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After the Fall

This issue takes place immediately after the close of issue 15 (the first few pages of flashbacks notwithstanding). The setting is the same gothic mansion, the night is still dark, and it is still raining.

Narration will be in the form of ALAN HAMPSHIRE's CONFESSION and captions will be so noted in the script. These captions should be lettered in a long, flowing hand.

Note that PAUL changes to HARRY just before his first on-panel appearance. I'm not going to explain this for readers: old readers should pick up on what's happened, and for new readers it's irrelevant.

PAGE ONE. One panel.

Panel 1

A single panel featuring five individuals, four men and a woman, in colourful, skin-tight costumes and masks. The costumes are similar in design: each has a red-and-blue colour scheme and a big, bold "F" on the front. The figures are in a stylised group pose: running, leaping, or flying dramatically out of panel towards the reader. The woman (FREEBIRD) is flying. One man (FLEETFOOT) has "speed lines" indicating his great speed as he runs towards us. One man (FANATIC) is "bounding", for want of a better term, coming towards us on all fours as an ape might. One man (FIREBRAND) has his hands wreathed in leaping flames. The final man (FISTFIGHTER) is the biggest and most muscle-bound of the bunch. (Whew. Got all that?) It may not be apparent, as they are masked, but FLEETFOOT, FREEBIRD, and FISTFIGHTER are younger versions of the three characters introduced last issue: ALAN HAMPSHIRE, JEAN HAMPSHIRE, and ARTHUR FIRNE respectively.

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

Twenty years ago we were gods.

PAGE TWO. Three panels.

Panel 1

A laboratory with five people in it (or possibly this panel is a montage of five different laboratory scenes). The five people are those shown on PAGE 1 but in civilian clothes (specifically, white lab coats). ALAN is looking through a microscope, JEAN is using some kind of hand-held computer, ARTHUR is in the background carrying heavy boxes, "FANATIC" (JOHN LAMB) is mixing chemicals and "FIREBRAND" (WILLIAM JAYMES) is constructing some small electronic gadget (using a soldering iron or something).

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

Five colleagues, five friends, pooling our scientific genius to craft ourselves powers beyond anything mortals could imagine.

Panel 2

Looking down on the five of them (now costumed) forming a circle with their right hands laid one on top of the other. The captions should be placed next to the appropriate people. (Actually, it's only really necessary to show the hands, so this can be a small panel. Readers might not be able to figure out who is who but it's not really necessary for the story.)

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

Freebird.

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

Firebrand.

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

Fanatic.

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

Fistfighter.

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

and Fleetfoot.

Panel 3

And a big action panel, showing the five (in costume) in combat with armed police officers. FISTFIGHTER lifts a police cruiser clean above his head. FIREBRAND shoots bolts of fire from his hands, sending officers diving for cover. FANATIC leaps ferociously at a group of officers, punching one and grabbing a second by the throat, not caring that they are shooting at him (but they're missing him). FLEETFOOT, running, weaves across the scene (speed lines indicating his super-fast passage). FREEBIRD flies high above, avoiding gunshots. The panel needs to convey an invincible group with nothing to fear from a measly SWAT team.

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

The Fraternity.

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

Our crime spree was unstoppable.

PAGE THREE. Four panels.

Panel 1

The five (in civilian clothes) are now sitting for a meal in what appears to be a high-class restaurant. They are raising champagne glasses in a toast.

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

Life was good.

Panel 2

An outdoor scene (perhaps a city -- we don't need to see details). Five masked faces are turned upward. High up in the blue sky is a tiny, star-like point of light.

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

And then, it happened.

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

We don't know what it was, but in an instant it stripped the power from every superhuman on Earth.

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

It didn't matter whether those powers were inborn or technological. A lot of experimental technology also failed.

Panel 3

A costumed FIREBRAND (with no sign of his flame powers) is cut down by a hail of bullets from officers crouching behind patrol cars.

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

Firebrand was the first of us to discover he was powerless.

Panel 4

The remaining four (civilian clothes) are in a speeding car, heading down the highway.

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

The rest of us ran.

PAGE FOUR. Four panels.

Panel 1

An exterior view of ALAN's mansion (seen last issue). This needs to be a large panel, even though there is no action, to fit in all the plot exposition.

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

Years passed. Superheroes were forgotten, relegated to sensationalistic pieces on the late-night kook channels.

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

But bank robbers are never forgotten. Somewhere, in some dusty FBI file, our crimes waited to catch up with us.

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

So we hid. In the middle of nowhere. For twenty years.

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

Perhaps Firebrand was the lucky one.

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

And the rest of us were still in purgatory.

