[MISC] Patents Pending Pitch and #1 - Running the Gantlet

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at haven.eyrie.org
Tue Jun 15 10:39:36 PDT 2004

[This is the pitch and first issue's story for a miniseries I proposed for
Danny Sichel's Haptic Press.  I wrote it in the late spring or early summer
of 2000, before there was an Animatrix DVD.  To those familiar with my ASH
work: yes, this is essentially a "what would it have been like to live in
Haven in the 1990s in the ASH universe?" series, albeit with a lighter tone.
Sichel renamed the series Patents Pending.  Copyright 2000 by Dave Van
Domelen, all rights reserved, etc.]

Series Title (tentative): Patents Is A Virtue

     Tone: Fairly serious setting, but situational humor.  Kinda like MASH
but with less wisecracking from the main character.

     High Concept: A secret city of supervillains decides it needs a patent
attorney in order to keep things straight among all the mad scientists in
town.  So they recruit one, who doesn't realize what he's getting into until
it's too late.

     Setting: Sanctuary, a hidden city dug into a mountainside in Montana,
accessible only by teleporter and thus pretty well proof against detection.
Founded eight years ago by Lord Carnage, the world's premiere supervillain,
and run day-to-day by the Congress of Lords.  The exact appearance is up to
the style of the artist, anything from Buck Rogers Han city to Kirbian,
although with a few locales that break the "theme" of the city.  The only
citizens are supervillains (as in, voting citizens).  Hundreds of mostly
reliable robots do most of the labor needed to keep the place running, but
there's some jobs that require a specialist from outside.  Either because no
one inside can do them reliably ("Hey, the accountant's in jail right now,
sorry.") or because no one TRUSTS any of his fellow citizens to do it.
Outsiders are lured in by fabulous pay and benefits, or sometimes outright
captured if no one takes the bait.


     Jason Allan Gerald - Sometimes called JAG, a nickname he was given by an
ex-Marine henchman of one of the supervillains.  Jason is a patent attorney
with a law degree and a M.A. in Physics.  His specialty was superscientific
inventions created by superheroes, but he hadn't managed to get any clients
yet when he saw the ad that led him to Sanctuary.  He's about 28, with black
hair that's thinning ever so slightly on top.  He dresses like a lawyer when
on the job, and like a lawyer without a tie most of the time off the job.
Not much reason to get casual clothes in Sanctuary.  His offices are in a
brownstone that sticks out like a sore thumb amongst all the weird structures
of Sanctuary, and his apartment is in the same building.  Most of the rest of
the building is storage or just empty.

     Winken, Blinken and Nod - Jason's clerks and general assistants.  Winken
tends to take most of the receptionist duties, while Nod is often apparently
shut down while he concentrates on recordkeeping.  Blinken is somewhat
erratic (see below) and does odd jobs.  Design is up to the artist, but they
should be identical except for their behaviors and props (Blinken usually has
a phone or coffeemaker, Nod is usually slumped over, etc).

     Animatrix - Born Ann Deveroux, she's a robotics prodigy.  At 13 she
built her first artificially intelligent robot.  However, since she had to
steal parts for this, she ended up in juvie hall.  Lord Carnage broke her out
and offered her a job helping build and run Sanctuary.  Since then, she
really hasn't grown up, hiding behind layers of robots to avoid human contact
while spying on everyone through the eyes of her creations.  In her early 20s
now, she is still 13 at heart.
     Many people think she was put through too much too quickly in building
Sanctuary, which is why the robots tend to be unreliable at times.  In fact,
these glitches are *deliberate*.  This lets Ani take control of a robot and
have it do something out of the ordinary without attracting undue attention
to her.  Just another glitch, after all.  The fact that she has no real
agenda beyond caution and curiosity has kept any of the resident
supergeniuses from figuring out the real reason for the "glitches."  Blinken
is one of her glitchier robots.
     Ani isn't really a supervillain, or even evil.  She can be bratty at
times, though.  And she has just enough of a conscience that her robots tend
to be more unstable around the really nasty residents of Sanctuary.  More
"mistakes" and spilled soup and the like.  However, she considers Sanctuary
her home, and would never jeopardize it by helping the authorities find it.
     Ani has developed a crush on Jason...she finds his normalcy attractive,
and may see a little of her father in the man.  She'll probably NEVER come
out and admit her feelings (she doesn't admit any other feelings, after all,
so why start now?), but she's not above petty jealousy.  If Jason ever finds
someone to date, that date will be plagued with minor disasters.
     Ani's appearance is probably moot...we'll never see her.  At best, the
reader might see her from behind in silhouette as she controls her robots
remotely.  If I ever decide to change that, I'll work up an appearance.

