Hellblazer: Spirits of Japan
The gutters (the lines between panels) should be white to contrast with the edges of dark panels, but very thin.
Also, any time I leave a measure out of a panel description, it probably means I want it to take up whatever’s left.
Panel one: Smaller panel in the upper left, taking up about 2/3 of the width and a fifth of the length of the page. It’s an entirely black panel, so size isn’t incredibly important.
Text: IN AUGUST IN 1945, AMERICA SHATTERED TWO CITIES…
Panel Two: This panel takes up most of the page. It’s the dramatic, obligatory shot of John lighting a cigarette with a match. The match light is the only light in the panel, so we can’t make out the brick of the walls behind him, or the alleyway, just darkness. We can’t even see all of John, just what’s revealed by the halo of light around the match.
Panel Three: This panel should take up 2/3 of the width and about a third of the length from the bottom. In it an older Japanese woman can be seen in the dim match light. In this limited light she appears simply off. If there were better lighting you could see that her face is burned (Figure 10.c.), flecked with necrotic tissue (Figure 12) the skin bloated and discolored with keloids (which are overgrown patches of scar tissue, Figure 9), and that her eyes are nearly swollen shut. She lived through the fire and the cuts and bruises from the initial bombing, but died of complications in the months that followed, largely because of her age. She is smiling pleasantly, but should be bordering on terrifying and crushingly sad.
Text: AND THE LIVES OF HALF A MILLION JAPANESE.
Panel Four: This is just a little insert panel 1/5 of the length and ¼ the width, which I conceived of at the last moment. If done well it turns the match into a metaphor, if done poorly it’s hackish and cliché. The match falls into a dark puddle and goes out. It hisses as it does so, with the text getting smaller and smaller as it dissipates. This also paves the way for the lamp on the next page.
Sound Effect: Fsssssh
Panel One: This panel takes up a quarter of the length of the page, and 2/3 of the width. It is a close shot of John’s hand as he’s offering it to help her up. The panel is very dark, because it’s lit only by his cigarette. There should also be text coming from his side of the panel, in Japanese. Don’t attempt to letter the Japanese script until I check to be sure that it says what it’s supposed to (It’s time to go, elder woman”).
Panel Two: 1/4 length, 1/3 width. This panel is just close in on a lamp, traditional Japanese with modern sensibilities. Figure 1 is a reference for the lamp. The light is flickering on, to give you a tiny bit more light. It’s also significant because as the old woman comes out of the shadows and into this light, she’s going to shed all of the effects of the bomb, and look normal. But still old. Real old. Photo. This should remain as a thread throughout the story; when the characters are seen in shadow, all of their deformities are still there, but when they get near light (which should be only sparingly present), most of their more horrific wounds are healed over. Also, every light source throughout the story should behave like a candle, with the light flickering, and whenever possible it should seem like the light is a response to something John does with his presence. The sound effect is the mirror image from the match on the last page.
Sound Effect: hsssssF.
Panel Three: ¼ length, full width. This should be nearly the same angle on the old woman as before, when she was hidden by darkness. Now, in the clearer light, her face is simply wrinkled and pudgy, but not burned or mangled or decimated as before. Her expression has changed and she smiles at John.
Panel Four: ¼ length, full width. This is a wide-angle shot of the alleyway, now dimly lit. John has already turned and is walking away, with his head turned just slightly enough that he can see the older woman, a cigarette clenched in his smile.
Caption: BUT THE PEOPLE OF JAPAN FORGAVE AMERICA…
Panel Five: ¼ length, full width. From the same exact angle as the last shot, only the older woman is now hurrying down the alley after John.
Caption: EVEN IF THEY COULDN’T FORGET.
Panel One: ¼ length, full width. This is a medium shot of cityscape, and slightly right of center is a building with a flat wall. On this wall, is a burnt in “shadow,” black everywhere except where a young boy stood over his younger sister. From the way they’re posed, he would appear to be protecting her. She’s curled in a ball on the ground. But this should be subtle, just part of the city right now, and high enough that we don’t see that the two children are actually there.
Caption: BUT THE CITIES CAN’T.
Panel Two: ¼ length, full width. This is the same kind of shot, only now the building is in the center, and it’s closer, and more in focus. If you stare at it long enough, you could mostly make out what’s going on, but the audience shouldn’t be given the opportunity.
