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24: Sparks

This story takes place a couple of days after the previous one. It is early evening, autumn in Detroit, and outdoor scenes and clothing should reflect this.

Narration in this issue is in the form of JAMES's journal entries, which should be indicated on-panel by a distinctive (neat and precise) hand-written script. These captions will be marked in the script as "JAMES's JOURNAL", to distinguish them from third-person narrative captions.

PAGE ONE. Four panels.

Panel 1

A close-up of JAMES behind the wheel of the RV. He's wearing his green-and-black costume (including gloves) but his cowl is pulled back down to reveal his face.

CAPTION:

Wednesday 15 October 2014.

CAPTION:

Detroit, Michigan.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

I'm not really sure why I'm doing this.

Panel 2

Close-up on the SHIELD, which is propped close to hand (maybe there's a conveniently-sized pocket in the side of the door, or something?)

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

When my father wore this costume, he was the world's greatest hero. But he was also a police officer. His job was to solve crimes and put away the criminals.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

But I'm not sure that's what I want.

Panel 3

A long view back through the body of the RV, with JAMES in the foreground, SARA in the passenger seat next to him, and FRED, CHI-YUN and JEROME sitting further back in the vehicle.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

I just want to help people.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

People like Sara, Chi-Yun, and Fred. They're on the run because of their super-human powers. They can't afford to draw attention.

Panel 4

Now just a shot of SARA and JAMES in the front. She's glaring at him.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

So should they really get mixed up in chasing super-villains?

SARA:

This is still crazy!

PAGE TWO. Six panels.

Panel 1

The gang sits talking in a motel room. It's not a big room so they're sitting on the bed (JAMES and SARA), on the only chair (JEROME), on the floor (CHI-YUN) and on the dresser (FRED). Everybody is looking at JAMES, who is holding a newspaper. (JAMES is not in costume.)

CAPTION:

Yesterday.

SARA:

That's crazy!

Panel 2

Close-up on JAMES holding out the newspaper. It's the paper he was reading in ISSUE 23 PAGE 20 and we can see the headline "BANK HERO IN CRITICAL CONDITION"

JAMES:

He's hurting people and I'm going to stop him.

Panel 3

FRED stands and turns away. (JAMES can be in the panel or his speech can come from off-panel, it's not important.)

FRED:

She's right, you're crazy.

JAMES:

It's something I have to do.

FRED:

Good luck.

Panel 4

As SARA talks to JAMES, we see FRED leaving the room in the background.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Do I have to do it? My father would. But I'm not a police officer.

SARA:

We've got no reason to get involved in this.

JAMES:

I'm not asking you to come along. I'm just saying I'm going.

Panel 5

A view of CHI-YUN and JEROME, who have remained silent up till now (yes, I know that's pretty amazing for CHI-YUN).

JEROME:

And I will come with you, James. Let us bring the scoundrel to justice!

CHI-YUN:

I'll come too! I can practice my martial arts!

Panel 6

Back to JAMES and SARA. He's smiling; she's frowning.

JAMES:

Thanks, Jerome, Chi-Yun.

JAMES:

Sara?

SARA:

Of course I'm coming.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

It's great when we decide things democratically.

PAGE THREE. Four panels.

Panel 1

The following morning. The RV is in the motel parking lot. A sign tells us that this is a BATES MOTEL. (Which isn't actually important... unless you're taking a shower, maybe.) JAMES, SARA, JEROME, and CHI-YUN are walking towards the RV. Each will be carrying a small overnight bag (and JAMES has the case containing his SHIELD, obviously). JAMES is still in "civilian" clothes. FRED already stands by the open door of the RV, smoking.

CAPTION:

This morning.

JAMES:

Fred, we can drop you somewhere in Detroit while we're on patrol.

Panel 2

Close-up on FRED, rolling his eyes.

FRED:

"Patrol"?

Panel 3

FRED throws his cigarette to the ground.

FRED:

Don't bother. I'm coming along.

FRED:

Someone's got to keep you out of trouble.

Panel 4

FRED climbs in to the RV while the others exchange surprised looks, raised eyebrows, shrugs, etc.

FRED:

But I still think it's crazy.

PAGE FOUR. Five panels.

Panel 1

Back to the scene in the last panel of PAGE ONE -- SARA and JAMES talking in the front of the RV.

CAPTION:

Now.

JAMES:

It's not crazy.

Panel 2

SARA throws up her arms in despair.

SARA:

You don't even know where to look!

JAMES:

We can deduce his target. He likes to be noticed, so he's going to hit something high-profile. But he's smart—he knows that banks are on their guard against him. So, somewhere else—

Panel 3

Now SARA has her head in her hands.

