Poplife: Issue #25

Thu, July 25th, 2002 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Matt Fraction, Columnist

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DUDE, WE'RE ROBBING THE BANK

A friend of mine has recently dipped his toes into the Writin' Comics well, and we were talking about process, in as much as I have to contribute to such conversations. I maintain that the toughest part of getting myself started down this strange path was actually getting started. Getting something down on the page, no matter how bad or silly, and reworking it from there.

This may be the most obvious statement in the world, but after years of navel-gazing and flummoxing around actual productivity, it was a bit of a revelation to me. The more I write, the more confident (or ignorant, depending on your perspective) I get in my process. The less rewriting I do. It's a set of muscles you have to learn how to flex, I think. Practice makes perfect and all that. Everybody sucks first.

Worst case, I always ask myself What Would Antony Johnston do?

Then I go out and dance.

Lately, Kieron Titties Dwyer has been mailing me drawings from my first OGN, LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS. And between the conversations above, and the new art below, I figured it was as good a time as any to look at the script again, and to show all y'all what you can expect when it comes out.

If you live in the bay area, the Yerba Buena Arts Center is opening a comics-related gallery show this Friday. From their website:

THE NEW SHAPE OF COMICS

Thanks to an increasingly adult sensibility and the high mainstream profile of films such as Spider-Man and Ghost World, comics and the writers and artists who create them, are enjoying greater exposure and respect. This exciting and colorful exhibition examines numerous facets of contemporary comics culture. Raw, Boiled and Cooked, guest-curated by local comics enthusiast Paul Candler, examines the work of artists showcased in and influenced by the groundbreaking publication RAW, including Daniel Clowes, Lynda Barry, Peter Kuper, David Mazzuchelli, Art Spiegelman, Mary Fleener and many others. Widescreen, curated by YBCA Artist-in-Residence Program Coordinator, David Robson, is a group experiment capturing the delirious pop energies inherent in the form, featuring California-based artists such as Michael Manning, Kieron Dwyer and Ted Naifeh. Bay Area Blast!, organized by Candler, Robson and YBCA Visual Arts Curator, Ren de Guzman, is a survey of the fertile Bay Area comics community, featuring work by Trina Robbins, Judd Winick, Keith Knight, Richard Sala and Christine Shields. Also featured prominently in the show is Wattis Artist-in-Residence Jim Woodring, who will debut Mysterio Sympatico, a 70-minute animation, in addition to original artwork from his popular Frank and Trosper series and other works created specifically for this exhibition. On Sunday, July 28 at 1 pm in Gallery 2, Woodring will present an informal "chalk talk" about his installation. Jim Woodring's exhibition is organized by YBCA Visual Arts Ren de Guzman.

Some of the panels presented below will be presented as part of the WIDESCREEN portion of the show. Go see the beautiful art done up all huge-like.

[] []
Sketch of our cast. Cole, Juicy, Billy. The car, the plane. Me and KD. Billy says Hi. Me and KD.

[] [] []
Panel rough-- Cole: 2. Goombahs: 0. Me and KD. Giddeeyup. Me and KD. Bad day for Pascal. Panel rough. Me and KD.

So I was rereading the script for presenting it here, and the good news is there're still parts of it I like. A bit wordy here and there, and some of the blocking could be better… but all things considered, it is what it is and I'm okay with that. Some of it still makes me chuckle. I tightened some of it up, of course, because I can't just leave well enough alone, but I monkeyed around with much less than I was expecting.

So then: here're the first ten script pages of LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS. I wrote it for my dad.

PAGE ONE
Series of 4 horizontal panels. Heavy cinema nihilism.

1.1
THE DESERT, DAY. We're TIGHT and HIGH on a sweating, furious MOBSTER (who, around page 25, we'll learn is PASCAL THORPE), gun arm out and locked towards panel right. He's wearing sunglasses and chomping on a toothpick.

PASCAL:       HERE'S A STORY I THINK YOU MIGHT LIKE.

1.2
A bit FURTHER BACK on PASCAL. We're getting details on him now. Sweating, hair mussed up. Nicks and rips in his suit jacket-- he's taken a shot in the shoulder. Behind him a small fleet of OTHER MOBSTERS are visible also, guns drawn to panel right. They look like rejects from a RESERVOIR DOGS theme party.

PASCAL:       A SCORPION IS BY THE SIDE OF THE RIVER.

