above. For instance, in one of the Predator movies, we see a skull of a monster from Alien in a predator's trophy case, presaging upcoming Alien vs. Predator movies. (But if you never saw Alien and don't recognize it, it's okay! It's just another weird skull in a collection of skulls.) This has become more prevalent in recent times as sequels are planned, and often contractually obligated.

It's easier for comic book writers to employ such techniques because it's a month or so between our releases, as opposed to a year or so for movies. But the same logic applies. The same basic principles of craft apply.

Mystery is good. Confusion is bad. 

A few of Mark Twain's Rules of Literary Art:
  1. That a tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere. 
  2. They require that the episodes of a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale and shall help to develop it. 
  3. They require that the personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit sufficient excuse for being there. 
Substitute "issue" for "tale" to apply these rules to comic books. Rule #3 is really Twain's Rule #4, but it autocorrected to #3 when I cut one rule out (because it was irrelevant to this issue, oops, I mean reply.)

I would expand #3 above to say anything should show sufficient excuse for being there, and I am confident Twain would agree.

An old saw often heard regarding screenplays goes: If you show a gun in Act I you'd better fire it in Act III. Sufficient excuse for being there. 

In comics, if you do it as a proper tease, you could show a gun in one issue and fire it in the next. You'd need to show it again in the issue in which it is actually fired.

Kurt Vonnegut had his set of rules, too, in general agreement with Twain's. For one thing, he said, "If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out." For comics, I'd modify that to "If a sentence or a bit or a scene does not illuminate your subject in this issue in some new and useful way...." Again, the tease principles apply. 

And now, once more with feeling: Despite the "Rules" cited above, THERE ARE NO RULES! THERE IS NOTHING THAT CAN'T BE DONE. IF YOU TRY TO ENFORCE EVEN MARK TWAIN'S RULES, SOME WHIPPERSNAPPER LIKE SIENKIEWICZ, MILLER OR LAPHAM WILL COME ALONG AND DO SOMETHING WONDERFUL WHILE TRAMPLING ALL OVER THE RULES.

However, it's the "something wonderful" part that eludes most people. Most people who throw down and dance upon the rules produce garbage. They can proudly say they ignored the rules. But they produced unreadable garbage. It takes someone with rare ability, insight and vision to venture off into new territory and make it work, make it wonderful and find a new way. When someone does, ain't it grand?

I believe that Twain and certainly Vonnegut would heartily agree.

Even "decompressed" stories can be done if done well. I'll talk about how to do that sometime, if anyone's interested. Anything can be done if done with insight and skill. 

So, take the "rules," all rules, for what they're worth: They're tools. Twain's rules comprise a pocket guide that helps writers analyze and judge the efficacy of their work.

The rules are not for readers! Readers shouldn't be trotting out the rules and measuring works against them to see whether they like them. A reader should like something or not without worrying about whether all the screws are tightened. Unless they think it's fun to take a story apart and see how it's built, how it works.

Personally, I think that the notion that comics are so "different" that what would be unacceptably bad writing in any other entertainment medium is somehow okay in our medium is part of what's killing our medium. The presumption that readers are familiar with what went on before and will keep buying more units in the hopes that irrelevant things will eventually become clear or meaningful is suicidal.

The best way to encourage a reader to buy next issue is to make the one in their hands great.

When I was a kid, when I finished reading a story by Stan and Jack or Steve I said "wow." These days, when I finish reading a comic book, too often I say "what?"

A final qualifier: Every day, some poorly crafted, stupid, bad creative works succeed, and every day, some well-crafted, brilliant, excellent creative works fail. The success of a creative work is dependent upon too many uncontrollable factors to be entirely predictable. But I firmly believe that producing excellent works is like a batter having a level swing. At the end of the season, the creators who produce excellent work bat .406 and lead the league. Those who succeed here and there with bad work bat below the Mendoza line.

I suspect t’was ever thus. I suspect it always will be.


Somebody Asked

If there was a Legion of Super-Heroes artist who drew the figures nude and let the inker add the costumes. I think that was Jim Sherman. If so, he wasn’t the first comics artist to do things like that.


Stan’s Birthday

Today is Stan’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Stan.

At Marvel, one year while Stan was still East-Coast based, we threw a party for Stan’s birthday.  Some weeks earlier, Stan and I had gone out to lunch together. Striding along toward the restaurant, Stan pointed at a “No Parking” sign and said that he’d owned one of those in younger days. Hung it on his wall. Really liked it. Didn’t know what had become of it.

I enlisted my Mission Impossible Commandoes, Elliot Brown and John Morelli to acquire such a sign.  Secretly and evilly, by night. They did. It was lying under a trailer at a construction site, probably never to be used again.  
We presented it to Stan and I think he was honestly moved.

The expanded version of that tale will be along when I get around to it.


And So This Is Christmas

It was Christmas day when I wrote this little segment. I would not, did not ask JayJay to post it (or do anything else) then, but here it is now.

I have a lot of Christmas stories. I have resisted telling them because, I don’t know, they may be of no interest.  Meaningful to me, maybe, but not sufficiently to others. Also, in a couple of them I’m the good guy, and I’ve been accused of telling look-at-me-being-the-good-guy stories. And in a couple of them, I’m the Tiny Tim character and I’ve been accused of telling “poor me” stories. So, screw it.  Here is one that might be amusing, though….

Marvel Comics stopped giving Christmas bonuses to rank and file employees in 1977, I think. Might have been 1978. Up until then, every hourly employee received $25 to $100 or thereabouts, depending on years of service. President Jim Galton handled the situation in characteristically insensitive fashion.  No one was told there would be no bonus. The day before the holiday, no bonus checks came. People started asking—and were told that the corporation as a whole hadn’t done so well, so, coal in the stockings.

It might seem like a small amount of money, but the disappointment was palpable. Nice morale crusher. Good work, Galton.

The next year I asked Galton well in advance if there would be a bonus. He said, “We eliminated non-management bonuses as of last year.” What?

That was an early lesson in corporate evil for me. Tell the employees any lie that serves management’s purposes.

