PDA

View Full Version : Critique My Pitch (Cover & Sequentials)


Screwtape Jenkins
06-28-2016, 12:40 AM
I've pitched this a couple of places and haven't gotten a bite yet. Wondering what you folks think.

Written by me (Chad Handley)
Pencils by Teddy Riawan
Inks by Chis Arieswendha
Letters by Kel Nuttall

Title: 400

Logline: America’s premier team of military super-assassins decides their best service to their country is to kill the members of the Forbes 400, so the government can collect on the taxes from their estates.

Synopsis:

Caesar gave up everything for his country – his family, his name, even his humanity. As leader of the REAPERS, a black-ops team of genetically-enhanced super-soldiers, he’s never regretted that sacrifice… until a mission gone awry reveals a heartbreaking secret.

While the Reapers thought they were serving their country, they were secretly operating as killers for hire for the Forbes 400. The terrorists, spies, and insurgents they’ve been taking down have actually been union leaders, competitors, and whistleblowers.

Enraged that his team has been fighting and dying for the 1% while the 99% suffer, Caesar sets his team on the ultimate path of revenge: kill the Forbes 400, and in the process give something back (in the form of estate taxes) to the people they’ve vowed to serve.

Not satisfied merely to sanction their targets quietly, Caesar decides to send a message with each kill: Jim Kramer is killed by a bomb attached to his “SELL” button. Donald Trump is murdered by his own hairpiece, which the Reapers replaced with constricting nanowire. Private photos of Mark Zuckerberg’s execution are sent to all the members of Facebook.

Concerned that the Reapers’ killings are eliminating all his top donors, The President makes stopping them his number one priority. But the political advisors on his cabinet point out that the Reapers’ plan is actually working – estate tax receipts are up 12%, and polling data shows the public is in favor of executing the rich as a means of deficit reduction.

Just when the President was considering coming out in favor of the Reapers’ work, Caesar’s crew unwittingly inspires a general wave of extreme violence against even the moderately rich. Employees are killing their bosses; trailer park kids are shooting up prep schools. The rich hire private armies to defend themselves. Caesar’s quest for revenge threatens to boil over into real class warfare with the poor, as ever, on the losing end.

Disturbed, Caesar vows to end his private war after one last, absolutely necessary kill: Ron McClane - the wealthy Senator from Arizona who came up with the plan to rent out the Reapers’ services.

But Caesar is betrayed: a member of his team is bought off by the surviving members of the Forbes 400 to lead his teammates into a trap. As wealthy patrons watch the proceedings over closed-circuit television, Caesar and his team are killed in an explosion.

To celebrate their deaths, the wealthy survivors of the Reapers’ vendetta gather at a televised fundraiser for the President. Their joy turns to horror when the presiding DJ reveals himself to be none other than Caesar.

The betrayal was a rouse, designed to lure all the remaining Forbes 400 members to one location. As the Vera Lynn classic “We’ll Meet Again” plays in the background, Caesar’s team gleefully clears out the room with automatic weapons. Once finished, Caesar finds a remaining camera, and warns the wealthy citizens watching at home never to forget one important fact: “The rich only exist because the rest of us allow it.”

Cover 1:

https://scontent-iad3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/11846585_10153616022436177_4577676311410211508_n.j pg?oh=fe47b9e384bb4957fc7da153d78fb9d3&oe=57EB5E88

Cover 2:

https://scontent-iad3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/11800240_10153616023211177_1691781725864638909_n.j pg?oh=d476aba520c68738bd262004b76c1765&oe=57F880DD

