Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"Joint Custody" Version Two

Damian as Robin, a la Tony Daniel

After some awesome feedback from reviewers, I’m pleased to publish a new version of “Joint Custody.” There aren’t many changes, but the most dynamic one is in the second half where Batman keeps the situation “all in the family.”

Hope you enjoy.

Monday, January 17, 2011

False Dawn Annual #1: Thicker than Blood

False Dawn Annual #1: Thicker than Blood
Short Story Format
Devin Leigh Michaels

Life isn’t kind. In fact, it can be cruel, terrifying, and condemning. If you blink, it can and will destroy you. But if you’re lucky, you’re blessed with a bunch of people who will die to protect you from its mechanisms.


If you’re lucky.

False Dawn Annual #1 Comic Book Script

False Dawn Annual #1: Thicker than Blood
Comic Book Script—Plot for 62 Pages
Devin Leigh Michaels

Life isn’t kind. In fact, it can be cruel, terrifying, and condemning. If you blink, it can and will destroy you. But if you’re lucky, you’re blessed with a bunch of people who will die to protect you from its mechanisms. 


If you’re lucky.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

False Dawn #13: Embrace the Darkness

False Dawn #13: “Crossing Over”
Part Three of Four: Embrace the Darkness
Short Story Format
Devin Leigh Michaels

I’m sure you’ve heard the news. I’m an ashling…I guess. I mean, I don’t trust the Skadoian Lord, y’know? But my mom and uncle couldn’t look me in the eyes after that, and even Lance shuffled his feet and Casia rubbed her palms together, I took the guy’s words as fact.

…I’m an ashling.

It wasn’t long until the Skadoian Lord ordered us separated, but he allowed me to stay with Mom. They have an understanding, it seems, Mom and he, and we were ushered into royal chambers.

Sitting on the windowsill, I gaze out upon Skadoia, half-shocked that I’m part of this miserable kingdom that would make Batman afraid of the dark. The other half still can’t believe that a horse as dark as Black Beauty is pulling a carriage that looks like it belongs in front of the Haunted Mansion. Blue torches light the cobblestoned streets, where people throw up streamers and banners and dance. What could they possibly be celebrating? And—And are those yellow eyes in the abyss beneath the castle?

“How’d this happen?” I mutter as the eyes retreat in the darkness.

Hesitation constricts Mom’s voice. “Do you want the birds and the bees talk?”

“No! I DON’T want to KNOW how my mom and a Skadoian Warrior got it on. I want to know everything else but THAT.”

Silence plagues the room, and I snort. “And why’s it called the birds and the bees talk anyway? I thought bunnies do it more.”

False Dawn #13-Comic Book Script

False Dawn #13 : “Crossing Over”
Part Three of Four: Embrace the Darkness
Comic Book Script—Plot for 22 Pages
Devin Leigh Michaels

Reunited with his mother, Ral finds out a little too much information about his past and his role in the Skadoian Lord’s nefarious plan. Yep, it’s really nefarious.

1—We’re looking at the Skadoian Lord, who’s smiling evilly.
NARR: So, I’m sure you’ve heard the news. I’m an ASHLING…I guess.
NARR: I mean, I don’t TRUST the Skadoian Lord, y’know?

2—Shot of Addy and Connor looking away.
NARR: But my mom and uncle can’t look me in the eyes.

3—Lance is shuffling his feet, and Casia beyond him I rubbing her palms together.
NARR: Lance shuffles his feet and Casia rubs her palms together, so I take the guy’s words as fact.

1—Now Ral’s looking at the camera, shocked, scared, and unsure of himself with darkness behind him.

2—Skadoian Warriors throw Addy and Ral into royal chambers. For reference, the chambers are actually pretty roomy, dark and hard but oozing richness. Marble accents the framework of the couch and chairs. Plush pillows lay upon the sofa. Blue fire in the black diamond burns in fireplace. Dark bronze curtain brush against the floor, and the gold weave belts their fabric against the wall.
NARR: It isn’t long until the Skadoian Lord ordered us separated, but he allows me to stay with Mom.
NARR: They have an understanding. MOM and HE. So we’re ushered into royal chambers.

