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by Stewart Wilson
FUTUROLOGY is an experiment in open-source comic writing. It’s a script, released to the world under a Creative Commons Licence that means anyone can take this script and make derivative works, as long as they share those works.
In plain words, that means anyone on Earth can create the art for this comic. You can turn this script into something that’s so much more. You don’t need my permission; I’d appreciate an email if you do create anything, but that’s as far as it goes. The only catch is that you can’t sell it. I’ve given the script away, you have to give the art away in some form. Not your source, necessarily, but if you do make something then you have to give away the same rights I have.
General page layout should be 6-panel grids, two across by three down. Big enough to put some real detail into the scenes, small enough that it doesn’t feel like we’re padding. Individual pages will mutilate this structure, but the 6-grid is your reference point. All we’re doing is smashing panels together from a standard framework. Speaking of detail, cram it in. I’m coming up with background beats, but they’re the tip of the iceberg. You know the vibe by now. It’s Transmetropolitan meets Top Ten. The layout only works if we don’t lose any pages to ads, and odd-numbered pages stay right, so if needs be I will kill layout people to make that so. I want that big reveal on 10 to be a turn-the-page moment.
Putting LSD into the ink would be a masterstroke, but possibly illegal. I’ll look into it.
Give us three panels, smashed across. Full width, no gutter.
The London skyline from a distance. The Tower of London, Tower Bridge, all the sights visible through the fog. Sunrise. Fog just clearing. Going to be a nice day.
CAPTION: MAY 17, 2023
Zoom in closer. A faint ring of flying machines darts around the air. Airborn black cabs, ambulances, jetpack-couriers, everything you can think of. This is flying-car-sci-fi. It’s rush hour and people are late for work. There’s no limits, no overriding style of tech. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang flies alongside the DeLorean. The clock-face of the Tower has been replaced with a red-on-black LCD digital watch type display. It reads “8:23”.
CAPTION: YEAR OF OUR LADY ERIS
Zoom closer to the river. Looking South, towards the bank and the big buildings there. Now we can see it clearer, patches of water are on fire. Kids fly overhead, diving for condoms with rocket packs. Figures slumped against the buildings on the south bank. An indistinct dark figure leans on the railing but we’re too far out to see any details. A news ticker on the side of the building we’re looking at reads “ROYALS IN TWINCEST SHOCKER”. It looks like a scrolling news ticker meets a cinema’s listing board.
Four panels. Top and bottom rows are double-width, the middle is two standard panels. Gutters between panels, but not at page-edge.
Zoom in on the figure. This is AARON LEARY, a twentysomething post-punk. Tall, fairly slim, with a wide mohawk of unruly black hair. He’s wearing a modern dark suit, light shirt with an open collar, and a dark tie loose around his neck. There’s a cigarette in his right hand. Behind him, mutant two-headed birds take flight.
LEARY: WELCOME TO THE FUTURE.
LEARY: TOOK YOUR TIME
LEARY walks along the riverside, dragging on the cigarette. We’re looking front-on, but at an angle-our POV is leaning on the railing. The news ticker from 1/3 reads “ROBOT BODY WILL HELP ME FIGHT TERRORISM – PM”. A CYBORG is slumped against the wall. Go for a contemporary cyborg look rather than the crap 80’s throwback. Use Crysis as visual reference, synthetic muscle. A thing with trifuricated forearms vomits in the background.
LEARY: THESE ARE THE RESULT OF CORPORATE INFECTIONS.
LEARY: THEY WERE FIRED, BUT THEY HANG AROUND. ADDICTED TO PAPERWORK.
Follow LEARY, pan around so we’re alongside, we’re looking at him from the side as we walk with him. The CYBORG from before is behind him, chasing after. Scraps of official paper blow along the ground like newspapers in old movies, the used syringes of this age. An eight-legged dog urinates toxic waste into the river.
CYBORG: GOT TENPEE?
LEARY: PISS OFF.
Alongside one of the buildings. Ultramodern glass and concrete, slick corporate design. We’re still alongside LEARY as he stalks towards the city with long strides. His mohawk flaps in the wind. Smoke trails from his cigarette. He’s got somewhere to go.