Panel 2

ARTHUR FIRNE sits on a padded table (the sort found in doctors' surgeries), stripped to the waist. ALAN HAMPSHIRE stands next to him, wearing a white lab coat, stethoscope round his neck, writing on a clipboard. Both men are older than in the scene in PAGE 2 PANEL 1 -- closer to the ages they were when seen last issue.

ARTHUR:

How long have I got, doc?

ALAN:

The Fistfighter implants put a huge strain on your system. You might still live for years. But—

Panel 3

Close up on ALAN, head bowed in sorrow.

ALAN:

I'm sorry, Arthur.

ARTHUR (off panel):

It's not your fault, Doc.

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

All of us were affected by the loss of our powers.

Panel 4

JEAN HAMPSHIRE, also looking older, sits alone in a room. She's in a chair by the window, looking out at a clear blue sky with a flock of birds passing overhead. Her face is blank.

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

For Arthur, continuing heart problems. For my wife Jean, a long slide into depression.

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

And as for John—

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

Oh, God, John—

PAGE FIVE. Four panels.

Panel 1

A reprise of the last panel of ISSUE 15: CHI-YUN on the floor with a raving figure attacking her. His eyes are wild and staring, his teeth are bared in a savage growl (maybe he's drooling) -- all the signs of a raving lunatic. His hair is long and wild. His clothes are reasonably "civilized" (jeans, flannel shirt) but he is barefoot. Around his wrists are what appear to be the remains of broken iron manacles (with a few dangling links of chain). His fingers are hooked into claws, nails long and sharp, and slashing down at CHI-YUN's face. The figure is JOHN LAMB, alias FANATIC.

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

I'm so sorry.

JOHN:

Aaooooooooooooooo

CHI-YUN:

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!

CAPTION:

Tuesday 30 September 2014

CAPTION:

Minnesota

CAPTION:

Twenty years later.

Panel 2

In a bedroom, JAMES is doing his nightly exercises (push-ups) before bed. Thus, he's wearing his costume (though not his mask). His shield is nearby.

CHI-YUN (off panel, obviously):

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!

Panel 3

JAMES is on his feet (probably crouching), reaching for his shield with one hand and pulling his cowl over his head with the other.

JAMES:

Chi-Yun?

Panel 4

In the hall, the whole team is coming out of their rooms. JAMES is now masked and ready for action. FRED is dressed but not wearing his leather jacket. HARRY is also dressed. SARA was obviously already in bed because she's just wearing her t-shirt and is barefoot.

SARA:

That was Chi-Yun!

JAMES:

Check her room.

PAGE SIX. Six panels.

Panel 1

HARRY opens a door and looks in.

HARRY:

She ain't here.

JAMES:

All right. We'll split up.

FRED (softly):

Right. That always goes well.

Panel 2

JAMES sets off down the corridor at a run.

JAMES:

Harry, top floor. Sara, this floor. Fred, back stairs.

Panel 3

The other three look at each other.

FRED:

He's not our—

SARA:

Fred! Chi-Yun's in trouble.

Panel 4

JAMES is leaping down the main staircase, several steps at a time.

No dialogue.

Panel 5

Still half way up the staircase, he vaults over the hand rail.

No dialogue.

Panel 6

He lands, effortlessly, in a crouch. He's facing the front door, which stands ajar.

No dialogue.

PAGE SEVEN. Four panels.

Panel 1

In a bedroom, SARA stands by a window, looking downwards.

SARA:

Oh, terrific.

Panel 2

Our POV is now through the window, looking down on the open ground at the front of the house. It's still pouring with rain. JAMES is down there, running towards the edge of the trees. And following him, with a hunched-over gait, is JOHN -- apparently unnoticed by JAMES. We probably need to illuminate the scene in a flash of lightning.

SFX (thunder):

KA-BOOM!

Panel 3

SARA hammers on the window pane.

SARA (shouting):

James!

Panel 4

SARA is now running down the main staircase.

SARA:

I knew I should've slept in my clothes.

PAGE EIGHT. Four panels.

Panel 1

Close-up of FRED moving down a darkened hallway, hugging the wall.

FRED (thought):

Chi-Yun?

CHI-YUN (off-panel):

No need to use telepathy. I'm right here!

Panel 2

Close-up of FRED's hand flipping on a light switch.

No dialogue.

Panel 3

We can now see FRED is very close to CHI-YUN and she's standing by the (closed) door to the cellar (from last issue).

FRED:

You ok?

CHI-YUN:

Ha, I'm tougher than any stupid monster!

FRED:

Monster? Really?