Now what?

To paraphrase Otter in Animal House, this required a really stupid and futile gesture on someone’s part.

I recruited a bunch of editorial types who could carry a tune. I had my brilliant secretary Lynn rent choir robes for all of us, get us candles, candle holders Christmas Carol books…and, oh, yes, a pitch pipe.

And on the afternoon before the Christmas holiday started, in robes and full regalia, we Christmas Caroled the executives and staff upstairs.

For the staff and most execs we sang our little hearts out. Know ye this: Jim Owsley/Christopher Priest can SING! What a voice! And Louise Jones/Simonson has the voice of an angel, as one would expect. The halo and wings are invisible, I presume.

For the V.P. of Finance, Barry Kaplan, and President Jim Galton we sang the following:

“On the first day of Christmas, Marvel gave to us….NOTHING!”

Then, we marched on, caroling. And somehow—a Christmas miracle, perhaps—we did not get fired.
Also….

Anyone on the “manager” level or higher received a substantial “discretionary performance bonus.”  Reasonably serious money. I gathered all the comics floor people who received such bonuses, all editors, art director John Romita and production manager Danny Crespi and me, of course. Maybe one or two more, I forget. I suggested we each kick in some dough and give our own bonus to the people in our department getting nothing. Everybody cheerfully contributed except one Scrooge, an editor. Screw him. Even without him, we put together enough money to more than make up for what the rank and file troops weren’t getting from the company.

We continued that tradition. Scrooge continued to be Scrooge. Screw him.


More Sex

The 1990’s were the Age of the Bad Girls. Bad girls, starting with Lady Death, who may have been the first (I don’t count Vampirella, Elektra and other precursors), were anti-hero-ish super women with outrageously curvy bodies, skimpy clothes and stiletto heels. Wicked in attitude, usually, if not downright wicked.  

Once Lady Death got the trend started, Bad Girls proliferated. You can probably name a lot more than I can:  Barb Wire, Danger Girl, Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose, Avengelyne….  Most people include Shi, but she was more slender and less a caricature than most. 

Broadway Comics offered Fatale.


I formed Broadway Comics in partnership with Broadway Video Entertainment, a division of Broadway Video, Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels’ company. Our purpose was to make great and successful comics, of course, but with an eye towards properties that had potential for TV and film.

Among the experiments tried at Broadway Comics was writing comics sort of in the same manner that many TV shows are written—a group of writers working together. With me were Janet “JayJay” Jackson, Joe James and Pauline Weiss.

Each member of the group had special strengths. JayJay, besides being generally brilliant and having a gift for dialogue, is a great designer. She was wonderful with clothing and costumes. She also created floor plans of locations. She was always sketching.

JayJay, an excellent photographer, also took photos of me and whomever acting out some bits, as well as shots of settings. We often went out to film “on location.”

Joe is a terrific designer and a superb artist. He thumbnailed panels and choreographed action as we went along. He also was good with current slang, real-people talk and such.

Pauline can type faster than you can talk. She was the scribe. She took down every word uttered in our sessions.

I was the head writer/show runner/big cheese. Everyone, including Pauline (who you might think was too busy—but no) made story and copy suggestions. It was a bona fide team, and a good one.

We came up with the idea to do Fatale as an answer of sorts to the Bad Girl trend. She was a “Bad Girl” in appearance, but our intention was to play it more realistically. What if a woman who looked like that and had some fantastic power really existed?

Conveniently, JayJay and Pauline, both actual women, were there to represent feminine realities. Fatale would, said both of them, kick her high heels off before attempting to run or fight. There was a scene in which Fatale jumped down from a roof or some height. Both women pointed out that she’d instinctively cross her arms under her breasts. Etc.
And we stomped on clichés at every opportunity. A handsome high roller approaches Fatale in a casino?  No cliché put down, no dumping the guy on his butt for daring to express interest, as so often happens in comics. She’s honestly attracted to a good-looking guy with the confidence to approach her in a charming way. As JayJay and Pauline averred that she might be.

We followed the Bad Girl trend in the sense that we made the series as sexy, sexual and daring as we could. Doing what the Bad Girl books did, but less plastic-y and artificial. Superhuman, but more human. Or so we thought. We purport, you decide. 


NEXT:  More About Broadway and Fatale

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sex and Drugs – Part 2

First This

Commenter Rio Herrera clued me in about the two talented creators I met at the signing at Chuck Rozanski’s Mile High Comics Mega-store in Denver.  

They are, far right, Scotlyn Xing Xin Bedford and far left, a young man who introduced himself to me as Phil. Rio also heard him called Phil. The Mile High Newsletter identifies him as Cory Watts, so I’m still not sure.

The guy in the white shirt is Chuck, and the looming ogre is me, of course.

But anyway, the property these two gentlemen were representing is called Ximphonia. You can find out more about Ximphonia and their other creative works on the Dreaming Symphonic-Beauty Empire website. Here’s a link:

Scot and Phil had a table near where Chuck stationed me. They drew quite a crowd—in fact, when I had a brief break and went over to see what all the fuss was about, I couldn’t get near enough to see.  At the end when things were calmer, I finally did get to talk to them and they were, indeed, as mentioned above, gentlemen. Very smart and talented gentlemen. I wish them well.

Now This

Last Thursday evening, the gifted and irrepressibly creative J.C. Vaughn and his unindicted co-conspirator Rosina the Resplendent hosted a holiday gathering at Rosa Mexicano on East 18th Street in Manhattan.

J.C, as you may know, was my scripting partner on three issues of The Mighty Samson for Dark Horse. He’s done lots of stuff. Here’s his not-up-to-date CV:

J.C. VAUGHN
Comics Publications

J.C. Vaughn has written or co-written stories for renowned creator Billy Tucci’s highly successful series Shi published by Dark Horse Comics, Avatar, and Crusade Fine Arts.  For IDW Publishing, he developed and wrote 24, based on the long-running Fox Television series; and also adapted one of acclaimed author Cory Doctorow’s short stories, “When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth,” for Cory Doctorow’s Futuristic Tales of the Here and Now #2. Working with Realm Press, he helped reintroduce the original Battlestar Galactica to comics.

