Sunday, April 19, 2015

Captain Britain - New Beginnings - Grant McLaughlin

The first and last panels would make up their own individual rows at the top and the bottom of the page.  The rest of the panels would be in between the two, all of equal size, and would number as many as is necessary (as will be explained below).

1 - Brian Braddock (in full Captain Britain regalia) and Meggan Puceneau (in full whatever her regalia might be) stand in front of a curtain, about to go onto a stage.

MEGGAN: You really think this will work?

BRIAN: God, I hope so.

The majority of the page should be small panels of Captain Britain

2 - ?? I'm imaging a series a small panels (like some David Aja-type stuff) depicting various scenes of Brian and Meggan making phone calls, writing letters, sending texts and emails, and so forth.  Perhaps interspersed between each of these would be the response panel, if you will: a hero answering the phone, checking their mail, looking at their texts, reading email / Facebook / twitter / whatever.  These could be really basic, or they could be slightly more ambitious (i.e. a shot of a Twitter handle belonging to Brian starting a message whose contents isn't clear) partially based on what you'd like and how much focus you want to throw in here.  The heroes seeing these calls could be a combination of known or brand new folk.  They all have specific nationalities in mind, but I'll save that for the final panel.

The only other thing to note is that we have some captions going throughout this process, which can be placed anywhere as long as their reading order is more or less the same.

CAPTION (BRIAN): We've put in the work.

CAPTION (BRIAN): Established our goals.

CAPTION (BRIAN): And reached out to friends.

CAPTION (BRIAN): Acquaintances.

CAPTION (BRIAN): Strangers.

FINAL PANEL - Brian and Meggan stand on a podium in an auditorium of some variety, looking out at a crowd of heroes from various Commonwealth countries.  People like Union Jack, Spitfire, or Elsa Bloodstone would be some good Brits.  Maybe some members of Alpha Flight, perhaps Wolverine if he's alive for Canada.  You could have Gateway or Manifold (as well as Slipstream) from Australia.  Kiwi Black is all I can find from New Zealand.  Perhaps the new Ms. Marvel as a Pakistani member (even if she's first generation American).  There's a couple of Indian heroes such as Karima Shapandar or Thunderbird.  Part of what I'm saying is that you'd probably have to create some new characters for this idea, but that's totally doable so no worries.

LETTERING NOTE: Captain Britain's final two words should be styled as a logo title.

CAPTION (BRIAN): All that's left is to give it the old college try.

BRIAN: Thank you all for being here and welcome to the inaugural meeting of the COMMONWEALTH CORPS!

Why Captain Britain?

There's a lot to like about the idea behind Captain Britain.

Mainstream superhero comics are unsurprisingly American-heavy when it comes to their stories and their characters, so anything that breaks that mold is a welcome sight.

I also kind of like this idea that Britain has their own state-personifying hero who isn't quite as well known as Captain America?  I mean, I doubt it was at all Marvel's intention, but it has a certain charm and parallelism to real world international politics that is kind of amusing (although under that logic, I suppose we should be getting way into Captain China soon...).

Most of all though, I think we can all agree that Captain Britain has one ballin' ass costume.

Seriously, what is not to love about that?

That being said, I will readily admit that the execution of Captain Britain has never quite sat right by me.  The mixture of Arthurian legend, magic, and modern day kind of leaves me a little cold.  Particularly when you really get into the whole Otherworld dealie and the idea of a multiverse of Captain Britain's protecting it all.  I mean, it's weirdly colonial and self-important and let's be honest why would it fall to Captain Britain to save reality a single time, let alone on multiple occasions?

Also not going to lie, but I'm not really sold on how Captain Britain seems to die constantly and is just as easily brought back from the great beyond.  I get that superhero death isn't the most permanent of states, but Brian Braddock has eaten it on what seems like no less than six separate occasions, which is pushing credulity at a certain point.

But part of the purpose of Thought Balloons is to give us the opportunity to put our own spin on things, so why not take on a character such as this?  There's a lot of potential there in my view, so maybe we can push him in a direction that's more to our liking.  Or maybe we're cool with how he is and want to try something new within that context.

It's all fair game and you're welcome to join in and offer your take in the Comments if you're so inclined.

Also, let's not forget that costume.

For reals though

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Dr. Fischer - Uncertainty - Ray Wonsowski


Panel 1- my kitchen table, 3am.  My face is in my hands as I try to wade my way through another bout of writer's block. The only light is from the screen of my laptop, illuminating me weakly.