1.3
FURTHER-PASCAL's guns clearly drawn, fingers on the trigger ready to pull. Some of the men have obviously been shot, but not badly enough to drop them. We're pulled back far enough to make out the details of the environment now: The Absolute Middle of Fucking Nowhere. High desert. Some rocky bits here and there and in the background, but mostly wasteland.

PASCAL:       WHEN ALONG COMES A FROG.

1.4
BACK as far as we're gonna go-we see EIGHT guys all together, including the talky bastard. EVERYONE'S GUNS are drawn, beading down fiercely OFF PANEL. Around them lie the bodies (or body parts) of 7 DEAD FUCKING GOOMBAHS. There's a sloppy and shot up pile of stacked cash with bodies around it.

There's a smoldering crater in the sand, and signs of an explosion...

Whatever we've missed here was pretty profoundly violent, and happened in the open air, largely.

PASCAL:       THE SCORP-

COLE (O.P.):       "IT'S MY NATURE." SEEN THIS MOVIE.

PASCAL:       ...WHAT?

PAGE TWO

2.1
WIDE AND LOW on COLE CAUDLE-our hero and the Last of the Independents of the goddamn title. He's got two guns drawn, the slidey-.45 kind that sorta jut forward when they're empty. ONE of the guns is empty, the other not-- we get the feeling that, yeah, he's probably got one shot left. He's wearing a dirty white jumpsuit, work boots. The suit opens, showing a black T-shirt underneath. COLE's a hard 52 years old with deep lines in his face and around his eyes, a permanent smirk on his face that may or may not be there because of the cigarette that dangles.

COLE:       THE MOVIE. SEEN IT ALREADY.

2.2
FAR BACK and ABOVE, showing the carnage in the valley. COLE on panel right, guns out. A rock formation of some sort behind him a ways. A BIG GUY (who we'll later know as BILLY) is dead or dying near his feet. GOOMBAH WOP BASTARDS on PANEL LEFT. Lotsa dead BASTARDS on the left side there; Cole's a better shot than they are.

PASCAL:       YOU'RE SHAKIN', COLE.

2.3

BACK on COLE. He's let the one gun that's obviously empty swing around his trigger finger. The other one is held out firm. Everything about his posture and expression screams that this Mexican Standoff is the last goddamn place he wants to be.

COLE (1):       LITTLE BIT.

COLE (2):       LITTLE ANGRY. LITTLE SCARED.

2.4
PASCAL enjoying this, already thinking about how fun it's going to be to kill Cole, his head turned slightly to his companions.

PASCAL:       BIG FUCKING TOUGH GUY, HUH?

PASCAL:       FUCKING SCARED, HE SAYS.

2.5
MEDIUM on COLE, from the shoulders up-head almost turned, listening to the sky. This is it. A little detail that's gonna come back around again at the end of the book: a CROP-DUSTING plane, over COLE'S LEFT SHOULDER in the distance, flying towards us. It's not small enough to be ignored, but it can't be big enough to draw THAT much attention to it. He lets the empty gun fall...

COLE (1):       YOU CAN'T HEAR THAT, BUT…

COLE (2):       IF YOU KNEW WHAT WAS ABOUT TO HAPPEN...

COLE (3):       YOU'D BE SCARED TOO, YOU WOP GOOMBAH FUCK.

PAGE THREE

3.1


MAIN STREET, MIDDAY. (A COUPLE DAYS AGO-WE'VE JUMPED BACK IN TIME) DETAIL on a woman's hand with a zippo lighter in her palm (this may or may not be recognizable as a woman's hand, per se, as we're zoomed in primarily on the lighter; for your reference, though, this is JUSTINE'S hand, take my word for it). On the lighter reads the legend HURRICANE HELLDRIVERS // 1970. Go nuts with what the design actually is.

CAPTION (1):       COUPLA DAYS AGO.

CAPTION (2):       SAME PLACE AND ALL.

3.2
ON JUSTINE, lighting her cigarette, head to one side. This is a tight-cropped shot revealing none too much of the background at all. Her eyes are closed. Justine's about 30, give or take, and looks alternately hard as nails and soft as a child. She's fought her entire life to be exactly where she is right now, even if she didn't know where here was while she fought. BEHIND HER is a DINER with a BIG FRONT WINDOW.

She's pretty, but you'd really think twice before telling her.

CAPTION:       JUSTINE'S GOT THE GUNS.

3.3
IN A VAN AROUND THE CORNER, a MATCHING SHOT on BILLY, chin hanging over a steering wheel as he pulls a deep drag off a cigarette. He is sitting inside of a truck or van of some sort, leaning all the way forward over the aforementioned steering wheel.