Vaughn contributed to two high profile anthologies, More Fund Comics published by Sky-Dog Press in association with the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and ACTOR Comics Presents, published by Century Comics in association with ACTOR (A Commitment To Our Roots).  Currently known as the Hero Initiative, ACTOR was founded in late 2000 by a consortium of publishers including Marvel Comics, Image Comics, Dark Horse Comics and others to assist comics creators in need.  

He has created a number of notable comics properties including the Harvey Award-nominated Antiques: the Comic Strip, published in collected form by Gemstone Publishing; Zombie-Proof and Vampire, PA published by Moonstone Books; McCandless & Company published by Mandalay Books; as well as the upcoming Bedtime Stories For Impressionable Children (October 2010) slated for publication by Moonstone Books.  He also created Secret Agent Vampire Gorilla and co-created Dirty Martini, both planned for release in 2011. 

Vaughn also serves as Associate Publisher and Executive Editor of Gemstone Publishing, publishers of The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. Under his guidance, the 2010 hardcover edition soared to a day-of-release sell-out.  He also wrote Gemstone’s well-received Free Comic Book Day entry, The Overstreet Guide to Collecting Comics

Rosa Mexicano is where the restaurant America used to be. It’s a terrific place—MexEclectic, vast and extra snazzy.

Besides, J.C., Rosina and me, Joe James and wife Yamilca, JayJay and partner Freddy, Adam Phillips and wife Julia, Debbie Fix and J.C.’s long-time friend Rob were present.
Yamilca and Joe James
JayJay and Freddy with Adam Phillips
Adam, Rosina, Julia and Yamilca
J.C. and Rob
Debbie, Jim and J.C.
Debbie, JayJay, Joe and me…! There we were as in olden days, happy golden days of yore—at DEFIANT and Broadway Comics. Debbie and JayJay, of course, were with me at VALIANT, too. It’s always great to see them.

Adam Phillips worked with me for a while at Marvel long ago and now works for DC.

We had a wonderful time. Thanks, J.C. and Rosina.

And This

For me, the first Christmas Carol of the season is always The “Pogo Christmas Carol” by the great Walt Kelly. It’s sung to the tune of “Deck the Halls.” Everyone who works in the comics medium should know it!

The Pogo Christmas Carol
By Walt Kelly

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla Walla, Wash., an’ Kalamazoo!
Nora’s freezin’ on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley-garoo!

Don’t we know archaic barrel
Lullaby, Lilla Boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don’t love Harold, 
Boola boola Pensacoola Hullabaloo!

There are many more verses. Elaboration upon the carol was a Christmas season tradition in the Pogo strip.

Pogo was nationally syndicated from 1949 through 1975. If you’re too young to be familiar with Pogo, it’s well worth checking out the collections, some of which can be found on Amazon.

Pogo is an American cultural treasure and Walt Kelly was a genius. I never met him, but I met his widow, Selby Kelly several times at National Cartoonist Society events. Selby was very creative and had a background as an animator. Along with some of Walt’s assistants, she continued Pogo for a couple of years after Walt’s death in 1973.

For me, it’s not Christmas season till all of us are decked with Boston Charlie.

One More Thing

There has been a great deal of discussion here recently regarding religious beliefs. One of the most interesting books I’ve read about such things is The Physics of Immortality by Frank J. Tipler. It’s a daunting read, but worth the struggle, I think. Tipler is a Ph.D. mathematical physicist and cosmologist at Tulane University who hangs with big brains like Stephen W. Hawking and Roger Penrose. He offers a scientific theory of existence of God. The second half of the book is “An Appendix for Scientists,” consisting mostly of equations. I’m not necessarily endorsing what is proposed therein, but like I said, it’s interesting. 


And now…

Sex

There isn’t enough sex in comics. There’s too much stuff like this:

I came across that site recently. What is shown there paints a pretty sad picture, I think, of what passes for sex in comic books (or in some cases, merely genitalia-related scenes). To me, most of it doesn’t really seem to have much to do with sex or sexuality. It’s there for shock value: “Bet you thought you’d never see THIS in a comic book!”  

(P.S., the Hulk and his ball-batterer later shack up in a motel and get it on a different way.)

Or, worse, “Bet you never thought you’d see insert-name-of-character doing THIS!”  


I find those sorts of things asexual.  It’s so blatantly a gimmick or so out of character that it falls flat for me.  My reaction is less “wow” or “ooh-la-la” or “glorioski!” and more a disappointed “good grief….”

Sometimes it seems to be all about the writer proving how clever he or she is by inventing some way that a super character’s power could be an advantage during a sex session.
Sometimes it seems to be all about the writer proving how clever he or she is by inventing some way that a super character’s power could be a disadvantage during a sex session. As we learn later, Kitty Pryde uncontrollably becomes immaterial when she climaxes.
But isn’t the art nice on this one?

All of the above, I believe, are examples of what the erudite Mr. Marc Miyake referred to in a comment once as “stimuli.” Stimuli as opposed to story. Elements inserted that do not serve the story, solely for the purpose of drawing a gasp. Like this one:
I haven’t read this story. I’m willing to bet though, that Peter Parker and Mary Jane’s bedroom preferences don’t have any bearing on the plot or any sub-plot. I’ll bet nothing established in this scene about their relationship or anything else has anything to do with the story. Irrelevant is my guess. So why is it there? For a wow? An ooh-la-la? A glorioski? Not from me. And what’s up with the Pepé le Pew accent? Good grief!

I’d venture a guess that Peter Parker could probably have sex with Mary Jane while sticking to the ceiling. That would be irrelevant, too. Unless, say, it served to set up some later scene in which, as Spider-Man, Peter’s ability to stick to a ceiling while bearing Mary Jane or a burden weighing as much as Mary Jane plays an important role. Or something. A reason.

