[ASH] Coherent Super Stories #5 - Lighting the Torch

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at haven.eyrie.org
Sun Jul 15 16:57:06 PDT 2007

     The cover is split vertically.  On one side, a muscular man is dressed
in tatters and surrounded by menacing, vaguely alien figures.  On the other,
a lithe Asian man is in a defensive crouch amidst a horde of shadowy
minions.  The cover copy proclaims, "The Second Age Begins Here!"  A smaller
banner in the upper right says, "Scriptbook Special Edition!"

 .|, COHERENT                                            An ASHistory Series
 '|` SUPER STORIES                        #5 - Lighting The Torch
   Featuring Brightsword and Jiang Sheng  copyright 2007 by Dave Van Domelen

     Welcome to Coherent Comics' very first Script Book Special!  Rather than
the usual prose style, this issue is written up in "full script" format as if
intended for delivery to an art team.  Enjoy!

     GENERAL ART NOTES: The odd-numbered pages tell Brightsword's story, the
even-numbered pages tell Jiang Sheng's story, except for the final page,
which they split.  The art in the Brightsword story should have Jim Jackson
(Brightsword) drawn as a Jack Kirby hero, but everything else around him
should look like Steve Ditko at his trippiest.  Jiang Sheng's art should be
shadowy and moody, evoking some of the "new crop" of late 60s/early 70s
artists on the Neal Adams end of things.  Design motifs should repeat between
the stories, but be twisted significantly in the Ditko-trip art.


     Two panels.  The top panel runs across the top third of the page, and is
entirely black except for the captions and thought balloon.  Go nuts on the
bottom panel with mad science and alien abduction imagery, and don't worry
about being able to reproduce any of it.  The scenery will be in flux for
Brightsword's story, to represent how he hasn't fully shaken off being

     Panel 1: Black.  Captions run diagonally from upper left to lower right,
with a thought bubble at the very lower right corner.

CAPTION 1: It's March 5, 1967.  Jim Jackson finished his hitch in the U.S.
     Army yesterday, and before taking the Greyhound back to Omaha went out 
     for one last big bender with his buddies in San Francisco.

CAPTION 2: Now, though, Jim might just miss that bus.  His head's pounding
     like an artillery stonk, his mouth feels like a squirrel died in it, 
     and his brain feels like someone installed it upside down.  He has just 
     one question.

THOUGHT 3 (JIM): Where the heck am I?

     Panel 2: Jim is strapped down to some sort of medical table amidst
Science Gone Mad!  He's wearing civilian clothing that looks rumpled and a
bit ill-fitting, like he last wore it at the start of his tour of duty.
Caption in upper left, burst speech balloon on right.  Long shot from above
to take in the whole room.

CAPTION 4: Some questions are better left unanswered, Jim!



     Panel layout should be more fluid in this story, with not every panel
being strictly rectangular, and some may overlap, with characters violating
panel boundaries.  Specific panel ordering left to the artist on most pages.
     5 panels on this page.

     Panel 1: San Francisco Bay at night.  A yacht is pulling out of dock,
and a figure in foreground is swimming towards it.  This is Jiang Sheng.  His
shoes are tied together around his neck and his shirt is tied around his
waist.  He wears typical "martial artist" garb.

CAPTION 1: Nighttime in San Francisco Bay, and evil is on the move.  But so
     is good.

     Panel 2: Jiang clambers up the side of the yacht, cloaked in shadow.  On
deck, a sentry is oblivious to his presence.

CAPTION 2: An immortal evil has once more preyed on the innocent, but this
     time there will be justice!

     Panel 3: Jiang is behind the sentry, disabling him with a single,
precise blow.  No SFX, just a slight visual burst effect.


     Panel 4: Jiang is dragging the sentry into the shadows.

     Panel 5: Closeup of Jiang emerging from the shadows, pulling the
sentry's cap down over his face and wearing the sentry's uniform.

THOUGHT 4 (JIANG): I'm coming for you, father!


     Four panels in a 2 by 2 grid.

     Panel 1: Long shot, similar to page 1 panel 2, but a little tighter.
Jim is only slightly tensed up.

THOUGHT 1 (JIM): Gotta get outta these straps!