BILLY is Our Intrepid Sidekick: dumber than a sack of hammers but loyal like a goddamn dog. If you were to caption this drawing to be indicative of Billy, it'd read NOT SO BRIGHT. BILLY's mouth is always open, even if sound doesn't come out. I kind of see him like... like Pruitt Taylor Vince from NOBODY'S FOOL mixed with Owen Wilson from anything he's ever been in.

NO DIALOGUE

3.4
FROM BEHIND: MCU on the back of BILLY'S head, the rear-view mirror, etc. He's looking up, exhaling a plume of smoke that collides with the van ceiling. He's wearing a jumpsuit, the back stained with sweat. Letters run across his back that, due to the prodigious amounts of sweat thereon, we cannot quite read. Through the window, down the street at the corner, is a MAN putting on a suit jacket...

CAPTION:       BILLY'S GOT THE WHEEL AND MUNITIONS.

3.5
Back on the STREET now. MEDIUM (or so) on a similar jumpsuit-not Billy's, but COLE'S as we'll see in the next panel. The lettering reads, very clearly, LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS. Cole is pulling a men's blazer on. He stands around the corner of a building; we can see JUSTINE across the street from him. This is as close as we get to a title page. A title panel. Huzzah.

NO DIALOGUE

3.6
REVERSE, around on COLE to a MEDIUM. He's adjusting the sleeves of his white jumpsuit to co-operate with his blazer. He's wearing sunglasses and a pair of dress slacks, oddly enough, and the outfit makes him look dressed sorta rugged-casual. The fake moustache he wears is Reynolds-Casual, or a Formal Magnum, almost. BEHIND him is, oh yeah, BILLY in the van. Maybe BILLY is waving. COLE mumbles to no one in particular:

COLE:       LET'S GET THIS SHIT MOVIN'.

CAPTION:       AND COLE'S GOT THE PLAN.

PAGE FOUR

4.1
COLE rounding the corner. God help him, he almost looks respectable: just a guy going into a bank in the morning (note: THIS IS THE ONLY TIME IN THE BOOK HE APPEARS WITHOUT A COWBOY HAT). A window boasts the stenciled legend FIRST FEDERAL FARMERS SAVING AND LOAN. He's looking over across the street to JUSTINE, who's all off-panel and shit.

NO DIALOGUE

4.2
FULL on JUSTINE, looking back at COLE and, just for a split-second, she's removed completely from this whole bank-robbing scenario entirely and is just with him. A curtain-rod bundle is leaning against her hip. Curtain-Rods. Riiiiiiight.

NO DIALOGUE

4.3
ANGLE DOWN and BACK from behind JUSTINE down on the street. This is our first real look from far back at the geography of the robbery. Bank at an intersection, van around a corner. JUSTINE moves with the bundle cradled under an arm, looking one way as she crosses the street. The van that BILLY sits in is kicking out muffler smoke, letting us know it's been fired up. On the BANK side, COLE is entering the front doors.

NO DIALOGUE

4.4
IN THE VAN, ON BILLY looking in the side-view mirror as he pulls into traffic. He looks like a kid on Christmas morning.

BILLY:       DUDE.

BILLY:       WE'RE ROBBING THE BANK.

PAGE 5

5.1
BANK INTERIOR-- COLE holds each swinging-door open with each arm, announcing his presence while being framed in the door. The Bank is just like any other shitwater bank you've ever been to in the middle of nowhere. Tiny, and it smells like 1977.

There's TWO CASHIERS, a couple of old biddies that have been there since Okinawa, and yet have always looked exactly the same. There, at his "office" (a glorified cubicle big enough to fit his desk and two chairs) is the nebbish BANK MANAGER. Pasty, bald, moustache. The kind of guy with a subscription to both POPULAR SCIENCE and JUST 18. Near the door, on Cole's RIGHT, is the SECURITY GUY-in this case, an old hippie man with a gun and a badge. The sort of middle aged bastard that walked into a cloud of pot smoke when he was 17 and never walked out again. He should have a headband on over his greasy, awful hair, because hippies are fucking stupid.

ONE WALL is basically a stupid office plant and a LARGE, WALK-IN SAFE.

ALL OF THEM have their heads turned to look at COLE.

NO DIALOGUE

5.2
COLE'S POV on one of the smiling BIDDIES at the counter. Such a handsome young man!, she's thinking.

BIDDIE:       GOOD MORNING, SIR!

5.3
REVERSE, BIDDIE'S POV on COLE, all grins and moustache.

COLE:       MA'AM. Y'ALL HAVE MY MONEY.

