Saturday, July 7, 2018

Steve Ditko



Image result for steve ditko art amazing fantasy

I didn’t know Steve Ditko, and yet I did.
I only met him one time. A conversation I’ll recall till my dying day and one I’m sure he forgot as soon as I was out of sight. Just another overgrown adolescent bowing at the shrine.
But I did know him through his work. And that’s not just using a common phrase. The man revealed himself in the pages of the comics he worked on. He informed his readers of who he was, both the deeply personal and weirdly abstract, right there in four colors.
Ditko is the first name I recognized and first name I followed when I was a kid avidly devouring every comic book I could get my hands on. He’s the first artist I could spot even if I didn’t see his name in the corner of the title page. Low hanging fruit, right? The man’s style was every bit as idiosyncratic as his life.
More than recognition, Ditko’s work had a gravitational pull for me. There was an intimacy to his work that, I suppose, grew from him pleasing himself as his first priority. Here was a guy who cared about the work, was willing to put in more time than they were paying him for. Each assignment was a personal challenge. Here was a guy putting himself into every panel. You could see it. You could feel it. This man was drawing from his own life experience. I responded to that in a big way, comics as a means of personal expression.

Image result for ditko  strange tales

The first stuff I saw him on were those Marvel “monster” comics. While Jack Kirby handled the big hulking alien beasties out to subjugate the Earth, Stan Lee wisely assigned the quieter, more atmospheric shaggy dog stories to Ditko. These were usually Twilight Zone-like episodes reduced to their most basic premise and served up in six-page helpings.
And Ditko applied himself to them to make each one a gem. His approach to the plots was never the same twice. Each would open with a daring and innovatively designed splash then proceed to the action in meticulously drawn curio shops or neighborhoods of houses not quite like the ones in your town, or cyclopean lamaseries high in the mountains of Nepal.
The pages were populated with casts of characters unlike any others in comics. These weren’t stylized mannequins who’d be at home on an advertising storyboard.  These folks were fat, hunched, harried, rumpled, squat, sweaty, emaciated, warty, balding, shriveled and often downright ugly. In other words, real people. Like his old people. You could catch arthritis just looking at Ditko’s seniors.
Above everything else, Ditko brought a level of creepiness to these stories absent in other comics. He was doing them in an era when the Comic Code Authority had a special rancor for anything even remotely resembling a horror comic. No blood, no vampires, no werewolves, no zombies or any other kind of undead were allowed. Overt violence of any kind was frowned upon. So, where the scary? That’s what kids read these comics for.
While Kirby’s big monster stories were driven by the element of “what happens next?”, Ditko’s offerings were most often little morality plays in which the protagonist got his comeuppance from some supernatural source in return for the sins of theft or greed. I remember one where we leave a guy in the last panel being buried under a literal hill of beans. (presumably to be crushed or suffocated) Sometimes characters were left in pitiable isolation or simply alone to reckon with the weight of their own wrongdoings. There was a lot of that in these stories, a sense of isolation, of no longer belonging, a painful alienation. Sometimes these feelings were resolved by happy endings. I recall a particularly moving story about a young girl confined to a wheelchair who we learn is actually mermaid in the final panels. Most often they did not end happily but with a dismal future for the protagonist.

Image result for ditko beans strange tales

This is the start of Ditko reaching out from the comics pages to tell us about him. And, like every other kid in the world, I had times in my young life where I felt isolated and unwanted. And, like every other kid in the world, I thought my suffering was special. Every child does that at one time or another, searches for the thorns among the roses. I think it’s a kind of trial and error exploration of our emotions, a pre-pubescent plumbing of the depths of our psyche at a time when our psyches are an inch deep and a mile wide.
And Steve Ditko plugged right into that angst, that melodramatic urge to feel special and alone. Though a grown man, he maintained that adolescent mix of despair and enthusiasm that the rest of us couldn’t wait to escape. And I don’t mean that as a slight in any way. He used those feelings, banked them into an ongoing creative blaze, to inform the greatest of his work. How else can you explain Spider-Man, a character more fully realized, more alive, than any other costumed superhero to that point?  Peter Parker’s failures and triumphs and frustration at the injustice of it all came from a mind to which the slights of his childhood and his teenage years were fresh.
Image result for steve ditko art amazing fantasy

