Lighting The Ember by Martin John
Three issue miniseries. 20 page issues.
The Elevator Pitch
Lydia Lunch (Punk Rock Icon) Battles Jim Jones (Jonestown Massacre Cult Leader).
The Big Idea and Characters
The Top Cow Artifacts are capable of destroying the universe, as evidenced in the Artifacts series. Within my framework for this pitch, the Artifacts are powerful items that take a great toll on their bearers and can have different effects on those that wear them. As we have seen in Hine and Haun’s The Darkness, and as is evidenced by the Angelus picking a bearer in Witchblade, these Artifacts have a sentience of their own, and each has their own agenda for the Top Cow universe. Within the new Top Cow universe Jackie Estacado, willingly or not, has given some of his foes hurdles that they will have to overcome in order to become what they once were.
In my pitch three users are dealing with three Artifacts that are affecting them all in different ways. They are as follows:
Glory Silver is a gutter punk that has always been missing something...the Ember Stone. Glory is about twenty-two, one of the sides of her head is shaved, and she is covered with tattoos. I imagine her to be a female power fantasy, someone that is badass, but sexy with an edge. Glorianna, or Glory has been de-aged but has had everything taken away from her, her wealth, her power, and her Artifact. Glory feels a pull towards the Ember Stone, so much so that she can focus on nothing but finding and obtaining it. Glory has suffered and sacrificed her mental and physical well-being in order to find the Ember Stone, and in a state close to madness has finally found it in the hand of a familiar character...
...Wulfgar Olafsson (I picture him as a bearded version of Robert Deniro in Cape Fear, without all the tattoos), who is looking for a bearer for the stone that he can control, a bearer that Wulfgar can manipulate into doing what he believes, one that will burn the world down so that it can be reborn in fire without society or class. Wulfgar is the head of a multinational cult that believes the Ember Stone will bring them into an “Age of Fire”. Glory must take the Ember Stone from Wulfgar and show her true strength and character by learning to master the stone, while being chased by the cult of a madman.
Xi Ji fights to control the 13th Artifact, and regularly loses that fight. He has inadvertently killed dozens by not having the experience or even-mindedness needed to master the 13th Artifact. Xi Ji has taken unleashing the power of the Artifact on evil men, effectively becoming a vigilante and attracting the attention of Michael Finnegan. Will he live long enough to learn how to control his Artifact? And can he maintain his sanity with the amount of guilt he is now carrying with him? Xi Ji must learn to balance himself in order to take control of his Artifact, but with each passing incident he becomes less and less stable.
Michael Finnegan knows about the previous universe...Jackie Estacado needs someone to make sure the Artifacts are found and tracked. Knowing that the Artifacts had a hand in his death in a previous universe Michael’s agenda is to find them and find a way to destroy them. Finnegan has the Glacier stone, but after observing what the Artifacts have done to those that have embraced their powers, keeps it on him, but does not allow it to touch his bare skin, afraid of how it might ‘infect’ him. Finnegan is trailing Xi Ji suspecting that he has an Artifact.
A variety of movements. Each character has a story arc.
Glory Silver steals the Ember Stone from Wulfgar, effectively setting off a chain of events that bring all of Wulfgar’s power against her. The basic idea of this conflict is to show that Glory isn’t anyone’s pawn, she is her own woman, capable of mastering an Artifact that gives her unimaginable power. Something that Glory realizes is that the Ember Stone is as fiery and unpredictable as she is, and Glory struggles to keep her mind and wits about her as they mingle. Wulfgar and his people test Glory’s capabilities, putting her up against waves of cult killers similar to the Hand in Wolverine comics. As the masses of killers attack her, she begins to doubt herself, and her ability to wield something as powerful as the Ember Stone.
Xi Ji struggles to control his Artifact, and comes into contact with both Glory and Michael, the other Artifact wielders. He sees them struggle with their own demons, sees how they are human with faults and comes to forgive himself for being human as well, allowing him more emotional center.
Michael Finnegan attempts to communicate that Xi Ji and Glory should give the Artifacts up, and try and destroy them for the sake of humanity, and their sanity. He fails: Glory would never give up her Artifact and Xi Ji does not trust anyone else with his.
Glory kills Wulfgar, crossing the line of life and death, displaying that she is morally gray, and truly chaotic, but also that she will remain her own woman with her own agenda. Her powers manifest, allowing her control of fire and heat..and her true potential has yet to be unlocked!
Xi Ji loses control of the 13th Artifact as he gets caught up in the fray with the cult, undermining the previous control that he thought he had discovered.