     Jules Henry Watt - Not his birth name, but he picked the names of three
scientists he respected (Joule, Henry, Watt, modifying Joule to Jules) to
form his new name.  Watt has decided that science took a wrong turn in 1900,
and he's determined to find the right path.  His stuff all has a Steampunk
edge to it...clanking and hissing and inefficient (self-admittedly, since he
knows he's relaunching a whole line of science on his own), but it works.
He's also blown up a number of advanced labs in the name of convincing the
world that those places followed the wrong path, hence his residence in
     Watt dresses like a Scottish gentleman of about 1900, with that weird
sort of cross between a suit and a kilt.  He has thick, greying muttonchops
and is balding on top.  He affects a monocle, but he used a house-sized
device once to correct his vision, so the monocle is flat glass...tempered so
that it gives him N-ray vision.  He does NOT affect a Scottish accent,
     Watt is in the initial story, and may be a recurring supporting cast
member as well, depending on whether the artist has a nervous breakdown from
all the steampunk stuff.

STORY: The Gantlet


     Four equal panels in quadrants.  All four take place inside what should
look like a fairly standard law office, with diplomas on the wall, filing
cabinets, etc.  Normality should be stressed in the first two panels so that
the weirdness in panel 3 hits harder.

     Panel 1: JASON is at his desk, which has a computer, some papers, maybe
a couple desk gadgets.  It can look a little odd, but should be within the
realm of normal reality (i.e. no hovering gizmos).  He is leaning back in his
office chair and stretching, his gaze turned to the right side of the page.
His expression is one of "that's enough work for the moment."  Caption at top

CAPTION 1: I bet you're wondering where all the supervillains live.

     Panel 2: Close shot.  Jason is walking out of the panel, so we get his
right shoulder, the back of the right side of his head.  The upper left
corner of the panel is dominated by his law school diploma.  The caption is
in the blank space below the diploma and to the left of Jason.

CAPTION 2: When they're not in prison, of course.

     Panel 3: Medium shot, Jason is walking to the right, passing office
fixtures.  From off panel to the right, he's being handed a cup of coffee.
By a robotic hand.  His pace is relaxed, he's strolling towards the window,
not striding.  He's accepting the coffee cup almost absently, and is
certainly not shocked that he's getting it from a robot.

SPEECH 3 (JASON): Thanks, Winken.

     Panel 4: The right border of the panel is a window, a little bit of sill
should be sticking out for Jason to lean on.  The plane of the window is
straight out of the page, maybe draw the right panel border as a wall cross-
section.  He's leaning on the windowsill with one hand, sipping coffee held
in the other hand.  His pose should be relaxed, his expression fairly bland,
as if he's looking at something commonplace.  Caption at upper left.

CAPTION 4: Well, they come here.  To the city of...


     This is a splash page.  It's a big freaking science fictiony city with
the vanishing point being just a little up from the center of the page.  At
the lower left is a three story brownstone that stands out from all this
glitter and chrome.  It has an open window, but at this scale Jason is
probably not visible.  Strange things fly through the air, and not all of
them need to be mechanical.  There's a caption in the upper left corner, a
logo and title across the top just below that caption, and another caption at
the lower right.

