Monday, 26 May 2014

FROM HELL Script sample



I should just post stuff on this blog.

Found on Eddie Campbell's blog (sadly not updated in a long time, maybe he's on tumblr now) here's a sample of Alan Moore's writing for From Hell.

If you want to further explore the creative rocess behind one of the best graphic novels in history, be sure to purchase The From HellCompanion from Top Shelf (available also on Amazon)

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As much as I love Alan Moore, among the finest writers (if not THE finest) to grace the medium, this is not the way to write a script.

In itself Mr. Moore's scripts are a dlightful read, like letters to the artist, where Mr. Moore shares his thoughts and feelings, making therefore the artist participate more.

But all that information is put together with actual panel/action descriptions in a stream-of-conciousness fashion. they are also written from the perspective of the omniscent writer, who is sharing a lot of information not about what is shown or said, but rhather what is not yet reevealed and about where the story is going.

To Alan Moore's credit, formatting rules are somewhat less strict in comics than, for instance, film or television.

A page of screen- or teleplay should translate into one minute of footage. Formatting is of the essence in order to achieve that.

Besides, a proper formatting helps the many people and departments the script must go thorugh, staying on the same page (pun intended).

In comics the length of the description does not affect the number of pages/panels an action is going to take. (the length of the dialogue is a lot more important, and in that regard Alan Moore is very careful never to use too many words per panel).

Scripts are also meant to be read only by a handful of people participating in the process;: penciler, inker, letterer, colorist and editor.

If one considers that FROM HELL has Eddie Campbell as the ONLY artist/inker/letterer and that the book was not colored (nor edited, I believe), then how the script is formatted is up to the creative duo.

Still, I would rather separate the considerations about the story from the actual "technical" script, for no other reason that when used for lay-outing the pages or finishing the art, it can be tough having to go through a phone-book-thick script full of (however amusing) anecdotes. I would rather produce a polished and tidy script preceded by a separate commentary text.

The way Mr. Moore write his scripts is probably the result of him going directly from notes to final draft (and again, to his credit, that is pretty awe-inspiring).

As a consequence, his thinking is right there on the page.

Separating the straight instructions from all the rest would probably take longer, and maybe Alan Moore does not want to waste his time.

But even once removed what is commentary, the panel descriptions tend to be very, very precise.

Campbell feels comfortable enough ignoring some of the directions when he thinks he has a better idea (and once more, to Moore's credit, he always encourages artists to come up with better ideas).

There are different philosophies about how precise the directions ought to be, especially with reference to the blocking and the framing of the action.

I suppose editors will probably suggest to keep it short, to facilitate reading.

Some writers will respond that if left to their own devices, Some artists will lose sight on storytelling and will make continuity errors.

While artist may complain that direction too-details are "limiting" "constrictive".

Some inexperienced writer may also make the mistake of stuffing the panel with details, character and dialogue to an impossible degree. 

To me, what's important is the final result.

If a particular framing or character disposition is essential to the story, then the writer is 100% entitled to give directions. There is a very good chance that an experienced visual storyteller will construct a very effective scene.

The writer can of course avoid providing full directions, as long as what he asks to depict is a MOMENT that can translate in to a still picture (and not something like: Andy open's the can of beer and drink it).

I suppose that a writer who know what he or she is doing can leave a lot to the artist, because the description will anyway suggest the appropriate angle (that is, if he or she is working with a competent artist).

Moore's record is such that I will always try to follow his indications.


What I don't forgive here is the massive use of "we see" and "us" in the directions.

That is something I learned from Mystery Man.

No "we see" in a script. Period.

In a visual medium, it's pretty obvious we are seeing something, ain't it?

One last bit of business is the ALL CAPS descriptions as opposed to the small caps dialogue.

Personally I would prefer to have it done the other way around or better yet, all in small caps.

I ignore why Alan Moore goes ALL CAPS for the directions, I know that the small caps in dialogue is used to make it easy to spot on a quick look.