Excerpt:

https://scontent-iad3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/11825866_10153616028366177_1833126171825282005_n.j pg?oh=d9820ae30bcb895173551518ce0c7d37&oe=57FCA8CC
https://scontent-iad3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/11813501_10153616030171177_5251928117756531541_n.j pg?oh=ae08a3341415f01fa28c971c3edbeb50&oe=57EA5575
https://scontent-iad3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/11825974_10153616032031177_4049105266040120586_n.j pg?oh=249ab676c6c44cf281ec33c748902195&oe=57E9EBE0
https://scontent-iad3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/11811460_10153616032731177_2457869510903390076_n.j pg?oh=f10e57c20a6670d6206a235e19fa6122&oe=5803F6B5
https://scontent-iad3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/11863504_10153616033771177_2823842420766796816_n.j pg?oh=c3992737e4a4ba92a2b5c78493a15b2d&oe=57EB5C01
https://scontent-iad3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/11831771_10153616035436177_6846037146159743773_n.j pg?oh=d6d64561d99a9cb572af5022d899793b&oe=57F94CBA
https://scontent-iad3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/11855853_10153616037206177_5725210928115398428_n.j pg?oh=207cc21369c83a9b0db7b587376e949f&oe=57EBF426

Lee Nordling
06-28-2016, 11:18 AM
Hi, Chad.

First a disclaimer: this response is a series of reactions more than a critique, though the focus may seem similar. What's different is that this isn't all-encompassing and it doesn't include a determination whether this is "good" or "bad," "saleable" or "unsaleable." Please keep that in mind; each note is intended for you to look at this presentation with a new perspective, and if you think ANY of this is relevant to your goals and decide to make a change, I'm glad I could help.

In no particular order, except larger to smaller:

1) I have no idea whether this group of killers are good guys, bad guys, or anti-heroes. Should I know/think/suspect this after eight pages? Normally I'd say "yes," but your goal may be to present the set-up/problem first, then offer the solution, perhaps somebody who can take on this formidable group. I'm not sure, though, that works as well as you think it might. For example, IF IF IF this about the person who has to contain this group, then you could just as easily have the beginning be a series of reports to him/her about the group she/he has to contend with, and you still get your introduction to the bad guys (if they are the bad guys) done at the beginning.

2. The log line might be accurate, but it lacks the perspective of anybody we care about. (Since you bought my book, I'll refer you to the first of the three chapters on pitching, which will show you how to present protagonist, goal, and problem in one line.) The log line really ought to answer the question posed above about who we're supposed to be rooting for. If it's the man/woman who's after this group, then a log line can be something like this (just for example): This is the story of an FBI agent who's never failed at an assignment, only for her to discover she's been handed the no-win proposition of trying to stop a group of super-assassins who've never been stopped. Now, that can used some cleaning up, but you can see how it shows the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. And it tells us who's the good guy.

3. The art is very nice, but it betrays something I see too often: in eight pages there's not a single establishing shot, nothing to show where anything is. The result is lack of possible scale. This is USUALLY the result of an artist not wanting to draw detailed backgrounds. Look at every panel, except the bottom of page 2--just scroll through them looking for details--and look...they're empty. This REALLY needs to be addressed if you want your story to flourish, because we need to believe the world in which the story takes place.

4. The lettering and ballooning is decently handled, and it often isn't, so it's nice to see somebody paying attention to left-to-right reading.

5. This is a conceptual issue I immediately questioned, and it might not be a problem; you might already have this figured out. Most Fortune 500 companies are publicly traded. Chop off the head and another one grows back. I don't see how killing a CEO is going to get tax revenue to the government for the company; just perhaps the CEO if they don't have a good estate planner to dodge those taxes, which most probably have. So, on concept, at least as it's explained, I'm not sure the plan of the bad guys works.

6. The writing is okay, and advances the introduction to the characters well enough, but my first note is a qualifier to this one.

Hope this helps.

--Lee

Screwtape Jenkins
06-28-2016, 01:30 PM
Thanks, Lee.

The killers are supposed to be anti-heroes, which I establish in the synopsis I sent along with the pitch. I thought about uploading that here, but I didn't think anyone would read it. But maybe it's needed for context? Anyway, I'll add it at the end of this post, in case you're interested.

