Karnak, Part 1 of 2

My apologies, friends: love to give you a complete script at this juncture, but time’s a’pressin’. I do guarantee that this script will be finished off and polished up in the next three (3) days…and, I guess you all know me well enough by now that you won’t be surprised to hear: “Blue Shadows” is on the way.

But, bugger all that, for now.

Here’s Part 1.


INTRO PANEL: PoetPhysicianAdventurerScientist! Minor prince of the secretive superhuman race known as the Inhumans, his is the power to determine the weak spot in any object, and destroy it with a single well-placed blow! Brother of Triton, cousin to Black Bolt, Stan Lee Presents: KARNAK THE SHATTERER!



Panel 1: A long panel consisting of the entire first tier of the page (slightly shortened by my inclusion of the Intro Panel, natch), it’s a slice of a very large picture of the Moon, seen as though from a fairly close orbit and roughly on a WNW-ESE slant across the page, with the terminator making what we understand to be the crescent-moon shape on its surface…as though our POV is that of a lunar orbiter rushing across the sunlit surface to the dark side. Say the lunar surface takes up most of the bottom left-hand side of the image, many beautifully-detailed craters etc. Off more to the top right, there’s the Earth, hanging in space. The view is from too far up to make out the Blue Area, which is right on the terminator itself as of this moment. One other point of note: since I’ve arbitrarily suggested that Attilan gets its sunsets and sunrises when the moon is in its crescent phases, that means that the Earth is in a particular phase as well, as seen from the lunar surface. Can’t be bothered figuring out just what that is now, though, although off-the-cuff it seems to me that the phases must match up, and that the Earth will be in crescent phase too…embarrassing, but this is like the difference between arithmetic and calculus, the most common mathematical mistakes are always arithmetical ones…ask me about stellar evolution or Hawking radiation and I’m there, but the phases of the moon…Christ, you’ve got to be as smart as a fisherman to figure that stuff out…anyway…


Capt.: Night falls, on the Moon.

Capt.: But – as its latest inhabitants have learned – not all at once.


Panel 2: I know there’s a better way of tweaking this artistically, but the basic idea is that this is another one-third panel, another whole horizontal tier (although possibly this drawing could be divided into a dyptich, if that looks better). This time it’s the city of Attilan, as if seen from the top of a small rise just outside it, its bright and beautiful Kirbyesque buildings suffused (as is the grey regolith to either side) with an orange-gold sunset light. It looks quite idyllic: tiny black humanoid figures soar about the futuristic spires like far-off crows or ravens. The sky around the city is a calm violet, fading to black; overhead, the stars are beginning to shine.

Capt.: The lunar sunset’s shadows creep almost imperceptibly up the streets of Attilan, city of the Inhumans.

Capt.: In some places, the glimmer of twilight will cling for almost the full three days of transition, the city sinking feet-first, slowly, into the comfort of its long monthly sleep.

Panel 3: Slightly larger than one-sixth panel, looking out of a darker alleyway onto a main street, to reveal the somewhat indistinct figure of Karnak walking roughly from our right to our left. We can see just enough of the alleyway to notice a couple of Inhuman women wrapped in robes indicating him as he passes, and we may also notice some turned heads on the street, the odd face peeking out of a window; our hero excites some interest, apparently.

Capt.: It is one of the Moon’s gifts to the Inhumans; a wonderful, extended time for contemplation.

Capt.: Yes, wonderful; particularly if the Inhuman in question has as much to contemplate as the man called…


Panel 4: Slightly smaller than one-sixth panel, filling out the page. Close-up on Karnak’s face, startled, as his head jerks suddenly up, and turns slightly toward his left shoulder.

Iridia: (I imagine the word-balloon at the top and to the right of this panel, quite large and with jagged edges as she calls out:) LORD KARNAK!

Karnak: Eh?!



SPLASH. Seen from above and an angle: Iridia’s shadow falls over Karnak, who is pictured in an automatically-defensive kung-fu posture…but already he’s beginning to relax from it a little. One of his hands is positioned so it looks like he’s shading his eyes. It looks like the golden light that’s shining on the street around him has been blotted out by a blue-ish butterfly-shaped angel, whose shadow is somewhat centred on him.

Karnak: What? YOU!!

TITLES (along the bottom border of the page): “THE MIRROR AND THE LAMP!” Below this, the credits.


Panel 1: Two-thirds splash from Karnak’s point of view; we see perhaps his head and raised karate-chop/eye-shading hand in the foreground, while Iridia floats above him, gorgeous and smiling. The sun peeks over her shoulder. She has tracked him down. And, a word on my dialogue-conventions: when I double-name a speaker, it isn’t always that they have a completely separate new word-balloon…sometimes it’s just a connected word-balloon, and sometimes it is a separate one. Mostly, I hope it’ll be clear from context what I mean. But, I haven’t figured out how to make it explicit yet, so if it gets confusing what I mean…go for economy of space.

Karnak: Iridia!

Iridia: Well of course it’s me! I’ve been looking for you for hours!

Karnak: You have?

Iridia: I just wanted to thank you for talking to Boligar…Lord Karnak, it’s like he’s a new man

Karnak: Well, it wasn’t a very difficult problem, Iridia —

Karnak: — And, please…it isn’t necessary for you to call me Lord Karnak, you know.

Karnak: At least, not when no one’s watching.


Panel 2: One-sixth panel, as Iridia hovers in front of him.

Iridia: HA! But you forget, I’m not one of the “little mothers”, Karnak! So of course I must call you “Lord”, and you should not be telling me not to! Would you ask a simple Inhuman woman to show such disrespect to her Royal Family?


Panel 3: Karnak’s hand is on his chin, and he looks half-rueful, half-amused..

Iridia: (off-panel) Besides, whoever said no one was watching?

Karnak: Hmm…you know, I was to meet Gorgon, in the park

Iridia: Perhaps I could fly you there, my Lord?

Karnak: If you wouldn’t mind



Panel 1: Full-tier panel, seen from just above the two as Iridia, carrying Karnak by the hands beneath her, flies up out of the street below.