3—Shot of Ral sitting upon the windowsill with one leg up, arms wrapped about it, staring down at Skadoia—the city itself is like a dark, midnight version of the old castle towns with a wall about the city. Peasants flock into the cobblestone streets, apparently celebrating something with flags and banners and streamers and dancing.
NARR: By now, you’d think the shock would have worn off.
NARR: Think again.

1—Long shot of the city. Blue torches act as streetlights, and a horse and buggie ride through the streets.
NARR: I’m half-shocked that I’m part of the miserable kingdom that would make BATMAN afraid of the dark.
NARR: The other half still can’t believe that a horse as dark as Black Beauty is pulling a carriage that looks like it belongs in front of the Haunted Mansion, and—and—

2—Down in the abyss on which the castle stands, we see two dark amber eyes floating in the darkness.
NARR: —and are those yellow EYES?
RAL: So how’d this happen?

3—Camera positioned behind Addy’s gown, perhaps a worm’s view shot of Ral.
ADDY: Do you want the BIRDS and the BEES talk?

4—Close-up of Ral who’s doing the classic facepalm.
RAL: I DON’T want to know HOW my mom and a Skadoian Warrior got it on. I want to know EVERYTHING but THAT.

1—Ral’s glancing outside again.

2—Same shot as panel three, but perhaps Ral’s holding up his hand in disgust.
RAL: And why’s it called the birds and the bees anyway? I thought bunnies do it more.

3—Now we see Adeline, all dressed up. She’s wearing a sky-blue medieval gown like queens used to wear with a girdle. It flows from her collarbone to the floor with a navy cape attached to her shoulders. A circlet is woven into Addy’s hair. It’s small with blue and silver jewels twinkling with just a hint of amber.
NARR: My mom’s laugh reminds me of home, and I miss it. I miss my room and my bed and my stacks of comic books.
ADDY: Honey, listen. I know this is difficult.

4—Addy is now sitting on the windowsill, her hand upon Ral’s knee.
NARR: I mean, did Bruce Wayne ever come back from his time-traveling journey?
RAL: No, difficult is trying to finish my homework in between basketball practice and my shift the at bar. Or worse—doing it during my shift.
RAL: This is whacked to the point of Tony Soprano.
ADDY: Spoken like a true New Jerseyan.
NARR: Hey, did Steve Rogers for that matter?

. 5—Addy smiles at Ral, trying to keep calm.
ADDY: The world isn’t black and white, Raleigh.

1—Ral looks away, ashamed, while Addy looks befuddled.
RAL Please don’t call me that
ADDY: It’s your name.
RAL: Why did you even name me that? It’s a GIRL’s name.

2—Addy bits her lower lip and smiles sheepishly.
ADDY: It’s where you were conceived.

3—Ral slaps his forehead.
RAL: MAH! Please. TMI!

4—Addy smiles, but it’s sad, heart-breaking. She hoped this would never happen. She’s patting Ral’s knee.
ADDY: You asked, Sweetheart.
NARR: Then her eyes darken, just a tad, and I know what she’s thinking.

5—Close-up on Ral. He’s hurting, knowing his mom is hurting.
NARR: We’ve always had this connection.
RAL (hesitant): What happened…y’know, between you and…HIM?
NARR: I’d never call the guy FATHER. Connor deserves that title.

1— A reminiscent frown puffs out Addy’s top lip.
ADDY: It had been awhile since…since I had been IN LOVE. I was scorned once, a thousand lifetimes ago, and when I met….
ADDY: He wasn’t what I thought.

2—Ral ducks his head, his bangs hiding his eyes. Addy’s gloved fingers tilt up his chin. She’s smiling.
RAL: …I’m sorry, Mom.

ADDY: Don’t be.
ADDY: Aside from our current dilemma, I got YOU from it.

3—Addy hugs Ral.
NARR: Even after all these months, she still smells like antiseptic and chocolate chip cookies. ADDY: We’re going to get through this. I promise.
RAL: How?

4—Addy and Ral whirl toward the door.
Skadoian Lord (off): By doing everything you’re told.
(SL from now on)

5—At the door stands SL, flanked by three of his men.
SL: Adeline, as always, you look ravishing.

1—Addy stands in front of Ral, never letting go of his hand.
ADDY: Bergener, as always, you look Machiavellian.