I solve that by using a longer indent for dialogue and using bold or ALL CAPS to highlight speech balloons.


(The indent also helps me keeping the text getting too long for a single balloon.)

Concluding: the "Alan Moore Script" may be a literary genre in itself., absolutely fun to read, but I would discourage anyone from scriptiong in the same fashion.
I'd suggest to keep directions dry (not dull, though) and make  every noun, verb, adverb and adjective count.

If the artist's comfort is important to you, I would suggest to try to fix one page of comic in one page of script, purely for practical reason, but clarity come first, so if one page isn't enough, then go long.

Two way to compromise on this are

  1. Make one page of comic fit in one SHEET of paper, going double-sided if needed, and keeping the back side blank when the direction for the given page fit on the front only) side
  2. Adapt the font size to the page length: samller fonts when a page require longer directions.

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“THE NEMESIS OF NEGLECT” (40 PAGES)

PAGE 1.

PANEL 1.

HELLO, EDDIE. WELL, HERE WE ARE: MORE THAN A HUNDRED PAGES INTO THE STORY AND WE FINALLY REACH THE FIRST MURDER. IT STRIKES ME THAT HAVING DONE SUCH A GOOD JOB OF MAKING THE MUNDANE MEANINGFUL AND DRAMATIC FOR THE PAST FIVE INSTALMENTS. WE MAY HAVE SOMETHING OF A PROBLEM WHEN IT COMES TO THIS FIRST MURDER; THE FIRST CONVENTIONALLY DRAMATIC MOMENT THAT WE’VE BEEN CALLED UPON TO DESCRIBE. I THINK WE NEED TO MAKE IT AS FLAT AND UNEVENTFUL AS WE DID THE SEX SECENE BETWEEN ANNIE AND EDDY BACK IN CHAPTER ONE, ALTHOUGH AT THE SAME TIME WE DO NEED TO CONVEY SOME OF THE HIDEOUS FORCE AND MOMENT THAT HAS GONE INTO THE EVENT. ALSO, WHILE WE MAINTAIN THE AIR OF NORMALITY THAT WE’VE CAREFULLY BUILT UP, WE ALSO HAVE TO MAINTAIN THE ATMOSPHERE OF STRANGENESS THAT WE’VE IMPLIED BEHIND THE EVERYDAY VICTORIAN FAƇADE. A TRICKY ONE, BUT I’M SURE WE’LL HANDLE IT OKAY WHEN WE ACTUALLY GET TO THE SCENE IN QUESTION.

THIS FIRST PAGE IS ONE OF THREE THAT MAKE UP OUR OPENING SEQUENCE, A PUZZLING AND ANOMALOUS LITTLE VIGNETTE THAT TAKES PLACE IN AUSTRIA. THE FIRST PAGE HAS THREE TIERS. ON THE UPPERMOST TIER WE HAVE THE BORDERLESS WHITE SPACE TO THE LEFT WHERE WE TRADITIONALLY SET OUT EPISODE TITLE, AND THEN A DOUBLE WIDTH PANEL TAKING UP THE REST OF THE TIER. THE LOWER TWO TIERS EACH HAVE THREE PANELS, MAKING THIS AN EIGHT-PANEL PAGE, INCLUDING THE TITLE PANEL.

TITLES: CHAPTER V: THE NEMESIS OF NEGLECT

PANEL 2.