Panel Three: In front of the wall are two children, a five year old girl and her seven year old brother. The girl is cowering, terrified of the onrushing wall of fire. The boy is acting tough and mean, trying to shield her with his body, even though he’s just as scared and wants to huddle up next to her. His lips are curled back because he’s roaring like a lion at it, and his fists are clenched. These children are a delicate balancing act. They were largely incinerated by the blast, and probably would have been calcified and blackened, but it’s hard for them to be sympathetic characters if they’re all crusty. Instead, they should be selectively burned, parts of them blackened, parts of them just reddened, and other parts left entirely unscathed. The side of the little girl facing panel is mostly burnt, but this should be lit in such a way that it’s hard to tell. If it helps, you can make their injuries conform to a wall or a vehicle or something else that may have partially shielded them from the blast. Figures 10.a.-d. show heat burns, Figures 10.e-.f. radiation burns.
Caption: BECAUSE THE DEAD WON’T LET THEM.
Panel Four: 1/3 length, ½ width. Close up of John looking at the child. He’s kneeling down, low, so he’s face to face with the boy. The boy still has on his mean face, trying to scare the danger away, with his teeth bared. Now that we’re closer to him, we can see how close to crying the boy really is. John is far more aloof. He’s looking at the boy inquisitively, trying to figure out what to make of him, entirely oblivious that the boy is about to crack.
Caption: AND BECAUSE…
On this page there should be no gutter between panels three and four.
Panel One: 1/3 length, ½ width. John is kneeled where he was in the last panel, only now the little boy has his arms wrapped tightly around John’s neck in a hug. The boy’s crying (although this probably shouldn’t be evident from the angle we see), relieved that he doesn’t have to be brave any more. And John is surprised and a little taken aback to have one of the dingy little monsters wrapped around his neck. His cigarette is in his right hand, which is palm down on the ground to steady him.
Caption: THEY SHOUDN’T.
Panel Two: 1/3 length, ½ width. It is the same angle as before, only now John is walking away from panel, and the children are following after him. In the boy’s right hand, which is black and crispy, is a candy bar, and in his left is his little sister’s hand.
Panel Three: 2/3 length, ½ width. On the left side of the page is the right side of John’s face, facing outward. He’s staring deeply into the eyes of a man who died in a hospital, a man blinded by the flash. John’s lips are apart, as if he’s about to say something. In John’s eye is the ghost of a mushroom cloud (Figure 14). The first piece of text is in the upper left of the panel, the second near the bottom right.
Caption: BY JULY,
Caption: AMERICA KNEW ITS SUPERWEAPON WORKED…
Panel Four: 2/3 length, ½ width. This side is a mirror image of the previous panel. It’s the man John was staring at. He’s a man in his late forties, early fifties. He has radiation cataracts (Figure 13). This is the only panel where his eyes should almost shimmer. Radiation is notorious for causing cataracts, which often develop months or years later. This particular man died in a hospital of leukemia, and his features are gaunt, and his skin is pale and thin. His hair has become wispy (Figure 18). His teeth are slightly crooked and his mouth hangs open a little. He looks quite like a zombie even though he doesn’t have any of the gashes or wounds the others have. There’s just a ghostly quality to him.
Caption: AND SET ABOUT KEEPING PEACE OUT OF JAPAN’S REACH.
This page is going to be divided into three flat, page-wide panels, all from the same angle.
Panel One: 1/3 length, full width. John is standing with his back to a stone building, his ever-burning cigarette in his hand, held away from his body. John and the zombie man from the last page are staring across a small, dark side street at one another. The zombie man wants something from John, something that isn’t quite evident yet. But I’ll give you a hint: the man died of cancer.
Caption: JAPAN BEGGED FOR A CEASEFIRE.
Panel Two: 1/3 length, full width. The zombie man is targeting his glare a little better, and John has noticed that he’s staring at his cigarette. John’s looking at it, too, and on his face (which probably won’t be seen from the drawing) is inquisition.
Caption: ASKING ONLY A SINGLE TERM…
Panel Three: 1/3 length, full width. John is a little embarrassed; not red-faced, but he clearly didn’t think about it, and feels that he probably should have. He smiles his rakish smile, giving a little bit of a shrug as his eyes say, “Oop, sorry, mate.” John’s hand is behind him, stubbing the cigarette out on the wall, sparks dancing down to the ground. The zombie man has the faintest smile on his face, barely a smile, almost simple approval.
Caption: THAT HIROHITO, THEIR GOD EMPEROR…
Panel Four: 1/5 length, 3/5 width, left side. In dark sepia tones, nearly silhouette, are four Nazi officers hanging from gallows. This panel should take up as little space as possible while still getting the point across.
Caption: BE SPARED THE FATE OF THE NAZI LEADERS.
Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Hall (the A Bomb Dome) was at the center of the explosion. Since the force came straight down, much of the walls were spared, and its remains became part of the memorial. Figures 4.a.-j.
Panel One: ½ length, 2/5 width. John is bent down in the skeleton of the bombed out Atomic Bomb Dome (Figure 7.a.-c.). He’s lifting charred boards away from a pile of scorched stones and wood. Under them all is a young woman, a secretary, with most of her bones broken, her head caved in. She’s mangled, but we won’t ever see the extent.
Caption: SOME HOPED THEY COULD DEMONSTRATE THE WEAPON.
Panel Two: ½ length, 3/5 width. Shot from up in the rafters, reverse POV from Figure 8. On the stack of debris is the body of a young secretary. She’s bathed in the low light coming off of John’s newly-lit cigarette. He’s reaching down to lift her up. We can see that some of her bones are still broken, including her legs in the middle of the shins. It doesn’t need to be too graphic, but they should be bent at enough of an angle that it’s obvious the legs aren’t in working order.
Caption: OTHERS WANTED TO AIM IT AT A MILITARY TARGET.
Panel Three: ½ length, full width. John almost looks heroic as he walks through the interior of the Atom Bomb Dome. He’s carrying the secretary in his arms. She’s in her late twenties, but is small and frail compared to him. In his mouth is his burning cigarette, smoke snaking off of it.
Caption: STILL OTHERS DEMANDED PROPERTY DAMAGE.
Caption: A BODY COUNT.
The first two panels on this page are actually one shot of the A Bomb Dome cut one-third of the way down by the panel pane (Figures 4.a., b., d). Behind the A Bomb Dome Hiroshima has sprung back up in stretches, and there are trees. However, in the darkness, the city looks just like it did right after the bomb, Figure 5. When the lights kick up, modern Hiroshima can be seen.
Panel One: ¼ length, full width. This is the top portion of the A Bomb Dome building. Mainly it’s the dome and the surrounding walls. The next panel will pan down the building, but when stacked one on the other make a single complete image.
Caption: FIGURES ON PAPER.
Panel Two: ½ length, full width. This is the second part of the building began in panel one. It’s from the street side (Figures 4.a., b., d), and John is walking out of the building, holding the secretary from the last page in his arms. A few feet in front of John is the Japanese soldier (uniform seen in Figure 20). He’s smiling at John, but that detail is covered more in the next panel. John’s cigarette is almost out.
Caption: DEMONSTRATING TO THEIR ENEMIES.
Panel Three: ¼ length, 1/3 width. Close in on the face of this soldier, smiling. This soldier was close to the bomb, but protected within a home from the blast. But he received a massive dose of radiation. For this shot, all you need to do is draw his face, only change his expression from the terrible pain he was in as he died, to an appreciative smile (Figure 21). The captions are peppered across the image.
Panel Four: John’s handed off the girl to the soldier, who is carrying her towards the Cenotaph Arch. John’s standing back, lighting himself another cigarette, standing in the same spot as panel 3. The lights come on around the monument at this point, around the pool and especially brightest at the arch. Which is still a way off.
Caption: THE COST OF THEIR DEFIANCE.
Panel One: ¼ length, full width. John walks by the pool behind the arch in Peace Park (Figure 6.h.). Following closest behind him is the soldier carrying the secretary then the zombie man. There should be a sense, but preferably without actually drawing it, that everyone in the story is there, as well as many others who weren’t shown, that John has been at this some time, gathering the forgotten spirits of the city to him. He’s smoking, mostly absorbed in his own thoughts. I can’t help but think that he’s playing a sort of pied piper role here, that he has compassion for these people, but that it’s very… shallow.
Caption: CARVING DEEP SCARS ACROSS THE PSYCHE OF A NATION.
Panel Two: 1/3 length, full width. John is in the fore and left of the panel, gesturing towards the arch (Figure 6), which has a glowing light on the other side of it (try and forgive the triteness of it… the arch being sort of a tunnel and all) but I thought it was important that it end there, as some of the people walk towards it.
Caption: IF THE CITIES CAN EVER FORGIVE WHAT HAPPENED…
Panel Three: 2/3 width. The light dissipates and dies as the last person walks through it. John has his back turned to us, watching them depart. The wind is blowing his hair and his trenchcoat, and he for once doesn’t have a lit cigarette.
Caption: THOSE SCARS MUST BE HEALED.
Panel Four: 1/3 width. John has turned back to face the audience, and is bracing against the wind as he lights himself another cigarette, smiling to himself. All the lights have died back off save for John’s match, and he’s back in his element, alone in the night.