CAPTION 1: ...Sanctuary

"The Gantlet"
Created by Dave Van Domelen
Art by: (fill in the blank)
Any other credits

CAPTION 2: And I'm Jason Allan Gerald, down here in the brownstone.  Believe
it or not, I'm not a supervillain.


     Four equal panels, same basic layout and background as page 1.

     Panel 1: Either a stat of page 1, panel 4, or a slightly different pose
from the same "camera angle."  Caption at upper left.

CAPTION 1: I'm a...patent attorney.  Don't laugh.

     Panel 2: Jason is walking back to the left, and he's passing a robot
that seems to be having an epileptic fit.  He raps it on the head.  Captions
at upper left and lower right, speech bubble probably at upper right.

CAPTION 2: Robots do most of the day-to-day work here.

SPEECH 3 (JASON): Run a defrag already, Blinken!

CAPTION 4: WHEN they work.

     Panel 3: Jason has reached his desk.  This panel is a closeup of his
nameplate, which he's reaching out to brush with his fingertips.  

CAPTION 5: For skilled workers, the locals hire out.

NAMEPLATE 6: on Allan Gerald (cut off at left)
             atent Attorney

     Panel 4: Standing next to or in front of his desk, Jason looks
exasperated.  A voice comes from off panel to the right, and there's a
caption in the lower right.

SPEECH 7 (WINKEN, feel free to give him a "robotic" speech bubble or
     lettering): Dr. Watt's on the line.

CAPTION 8: No, we outside workers usually don't know what we're getting


     Three panels.  The first one takes up the upper two thirds of the page,
and the remaining two are side by side taking up the bottom third.

     Panel 1: Jason is in the foreground, at the door of a huge Victorian
house (artist may need to get reference on this).  Behind the house, a few
towers of the city are visible, for style juxtaposition.  The house looks
pretty normal for its style, but maybe put an ominous blast of steam coming
out one of the windows.  Caption at upper left.

CAPTION 1: ...until it's too late, anyway.

     Panel 2: Closeup of Jason's hand on an old-fashioned brass door
knocker.  No captions or anything.  Maybe a "creak" sound effect at the
knocker's hinge.

     Panel 3: We see Jason's legs from behind, about mid-calf down.  The door
stoop has just opened up beneath his feet, a trap door.  He has not quite
started to drop yet, suspended in a "Wile E. Coyote Moment."  Caption at
lower right.

CAPTION 2: Sometimes, I really hate this job.


     Three panels.  The first panel is a thin vertical slice down the left
side of the page.  The remaining two panels split the rest of the page
horizontally into two equal pieces.

     Panel 1: Jason falls through a dark shaft, and is at the bottom of the
panel, his suit flapping up around his ears.  "AAAAAAAA" in big effects
letters trail him up the shaft (so, basically, the panel is black with a
column of A's and Jason at the bottom).

     Panel 2: Jason falls on a big cushion of some sort, the wind being
knocked out of him.  Around him all is dark, more for artistic emphasis than
due to lack of lighting.


     Panel 3: Jason stands, his hands cupped to his mouth as he shouts.
Around him are the shadowy shapes of steampunk machinery.  Lots of steam

BURST 2 (JASON): Doctor Watt?!?

CAPTION 3: Jules Henry Watt was an eccentric inventor.  In Sanctuary, it
takes a LOT to be considered eccentric.


     Page is divided into three horizontal panels, each of which represents
some sort of steampunk hazard Jason has to navigate.  I'm providing
suggestions, but if the artist has any he or she wants to use, I'm okay with
substitutions.  Just make sure that the art shows a progress towards the end
of the page.
     Throughout all these deadly hazards, Jason looks bored and maybe a
little annoyed, like he's seen it all before many times.  And he has.