JAMES:

Some kind of sports event. Somewhere that will take a lot of cash in a short time.

SARA:

Has it occurred to you, Sherlock, that the Detroit PD will already have thought of all that?

Panel 4

She's looking at him again. His eyes have remained on the road throughout the conversation.

JAMES:

But we have advantages they don't. Fred's clairvoyance. Chi-Yun's animal senses. Your luck—

SARA:

You need a serious reality check.

Panel 5

Now she's looking off to the side, through the passenger window.

JAMES:

You said the same thing in Vancouver.

SARA:

Vancouver was different. We had clues.

PAGE FIVE. Five panels.

Panel 1

SARA is still looking out of the side window. But this POV is from the side, so she's looking out-of-panel at us. (JAMES is in the background in this POV but he doesn't need to be shown.)

SARA:

We can't just drive round randomly, hoping to—

Panel 2

Same view, but now her eyes are open wide in surprise.

No dialogue.

Panel 3

SARA turns back to JAMES.

SARA:

Did you see that?

JAMES:

What?

SARA:

In that van!

Panel 4

An exterior view of the RV driving down a city street. Maybe a view from above. Passing (just passed, in fact) on the other side of the road is a non-descript, inconspicuous white van.

SARA (from inside vehicle):

Turn us around. The Electric Raider was driving that van.

Panel 5

JAMES makes a U-turn.

JAMES (from inside vehicle):

See? you're good at finding things.

SARA (from inside vehicle):

But—only things that are important to me.

SARA (softly, from inside vehicle):

Weird.

PAGE SIX. Four panels.

Panel 1

Interior view again. FRED is standing behind JAMES and SARA, between them, and looking ahead with them.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

I have total confidence in my methods and principles.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

And in Sara's.

FRED:

Hang back. You don't want him to make us.

JAMES:

I do know what I'm doing, Fred.

Panel 2

SARA turns to look at FRED.

SARA:

Can you get a sense of where he's going?

FRED:

I hate to prove Captain Boyscout right, but it looks like a hockey arena.

Panel 3

SARA looks surprised. FRED jerks his thumb over his shoulder.

SARA:

You read that in his mind?

FRED:

No, I read it on a street sign back there.

Panel 4

Same group shot. (Yes, I know I'm doing these boring static pages again, but don't worry there's a big fight coming up. Think of this as an opportunity for the artist to show off his grasp of facial expressions and body language.)

FRED:

It's too hard to read his mind when I can't see him. And if I screw up, he might notice me doing it.

JAMES:

Let's see, he'll most likely make for the service area—

PAGE SEVEN. Four panels.

Panel 1

Another exterior shot, just to break the monotony. The RV is turning off the main road.

JAMES (from inside vehicle):

That's going to be down this way.

Panel 2

Back to a SARA/JAMES/FRED interior panel.

SARA:

Expert on hockey arenas, James? I had football down as your game.

JAMES:

You're right. Opening quarterback in high school.

FRED (softly):

Figures.

Panel 3

Remember that FRED is behind JAMES (and JAMES keeps his eyes on the road, of course) so JAMES can't see the face FRED is making at him.

FRED:

Oh, really? I though baseball for an all-American like you.

JAMES:

4.8 batting average in little league.

FRED (softly):

Oh, gimme a break!

Panel 4

The RV now driving down an empty street. Not much exciting in this panel -- it's just a backdrop to some more exposition.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

I don't like to boast, but sometimes Fred really ticks me off.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Besides, I'm proud of my achievements. I worked hard for everything I got.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

I could have gone to college on a football scholarship but I turned it down so I could follow my father's footsteps.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Enrolled in the LAPD academy.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

And I would be there now if not for Sara.

PAGE EIGHT. Three panels.

Panel 1

A teenage boy's bedroom (JAMES's, of course). There are books, a computer, a model of the statue of liberty made out of matchsticks -- no, I'm kidding about the statue. But there should be stuff that suits JAMES. It's surprisingly tidy for a teenage boy... well, maybe that's not so surprising. Anyway, JAMES is here, sitting at a desk, writing something. The only light is from a desk lamp. He's wearing the costume, minus the gloves and cowl.

CAPTION:

One month ago.

CAPTION:

Los Angeles.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

I didn't tell my father when I discovered his costume and journals in the attic. If he didn't want me to know about his heroic career as Major Democracy, then there was no need for him to know about mine.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Well, not until I could present it to him as a fait accompli.