CHI-YUN:

No, a man. He jumped on me like a—a—crazy thing. But he wasn't expecting me to fight back. He ran that way—

Panel 4

FRED has moved past CHI-YUN and is heading down the hallway. CHI-YUN has grabbed his arm to hold him back.

FRED:

James is that way. We can corner—

CHI-YUN:

Wait! There's something you've got to see.

PAGE NINE. Five panels.

Panel 1

HARRY stands in the entrance to a long, low attic space. There is very little clutter, by the standards of most old attics, but there are some old boxes, crates, etc. There are several windows in the sloping roof.

HARRY:

Chi-Yun?

Panel 2

HARRY moves further into the attic. He has a revolver in his hand.

HARRY:

C'mon, kid, don't play games.

Panel 3

HARRY stops by a long, low, wooden beam -- a beam that goes horizontally across the space at floor level. Fastened to the beam are chains. Chains which appear broken open.

HARRY:

What—?

JEAN (off-panel):

We had to chain him, you see.

Panel 4

HARRY spins to see JEAN stepping towards him. She's dressed in a long, white nightgown and looks a bit spooky in the darkness. HARRY covers her with the gun.

HARRY:

Lady — Mrs. Hampshire—

JEAN:

Poor John. It's the drugs. They messed with his mind. Left him—

Panel 5

JEAN is now right next to HARRY, her wide, staring eyes just a few inches from his face.

JEAN:

Dangerous.

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

The serum that gave John his Fanatic powers affected his brain chemistry. That effect didn't fade when our powers failed. I've spent twenty years trying to find a cure.

PAGE TEN. Six panels.

Panel 1

FRED and CHI-YUN stand at the top of the cellar stairs, looking at the dead body hanging on the back of the door.

CHI-YUN:

I didn't do it!

FRED:

He's been dead a couple of days, I think.

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

And I'm so close! That's why we can't risk discovery. They all rely on me.

Panel 2

A close-up on a wallet in CHI-YUN's hands, as she shows it to FRED. The wallet holds official identification for SPECIAL AGENT TOM SMITH and has the dead man's photograph. It says FBI in big prominent letters.

CHI-YUN (off-panel):

And look at this!

FRED (off-panel):

Oh, that's not good.

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

I had to take drastic measures.

Panel 3

Back in the hallway, FRED and CHI-YUN are going in opposite directions.

FRED:

Find Sara and Harry upstairs and tell them. I'll look around some more.

Panel 4

FRED steps into a large kitchen. A back door stands swinging open.

FRED (thought):

James?

FRED:

Damn it.

Panel 5

FRED is now standing on the step outside the back door, looking out towards the woods surrounding the house. Rain comes down in sheets. In this view, we shouldn't be able to see anything directly behind him in the kitchen.

FRED:

Captain Crusader's gonna get himself—

Panel 6

Now, in a wider view (or different angle), we see behind FRED. ARTHUR stands there. He is holding a rifle and has brought the butt down on FRED's head. FRED is falling, unconscious.

SFX (blow):

THUNK

FRED:

Uhhhh*

PAGE ELEVEN. Five panels.

Panel 1

SARA runs out of the main door of the house, into the pouring rain.

SARA (shouting):

James!

Panel 2

JAMES is at the edge of the woods, looking back towards the house. He sees SARA -- and he also sees JOHN leaping toward her.

JAMES (shouting):

Sara!

Panel 3

As JAMES continues shouting, ALAN hits him on the head, from behind, with a large tree branch.

JAMES (shouting):

Look Ou—

SFX:

THUD

Panel 4

SARA looks off towards the woods. She is unaware of JOHN snarling and leaping with hands reaching for her throat.

SARA:

Wha—

Panel 5

Close-up of SARA's bare foot, slipping in the wet mud.

SARA (off-panel):

—aaaaaa!

PAGE TWELVE. Six panels.

Panel 1

SARA is lying on the ground (covered in mud) as JOHN's leap sends him sailing over her.

SARA:

Ohhh—Yuck!

Panel 2

SARA is now on her knees, facing JOHN. He's in a crouch, staring back at her.

JOHN:

Hurrr. Muuuuddy.

SARA:

Stay back—I know karate!

Panel 3

In a single leap (shown by motion lines), JOHN springs to the top of the steps. (This panel and the next two should be small, perhaps overlapping each other, giving the impression of rapid motion.)

No dialogue.

Panel 4

Next, he leaps up and grasps the lintel above the door...

No dialogue.

Panel 5

...and swings up and over to grab a metal drain-pipe.

No dialogue.

Panel 6

SARA is on her feet (the rain starting to wash some of the mud away already) and looking up.

SARA:

I am not following that!

PAGE THIRTEEN. Five panels.