LEARY: YOU’RE LATE.
LEARY: YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO SEE THE FUTURE WITH ME AS YOUR GUIDE.
Busy and exciting. Panel 1 takes up the space used by the top two rows. 5 is normal. 6 is also normal, but used for TITLE and CREDITS.
Break out into a big, sunny chaotic junction. Ground cars slide around each other, looking like supersonic slugs. A holographic TRAFFIC COP hovers above the roundabout. Obviously female, scantily clad like a fertility goddess wrapped in the scraps of a police uniform and tasked to keep order. We’re behind and to the side of LEARY as he climbs over a car, throwing his cigarette down onto the street. Looking up past him and towards the COP like we’re climbing towards it. 1 Canada Square (the building most people think of as Canary Wharf in the background).
LEARY: I’M AARON LEARY, YOUR GUIDE TO THE FUTURE, AND I DON’T HAVE LONG
In front of Canary Wharf, one side of which is opening. It’s an industrial door, with darkness inside. A video screen on a building wall features a female newsreader, the ruins of the Eiffel Tower, and the words “-ANT ACID SEMEN SHO-” ticking across the bottom. We’re close behind LEARY as he looks up at the Wharf.
LEARY: BUT FIRST, LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT GODZILLA.
TITLE/CREDITS on a blank background.
Page 4 & 5
Two-page splash. Panel 1 is in the right place to be 4/1. Panel 3 is placed to be 5/6; each in opposite corners of this huge, mad, two-page spread that is all of Panel 2. Panel 2 fills all gutters, and acts as the background layer, so it shows through around 1&3.
Front shot of LEARY, from the waist up. He glares at us, head angled down in condemnation. It’s obvious he’s not at all pleased with us right now. Background is a reverse-shot of 3/1, with 1 Canada Square in right of shot.
LEARY: GODZILLA IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU IGNORE KYOTO.
LEARY: RADIOACTIVE LIZARDS ATTACK LONDON.
Big mad bastard shot. On page 4, the QUEEN MOTHER, fifty feet high with pallid skin and glowing red eyes, steps out of Canary Wharf and swings her handbag. Facing, on page 5, GODZILLA, or enough of a replica that we don’t get sued, smashes his way through London. Carves up buildings, radioactive fire breath reducing people to cinders, all of that. The QUEEN MOTHER’s handbag has just hit GODZILLA’s head.
LEARY (NO TAIL): SO WE DEFROSTED THE QUEEN MOTHER AND MUTATED HER.
The fight scene in the background, LEARY facing us in full frontal, to the right of centre-shot like we’re trying to stare past him. He’s looking forwards as always, entirely unfazed. He lights another cigarette, eyes down towards his lighter. A newspaper wraps around his leg, the headline “ELVIS ALIVE – AGAIN” visible.
LEARY: SHE’S A SYMBOL OF NATIONAL PRIDE. AND CHEAPER THAN A NUKE.
LEARY: AND SHE HAS LASER EYES.
Six panel grid, please
Along another street. Old, grimy buildings, glass and concrete. Take modern architecture and age it twenty years, give all the London sights a coating of piss and vomit. They are this age’s concrete monsters. A group of robed men run down the street in the opposite direction, pointing and smiling excitedly. LEARY is not in shot.
LEARY (NO TAIL): NON-MAINSTREAM PERVERSIONS TURNED INTO RELIGIONS FOR TAX BREAKS.
Zoom in. Three-quarter shot. LEARY exhales a plume of smoke. A deep frown on his face. A sentient cloud tattoos something onto the building behind him.
LEARY: THOSE GUYS WANT TO WORSHIP AND FUCK GODZILLA.
Same general shot as before. LEARY sucks on his cigarette, eyes darting left.
LEARY: I NEED TO THINK.
LEARY: NOT HERE.
Pull back and around to LEARY’s 2 o’clock. The cloud has left the words “YOSSARIAN LIVES” on the wall. LEARY is walking again.
LEARY: I CAN’T STAY STILL. WE HAVE TO MOVE
Side-shot. Smoke trails behind LEARY as he exhales, cigarette jammed between his lips. News-ticker on the wall above his head reads “LONDON EYE SHUT DOWN – CATERACTS BLAMED”.