Panel 2

Now a close-up on the letter as he writes it. The handwriting should be the same style as we're using for his captions, of course. The letter reads:

Sept. 14
Dad,
If you're reading this, you'll know that I've gone. I'm not sure where I'll be, all I can say is that I'll be following your footsteps and I will do my best to make you proud of me.
Don't worry about me. You taught me how to take care of myself and I hope you will trust that I am doing the right thing.
I will be back as soon as I am able, then I think we will need one of those father-and-son talks.
Give my love to Mom.

And his pen is in the middle of his signature.

No dialogue.

Panel 3

JAMES, now in full costume and carrying the SHIELD, is letting himself out of an ordinary suburban house.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

I gave myself six months' training with the shield—in secret, of course—before I was confident enough to go out on my first patrol.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Of course, I'd already spent years studying self defense and other skills I thought I might need in the LAPD.

PAGE NINE. Two panels.

Panel 1

In a big panel, JAMES stands on a rooftop and surveys the city of Los Angeles.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

I'm glad I wrote that note, though at the time I wasn't intending it to be found. It was just a safeguard, in case the worst should happen.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

I intended to do a short patrol, just a warm-up, and be back before dawn.

Panel 2

And in another big panel, we look down on SARA running along the edge of a big storm drain, pursued by a K-MAN. It's another view of the scene from way back on PAGE 21 of ISSUE #1.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

And then I saw her.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

And everything changed.

PAGE TEN. Two panels.

Panel 1

A big "montage" panel, showing various scenes from the last few issues. This will include JAMES and SARA fighting the K-MAN way back in ISSUE 2, the "WILD BOY" running through the woods and DOYLE the bounty hunter from ISSUE 4, TROLLS from ISSUE 12, KNIGHT OWL from ISSUE 20, and POWL THE SAMURAI from ISSUE 21. Basically, all the "weird happenings" JAMES has come across. JAMES's captions will be interspersed with the pictures.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Before that, I'd had no idea that a new generation of super-human powers was emerging.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

But if powers are only emerging in kids and teens, it's not a great leap of deduction to realize that there are unscrupulous people out there looking to exploit them.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Suddenly, putting criminals behind bars didn't seem like such an important mission.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

It's hard to imagine that people with powers need protection—my father spent his life protecting normal humans from super-powered menaces!

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

But I've vowed to help people.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Protect and Serve.

Panel 2

Back to a view of the vehicle interior, and now CHI-YUN and JEROME are crowding to the front to see what's going on, so we see the whole group together.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

And the best place to do that is here with these people.

CHI-YUN:

Are we there yet?

PAGE ELEVEN. Two panels.

Panel 1

The gang is out of (or in the process of leaving) the parked vehicle. JAMES now has the SHIELD strapped to his arm (naturally) and has his cowl pulled up to conceal his face.

JAMES:

Remember, he's armed and dangerous. He's already put one person in hospital.

FRED:

And so we're doing this because—?

Panel 2

In the dominant panel of the page, JAMES leads the group down the street. This should be a very "cool" and dramatic pose with them walking out of panel towards us. JAMES is in the centre, SARA and JEROME flanking him. CHI-YUN next to SARA, FRED next to JEROME and a couple of paces behind.

JAMES:

Because we can.

PAGE TWELVE. Four panels.

Panel 1

They continue to move down the street -- ahead of them is the gate into the stadium's service area. The gate stands open and nobody is in sight. SARA has grabbed JAMES's arm to get his attention.

SARA:

Do we have a plan?

Panel 2

JAMES turns to her.

JAMES:

Yes—

SFX (off-panel):

Zzzzrrrrackkkk

Panel 3

JAMES is now running towards the open gate, leaving the others standing.

JAMES:

Come on!

Panel 4

Close-up on SARA, arms thrown up in exasperation.

SARA:

Come on isn't a plan!

PAGE THIRTEEN. Three panels.

Panel 1

The service area. It's a walled enclosure with doors into the arena and bays to unload trucks. There are also a number of cars parked here (presumably belonging to staff). The van which the team has been tailing is parked here, too. Its rear doors are open and the ELECTRIC RAIDER (last seen in ISSUE 23 PAGE 17, if you haven't been paying attention) is in the process of loading large boxes of cash. An arena security guard lies nearby, either unconscious or dead (don't worry too much, he's not dead). This should be a pretty big panel to set the scene for the next few pages of action.

JAMES (off-panel):

Hold it right there, mister.

Panel 2

Now a view of the gated entrance to the service area -- to show JAMES has entered and is striding towards the RAIDER.

JAMES:

I suggest you give yourself up and pray that you haven't hurt that—

Panel 3

Back at the ELECTRIC RAIDER, who has dropped the box he was carrying and raised one arm (it doesn't matter which one, but probably the right because he's right handed) to point at JAMES. A bolt of electricity is leaping from the gauntlet.