Panel 2 - same as panel 1, except from the side, DR. FISCHER peeks in curiously over my shoulder from the side of the panel.


Panel 3 - same as above, except DR. FISCHER now stands behind me, adressing the reader professorially, twirling a pencil between his fingers.

DR. FISCHER: According to quantum physics, just the act of observation changes the outcome of an event.

Panel 4 - DR. FISCHER now looks intently over my shoulder, but now I look up from my hands, annoyed that someone has interrupted my writer's block.


Panel 5 - DR. FISCHER has taken a smiling interest, as I type furiously what should happen in the next panel.


Panel 6 - DR. FISCHER is being mercilessly pummeled by DEADPOOL, RAINBOW DASH, TRUTH SAYING BASTARD SPIDEY (the anime version of Spider Jerusalem), and SAMMY HAGAR THOR.  I am typing and smiling evilly as I think of what else I can do to get rid of the nuisance.

ME: ...mmyep, science.
DR. FISCHER: spleen...

Monday, April 13, 2015

Dr. Fischer - Retirement Planning - Grant McLaughlin

I apologize for such an esoteric page.  Hopefully some of you have read volume 8 or Atomic Robo, as this is predicated entirely on those issues.

1 - Atomic Robo HQ.  We're a few decades down the line from the present day.  It's Bernard's retirement party.  Part of a banner reading as much is visible in the background.  Lots of established characters are present, many quite a bit older (with the exception of Robo and Jenkins who both look pretty much the same).  Emma (the little girl from the 2011 Free Comic Book Day issue) is standing with Bernard (who is older, balder, and maybe a little pudgier), chatting.

EMMA: Any plans for what's next?

2 - An establishing shot of Kukenan-tepui, the flat-topped mountain in Guayana Region, Venezuela (and the one where the team fought off Doctor Dinosaur and company in volume 8).


3 - Bernard is walking out of the pink fluorescent crystal pool deep within the mountain.  Far out shot, emphasizing his smallness and apparent aloneness.

CAPTION (BERNARD): Nothing planned at this stage.

BERNARD (small text in a big balloon): Hello?

4 - 6 - These panels are a spiritual inversion of the final goodbye between Bernard and the chief's daughter rock creature that Bernard was maybe in love with?  There isn't a completed page online yet, but the inks are here (last row of panels).  Anyways, hopefully it will make more sense with some descriptors.

4 - A close-up of Bernard as he looks absolutely delighted at what he sees.


5 - A close-up of the chief's daughter rock monster.  Its emotional state is completely indecipherable.


6 - A shot of their hands reaching out and clasping each other, reunited after far too many years apart.

CAPTION (BERNARD): But I've got an idea or two.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Dr. Fischer – Still Working the Bugs Out – MK Stangeland Jr.

(Tesladyne has recently moved in to their island HQ.)

(6 Panels)

Panel 1: Bernard is working on geology equipment in a lab. A particular container is on a nearby counter. ATOMIC ROBO enters.

ROBO (1): I really hope you can make this quick, because I cannot keep up with all the to-dos that keep piling up.

ROBO (2): I’m starting to think they gave us this place just to mess with us.

Panel 2: BERNARD goes over to the container from PANEL 1.

BERNARD: Yeah, I was wondering if you knew anything about this.

Panel 3: BERNARD and ROBO look at the contents of the container – they’re crystal remnants left over from the explosion at the end of WHY DR. DINOSAUR HATES ATOMIC ROBO/ATOMIC ROBO HATES DR. DINOSAUR.

ROBO (1): Why do we have these?

ROBO (2): There is no reason anyone should have collected these.

Panel 4: BERNARD looks at ROBO. The panel is at an upward angle to show a bug crawling up the counter – it should be the kind of bug that’s ROBO’s worst nightmare – highly squishy and just small enough that it could squeeze through one of his joints.

BERNARD: You sure? I could give them a look and…

ROBO: No, it’s a waste of time. There is absolutely nothing special about them. Trust me.

Panel 5: The BUG from PANEL 4 comes into view. ROBO is noticeably distressed by its appearance.


Panel 6: ROBO grabs one of the larger crystal remnants and uses it to smash the bug.



Why Dr. Bernard Fischer?