Sure, Stan Lee had a lot to do with the success of Spider-Man. The snappy dialogue that was actually funny when it needed to be and touching when it had to be. His J. Jonah Jameson rants were always a delight and always crisp. Peter’s inner monologues were often heartbreaking rages against just how rotten and unfair life could be.
But the heart of Spider-Man belongs to Ditko. It always will. Everything that made Peter Parker special begins and ends with Ditko. And in a world of comics where the most interesting character trait at the competition was that the world’s fastest man was always late for his dates with his girlfriend, Spider-Man was very special indeed.
Image result for steve ditko art amazing fantasy
I enter into evidence every Spider-Man story written after Ditko’s departure. There’s something he took with him that Lee was never able to replicate. An honesty, perhaps. Certainly the ability to create indelible villains. But mostly what was missing was Ditko himself. His point of view, his personality was gone. A major part of Peter Parker left with him.
Further evidence can be found in Ditko’s life. A photo of him appears in his high school yearbook from back in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. It shows a skinny teenaged Steve in the science lab holding up a test tube. He’s wearing round horn-rimmed glasses, a tie, and a striped sweater vest. If that didn’t raise the hairs on the back of your arms, all you hopeless geeks like me, standing behind Steve is a big, smiling blonde guy in a varsity sweater.
As a kid, nine to ten years old, I felt like I knew Steve Ditko, really knew him. I felt a kinship with the guy. Yeah, it’s weird. But as much as Stan was working hard to reach out to me with his showmanship style of marketing, it was Ditko who drew me into the world of Marvel Comics. I felt like he got me and I got him. What I was responding to, of course, was the sense of alienation, of otherness, he was so adept at portraying. It was much the same elements that made me such a fan of Charles Schulz at the same age. These two men remembered what it was like to be a kid and were articulating that experience as adults.
Image result for ditko  strange tales
More than just reading his comics, I wanted to emulate Ditko artitistically. I wanted to draw like him. He’s the first artist that I copied and traced. I spent hours and hours tracing to combine elements from other comics to make new Spider-Man covers that had him facing Marvel foes and heroes he’d yet to encounter.
It became clear over time that I didn’t share the kind of talent or discipline to ever come up to his level of craft. So I concentrated more on his storytelling techniques. His choice of angles and devices, how he composed panels and pages to work together to create a whole. I would re-read and re-re-read his stories looking for all the nuances and subtleties that separated him from every other artist in my mind. He taught me comic book storytelling. He taught me how to wring emotion from static images. He’s the reason I write comic books. I work in the shadow of Steve Ditko.
The true test of this kinship I shared with a man I only met through the comic pages came when Ditko departed Marvel.
I was crushed. Devastated. One of the perfect things in my life was now ended, never to return. An integral piece of my childhood was gone. And I was still a child! I don’t recall how I learned this horrible news. There was no fandom then. Not really.  I do recall that, upon learning about his leaving, I took a vow never to by another Marvel Comic as long as I lived. That vow lasted about six years. Blame it on Jim Steranko.
Why did I do that? Why did I deny myself the Fantastic Four and Captain America? Simple. I knew, deep in my heart, as sure as I was about my mother’s love, that somehow my friend and mentor Steve Ditko had gotten the shaft. My idol would never in a million years have left the titles he created (Spider-Man and Dr. Strange) unless there had been some dirty work at the crossroads. This work meant as much to him as it did to me. I was certain of it. Something really rotten must have happened to make him abandon his creations like that.
I’m not going to re-litigate that debate here. But, no matter where you fall on that one, you have to admit that eleven-year-old me was on the money. Ditko had his reasons for leaving and those reasons all led back to a common theme in his work. Injustice.Image result for ditko warren
I followed him throughout his career, of course. But, except for his brilliant efforts at Warren Publishing (most often teamed with writer Archie Goodwin), the spark was gone. He had spent himself on Spider-man. He invested everything he had in Peter Parker, probably looking forward to a decade-long run in the character. And it was taken from him. The creative course of the series was removed from his control, the collaboration dissolved as he was reminded that he was only another pair of easily-replaced hands. Steve Ditko had led with his heart and his enthusiasm. He was all-in on Spider-Man and they made him pay up for that mistake.
Boy, do I know that feeling.
He continued working, right up to the end. He did solid work for DC, Charlton, Tower and, ultimately, back at Marvel where he refused to draw his signature characters ever again. In recent years he continued his own highly-idiosyncratic, self-published comics based on his personal political ideology. He kept his hand in. He couldn’t help himself. An itch he had to scratch. That’s worthy of our respect.
I usually don’t care for remembrances like these that are usually more about the rememberer than the remembered.  You know the kind. “I’ll never forget the day when the departed told me how awesome I am.” But I make this one and only exception to tell my story as it relates to Steve Ditko only because he honestly did mean that much to me and my life and career.
Thank you, sir. Thank you for everything. 