2—SL walks to look out one of the windows.
SL: Oh, PLEASE, Adeline. Give Skadoia a chance.
SL (linked): We have nice ash beaches, great schools for the little ones, and you can’t really see the dirt with all the darkness. Cleaning is a cinch.
SL (linked): And you can’t tell me you just don’t love my interior decorator.

3—Addy dissects the place in one stare.
ADDY: You should have seen Versailles when Louis first built it. Breathtaking, the gardens alone.

4—The Skadoian Lord is not pleased, furling his fingers in a “come here” expression.
SL: Child—RAL, is it?—why don’t you come with me? I have someone I want you to meet.

5—Addy tugs Ral to his feet, holding his wrist. She’s protecting him with her body.
ADDY: You want me to go through with this, he doesn’t leave my side.

6—The Skadoian Lord looks at one of his guards. It’s the same one who dealt with Ral and slapped him upside the back of his head when the crew entered Skadoia. Now AMARIS has a nasty scar down his cheek that looks red and infected.
SL: Amaris.

1—Mid-shot. We see Ral flying into a wall, Amaris’s hand about his neck. Ral has one of his mother’s gloves in his fisted hand.

2—Close-up of Amaris and Ral, with Ral struggling to breathe, Amaris now with a knife to the kid’s throat.
NARR: It’s the SAME warrior who slapped me upside the head when Casia, Lance, and I came to Skadoia. It’s the SAME guy who almost tore my throat out of neck just a few hours ago, and between then and now, he’s gotten a nasty scar down his cheek.
RAL (coughing/croaking): You should introduce yourself since we’re getting to be so FRIENDLY and all.

3—SL walks behind Addy, who’s furious and reaches for pendant about her neck.
SL: This is AMARIS, my personal guard. Let’s just say that however good you think you are, he actually is.
NARR: The pendant around her neck—it’s not a SNOWFLAKE, like I’ve always thought.

4—Close-up on pendant. It’s the same one as Ral’s.
NARR: It’s a SUN—with dragon claws, like the necklace that holds my sword.

1—Addy’s hand falls from her neck as she turns to SL. She’s glaring, and she’s mad.
NARR: You gotta know the Skadoian Lord is a pretty powerful man.
NARR: No one short of my uncle can receive her angered glare and rebuke.
NARR: Even then, CONNOR took his smoking outside of the bar.
ADDY: You are a BASTARD.
SL: No, actually, that’s your son over there.

2—Addy slaps him, hard.

3—Addy points a finger at SL. She uses the hand without a glove.
ADDY: If you do anything to harm him, and I mean ANYTHING, I will burn your precious city to ground myself.

4—SL kisses her on the cheek.
SL: Oh, Adeline. I hope you grant our children the same fire.

5—Ral pushes the knife away from his throat.
RAL (shocked): What the hell are you talking about, you—

6—With a meaty hand, Amaris tosses Ral back against the wall.

1—Close-up on Amaris and Ral.
AMARIS: You will not do that again.
RAL (indignant): Or you’ll what? KILL me?

2—SL pets Addy’s cheek.
SL: No. Killing is far too humane.

3—SL comes to slap Ral on the shoulder.
RAL: Yeah, I’d rather be dead than married to you.
SL: Be good or I’ll make you my best man.

4—Close-up on the shoulder, where SL crunches—hard.
NARR: The Skadoian Lord’s grip is as painful as an UFC fighter’s.

5—Ral’s hand reaches for SL’s wrist.
NARR:Lance’s lessons replay like a reflex.

6—Amaris twists Ral’s arm, throwing him into the wall face first.

7—Addy, dismayed.
ADDY (yelling): Stop it!

8—SL plays with one of Addy’s curls.
SL: Adeline, I apologize, but your RUNT cannot control his temper. We better get him to the doctor, maybe get him a lobotomy.

1—Addy’s face doesn’t melt. She’s as hard and cold as permafrost.
NARR: It’s like Mom’s calling my Algebra teacher, Mrs. Heller, a Sasquatch and a Spice Girl all in one breath.
ADDY: I meant what I said, Bergener.

2—Amaris forces Ral out of the chamber, SL following. He’s serious now. Flanking the door are two other warriors. They’re staying with Addy.
SL: I know, Adeline.

3—Walking down the hall, Amaris and SL flank Ral. Amaris holds the boy in a one-armed hug.
SL: Don’t worry, Ral. You and I are going to be good friends.
RAL: I doubt that.