     Panel 2: Medium shot, Jim's straining against his bonds, and his muscles
are threatening to rip right out of his clothing.  Leave room for the caption

CAPTION 2: Sorry, Jim, but whoever tied you down knew what they were about!


     Panel 3: Closeup on Jim's right arm, which is now bulging to the point
that it's ripping through his sleeve.


CAPTION 4: Or maybe they didn't?

     Panel 4: Upper body shot of Jim, who has suddenly relaxed in surprise as
he looks off to the right.


BURST 5 (JIM): Who's there?


     Again, fairly free and loose panel layout, up to the artist.  Try to
give the impression of wandering through a maze.

     Panel 1: Jiang heads below deck.  This is a large enough yacht that it
has an actual stairwell, not a ladder.

THOUGHT 1 (JIANG): What poor soul have you captured this time, father?

     Panel 2: Jiang exiting stairwell into a narrow corridor.  It's poorly
lit, with random shafts of light emerging from doorways or portholes to cast
the only illumination.

THOUGHT 2 (JIANG): Will you content yourself with mere vivisection, or do you
     have something worse in mind?

     Panel 3: Closeup on Jiang's face, half-lit by moonlight from a

THOUGHT 3 (JIANG): Perhaps you seek to finally replicate the experiments that
     led to --

     Panel 4: Jiang seen from behind as he turns a corner.

THOUGHT 4 (JIANG): -- me?


     Page is split into two panels.  The top panel is short but full width,
the bottom panel is square, taking up most of the page.

     Panel 1: Long shot of Jim on the table, clothing a bit tattered now.
Entering the panel from right and left are shadowy, bulky humanoid forms.
Perhaps we only see part of their bodies in this panel.

BURST 1 (JIM): !!

     Panel 2: Another freakout scene from above with Jim on the table
surrounded by weirdness.  The two figures look like they're wearing some sort
of yellow alien space suits, totally obscuring the details of their bodies.
Square faceplates of mirrored glass hide their features.  Play with details,
adding or subtracting fingers, etc.  They hold out strange devices and wave
them over Jim as if examining a lab animal.  Jim's looking at them in
disbelief, and has momentarily stopped struggling.
     Instructions to Letterer: Their speech bubbles should be weirdly shaped
and kind of dripping-looking.  Make up some sort of odd characters for their
gibberish speech.

ALIEN BUBBLE 2 (ALIEN 1): (short string of alien letters)

ALIEN BUBBLE 3 (ALIEN 2): (somewhat longer string of alien letters)



     The corridors are even darker on this page, as he's in an interior
section with no portholes to shed light.  Lighting should come from cracks
under doors and the like.  Three panels.

     Panel 1: Jiang is walking like someone who's bored and belongs there,
rather than skulking.  A pair of figures in yellow hazmat suits with the
headpieces in their hands are talking.  They're both clearly Chinese.

SPEECH 1 (HAZMAT 1): <...subject seems to show abnormal variances.*>

SPEECH 2 (HAZMAT 2): <Should we prepare a security response?>

FOOTNOTE 3: * Translated from Mandarin Chinese

     Panel 2: Jiang is walking past the pair, casually, hiding his face as
nonchalantly as he can manage.

SPEECH 4 (HAZMAT 1): <It would be prudent.  This one is military.>

SPEECH 5 (HAZMAT 2): <Done.>


     Panel 3: Jiang has passed the pair, who are visible over his shoulder.
Medium-close shot of Jiang, who is casting a frustrated glance backwards.

THOUGHT 7 (JIANG): Father grows bold!


     Four panel grid.

     Panel 1: The two aliens are attaching an object that looks vaguely like
a flashlight (it should subtly change appearance in every panel, just as
everything else does) to some armature while chattering to each other.  Jim
is trying to sit up, and is shouting at them accusingly.

ALIEN BUBBLE 1 (ALIEN 2): (short gibberish)

ALIEN BUBBLE 2 (ALIEN 1): (short gibberish)

BURST 3 (JIM): Hey, what's that for?!

     Panel 2: The aliens are moving the armature over to Jim, and he's
looking up at the flashlight-thing anxiously, sweating a bit.  It pulses with
the beginnings of an energy flare, a little Kirby Krackle leaking out.

SPEECH 4 (JIM): Hey...wait a second!  You-you don't wanna be doing that...