Image result for ditko mr a

Sunday, June 24, 2018

RAVEN HOUSE script

RAVEN HOUSE was to be a monthly gothic romance written by me and drawn first by Mike Perkins and then Leonardo Manco. It was not to be. Never got further than this first script: 





RAVEN HOUSE #1

CHUCK DIXON and
LEONARDO MANCO


PAGE ONE

SPLASH
We begin on a medieval battlefield circa the 1200's.
A knight in chain armor full-face helmet holds a
banner aloft. His apron is blood-stained and torn as
he leads a charge across spiked earthworks. His men
are howling mad and muddied as they all race toward
pikes held out toward them from the extreme
foreground. 
The banner is of great importance to us. It features
yellow and blue stripes down one side and a row of
three ravens down the other with a fleur de lis in
the center.
          CAPTION: (MERDEDITH'S JOURNAL)
          It was in service to Henry II that the
first father of the house of De Le Mer received a
knighthood and was granted lands in the faroff
Cornish holdings of what would become Valleymore. In
Later years, when all things of a French nature fell
from fashion, the family named was changed to
Dalamar. The only vestige from those days of service
was to be the trio of black ravens that adorned the
crest of that lineage and so their manor also took the
name Raven House.




PAGES TWO AND THREE

INSERT PANEL ONE
The stone crest of a gateway as seen in the rain. It
is old and crumbling and has an open arch in which a
bell hangs. The night is dark and the gateway is
shadowed.
         CAPTION: Ravens, creatures of the graveyard,
eaters of the slain, the earthly eyes of the gods of
old.


INSERT PANEL TWO
Repeat panel, only now a sheet of lightning
illuminates the stone gateway and we can plainly see
the crest with ravens and fleur de lis worked into it.
          CAPTION: I was soon enough to learn that
the naming of this house was no idle whim, no
fleeting fancy.

BIG SPREAD
A horse drawn carriage rumbles under the arch on its
way toward a large manor house, estate home, that has
only a few windows lit in the gloom. The house sits
at a higher elevation but not on a cliff or anything
like that. There are trees about the house and lining then road.
The carriage is covered but the coachman sits atop it in
drooping, broadbrimmed hat and oilskin coat.
           CAPTION: For this house that was to be my
new home was a place of the dead that sat athwart
this world and the next. I recall with humility my
vain worries that it would be the weather at Land's
End that would discomfit me most.

INSERT PANEL THREE
A shot inside the carriage of a beautiful young woman in period
travelling clothes and bonnet and clutching a bag on her lap. She looks
tense as lighting plays across he interior of the carriage.
          CAPTION: How well I know now that I had so much more to
fear from this house and its environs.



PAGE FOUR

PANEL ONE
She parts the curtain on the carriage to look out, wincing against the
rain.
            CAPTION: Scarce could I imagine on that first evening at Raven House what lay before me.

PANEL TWO
From her POV, through the parted curtain, the lightning reveals a figure
standing in the dark woods along the road. The figure wears a long
leather coat and his head is bare with hair worn long behind a receding
hairline. he is in a long leather coat cinched with a broad belt. He
stands with a long, double-barreled shotgun over his shoulder and small
steel traps hang from chains on the belt. Don't show him too clearly
here.
            CAPTION: I cautioned myself against the feelings of unease that troubled me, saying that they were only due to the anticipation of my new position and the change in climate.

PANEL THREE
Reverse angle. The carriage rolls on and the man stands in the
foreground with his back to us in the shadowed woods as he watches the
carriage roll toward the big house. VERY spooky.
            CAPTION: Only now do I know that these emotions were more primitive. They were forebodings of what was to come in the days ahead.

PANEL FOUR
Meredith has pulled back from the curtained window with a look of alarm.
            CAPTION: If I had but heeded them what might have happened in place of the destiny of which I was to play so vital a part?





PAGE FIVE

PANEL ONE
The carriage is pulled up to the house and a stocky man holding a
lantern stands in the dim light from an open doorway. The driver of the
coach tosses down carpet bags and a trunk.
            THOMAS: MISS PARK?
            THOMAS: MISS PARK, IS IT?
           
PANEL TWO
Meredith exits the carriage to meet Thomas, the stocky servant that she
will come to know well. He's dressed in a dingy shirt and vest and has
an oilskin coat over his shoulders. He smiles in the lantern light and
we can see he's missing some teeth and needs a shave. He's a good deal
grubbier than you'd expect a lord's house servant to be.
            MEREDITH: I AM. I APOLOGIZE FOR THE LATE HOUR. I MIGHT HAVE STAYED AT AN INN IF THIS VILLAGE HAD SUCH.
            THOMAS: NO INN AT VALLEYMORE, MISS. NOT FOR MANY A YEAR.
            THOMAS: I AM THOMAS. YOUR ROOM IS PREPARED, MISS.

PANEL THREE
Thomas drags the trunk, with bags atop it, into the house. Meredith
stands looking about the vast interior of the main foyer of the house.
It's very dim and shadowy but there are suits of armor and portraits on
the walls.
            MEREDITH: I PRAY THAT I HAVE NOT AWAKENED THE HOUSE?
            THOMAS: NO CAUSE FOR WORRY, MISS. THE MASTER IS AWAKE UNTIL ALL HOURS.
            THOMAS: AND THE YOUNG LORD SLEEPS SOUND.

