|Peace, Chapter 1 (part 1 of 2)|
by Julian X  /  scripts  /  7 Jul 2007
Peace is a four-chapter graphic novel telling the origin of Irene, my archetypal female ninja character. The story is one of a fairly normal woman who rises from poverty to the status of a wealthy wife -- a classic sort of tale, to be sure. But it is there that our story really begins, as her beautiful life is brutally stripped from her. The real story here is her subsequent recovery, as she rediscovers the strength she had as a poor child begging on the streets and then finds far more, becoming an exquisitely talented and disciplined killer.
The story is a brutal one, and certainly not for the squeamish -- but it is also a beautiful one in what I hope is a fairly challenging way as we watch Irene transcend who she was but do so through coming to terms with murder. I’m also proud of the fact that we get inside this character -- that she’s not a cipher, or a “tough ninja girl” in any “hip” way, but a supremely literary character whose murderous ways stem from nothing less than a whole life and a complete philosophy. Perhaps that’s pretentious, in which case what I’m doing here is just setting up a character in a manner outdoing her literary precedents.
Whoever illustrates this has to be able to draw beautiful women, and not in a cheesecake fashion. There’ll be no big eyes here, no Japanese distorted figures, and no dumb looks. I think Chuck Austen’s art on the Bendis-scripted first storyline of Marvel’s Elektra series (collected in Elektra: The Scorpio Key) was rather good, and something vaguely in that style would be appropriate here.
Though I’d been planning to invent this archetypical character for years, I started writing this story in summer of 2001. It took me quite some time given how long I’d been planning it and how much I’d scripted, though not formally written. I finished it in September of 2001. It wasn’t so much that it was hard to write as that it was taxing to do so. I knew perfectly well where each scene was going, but by the time I got through it I just wanted to sleep. This story has this kind of power: it taxes you, challenges you. There’s an edge to it that is beautiful, but by the time you’d admired its beauty, you notice you’ve got a smooth cut right through you. I only hope readers are brave enough to keep coming back and to actually have the guts to admire that beauty.
Some miscellaneous notes. The sexual pun with the title is certainly not unintended, but the story is indeed philosophical, if not spiritual. The use of black panels is a running symbol, and they’re used more as the story goes on. Larger panels and faster pacing (i.e. less events per page) increase in usage as the story progresses and the main character gains more peace, as it were. The opposite is a 16-panel page in chapter 1 -- fragmentation expressed on the page with smaller panels and slower pacing (i.e. it takes one longer to get through a single page).
A note on chronology. The script establishes that she lost her husband in 1974 after six months or so of marriage. She was 16 or perhaps 17 when she married, sometime around late 1973. This means she was born in 1957 or 1956 and completed her training in 1977 or 1978. This would make her 25 or perhaps 26 in 1982, corresponding to the main section of Miller’s use of (a living) Elektra occurred in Daredevil. She’d have turned thirty in 1987 or 1986. She’d never have made it to forty.
This first chapter is 48 pages.
A black page.
Caption #1: “Think not of yourself.”
Caption #2: “Think not of your target.”
Caption #3: “There is no target.”
Caption #4: “There is no shot.”
Caption #5: “You do not seize the moment, but submit to it.”
A full-page shot showing the full body of Irene, bald-headed, blindfolded, standing, holding a nicely curved longbow, the arrow drawn. There are trees around, their tiny green leaves visible in the shot. Silent. Blindfolded. Beautiful. Still to the world.
1-3. The top tier. We have a series of close-ups on her hands on the string, pregnant, waiting. There is no change between panels.
4. A large, tier-wide overhead shot showing a bird, beautifully rendered, flying over Irene, still standing blindfolded, arrow drawn. She stands in a plaza in a Japanese complex. Caption: “I hear the bird overhead, hear its height, its trajectory.”
5. A shot of a squirrel on a tree branch. Michael Zulli stuff. Caption: “I hear the squirrels all around, hear their scraping, their scrabbling on the bark, their teeth and claws.”
6. A shot of the target sitting on bamboo rods. Caption: “I hear the dead space of the target, feel the wind running around it, smell and taste that wind.”
1. A small black panel. Caption: “And I hear none of this, feel none of this.”
2. A close-up on her blindfolded eyes. Caption: “Cannot know any of this. It’s too much.”
3. A close-up on her hands on the string, pregnant, waiting. Caption: “But the universe knows it.”
4. Another such shot. Caption: “I stop thinking and wait until the moment finds me.”
5. A similar shot. Waiting.
6. Another similar shot, except that here she has just let go of the string. Her movement is so mild that it can barely be perceived.
7. A similar shot, only here the arrow has flown and her hands are in the same place.
8. A close-up on her blindfolded face. A Japanese man holds a gun to her temple. Man: “Did you hit the target? A wrong answer means your death.”
9. A small black panel. Caption: “There’s an arrow in the bull’s eye, but I did not put it there. I merely let go of a string without thinking.”
1. A close-up of her fingers taking off the blindfold. Caption: “My name is Irene.”
2. A shot of her head as she tears off the blindfold. Caption: “And I’m not dead.”
3. A large shot of her walking away, the man beside her with his gun down. We see the target, an arrow resting in its bull’s eye. Caption: “My answer must have been right.”
1. A tier-wide shot of Void, an old Japanese man, and Tommy, a Japanese man in his early thirties, standing to the side, observing the scene. Void: “She passed the test easily. As you knew she would.” Tommy: “You honor me, master.”
2. Another tier-wide shot. Void and Tommy walking away from the scene. Void: “In less than three years, she has mastered the bow. More importantly, she has merged with nothingness enough to do so. Most impressive.”