Iridia: Poor Karnak! It’s not easy for you, is it?

Karnak: (looking back down at the street, and the people in it watching them leave) It is not. But we all have our sacrifices to make, I suppose…


Panel 2: One-sixth. Karnak and Iridia wheel over the park, where below there is a crowd of Inhuman children gathered around a large brown figure.

Iridia: Really? Even Gorgon?


Panel 3: (inset panel; Karnak’s face, lugubrious)

Karnak: Yes…even Gorgon


Panel 4: One-sixth. A kid’s-eye view: we are looking up at Gorgon, who’s laughing uproariously. Behind him, Iridia and Karnak spiral to the ground.

Gorgon: Oh ho! So you want to hear about the Fantastic Four, do you? Perhaps about the time Ben Grimm and I battled in the aeries of the island called Manhattan, on Earth?

Inhuman Child #1: Yes, please, Gorgon!

Inhuman Child #2: Tell it again, Gorgon!


Panel 5: One-sixth. We’re looking slightly over Gorgon’s shoulder as Karnak approaches and stands in the bottom left-hand corner of the panel behind him – basically we’re looking from what would’ve been Karnak’s POV about one second earlier if he was about two feet taller, looking down at the kids sprawled out on the ground soaking up Gorgon’s stories.

Gorgon: Well, hmm…now that I think about it, children, I’m not sure I wish to relive that particular memory just now. Besides, I’ve told that one before, I think…and you must be getting bored with it, surely…

Inhuman Child #3: Tell it!

Inhuman Child #4: Tell it!

Gorgon: No…no, I’m not sure I want to. Besides, it may frighten some of you, and then what would your mothers say? And then what would Medusa say?

Karnak: Gorgon.


Panel 6: One-sixth. Gorgon stands, turning back from our POV among the children to greet Karnak.

Gorgon: Cousin! You arrive at last!

Gorgon: And with the fair Iridia, by Agon’s gift!

Iridia: Hello, Gorgon. You appear to have been besieged while waiting.



Panel 1: One-sixth. From above, perhaps: the children are to Gorgon’s back as he faces Karnak and Iridia. He jerks a thumb over his shoulder.

Gorgon: What, these ones? I’ve fought off worse than them in my time…

Gorgon: But…has Karnak brought you to accompany us for this morning’s work, beautiful one? It’s been long since I’ve seen you spread your wings under the Terran sky…


Panel 2: One-sixth, head-and-shoulders shot, as Iridia replies to Gorgon: he is at the right-hand side of the panel, and we see him in three-quarters as Iridia faces him almost straight-on from the middle, with Karnak disappearing off the leftward edge of the panel

Iridia: No, Gorgon. I’m afraid Lord Karnak has not invited me; ours was a chance meeting.

Iridia: But I think I should like to take over from you here, if I may

Gorgon: Eh? Oh, well…yes, of course. If you would prefer it…

Panel 3: Longish panel, perhaps two-thirds of a tier. As Karnak and Gorgon walk away across the park, Gorgon’s hand on Karnak’s shoulder, Iridia kneels down to talk to the children – their dialogue is in smaller print, smaller balloons. I know the script seems to indicate K+G being on the left, and Iridia on the right, but I don’t exactly have a 100% firm idea about the composition here…it could be reversed easily enough, if that worked better. See, I’m trying to do something here about once per page, where the ordinary flow of action in the panels gets subtly reversed, but without calling too much attention to itself…it’s a whole meta-thing, thematic-reinforcement gobbledegook, but it might not look so good in reality as it does in my head. For example, in this panel having K+G walk away to the left in the spacious area of the background, while Iridia is pictured at a larger size in the foreground, facing off the page toward the (unpictured) children in about a three-quarters view, but then speaking in smaller print as if she’s farther away…and then next panel having K+G come in from the left foreground, towards Crystal in the middle-right. You see what I’m saying: it doesn’t quite make sense, I guess. But it’s on purpose. But! It may look stupid, and you [the imaginary artist of this opus, of course, readers] might just decide “yeah, that’s a dumb way to do this, they should be walking towards us at first, and then re-entering on the other side or this side…” Etc. I’d like to do it, if it’s at all possible. But if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But anyway:

Gorgon: It isn’t like you to be late, Karnak.

Karnak: I was…lost in thought, I’m afraid. It’s this elongated time of day – it encourages one’s mind to wander.

Karnak: I only hope we have not kept Triton and Crystal waiting, as well…

Gorgon: Crystal? Cousin, Crystal has not been on time for anything in years! And besides, we are still her seniors, are we not…?

Iridia: Now, now, children. Gorgon and Lord Karnak have important work to do today…but, I wonder, have I ever told any of you the story of my first meeting with Gorgon?

Inhuman Child #1: Does it have the Fantastic Four in it?

Iridia: No…but it does have Black Bolt

Inhuman Child #3: Black Bolt!


Panel 4: One-ninth or so, or whatever’s needed to complete the tier. Karnak and Gorgon exit the park, walking out of the left foreground. Crystal and Lockjaw are standing there waiting for them, middle-right.

Crystal: There you are! You were so late, Lockjaw and I came to find you!

Panel 5: One-sixth. Gorgon bends down to pet Lockjaw, who slobbers on him a bit, while Karnak deals with the wrath of Crystal. Which actually isn’t all that bad.

Karnak: Has Triton returned from his explorations yet, cousin?

Crystal: Well, not as of ten minutes ago he hadn’t…

Panel 6: Crystal raises her arms; Lockjaw’s antennae begin to glow, and Kirby dots and bright light start popping out from it and around the four of them as they fade away.