ALIEN BUBBLE 5 (ALIEN 1): (single word)

CAPTION 6: Sure they do!

     Panel 3: The laser torch fires, the panel is dominated by a blast effect
and Jim's half-silhouetted face twisted in a grimace of pain.


     Panel 4: The beam has been pulled back, but is still sizzling in one
corner of the panel.  Medium shot of Jim, whose shirt is pretty much a
writeoff at this point, but he seems totally uninjured.  He looks down at his
chest as best as he can while strapped down, an expression of surprise on his

SPEECH 8 (JIM): --aagh?

CAPTION 9: Betcha didn't expect THAT, Jim!


     Same hallway setting, same bad lighting.  Five panels, the first two
should be fairly small to leave room for the action in the last three.

     Panel 1: Similar composition to final panel of page 6, but HAZMAT 1 is
pointing at Jiang.

BURST 1 (HAZMAT 1): <You!  Guard!  Come here!>

SPEECH 2 (JIANG): <Yes, sir.>

     Panel 2: Jiang has pulled his cap down and is trying to fake that he's
the guard he replaced.  He's reaching into his pocket as well.

SPEECH 3 (HAZMAT 1): <This subject might cause trouble, so -- wait.>

SPEECH 4 (HAZMAT 1): <I don't recognize you, let me see your ID.>

SPEECH 5 (JIANG): <Certainly -- >

     Panel 3: Jiang has pulled his hand from his pocket and punched HAZMAT 1
in the gut.  His target is doubled over.  HAZMAT 2 is recoiling in shock,
desperately stabbing the wrist control that he pressed on page 6.




     Panel 4: Jiang is felling HAZMAT 2 with a roundhouse kick.  Several men
in uniforms like theone Jiang is wearing are arriving at the edge of the


     Panel 5: A crackling field surrounds Jiang, who is spasming.  It
connects back to a control box held in the hands of one of the guards.



     Six panels, in a two-wide three-tall grid.

     Panel 1: The blade has descended again, on Jim's left shoulder.  Jim's
face should just barely be in shot, again silhouetted by the energy
discharge.  All panels will share the same framing, so make sure all the
targeted body parts will fit into the panel.

THOUGHT 1 (JIM): Hey, I barely felt that!

     Panel 2: Blade withdrawn, moving to Jim's right.

ALIEN BUBBLE 2 (ALIEN OFF): (short phrase)

THOUGHT 3 (JIM): But it sure did a number on my shirt, so what gives?

     Panel 3: Blade on Jim's abdomen, face is under-lit now.

SPEECH 4 (JIM): Hee!  Stop it, that tickles!

     Panel 4: Blade moving up towards Jim's right shoulder.

THOUGHT 5 (JIM): Hey, maybe it's supposed to be hurting me, and I'm just
     one of those mysterymen like in WWII?

     Panel 5: Jim moves, making the blade's energy bounce off his bicep and
onto the strap securing his right forearm.

THOUGHT 6 (JIM): Gotta time this just --

     Panel 6: Jim's right arm is free.  The laser blade is still active, and
he's reaching up for it.


ALIEN BURST 8 (ALIEN, OFF): (Short, but clearly concerned gabble)


     Three panels.  The first one is square and takes up the top 2/3 or so of
the page.  The bottom of the page is split evenly between the other two
panels.  The setting is your basic "Ming the Merciless" throneroom, albeit on
a smaller scale to fit onto a boat.  There's flickering electrical arcs in
place of torches.  Dr. Sheng is wearing what looks to be a cross between a
labcoat and Mandarin robes.  He's bald and has a Fu Manchu mustache that is
slightly graying.  His fingers are unadorned, but serpentine tattoos are
visible on his arms and terminate with dragon heads on the backs of his

     Panel 1: Dr. Sheng is in his throne, looking down at Jiang.  A crackling
aura surrounds Jiang's body, forcing him into a kneeling posture, but it does
not extend to his head.  Jiang still wears the guard uniform pants, but the
shirt and cap are gone.  He looks a little worked-over.  Guards flank Jiang,
one of whom is performing a procedure that looks like he's passing off
control of the paralysis beam from his portable unit to a wall-mounted
projector (so there should be little energy beams connecting Jiang to both).
Caption in upper left.