Michael Finnegan tentatively embraces the power of the Glacier Stone to protect himself, effectively becoming linked to it. He finds that the Glacier Stone has an aura is strong and immovable, and that it longs to be at rest. The only way this will happen is if all the other Artifacts cease to exist, a goal similar to Finnegan’s. Finnegan finds himself able to manipulate temperatures to the colder side of things, capable of freezing fluids in men’s lungs, joints, in their eyes (effectively exploding them), and like Glory has yet to find his true range.
Glory is the bearer of the Ember Stone and is being chased by Wulfgar’s followers. To Glory the Ember Stone represents the path for her to realize her true potential as a person and she will stop at nothing to get to that point, even if she has to burn away half the world to get there. Glory has befriended Xi Ji, and they travel together to fulfill their destinies.
Xi Ji has had a taste of the skillset he needs in order to control the 13th Artifact he sets out with Glory to find ways to control himself, much like Bruce Banner in the Hulk television series. Xi Ji is on a journey to become Zen, and his Artifact will help and hinder him on that path.
Michael Finnegan, after meeting the Artifact bearers, and their unpredictability, stands firmly in the idea that the other Artifacts must go...but now he doubts whether this is his idea or that of the Glacier Stone. Michael’s fear of dying has transferred into an anger and desire to dodge a fate that has already happened. Michael decides to talk to Jackie Estacado about this, leading into a future appearance in The Darkness.
The Sample Script
Note to the artists: I will write everything in my head down in the script...if you have won this competition I expect you know what you are doing as far as pacing, lighting and the rest goes...so feel free to take liberties, add a beat if the script is too loose, change a lighting suggestion, you probably have a better idea about the specific visuals than I do, I write down what I see in my head to help inform your vision as well. Ignore my suggestions if you want, but know that they are there to help, not impede.
As far as action sequences go, I will try to keep the panels sparse so that each can be as dynamic as possible, but if you want to add extra details in the backgrounds (such as movements of other characters in the scene) that would be amazing.
Any color suggestions are that as well, if there are ways of portraying a powerset or scene that would be clearer without this go ahead and follow YOUR desires.
Note to the letterer: I have included some SFX. IF these are not splashy enough, or have enough impact, feel free to change them to something with more impact. Also, if a page of action is too sparse, feel free to add sound effects in.
Panel 1. Michael Finnegan is standing outside of a reputable looking restaurant smoking a cigarette (a popular Irish brand). It is raining. You cannot see the Glacier Stone because, although it is on Finnegan’s person, it is stowed in a pocket in the lining of his jacket. Finnegan has his hands stowed in the deep pockets of his fitted leather bomber jacket, which is not zipped up. (If you want you can show Finnegan’s shoulder holster with a Smith and Wesson .38 special in it in some of the shots on this page...it is not needed, but it would be great way to establish that he is a gangster and an armed man).
Caption (Finnegan): Name is Michael Finnegan and I’ve known Jackie Estacado to do some pretty fucked up stuff, but this last one was a winner.
Panel 2. A flashback panel. Blood leaking from a stab wound in Finnegan’s chest (See Artifacts #11 for reference).
Caption (Finnegan): Jackie wiped out one universe and started another. I thank God I made it to this one.
Caption (Finnegan): Although Jackie thinks I should thank him.
Panel 3. Finnegan flicking the cherry off of his cigarette.
Caption (Finnegan): He just put me back to work.
Caption (Finnegan): I guess there is no rest for the wicked.
Panel 4. Finnegan putting the half-smoked cigarette back into the pack.
Caption (Finnegan): I’m supposed to be tracking down the Artifacts. Know where a couple of them are.
Panel 5. Finnegan breathing out the last of the smoke in his lungs as he is opening the door to the restaurant.
Caption (Finnegan): I’ve got something called the Glacier Stone.
Caption (Finnegan): Don’t touch it really, I don’t trust it.
Panel 1. Xi Ji in an alleyway behind the restaurant that Michael Finnegan has just gone into. It is a brick building that has a door that opens onto the alleyway...an alleyway that is an open thoroughfare from one street to another. It is raining. Xi Ji is wearing a simple t-shirt and jeans that are covered in gore and muck. The 13th Artifact, a death ball (see Artifacts for reference, it is a ball with a skull on it that the monks of his order hide within their mouths in order to contain the evil inside), is clutched in one of his hands glowing slightly pink. The skull imprint on his face is also glowing slightly. Around Xi Ji is the body of someone that his Artifact has just eviscerated. There are chunks of gore strewn around, some limbs, and put the partially skinned head of the victim beside Xi Ji’s, as a counterpoint.
Caption: Back alley. Brooklyn.
Caption (Finnegan): These things, they change you.
Panel 2. Xi coming back to consciousness. Think of your worst hangover face, and put that onto Xi Ji’s, he is in a great deal of pain.