Crystal: But maybe by now



Panel 1: Full tier. They appear in a flash of light in the middle ground of a large underground chamber filled with Kirbyesque machinery – maybe located to our left, we see a large viewscreen and bank of computers that show a Mercator projection of Earth, with certain points clearly marked out on it: somewhere in the Himalayas, somewhere in the South Seas, Manhattan, Atlantis…nowhere in Greece, Siberia, or anywhere that Eternals cluster, but basically everywhere else on Earth that Kree or otherwise Kirbyesque technology exists in profusion is illuminated…and if this placement in the panel is correct, then perhaps it’s to the right of it that we see a similar projection, this time a cutaway of Attilan and the old Kree city it rests on top of, and the network of water-conduits that were established during Byrne’s run on FF marked out there by a grid. If we look closely, we can see that the map shows points of egress from the system of conduits into other underground chambers, that are highlighted in a way that’s similar to the Kreetech sites on the other viewscreen. Meanwhile in the right-middle foreground (again, if that works), is a large well of water that Triton is just clambering out of, his back to us. He’s got a kind of sling or pack over his shoulder, that will prove to contain some interesting Kree gadget.

Crystal: …He will have!

Triton: Karnak! Gorgon! Crystal! And just in time!


Panel 2: One-sixth, as Karnak rushes to help his brother out of the well.

Karnak: What news today, brother? Success?

Triton: I believe so…I found a new network of conduits off the branching at H-6 several hours ago, that led to an egress deep in the old Kree ruins under the city. Far deeper than I’ve ever gone before

Panel 3: One-sixth. From his sling, Triton hands a Kree device about the size of a large jackfruit to Karnak, who has Crystal and Gorgon standing behind him.

Triton: …I believe this device is almost certainly kin to the scanalyzer we found last week — but as you can see, it is far more complex. If I’m right, it should increase our equipment’s resolving power at least by an order of magnitude

Crystal: But this is wonderful! Black Bolt will be so…

Panel 4: One-sixth. Triton, still not quite on his feet, staggers to the right, and Crystal rushes forward from the left to support him. Our view is from a little above, just as though we were a couple steps up on a ladder.

Crystal: Triton! You’re not well!

Triton: Only…a little weak, cousin. The water of the Kree is highly oxygenated, but rather too pure for living organisms to enjoy swimming in for long…it does not have the flavour of life in it.

Panel 5: One-sixth. Triton is now sitting down, perhaps at the panel’s left, and our POV is a little closer to the ground. Gorgon brings him a glass full of some restorative liquid or other from the right..

Triton: Rather like travelling through a long sleep, but without dreams

Crystal: (The back of her head, with its groovy hairband, is at the bottom of the panel as she faces Triton) But…is this what it’s like for you, every time?

Triton: I can bear it, Crystal. And besides



Panel 1: Triton’s dialogue continues into a caption, over a full-tier panel of a hillside by a lake, quite obviously on Earth. The four Inhumans have arrived at one of their archaeological Kree digs, somewhere out in the country, and Karnak’s team is bustling about as Lockjaw frolics with Gorgon, and Crystal stands beside Karnak at the lake’s edge, with crossed arms. In the foreground, in the middle of the page, Triton dives forward to plunge into the waters of the lake.

Triton (capt.): “…there is a simple cure for this torpor of mine, as Karnak and Gorgon well know.”

Crystal: I had no idea it was so hard on him, Karnak.

Karnak: Are you sorry you came along today, Crystal? I could simply have borrowed Lockjaw from you for the afternoon, as I’ve done before…

Crystal: No…no. I did want to visit Earth again, after all…and besides


Panel 2: One-ninth panel. Crystal in profile, gazing out at the lake.

Crystal: …as my sister might say, I should know what sacrifices other Inhumans are making, for the good of Attilan.


Panel 3: Same image; Crystal turns to Karnak.

Crystal: She wants to see you after we’re finished here, by the way.

Karnak: Medusa does? In what capacity?

Crystal: …

Crystal: She didn’t say.

Boligar: (off-panel) Lord Karnak!


Panel 4: One-sixth panel. Boligar arrives in the frame: his power is to assume monstrous shapes that he plucks out of people’s unconscious minds, by the way, which makes him a pretty perfect Inhuman. But, he has no “real” shape of his own. I picture him here as something like a walking thundercloud, crowned with lightnings, but then again clearly I’ve stolen that idea from somewhere, so…

Karnak: Ah, Boligar! How go things with our sentry? We shall be sorry to lose you, my friend…even Gorgon could not discourage unwary humans from stumbling onto our excavations as you have done this past year!

Boligar: Well, Lord, if it comes to that…I could stay on, for a while yet…


Panel 5: They turn and walk away from us into the mouth of the excavation, Karnak’s hand on Boligar’s large, hulking shoulder.

Karnak: Nonsense. This is your wedding season, and you deserve to enjoy it. In all the Great Refuge, we can surely find someone with compensatory talents to fill in for you while you’re otherwise occupied

Karnak: By the way, what form is this, that you wear today?

Boligar: I hardly know, my Lord. It was the dream of a small human child, I think, who almost came up the hill on the other side…I must say, from the look of me, she must have been quite imaginative

Panel 6: Karnak and Boligar walk into the darkness of the hill, with Karnak slightly in front; we see them face-on as they enter.

Karnak: Ha! Perhaps we could have used her, then. To make sense of our find.

Boligar: No doubt, my Lord…



Panel 1: Full tier. Karnak and Boligar enter a large underground chamber that was once a Kree research station, now stripped of machinery that various Inhumans are carting out.

Boligar: …After all, even if it is from a thousand years ago, the Kree’s technology puts that of most other alien races to shame.

Karnak: Hmm…yes, it does, doesn’t it?

Karnak: You know, sometimes I wish Reed Richards could be here to see this…

Karnak: (calling to a reptilian Inhuman labourer, just clearing out the last of the Kreetech) Ophidar! Is it certain that everything of note has been catalogued?

Ophidar: And removed, Lord Karnak! Once the Lady Crystal and Lockjaw have finished transporting this last load, the survey is complete!

Panel 2: One-ninth panel. Karnak and Boligar stand in the gloom underneath the hill looking on it for the last time, Karnak in front and Boligar in back. They crowd the panel somewhat. Karnak is contemplative.

Karnak: Good

Boligar: Lord Karnak, I…

Boligar: Iridia and I had discussed…we wanted to ask you…


Panel 3: Another one-ninth. Karnak and Boligar face each other, under the hill.