It ain’t easy being an action scientist. Especially when your name isn’t “Jenkins”. You never know when you might find yourself in an unnatural life-threatening situation – even within the confines of your home base; your work is unlikely to ever be appreciated by the outside world no matter how out there or groundbreaking it really is; and your entire life is likely to be overshadowed by your boss, an immortal robot genius who gets grumpy when people expect him to be point man on aforementioned dangerous situations just because he happens to be a super-invulnerable robot.

It’s especially hard when you don't fit the typical 'action hero' mold. The kind of scientist that tends to come to mind when one pictures Dr. Bernard Fischer. A scientist who originally became a one of Atomic Robo’s crew thanks to a happy – or unhappy, depending on how you look at it – accident and being able to put the right skills to work at just the right time.

But amongst all the craziness of Atomic Robo’s world, including and especially the larger-than life figures from real life that pop up on regular occasion, Dr. Fischer represents the kind of people who are a little more grounded in reality. The kind of action scientist that lets you believe that, with the right attitude, mindset, and a scientifically relevant doctorate of your own (after all, they do have standards to uphold), you too could have a shot of working for Atomic Robo at Tesladyne.

And that under the right circumstances, maybe, just maybe, you might have the opportunity to let out your own inner action scientist someday when you least expect it.

Bernard Fischer – an Action Scientist for the rest of us!

When your time to shine comes,
make sure you shine with all you got

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


(There used to be perhaps the best Red Skull page ever written here. But then Red Skull found out, decided he didn’t like it, and got his hands on it.)

(1 Panel)

Panel 1: SPLASH PAGE – It has the appearance of a NAZI-esque WWII-style propaganda poster for HYDRA. Should give the imagery of a previously existing page having been torn down and this page being put up in its place.

On the poster is a bust-style image of RED SKULL, who is looking directly at the reader. He’s angled to look like he’s towering over the reader and looking down at them in a style that should come off equal parts terrifying and ‘Red Skull is watching you’. His very presence should command attention from the reader. One of his hands is extended out in front of him, holding a crumpled up piece of paper that should be the very page that was previously torn down. The overall effect should come off as ‘yes, I did this; let this be a warning that I can do it to you as well’.

TEXT (1): (Top of page) This page has been deemed unacceptable for public consumption by the HYDRA censorship authorities!

TEXT (2): (Directly beneath RED SKULL) HAIL HYDRA!

TEXT (3): Report all subversive activities and media to HYDRA!

TEXT (4): Remember, HYDRA’s ability to maintain order and keep you safe depends on You! 

TEXT (5): Report ALL unacceptable activities to the proper HYDRA authorities!

TEXT (6): HYDRA – True Order in an Chaotic World!

TEXT (7): (Should read like a stamp attached after the fact) APPROVED: HYDRA CENSORSHIP AUTHORITIES – HAIL HYDRA


Monday, April 6, 2015

Red Skull - Force of Habit - Grant McLaughlin

Kraven, the Red Skull, and Norman Osborn are roommates.  Just go with it.

1 - Outside shot of a house in a regular neighbourhood.  The lawn is filled with various garbage and debris - tipped over garbage can spilling its contents everywhere, various sporting equipment just left out, overturned beerpong table (and accompanying keg), etc.  Maybe the screen door is off its hinges.  Looks very much like a house cohabited by university students.  To emphasize its messiness, what parts of the houses on either side that can be seen are completely clean.  All word balloons come from within the house.

KRAVEN (1): Our homestead is a shambles!

KRAVEN (2): Disorder and untidiness reign supreme!

KRAVEN (3): Something must be done!

2 - We're now in the house's kitchen.  Kraven stands towards midpanel, looking towards the kitcehn table (and the reader), where Norman Osborn and the Red Skull sit on either side of the panel (looking back at him nonchalantly).  Kraven holds a chore wheel triumphantly in his hands for all to see.  The kitchen is pretty much as messy as outside.  Dishes are piled high in and around the sink.  There are pizza boxes, discarded clothes, and anything else you feel appropriate laying pretty much everywhere.  That kind of thing.  Even the kitchen table is full of old plates, books, and whatever.

KRAVEN: Therefore, I have create a chore wheel to help us hunt down this menace in a manner that is both fair and equitable!

RED SKULL: That's interesting...

3 - Similar to panel 2.  Red Skull pulls out a little gun-like device and fires it at Kraven.  Kraven is literally stunned by the beam that flows out and envelops him.  Osborn is a little perturbed.  LETTERING NOTE: The Red Skull's second word balloon should be dark and malevolent to emphasize the kind of tone he's taking.

