Todd McFarlane is a mega-millionaire with success undreamt of. I’m just some guy. But as I’ve been buying, reading, and enjoying Gunslinger Spawn, I’m struck with the desire to pull out the old editing red pen. Here’s my attempt to copyedit Gunslinger Spawn.
Issue #1 begins as Spawn from the main Spawn series leaves Gunslinger Spawn alone in the woods. This first page doesn’t spend any time on Gunslinger’s origin or history, instead giving readers just enough detail to jump right into the story. Gunslinger says, “Like I said, I had my own reasons.” Then Spawn’s response is so long-winded and janky, it inspired me make this blog post. He says:
That second sentence is a lot of thoughts at once. For clarity, it can be made clearer by breaking it up. My suggestion:
“I’m sure you did. I need to know why. What drew you to that island? As far as I know, you’re new this entire planet. So, why that place?”
Each sentence is now its own separate thought, with easy-to-read flow from one to the next. The phrase “this entire planet” is curious, as it suggests Gunslinger is not merely from the past but an alternate universe. Either that, or it’s some comic book-y exaggeration. You almost never need to start a sentence with “So,” but I kept it to show that Spawn’s train of thought has led him to this conclusion.
The narration captions for the rest of page 1 are nicely written, establishing that Gunslinger has traveled from 1864, he has a motorcycle hidden nearby, and he’s got a lot of rage under the surface. On page 2, we meet Taylor. He’s a young guy working at a gas station, getting chewed out by his boss, Mr. Santo. The comma use in his dialogue could use some tweaking.
Break up that first sentence so it reads:
“I’m heading home now. Make sure you lock everything up when you close.”
The first sentence in Santo’s second word balloon can also be broken up and shortened:
“And put that phone down. Customers like it when they seem important to us.”
A more direct order on the boss’s part has him be more domineering, making Taylor’s plight more sympathetic to the reader. Starting a sentence with “and” is controversial among grammar nerds, but I kept it in this case to emphasize that this one of a long list of orders Santo has been barking at Taylor all day. Taylor’s friends show up, asking him to blow off work. A caption says:
The comma in this sentence is wholly unnecessary. It should read:
“Taylor decides now is the perfect time.”
Why do I keep going on about commas? I suspect the comic is “writing for the actor.” This is when a writer will add a comma in hopes that’s where an actor will add a dramatic pause. It’s unneeded. The writer can trust the reader to fill in these dramatics on their own.
The next page starts with a very unwieldy sentence:
This is a lot. Four clauses only barely connected with a lot of needless words. My suggestion:
“Gunslinger pushes his bike to the edge of town. He never had to do this with any horse.”
This is the same idea and information, but more succinct and to the point.
Taylor returns to the gas station after hanging out with friends. He’s enamored with Gunslinger’s bike, and then he’s confronted by Gunslinger himself. The comic’s writing is at its best in Gunslinger’s interactions with Taylor. Todd and his team have done a great job giving the character a distinctive voice. Gunslinger says:
Definitely lose the “first” at the start of the sentence. Get straight to the point. The “that contraption that” is odd sentence structure. I suspect they’re trying to make Gunslinger sound cowboy-ish, but his use of “contraption” gets that across. My suggestion is to simplify:
“You know why that contraption won’t work?”
Then there’s a two-page spread with our villains meeting inside a museum full of dinosaurs. The caption states:
Remove needless words and rearrange sentences so they don’t have as many clauses:
“On the border of Mexico and Arizona sits a private museum dedicated to those that ruled the Earth millions of years ago. For those that have been there since the beginning, it serves as a reminder of how long their struggles have gone on.”
We see a lot of overwriting in the second caption. The wording “are sensing” is passive voice, which should be avoided. The comma after “that” is erroneous. There are a bunch of ways this sentence can get simplified. My suggestion:
“Today, a few of them sense a new opportunity.”
The there’s the villains’ dialogue:
Here’s a case where “So” is unnecessary. Beyond that, we can tighten this dialogue to read:
“We’re all in agreement. Cogliostro’s misguided attempts to recruit a new Spawn backfired. Question is, what’re you planning to do about it? More importantly, is it going to conflict with our side’s plans?”
A second villain responds:
A writer can go crazy searching a manuscript for clichés, but here a few big ones. The “Thank you for coming here on such short notice” phrase is cliché. The “as we’ve talked about” phrase is a variation of the classic “As you already know” dialogue that should always be avoided. My suggestion:
“Gentlemen, I’m hopeful that, because of Cogliostro’s actions, we’ll find a common purpose for both our cartels. I believe that purpose begins with the hellspawn called Gunslinger.”
On the next page, the villain speech continues:
Again, this is a lot of separate thoughts crammed into one, making it hard to decipher just what our villain is talking about. Breaking these long sentences into shorter, choppier ones can better get these thoughts across. The phrase “in no position to resist joining” is also awkward and could be replaced with “will,” but that might too simple. As written, it suggests the villains have big plans for manipulating the Gunslinger. My suggestion:
“Are you willing to call a truce between our factions, Cyrus? After my boss gets what he wants, he will ensure Gunslinger is in no position to resist joining your side. A gift like that could improve the frayed relationship with your leaders.”
The next panel has Cyrus answer, “I can handle them. What about your boss, when do we meet him?” The comma after “boss” needs to be a question mark. The next line is:
I have no idea what “fairly significant” means. Change this line to:
“He’s planning to go public in a big way.”
Or even simpler:
“He’s planning to go public.”
Next, we get more dialogue between Gunslinger and Taylor. There’s some humor with Gunslinger not knowing about the present, and we learn Gunslinger is searching for something he buried long ago. Gunslinger and Taylor’s interactions continue to be the best-written parts of the comic. After Gunslinger and Taylor get to know each other, they are attacked by an enemy:
Just a few tweaks can make these thoughts clearer. I’m not sure why there’s a need to name-drop Al Simmons, except perhaps to establish that Gunslinger isn’t as powerful as Simmons. My suggestion:
“I told them you’re too stupid to hide. You’re going to find out God’s warriors have evolved in two hundred years. And you’re half the man Al Simmons is.”
We get two narrative captions describing the fight:
Is the line about two trains colliding a cliche? You could argue that. The second panel reminds us that Gunslinger is displaced in time. Except we already know that. Dropping it in the middle of the sentence is awkward. I suggest keeping it short to keep the action moving.
“The battle is a complete mess for both opponents.”
“In the midst of the barrage, the new hellspawn sees an opening.”
Again, these are just suggestions. Let me reiterate that I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t enjoy Gunslinger Spawn. Yet this is what runs through my head as I read the comic. Come back next week when I’ll go over the rest of issue #1.
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