PANEL FOUR
Elspeth, Thomas' wife, bustles forward from somewhere within the house
to approach Meredith. Thomas is dragging the trunk toward the stairs.
Elspeth is short and stocky like her husband and dressed in simple
clothes with a cloth cap the only sign that she is a house servant to a
lord.
            ELSPETH: I AM ELSPETH, MISS PARK. THOMAS IS MY HUSBAND.
            MEREDITH: GOOD EVENING TO YOU, ELSPETH.
            ELSPETH: I TRUST YOUR JOURNEY WAS WEARYING AND YOU WISH TO RETIRE.
            MEREDITH: MY FONDEST WISH, ELSPETH.
            THOMAS: unnh!


PAGE SIX

PANEL ONE
Elspeth leads Meredith up the grand staircase of the house and lights
the way with a candleabra. The lantern only serves to throw even more
shadows outside of the pool of light it provides. Thomas struggles with
the trunk below them.
            THOMAS: unrnh!
            MEREDITH: YOUR HUSBAND SAYS THAT LORD DALAMAR IS YET AWAKE. DOES HE CARE TO SPEAK TO ME?
            ELSPETH: YOU’LL FIND THAT THE MASTER KEEPS MUCH TO HIMSELF, MISS.

PANEL TWO
Meredith speaks with Elspeth in the lead as they move down a hallway.
            MEREDITH: I THOUGHT HE MIGHT WISH TO DISCUSS THE LESSONS SCHEME I HAVE FOR HIS SON.
            ELSPETH: ALL IN GOOD TIME, I IMAGINE, MISS.
            MEREDITH: BUT IF I AM TO TUTOR YOUNG---

PANEL THREE
Elspeth leads her into a room that is better lit than the rest of the
house. There's a canopy bed and wash basin and pitcher for water along
with a mirrored wardrobe and dresser.
            ELSPETH: YOUR ROOMS, MISS. I TRUST YOU WILL FIND THEM TO YOUR SATISFACTION.
            MEREDITH: QUITE COMFORTABLE, ELSPETH.
            ELSPETH: THOMAS AND I WILL BE BACK IN THE MORNING TO SERVE BREAKFAST.

PANEL FOUR
Elspeth pulls a sheet from a chair as Meredith looks about the room.
            MEREDITH: ‘BACK?’
            ELSPETH: TOM AND I DO NOT LIVE IN THE MANOR HOUSE, MISS.
            MEREDITH: THEN WHO LOOKS AFTER LORD DALAMAR?
            ELSPETH: HE HAS HIS OWN PRIVATE STAFF.




PAGE SEVEN

PANEL ONE
A young boy sleeps in a bed in a dark room. He's about seven and wears a
dressing gown and is asleep with a number of painted toy soldiers lying
on the coversheets. Meredith and Elspeth peek in on him from the next
room.
            ELSPETH: IT’S TOM AND I LOOK AFTER ONLY YOU AND YOUNG ALEXANDER.
            MEREDITH: IT SEEMS STRANGE.

PANEL TWO
Thomas drops the trunk on the floor of the room with a sigh of relief.
Meredith and Elspeth speak to one another as Elspeth closes the door
that leads to the boy's room.
            ELSPETH: YOU’LL FIND MUCH THAT IS UNUSUAL AT RAVEN HOUSE, MISS.
            ELSPETH: BUT THE MASTER WILL HAVE HIS WAY AND WHO ARE WE TO QUESTION?
            THOMAS: hunh!

PANEL THREE
Thomas rubs his aching back and winces as Elspeth moves toward the door.
            ELSPETH: WE’LL BE AWAY HOME THEN, MISS.
            ELSPETH: BUT RETURN AT FIRST LIGHT, WE WILL.

PANEL FOUR
Thomas and Elspeth back out the door as Meredith speaks to them.
Meredith looks troubled.
            MEREDITH: AND SHOULD THE YOUNG SIR OR MYSELF REQUIRE ANYTHING IN THE NIGHT?
            ELSPETH: TIS BEST YOU REMAIN IN YOUR ROOMS, MISS.
            THOMAS: SLEEP SOUND, MISS.



PAGE EIGHT

PANEL ONE
Meredith is left alone in the room with her trunk and bags. Lots of negative
space to show that she's alone.
            CAPTION: And so I passed the first night of my employ at Raven House; alone and yet not alone in a house draped in the quiet of slumber.

PANEL TWO
The house stands dark against the night sky, only the single room on the
second floor is lit. In the foreground, Thomas leads Elspeth away from
the house by lantern light.
            CAPTION: Quite beyond such quietude in fact. The house and grounds lie as under a veil of silence. No hound bayed. No bird called.