Karnak: Yes, Boligar?

Boligar: You’ve helped us so much…and we only wondered

Panel 4: One-ninth. Karnak’s smiling face, in the gloom.

Boligar: (off-panel) …Would you consent to speak for us, at our ceremony?

Karnak: What? Boligar, I should be delighted to speak for the two of you!

Karnak: By Agon, this is a surprise! Of course, it would be my honour

Panel 5: A bit more than one-ninth of a page. Karnak’s dialogue continues in a caption, as Gorgon’s hoof is about to come down powerfully in close-up on the green grass on the hillside.

Karnak (capt.): “…my privilege to be involved in this wonderful step forward for both of you.”


Panel 6: A bit less than two-thirds of a tier, filling out the page. Without too much direction from me, Crystal and Lockjaw cling to Triton, and Karnak and Boligar stand nearby, watching Gorgon observe the results of his stomping…which is the dramatic collapse of the Kree hillside into ruin.


Triton (capt.): “And that makes thirteen…”



Panel 1: One-sixth panel, with Karnak and Triton sitting, lounging really, in a mess of Kirbytech scattered all around, in the chamber back in Attilan with the viewscreens. They’re facing each other. I see Triton on the right and Karnak on the left, although the dialogue listing indicates the reverse (this is another one of my possibly-misguided Big Thematic Ideas). Karnak’s fingers are steepled in front of his face.


Triton: …Thirteen sites plundered, and then destroyed forever so that no human will come to any harm by discovering them. Thirteen out of twenty-two; but now with the improvements we’ve made to the scanalyzer, we will almost certainly be able to put that provisional number behind us, and widen our net.

Triton: So…so far, so good, brother.

Karnak: Mmm.

Triton: You met with Medusa.

Karnak: Yes.

Triton: And?

Karnak: And…


Panel 2: One-ninth panel, with washed-out colour to show it’s a flashback. Medusa’s face (and hair, of course), lips parted hotly with strong emotion.

Karnak (capt.): “…It perhaps did not go quite as I might have wished it to.”

Medusa: Karnak, I don’t like it either!

Medusa: But as the new Head of the Genetics Council, I must be seen to be impartial! Especially me!

Panel 3: One-ninth, washed-out, now we’re looking at Karnak from Medusa’s POV (a bit of face and of course some some hair floating around). He looks a trifle downcast.

Medusa: Black Bolt is relying on us both. And – I hate to say this – but it’s only for another year

Karnak: And I am not refusing, cousin. But…it is a little hard, you must admit.


Panel 4: One-ninth, and continuing in the flashback style: Karnak is entering Rikasa’s house (that’s our new character – be patient, all will be explained), as a hand holds the door open for him. He doesn’t look happy.

Medusa (capt.): “But you will meet her today?”

Karnak: “Yes, of course.”

Karnak: “But I cannot promise to be pleased.”


Panel 5: Long, two-thirds of a tier panel, which is Rikasa welcoming Karnak to her parents’ sitting-room, an elegant lavender chamber with tasteful furniture. Rikasa extends one arm to indicate Karnak should go in and sit down. Obviously he and she are both entering from the left, I think. It’s a plein Americain, maybe our first one so far. Everything is straight and rectilinear, the “democracy of form”. Rikasa is an near-human formed Inhuman: I picture her with blue skin, perhaps a couple or four attractive antennae rising from her forehead, not Black Bolt/Lockjaw style antennae but the more expressive wavy kind. She’s pretty.

Rikasa: Won’t you make yourself comfortable, Lord Karnak?

Karnak: I think it would be as well if you simply called me Karnak, Rikasa.

Karnak: Where are your parents, if I may inquire?

Rikasa: They have retired, my Lor…I’m afraid they have retired, Karnak.

Karnak: Ah.


Panel 6: One-ninth, as Karnak and Rikasa sit down. We are looking over Karnak’s shoulder at her; she seems very proper.

Rikasa: They wished to meet you, of course. But their forms are strictly nocturnal, and the long lunar day requires them to keep to more central apartments.

Rikasa: However, they have asked me to give you their apologies, and to suggest that a meeting might be possible after the twilight passes…?

Karnak: Of course. It would be my pleasure.



Panel 1: One-sixth. Looking down from above at the two of them. Karnak makes a gesture with his hands, over the table in between them…opening up conversation gesturally, breaking the ice.

Karnak: It must be a difficult adaptation for them, from life on Earth to life here on Luna.

Rikasa: Perhaps. But I think they have found compensations in it, too.

Karnak: Yes…yes, no doubt. As we all have.

Rikasa: Well, not quite “all”, Karnak. I barely remember Earth before the Exodus


Panel 2: One-sixth. We see them in profile, facing each other. Rikasa is smiling.

Rikasa: In fact – strangely – the clearest memory I do have about life on Earth…

Rikasa: …Is of you, Lord Karnak.

Karnak: Hmm…well now, as I said, Rikasa…

Rikasa: Lord Karnak. Do you remember it? My grandfather had just produced his “Second Hercules” symphony…

Karnak: Ah!

Rikasa: …And Black Bolt had invited us all to the Palace, to celebrate it.

Rikasa: Of course, my cousins and I were not permitted anywhere near Black Bolt

Karnak: …Oh, Agon.

Rikasa: …So we tortured you, instead.


Panel 3: One-ninth. Close-up of Rikasa, who’s smiling a lot, now, and it’s important that she looks both extremely mischievous, and extremely attractive…perhaps this is where the washed-out flashback colour gets just a little brighter, slightly, in the middle…before fading out again in preparation for us rejoining K+T back in the underground Kreetech room. Well, but I leave it up to you. Me, I’m seeing Rikasa’s face turned slightly down, and a lock of hair (if she has hair) flopping over her face. Girlish. Well, and I guess you know a little too much about what makes me tick now, you bastard! Curse you!

Rikasa: Because you were so very forbidding, you see.

Karnak: (off-panel) The misplaced coronet

Rikasa: Yes. That was me.