RED SKULL (1): Because I made a mind control device for the same reason

RED SKULL (2): You will clean the house.

4 - Osborn looks at the Red Skull with an exasperated expression.  Red Skull looks pretty smug.  In the background, Kraven starts doing dishes (if we see his eyes, maybe have them be little whirlpools to show his mind as being controlled or something).

KRAVEN (quietly, in a wavering word balloon): I will clean the house...

OSBORN: You do realize there are other ways to solve your problems beyond mind control, right?

5 - Focus on the Red Skull.  He's mad smug, throwing his legs on top of the table and leaning back in his chair like a boss - maybe he has hands clasped around the back of his head for support (channeling Ferris Bueller perhaps).

RED SKULL: I think if you'll look at my personal history, you'll see the answer to that question is a resounding "no".

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Red Skull - Prog 4 - Ray Wonsowski

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends...

Continuing the prog-rock-fueled adventures of the Wonder Twins: having narrowly escaped a Thanagarian warship, they crash-landed in the snowy battlefields of World War II Norway

Today's selection is based on "The Court of the Crimson King" by King Crimson. The setting: Beisfjord, Norway.

 In 1942, prison workers, mostly Yugoslavs, were massacred, allegedly in reaction to a typhus outbreak. Sick prisoners were grouped 20 at a time and shot in waves. Healthy ones were forced to run laps until they collapsed, and shot where they dropped. One day in July in particular, depending on the source, somewhere between 250 and 600 were slaughtered and dumped.

Panel 1- pov from uphill, just outside Camp No. 1. (See photo ref)

CAPTION: A gardener plants an evergreen while trampling on the flower...

Panel 2- ZAN, JAYNA, JEB STUART, and the ghost of GEN. STUART have crested a snowy ridge between iron gates and flying Nazi swastika flags waving in the breeze, the Haunted Tank can be seen in the distance behind them. The four of them are reacting in horror at what they are seeing. ZAN and JAYNA are holding each other, either in solace or to keep from passing out. JEB is drawing his sidearm, but the GENERAL just stands aghast.

CAPTION: I chased the wind of a prison ship, to taste the sweet and sour...

GEN. STUART: (small lettering) Mother o' God...

Panel 3- looking down into the pit of an open mass grave, filled with the emaciated, bloody, and lime-covered bodies of camp prisoners. Sitting in the middle of it all, on a makeshift throne made of piled-high corpses, is the RED SKULL. He is in his dress uniform, Iron Cross at his throat, his heavy coat draped over his shoulders. He holds a list cigarette in his left hand, blowing a long stream of smoke to the side. His pose should be legs crossed, reposed, as if exhausted at the amount of things to do in a day. A German automatic pistol is held lazily in his right.

RED SKULL: How disappointing. I was expecting Herr Kapitan...

CAPTION: The patterned juggler lifts his hand, the orchestra begin...

Panel 4- close up, the RED SKULL sights down the barrel of his pistol aimed straight at us, hateful purpose in his eyes.

RED SKULL: No matter. You'll do.

CAPTION: slowly turns the grinding wheel, in the court of the Crimson King. be continued...

Why the Red Skull?

Because there's bad. Then there's evil. And then there's the Red Skull.
I mean, look at him...
Johann Schmidt. Orphan. Psychopath. Bellhop that "saved" Adolf Hitler from an assassination attempt that he had staged himself.
Classic WWII Kirby.
Nazi. Super-soldier. Symbol of German Nationalist intimidation. Dr. Erskine's shame. Captain America was created to stop him.
60's Kirby.
Commander. Torturer. Mad genius. Terrorist. Hitler grew to fear him. Baron VonStrucker grew to hate him. Magneto swore to kill him. Doctor Doom and the Kingpin both have said they'd rather die than join him.
As played by the masterful Hugo Weaving
He warped reality with the Cosmic Cube. He implanted his mind into a clone of Steve Rogers. He carved out the brain of Professor X to telepathically broadcast his brand of hate all across the globe.
Which leads right into the AXIS event.
He is what we are afraid we might become, if we were to strip away our humanity and our souls, gave in to our worst impulses, without any fear of reprisals, cold, calculating, and always just beneath the surface. 
From the miniseries, cover by David Aja.
He is hate incarnate, and there is none worse than he.