4—Focus on Ral and Amaris.
SL (off): Maybe, but you and Amaris here are going to be best friends. He’s your new…ahem, bodyguard.
NARR: Great.

1—They stop at the top of the Grand Staircase, the SL now the leader that he claims to be. Ral smirks as a rebuff.
NARR: That smile is so totally going to give me nightmares the rest of my life.
SL: Let me make this clear. For the moment, I need you, but as soon as your mother and I have one child, you’ll be OBSOLETE.
RAL: Hey, Ral Dawson will never go out of style.
SL: You are a wealth of knowledge for us…now. I’d rather torture you than the children Addy and I will have, but if you don’t cooperate…

2—He begins to walk back toward the chambers.
SL: …well, I’ll let you finish that thought. Amaris! Take young Ral here to meet our SPECIALIST.

3—Amaris hesitates.
AMARIS: …As you wish, my lord.
NARR: He doesn’t bow.
NARR: Interesting.

4—Amaris and Ral walk down the stairs.
RAL: So…you listen to dark creepy head guy for what reason again?
AMARIS: Shut up.

5—They turn a bend on the stairs.
RAL: Oh, come on. You can’t tell me you like being HEAD LACKEY. What’s in it for you?
AMARIS: I get to meet new and interesting people such as yourself.

6—Ral cocks his head.
RAL: Seriously?

7—Amaris slaps Ral upside the head again.
AMARIS: No. I get to babysit some punk kid from Knightsdale who gets to play LAB RAT to a SADISTIC BASTARD with a GOD-COMPLEX.

1—Amaris grabs Ral’s arm to drag him along.
AMARIS: What do you kids say? ‘My bad.’

2—Shot of a thick, heavy door from the medieval door.
NARR: A dungeon door seperates me from unending darkness, and I make a pact with myself not to let Amaris drag me through it.

3—Ral’s thrown to the floor, his wrists tied behind his back.

4—Amaris walks about Ral, angry.
AMARIS: Suck it up.
NARR: This guy could have been a UFC fighter, too.

5—We take inventory on the cavern. For reference this is the same place that Casia spent most of her childhood (re: Annual #1). The lab’s built on a cliff in what appears to be an endless cavern. Blue lightning crackles between the stalactites. The lab on the side is highly mechanical with all sorts of nice torture devices.
NARR: Of course, this “specialist” could have been on Lex Luthor’s payroll.
NARR: The laboratory has everything from a gurney to jumper cables to giant tongue depressors.
OFF: Hello, Dawson.

1— A warrior—KALIDAS— comes forward wearing a black trench coat and a mechanic’s jumpsuit, with long hair tied back at the nape. His eyes glisten a crystal blue.
NARR: I’d seen those blue eyes before, years ago.
KALIDAS: We meet once more.

2—Ral looks up from the floor, frightened.
RAL (barely breathing): Kalidas.

3—Kalidas bends to one knees, using his expert fingers to lift Ral’s chin.
RAL: What do you want from my life NOW?
KALIDAS: What I’ve always wanted.
KALIDAS (linked): Your screams.

4—Tentacles grew from his arms toward the camera, a devious smirk upon his face.
KALIDAS: Indulge me, will you?

5—Ral’s kneeling, unbound, in a field of darkness. Breath clouds form in front of his face.
SFX (faint): SKREEEE!
NARR: A faint, grief-stricken roar pierces my ears, and the coldness freezes the air inside my lungs.
NARR: Do not panic.

1—Ral cups his hands about his throat, frantically trying to breathe.
NARR: It’s not working. I can’t breathe! I can’t—

2—Focus on Ral’s hands, now in fists, with a glimmer of white energy lacing his fingers.
NARR: Uncle Connor made white fire from his hands, like the Skadoian Warriors can make dark projections.

3—White light explodes from Ral.

1—Ral takes a deep, gasping breath, hunched over as blue fire breaks through his white light, surrounding Ral.

2— Tentacles shoot from everywhere, pinioning Ral’s arms and ankles, keeping him from standing.
KALIDAS (off): You’re STRONGER than my lord wishes for you to realize.

