From Strip To Script – Why I Hate Saturn

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.

Appropriately enough for the page we're about to look at, I am completely, utterly, entirely blocked up when it comes to writing this intro. What can you say about '90s B/W independent comics, or Kyle Baker, or New York City? Probably nothing, those are all pretty boring…

(don't add 'not!' don't add 'not!' don't add 'not!')

But seriously, I don't know…Kyle Baker's just one of the funniest writers and talented cartoonists in the game, and when I saw that Why I Hate Saturn was getting serialized (and continued? I think I heard that) digitally, I snatched it up with no hesitation. Anyway, let's hope Anne has better luck with her writing (except I already gave the plot away in the second paragraph, didn't I? Ugh.)

BC_41PAGE TWENTY-SIX (Three Panels)

P1. ANNE in bed, writing on loose leaf…well, "writing"…mostly just chewing her pen

– ANNE (mono)      Damn, I was sure I could get at least ten pages out of that. I'm losing my ability to ramble. Whoever said "Brevity is the soul of wit" wasn't being paid by the word. See, I was trying to write, but I was totally blocked. It must have been serious, since I never thought I'd ever see the words "I" and "write" and "trying" in the same sentence. I had gotten in really late from hanging out with Ricky, and I still had to get pages in the next day. It was getting desperate.

P2. ANNE presses the button on her answering machine.

– ANNE (mono)      I didn't know what to do. I never got writer's block. Of course, I never wrote…Maybe I was trying too hard. Yes, that was it. I should probably go to sleep, try again tomorrow. Comne to think of it, it's probably better to work at my own pace. Maybe it's not as urgent as I thought. I'll check the message again.

P3. The answering machine. Let's throw the dialogue from it into a balloon, but the balloon into the margain.

– CAPTION      BEEP!

– KAREN (electric)      Anne, this is Karen. You remember, your editor at Hammerhey press. Pick up the phone. Pick up the phone. Pick up the phone. I know you're there. Pick it up.

So, What'd We Learn?

– You know, I always think of sidebar monologues like that as a Frank Miller trick; the first place I remember encountering it was Marv's big rainy walk in the first Sin City joint. Three seconds on Google tells me that Saturn predates City by a year, so who knows? It's the content and the placement of that sidebar monologue that's interesting.

See, it's a sidebar of narration as a wall. It being on our right means we as the reader can't get past it without engaging it; in order to keep the story going, our eyes have to dig into it, but also end up "bouncing off" and landing back on the panels of art, at least until the physical restrictions of the media force us to turn the page and start the struggle all over again (one wonders how the sequence that uses this caption style would read on a webpage where you could just scroll it all as one "page"). The combination of first-person monologue and sidebar placement puts us in Anne's shoes as she struggles against her writers' block.

– I'm not sure if the "BEEP!" is in Anne's head, meant to be an external sound effect, or both. It doesn't matter so much, but I think my favorite interpretation is that she's sarcastically thinking "BEEP!" to go along with the actual beeping.

– I've heard there's an acting note/technique along the lines of "don't play crying, play trying not to cry", y'know, the idea that watching someone hanging onto their composure by their fingernails has a different, maybe more powerful impact than watching their full-blown meltdown.

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.

About Hannah Means Shannon

Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. Independent comics scholar and former English Professor. Writing books on magic in the works of Alan Moore and the early works of Neil Gaiman.

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