Panel 1

In the woods, ALAN and JAMES face each other, circling. We might be able to see there is a steep drop behind JAMES (so ALAN must have moved round to be between JAMES and the house).

JAMES:

Mr. Hampshire, whatever the trouble is here, let us help you!

Panel 2

ALAN swings the branch he holds and JAMES deflects it with his SHIELD.

ALAN:

Arrrrrgh!

SFX:

CLANG

JAMES:

Mr. Hampshire, I don't want to fight you!

Panel 3

ALAN swings again, JAMES dodges -- and completely loses his balance.

ALAN:

Uhhhhh!

JAMES:

Ahh—

Panel 4

Small close-up on JAMES's feet as they slip in the mud.

No dialogue.

Panel 5

JAMES, flat on his back, out of control and flailing for a hand-hold, goes sliding down a steep slope. We can't see the bottom: possibly because it's dark but possibly because it's a loooong way down.

No dialogue.

PAGE FOURTEEN. Five panels.

Panel 1

Back in the attic. HARRY has backed away from JEAN. His back is to a window. He keeps his gun pointed in her direction.

JEAN:

So my husband—well, you understand why he has to kill people? He does it for all of us. To keep us safe.

HARRY:

Lady, you're all crazy. You've got to get out of this house. Get help.

Panel 2

HARRY turns to look out of the window as a sudden flash of lightning shows JOHN outside, climbing upwards.

SFX (thunder):

KA-BOOM!

HARRY:

What the hell—?

JEAN:

John!

JEAN:

He thinks he still has his powers. He'll kill himself!

Panel 3

HARRY has the window open and is leaning out, looking upwards.

HARRY:

Hey! Monkey man!

HARRY:

Mrs. Hampshire, you stay right there.

Panel 4

HARRY is now outside the window, clambering up onto the sloping, rain-slicked roof. He still has his gun in one hand.

HARRY:

I've got to be crazy.

Panel 5

HARRY is on the point of the roof, clinging to a brick chimney.

HARRY:

He's gonna kill himself?

PAGE FIFTEEN. Six panels.

Panel 1

HARRY inches along the point of the roof, arms out for balance, looking at his feet. Some distance away along the roof, JOHN balances on a gable end with a three-storey drop behind him, and looks back at HARRY.

HARRY:

John? Come on in. You're not well. We'll get you help.

Panel 2

Close-up on HARRY's hand as he lets go of the gun while flailing for balance.

No dialogue.

Panel 3

The gun bounces down the roof and drops over the edge.

HARRY (off-panel):

Great.

Panel 4

The panel shows JOHN, emphasising his wide staring eyes and teeth bared in a manic grin. HARRY is close now and reaching for him. HARRY can be mostly off panel, with just his arm reaching in, to allow more room for the portrait of JOHN.

HARRY (off-panel):

Come on, John. You don't want to be out in the rain, do you?

HARRY (off-panel):

Jean is—

JOHN:

Jeeean? Teeeeell Jeeeean—

Panel 5

Close-up on JOHN's face. The manic expression has gone, replaced by a small smile.

JOHN:

Goodbye.

Panel 6

He leaps backwards into empty air.

No dialogue.

PAGE SIXTEEN. Six panels.

Panel 1

A close-up on a pair of hands reaching up and gripping a horizontal tree branch. It's JAMES (the reader should be able tell from his costume's gauntlets) and he's grabbing the branch from below as he slides under it, arresting his downward plunge.

No dialogue.

Panel 2

In a wider view, we see a muddy JAMES swinging up and over the branch, like a gymnast on a high bar.

No dialogue.

Panel 3

Close-up on JAMES squatting on top of the branch. He's completely coated in mud.

JAMES:

All right. He's starting to tick me off.

Panel 4

ALAN stands staring at the house and we can see JOHN falling through the air, limbs flailing.

ALAN:

Noooooooooooo!

Panel 5

JOHN hits the ground, hard and uncontrolled. It looks bad.

SFX:

THUD

Panel 6

As ALAN stands, staring, JAMES leaps off a tree branch and tackles him. (Note the leap is from the side, as JAMES would never strike a man from behind!)

ALAN:

Ufff

PAGE SEVENTEEN. Six panels.

Panel 1

ARTHUR comes around the side of the house at a run. He is still carrying the rifle.

ARTHUR:

<huff> <huff>

Panel 2

We see, from ARTHUR's POV, what looks like ALAN and JAMES exchanging blows.

ARTHUR:

Doc! Hold on!

Panel 3

Our POV is now down the sights of the rifle. And as it fires, ALAN is jerking backwards, hands clutching his chest. JAMES is just looking on -- it's obvious that it's not a punch from JAMES that's knocking him down.