Some writers go to great lengths to trump up a reason to have characters act out a sex scene on the printed page. “Hey, what if Superman and Big Barda made a porn film?!” It’s part of the story, yes, but is the story really about Superman and Big Barda or is it about getting that little personal fantasy into print?
Think about good (or at least well-crafted) movies you’ve seen. Raiders of the Lost Ark, for instance. Every time Spielberg and Lucas show you anything, it is relevant to the story. Think about what they show you. Indy has a fear of snakes, demonstrated in an early scene. Later, trying to retrieve the Ark, he is surrounded by…snakes! Also, think about what they don’t show you. Maybe Indy is an expert ballroom dancer, but it’s irrelevant so they do not establish it. There is not a drop of fat on that film. Everything shown serves a purpose relevant to the story at hand. Same with Rocky. Or The Wizard of Oz.  Or any story written by a skilled professional.

If it’s not necessary, leave it out.

In Body Heat the sex was absolutely germane. So it was there, and done with steamy effectiveness. In Cat People sex is the core of the conceit. 

In comics…? I’m trying to think of good examples. Hmm. Jaime Hernandez did some sweet, elegant, usually brief, intrinsic sex scenes in early issues of Love and Rockets. David Lapham did some well-crafted, germane sex scenes in Stray Bullets. I’ve been told that Bill Willingham’s Fables had some good and necessary ones. In Elfquest, Wendy and Richard Pini did some nice scenes. Others? Help me.

Anyway…the subject of sex in comics gets me right back to my usual rant, bad writing in comics.  
I think that too often these days, characters are twisted to serve the whims, puerile fantasies and personal proclivities of the creators. Ignoring or perverting the nature of the characters is bad writing.

As for sex in comics in general, if portrayed skillfully and well, if it is absolutely germane, in character and essential, there is nothing that can’t be done. It doesn’t have to be sticky-gooey-graphic. Whatever is necessary, I suppose, that is non-actionable.

What about my handling of sex in comics, you may be wondering. Here’s a comment and answer pertaining to my Dark Horse and Legion work from a while back:
  
Defiant1 has left a new comment on your post "Legion of Super Heroes Overview, Part 3":

Jim,

My understanding is that you want your characters to have real motivations and sex or sexuality is a real motivation you've opted to include. From what I can tell, your latest work has been a tad bit heavier using sex or sexuality as a component when compared to your previous works. It also seems to have extended towards a seedier portrayal of sex. This has prompted some some criticism from a couple of people online. I am not offended, but I felt it's been a little heavy at a time when comics need to appeal to the largest demographic audience possible. With some major titles from Marvel even struggling to sell 50,000 copies, wouldn't it be better to write a story that can appeal to the largest demographic audience? I'd like to see mature comics that didn't require parents to censor their kids from reading them. I'm not an advocate of turning comics into a mindless "Barney the dinosaur" feel-good experience to rot children's brain cells, but I think it is possible to to write great stories that don't have half naked women draped over the heroes shoulder.

I was curious about your thoughts regarding mature themed comics vs. appealing to a wider and inevitably more conservative audience.

Posted by Defiant1 to Jim Shooter at May 27, 2011 2:24 PM 

ANSWER:

I don't know. To me, opting to include sex and sexuality as motivation for human characters is like opting to breathe if one wishes to live. 

I doubt that cutting back on half naked women would have increased sales, and perhaps would have decreased sales. Lots of half naked men in my stories, too, by the way. If there are parents who believe that my stories are unsuitable for their children, I completely respect that. In my opinion, we're going for the meat of the market these days, which is, for better or worse, adults. And still, I have done nothing in any story for DH that can't be shown on prime time TV. In my scripts, I am constantly urging the artists to be careful, to keep it reined in. Have you seen what's on prime time and daytime? The reality shows? No "seedy" subject off limits. Twilight has a great deal of sexuality, and it's a kid favorite. And if you choose to consider HBO, Showtime and the rest...wow. 

If the sexuality seems "seedier" to you, sorry. That's not what I'm going for.

Criticism online and otherwise has been a fact of life for me for nearly 47 years. I listen. Really. I try to glean from it any points that will help me, any enlightenment there is to be had. Then I march on. 

I try to tell the best stories I can, suited to the characters and their milieux. 

Mainstream comics. Nothing seedy here....



I would add that the hand I was dealt at Dark Horse included The Mighty Samson, featuring a barbarian in a post-Apocalyptic primitive world—no modern day PC sensibilities there. Also, Turok Son of Stone, featuring a couple of Native Americans trapped in a Cretaceous-Era parallel dimension along with many other ancient peoples (and a few modern ones)—very few modern day PC sensibilities there.  And Magnus Robot Fighter, which, in the tradition established by Russ Manning, is set in a future time full of beautiful people who dress sexy. It’s also inherently a romance. Lastly, Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom, featuring a scientist my age, Doctor Solar, who is transformed into a far younger (and super-powered) man. Like Magnus, it is also inherently a romance.

And, the Legion is about “underagers” full of raging hormones. Anyone writing such characters without addressing sex and sexuality never was a teenager.

Regarding the LSH, here’s a comment made a while back by a misinformed Anonymous regarding my analysis of Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 as related to my LSH work, and my answer:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "DC Comics the New 52":

Waaaaaaiiiit a second...
Aren't you the guy that turned Saturn girl from a confident leader into someone with really low self-esteem, who can't understand why leadership is more important than relationships, and sleeps around instead of talking about it? The one who had Night Girl's outfit shred to pieces in her first appearance? Aren't you the one who had Brainiac 5 sleep with an unconscious woman (which is rape, by the way, maybe look that up).

The women you write are sex objects and clusters of soap opera like cliches and offensive stereotypes strung together nonsensically.
I have no issue with a lady being depicted as wanting to have sex without commitment. But I forgot that a lady sleeping with two people is only okay if she does it out of a lack of self-esteem rather than her own desire. I forgot it's only okay if she behaves immaturely and nonsensically (low self esteem + telepathy? Really?).

Like wow. PHYSICIAN, HEAL THYSELF.
For the record, I had absolutely no problem understanding the paneling and what was happening. It was cinematic and very clear to me. The fact that you can't follow along is amazing and sad.