PANEL THREE
Repeat panel. But it is now very early in the morning, the hours before
the sun rises and the house is wreathed in a low-lying mist.
            CAPTION: No sound at all to waken one as morning approached. No racket as one might expect from so rural a place.

PANEL FOUR
Meredith lies in bed and awakens in the gloom. She is in a nightgown and
her hair is loose.
            CAPTION: There was only the smallest lessening of the gloom to alert one to the earliness of the hour.
            CAPTION: That and the soft, repetitive sound of brushing from without.



PAGE NINE

SIX PANEL GRID

PANEL ONE
She steps into the shadowy hall and sees a maid in finer servants' dress
than either Thomas or Elspeth wore. The maid is down the hall with her
back to Meredith and sweeping with a small broom into a long-handled
silent butler made of brass. A kind of dustpan with a hinged lid like those pictured below but with a long hand so that it could be used by someone standing.
           

           
PAGE NINE CON’TD

            MEREDITH: EXCUSE ME..?

PANEL TWO
Low angle shot of the broom working at the maid's feet. We look past it
to Meredith standing down the hall and speaking.
            MEREDITH: I BEG YOUR PARDON…

PANEL THREE
Meredith looks a bit cross as she strides down the hall toward the maid
who continues sweeping.
            MEREDITH: I EXPECT A REPLY WHEN I SPEAK TO SOMEONE AND---

PANEL FOUR
Close-up of Meredith reacting in horror at what she sees.
            MEREDITH: (SMALL) MY GOD---

PANEL FIVE
The maid is turned to us now and we see that her face is a horror of
scars and that she has only dark sockets where her eyes should be. Her
mouth hangs mute and slack.

PANEL SIX
Meredith backs into the wall for support as she recoils in horror. The
maid continues her sweeping.




PAGE TEN

PANEL ONE
Meredith turns in surprise at the young boy from the night before
standing in his nightshirt behind her. He yawns and rubs his eye.
            ALEXANDER: ARE YOU MY NEW TUTOR?
            MEREDITH: OH!

PANEL TWO
Meredith is recovering and speaks to the boy who appears to be sleepy
still.
            MEREDITH: AND YOU ARE ALEXANDER, ARE YOU NOT?
            ALEXANDER: I AM. AND YOU ARE MISS PARK.
            MEREDITH: YOU MAY CALL ME MEREDITH. OR MERRY, SHOULD YOU LIKE.

PANEL THREE
She crouches to speak to him. He looks at her with narrowed eyes.
            ALEXANDER: MY LAST TUTOR WAS CALLED MISS SILVERTON.
            MEREDITH: WILL YOU INSIST I CALL YOU LORD ALEXANDER?
            ALEXANDER: NO…
            MEREDITH: THEN MERRY WILL DO, YOUNG SIR.

PANEL FOUR
She leads him away down the hall by the hand.
            MEREDITH: SHALL WE BREAKFAST, ALEXANDER?
            ALEXANDER: OH YES, MERRY!




PAGE ELEVEN

PANEL ONE
Scene change. A formal dining room with high, vaulted ceiling. Meredith
sits at one end of a table and the boy at the other as Elspeth serves
from a rolling teacart. The room is dismal with only the slightest
watery light intruding through narrow gaps in the thickly drawn
curtains.
            CAPTION: I dismissed what I had seen in the upstairs hallway as an imagining; from exhaustion due to travel and the newness of my surroundings.
            CAPTION: It was weariness of mind and nothing more, or so I told myself.

PANEL TWO
Meredith speaks to Elspeth as the boy, out of earshot at the far end of
the table, eats eagerly. Elspeth looks troubled at what Meredith is
saying.
            CAPTION: Except that I was possessed of a remaining frisson of unease that I could not simply wish away.
            MEREDITH: I APPROACHED AN UPSTAIRS MAID THIS MORNING, ELSPETH.
            ELSPETH: YOU DID, MISS?
            MEREDITH: IS THERE SOMETHING THAT I SHOULD BE INFORMED OF?

PANEL THREE
Elspeth forces a nervous smile as she pours milk into a mug for
Meredith.
            ELSPETH: NOT AT ALL, MISS. ONLY THAT THE MASTER’S SERVANTS HAVE NO DUTIES IN YOUR PART OF THE HOUSE, MISS.
            ELSPETH: THEY KEEP THEMSELVES TO THE LORD’S ROOMS.

PANEL FOUR
The boy speaks up as Meredith watches Elspeth drift from the table with
the cart.
            ALEXANDER: MIGHT YOU BE VISITING THE VILLAGE, MERRY?
            MEREDITH: THE VILLAGE?
            ALEXANDER: I WOULD WISH TO ACCOMPANY YOU!


PAGE ELEVEN CONT’D

PANEL FIVE
The boy speaks eagerly in close-up as he rises from his chair.
            ALEXANDER: THERE IS A MAN IN THE VILLAGE WHO BREEDS DOGS.
            ALEXANDER: WHEN MISS SILVERTON TOOK ME THERE LAST THE MAN SAID HE MIGHT HAVE SOME PUPPIES SOON.




