The main feature of panel 6 is the use of tension -- voyeurism (the view through the window into the cafe) Slightly menacing lyrics issuing from the cafe jukebox, and dialogue that, at this point, is not fully comprehensible to the reader. Heavy shadows bring a Noir tension to the faces of the characters. I feel like we are taking big risks here, possibly alienating readers who want things spelled out right away -- but I want things to unfold at a suspenseful pace, rather than giving it to everyone on a silver platter and right up front.
Here's the chunk of story that I was working from:
Inside the coffee shop, there was a jukebox playing at low volume, and the tinny sound of "Mammy!" filtered under the door. Interwoven with the music was another sound which I finally identified as laughter--a woman, probably heavy. A young man's voice answered her. And then another voice could be picked out, a childlike one talking very slowly and deliberately. The woman kept laughing, and her voice, high but with the full sound of weight behind it, gave me chills.
I decided I was going to get the key from Nick before I lost my room rights--I was too tired to put up with his knocking around in the middle of the night tonight.
Nick was walking out of the office toward me. He had a big shit-eating grin on his face, and he was holding up two sets of keys.
"Separate rooms," he said. 'You're in number nine. I'm in number ten. Queen sized beds. Color television. Free HBO."
"Sure . . . for mine."
"And half of mine." I was fishing through my pockets for a cigarette, glaring up at him.
"Pay for half of mine. I need to explain it to you? To spell it out? What?"
He stood there with the keys in his hand, weighing his options. I had the cigarette in my mouth and was trying for a lighter now.
"Fine. Whatever," he said finally. "I'll have enough to pay you back after L.A."
As with all of the panels, I pushed around a lot of the details, deciding to reveal certain things a moment earlier, and other things a moment later, than in the original story. Here's the script:
Screen 6: Five panels, arranged to fit best:
Panel 1: Nick coming out of the office door, in shadow, backlit, but we can see the grin on his face.
SFX: Music, drifting across the panel: I’m gonna turn you around and put you upside down . . .
Panel 2: The café window with the “Open All Nite” sign in close-up. A blurred figure wiping a counter down. A jukebox in the corner, all of it hazy through condensation on glass.
SFX: Music, emanating from the jukebox . . . and if that don’t stop your runnin’ around
Panel 3: Nick’s hand dangling a key out to the Narrator:
Nick: You’re in number nine. I’m in number ten.
SFX: I’m a-goin’ to set my foot right down on you, a hoo-hoo . . .
Panel 4: Two-shot, the narrator taking the key.
Nick: Queen-sized beds, color TV and HBO . . .
Narrator: And you can pay for half of mine.
SFX: Music continues: I’m gonna stop your struttin’ baby
Panel 5: Choker shot, the Narrator dragging on a cigarette, smoke curling around his face.
Nick (off panel): What the hell for?
Narrator: I have to spell it out for you? What?
SFX: Music: Till you say you’re through!
At this point, the observant reader will realize that the music has already changed from what was playing in the story. From Al Jolsen to Buddy Holly. And it's not Buddy Holly in the final panels singing, but yet a third song. It was Buddy Holly until the last minute, when we found out that we wouldn't be able to use those lyrics (defensible, I thought, as a cultural reference) and had to replace them. And here's where a varied career comes in handy: I had lyrics of my own from way back in university, when I was upright bassist for The Chop Tops and I penned a country / blues number called "I Blame You." Since this screen is all about some unexplained tension between the two men, the lyrics fit perfectly.
Cesar thumbnailed the panel out like this:
And from there worked up these pencils:
Which became this heavy ink. But wait -- notice any difference? That's right -- the wrong character was smoking in the pencils :)
And here is the original lettering, with the Buddy Holly lyrics:
Sorry about the Copyright infringement, Buddy -- though technically, you've been dead over fifty years, so why does Paul McCartney still get to make money off of your work? It's a strange world, indeed.
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