Posted by Anonymous to Jim Shooter at October 8, 2011 3:39 AM 



ANSWER:

RE: Saturn Girl: Affairs of the heart have a way of troubling even the most confident leaders. Saturn Girl did not sleep around. She didn't sleep with anyone except Lightning Lad. Maybe you missed this scene in LSH #49:

Panel 5:

Scene: In the hallway, outside the Infirmary, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl confer. Saturn Girl is shrugging in a “beats me” way. Lightning Lad is confused and distraught, running one hand through his hair—a classic confused-and-distraught gesture. Like he needed another crisis…. 

NOTE: Embarrassing photo or ugly sketch of LLad’s gesture available on demand.

CAPTION
Outside.

SATURN GIRL
(telepathic balloon)

I agree. It’s…suspicious…but that’s what she remembers.

LIGHTNING LAD

Why does everything have to go wrong at once…?!

Panel 6:

Scene: Silent panel. Acting and body language are everything, here, Francis. Lightning Lad looks at Saturn Girl, struggling with the decision to ask her about her “fling” with Ultra Boy. Saturn Girl—perhaps sensing what’s coming—stares at the floor, awash in shame and guilt.
(no copy)

PAGE TWENTY-TWO:

Panel 1:

Scene: Lightning Lad goes for it. Saturn Girl still looks down, guiltily, ashamed, possibly crying.

LIGHTNING LAD

Imra, Ultra Boy is insisting to everyone who will listen that nothing happened between you two. That’s what Element Lad told me. 

LIGHTNING LAD (2nd)

Well…? Did anything…happen?

SATURN GIRL
(telepathic balloon)

Yes. No. I don’t know…it doesn’t matter.

Panel 2:
Scene: Two-shot of Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl. He’s pressing for answers. She’s still crying.

SATURN GIRL
(telepathic balloon)

I invited him…no, I dragged him into my mind…and what happens there is real…to me.

LIGHTNING LAD

Did he actually touch you…physically?

SATURN GIRL (2nd)
(telepathic balloon)

I…don’t know. Maybe not. I think.

Panel 3:

Scene: Two-shot. Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl face each other, look into each others eyes. To LLad, only physical counts—that Jimmy Carter “…committed adultery in my heart…” stuff is meaningless. SG sees in his eyes/senses forgiveness.

(no copy)

Panel 4:

Scene: Saturn Girl picks up a disturbing vibe from Lightning Lad. He’s suddenly feeling very uncomfortable. Busted!

SATURN GIRL
(telepathic balloon)

Garth, who have you been with?

LIGHTNING LAD

None of your business. And don’t look!

SATURN GIRL (2nd)
(telepathic balloon)

Then stop thinking about her so loud!

Panel 5:

Scene: In the middle of Saturn Girl’s starting to be outraged and jealous; and Lightning Lad starting to be busted, embarrassed and contrite, the SCRAMBLE SIREN established at the end of #47 and the beginning of #48 goes off. Lightning Lad is saved by the bell!

SFX

VREET VREET VREET

LIGHTNING LAD

The scramble siren!

Saturn Girl, after being ignored, taken for granted and worked near to death precisely because of her leadership abilities by Lightning Lad had a moment of weakness (while under the influence of an intoxicant) and the thought of a fling with Ultra Boy crossed her mind. She almost did it, but stopped short. The point was that a) Saturn Girl has to have an incredibly disciplined mind due to the nature of her power, b) what happens on the mental plane, i.e., in thoughts, her own and others, is as real to her as physical things are to normal people, and c) a moment of weakness of no consequence to folks like us is a very big deal to her.

RE: Night Girl: Much set up had been done regarding the Legionnaires' new, super-durable costumes, a key element in the arc. Night Girl's clothes being torn was meant to be a further illustration of that and a realistic touch. To people of Superboy-level strength any ordinary cloth would be gossamer. Yes, it was meant to be a sexy scene. I repeatedly told Francis to be careful. Look at what he drew. Did he go over the top?

RE: Brainiac sleeping with unconscious Dream Girl: I wasn't the one who did that. I think it was Mark Waid. There was no suggestion of sex, as I recall. Was there? Anyway, I didn't write that. Dream Girl was long dead when I started.

I never complained about the writers' treatment of women in the course of the reviews. Afterward, in a subsequent column, I said this:

"The first two of the New 52 I reviewed, Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 and Catwoman #1 were suggested by JayJay, because they were generating the most discussion online.

I tried to confine my analysis to Comics 101 basics, how the efforts compared to DC’s stated goals and how well each succeeded at what, in particular, they seemed to be trying to do. A lot of the discussion about those books both here and elsewhere online seems to be about the depiction and behavior of the female characters. I didn’t weigh in there. To me, that’s an evaluation each reader has to make for him or herself, not one I am more qualified than any other individual to pontificate about. One person’s Good Girl Art is another person’s “demeaning to women.” Etc.

The publisher has the right to publish any non-actionable material it wishes. Then we get to pick. The DC brass apparently thought the content of the two books I reviewed served their goals or would appeal to a large enough segment of the market to be worth doing. Whatever.

For many reasons having nothing to do with the controversies over the depiction and behavior of the female characters, I found a lot wrong with Red Hood and Catwoman.

But, let it be known, personally, I didn’t like the way the female characters were portrayed. It’s not that I think that there is anything, any situation or any type of character, male or female, that cannot be done if it is done with rare excellence and surpassing skill. The problem is that, too often, comic book writers and artists who belong in creator kindergarten think they’re already Ph.D’s."

So, heal myself of what?

I'm sorry you don't like the way I write women. I'm always trying to do better.

I'm glad you have the acumen to understand "paneling" that you call "cinematic" and I'm sorry that I don't. If I don't, however, I will say so.

Thank you for the opportunity to clarify the above.

And, by the way, here is the continuation of that Lightning Lad/Saturn Girl relationship drama from my unpublished script for LSH #50:

PAGE SEVEN:

(…)

Panel 2:

Scene: Cut to the WAR ROOM in the UNITED PLANETS DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE BUILDING. This is a new location, a big, high-tech command center.  