PAGE TWELVE

PANEL ONE
Meredith smiles at the boy who grins even more broadly at her words. He
stands by her now.
            MEREDITH: PUPPIES, ALEXANDER?
            ALEXANDER: I WOULD ADORE TO HAVE A PUPPY, MERRY. DO YOU THINK I MIGHT?
            MEREDITH: I DON’T KNOW. IT IS UP TO YOUR FATHER, IS IT NOT?

PANEL TWO
Meredith turns in surprise at a voice from off panel. The boy's smile
vanishes and his eyes drop to look at the floor.
            OFF PANEL: (LORD DALAMAR) INDEED IT IS.
            MEREDITH: YOUR PARDON, SIR!

PANEL THREE
Large, establishing panel. The lord of House Raven stands in an open
doorway. The double doors are thrust open and the doorway itself is ten
feet in height or more. Lord Dalamar is in his early thirties and a
handsome devil in the lean and huanted mode some chicks swoon over.
Daniel Day Lewis at his most dour would be perfect. He's dressed in fine
clothes but nothing foppish. But it's obvious he's not short on cash.
            LORD DALAMAR: MISS PARK, IS IT NOT?
            LORD DALAMAR: I REGRET THAT I WAS NOT AVAILABLE TO GREET YOU THIS PAST EVENING.
            LORD DALAMAR: AFFAIRS KEPT ME CONFINED TO MY QUARTERS. I AM LORD DALAMAR.
           



PAGE THIRTEEN

PANEL ONE
He speaks from the doorway to Meredith who stands now. The boy seems to
take shelter behind her.
            LORD DALAMAR: AND UPON THE SUBJECT OF PETS OF ANY NATURE I HAVE BEEN QUITE FIRM.
            LORD DALAMAR: ALEXANDER KNOWS THAT I DO NOT ALLOW ANIMALS OF ANY KIND AT RAVEN HOUSE.

PANEL TWO
Meredith speaks earnestly.
            MEREDITH: I SUPPOSE HE WISHES THE COMPANY OF A DOG AS HE IS WITHOUT THE COMPANY OF OTHER CHILDREN, M’LORD.

PANEL THREE
Lord Dalamar speaks sternly.
            LORD DALAMAR: NO HOUND OR HORSE HAS BEEN KEPT AT RAVEN HOUSE IN FIVE YEARS.
            LORD DALAMAR: MY SON IS AWARE OF THIS AND ONLY WORKS HIS WILES ON YOU HOPING YOU ARE SOFT OF HEART, MISS PARK.

PANEL FOUR
Lord Dalamar walks away from the watery light of the dining room door
and into the gloom of the main foyer. He leaves Meredith and the boy
standing behind.
            LORD DALAMAR: I TRUST THAT, ALONG WITH YOUR OTHER LESSONS, YOU WILL TUTOR MY SON IN OBEDIENCE TO HIS ELDERS.
            LORD DALAMAR: WE SHALL SPEAK AGAIN, MISS PARK. BUT NOT UPON THIS SUBJECT, I WARRANT.
            MEREDITH: NO, M’LORD.




PAGE FOURTEEN

PANEL ONE
Meredith stands looking off panel with a cold anger plain on her face. Alexander runs away in the background.
            CAPTION: In my few years as a tutor to the young of the better classes I have seen my share of indifferent parents. But never have I been treated to such a cold and hostile display of disaffection toward a child.

PANEL TWO
She turns to see Alexander standing, facing some curtains, hands to his face.
            CAPTION: I would allow the excuse that Lord Dalamar was a widower and perhaps still in mourning for his lost wife. But should that not have drawn him closer to his son?

PANEL THREE
The boy is crying by the curtained window and Meredith touches his shoulder.
CAPTION: Rather, he treated the boy as a nonentity, or worse, a loathsome burden; a mere obligation in place of the tender feelings of a parent.

PANEL FOUR
The boy turns to Meredith, wiping tears from his eyes, as she stoops to speak to him.
            CAPTION: What would alienate a father so toward his own flesh and blood; his very heir?
            MEREDITH: I HAVE BROUGHT ALONG A PICTURE BOOK WITH DOGS IN IT.
            ALEXANDER: AND CATS?
            MEREDITH: AND CATS AS WELL, IF YOU LIKE.


