The Zeppelin’s Graveyard

Link to today’s strip.

Good grief, look at the size of that folder, is Pete writing a novel or a comic book?

I admit I have no idea how comic books are written, other than what is known as “Marvel Style.” This is where the writer gives the artist an outline of what should happen in the issue, the artist goes off and draws the pages, and the writer then fills in the dialogue and needed descriptions. I don’t think “Suddenly he turned and saw” would be anywhere in that outline.

It also occurs to me that unless you’re a beady-eyed nitpicker, you have no idea who these people are or what they’re doing. That could be an actual movie script, for all the casual reader knows. And who’s the old guy? All it would take is Pete saying, “Flash! Good to see you!” And then, “I’d be honored if the great Flash Freeman read my script!” Done and done.

If there are any people out there who “enjoy” this strip, they’d have to have an encyclopedic knowledge of characters, places and occupations for it to make any sense. It would help if they also had a fanatical devotion to continuity–something Tom Batiuk has demonstratively been shown to lack.

One thing that he definitely has, though, is a bristling reaction to any criticism, and he’s certainly imbued Pete with that characteristic. Ouch.

By the way, a quick web search for “dangling subject” brings up lots and lots of entries for dangling modifier, but nothing at all for “dangling subject.” But I suppose the Lord of Language knows what he’s talking about. And quite honestly, I don’t know what Freeman is talking about.


Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

28 responses to “The Zeppelin’s Graveyard

  1. Epicus Doomus

    The irony of BatHam doing grammar gags is just too much to contemplate. Of the one hundred clumsiest sentences I’ve ever read, a hundred and one of them were in FW word balloons.

    As far as “dangling” goes, I’d like to see these two “dangling” from a hastily-constructed gallows. I’ll take last week’s porn and Hitler over this wry banter any day.

  2. billytheskink

    I’m sorry Flash, did you write for Superman? No? Just Mr. Sponge? (and Pete even had more success than you with Mr. Sponge…)

    To be fair, I guess, Pete Reynolds didn’t write Superman either, that was Pete Roberts…

    • hitorque

      Pete wrote Superman? And it was a success?! So before Hollywood, why was he being introduced as “The guy who resurrected Mr. Sponge back from the dead” instead of “The guy who was chosen to write a storyline for the single most famous superhero in existence?”

      I’m almost scared to think what his version of a Superman storyline would have looked like…

  3. Mr. A

    I know we’ve talked a lot of trash about how bad Pete is at his job, but I didn’t expect that the other characters in the strip would join in.

  4. Gerard Plourde

    “If there are any people out there who “enjoy” this strip, they’d have to have an encyclopedic knowledge of characters, places and occupations for it to make any sense.”

    I’d posit that the collective readership of this blog brings a pretty near “encyclopedic knowledge of characters, places and occupations”, which truly is invaluable in trying to figure out what TomBa tries to say.

    • Epicus Doomus

      That’s the funny thing, even with that encyclopedic knowledge it STILL baffles me all the time.

  5. J.J. O'Malley

    Missing Panel Four dialogue, with Mindy and R. Lith in another part of the Atomik office: “I’ve been with him for several years, Ruby, and trust me when I say Pete isn’t the master of anything ‘dangling!'”

    Since when is Funky Flashman a high school English teacher (Boy, does this strip need one of those)? Why is he worrying about what must be an instruction to the artist, since it doesn’t sound like it’s part of dialogue or even a narration box)? And since when do comic book writers put their monthly scripts into folders for the artists like it’s a school book report? Do we really have to add “writing a comic script” to the list of things Battyuk knows nothing about?

    Finally, Why was yesterday’s art so careful to depict the Atomik “Bullsh*tpen” interiors with great details, from windows down to the Holtron computer, but today’s passive-aggressive shenanigans take place in a spotlight, gray-dotted void?

    • Sourbelly

      In this arc, Ayers has been consistent in depicting the Atomik Comix interior as a featureless gray backdrop. (Although he did sneak a few bricks into one strip.) He doesn’t want to distract the reader from the scintillating dialog, like today’s back-and-forth between these two asswipes.

  6. none

    Sorry, I’m going to have to disagree on the lack of exposition criticism here.

    I’d prefer things to be like this rather than the inhuman dialogue where, for example, she only every refers to him as “My father, John Darling” every single time the subject arises.

    Who’re these two? Mopey Pepe and Flash Freebase? Whatever. All that matters is that this strip shows someone who wrote something in a poor manner and dislikes being called out on it in the slightest way, despite initially welcoming his review. Point made, no excess verbosity. Good enough. Next.

    ps: Thanks for the twitter plug.

    • The Duck of Death

      Are you perchance referring to “My father, John Darling, who was murdered”? I always think of him now as John Darling Hooazmurdurd.

  7. erdmann

    Over the years, there have been many writers and artists who preferred working with full scripts. It’s an older way than the Marvel Method and I can’t say how many still use it today, nor can I say if any use neat little school essay folders like the one seen here.
    I’m also not sure about this, but aren’t stage (or artist) directions usually in present tense?

    • Mr. A

      Alan Moore’s script for Watchmen was 1032 pages total, or about 86 pages per issue. But apparently that’s way longer than normal. (You can see a few pages here.)

      • J.J. O'Malley

        Oh, sure, a neophyte writer like ALAN Moore might try something like that. But just imagine if it had been LES Moore’s “Watchmen.” I think it would have gone something like this….