CAPTION 1: Dr. Huang Sheng!  Fiend of the East, master of forbidden
     sciences, scourge of the Pacific Rim...and Jiang's father!

SPEECH 2 (DR. SHENG): So, the errant son returns.  Have you decided to grow
     up and stop playing the hero, or is this just another tiresome attempt
     to deny your place at my side?

     Panel 2: Same basic composition as Panel 1, but smaller.  Jiang is
spitting to one side, since his head is free to move.


     Panel 3: Closeup on Jiang's face.

SPEECH 4 (JIANG): Perhaps it is you who should grow up, father, and put 
     away all these toys?


     Full page splash.  Jim has grabbed the laser torch and swung it in an
arc, the energy trail should clearly show it having gone from its armature
and through part of the table, which is now breaking apart under Jim's newly
found superhuman strength.  Sparks are exploding from various banks of
equipment.  The aliens are cowering among the explosions.  Note that the
cutting torch should now look like the reference material provided for
Brightsword's sword, and will no longer shift appearance.  It is not part of
the drugtrip background anymore, it's part of Jim's more stable self-concept.


ALIEN BURST 2 (ALIEN 2): (short exclamation)


CAPTION: I think you broke their toy, Jim!


     Four panels.

     Panel 1: Medium shot of a smiling Dr. Sheng.  The SFX should be
identical to the one used on page 11, but smaller.

SPEECH 1 (DR. SHENG): Ah, yes, how I miss our father-son chats.  But you
     have outlived your usefulness, and perhaps it is time -- eh?


     Panel 2: Same camera angle as Panel 1, but Dr. Sheng is being rocked to
one side and the lights have dimmed.

BURST 3 (DR. SHENG): What is the meaning of this?!

     Panel 3: Closeup of the wall unit that's been keeping Jiang paralyzed.
It sparks and fails.


     Panel 4: Jiang lashes out as he rises in one smooth movement, smashing
the guard's portable paralysis box with a swift kick.  The lights are uneven,
as if power is fluctuating.

BURST 5 (JIANG): Freedom!


     Three horizontal panels representing the same section of hallway.  The
way Jim sees things is stabilizing now as his superhuman metabolism starts to
clear out the drugs in his system, so scenery should look more or less the
same each time, just minor details differing.  Jim progresses from the left
end at the top panel to the right end at the bottom panel, fighting through
various bio-suited "aliens".  Their appearances are stabilizing as well, they
still look Ditko-y, but more and more like the hazmat-suited techies in the
Jiang side of the story.

     Panel 1: Jim is running down the hall, from left to right, and is at the
left end right now.  A bunch of aliens is approaching from the right, holding
strange Ditkotech weapons.  Jim's holding the laser torch as a sword.

BURST 1 (JIM): You're not gonna stop me!  I'm bustin' out!

     Panel 2: Jim slams into the aliens like a bowling ball into tenpins,
scattering them.  A few ray beams are lancing out in his direction, but none
hit.  He's not actually using the torch to hit them, just bulling through.


CAPTION 3: Bowling for aliens!

     Panel 3: At the right end of the hall, Jim is tossing aside one last
alien, the rest have already fallen.  

THOUGHT 4 (JIM): Now, to cut through the hull, and -- waitaminnit!  What if
     we're in space already?

CAPTION 5: That COULD be a problem!


     Four panels, should be close to a 2x2 grid if not exact.  Panels 2 and 3
need to have the same basic composition.

     Panel 1: The lighting has gone red as emergency klaxons and lights go
off.  Medium shot of Jiang as he strikes another pair of guards at the same
time.  SFX 2 and 3 are near strike points.  SFX 1 should bleed across into
panel 2.




     Panel 2: Longer shot, from behind Jiang's head.  He's blocking some
baton strikes coming from off-panel, and looking towards Dr. Sheng.  His
father is seated on his throne, looking mildly annoyed.


     Panel 3: Same composition as Panel 2, but Jiang is moving away from the
camera and towards his father, who is now smiling smugly.  Jiang is elbowing
a guard in the face with a visual burst but no SFX.  SFX 6 bleeds into palen

BURST 5 (JIANG): You will not escape me this time!