Panel 1. Xi Ji realizing what has just happened, that he has lost control of the evil once again. He is looking at his blood-stained body.
Panel 2. Xi Ji pushing himself up to standing position. He is bent is such a way that he looks weak, that he can no longer stand due to the emotional and physical strain that he has had foisted on him by trying to control such a powerful Artifact.
Xi (whisper): I cannot do this.
Xi (whisper): I am not strong enough to hold them back.
Xi (whisper): Vajra*, give me strength.
*Vajra is a Buddhist saint/deity.
Panel 3. Finnegan coming out of the back alley door. He has a determined look on his face. Xi Ji looks on in fright.
Panel 4. Xi Ji shouldering past Finnegan. Finnegan is stumbling backward, having been taken off guard.
Panel 5. Xi Ji running away from Finnegan, into the reader, with a focus on the pink skull on Xi Ji’s forehead.
Panel 1. Glory Silver resting up against a black metal rail fence in between two Brownstones in midtown Manhattan. Her head is firmly entrenched within a large pink hoodie, so that you cannot see her full face as she has her head down, her eyes are up, and you can see her shoulder length red hair with one side shaved. Glory should be somewhat disheveled, as she is broke, and has sacrificed everything she has to make it to New York so that she can swipe the Ember Stone. You can take this opportunity to parallel her face beneath the hoodie to Xi Ji’s face in the last panel, making for a nice page transition.
Caption: Midtown Manhattan.
Panel 2. A closeup on the red hair of a woman that looks very much like the old design of Glorianna Silver, but is not her. This character is a chemically lobotomized woman that is used to transfer the Artifact from one place to another, a blank slate that the Artifact cannot imprint itself on. I will refer to this character as Doppelganger. The Doppelganger has the Ember Stone around her neck.
Panel 3. The Doppelganger is coming down the front steps of a Brownstone flanked by two large bodyguards (bodyguard #1 and bodyguard #2). Wulfgar is a couple of steps down from the Doppleganger. There is a black Cadillac with tinted windows waiting for them at the bottom of the stairs. In the background, you can see Glory leaning up against the fence.
Wulfgar: Keep the stone close.
Hitman #1: Yes, Wulfgar.
Panel 4. Glory Silver launching herself from the fence, her hood falling back to reveal her face. The look on her face is one of staunch determinism, as she is putting everything that she has into her one chance at getting the Ember Stone.
Panel 1. Glory Silver running towards the doppelganger. The two bodyguards are staring at her, already moving into action to draw their guns, Browning Hi-Power 9mms. Wulfgar is looking on with interest. The Cadillac is in between them.
Panel 2. Glory leaping over the hood of the car and kicking the gun out of one of the bodyguards (bodyguard #1) hands. The gun is flying somewhere far away.
Panel 3. Wulfgar ordering the bodyguards.
Wulfgar: Take her down alive.
Wulfgar: But cripple her.
Panel 3. Glory dodging under bodyguard #2’s gunshot, headed towards the Doppleganger.
Panel 4. Glory staring up into the face of the Doppleganger. She has a look of defiant anger on her face.
Glory: You’ve got something of mine.
Panel 1. Glory ripping the Ember Stone from the Doppleganger’s neck. The Doppleganger has no visible expression on her face as she is brain dead. Glory is already lunging away from her.
Panel 2. Glory running down the street away from an enraged Wulfgar.
Wulfgar: Shoot her!
Panel 3. Wulfgar grabbing a gun from one of his bodyguards.
Wulfgar: Give me that.
Panel 4. Wulfgar shooting the gun three times. The force of it has kicked his arms upwards slightly. Wulfgar looks extremely practiced at this, he is very calculated and deadly.
SFX: POP POP POP
Panel 5. Glory getting grazed in the leg by a bullet. Pieces of her pants and blood are flying through the air.
Panel 1. Glory looking down at her bloodied leg. You can see the wound through shredded pants.
Panel 2. Glory surrounded in a power aura of black, red, yellow and orange, like a glowing ember. The Ember Stone has started to glow in Glory’s hand.
Panel 3. The wound on Glory’s leg smoking as it cauterizes.
Panel 4. The wound on Glory’s leg scabbed up.
Panel 5. Glory looking up with a look that can only be described as pissed. :) She is holding up the Ember Stone in front of her.
Glory: THIS IS MINE.
Panel 6. Glory standing straight and an energy aura is starting to surround her. You can see the two bodyguards charging Glory, but there is a taxi that has come between them. The taxi driver is looking at Glory with confusion on his face. Wulfgar stands further back looking on.
Glory: COME AFTER ME AND DIE.