Karnak: By the Kree, woman…


Panel 4: One-ninth. Karnak’s face, slightly downturned. He is thinking hard.


Panel 5: One-ninth. He looks up again, smiling, maybe even laughing, having figured it out.

Karnak: Ha! It was invisibility, wasn’t it?


Panel 6: Full tier: a mural, extending out from Rikasa’s face (profile; just make sure she has a lot of personality, after all this is Rikasa loosening up) at the far left: and I’m sorry, barring Ditko-isms I don’t know how to illustrate this properly, we should probably discuss this over the phone a little bit…

Rikasa: No, not invisibility, Karnak.

Rikasa: It’s rather difficult to describe. Most people, they see space as essentially smooth, do you know what I mean? Continuous. But to me, it isn’t continuous. To me, space is…

Rikasa: …Like a million fragments. Like a jigsaw puzzle, with all the pieces turned face-down. And until you pick them up, they might be anything. They might be the right piece, or the wrong piece. They might be a picture of this, or of that. And they wait for you, wait to see what they’ll become, when you look at them.



Panel 1: Full-tier, and again a mural we should dicuss over the phone to get a clear picture of, but this time the mural is expanding out of the right side of Rikasa’s face seen straight-on, which is even more expressive than before, if that’s possible.

Rikasa: But, I can look at them, before they become anything at all. And I can move them around. Anywhere that people haven’t looked, that they haven’t searched, that they’re not aware of…I can hide things in there. Swap out the places that people are looking at, for the spaces they’re not looking at…I can reorganize them, cluster them together

Rikasa: For example, since only you and I are in this room, I could easily seem to disappear by exchanging the part of the room you’re looking at, with me in it, for the part of the room that’s behind your head, that you can’t observe

Rikasa: Of course, if this room were full of people, it would be much harder to find unobserved spaces to hide myself in…

Panel 2: One-ninth. Karnak’s face, as he thinks hard.

Panel 3: Same.

Panel 4: One-ninth. Karnak looks up at Rikasa, grinning.

Karnak: My dear Rikasa…


Panel 5: Full-tier. Karnak and Triton back in their underground lair, in full colour. Only, the scene’s flipped around to the other side: Karnak is on the right, and Triton on the left. Another one of my little thematic tricks. Karnak’s line continues in caption from the last panel.

Karnak (capt.): “…How would you like a job?”

Triton: You said that to her?

Karnak: I did, indeed.



Panel 1: Full-tier: Triton whips his head around. Karnak steeples his fingers.

Triton: She’s here now, isn’t she?


Panel 2: Full-tier: same picture, but suddenly Rikasa is in it…my preference is that she’s standing in the foreground, to middle-left, seen from behind.

Rikasa: Lord Triton.

Panel 3: Same scene, but Triton has turned his head back around, and sees Rikasa.

Triton: It’s just “Triton”, Rikasa.

Triton: …Oh, by the damned Kree, Karnak.

Triton: I thought we were agreed, that we were going to wait before we did this…



Panel 1: One-ninth. We are facing onto Karnak sitting, looking like a schemer: this has already all been decided, now you should just go along, whether you’re my brother or not. He still has steepled fingers.

Karnak: Why wait, brother?

Triton: (off-panel) The golden light has addled your brain, brother…!

Panel 2: Two-thirds of a tier. We look up at Gorgon, from a hoof’s-eye-view, and he has Lockjaw on a leash.

Gorgon: Ho! Let’s not forget who is senior, cousins!

Gorgon: I have brought Lockjaw! We may go where we please!

Gorgon: The game is afoot!

Triton: (off-panel) Oh, Agon


11 responses to “Karnak, Part 1 of 2

  1. Okay, here’s the thing. You really want to spend some time thinking about what an individual panel is and how much — or rather, how little — a writer can cram into one. The panel is most typically a single instant in time, the cross-section of a brief moment. There are exceptions to this, of course, but I’d file them in the category of “rules you’re allowed to break only when you understand those rules in the first place.”

    I see here one panel from a six-panel page that includes 71 words of dialogue, and another panel from a three-panel page that reaches 111 words. That’s far too much verbiage to cram into an individual panel for at least two reasons: one being that even if you printed it all in nigh-unreadably small type (so as to leave a bit of room for the illustration!) it would still be a big hunk of text that must be read, breaking up the natural flow of reading from one panel to the next. What’s more, when you have a lot of back and forth interplay among several characters, that panel stops being a “moment” and becomes a scene all by itself. At that point you need to ask if that scene needs to be broken up into several panels.

    Trying to put too many panels on a page (yes, Miller does his sixteen-panel pages…but those are talking-head panels, not depictions of action!) and putting too much into each panel (too many moments, or just too many words) are huge stumbling blocks for everyone. To really understand what a comics writer is up against, the student must dig out the research and take notes. You reckon Claremont or Moore or Gaiman or Englehart or Gerber are densely verbose? Count how many words they fit into a single panel — no matter how low you guess that number is, it’s a lot smaller than you think. They’re unbelievably concise and spare for the amount of information they convey. Comics writing is extremely telegraphic and stylized: their art lies in their ability to fool us into thinking it’s leisurely and conversational.

    I can see you and I go for the same naturalistic feel in dialogue; what I do is write all that out to make it sound conversational…then ruthlessly cut it, moaning in visceral pain as I trim it down to the bone and find that it’s still not enough and I have to cut the bones down as well. For me the ideal, the impossible goal, is to emulate what Morrison is doing in All-Star Superman with that insanely sparse dialogue that still manages to have depth and personality. He says he aims for lines that “cut like scalpels” and that seems a worthy goal. But it makes me tear my hair out to see him accomplish it. Joss Whedon has been doing a good job of it in his comics work as well.

    This is all meant as encouragement rather than discouragement, so I hope it comes across that way. Overall, in terms of structure alone, comics writing is the most brutal and exacting discipline of any form of writing…and it’s a jolly odd thing that it’s also the most despised and reviled form of writing.

  2. Thanks, RAB! Appreciate the informed criticism for sure, because…well, though I noticed the word count going up a bit, I also actually thought I was doing better with spreading a scene out over several panels!!!