     Panel 4: A panel is opening behind the throne as Dr. Sheng stabs a
button concealed in the ornamental armrest.  Tighter shot on the throne,
Jiang is just coming into panel.  A guard is to the right of the throne,
ready to delay Jiang.

SPEECH 7 (DR. SHENG): I will escape you any time I wish, BOY.


     Three panels.  Panel 2 is actually a full panel splash, with 1 being an
inset in the upper left and 3 an inset in the lower right.

     Panel 1: Jim slices through a wall with his laser sword as he runs, make
sure it looks like there's no "stop to see what's outside" going on, he's
just breaking through.

CAPTION 1: How high are you, Jim?

THOUGHT 2 (JIM): Guess that's a risk I'll have to --


     Panel 2: Jim's falling, his world is topsy-turvy.  It's night, so
there's stars and stuff, but there should be a clear ocean horizon tilted at
some crazy angle.  Maybe add some swirly vertigo effects.  The laser sword
leaves a spinning path of light.


CAPTION 5: How high is too high?

     Panel 3: The water's surface is at the top of this inset panel, and he's
plunging below, trailing bubbles.  The sword leaves a particularly strong
sizzle path.



     The top 1/3 is divided into three panels, while the rest of the page
is a 2/3 page splash.

     Panel 1: Jiang is kicking the guard to one side as Dr. Sheng's throne
recedes behind the opened panel.  Dr. Sheng is in deep shadow.  The lighting
is still harsh and red.  SFX 3 runs across the bottom of the panel, bleeding
into Panels 2-3 and overlapping somewhat into Panel 4.

SPEECH 1 (DR. SHENG): Until we next meet!



     Panel 2: The panel slams closed just as Jiang reaches it.  A bit of
Sheng's robe is caught in it.


     Panel 3: Jiang slams a fist impotently on the panel, which doesn't even
dent.  The bit of robe sticks out of the seam.

BURST 5 (JIANG): Curse you, father!

     Panel 4: Long shot, Jiang leaps into the remaining half dozen guards, a
whirlwind of spinning kicks and lashing fists.  This is a big panel, you may
want to draw "ghost images" of him fighting across the room.  Jiang is
clutching the piece of robe in one hand.

THOUGHT 6 (JIANG): I hear helicopter blades above -- I may be too late!


     Four panels, 2 by 2 grid.

     Panel 1: Jim floating underwater, as if he's no longer buoyant enough to
just pop up like a cork.  He looks semi-conscious.

THOUGHT 1 (JIM): Whuuu -- ?  Water?

CAPTION 2: And how deep is too deep?

     Panel 2: Jim's swimming, in a bit of a panic.  Make it look uncertain
whether he's even swimming up or not.

THOUGHT 3 (JIM): Great, I'm not in space, but that doesn't mean I can 
     breathe now!

     Panel 3: Jim's swimming is more confident now, but he's still

THOUGHT 4 (JIM): Feels like I'm making pretty good time, though.  Which 
     way's up?  Wait, there's the moon --

     Panel 4: Jim breaks the surface, show city lights in the far background.
There's no sign of the craft he escaped from.  He's got that "two faced" look
that indicates he's looking around quickly.



THOUGHT 7 (JIM): Ah, the shore...let's hope it's America!


     Identical layout to page 13, same section of hallway, but in the more
realistic style and with red lighting.  Jiang crosses from right to left,
quickly but warily, stepping around the fallen techs.  They should be in the
same positions as in panel 3 of page 13 (save for the one being tossed aside
in that panel, which should be in a reasonable position for having been

     Panel 1: Jiang at right end, looking over his shoulder to the right.  In
this panel and the others, he still has the piece of his father's robe in one
hand.  His other hand is idly striking upward, smashing the klaxon.


THOUGHT 2 (JIANG): Someone else has been here -- and seems to have left
     rather violently through a hole in the hull!

     Panel 2: A tech near the left end is starting to stir.  Jiang is at the
middle, does not seem to have noticed him yet.

THOUGHT 3 (JIANG): It appears my father's latest experiment has backfired
     rather spectacularly.

SHAKY SPEECH 4 (HAZMAT 1): moooann...

     Panel 3: Jiang is stomping HAZMAT 1 almost absently, while peering to
the left.  Yellow light from off-panel is shining on his face.