IN THIS FIRST PANEL WE HAVE AN AERIAL SHOT OF A SMALL TWO STORY BUILDING THAT STANDS ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF THE UPPER-AUSTRIAN TOWNSHIP OF BRAUNAU. WE ARE LOOKING DOWN AT THE HOUSE, WHICH STANDS IN A FAIRLY ISOLATED POSITION RELATIVE TO THE REST OF THE TOWN, THROUGH A FINE VEIL OF POWDERY, FALLING SNOW. WE ARE HIGH ABOVE IT HERE AS WE LOOK DOWN, AND THE ISOLATED HOUSE IS THE MAIN FOCUS OF OUR VISUAL ATTENTION, WITH THE REST OF THE TOWN MERELY A SUGGESTION; A DARK HUDDLE OF BUILDINGS SOMEHWERE TOWARDS THE UPPER REACHES OF THE PANEL THAT DOES NOT DISTRACT FROM OUR FOCUS UPON THE HOUSE. IT IS THE EARLY AUGUST OF 1888, AND IT IS NIGHT TIME, ALTHOUGH THE CLARITY WITH WHICH WE CAN SEE THE HOUSE FAR BELOW US, EVEN THROUGH THE FALLING SNOW, SUGGESTS THAT THE SCENE MUST BE ILLUMINATED BY THE LIGHT OF SOME OFF-PANEL FULL MOON. THE SNOW BLOWS IN WILD GUSTS ACROSS OUR IMAGE, BUT PERHAPS WE CAN SEE A TINY PIN PRICK OF LIGHT IN THE UPPER STOREY OF THE BUILDING: A LIT WINDOW. IF WE ARE TOO HIGH FOR THIS TO BE PRACTICABLE, THEN JUST LEAVE IT OUT AND WE’LL ESTABLISH THE LIT WINDOW IN OUR NEXT PANEL.

CAPTION: Braunau, Upper Austria. August, 1888.

PANEL 3.

NOW THE FIRST OF THE THREE SMALLER PANELS THAT MAKE UP THIS CENTRAL TIER. SLOWLY, WE ARE CLOSING IN FROM OUR OPENING IMAGE, ZOOMING SLOWLY DOWN TOWARDS THE HOUSE BENEATH US. (YOU SEE WHAT A SEMANTIC MUDDLE YOU GET INTO WHEN YOU START USING CINEMATIC TERMINOLOGY? “ZOOMING SLOWLY”.) ALTHOUGH THE SNOWFLAKES STILL BOWL IN A LUMINOUS FREE-FALL ACROSS THE FOREGROUND OF THE PANEL, WE CAN NOW SEE THE HOUSE IN MUCH GREATER DETAIL, SINCE WE ARE HOVERING JUST ABOVE THE ROOF AND LOOKING DOWN. WE CAN CLEARLY SEE THE LIGHT IN THE UPPER STORY WINDOW, ALTHOUGH THE REST OF THE WINDOWS ARE DARK. ALTHOUGH IT IS MADE NOWHERE EVIDENT IN

THE TEXT THAT FOLLOWS, THE HOUSE IS THAT BELONGING TO THE CUSTOMS OFFICIAL ALOIS HITLER AND HIS WIFE KLARA. I’M AFRAID THAT THE BIOGRAPHY OF HITLER THAT I’VE CONSULTED FOR MY REFERENCE HAS NO PICTURE SECTION, SO YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN AS FAR AS FINDING REFERENCE FOR THIS ONE GOES. IF YOU CAN’T LOCATE A SPECIFIC IMAGE OF HITLER’S PARENTS' HOUSE THEN JUST DO A PIECE OF TYPICAL AUSTRIAN ARCHITECTURE FROM THAT PERIOD. AS WE LOOK DOWN ON THE HOUSE HERE, THE ILLUMINATED WINDOW ON THE UPPER STORY IS BECOMIING OUR VISUAL FOCUS OF ATTENTION.

No Dialogue

PANEL 4.

WE CONTINUE TO CLOSE IN UPON THE ILLUMINATED WINDOW THAT SHINES BENEATH THE OVERHANGING QAINTNESS OF THE PERIOD AUSTRIAN GABLES, ITS WAN YELLOW LIGHT PICKING OUT THE SNOWFLAKES AS THEY TUMBLE DOWN PAST IT. WE ARE LOOKING DOWN AT THE WINDOW FROM SUCH AN ANGLE THAT WE CAN SEE A LITTLE OF THE ROOM BEYOND IT, ALTHOUGH THIS NEEDN’T BE VERY VISIBLE OR DETAILED AS YET. JUST SO LONG AS WE ESTABLISH THAT WE WILL BE ABLE TO SEE A LITTLE OF THE ROOM IF WE CONTINUE TO CLOSE IN ALONG OUR PRESENT COURSE. A SINGLE, TAILLESS SPEECH BALLOON HANGS IN THE SNOW-SPECKED DARKNESS OUTSIDE THE WINDOW.