    But 111 words in a panel…even I know that’s just no good, and so how much can I really be spreading the scene out, if I’m going over the hundred-word mark anyway? Also I unfortunately know what a page with over a hundred words on it looks like to a reader, and it’s…uh, not very nice. Of course I kind of figured this for my big bad habit, but like I always say, it’s not enough to know what your mistakes are: unfortunately you have to stop making them, too.

    Much more like work.


    So, this is really good, because Merrie is probably not going to stop me and say “hey wait, too many words, this panel’s becoming a scene, we’ve got issues here…”, so like I said, I need the practice….so thanks for chiming in.

    The damnedest thing is, I find getting a kind of comicky SF idea down into thirty-five words or something is pretty tough, but then to do it while paying any attention at all to “redefining” characters (even in a small way) that are already well-established…yikes! But shouldn’t dealing with established characters make things easier? I’m beginning to think not… And I’m also finding it rather difficult to achieve the level of compression that I want: as you’ll see, there are only two more things that even happen in this twenty-two page span (because I already had to throw a bunch of stuff out, ha ha!), and I’m wondering how to get them all wound up correctly in such a short space.

    I think if I were to rewrite this, I could see how to cut a couple scenes right out, and put the space they’re currently occupying to better use. Always presuming, of course, that I can put space to better use! But I think I’ll save that activity until after I’ve put up the conclusion to this script…in fact now I guess I will need that second practice issue after all, to try getting this down a bit better!

    Again, thanks for weighing in, RAB…it is encouraging.

  3. Man, just re-read it again…those tenth and eleventh pages in particular are really being asked to carry way too much freight. Makes me cringe. And yet the pages immediately after them, though slightly less overburdened, probably don’t work as well, in my opinion. Ten and Eleven (especially those two) are like Rob Liefeld: much enthusiasm, little craft. But Twelve and Thirteen almost look like I’ve stopped caring. Which isn’t good, for a vanity-based exercise such as this!

    At least, I should care! Right?

    So, okay, when I post the remainder of this script (tomorrow, I hope; although I have to, as ridiculous as this sounds, paint a fence), maybe I’ll begin from the last spot where my mistakes, though still present, weren’t so egregious.

    The script’s overall choppiness I think I’ll leave intact, however; after all, this is supposed to be a learning experience, and there’s no learning without a couple of hard knocks.

    And I think in addition to the sign I put on my desk saying “What would RAB advise?” I’ll add one saying “What would Harvey do?”, and maybe that’ll help to keep me on track.

    So far this is quite stimulating. I like to think my usual blog entries are half-decently polished. This one doesn’t quite achieve polish.

    It works for me, though. It’s something to tough out.

    Stay tuned, RAB! I’m eager to hear your complete criticism once the last pages are done! If I may presume to ask you to lay it on me.

  4. I’d also like to preface this with the “i’m trying not to be a dick here and give good advice” tag, but i’m kind of a dick so sorry in advance

    There are some pretty rigorous standards about the amount of words to put on one comic page:


    ie: Alan Moore (and therefore most everybody else) says 210 words per page maximum. A lot of them are pretty damn hard to follow but I tend to stick with Warren Ellis’ rule of a line of dialogue going over two lines in one bubble is overload (of course I break this rule all the time).

    Another thing I think is holding you up is sizing up your panel descriptions. Whenever I see this, unless it’s being used for a very specific effect — like a Gulacy staccatto for example — it always seems awkward. If you want to have a sixgrid, write sixgrid at the top, then says a double-sized panel for 5 write “double-sized”.

    I have to make a note here saying that strict rules tend to help me work on things, so if they don’t help, ignore them.

    And if this is the problems you’re having on the learning curve right off, you shouldn’t worry. I’d have whole fight scenes in one panel in the earliest iterations of FD. Huge discussions crammed onto sixteen grids. Wretched.

    I’d like to read the rest of the issue before I comment on the non-technical side. What you said about pacing earlier

    You’ve got me interested, Plok, I’ll tell you that. Its interesting, my only critique of the story is it’s a slow-burner and a lot of the first one or two pages of a comic usually should be arresting – like a Bond pre-credits sequence. And reverting to spy-nerd type, I’ll say goodbye here.

  5. Hiya plok! I’ve been waiting for this with relish.

    Mixed reactions. There are some excellent things in it:

    The intro panel had me heady with nostalgia. Pure Stan Lee.

    The three days of twilight is a lovely notion; a time for leisure, manners, confidences; just where the matter of Iridia and Boligar, the lovers, ought to be introduced.

    The kids going bonkers for Black Bolt. Even in a community of exceptional beings there is one they look up to – somehow an exemplar of everything Attilan stands for (whatever that may be).

    World map at the excavation. ‘The great question with the Inhumans is, what do they do all the time? Make art for each other, breed themselves fancy, yes, yes, but what’s for real?’ ‘Well. see, they have to deal with Kirbyness *all the time*, and here they are defusing a series of unexploded ancient bombs.’ ‘All right!’

    “How would you like a job?” Clever Karnak pulls a switch on his own discomfort about their relationship, by turning it into adventure! Just like the intro panel promised.

    Overall problem, though: our hero does not make a strong first impression. We see he’s harbouring some conflict, he’s thinking about sacrifice somehow, but he’s being very reticent. If we could read a specific stance or situation into his encounters, we’d be eager to watch what he does next; but things are too ambiguous.

    For instance, we’re not sure what to see in Iridia’s teasing about royal protocol. It seems she’s a new and junior friend, testing her newfound closeness with these elite ones. Does this indicate a larger issue? Uh, no, that’s really all she’s doing.

    Then, there seems to be something serious about who is late for what. But Karnak isn’t really called to account for dawdling in the dusk, and anyway Crystal has only been back on the Moon for ten minutes, so how upset can she be?

    So, our supposed protagonist is keeping his motivations covered, we’re all on edge to find out what they are, we’re parsing every exchange like crazy, but then we find it’s all small talk being used to establish character relations.