Present are PRESIDENT KIN’THEA KIESELBACH, henceforth called KIN’THEA, Councilwoman SYDNE ARDEEN, Deputy Chief of Staff ZILYA POPOFF, Science Police Sector chief LON NORG (Invisible Kid’s father), the President’s Chief of Staff M’LEE SHURIFF, and Supreme Commander of the U.P. Military GENERAL OH, other MILITARY OFFICERS and a few miscellaneous government and military aides. No need to try to cram all these people into this shot. I’m just letting you know who’s there. Make the place seem busy, though.  

(NOTE: No NIMRA LaFONG! Remember, she’s dead!) 

Everyone present is involved in some bit of business—conferring re: some report, studying a screen or chart, speaking on a comlink, etc. Again, try to give a sense of busy-ness and urgency. There’s a war on.

In particular, General Oh, Kin’thea and M’lee Shuriff are looking at a screen that shows the fleet battling in space against the Destroyers. If you like, use a stat of Panel 1 of Page Five. If you prefer to draw a new scene, please make sure that the screen shows one huge space-battleship being destroyed. General Oh is explaining the progress of the battle to Kin’thea and Chief of Staff M’lee Shuriff.

IMPORTANT: Do not show any Legionnaires fighting on the screen! Just U.P. ships versus the Destroyers.

In addition to the screen Kin’thea and company are looking at, dominating the room there should be the futuristic, 31st Century equivalent of one of those table top maps often seen in war movies, on which military officers push model ships/planes and tanks around using croupier sticks:
  
Remember, a 31st Century version would have to be 3D. Holographic? A few military officers would be pointing, conferring and maneuvering the (holo?) models around, possibly using high-tech “sticks” of some sort—maybe sort of light-sabre-ish? Dunno. Good luck.   

IMPORTANT: Anyone in this room who does not wear a uniform should have on different clothes than when last we saw them, except Kin’thea, who should have on the same outfit she wore in #49. 

CAPTION

The United Planets Department of Defense Building. The War Room.

KIN’THEA

General Oh…!  How are we doing?

GENERAL OH

These monsters adapt to overcome any force used against them, Madame President. Setting our shields to oscillating frequencies and our heavy weapons to variable energy spectra has helped….

Panel 3:

Scene: Close, two-shot of Kin’thea and General Oh. Kin’thea looks a little smug (in a dignified way), rubbing it in to Legion-hater General Oh that input from the Legion has empowered his fleet. General Oh isn’t moved. He still hates the Legion.

KIN’THEA

A stratagem based on intelligence provided by the Legion…correct?

GENERAL OH

Hmh! It’s not enough. They’re wearing us down. We’ve lost the cruisers Moon E and Geo-Cline…and now, the capital ship Winm’r Tim’r.

Panel 4:

Scene: Angle to include Kin’thea, General Oh and to introduce M’lee Shuriff. M’lee Shuriff is reading from a futuristic Blackberry-type device. General Oh looks grim, resigned to defeat—which angers Kin’thea (in a dignified, understated, Presidential way—nothing too extreme, please). 

M’LEE SHURIFF

The crews transmattered out in time.  Casualties are light…so far….

GENERAL OH

But the fleet is slowly being driven back.  I fear that defeat…is inevitable.

KIN’THEA

Defeat means the annihilation of all life, General.

KIN’THEA (2nd)
(closely connected)

Do something!  

Panel 5:

Scene: Saturn Girl is being ushered in by the same ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT seen in Panel 2 of Page Ten of #45. I’d angle this to include Kin’thea, M’lee Shuriff and enough environs to reset the locale. I’d also do it at eye level and hang all the heads on the horizon, but that’s just me. Please put Kin’thea and M’lee Shuriff in the foreground. Therefore, Saturn Girl and the Administrative Assistant are in the background, so we can see the door through which they’re entering. M’lee Shuriff is turning toward the door, noticing Saturn Girl’s arrival. Kin’thea has not yet. She’s still facing away (toward us), agonizing over the looming possibility that the U.P. is going to be wiped out. 

IMPORTANT: M’lee Shuriff is pleased to see SG (or any Legionnaire). Kin’thea will be too, when she finally sees SG next panel. If we can see Sydne Ardeen and Lon Norg in this panel—not necessary—they’re looking up from whatever they’re doing, also pleased to see SG. As in #45, again, if seen—not necessary—Legion-haters Zilya Popoff and General Oh pointedly ignore SG.

IMPORTANT, TOO: Please put Kin’thea and M’lee Shuriff on the left side of the panel, so the reader’s left-to-right visual/verbal progression is first Kin’thea’s despair and then the arrival of SG representing the “way” she’s wishing for, i.e., the Legion!  

KIN’THEA
(anguished in a dignified way)

There must be a way!

CAPTION
(near Saturn Girl)

Saturn Girl
Home moon: Titan
Telepath

ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

Madame President, ladies and gentlemen, may I present Legionnaire Saturn Girl.

Panel 6:

Scene: Close medium on Kin’thea introducing M’lee Shuriff to Saturn Girl, though SG is glancing toward her mother, Sydne Ardeen, approaching from the background. Kin’thea, M’lee Shuriff and Sydne Ardeen are politely smiling, but the situation is too grave for big grins. Saturn Girl looks sort of cold and serious.      

NOTE: Actually, inside, SG is boiling with anger at Kin’thea for making out with her love, Lightning Lad. SG is restraining her rage—so far—but if you can give her a little edginess, a little flicker of jealous wrath, that would be wonderful. I don’t ask much….

KIN’THEA

Welcome.  I am Kin’thea Kieselbach.  This is my Chief of Staff M’lee Shuriff.

SATURN GIRL
(telepathic balloon)

Madame President, Ms. Shuriff.

SATURN GIRL (2nd)
(telepathic balloon, closely
connected)

Hi, mom.  Or should I call you Madame Councilwoman here?

SYDNE ARDEEN
(telepathic balloon)

This is no time for needless formality, Imra.  Mom will do.