    • ComicBookHarriet

      There was a comics writer for Transformers a few years ago who sold copies of his working scripts at conventions so that his fans could see one way that comic scripts were written. It was kind of like a movie script, outlining what should be in each panel and then listing the dialogue that would be in word bubbles

  8. Hitorque

    I’m not sure where to start or how outraged I should be… Do comics people write “scripts?” I always assumed writers started with a general story outline then collaborated with the artist on what the action should look like visually? God damnit I’m too lazy to search the archives but pretty sure that’s EXACTLY how Pete+Darren worked it back when Atomikkk Komixxx was a two-man operation…?

    And isn’t that a really thick notebook for a campy script about sci-fi monkeys in space? Or is that where Pete keeps all his story ideas?

    As for Mr. Freeman, I don’t know what’s going on — If the “dangling” line was just a story overview or narration, it doesn’t even matter. If it’s supposed to be actual character dialogue, it’s really bad unless this comic is just over-the-top silly or irreverent or strictly for say, kids age 5-9…

    Regardless, Pete’s pissy-shit reaction to a friendly bit of criticism from an old school industry legend is 100% on brand for him, but still dumb… Especially given that Pete has been on a one-man crusade to bring silver age purity back to the comics world and worships the old school era and keeps it holy and sacred the same creepy ass way Les Moore does for his dead wife’s memory… So I’d have thought Pete would be a bit more deferential to Mr. Freeman?

    Also, what the hell is Freeman even doing there? Is he even an employee?? If he just wanted some young whipper snappers to kiss his ass, shouldn’t he, you know, visit someplace bigger like Marvel or DC or Disney and let them give him the royal treatment?

  9. King Tut-Tut

    There’s one thing Batiuk has mastered: arrogance, insecurity, ego, vindictiveness, delusion, regret, and supreme annoyance wrapped up in one untidy package.

  10. Banana Jr. 6000

    The phrase “suddenly, he turned and saw” could be a dangling modifier, but guess what? We have to know what it’s trying to modify! If the sentence is “As Atomic Ape fought Gammagorilla, suddenly he turned and saw”, then it is a dangling modifier, because it’s unclear who “he” is. But the strip doesn’t give us enough information to make that judgment. It accuses Pete of using a phrase that’s not wrong by itself.

    Also: it’s a stage direction, not something a character says. So it’s not going to end up in the final product anyway. If it is unclear, the artist would just ask Pete which he meant. This is all a big nothingburger, so why is it even in the story?

    I hate to compare Tom Batiuk’s writing to anything good, but this is like a scene from Fawlty Towers where the point is to show that Basil and his guest are both deeply terrible people. Except there, it was done intentionally. That can’t be what Batiuk is going for, but it’s the impression he makes. Freeman comes off as a snotty, out-of-touch old pedant who chastises people for not following rules he can’t even articulate correctly. Pete comes off as a thin-skinned little prima donna who can’t take a shred of criticism after he just invited it. In a scene that has no other reason to exist.

    • The Duck of Death

      As Erdmann pointed out, stage direction in any script is in the present tense, not past tense, so this must be dialogue — one character telling a story about another character. It seems excessively wordy, but other than that, there’s nothing wrong with it, grammatically or otherwise. I guess the whole point is to show how criticizing comic writers is stupid and wrong…? Unless Pete’s going back to writing for the movies? The size and binding of this script suggest a movie script.

      In other words, [cut and paste for convenience] this strip is incoherent drivel.

      • Banana Jr. 6000

        I think it’s more likely that Batiuk simply doesn’t know how comic book scripts are written. Considering how much he thinks he deserves this job, it says a lot that he doesn’t know the first thing about it.

      • Mr. A

        Third, very remote possibility: it’s neither stage directions nor character dialogue, but a narration box. Directly telling the reader that a character is turning and seeing would be extraordinarily clumsy and ham-fisted, and so Freeman would be right to criticize it. But if that is the case, Freeman is giving entirely the wrong criticism; he should be saying something like “it’s ‘show, don’t tell’, not ‘show AND tell’!”

        • The Duck of Death

          OK, I can buy that, if you’re going for an E.C. Vault of Horror-type thing, where the Crypt-Keeper serves as a Greek chorus narrating the whole thing. Of course, that style went out in the 1950s — which means it’s just about the right era for Batiuk to want to emulate. (Although I can’t imagine him reading E.C. like the cool kids.) Still, the Crypt-Keeper kept his narration to a sardonic, snappy minimum. “Sardonic” and “snappy” Batty doesn’t do.

      • erdmann

        “I guess the whole point is to show how criticizing comic writers is stupid and wrong…?”
        I think you may have nailed it.

  11. William Thompson

    “Dangling?” I’d say it means “dropping a storyline before it’s concluded and never returning to it,” but that would mean Batiuk has developed some self-awareness.

  12. newagepalimpsest

    Last week: Mindy asks Ruby about her first years in comics, and eventually confesses that she is being stalked and cyberbullied by idiots who don’t think that she should write comic books because she’s a woman.

    This week: Pete, Mindy’s fiancé, seems to be unaware of this concerning event. Did she even bother to tell him, do you think? Anyway, here’s another week of Pete churning out shoddy work and getting away with it. Not necessarily because he’s a man, but because… I suppose the other three (!) writers in this universe were not sufficient to carry all of the “Just Writer Things” jokes.

  13. Charles

    Gotta admit, I do like Flash’s “the fuck is this?” expression in panel two as he’s examining Mopey’s writing.