PAGE FIFTEEN

PANEL ONE
Large panel.
We’re in a large room lined with bookshelves and Meredith sits in a chair with a book open and Alexander stands by her leaning on an arm of the chair and regarding the book. They are in a shaft of sunlight coming through a window and cutting into the gloom of the library.
            CAPTION: Our lesson went well that first day and I found Alexander to be a bright and cheerful boy with a quick mind and ready wit. Everything about this lad contrasted with the overriding gloom of life in this house.
            MEREDITH: AND THIS?
            ALEXANDER: A LION.
            MEREDITH: IN ITALIAN?
            ALEXANDER: LEONE.
            MEREDITH: IN GERMAN?
            ALEXANDER: LÖWE

PANEL TWO
Meredith looks up from the picture book depicting various animals to see a figure standing by an archway leading into another chamber. The figure is a man in dark clothing. Alexander seems not to notice as he looks at the book.
            MEREDITH: SPANISH?
            ALEXANDER: LEON.
            MEREDITH: VERY…GOOD, ALEXANDER.

PANEL THREE
Closer shot of the man. He is pale and thin and balding and dressed in the dark livery of a manservant. He glowers in the archway.

PANEL FOUR
Repeat panel. But now he recedes into the darkness of the adjoining room.

PANEL FIVE
Repeat panel. But now he’s gone.


PAGE SIXTEEN

PANEL ONE
Meredith regards Alexander as he continues to look at the book she holds.
            CAPTION: This house, with its many empty rooms and chilled hallways was home to this boy and yet he was apart from it. His own father lived a separate life from him. The lord’s servants regarded him with naked loathing.
            ALEXANDER: TURTLE.
            ALEXANDER: IN FRENCH: TORTUE.

PANEL TWO
She touches his hair with affection and he fails to notice as he reads.
            CAPTION: He was treated as an object both treasured and envied; like a beautiful specimen of nature that was as venomous as it was attractive.
            ALEXANDER: IN GERMAN: SCHILDKRÖTE

PANEL THREE
Her face looks sad as she raises her head to look off panel at something.
            CAPTION: Was there a resentment present here; some dark aspect of grief that turns to bitterness?
            ALEXANDER: (OFF PANEL) IN ITALIAN: TARTARUGA

PANEL FOUR
From Meredith’s point of view we see the portrait of a woman hanging in a gilded frame in the shadows on a far wall. The woman is in a gown and holding silk fan in her hands. At the corner of the frame is an angle of black ribbon with a black bow tied at the center.
            CAPTION: Had the loss of Lady Dalamar poisoned the minds of all toward her surviving child? What was the manner of her death?
            ALEXANDER: (OFF PANEL) IN SPANISH: La TORTUGA

PANEL FIVE
Closer to the portrait. The painting is dusty and a spider has built a web in the corner across from the black ribbon. In the picture the woman does not smile.
            CAPTION: Did the way in which she passed cast the cold shadow that lay over Raven House?
           
           


PAGE SEVENTEEN

SPLASH
Downshot of Meredith in her bed. She wears a long dressing gown and lies on the bed as though lost in a nightmare. Her hands are fisted above her head and the sheets are twisted about her and blankets kicked off.
            CAPTION: Sleep brought little respite from the thoughts that troubled me throughout the day. I little recalled the sound of Thomas and Elspeth departing for the evening as I swooned into a disturbed slumber.
            CAPTION: Doubts and suspicions played at the corners of my mind as do the dark shadows of trees at the edge of a sunny glade. My unconscious thoughts played over the more unpleasant events of the day just past.
            CAPTION: They returned to me without form or order; only their most sinister facets were impressed upon my somnolence.


PAGE EIGHTEEN

FOUR HORIZONTAL OR VERTICAL PANELS

PANEL ONE
She writhes on the bed in the foreground. In the dark room beyond we see figures standing on the other side of a stream of moonlight.
            CAPTION: Most disturbing of these incubi was the notion that I was not entirely alone.

PANEL TWO
Repeat panel. But now Lord Dalamar emerges into the moonlight, stepping before the other figures.
            CAPTION: I felt, rather than heard or saw, that there were occupants in my room other than myself.

PANEL THREE
Repeat panel. His hand reaches out for Meredith.
            CAPTION: Most prominent of the phantoms was Lord Dalamar.
            CAPTION: And from him I sensed either the threat of wrath---

PANEL FOUR
She sits up suddenly, startled. The figures and Lord Dalamar are gone as though they never existed.
            CAPTION: ---or worse; longing.


PAGE NINETEEN

SPLASH
Downshot.
Lord Dalamar sits in a dim, circular chamber lined with books. It’s a vaulted chamber with ladders reaching to the highest shelves.  He leans over piles of open books lying one atop the other. A pen and inkpot are at hand and sheaves of tattered papers. About him, a half dozen servants dust and carry trays and generally seem to keep busy. But there’s something spooky and dour about all of them. The eyeless maid is here as well.
            CAPTION: What spawned these perverse ideas that ran widdershins throughout my slumbering brain was unknown to me.
            CAPTION: Other than his callous nature and chilly manner, I knew nothing of Lord Dalamar.
            CAPTION: What he did in those rooms beyond the east wing that were forbidden to my passage remained a mystery to me.
            CAPTION: Again, I quelled these troubling thoughts and unfounded dreads as creatures of my own feckless imagination.