PAGE EIGHT:

Panel 1:

Scene: Two-shot of Saturn Girl and Sydne Ardeen. SG is grim and serious, but her expression softens somewhat while telepathicomming with her mother.  

SYDNE ARDEEN
(telepathic balloon)

I hope you’re bringing us good news.  

SATURN GIRL
(telepathic balloon)

I’m afraid not. Brainiac 5 says more Destroyers have attacked here than in any other system. They know that the U.P. command center and Legion HQ are here.

Panel 2:

Scene: Another angle on Saturn Girl and Sydne Ardeen, possibly including Kin’thea, that also includes and features a screen showing Sun Boy blasting the Destroyers near Ganymede—a stat of Panel 3 of Page Five, if that works. If you want to also show a screen or a bit of one that’s a stat of Panel 3 of Page Six, that’s cool, too.

SATURN GIRL
(telepathic balloon)

Legionnaires are helping out where needed most. But, Destroyers always concentrate their power where resistance is strongest

SATURN GIRL (2nd)
(telepathic balloon)

…so, more and more of them will flow from other U.P. systems to this one. We won’t be able to hold them off for long.

Panel 3:

Scene: Close up two-shot of Saturn Girl and Sydne Ardeen. Saturn Girl is sad but resolute. Sydne Ardeen is reacting to her daughter’s revelation that she’s about to go on a suicide mission. Sydne Ardeen is shocked and anguished, but don’t overdo it.

SATURN GIRL
(telepathic balloon)

We have one hope. Six Legionnaires, including me, are going to attack the beings behind the destroyers, where they live.

SATURN GIRL (2nd)
(telepathic balloon)

Brainy says it’s a suicide mission even if we succeed.

Panel 4:

Scene: Another angle to include Saturn Girl, Kin’thea, General Oh, M’lee Shuriff and Sydne Ardeen.  Eye level shot, please, all figures cropped at bust level. M’lee Shuriff and Sydne Ardeen are both still troubled by SG’s suicide-mission revelation. M’lee Shuriff is comforting Sydne Ardeen. SG is staring with thinly disguised hostility at Kin’thea. Kin’thea is staring, sternly, at General Oh, who, once again, feels trumped by the Legion.

SATURN GIRL
(telepathic balloon)

In order to have any chance at all, we need time.

KIN’THEA

We’ll buy you every second we can. Won’t we, General Oh?

GENERAL OH
(humbled again, and seething about it)

Yes, Madame President.

Panel 5:

Scene: Focus on Saturn Girl hugging her mother, Sydne Ardeen.

SATURN GIRL
(telepathic balloon)

I came to say good-bye, Mom. I love you.

Panel 6:

Scene: Feature Saturn Girl and Kin’thea, facing each other at arm’s-length range.  Saturn Girl looks like she’s barely restraining the urge to punch Kin’thea in the nose.  Kin’thea looks a little freaked, as would anyone, if someone right in front of them were talking about punching them in the nose.  Intense, but no overacting, please.

SATURN GIRL
(telepathic balloon)

And, I wanted to get one look at you, Madame President, up close, in person before I die…

SATURN GIRL (2nd)
(telepathic balloon)

…and punch you in the nose.

KIN’THEA

Wh…what…?!

PAGE NINE:

Panel 1:

Scene: Saturn Girl punches Kin’thea, the President of the United Planets, in the nose. If seen, M’lee Shuriff and Sydne Ardeen react—they’re totally shocked.  

SUPER IMPORTANT NOTE TO FRANCIS: Please do not make this a comic-booky punch.  Kin’thea does NOT go flying. No blood, spittle or flying bits of stuff, please. Think of a real 125 lb. girl hitting a real 140 lb. woman spontaneously, without a big wind-up. Think what that would look like, and draw that.

ANOTHER NOTE TO FRANCIS: In #45, you drew Kin’thea approximately as tall as 6’2” Lightning Lad. Assuming that she’s wearing 3” heels, hidden by her flowing robe, that would make her 5’11”, a fairly tall woman. Of course, you also drew 5’10” Element Lad roughly the same height as LLad, too, so what’s it all mean? I don’t know. I give up.

Anyway, Saturn Girl should be about three inches shorter than Kin’thea, barefoot. If Kin’thea is wearing 3” heels again, SG is 6” shorter, since, from what I can discern from your drawings, there seem to be no heels on SG’s boots, like sneakers. 

KIN’THEA

OHH!

Panel 2:

Scene: Pull back. Saturn Girl flies quickly toward the exit—feature her, here. SG is telepathically commanding everyone in the room to forget what just happened—except Kin’thea. SG wants her to remember. Sydne Ardeen, being a telepath, isn’t affected by her daughter’s commands. Anyone else seen here, including M’lee Shuriff, should look unaware of what happened and totally unconcerned. 
Kin’thea holds her bloodied nose, staggered for a few seconds, as you or I would be. Sydne Ardeen looks flabbergasted. She’s staring, slackjawed, in disbelief at her daughter.  

A couple of SECRET SERVICE GUYS and a miscellaneous COLONEL speak. They’re completely blasé, showing that they are totally influenced by SG!

SATURN GIRL
(telepathic balloon)

You didn’t see what happened!  There’s no problem here!  Stay out of my way!

SECRET SERVICE GUY 1

I didn’t see what happened.

SECRET SERVICE GUY 2

There’s no problem.

COLONEL

Stay out of her way.

(NOTE: In my scribbles, panels 1-3 form the first tier, i.e., three 1/9 page panels, which provides a lot of room for the establishing shot that follows.)

Panel 3:

Scene: Close on Kin’thea, Sydne Ardeen and M’lee Shuriff. Kin’thea is holding her painful, bleeding nose. Don’t overplay it. This isn’t a catastrophic injury. It hurts, yes, and it’s messy, but no major damage. 

M’lee Shuriff is noticing that Kin’thea’s nose is bleeding. She has no idea why. She looks mildly nonplussed and has a sort of “Oh, dear!” motherly expression.  