SFX (gun):

BANG

Panel 4

The rifle drops from ARTHUR's fingers as he stands there, in shock.

ARTHUR:

Doc?

Panel 5

ARTHUR begins to run towards ALAN -- but there's something wrong with him. His left arm is held awkwardly, as if it's spasming, and his right hand clutches his chest.

ARTHUR:

What have I done? What have I—

ARTHUR:

Ahh!

ARTHUR:

Oh no.

Panel 6

ARTHUR pitches face-down into the mud.

No dialogue.

PAGE EIGHTEEN. Six panels.

Panel 1

JEAN comes down the steps from the house. She's still in her nightgown and barefoot. Her face is blank.

JEAN:

What?

Panel 2

She looks at where SARA kneels over the still form of JOHN.

No dialogue.

Panel 3

She looks at where ARTHUR lies face down and unmoving.

No dialogue.

Panel 4

She looks at where JAMES kneels over ALAN.

No dialogue.

Panel 5

She sinks to her knees in the mud, covering her face with her hands.

JEAN:

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Panel 6

JAMES kneels over ALAN, attempting first aid. There's blood on ALAN's shirt, though the rain is washing it away.

JEAN (off panel):

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

JAMES:

Don't die. Don't die!

PAGE NINETEEN. Three panels.

Panel 1

Close-up on ALAN's face as he lies flat on the ground. His eyes are open.

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

I just wanted to help my friends.

Panel 2

The same view, with ALAN's eyes closed.

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

Just to fix our lives.

Panel 3

A wider view, from above, looking down on ALAN's body. JAMES still kneels next to him but now appears to be making no move to aid him (it's too late for that).

CAPTION (ALAN's CONFESSION):

But when gods fall, it's a long way back up.

PAGE TWENTY. Four panels.

Panel 1

Much later. The sun is just starting to come over the trees -- and, yes, the sky is clear and there is no more rain. Several police cars and two ambulances are parked in front of the mansion. Four covered bodies are either being loaded into ambulances or lying nearby on stretchers. In the background, HARRY talks to a man in an overcoat. We'll call him SPECIAL AGENT JONES. In the foreground, JAMES watches the scene. He is no longer in costume.

JONES:

We've been hunting this bunch for twenty years.

Panel 2

Closer view of HARRY and JONES.

JONES:

I knew Agent Smith was getting close but I didn't know just how close.

HARRY:

There are papers in the study that finger Hampshire as Smith's killer. Lot of crazy history about super powers, too.

JONES:

I'll need you to sign some statements but apart from that you're all free to go.

Panel 3

Both men watch JEAN being lead past by two police men. She's in a strait jacket and her face is blank, eyes wide and vacant.

JONES:

I can't see any of this ever making it to a court room.

Panel 4

Back at JAMES, watching the scene, eyes almost as vacant as JEAN's.

SARA (off-panel):

It wasn't our fault. They did it all to themselves.

PAGE TWENTY-ONE. Five panels.

Panel 1

JAMES turns to look at SARA. (She's now properly dressed for travelling.)

JAMES:

The Event that stripped their super powers. That's what ruined their lives.

SARA:

They were villains, James.

Panel 2

POV from behind them, looking with them to where JEAN is being helped into a police car.

JAMES:

How many other lives did it destroy?

SARA:

James—

JAMES:

My father caused it. I know that from his journals.

Panel 3

SARA turns to face him again and takes his hand.

SARA:

To save the world. You know that.

JAMES:

Couldn't he have found another way? Does the good of the many excuse—

Panel 4

He walks away from her. Our POV is of his retreating back.

JAMES:

Ah, what would you know about it?

Panel 5

Close-up of SARA's face, her eyes as bleak as his.

SARA (softly):

More than you would think.

PAGE TWENTY-TWO. Four panels.

Panel 1

A close view of JAMES's back as he walks down the drive towards the main road. CHI-YUN is walking next to him.

CHI-YUN:

I'm pretty sure I can pull the car out of the ditch.

CHI-YUN:

Yay for superpowers!

Panel 2

Wider, more distant view, still from behind, showing FRED falling into step beside them.

FRED:

You couldn't have decided that last night?

CHI-YUN:

And missed catching the bad guys?

Panel 3

Still the same view, though they're further away, and HARRY has joined them.

HARRY:

This time, I'm driving.

CHI-YUN:

I want to drive one day!

Panel 4

And as they continue down the slope (same viewpoint), SARA follows behind them.

No dialogue.

Next: Whatever Happened to Don?

Copyright © 2004, 2017 by David Meadows. All rights reserved.