PAGES TWENTY AND TWENTY ONE

PANEL ONE
"WIDESCREEN" PANEL THAT STRETCHES ACROSS THE TOP OF BOTH PAGES.
We want to establish the bleak landscape about the house and its proximity to the sea.
We see the long beach of empty sand that stretches from the dunes to the waves. The house can be seen over the dunes. A wrecked fishing boat lies half buried in the sand. Meredith and the boy walk the sand. Meredith has a parasol over her shoulder. Gulls drift above the sand and walk in the shallows.
            CAPTION: I resolved to embrace only what was bright and good in my current surroundings.
            CAPTION: And that amounted to young Alexander; a jewel among coals in this bleak landscape.
            CAPTION: Though, sadly, even he mirrored the malaise that hung over this estate.
            ALEXANDER: DO YOU HAVE A MOTHER, MERRY?
            MEREDITH: EVERYONE HAS A MOTHER, ALEXANDER.
            ALEXANDER: NOT I.

PANEL TWO
Meredith speaks to the boy who is crouched to inspect some crabs scuttling over the west sand.
            MEREDITH: HOW THOUGHTLESS OF ME, ALEXANDER.
            ALEXANDER: NO NEED FOR APOLOGIES. I NEVER KNEW MY MOTHER.
            ALEXANDER: SHE DIED WHEN I WAS AN INFANT.

PANEL THREE
The boy turns, squinting against the scant sunlight.
            ALEXANDER: FATHER NEVER SPEAKS OF HER.
            ALEXANDER: ALL I KNOW IS THE PORTRAIT IN THE STUDY.

PANEL FOUR
Meredith smiles sadly in the shade of her parasol.
            MEREDITH: THERE IS NO REASON TO DWELL UPON THIS IF YOU DO NOT CARE TO, ALEXANDER.


PAGES TWENTY AND TWENTY ONE CONTINUED---

PANEL FIVE
The boy pokes at the crabs with a bit of driftwood and they scuttle away.
            ALEXANDER: IT IS AS IF SHE NEVER LIVED.
            ALEXANDER: BUT THAT’S SILLY, ISN’T IT? FOR HOW MIGHT I BE HERE WERE IT NOT FOR HER?

PANEL SIX
Meredith speaks.
            MEREDITH: I’M CERTAIN SHE LOOKS DOWN UPON YOU FROM GOD’S FIRMAMENT WITH GREAT PRIDE.

PANEL SEVEN
She watches the boy as he runs down the beach, waving his arms and startling a flock of gulls into flight.
            ALEXANDER: DO YOU THINK SO?
            MEREDITH: I KNOW IT TO BE TRUE, YOUNG SIR.
            CAPTION: I believed this to be a lie.




PAGE TWENTY TWO

PANEL ONE
We see the legs of horses in the extreme foreground, among the sea grass growing in the dunes. Past them we see the small figures of Meredith and the boy and the great flock of gulls rising from where the boy has put them to flight.
            CAPTION: Do not ask me how, but I felt that there was little of Our Lord God’s love present in that house. And though I had scant cause, I knew with growing assurance that the death of Alexander’s mother was at the heart of it.
            TRENCHER: (OFF PANEL) A NEW GOVERNESS FOR THE LAD, eh?

PANEL TWO
Two men sit on horseback. One of them is William Trencher, a muscular man in fine clothes and dark hair. He wears a closely-trimmed goatee and is every inch the Bad Guy. But he's darkly handsome as well but in a better-fed, more bluff way than Lord Dalamar. He looks like he'd be good in a fistfight. The other man is a reedy, nervous man named Gossage. This guy wears a threadbare suit that was once fine. He has bad teeth and lank hair and something rodent-like about him.
            GOSSAGE: SHE’S A TRIM LITTLE WITCH, AIN’T SHE GUVNOR?
            TRENCHER: WATCH YOUR FILTHY TONGUE, GOSSAGE. THAT’S’ A PRIME BIT THAT YOU’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO EVEN SPEAK OF.
            TRENCHER: SHE SEEMS QUITE AT HOME WITH THE LAD, eh? A CLOSE AFFINITY AFTER ONLY A DAY OR SO.
           

PANEL THREE
Trencher in a closer shot. He smiles and reveals a gold tooth that flashes through his mustache.
            TRENCHER: PERHAPS SHE IS THE WAY IN TO THE GOOD GRACE SOF THE YOUNG LORD.
            TRENCHER: PERHAPS SHE IS THE CHINK IN THE ARMOR OF THE GRAND AND UNAPPROACHABLE MISTER ANTHONY DALAMAR.

THE END OF RAVEN HOUSE #1