My Fiends of the Eastern Front: Stalingrad comic strip serial is featured on the cover of the new Judge Dredd Megazine, on sale from today. Issue 247 features episode three of the eight-part story, lovingly painted in monotone washes by Colin MacNeil. He's also provided the cover art, a brooding image that takes on an extra, chilling meaning once you've read the story inside.
The Fiends strip was originally commissioned bythen Megazine editor Alan Barnes as six parts of eight pages each. The first two scripts were already written when Matt Smith took over from Alan. A change in the Megazine's format meant Matt asked me to rewrite the existing episodes, shortening them from eight pages each to six pages per part. That wasn't too hard and I think they benefited from being tightened up. However, it did have the effect of turning the first two parts of the story into an extended prologue. With episode three, the tale gets moving.
I finished scripting the series just before going on holiday and am very happy with how it's turned out. While I've had some success writing comics for other countries, my scripts for the Megazine and 2000 AD had been poor received in the past. Fiends is getting a better response, with Colin's art a major fact in that. But I'd like to believe my writing is much improved too, thanks to the MA Screenwriting course and other learning experiences I had in the last year as a freelance scribe.
In the past I'd been guilty of dashing off a script, not bothering to put the effort into rewriting - and the results were ample proof of that sloppy attitude. The stories read like first attempts, lacking depth and development and subtlety. Hopefully Fiends of the Eastern Front: Stalingrad is evidence I'm leaving some of old, bad habits behind. In case anyone's interested, below is my script for the first two pages of episode three...
FIENDS OF THE EASTERN FRONT: STALINGRAD Part 3 • 6pp
1. Full page image of Constanta as seen from behind, with panels 2-5 inset on the shadows of his cloak. The vampyr addresses his Panzergrenadiers beneath a full moon.
OCTOBER 1, 1942.
TO CAPTURE STALINGRAD, WE MUST BECOME LIKE OUR ENEMY – USE THEIR TACTICS AGAINST THEM.
2. First of the four inset panels. A Red Army storm group advances through the shattered rubble of Stalingrad, moonlight their only illumination.
“THE RUSSIANS STRIKE AT NIGHT – SO SHALL WE.
3.Three Russian soldiers wade through thigh-deep liquid in a sewer, each carrying burning torches to light their way.
“IN DAYTIME THE COMMUNISTS USE TUNNELS TO INFILTRATE OUR LINES. WE MUST DO THE SAME."
4. Front view of Constanta. A 13-year-old Russian girl stands in front of the Rumanian, her face stricken with terror, Constanta’s hands on her neck.
THE BOLSHEVIKS SEND CHILDREN TO SPY ON US, BUT TAKE NO PRISONERS. WE MUST BE EVEN MORE MERCILESS!
5. Constanta sinks his fangs into the girl’s neck.
FIENDS OF THE EASTERN FRONT: STALINGRAD • PART 3: BLOOD AND HONOUR
1. Constanta licks the blood from his lips.
2. Constanta stalks through the shocked Panzergrenadiers, among them Richter and a young, horrified soldier called Ulrich.
GET RID OF THAT CARCASS. WE BEGIN OUR FIRST MISSION WITHIN THE HOUR!
3. Ulrich points at the dead girl on the ground while talking to his comrade. Richter examines the sharp edge of his entrenching tool.
MEIN GOTT, RICHTER! OUR NEW COMMANDER—
CONSTANTA’S A COLD-BLOODED KILLER.
4. Richter walks purposefully toward the girl’s body, the short shovel clenched in one hand. He’s followed by the stunned Ulrich.
BE GRATEFUL HE’S ON OUR SIDE, ULRICH.
ARE YOU GOING TO BURY HER?
5. Silhouette of Richter swinging his blade through the air in an arc to decapitate the girl’s body on the ground.
6. Close on Richter’s blood-flecked face, the edge of the blade beside it.
NOW WE CAN BURY HER.