     Panel 1: Jason is in some sort of giant piston engine.  Like the
chompers in Galaxy Quest, if you've seen that movie.  He has to jump to clear
spot, wait for the next one to open up, then jump before where he was
standing gets smashed.  That sort of thing.  Big brass cylinders.

CAPTION 1: He calls me at least once a week.

SPEECH 2 (JASON, a little annoyed): Hello?

     Panel 2: Jason is crawling through a snaking duct that goes from upper
right to lower left, connecting the end of Peril #1 to the beginning of Peril
#3.  Outside the duct it's solid black, and a caption is in this black area.

CAPTION 3: After the first time, I decided it'd be easier on my office if he
didn't visit me there.

     Panel 3: Jason is on a platform with a brass rail around it, being
hurled at incredible speed across an abyss (hair, suit flapping back).  There
is no visible support for the platform.  He's currently on the left side of
the panel, with a caption at the right.

CAPTION 4: Now, half the mad scientists in Sanctuary expect me to do


     Four panels.  The top quarter of the page is one slender horizontal
panel.  The rest of the page is laid out like page 5, with a slim vertical
panel to the left, and the remaining space split into upper and lower

     Panel 1: Jason is strolling down a corridor as lava falls all around
him.  He has a force field on, and the lava is splashing off of it.  He's
walking from left to right.

CAPTION 1: That's why I had Craniak pay me in goods.  Forcefields are NICE.

     Panel 2: Another dark vertical shaft, but this one has a ladder running
up it.  Jason is climbing up, and is about at the middle.

SPEECH 2 (JASON): Doctor Watt, I DO have other appointments today....

     Panel 3: Jason is being pursued from left to right by clockwork men (who
do not look like tin soldiers, pick any other motif).  Now he's running, and
he looks a little worried.  This one's a new addition to the playground.



     Panel 4: There's an open door at the lower right of the panel, acting as
a vanishing point.  Jason's mid-panel, about twice as big as the door thanks
to forced perspective.  Behind him, almost off panel to the left, a clockwork
man is sagging as he's deactivated.  The door is a strong light source in an
otherwise dim corridor.

SPEECH 4 (from door): In here, my good man!


     Splash page.  Most of the background is taken up by a big, bulky brass
steampunk sort of device.  It has many glass tanks full of water, plus
valves, gauges, wheels, etc.  Dr. Watt is at the center of the panel, patting
some part of the machine like the proud owner of a prize dog.  His speech
bubble takes up the upper left quarter of the page, so don't worry about
drawing any device stuff there, it'll just be covered up.
     His words are meant to overflow his speech bubble, to show that he's
nattering on and on.  If you need more words to make this happen, let me
know.  Even the "tail" of his speech bubble should have bits of letters in
it.  The caption is at the lower right.

SPEECH 1 (WATT): Ah, good to see you, Mr. Gerald.  Always a pleasure to have
our fine city's patent officer over for a visit and to see my latest wondrous
creation.  Here, Mr. Gerald, is the Hydrophonics Garden, a marvel of aqua-
acoustic technology undreamt of by the transistor-pushers of this sadly
degenenerated age!  Its operation is quite simple, and is thus: the membranes
here set up standing waves in highly purified water.  The water holds these
waves indefinitely, thanks to the special tanks I have constructed, and the
vibrations may be surrendered up to a speaker at any time with no loss in
quality.  Of course, it takes about a gallon of water for one second of
recording time, and it can only play back once, but those are mere
implementation challenges now that I have proved out the essential nut of the
matter, and any competent engineer should be able to solve them.

CAPTION 2: I have GOT to get out of this city....


     For issue two, I'd probably have Jason meet a nice captive dentist or
something and try to go out on a date.  This would introduce Animatrix and
show how much control she has over things in the city.  Issue three would be
an earnest escape attempt.  From there, assuming Haptic hasn't been plowed
under by Diamond, I can come up with other stories.

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