THOUGHT 5 (JIANG): Yes, whoever did this broke out of the room I passed


     Page is split vertically into two equal panels.  The left panel is in a
Kirby style, the right panel in the Jiang story style.

     Panel 1: Jim in Brightsword costume, a flag fluttering in the
background, sword burning brightly.  Make this as bright and shiny as
possible.  Thought balloon along the top.

THOUGHT 1: I never did figure out who those aliens were.  Still, as Jim
     Jackson I may have mustered out of the Army, but as Brightsword I'm
     just STARTING my service to my country!

     Panel 2: Jiang is abovedeck, looking up into the distance, moonlight on
his face.  He holds up the fist with the piece of his father's robe,
clutching it as if he wishes it were his father's throat.  This panel should
be as dark and somber as Panel 1 is bright and shiny.  SFX at top right,
thought balloon along bottom.


THOUGHT 3 (JIANG): You may have escaped this time, father, but I will not 
     rest so long as you are free to prey on the innocent!


Next Issue:

     From Jiang Sheng at the start of the Second Heroic Age, to Jiang at the
end of the Third!  As a world dies around him in 1998, he encounters an
"Immortal Evil"!


Author's Notes:

     Okay, normally I avoid script format.  I don't think it's something
meant to be read as an end product, it's something to give an artist or a
troupe of players.  But the more I thought about how I wanted this story to
work, the more I realized it couldn't be done as well in standard prose.  The
interweaving, not to mention repeated motifs increasing until it was clear to
the reader that both stories were happening at once...that pretty much
demanded script format if not an actual comic.
     Now, this isn't the first time I've written in script format.  I did a
few stories as proposals for an anthology comic a few years back that never
got off the ground, sadly.  I based my script style on reading a number of
Priest's scripts for things like Ka-Zar and Black Panther.  Those early
scripts of mine were, mind you, intended for an artist's eyes, and I
thumbnailed them first.  This issue I went right to script, and left some of
the layout open, backing away from totally "full script" form, but not
approaching the Marvel style (rough plot sent to artist, then work the script
around the art) for the obvious reason that this is intended to be read as-is
rather than waiting for an artist.  :)  Not that I'd mind an artist taking a
shot at it, but it's a tad big for fan art.
     Anyway, with CSS #1-4 covering the middle and end of the Second Heroic
Age, I figured I should go back and show some of the beginning too.  

     19 pages is a bit short for a full-length story in 1967, if I recall
correctly, but ad count fluctuated a lot back then, and stories could go long
or short depending on that.  I do know that there were 19 page comics in the
70s.  Plus, there may have been a short backup feature to flesh it out to
whatever the desired content level was.  Oh, and if the linecount seems kinda
high this time, do keep in mind that I'm using a LOT more blank lines than
usual.  :)
     As you might have noticed, the two stories don't parallel exactly.
Jiang's side starts first, with the two techs he beat up recovering and then
going in to be the aliens who experimented on Jim.  The actual guards are all
in the throne room with Jiang when Jim busts loose, though, which is why he's
only opposed by a bunch of hazmat-suited techs.  The "THOOM" moment is where
they most clearly share the same point in time.

     http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/ASH/gallery/brightsword1.JPG is
Brightsword's costume, done in pseudo-Kirby style.  Brightsword's first ASH
universe appearance was in CSS #2, he was originally devised as a historical
figure in the Modern Knights Role-Playing Game's default setting.  Dr. Huang
Sheng's first ASH universe appearance was in CSV #19, and Jiang's first
mention was also in that issue.  Jiang did not actually appear on-screen
until CSS #2.  The Shengs were both created by Marc Singer, and are homages
to Fu Manchu and Shang-Chi from Marvel Comics, in case it wasn't obvious by
this point.

     Historical note: "Jiang" is actually a Pinyin transliteration, in the
late 1960s it would far more likely have been spelled Chieng or something
along those lines using the Wade-Giles system.  However, Pinyin did exist by
that point even if it wasn't widely adopted, so one can presume that Jiang
changed the transliteration to spite his father, or just to be linguistically
progressive.  "Sheng" is pretty much the same in both Wade-Giles and Pinyin.


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and more, go to http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/ASH !

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