TAILLESS BALLOON: ungh

PANEL 5.

NOW WE CLOSE IN SO THAT THE WINDOW FRAME ALSO FILLS THE ENTIRE PANEL, STILL WITH SOME FLAKES OF SNOW TUMBLING PAST IN THE FOREGROUND. AS WE LOOK DOWN AND THROUGH THE WINDOW WE CAN SEE INTO THE BEDROOM BEYOND, AND WE CAN SEE THE TOP HALF OF THE DOUBLE BED THAT IS PRESUMABLY POSITIONED NEAR TO THE WINDOW. THE SCENE INSIDE THE ROOM IS LIT BY AN OIL LAMP, SOMEWHERE OFF PANEL. SPRAWLED UPON THE BED, ONLY PARTLY VISIBLE TO US HERE, ARE A MAN AND A WOMAN. THEY ARE HAVING SEX IN THE MISSIONARY POSITION, THE WOMAN’S LONG NIGHTGOWN PULLED UP IN A CRUMPLED RUCK TO JUST ABOVE THE BREASTS AS SHE LIES FACE UP BENEATH HER HUSBAND. THIS IS KLARA HITLER, FORMERLY KLARA POLZL, AND AS WE SEE HER HERE SHE IS TWENTY-EIGHT YEARS OLD. THE MAN ON TOP OF HER IS ALOIS HITLER OR HIEDLER, AND HE IS FIFTY-ONE YEARS OLD. AS WITH THE HOUSE IN WHICH THIS IS HAPPENING, I HAVE NO VISUAL REFERENCE FOR EITHER OF HITLER’S PARENTS. IF YOU CAN’T FIND ANY EITHER, THEN JUST GO AHEAD AND MAKE THEM UP. I SEE BOTH OF THEM AS BEING QUITY FLESHY PEOPLE, NOT ESPECIALLY ATTRACTIVE IN ANY OBVIOUS PHYSICAL SENSE. AS ALOIS GRUNTS AND THRUSTS ON TOP OF HIS WIFE, HIS OWN NIGHTSHIRT HAVING RIDDEN UP TO HIS WAIST TO REVEAL A DIMPLED AND CORPULENT BEHIND, BOTH OF THEIR EYES ARE CLOSED. ALOIS CLOSES HIS EYES WITH A SQUINT OF MIGRAINE-INDUCING EFFORT, WHILE KLARA CLOSES HERS TO ESCAPE TO SOMEWHERE WITH A MORE PLEASING VIEW. FROM OUR VANTAGE POINT AS WE LOOK DOWN INTO THE ROOM WE CAN SEE MOST OF THE BED, AND WE CAN PROBABLY SEE THE TWO BODIES MORE OR LESS FULL FIGURE HERE AS THEY LIE THERE ON TOP OF EACH OTHER. LIT BY THE CREPUSCULAR YELLOW GLOW OF THE OFF PANEL OIL LAMP, THE LEANING SHADOWS MAKING SOMETHING STRANGE AND FANTASTIC OF THE SCENE. IT IS THE LIGHTING OF A CRIMEA SURGICAL TENT, OR THE MURDER ROOM IN A VICTORIAN MELODRAMA. THE BALLOON, BELONGING TO ALOIS HITLER, IS NEVERTHELESS TAILLESS AND FREE FLOATING, HANGING THERE IN THE FOREGROUND AMONGST THE TUMBLING SNOW.

TAILLESS BALLOON: ungh

PANEL 6.