How's this for a clearer logline: After having been tricked by their government into becoming corporate killers or hire, the nation's most elite team of assassins decides their best service to their country is to kill all the members of the Forbes 400 so the government can collect taxes on their estates.

Kinda long but maybe it better establishes that the killers are the ones we're supposed to be rooting for?

But seriously, thanks for your perspective. It helps to see what's not working from a professional point of view.

Here's the pitch I sent along with the art:

The 400 – a military black comedy by Chad Handley

Logline: America’s premier team of military super-assassins decides their best service to their country is to kill the members of the Forbes 400, so the government can collect on the taxes from their estates.

Caesar gave up everything for his country – his family, his name, even his humanity. As leader of the REAPERS, a black-ops team of genetically-enhanced super-soldiers, he’s never regretted that sacrifice… until a mission gone awry reveals a heartbreaking secret.

While the Reapers thought they were serving their country, they were secretly operating as killers for hire for the Forbes 400. The terrorists, spies, and insurgents they’ve been taking down have actually been union leaders, competitors, and whistleblowers.

Enraged that his team has been fighting and dying for the 1% while the 99% suffer, Caesar sets his team on the ultimate path of revenge: kill the Forbes 400, and in the process give something back (in the form of estate taxes) to the people they’ve vowed to serve.

Not satisfied merely to sanction their targets quietly, Caesar decides to send a message with each kill: Jim Kramer is killed by a bomb attached to his “SELL” button. Donald Trump is murdered by his own hairpiece, which the Reapers replaced with constricting nanowire. Private photos of Mark Zuckerberg’s execution are sent to all the members of Facebook.

Concerned that the Reapers’ killings are eliminating all his top donors, The President makes stopping them his number one priority. But the political advisors on his cabinet point out that the Reapers’ plan is actually working – estate tax receipts are up 12%, and polling data shows the public is in favor of executing the rich as a means of deficit reduction.

Just when the President was considering coming out in favor of the Reapers’ work, Caesar’s crew unwittingly inspires a general wave of extreme violence against even the moderately rich. Employees are killing their bosses; trailer park kids are shooting up prep schools. The rich hire private armies to defend themselves. Caesar’s quest for revenge threatens to boil over into real class warfare with the poor, as ever, on the losing end.

Disturbed, Caesar vows to end his private war after one last, absolutely necessary kill: Ron McClane - the wealthy Senator from Arizona who came up with the plan to rent out the Reapers’ services.

But Caesar is betrayed: a member of his team is bought off by the surviving members of the Forbes 400 to lead his teammates into a trap. As wealthy patrons watch the proceedings over closed-circuit television, Caesar and his team are killed in an explosion.

To celebrate their deaths, the wealthy survivors of the Reapers’ vendetta gather at a televised fundraiser for the President. Their joy turns to horror when the presiding DJ reveals himself to be none other than Caesar.

The betrayal was a rouse, designed to lure all the remaining Forbes 400 members to one location. As the Vera Lynn classic “We’ll Meet Again” plays in the background, Caesar’s team gleefully clears out the room with automatic weapons. Once finished, Caesar finds a remaining camera, and warns the wealthy citizens watching at home never to forget one important fact: “The rich only exist because the rest of us allow it.”

Lee Nordling
06-28-2016, 03:06 PM
Thanks for clarifying your intent, which, by the way, is the ONLY way to get a relevant critique.

Okay, here's (from my perspective) a fatal flaw:

The first "rule" of creating a story with an antihero, is to SHOW the antihero getting the crap kicked out of him/her/them AT THE BEGINNING, and to make sure that the world in which they live is WORSE than they are.

I don't think you've done that, not at the beginning.

Now, you're intent is to make the world worse than them, so that's good.

But there's nothing at the beginning that has us rooting for them.

Why do we (the readers) care?

If you lose us at the beginning, then why are we going to care enough to read forward?

Now, this is just a perception, and you may have reasons why you started where and in the way that you did.