COLE:       I'D LIKE IT BACK.

5.4
WIDE PANEL TWO SHOT from the side. COLE at the counter, grinning; the BIDDIE looking at her ancient computer terminal to punch in his account numbers.

BIDDIE:       IF I COULD JUST HAVE YOUR ACCOUNT NUMBER AND-

5.5
SAME AS 5.4, only JUSTINE (who I'm probably gonna start calling JUICE or JUICY here in a bit, but don't be thrown) is behind him, the paper wrapping of the curtain rod bundle torn away revealing a SHOTGUN pointed at the BIDDIE'S FACE.

COLE:       NO MA'AM.

COLE:       ALL THE MONEY.

PAGE SIX

6.1
INSIDE HIS OFFICE, the BRANCH MANAGER looks up, stunned and terrified. COLE'S SHADOW falls across his desk.

COLE (O.P.) STAY CALM AND ALL Y'ALL GET TO GO HOME WITH A GOOD STORY TO TELL.

6.2
SMALL DETAIL, the MANAGER hitting the shiny-red-alarmy-button under his desk. It's labeled with that shitty label-maker tape as ALARM, and underneath it, USE ONLY IN CASE OF EMERGENCY. A PIECE OF MASKING TAPE is stuck underneath it, (ROBBERY) written on it carefully.

COLE (O.P.):       THAT'S IT, LADIES. NICE AND SMOOTH.

6.3
COOL ASS MONEY SHOT on COLE and JUICY-she's got a shotgun beading down to one side as she stands in profile, COLE, in front of her, has his sixgun out at the BIDDIE. BEHIND THEM, we can see the MANAGER standing up. They speak to one another under their breath...

JUICY:       This is so cool.

COLE:       Love you, Girly.

6.4
ON HIPPIEGUARD, frozen ala Barney Fife, mouth agape, hand twitching on his still holstered gun. The MANAGER has exited the office and is moving PAST the Hippie.

GUARD (small):       You. You. You.

6.5
ANGLE DOWN on the scene, almost from a security camera's POV. COLE has swung around to level the gun at the MANAGER and the GUARD. They've FROZEN in place as little whippy lines trace COLE's movement around 180 degrees.

COLE:       MR. MANAGER, I'M SURE YOU ALREADY HIT THE ALARM, SO WE'LL GET TO IT.

COLE:       AND MA'AM, IF YOU WOULD JUST DROP YOUR GUN-BELT AND FOLLOW US...

PAGE SEVEN

7.1
SMALL-ISH: COLE up close to the MANAGER, the sixgun almost poked into the poor bastard's eye. COLE whispers:

COLE:       THE SAFE.

COLE:       NOW.

7.2
THE MANAGER leads COLE to the safe. COLE has the gun stuck in the back of the guy's head. The HIPPIE is taking his belt of, sort of wiggling it down around his thighs, but is trying to follow COLE and the MANAGER anyway; the effect is that he's sorta tied his own legs together. He's probably pissed himself, but I'm thinking that Ennis might have the market cornered on guys pissing their pants.

MANAGER:       NO ONE'S GOING TO PLAY HERO HERE-

COLE:       WHOOP-DEE-SHIT.

7.3
INSIDE THE SAFE, the MANAGER and the HIPPIE are lead towards camera by COLE, gun out, all smiles.

COLE:       NOW IF YOU TWO COULD KINDLY HELP ME-

7.4
CLOSE on COLE, his face FALLEN. Something is now Very Very Wrong and he knows it. And it's too late to stop.

COLE:       OH NO.

7.5
COLE'S POV. Piles and Piles and Piles of stacked and wrapped cash in big plastic bundles. Far more money than ever should've passed through a little bank like this, let alone just be sitting there. The HIPPIE sits on a pile, blank stare on his face. The MANAGER, smirking and looking at COLE.

MANAGER:       YOU PICKED THE WRONG BANK TO FUCK WITH, ASSHOLE.

PAGE EIGHT

8.1
INSIDE THE VAN-- We're looking profile at BILLY as he sits in the Van, head down a bit, singing to himself happily.

LETTERING NOTE: The script here is tiny, and little musical notes litter his speechbubbles.

BILLY (1): ay lake tay ate, ay lake tay ate, ay lake tay ate ate ayples and banay-nays…

BILLY (2): e leek tee eat, e leek te eat, e leek te eat eat eeples and banee-nees…

8.2
SAME ANGLE, only BILLY's head has snapped up.

SFX:       EEEEEOOOOOEEEEEOOOOOEEEEEOOOOO

8.3

FROM THE FRONT of the van, looking in. BILLY has the look of UTTER MANIA about him now.