    This only starts to clear up when Karnak meets with Rikasa. But still, Karnak is hiding behind his manners, and it’s ingenuous Rikasa who has to push the conversation forward. I don’t know what else you could do, if (as I gather) they are being paired off for a year. But still it’s awkward for a prince and a perceptive man to have so few resources, of gallantry say, on tap.

    Until the “How would you like a job?” line, and at once the relationship is redirected into an untroubled mode. Now this is actually very cute. It would be just like Karnak, to shuffle the factors in silence, and then in one move remake the game completely.

    So you might say that the story so far has been a study in the manners of a feudal court, with our hero making his play at the last moment. For this Inhumans fan it works, for a general superhero readership it could be a shade risky.

    And now for the nits!

    What angle is the sun at, when Iridia takes Karnak by surprise? It would have to be high for her shadow to cover him from the air; but if it’s twilight, shadows will be horizontal. It works if he has to look into the sun to see her.

    When Iridia and Karnak meet, they do have one real issue, whether Boligar is exposed to any danger at the excavation. It would be cute if she forgot the banter and blurted out, “Tell me he is safe, Lord Karnak!”

    To the best of my knowledge, nobody has ever put Lockjaw on a leash. Lockjaw always knows what he’s doing, he’s the soul of independence, nobody knows what he thinks or how he’s so on top of things. Besides, what leash could hold him?

    Kree stashes, a thousand years old. Shouldn’t that be more like a million? Lee and Kirby’s first Origin of the Inhumans story had the Kree experimenting with primitive man. (The Devildinosaurocene, by the looks of it.)

    Privileged to be your reader. Excelsior!

  6. Wow, I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to read these comments! And, there are some good points for me to consider here. Not least, that I can just write “sixgrid”! Christ, what a beautiful timesaver! But more: Sean, it’s entirely possible that starting off with the “slow burn” is indeed a mistake I’m making — I should probably think about that, because although there is an action sequence coming up, it’s not exactly rip-roaring, and I suddenly realize with a trace of horror that Karnak isn’t even going to use his superpower in it! Oh no! That’s insane, surely? Isn’t the cardinal rule of Inhumans stories that each character is introduced by a demonstration of their power?

    Oh well. It is; but I’m pretty well locked into what I’m doing, at the moment, so there you go. But it’s definitely something to keep more firmly in mind than I have been doing.

    As for you, Jonathan: kind words on “bonkers for Black Bolt”, the one standard Inhumans thing that I think I do get right, here. None of his subjects have ever called him “King” very often — Attilan’s had many Kings, but there’s only ever been one Black Bolt…this goes back to something RAB and I were discussing a few months ago, actually…and, yeah, the question of what the Inhumans do all day, obviously Art is maximally important to Inhuman culture especially considering that they themselves are a kind of Art — a neat little piece of backstory I had for this, that I doubt I’ll get to, is that the one form of art that Inhumans just aren’t that interested in is theatre. I mean, if you could fly around on your own wings, would you need or even want theatrical diversions? You’d just be flying around all the time, your own story. So the background is, the only Inhuman who ever managed to get his fellows interested in theatre to any extent at all was actually Maximus, at about age fourteen, and his theatre was a nine-day wonder, but not very pleasant to experience. Kind of like nine days of watching Triumph Of The Will on an endless loop. Icky.

    Anyway, Karnak’s Kreetech team, I figured the Kree had more than one research station on Earth ‘way back when, and the Inhumans would be interested in corralling that technology, because they’re frightened of the Kree, of course. (Somehow, going back to what Sean said, I just plain lost the natural scene of Karnak excavating Kreetech from underneath Attilan by using his famous powers…missed opportunity! Gotta recover it, somehow!) Also, as a self-described Inhumans fan, I’m sure you recognize Iridia from the Gerry Conway series back in the Seventies: the wrinkled old crone whose exposure to the Terrigen Mists turns her into a beautiful, youthful butterfly-girl…just before Shatterstar attacks. But, it isn’t really enough: I mean it isn’t all just character-introduction and small-talk, actually, because there is something going on that explains Karnak’s reticence, and yet your point’s pretty well-taken, in that I’m promising a lot of payoff, but I’m also doing rather a lot of deferring of that payoff, and I can see that getting a bit old. For example, I’m not sure I ever would intend to explain the nature of Gorgon’s “sacrifice” more fully than I have done…although when Medusa and Maximus have a little meeting later on I might. But, if I don’t…well, then I guess it’ll just hang there like an undropped penny for a while…

    More importantly, where I go a bit wrong on Page Twelve or so is probably in trying to now force a moment where Karnak drops his diffidence…and it is the right time for it, but I don’t carry it off well, so again there’s no real payoff there from what’s gone before. Boy, it would actually be kind of fun to explain all the background stuff in a bit more detail after I’m done composing, I think I’d enjoy that! But first I should make sure that the background even matches up with its foreground in the first place. So I’ll just work on that a tad, I guess.

    Glad you liked the Intro Panel! And curse you for your highly-reasonable nitpicking! The Kree ruins can’t be a mere thousand years old, just as you say, and the idea of Lockjaw on a leash is just plain silly, so I better get rid of it.

    Thanks for commenting!

  7. I’d love to see that Maximus theatre stuff. He’s always been such a massively underustilized character, and thats perfect.

    Yeah hopefully some of that stuff is helpful, sorry about all the technical nonsense.

    RE: superpowers. While superhuman characters are usually defined by their powers (using them as a metaphor rather than a seperate thing), I never really thought that showing the powers was the most important thing. The best issue of Marvel Two-In-One is nothing but a card gaem, a lot of the best X-Men comics are them playing sports, etc.

    Also, is the Watcher still living in the Blue Area of the moon (is Attilan on the Blue Area, by the way? I can’t remember the geography in the recent marvel stuff) in this? Because thats always interesting to see him popup in a non-apocalyptic situation.