But here's the question (for you to address, only to yourself): Does your goal trump my perception?

Well, I wouldn't read more than I've read, but I can't speak for others.

If too many readers are like me, especially if they're your intended readers, then you might want to consider how to get us to care for these characters at the beginning.

Good fortune!

Screwtape Jenkins
06-28-2016, 03:43 PM
Again, thanks for the blunt advice. You've already been very gracious with your time, so if you don't have any more to answer anymore questions, I understand.

However, if I could just present one more problem/dilemma?

I had trouble figuring out exactly what to include as the actual sequential excerpt. The company I prepared the pitch for (Oni) made no demands about whether the excerpt had to be the first 6-8 pages of the book, they just wanted an excerpt that was representative of what the book was going to be.

I say all that to say that the excerpt is not the first pages of the story; it is in fact not even from the first issue.

Do companies expect that the sequential pages pitched will always be the first pages of the first issue of the book? Will they always interpret those sequential pages as if that were the case?

My actual story follows (I think) your advice: we see the team ordered to do something horrible in the first issue, only to later learn that the reasons they were given to justify their horrible act were lies. It's only after these lies are revealed that they go on their killing spree (in issue two, where the excerpt is taken from).

But how do I establish this in 6-8 pages of sequential art? Understanding their exact motivation takes the first 22 pages of the first issue. There's no 6-8 page sequence that would sum that up.

I'm only given a page to explain the whole story in the synopsis, so I can't go into detail about their motivation there, and I'm only given 6-8 pages of sequentials, so I can't adequately set it up there. So, what do I do?

Again, if you don't have time to answer, thanks for all the advice you've given so far. You've been enormously helpful in clarifying where I'm going wrong.

JamesVenhaus
06-28-2016, 03:45 PM
5. This is a conceptual issue I immediately questioned, and it might not be a problem; you might already have this figured out. Most Fortune 500 companies are publicly traded. Chop off the head and another one grows back. I don't see how killing a CEO is going to get tax revenue to the government for the company; just perhaps the CEO if they don't have a good estate planner to dodge those taxes, which most probably have. So, on concept, at least as it's explained, I'm not sure the plan of the bad guys works.

--Lee

I had the same concern when I read it. I know that there has to be some suspension of disbelief for all fiction (especially comics) but this plot point bothered me to the point that I was pulled out of the story, and that is never good.

The people who pay estate taxes are the ones with great personal wealth. Could your team of assassins go after the 400 richest people in the world?

Screwtape Jenkins
06-28-2016, 03:55 PM
. Could your team of assassins go after the 400 richest people in the world?

I think there's some confusion here: the Fortune 500 are the 500 richest companies, but the story (as it says in the logline and the pitch) is about the group killing off the Forbes 400, which are the 400 richest people.

The pitch never makes any mention of the Fortune 500.

JamesVenhaus
06-28-2016, 04:11 PM
I think there's some confusion here: the Fortune 500 are the 500 richest companies, but the story (as it says in the logline and the pitch) is about the group killing off the Forbes 400, which are the 400 richest people.

The pitch never makes any mention of the Fortune 500.

You are right. I misunderstood the original pitch. But, I may not be the only one who does this. More people have heard of the Fortune 500 than of the Forbes 400. So, you might want to be sure that an explanation of that is incorporated into you book somehow. Sometimes even a small bit of dialogue can do the trick. Someone could refer to the targeted group as "the Forbes 400, the richest people in the world" instead of just "the Forbes 400"

Or, it could just be me. It often is :)

Screwtape Jenkins
06-28-2016, 04:20 PM
No, I don't think it's just you. I need to be clearer. Thanks.

Bishop
06-28-2016, 04:26 PM
I haven't read it yet, but I scanned the pages of artwork, and I think the art looks great. I'm getting a Charest feel.

Lee Nordling
06-28-2016, 04:34 PM
Hi, Chad.