LEARY: EYES EVERYWHERE. ALL YOUR FAULT.
Frontal of LEARY again. Two flying cabs have crashed and fallen to earth in the near background, drivers shaking their fists at each other while their passengers bleed to death.
LEARY: THIS IS NOT THE FUTURE YOU WANTED.
Six panel grid again. We’re taking the background shot from 6/6 and gradually fading it out to white. The last two panels should be just Leary, with standard gutters but no outlines.
Same background as 6/6. LEARY is the only thing not faded, staring right out of the page at the reader, cigarette in mouth.
LEARY: THIS IS A COMIC BOOK
LEARY: THE PREVIOUS PAGES WERE COATED IN A PSYCHOACTIVE DRUG.
Same background, this time one-quarter faded to white. LEARY exhales smoke through his nostrils.
LEARY: IT BONDS HARMLESSLY WITH YOUR BRAIN AND PROJECTS YOUR SUBCONSCIOUS VIEW OF THE FUTURE ONTO THE PAGE.
Same again, one-half faded. Zoom in closer on LEARY’S face.
LEARY: I’M YOUR GUIDE. FROM THE SUPERCONTEXT. IN THE FUTURE.
LEARY: DON’T ASK. IT’S LIKE TIME TRAVEL BUT WITH MORE HEADACHES.
Same shot of LEARY’S head, three-quarters faded to white. Background should be monotone, only LEARY in colour.
LEARY: THIS IS THE FUTURE YOU WANT. DEEP INSIDE.
LEARY exhales smoke. White background.
LEARY: THAT’S THE THING ABOUT THE FUTURE.
LEARY: EVERY GENERATION HAS A DIFFERENT IDEA OF WHAT IT WILL BE LIKE.
White background. LEARY looks away.
LEARY: HENCE THIS EXPERIMENT.
Similar trick to Page 7, but in reverse: the first two panels are all white with no borders, then we fade up on the scene first described in Panel 4.
White. Leary again. Sneering. Cigarette in his hand, gesturing, getting up in our face.
LEARY: EVERY TIME I DO ONE OF THESE YOU MAKE ME SICK.
White. LEARY in full rant-mode, getting wild and pissed off.
LEARY: REALMS OF POSSIBILITY, AND YOU DON’T THINK ABOUT MORE THAN GETTING HIGH OR GETTING LAID.
Pull back to a half-shot. The white background is shown to be a cone of white cast by a streetlight on a black background. LEARY stands in the middle, calmer, one hand on the lamp-post which is the only other detail in the scene.
LEARY: IS THIS ALL YOU WANT?
Pull back again to a full body shot. Half-faded. LEARY stands in the light thrown off by a streetlight. It’s a modern London scene. Black cabs, terraced houses, banal and somehow real after what we’ve been seeing. It’s grey, dull, nowhere near the hypercolour madness of previous pages.
LEARY: SEX, RELIGION, AND MONSTER MOVIES.
Same image, one-quarter faded. Carry on moving away from LEARY, revealing more of the scene.
LEARY: GOD, THAT’S BORING.
Same image, pull back one last time to get a nice look at what is unquestionably modern London. LEARY slumps, leaning against the lamp-post for support, but by this point he’s just another figure in the crowd.
All one panel. No gutters.
Pull back, up, and out. Blur or Steranko-ize or do some fucking thing to a Google Map shot of a residential area of London or something. One last big reminder that this was all a drug-induced dream from a future beyond consensus reality. A big middle finger to every sense of wonder. Banal and mundane and ultimately devastating.
All one panel. No gutters.
LEARY, suddenly in half-shot, looks right at us with a manic grin on his face. Behind him, we’re right back to the bright and colourful future scene, advert-holograms blasted onto the night sky and every possible detail right there. A screen in the background replays the QUEEN MOTHER’s greatest fights. In the near background, a FLYING DELOREAN right out of BTTF comes in to land, picking up a reptilian hooker.
LEARY: YOU SHOULD SEE YOUR FUCKING FACE RIGHT NOW.
Stew Wilson is a writer, game designer, computational demonologist, and mathematician.
This blog covers his professional writing and game design work.
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