Panel 1. Splash page. Glory, with her back to the camera, looking at Wulfgar, the Doppleganger, and the charging bodyguards as the taxi explodes in front of her. The bodyguards are engulfed in flames, as is the taxi driver. Wulgar is looking straight through the explosion at Glory. Glory is in a power pose, holding one hand in the air while the other hand grasps the Ember Stone. Glory is engulfed in flames.
SFX: BO BOOM
Panel 2. Small offset panel of Wulgar’s face.
Panel 1. Xi Ji with his hand on his knees. He is staring down at the pavement, his shoulders are slumped showing how exhausted he really is, mentally and physically. There are multitudes of people passing by with looks of shock and curiosity on their faces.
Xi Ji: Huff. Huff.
Panel 2. Xi Ji looking up, a closeup of his upper body as he notices that someone is in his personal space.
Panel 3. Xi Ji’s face, he looks confused, with a tinge of sadness.
Panel 4. There is a Buddhist monk standing in front of Xi Ji looking concerned.
Monk: Are you okay?
Xi Ji: No.
Xi Ji: I am not.
Xi Ji: Look at me. Why aren’t you afraid of me?
Panel 5. The monk with a calm compassionate face.
Monk: I can help. Let me.
Monk: What is your name?
Panel 6. Xi Ji looking over at at the monk. Xi has a look of defeat on his face.
Xi Ji: I am Xi Ji.
Xi Ji: But you cannot help me. It is too strong.
Panel 1. The monk looking quizzical while Xi Ji looks beaten.
Monk: I don’t understand.
Xi Ji: I have a horrible burden, something evil that does...things.
Monk: What kinds of things?
Xi Ji: I can’t remember, but I always wake up...
Xi Ji: ...I murder people.
Panel 2. Flashback panel. Color suggestion for the panel is a lilac with pink accents. Xi Ji standing in the midst of his fallen brethren in the middle of a monastery. The skull in Xi Ji’s head is smoking and his mouth is open with the ball stuffed in it, his mouth almost in a sadistic grin from the will he must exert to keep the evil at bay. This panel also hints at the fact that he may be the one responsible for the deaths of his fellow monks.
Caption (Xi Ji): I was the youngest, the least experienced of all of my brothers to watch it. They guarded it for centuries until something went wrong and they all died.
Caption (Xi Ji): But now the burden is mine alone to bear.
Panel 3. Flashback Panel. Xi Ji looking behind him as he flees from a house with tears in his face. There are bodies outside of the house, the bodies of the family that once inhabited it. This is in the Chinese countryside, in a remote area so you can draw livestock that have been killed as well.
Caption (Xi Ji): At first I couldn’t control it’s power. And I ran from the horrid acts it committed. I’ve been everywhere, trying to find a place to hide alone.
Caption (Xi Ji): Everywhere I go there are people. Good people. Dead people.
Panel 3. Flashback panel. One of Xi Ji’s victims being attacked by the demons that Xi Ji is holding back. Xi Ji is convulsing in the background as the power flows out from him. The victim is shooting a gun and yelling at the top of his lungs while the arm that isn’t shooting the gun is torn away.
Caption (Xi Ji): But I’ve gotten to know when I can’t hold it in any longer. I look for evil men.
Caption (Xi Ji): And I set it loose on them.
Panel 1. The monk looking at Xi Ji with a look of concentration. Xi Ji has a dark look about his face, as though recalling this has hurt him, but reinforced his will in some way, especially when reminiscing about murdering the criminal element.
Xi Ji: Now there are people that want to kill me. They look for me even as we speak.
Panel 2. Xi Ji lit in a sympathetic manner, he looks timidly heroic.
Xi Ji: I don’t want to die. I’m only twenty-one years. And who would look after it? Who would bear this load?
Xi Ji: Don’t you see. I can’t do this, but there is no one else.
Panel 3. Finnegan pulling up in a car. The car is screeching to a halt with the passenger side door facing towards Xi Ji on the sidewalk.
Finnegan: Get in the car.
Panel 4. Finnegan looking out of an open car door with a gun pointed outwards as he speaks, at Xi Ji, who is off-panel.
Panel 5. Xi Ji looking at Finnegan.
Xi Ji: I will come.
Panel 4. Xi Ji walking towards the car as the monk catches him by the shoulder.
Monk: Open the hand of thought and suspend your judgement. Only then will you be able to let it all pass you by without getting involved.
Panel 5. The monk looking into Xi Ji’s eyes.
Monk: Please remember this.
Panel 6. Xi Ji stepping into the car while looking at the monk.
Xi Ji: I will.
Xi Ji: Thank you teacher.
Matt, thank you so much for your time. I really hope you have liked reading what I have written, and notice the time and craft that I have put in these pages.