Like James, I misread what you wrote, and confused the Forbes 400 with the Fortune 500; definitely my mistake.

Okay, that said, your plot presumes that these people don't have really excellent estate planners--look at how little Mitt Romney paid in taxes when he was running for President. You don't think he doesn't already have the bulk of his fortune set aside for his kids?

I'm not writing this to pick apart your concept; I'm writing this because the plan is too complicated to be accomplished with simple assassinations. Frankly, you'd be better off having them GIVE 3/4 of their fortunes to (whomever) or get killed. And after the first couple billionaires got nailed, the others MIGHT take them more seriously. Now, that's just off the top of my head, but it's already cleaner than your initial concept.

Re. your other question about what to present, if what you present doesn't make me root for your antiheroes, then am I going to buy your book? Probably not.

What would I do if I were you?

I'd completely rethink the eight pages, and I'd make sure they ARE the beginning.

I'd concisely, probably with narration, kick the ass of my characters to give them motivation, and in so doing establish the world, make sure the readers will root for them, establish their wild plan, then show how impossible/difficult it will be for them to accomplish their plan.

Now, here's the thing, the pages you have don't work anyway, because they're mostly all medium shots, and we really don't have a sense of world or space. Where are the dynamic long shots? Where is the visual storytelling that just doesn't follow characters, but that advances a broader narrative?

You're going to need pages that show the artist isn't afraid of drawing backgrounds, and these pages clearly give the opposite impression.

I don't mean to be blunt; I just want to be clear so you'll be able to work with unambiguous perceptions.

Screwtape Jenkins
06-28-2016, 04:51 PM
Thanks, Lee. All great advice. (Makes me happy I bought your book!)

Looks like I've got some rewriting to do.

(And I appreciate bluntness; people are rarely just straight up honest about your work. Personally, I'd rather get my feelings a little hurt and learn something than have people blow sunshine up my skirt and not make any progress as a writer.)

Screwtape Jenkins
06-28-2016, 04:56 PM
I haven't read it yet, but I scanned the pages of artwork, and I think the art looks great. I'm getting a Charest feel.

Thanks, Bishop. I'll pass along your praise.

Renae De Liz
07-02-2016, 05:33 AM
Hello! Hope you don't mind me just bluntly posting my immediate reactions. Hope something helps! :)

1. I get 400 mixed up with 300 in my mind. I can't un-think 300 when I look at the title, but perhaps putting a word before 400 could help that.

2. The tagline has nothing interesting that pops out to me. Also the words "Taxes" and "estate" put off my interest. Perhaps a different way to describe the effect of killing the 400?

3. I can't help but think many of those 400 people killed are innocents. There even a child and very young people in the piles of bodies on that cover image. I'd have to REALLY hate the Forbes 400 to want to read a series about murdering them in different ways. Perhaps clarifying better how horrible they are, in a ways beyond using assassins to better their stance in life? You say that the 99% suffer, perhaps better telling how their lives are affected by the 400's cruelty?

4. The art is lovely, but I feel little attachment to the characters because they are murdering possible innocents, or engagement in the story idea because there isn't a personal connection to anything for me (all the ideas and problems are big, I'd also like something smaller and more personal to the characters to hold onto). So all the action sequences and death have lost the impact they could have with a better setting up of ideas. I agree about how there should be at least an establishing shot to get a feel for the world they're in, and what dangers they face so I can better connect to the rest of the pitch.

5. The woman with her shirt buttoned down that far, it looks like she's TRYING to look sexy instead of just casually and naturally looking sexy, which takes away from her power. That may not matter to you, but as a female reader I'd see that and be put off from the character because it's so blatant.