BILLY:       ACTION TIME!

SFX:       EEEEEOOOOOEEEEEOOOOOEEEEEOOOOO

8.4
We're back inside the SAFE as COLE looks over his shoulder, listening to the oncoming sirens.

COLE:       Well, shit.

SFX (smaller):       EEEEEOOOOOEEEEEOOOOOEEEEEOOOOO

8.5

SAME-only COLE has moved his head around to the STARE DOWN the MANAGER. His eyes are BURNING with rage.

COLE (1):       …DID YOU JUST CALL ME AN ASSHOLE?

COLE (2):       'CAUSE THAT 'D MEAN I HAVE TO BREAK YOUR JAW.

SFX (a bit bigger):       EEEEEOOOOOEEEEEOOOOOEEEEEOOOOO

PAGE NINE

9.1
On JUICY, in the LOBBY still, she and her shotgun overseeing the cashiers packing cash into sacks. Her head has whipped around to the BIDDIES.

JUICY:       TAKE THE BAGS AND GET INSIDE THE SAFE NOW!

9.2
EXT. STREET, angle on THE CAB of the Van-front tires squealing as BILLY builds up RPMs for what comes next. He's got a death-grip on the steering wheel and his teeth are absolutely GRINDING together.

BILLY:       ACTION! ACTION! ACTION!

9.3
OVERHEAD as BILLY has let go of the brake, sending the van BACKWARDS towards TWO ONCOMING BLACK AND WHITES that are hauling ass to the bank side by side.

BILLY (HUGE):       ACTION!

9.4
THE REAR of the VAN slamming into the two cop cars. One COP flies through the windshield. VIOLENTLY.

NO DIALOGUE.

9.5
IN THE BANK on JUICY, placing a small gooey WAD against the floor of the side wall; in the background we see the two BIDDIES marching like duck to the arc, carrying two fat sacks of cash a piece. COLE holds the door open for them.

JUICY (whisper):       Be careful, Billy.

9.6

CLOSE on the WAD of goo and wires- we see it's a jerry-rigged little BOMB. A CEL-PHONE LCD SCREEN has been re-purposed... it tells us in little letters SIGNAL IN RANGE.

NO DIALOGUE.

PAGE TEN

10.1
OUTSIDE, a SMALLISH-PANEL. TWO COPS have their guns pulled on the BACK of the van, which has smashed into their cars. COP 1 is regarding the dead body of his co-worker, recently flung through the window.

COP 1:       I TOLD STEVE HE SHOULD ALWAYS WEAR A SAFETY BELT...

COP 2 (1):       QUIET.

COP 2 (2):       SOMETHING'S ABOUT TO HAPPEN.

10.2
OUT OF THE BACK flies BILLY like fucking Batman, feet first into the FACE of COP 1. BILLY is a big fucking guy. Big Fucking Guys flying feet-first into the face of someone smaller than them Hurts Bad. Very very bad. What specifically happens is a bit beyond my own personal sickness, but I'm sure it's pretty hard to look at. COP 2 watches with slack-jawed wonder.

BILLY:       KICK!

10.3
FROM INSIDE THE DINER ACROSS THE STREET, WIDE on the DINER PATRONS, frozen in front of the large front window, watching Billy's mayhem unfold. They are watching COP 2 being held over BILLY's head like a rag doll.

DINER:       THAT'S A VERY BIG MAN.

10.4
SAME SHOT, Except COP 2 has been flung into the WINDOW and is sending DINERS and a WAITRESS or two ass-over-teakettle. GLASS and DINERS fly everywhere.

SFX:       KASSSSHHHHHHHH!

10.5
NARROW AND WIDE, across the bottom of the page. We're BACK OUTSIDE, on a TIGHT MEDIUM on BILLY, turned around and grinning ear to ear. He's holding something close to his face. It looks like a little button of some sort. As much as he was sweating before, now he seems bone dry. BILLY has been shot in the shoulder, by the way, but we'll see no evidence of it for another eight pages or so.

BILLY:       AND NOW…

LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS was written by me, it's drawn by Kieron Titties Dwyer, and will be published by AiT/PlanetLar, whom have made a career of Making Comics Better.

My girl has a piece up at Nervetoday, if you're the kind into the literate smut. Go; read; get yourself titillated.

Discuss this column on the Poplife Forum or on the Matt Fraction Forum.

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