WE CONTINUE TO CLOSE IN. WE ARE NOW WITHIN THE ROOM, LOOKING DOWN UPON THE BED UPON WHICH THE COUPLE ARE… UH… COUPLING. BECAUSE WE ARE CLOSER TO THEM HERE, WE CANNOT SEE SO MUCH OF THEM. HERE, WE SEE THEM ROUGHLY THREE QUARTER FIGURE AS THEY LIE THERE BELOW US. THE FOCUS OF OUR ATTENTION, VISUALLY, IS THE FACE OF KLARA HITLER AS SHE LIES THERE PACING UP TOWARDS US FROM BENEATH HER THRUSTING HUSBAND, HER FACE VISIBLE OVER HIS SHOULDER. THE ROOM IS SLOPPY AND LIVED IN, MAYBE WITH THE SIGNS OF HAVING HOSTED TWO PREVIOUS HITLER CHILDREN, GUSTAV AND IDA, WHO BOTH DIED IN INFANCY. THE SPEECH BALLOONS ARE STILL TAILLESS AS THEY REMAIN THROUGH THIS SEQUENCE, ALTHOUGH IF THEY COULD BE PLACED ON ALOIS’ SIDE OF THE PICTURE TO CONVEY THE IMPRESSION THAT THEY ORIGINATE WITH HIM, IF ONLY SUBTLY.

TAILLESS BALLOON: ungh

PANEL 7.

WE CONTINUE TO CLOSE IN. SO THAT NOW WE ARE LOOKING DOWN AT THE HITLERS FROM JUST ABOVE THEM, AND THUS SEE THEM ROUGHLY HALF FIGURE. THE FOCUS OF OUR ATTENTION IS STILL KLARA’S FACE AS SHE TWISTS AND WRITHES BENEATH THE WEIGH OF HER HUSBAND. HER FACE, VISIBLE OVER HIS SHOULDER, HAS A BROW THAT IS STUDDED WITH BEADS OF SWEAT AND THE EXPRESSION OF ONE WHO TOSSES AND TURNS IN A FEVERISH AND ANXIOUS SLEEP. OBLIVIOUS TO THIS, ALOIS CONTINUES TO GRUNT AND THRUST ABOVE HER, ONLY THE BACK OF HIS HEAD VISIBLE TO US HERE.

TAILLESS BALLOON: ungh

PANEL 8.

IN THIS FINAL PANEL WE CLOSE RIGHT IN FOR A HEAD AND SHOULDERS SHOT OF KLARA AS SHE FACES UP TOWARDS US FROM UNDER HER HUSBAND, HER EYES TIGHT SHUT AS HER HEAD PITCHES TO AND FRO WITH THE RHYTHM OF THE

COUPLING. THE SWEAT STANDS OUT ON HER BROW, HER FACE RED AND FILLED WITH BLOOD SO THAT THE SKIN BECOMES TIGHT AND SHINY. IF WE CAN SEE ANYTHING OF THE BACK OF ALOIS’ HEAD IT SHOULD ONLY BE ONE EAR OR A BIT OF ONE SHOULDER, VISIBLE OVER TO THE EXTREME RIGHT EDGE OF THE PANEL, WITH THE FOCUS OF OUR ATTENTION BEING FIXED SQUARELY UPON KLARA’S FACE. TO BE MORE EXACT, THE FOCUS OF THE PANEL IS KLARA’S EYE, SINCE THIS IS THE POINT THAT WE WILL BE ZOOMING IN UPON NEXT PANEL. (I KNOW THAT YOU HATE MEANINGLESS TIGHT CLOSE UPS OF EYES, BUT THERE IS A VALID STORYTELLING PURPOSE BEHIND THIS ONE, SO TRUST ME.) THE EXPRESSION OF KLARA’S FACE IS THAT OF SOMEONE WHO IS TWISTING AND TURNING IN A RESTLESS NIGHTMARE RATHER THAN IN THE THROES OF PASSION. THE TAILLESS BALLOON HANGS IN SPACE, SOMEWHERE OVER TOWARDS ALOIS’ SIDE OF THE PANEL.

TAILLESS BALLOON : ungh

and here's the final art


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