Anyway, good job creating this pitch pages and I hope someone picks it up really soon! :)

Scribbly
07-03-2016, 02:51 AM
First, I got to Google it. (As everybody did). No good start.
The Forbes 400 is not a secret society but a magazine where the 400 richest Americans are listed.
These millionaires are not "members" of the Forbes 400 report, but an statistic on it.
What if, for the sake clarifying, and make sense of it, we change the title to "400 millionaires" or "Killing 400 moguls"?
The "Reapers" could be a domestic radical group or international terrorist organization.
A (dirty jobs) super task force, becoming a renegade unit of military men doesn't sound enough fit for such task.
BTW, Why are the Reapers going against millionaires and not against the Army who actually sent them on performing dirty missions?

It needs a different premise. The government is currently collecting on the taxes from these millionaires estates.
Therefore, no "Robin Hood" motive fits here.

This, regarding the pitch. The artwork looks good.



My two cents.

Saul Haber
07-03-2016, 12:15 PM
Hi, Chad. I like the art, writing, and lettering, and this all seems very sharp and like a lot of effort was put into it. But the premise is a bit hard to swallow for me. Here we see the protagonists brutally murdering mainly cops and security guards. Cops and security guards are generally people whom I don't consider that they deserve to die. I may have some allowance for them getting roughed up in comic books or movies,etc., since you can establish them as being jerks who deserve to be brought down a peg. But here your heroes are straight up killing these decent guys who are just doing their jobs. And all to get to the real target, "Rupert Murdoch," who is also an innocent guy (by the law's standards) who I'd need to be convinced is deserving of death. So, so far, the heroes are not sympathetic at all. They're actually really bad. The justification for all of this needs to be airtight so I can get on board with this carnage. Having all of this revolve around tax revenue for the government is not as airtight as I'd like. My first reaction is one of skepticism and makes me want to google tax law and break out my calculator to see if this would actually add up. Secondly, in this dystopian world, why would you want to provide the government with more money? Isn't the government behind all of this and in the pockets of the rich guys? You said the President wants to stop them... A typical Robin Hood scenario involves giving the money directly to the people and not back to the king.
This all seems based on your readers having specific narrow political ideas in order to enjoy the story, and I'm not sure that's the best place to start from. Perhaps if the tone of the art and story was more over the top satirical, I could separate the story experience from reality a bit more.

Screwtape Jenkins
07-03-2016, 01:19 PM
Thanks Renae, Scribbly, and Saul. You've given me a lot to think about.

This is a terrible first effort, but how about something like this for a logline to clarify the main character's motivation (and to not distract people with references to estate taxes):

After learning they've been secretly rented out by their superiors to murder innocent civilians for the highest bidder, an elite group of government assassins decides to kill all of the bidders: the members of the Forbes 400.

Bulletboy-Redux
07-03-2016, 04:57 PM
First, I got to Google it. (As everybody did). No good start.
The Forbes 400 is not a secret society but a magazine where the 400 richest Americans are listed.
These millionaires are not "members" of the Forbes 400 report, but an statistic on it.
What if, for the sake clarifying, and make sense of it, we change the title to "400 millionaires" or "Killing 400 moguls"?



"The 400" (also known as the "400 club") is actually an old term that originally referred to the wealthy, powerful elites of Victorian New York society. Old money families like the Astors, Schermerhorns, etc. I think it eventually became a generic term for the wealthy elite everywhere. This information doesn't help the discussion at all, but hey, trivia.

ferah11
07-03-2016, 08:33 PM
The art is very very impressive. But a few of the backgrounds are too weak.

Scribbly
07-05-2016, 02:19 PM
"The 400" (also known as the "400 club") is actually an old term that originally referred to the wealthy, powerful elites of Victorian New York society. Old money families like the Astors, Schermerhorns, etc. I think it eventually became a generic term for the wealthy elite everywhere. This information doesn't help the discussion at all, but hey, trivia.

Maybe it does. The title "400" by itself doesn't meant anything that can be associated with something for the audience. Not even as historical reference that still alive in popular culture. As the "300" for the 300 Spartans was. It could be about 400 rats, books, shoes or anything.
The title is very important because it should be a hint the story.
Something as " The 400 club" could be more intriguing. IMHO.