By Josh Hechinger
Welcome to From Strip to Script, where I take a page of finished comic art and try to derive a script from it, to see what I can learn from the exercise.
Street Fighter's one of those endeavors where my enthusiasm's always exceeded my talent, but ah well. I've been a fan since my mom got me the Genesis version of SF II (Championship Edition) for Christmas, but I've never actually gotten…er, good at the game? At my peak, in my prime, the basic quarter-circle fireball command has a mmmmaybe 60% success rate, put it that way.
(My bro Harry Myland and I once decided to dedicate a summer to getting crazy good at SSFIV, only I flaked and now he can basically wreck me with everyone, unless I'm incredibly cheap. I guess the lesson here is to never slack off on your training if you truly wish to be a great fighter?)
But really, what keeps me coming back are the characters. I mean, I can't say I care a whole lot about the overall plots of Interpol vs Shadowloo, or Ryu's struggle with embracing the Dark Side of Being Basic or whatever, but Street Fighter just plain has my favorite designs and personalities in any video game franchise, fighting or otherwise. From Lethal Old Man Gen to Overconfident Dork Dan to Bear-Wrestling Wrestler Bear Zangief to Basically-Akane-Tendo Makoto and beyond, almost every character (except the Shotokan guys) has a move-set, design, or personality that I just really enjoy, especially with the additional cartoony exaggeration introduced in SFIV (not that these games were ever photorealistic, mind).
Now, I've pooh-poohed the Shotokan guys (Ryu, Ken, Akuma, Evil Ryu, Eviler Akuma, I don't even know who else. Sean? Sean's alright, actually) a bit, with good reason (they're the worst), but two of my favorite characters in the franchise are…well, if not Shotokan, Shoto-adjacent?
There's Dan Hibiki, of course, because as an untalented loudmouth of a player, I naturally enjoy having a 1:1 avatar to play as when 'm feeling whimsical. But also: Sakura Kasugano, who takes the Shotokan moves and adds scrappy teen brawling/flailing to them in a really fun way. You may be aware that I'm pretty fond of shonen/fight comics, and Sakura, as a street-fighting schoolgirl who constantly strives to be stronger, plugs pretty neatly into that genre.
So, naturally, she makes a pretty easy transition from screen to page in Udon's Street Fighter comics, particularly in her own Legends mini-series, by Marshall Dillon (letters), Omar Dogan (art), Erik Ko (story) and Ken Siu-Chong (also story).
PAGE ELEVEN (SEVEN Panels)
P1. SAKURA is solving an equation for X at the blackboard, but dragging the chalk along the board as she nods off.
– CAPTION Math.
– SFX ZZZZZZ
P2. SAKURA is grinning sheepishly after a science experiment has blown up in her face, leaving her soot-covered and shock-haired. Her TEACHER is equally sooty, except where he's lifted his sooty glasses to give her a perfectly clear stern glare.
– CAPTION Science.
– TEACHER —
P3. SAKURA, in her gym clothes, has nodded off standing up during a game of volleyball; the ball bounces off her skull as KEI facepalms in the background.
– CAPTION Gym.
– SFX (Sakura) ZZZZZZ
– SFX (ball) BOMP!
P4. SAKURA, falling asleep chin-on-fist in the middle of her classroom. Mmmaybe drooling a bit. The rest of the class proceeds as normal; either paying attention, or goofing off in their own way.
– CAPTION History.
– SFX (Sakura) ZZZZZZ
P5. KEI leans over from the next desk, talking behind her hand. SAKURA'S leaning even more heavily on her hand.
– KEI Wake up Sakura! You wanna get in trouble again?! How late did you stay up training???
– SAKURA Five…A…MMMM…
P6. KEI'S head whips around to face front, alarmed, as the TEACHER calls on her from off-panel.
– TEACHER Talking in class again, Kei? You and Miss Kasugano can finish your chat out in the hallway!
P7. A red-faced KEI makes a murder face at a peacefully sleeping SAKURA.
– KEI *angry scribble*
So, What'd We Learn?
– I always think of the gag in the first half of the page as an "around the world" gag, where you show a character with a fairly static personality/state in different locals/situations; the most basic example I can think of is "here's someone with an unchanging expression in different exotic locales around the world, staying completely deadpan".
Those first four panels are actually a little more animated than that, though. While keeping the basic status of "Sakura is sleepy", having her up at the blackboard, blowing herself up, or playing volleyball makes her a more dynamic character and tells the reader a lot about her. She's irrepressibly active, even when she can't stay awake for more than five seconds in a row.
– Around the world gags are also fun to write/draw just because you get to build variety around a simple premise. There's a template, but there's a lot of wiggle room within that template.
– The first three panels have a good flow to them. Each one's a self-contained gag, but also has an element in that gag that draws your eyes to the next panel. In P1, Sakura's dragging chalk draws you towards P2, where you're drawn to the teacher's stink eye on the right, which leads you easily to P3, and the volleyball moving left to right, with a brief detour on Sakura's dome. We're always following some moving element or highlight from the left of the panel to the right.
– The lettering's interesting to me, in that it seems to use punctuation for emphasis more than the selective bolding or balloon effects you see in a lot of comics. Or, rather, the captions get bolded (which in my head reads like someone saying "MATH. SCIENCE. GYM. HISTORY." dramatically, but I'm weird. If it were an animation, you might hear a GONG or CLANG sound with each scene transition, I think? It's that effect.), but everything else stays flat, bar punctuation. It's a neat variant.
– I didn't script it, except in a vaguely suggested way, but the background business with Sakura's classmates in P4 and P5 is pretty great. It not only makes Sakura's school feel a little more lived-in, but I dig the way it's presented, too, with the flick set up P4, but the actual action only shown via a little shock from off-panel and the redhead's disapproving glance (the guy behind her looks appalled as well).
I mean, not everything has to be a dense tapestry within the sequential narrative or whatevs, but throwing a little care and trust-in-the-readers-ability-to-follow a background gag goes a long way towards enriching the reading experience.
– Sakura sinking lower and lower throughout the back half of the page, and her drool getting longer and longer, is a nice bit of physical business to show the progression of events.
– Really, the whole page layout's a good lesson in progressing a gag: you have three little panels where Sakura is active-but-sleepy, then the largest/most emphasized panel shows her barely staying upright now that she's planted at a desk, and she just continues to sink further from there.
– The layout also works in terms of the central image is Sakura sleeping at her desk, and everything else on the page is literally just stuff happening around her as she dozes off, if you want to get into zany "read a page in any kind of order you want" territory.
Philly-based comic writer Josh Hechinger [joshhechinger.tumblr.com] is a Cancer, and his blood type is A+. You can find him being a loquacious dope on Twitter, and read his comic collaborations on Comixology.