Sydne Ardeen is pondering a thought-snippet she picked up from Saturn Girl. Possibly, she’s looking at Kin’thea quizzically, wondering if the disturbing thing she sensed in her daughter’s mind could possibly be true.

KIN’THEA

Grife!  What was that about…!?

SYDNE ARDEEN
(telepathic balloon)

I’m not sure, Madame President…but as Imra left, I caught a thought….

Panel 4:

Scene: Two-shot of Sydne Ardeen and Kin’thea. Sydne Ardeen is a little freaked. Kin’thea is a little freaked, too. Who knew Lightning Lad had a girlfriend? Or that she, SG, would find out? And punch her, Kin’thea, in the nose? Owww….  

SYDNE ARDEEN
(telepathic balloon)

Did you have a…romantic liaison with her boyfriend, Lightning Lad?!

KIN’THEA

Her…boyfriend?!

KIN’THEA (2nd)

Um…no comment.

KIN’THEA (3rd)
(closely connected)

Ow.

(…)

PAGE TWELVE:

Panel 1:

Scene: Pull back to reveal that we’re in the Hallway. Lightning Lad is looking up, reacting, as he sees SG hurrying toward the Lab Complex door (and him, since he’s standing next to the door).  Colossal Boy is still “on the line,” but LLad is now paying no attention to him whatsoever. Our POV is probably too far from LLad to see the Holographic Image of Colossal Boy, but at least indicate a glow around LLad’s Flight Ring to indicate activity.

LIGHTNING LAD

Imra!  Where have you been?!

SATURN GIRL
(telepathic balloon)

Brainy said we had ten minutes while he made final preparations. So I went to say good-bye to my mother…  

Panel 2:

Scene: Saturn Girl is trying to brush past Lightning Lad and enter the Lab Complex, but LLad is (gently!) trying to stop her, maybe grabbing her softly by the upper arm. She’s averting her face, trying to hide tears. Here are the mixed, myriad emotions to attempt to get across:
  • Saturn Girl is still hurt, jealous and angry that LLad had a liaison with the President last issue. 
  • Saturn Girl also feels very ashamed of what she just did—punching the President in the nose.  How low-class, how Neanderthal, how utterly trashy-stupid!
  • Saturn Girl also still feels lower that a slime-worm’s gut about her moment of needy, self-pitying weakness with Ultra Boy—even though the infidelity took place mostly in her mind!
Bottom line, she feels miserable, guilty and detestable. He desperately longs for her and what they once had.  Give it your best shot.  Good luck!

Lightning Lad is apprehensive and a little shocked by what SG tells him—as I might be if I found out that my girlfriend had just paid a visit to the “other woman” I was fooling around with last night.

If seen, LLad’s Ring is still glowing. If seen close enough, possibly the Holographic Image of Colossal Boy can be seen, small. Not necessary. Might even be too distracting.  
   
SATURN GIRL
(telepathic balloon)

…and…to see…President Kieselbach.

LIGHTNING LAD

What? Why?!

Panel 6:

Scene: Cut back to the Hallway Outside the Lab Complex.  Two-shot of Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl, but show enough environs to reinforce where we are.  SG is contrite, ashamed.  LLad is (gently) holding SG by the upper arms, (gently) making her stay.  We should get the feeling that if he weren’t she’d run away and crawl under a rock somewhere.  She’s still somewhat averting her face, not wanting to look LLad in the eye.  

LLad is shocked to learn that SG poked Kin’thea in the proboscis.     

LLad’s feelings: 
  • Lightning Lad feels bad that he made out with the President, but with an excuse—remember, at that point he thought he and Saturn Girl were through.  (P.S., FYI, he and Kin’thea didn’t get too far before being interrupted by the Flight Ring panic alarm, anyway.)
  • Lightning Lad just wishes it was all over and that they could pretend it all never happened.  He really loves Saturn Girl. 
CAPTION

Just outside.

LIGHTNING LAD

You hit her?!

SATURN GIRL
(telepathic balloon)

I thought it would make me feel better, but…now I feel worse. Like a foob

PAGE THIRTEEN:

Panel 1:

Scene: Close up, two-shot of Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl, now looking into each others’ eyes.  Supersaturate this with emotion, please.  It’s a prelude to a kiss.    

LIGHTNING LAD

Imra, I screwed up…but I thought we were finished, and….

SATURN GIRL
(telepathic balloon)

No, it was my fault. I cheated on you first.

LIGHTNING LAD (2nd)

But…it was just in your mind. Not real. Anybody can have a weak moment. Even a telepath.

Panel 2:

Scene: Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl kiss. If seen, LLad’s Flight Ring is still glowing.

(no copy)

Panel 3:

Scene: Angle to place Lightning Lad’s Flight Ring close enough to our POV so we can see the Holographic Image of Colossal Boy shouting at Lightning Lad. LLad is startled out of his romantic moment with Saturn Girl, jolted back to reality. Saturn Girl, too, is jolted back to the here and now. [One has to wonder what was happening between them in her mind during that kiss….  ; )  ] 

COLOSSAL BOY
(Flight Ring communication balloon)

Lightning Lad! We need you NOW!

LIGHTNING LAD

Oh. Yeah. Destroyers. Right. Um….

SATURN GIRL
(telepathic balloon)

I’m late. I’d better….

Panel 4:

Scene: Foreground, Lightning Lad quick-flies down the Hallway, presumably on his way to the aid of Colossal Boy. Background, Saturn Girl is entering the Lab Complex, but her head is turned toward LLad and the camera, watching LLad depart. Both of them are subtly smiling. Content. At peace.

(no copy)
________________________________________

That’s it. I’ll stand by that.

I am fully prepared for questions and challenges about my work with regard to sexual content. Remember, please, that some of my stories were written long ago when I was young and foolish. All right, more foolish. Also, remember, I didn’t draw the stories and I was often at the mercy of artists who did things differently than I would have liked. I am prepared to defend or apologize for anything I did.

That said, you may fire when ready, Gridley.



NEXT:  And So This Is Christmas Plus More Sex