ELECTRIC RAIDER:

I don't have time for this.

SFX:

Zzz—

PAGE FOURTEEN. One panel.

Panel 1

A big splash panel to show JAMES getting zapped. Oh yes, he's been zapped squarely in the chest by a big bolt of lightning. The force has picked him up and flung him backwards.

SFX:

—zrrrrackkkk

PAGE FIFTEEN. Three panels.

Panel 1

JAMES lies on the ground, not moving. He's probably smoking a bit. Behind him, SARA and JEROME charge in, with FRED and CHI-YUN just a little behind.

SARA:

James!

CHI-YUN (softly):

We really need superhero code names.

FRED:

Look out!

Panel 2

SARA leaps to the left (from our POV, so her right), colliding with JEROME and knocking him the same way. FRED and CHI-YUN both leap to the right (our right). A massive bolt slices through the air where they were standing.

SFX:

Zzzzrrrrackkkk

Panel 3

CHI-YUN and FRED are crouching behind one of the parked cars, using it as cover.

CHI-YUN:

Fry his brain or something!

FRED:

Sure, you draw his fire while I concentrate.

SFX:

Zzzzrrrrackkkk

CHI-YUN:

Er—no thanks!

PAGE SIXTEEN. Four panels.

Panel 1

On the other side, SARA and JEROME are behind another car. From this POV, we should see JAMES lying on the ground. SARA is looking at him anxiously. JEROME has his eyes closed and is leaning back against the car.

SARA:

He's not moving! Jerome, he needs a doctor!

JEROME:

Aye, I will allow Paul to emerge.

Panel 2

Now our POV is looking down on JAMES's prone form. His eyes are open but he hasn't moved.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

That was the biggest hit I've ever taken. If the costume wasn't insulated—

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

No use lying here and worrying everybody. I'll stand up and—

Panel 3

Now back to the previous view of JEROME/PAUL and SARA looking at JAMES. PAUL's personality has now taken over from JEROME, so I'll label the captions appropriately. PAUL is still leaning against the car but now his eyes are open and he's looking at JAMES's body. JAMES still hasn't moved.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Ok. I'll stand up as soon as I can make my legs work.

PAUL:

I'm here.

SARA:

James got—

PAUL:

I know. But I can't get to him while—

Panel 4

SARA pulls PAUL away from the car he's leaning against.

SFX:

Zzzzrrrrackkkk

SARA:

Don't lean on the car! It will conduct!

PAGE SEVENTEEN. Four panels.

Panel 1

PAUL clicks his fingers as a sudden thought hits him.

PAUL:

Conducting—of course!

PAUL:

Chi-Yun!

Panel 2

FRED and CHI-YUN are still crouching by the other car.

CHI-YUN:

What?

PAUL (off-panel):

He can't hurt you while you're in the air!

CHI-YUN:

Huh?

Panel 3

FRED has grabbed CHI-YUN and pulled her to look at him.

FRED:

He's right! You won't conduct the charge!

CHI-YUN:

Huh?

FRED:

Like birds on a power line!

Panel 4

Close-up on CHI-YUN's face as comprehension dawns.

CHI-YUN:

Oh! I can do that! Stand back!

CHI-YUN (thought):

Giant eagle.

PAGE EIGHTEEN. Five panels.

Panel 1

Now a view of the car from the other side, as a giant (well, CHI-YUN-sized) eagle launches itself into the air.

No dialogue.

Panel 2

All this has only taken a few seconds, of course, but it's been enough time for the ELECTRIC RAIDER to finish. So now we see him about to climb into the front of his van, with the back doors closed (and the boxes of loot stashed inside). But he's turned away from the van as something off-panel has distracted him.

ELECTRIC RAIDER:

What the—?

Panel 3

As CHI-YUN-EAGLE swoops into the attack, the RAIDER is taken by surprise. He throws up his arms to defend himself, firing an electric bolt which misses CHI-YUN by a narrow margin. (It has to miss as I don't want to reveal whether or not she really is safe in the air. It's one for amateur physicists to debate in the letters page.)

ELECTRIC RAIDER:

Ahhhhh!

SFX:

Zzzzrrrrackkkk

Panel 4

FRED is now standing behind the car and looking in the direction of CHI-YUN and the RAIDER (although they don't need to be in this panel).

FRED (thought):

Huh. I never thought it would work.

FRED (thought):

Pain.

Panel 5

As CHI-YUN-EAGLE flaps around, buffeting the ELECTRIC RAIDER with her wings, the RAIDER is ignoring her and grabbing his head in pain.