3—Worm’s view from behind Ral. We see Kalidas has unclipped the escrima stick from his belt, and it’s growing to be the size of a boa stick.
RAL: So why are you telling me?
KALIDAS: My and the Skadoian Lord’s goals don’t always coincide, and right now, my immediate goal is make you into MY servant before his lordship seeks you as such.

4—Kalidas swings the stick like a golf club, and when it smacks Ral’s stomach, crackling blue lightning about his body.

5—Clenching his teeth, Ral glares up through his sweaty bangs. His stomach smokes.
RAL: I didn’t give into you as a kid. I’m not going to now.

6—Another zap.
RAL: Ah!
KALIDAS (off): Oh, you think I was trying through our sessions?

1—Another zap, this time from behind. Or perhaps focus on Kalidas’s face, the light shining off of his stick. He’s enjoying himself.
KALIDAS (possibly still off): That was just practice for the main event—this, now.

2—Another zap, this time on the shoulder.
KALIDAS (off): You don’t know the full power of a Skadoian Warrior, ASHLING.

3—This time, Kalidas holds the stick to Ral’s chest, and he gets what he wants—a pleading shrill.
KALIDAS: You don’t know MY full power.

4—Ral’s now laying on his side, the cavern’s ground underneath his shoulder. He’s out of it with half-lidded eyes and sweat dribbling down his flushed face.
SFX (faint): SKREEEE!

5—Kalidas’s fists his hand in Ral’s soggy hair and jerks Ral to him.
KALIDAS: There’s only one way to survive, Dawson. EMBRACE THE—
SFX (off and powerful): SKREEE!

1—Through the darkness of the cavern flaps a dragon, spitting blue fire. It’s the same dragon who almost hate him. This time, we see the whole puppy. Dark black scales race down his back, but blue horns poke down his back. The crest of his head flies back with an accent of orange, and even his plated belly shimmers in the darkness, almost a glittery sky color. His wings are magnificent, blue inside with a golden seam. It’s quadruple Ral’s height, so like twenty-five feet tall. Thing to note—It’s missing an eye.

1—The dragon lands in front of Ral as the blue fire washes away Kalidas and Amaris like cresting ocean waves.
NARR: This is sooo not good.

2—Close up on the dragon. It’s looking down at the camera, like it’s looking at us.
NARR: It’s looking at me like Ms. Heller did when I threw that spitball and hit her smack in the neck.
NARR: Oh, I’m gonna die.

3—Dragon bends down and puffs smoke at Ral’s face.
NARR: I’m soooo gonna die.

4—Dragon touches Ral’s cheek with its snout, touching Ral’s cheek. Darkness spreads out of the edges of the panel.

1—Ral’s in a cell, watching as the blue fire of the warriors eats away Casia’s. She’s bound and struggling. Ral lunges toward her.

2—Now Ral stands before Lance, who in a chamber like Addy’s, wrapped in tentacles and glaring up at Bergener.
LANCE: What do you want?
SL: My life back.

3—Then we’re in Connor’s, but he’s not as lucky. Lasantra’s tentacle steals blood through wounds. Huffing, Connor collapses in his chains, looking up at her through his sodden bangs.
LASANTRA: Tell me, Connor! Where’s your crossing?

4—Connor laughs, tired. Lasantra’s tentacle retracts to become her hand, and she wipes his own blood on his cheek.
CONNOR: Newark, New Jersey. Good luck finding it THERE.
LASANTRA: Then perhaps I’ll just have to ask your nephew.

1—With her hand on the door, she turns as Connor whispers. Ral’s frustrated in the right corner of panel.
CONNOR (muttering): High Point.
LASANTRA: Excuse me?
RAL (shouting): Connor! You can’t! What have you—

2—Connor’s disgusted with himself.
CONNOR: It’s in High Point Monument, all right?
CONNOR (linked, whispering): Durant, forgive me.

3—Now we see Connor at an altar in her queen outfit, surrounded by warriors.
NARR: Mom’s waiting for the Skadoian Lord.

4—Then, we see the dragon, soaring through the night sky of Skadoia, only the moon as his guide. The little dragon matches his mother.

5—Ral’s back arches off the ground, breath exploding from his lungs.
NARR: The dragon’s NOT here to EAT me.

1—Now we’re looking up at the dragon, and it’s not looking so dangerous, if not serious. Maybe it’s kind of cute.
NARR: She’s here to SAVE me.
To Be Continued….