  8. In this version, the Inhumans have been permanently located in the Blue Area of the moon since Byrne moved them there…in the Eighties. Not gonna screw around with any “ten years” garbage, here, the clockspeed is about reading comics, not about how Spider-Man manages not to be a senior citizen. The Watcher is there, but I don’t think we’ll see him. The Illuminati never existed, the FF are Reed, Sue, Ben, and Johnny, Crystal’s mostly been back on the moon since the end of Englehart’s FF run, Pietro won’t be appearing, and the Inhumans aren’t at war with anybody. No Civil War, no Sentry, and the origins of the Terrigen Mists are not known to outsiders. Much of the Gruenwald/OHOTMU material is valid as backstory, but not all of it.

    I did some rewriting as further exercise, and you’ll see a little bit of it at the beginning of the next installment — actually it was fun, and surprisingly an awful lot like songwriting once I got my head around it: all about very very firm and immovable constraints, and therefore not really much like other kinds of scripting at all. I think it could be an appealing way to work, actually: nice and clean. Of course I also realized that my page layouts are, how shall we say, far from innovative, and therefore not at all “nice and clean”…don’t know if I can cut down on the verbiage in describing them, but the descriptions are definitely a tad overheated for what the objects are. But, oh well, I’m not an artist! So I don’t have vision like that.

    Maximus is an occasional puzzle: he’s well built-in to the Inhumans concept, but really there only ever seems to be one Maximus story that gets told. So I decided to reflect on the brief time when he was the fair-haired super-genius of his people…a bit like Maggin’s Lex Luthor, except more psychotic. I think at this point Maximus oughtta be rationalized somewhat by saying that his craziness and his mind-control powers are linked, and he goes through long cycles of latency and operancy, every once in a long while punctuated by extremely brief periods where he’s quite sane. But then everytime I think of some rationalized tidbit for the Inhumans I have to think of how much these sorts of things have damaged the Inhumans concept in the past, as if they were just suddenly people like you or I, only utterly lacking in the manufacture of street clothes.

    Anyway…wouldja believe I still have to finish painting that fence? So hopefully a post tonight.

  9. Oh, and Jonathan: I’m going with Kree experimentation on the Inhumans about 25,000 years ago. Just a shot in the dark.

    The whole Kree thing is kind of weird, actually: if you go back and re-read things, Kree technology consistently appears to be way out there at the leading edge, galactically-speaking…and yet their technology hasn’t advanced too much since they visited Earth, and their people don’t by and large seem to be aware of their marked technological superiority, being largely just the folks who pull the levers and push the buttons. So I’m just going to go ahead and say that the Supreme Intelligence has curtailed much of their technical improvement since he was created, for reasons of his own which we can probably do no more than guess at, except to say that he has not permitted the vast majority of the Kree to really enjoy (and employ) their advancements…even though the Kree’s jump into extreme space-tech was incredibly speedy, and the peak of their industrial output produced a few types of weaponry that as we’ve seen can even threaten semi-cosmic beings like the Silver Surfer. Somewhere there’s a story accent about the Kree-Skrull War which hasn’t been pronounced yet, I think…but anyway, short form: all this old abandoned Kreetech is still pretty damn state of the art, and a lot more inaccessible than Skrull-tech (which for example Reed Richards has had his hands all over for years and years now), even to the point where the Kree themselves usually don’t get to sit around and play with it. They have jobs; they go to work. By comparison, the Inhumans are tremendously more advanced socially.

    Okay, that’s it for now.

  10. > Kree experimentation on the Inhumans about 25,000 years ago. Just a shot in the dark.

    That’ll work, certainly. [moans] It’s almost scary that I’m pretty sure I could find out where 25,000 lies on Roy Thomas’s exhaustive chronology. It’ll be in the back of Submariner Annual #4 or such, and if I don’t still have that, it’ll be on one of many excellent sites. But I can’t think of anything significant that 25,000 would get in the way of, and you don’t have to care, I assure you.

    Now if, for instance, you were writing a Black Panther yarn, and summarily reconceived Klaw in such a way as to invalidate about 30 years of subsequent stories and deprive us of red sonic rhinoceroses, well then I’d have a small remonstrance to make. Oh yes. If you don’t get red sonic rhinoceroses you’re not on the bus.

    To the contrary, the story so far is definitely on the bus. Tell you what I mean when I’ve seen the rest.

    > The whole Kree thing is kind of weird, actually …

    Oh, yeah.

    It’s been painful sometimes to watch the writers tiptoeing around the blatant discrepancy. I don’t know how they’ve been handling it lately, but I think only Morrison tackled it straight on, bless his heart.

    They’ve regressed. Used to emulate the Celestials, once claimed to dominate a million galaxies – recently ruled by a person named Clumsy McOafish or something.

    But the reason for the regression has been written between the lines, many times. Forget the malarkey about having reached the limit of their evolution. Get too big by force, and you wind up in a posture of permanent deference to your military-industrial complex, that’s the lesson of the Kree.

    > but anyway, short form: all this old abandoned Kreetech is still pretty damn state of the art, and a lot more inaccessible than Skrull-tech (which for example Reed Richards has had his hands all over for years and years now), even to the point where the Kree themselves usually don’t get to sit around and play with it.

    Because it taps into pure superhero mystery. Origin stuff. The objective correlate of our cosmic sense of wonder, which the sense of wonder itself is proof of our right to claim.

    Carol Danvers got her powers from buried Kreetech. Fittingly: she was Project Apollo’s security cop. Rick Jones, well, Rick was the carrier of the superhero torch, he was Everyfan. But woe betide (though I have no examples) the fool who grasps it with merely egoistic intent.

    > They have jobs; they go to work. By comparison, the Inhumans are tremendously more advanced socially.

    A good tack to take. If only we could forget those silly Alpha Primitives…

  11. Hey, I’m only saying they’re more socially advanced than the Kree

    Yes, pretty wacky folks, the Kree: say, where d’you keep the Quantum Bands, the Nega-Bands, the Psyche-Magnetron? Well, you see, there’s this planet we kind of use as a storage closet…but hey, it’s not like we store the Universal Weapon there! We’re not crazy

    Oh, sure you’re not.

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