ELECTRIC RAIDER:

Arrrrrrgghhhhh!!!!!

PAGE NINETEEN. Four panels.

Panel 1

And finally, with the RAIDER reeling from multiple attacks, SARA comes out of nowhere (actually from off-panel) to deliver the coup-de-grace in the form of a kick to the head.

SFX:

Crack!

Panel 2

SARA, CHI-YUN (in her normal form) and FRED stand looking down at the prone ELECTRIC RAIDER.

FRED:

Get his weapons off him—his gloves.

Panel 3

PAUL is helping JAMES to his feet.

PAUL:

You should rest after a jolt like that.

JAMES:

The costume is insulated. I barely felt it.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Ouch!

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

His weapons are fantastic. He's obviously a technical genius.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Why would a man squander a gift like that, when he could be using it to help mankind?

JAMES:

Can you check that security guard?

Panel 4

PAUL is kneeling over the unconscious guard and doing doctor-type stuff (taking a pulse, or whatever).

PAUL:

He's taken a jolt but he's stable. I'll call an ambulance.

JAMES:

Call the police, too. We can tie up the Electric Raider and leave before they arrive.

PAGE TWENTY. Five panels.

Panel 1

CHI-YUN and FRED are yanking off the RAIDER's gauntlets. SARA stands by, glaring down at him.

ELECTRIC RAIDER (softly):

Ohhhhh

SARA:

Move and I'll kick you again.

ELECTRIC RAIDER:

Sara? Is that you, kiddo?

Panel 2

Everybody stares at SARA.

No dialogue.

Panel 3

SARA is kneeling and tugging at the ELECTRIC RAIDER's helmet/mask. Everybody watches.

JAMES:

Taking his mask off is violating his constitutional right to—

Panel 4

The helmet is now off and his face is clearly visible. We've seen him before, of course (ISSUE #22 PAGE 22). Thin face, dark brown curly hair shot through with grey, but he's not wearing his glasses this time. And he's got a surprisingly cheerful grin, considering he's just been beaten. Everybody is staring at him.

JAMES (softly):

Ok, never mind.

SARA:

You?

ELECTRIC RAIDER:

Is that any way to greet your uncle Danny?

Panel 5

Everybody stares at SARA again.

CHI-YUN:

Uncle Danny?

PAGE TWENTY-ONE. Five panels.

Panel 1

SARA walks away from the group, as they all look at either her or the RAIDER with various expressions of confusion or disbelief.

FRED:

Is everybody in your family a crook?

FRED (softly):

Aw, crap.

FRED (softly):

Sorry.

Panel 2

Close up on SARA, her face like thunder.

SARA:

He's not my uncle.

SARA:

He's one of my mother's old boyfriends.

Panel 3

The ELECTRIC RAIDER is trying to stand but JAMES and CHI-YUN hold him down.

ELECTRIC RAIDER:

Hey! Less of the "old"!

JAMES:

You can stay put until the police get here. And count yourself lucky that no one was seriously hurt.

ELECTRIC RAIDER:

Tell your Mom about this! Tell her about the suit and the weapons!

Panel 4

The ELECTRIC RAIDER calls after SARA's retreating back.

ELECTRIC RAIDER:

Tell her I've still got it!

Panel 5

Same view, with SARA further away and not looking back.

ELECTRIC RAIDER:

Even without my powers, I've still got it!

PAGE TWENTY-TWO. Five panels.

Panel 1

The RV drives along a city street. Police cars are heading in the opposite direction, lights flashing.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

We stopped a dangerous criminal. And we did it as a team. I couldn't ask for a better outcome.

Panel 2

An interior view, showing JAMES driving (he's costumed but unmasked) and SARA sitting glumly next to him. They speak without looking at one another.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

Except...

JAMES:

Daniel Morris? Dynamo?

SARA:

Yes.

SARA:

How did you—

JAMES:

My father's journals had pretty comprehensive files on the super-villains he fought.

Panel 3

SARA looks at him.

SARA:

My mother was—

JAMES:

I know. You have her powers.

Panel 4

They look at each other -- yes, JAMES is driving without paying proper attention to the road. It MUST be serious!

SARA:

I'm sorry.

JAMES:

Don't be. You're not like her. You use your powers to help people.

Panel 5

Close up on JAMES face. He's looking ahead again, and smiling.

SARA (off-panel):

This is what I want to do. Help people.

JAMES:

I'm glad.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

When my father wore this costume, he was the world's greatest hero. But he was also a role model to a lot of people.

CAPTION (JAMES's JOURNAL):

And that's why I'm doing this.

Next issue: Gumshoe

Copyright © 2005, 2018 by David Meadows. All rights reserved.