3. A small tier-wide shot of their feet and the tiles under them as they walk away. The feet are on the right edge of the panel. On the left, we see where the tiles begin and the grass ends. Tommy: “She knew nothingness long before she knew it.”
1. A large shot, perhaps half the page, of Irene at six, begging in the streets of a Greek village in the 1960s. She holds a small metal can for money. Caption #1: “I was born into poverty.” Caption #2: “I do not say this to generate sympathy, neither wanted nor deserved. It simply was.”
2. A close-up on the can she holds. Caption: “By the age of six, I was begging on the streets to supplement my father’s income.”
3. A shot of the child begging in a poor area. Passers-by are not giving her change, though she looks quite pitiful. Caption #1: “People were more inclined to give me coins than my parents or my brother, and so I stood apart from them and begged.” Caption #2: “Monks throughout history have often begged. Forsaking the world, the monk depends on the kindness of others to survive.”
4. A close-up on Irene’s pitiful face, looking up at us -- as if we were a prospective donator. Caption: “Circumstance made me a monk before it made me a woman.”
1. A shot of a small apartment. The walls are decrepit. It’s one room with a bathroom and a bedroom. Present are Irene’s mother and father as well as her younger brother. Caption #1: “My father worked intermittently at various jobs, always unskilled labor.” Caption #2: “My mother stayed at home, cooked, cleaned, and watched me to make sure I was safe.”
2. A shot of the younger brother working in the back of a store, skinning fish. Caption: “My brother, a year younger, worked when he could at the simple tasks. He’d be hired by some local store for a pittance to do half the work of an adult. But even a pittance helped.”
4. A wedding photo of Irene’s parents. Caption: “My parents were poor Greeks who married out of some combination of love and fiscal need, like most people.”
5. A shot of the Athenian agora, with the Parthenon, in silhouette, Irene the begging girl juxtaposed symbolically in the foreground. Caption #1: “We lived in the shadow of Athens, but only went there to beg. The rich white tourists paid well to be left alone.” Caption #2: “Thus was the life of Irene Stavros, a poor girl in the suburbs of Athens in the 1960s.”
1. A shot of Irene walking on a crowded street, her younger brother for company. She’s 16 or so; he’s 14 or so. Tommy, the Japanese man seen earlier, walks behind them. He’s in his late twenties. Caption: “That is, until Tommy.”
2. Irene and her younger brother entering the family apartment. Caption: “By then, I was sixteen. My parents must have been thinking who they could find to marry me.”
3. Tommy standing at the door as Irene’s brother tries to close it. Irene’s walking off into the apartment. Caption: “The solution fell into their laps.”
4. A shot of Irene’s father sitting at a table in their apartment, talking to Tommy. Irene’s mother stands nearby, serving them food and beverages. Caption: “Marrying a Japanese man had some stigma attached to it, especially in such a small neighborhood. But he had money enough to provide a life for me that they’d never thought possible. We could move away from the neighborhood and their disapproval.”
5. Irene and her brother kneel by the door of the bedroom, observing the scene of the previous panel. Caption: “And it was the sixties. A new era in which business was business, regardless of skin color or slanted eyes.”
1. Irene watching as Tommy shakes hands with her father at the door. Caption: “My parents insisted on thinking it over.”
2. A similar shot, only now Tommy’s leaving.
3. A shot of Irene observing her parents talking in the bedroom. Caption: “They talked that night. In such a small apartment, it was impossible for me not to hear -- a fact that only cemented, over and over again, what an opportunity this represented.”
4. A shot of Irene, her parents, and her brother all getting into a 1960s car on their impoverished streets while people watch with speculation and curiosity. The driver is Tommy’s assistant. Caption: “Tommy had arranged with them to have a car sent for us the following day.”
5. A shot of Irene and her parents talking with Tommy at a dinner table in a fine restaurant. Caption: “It took us into Athens, then stopped at a nice restaurant. I got to watch my parents eat nervously, vaguely uncertain of their etiquette, even of how to eat such an expensive meal.”
6. A close-up on Irene at the table. Caption: “My parents were not the world. They knew so little, were so much in awe of this man. Of his money. Of the life I was being offered.”
1. A shot of Irene’s father shaking hands with Tommy at the table, now cleared but for wine. Caption: “And so it was decided over wine.”
2. A close-up on Irene, mute and uncertain, but anticipating the opportunity she cannot understand. Caption: “I needed a husband.”
3. A close-up on Tommy, in command of the situation, smiling politely. Caption: “He needed a wife.”
4. A close-up on Irene’s parents. Caption: “And it would be good for my parents.”
5. A shot of the family talking in the car on the way home. Caption: “My father only conferred with me on the way home. He told me it was a wonderful opportunity. But I knew more than him. He was trying to convince a little girl, but I knew that, the moment I was married, I would eclipse him.”
6. A close-up on Irene’s father talking with her. Caption: “He suddenly seemed old and feeble, the life he had given me so unknowably flawed.”
A full-page shot of Irene and Tommy being married in a Greek Orthodox church. Caption #1: “My family had insisted on an orthodox wedding. They’d gotten the most lavish one they’d ever seen, though he had no family present.” Caption #2: “And so Irene Stavros died and Irene Nakiotomo was born.”
1. A shot of a house in the rural village in which Irene Stavros grew up. Her parents and brother are standing at the door, waving to Irene as she gets into a car. Caption: “My parents got a house in the town in which I had grown up begging. I would visit them occasionally, always bearing some gift. They’d never treated me better.”
2. A shot of a large house in urban Athens. Irene is getting out of the car and entering. Caption: “I, on the other hand, lived with Tommy in Athens.”
1. A shot of Tommy lying on top of Irene, as seen from over his shoulder, showing her face. Caption: “He took my virginity forcefully but with consideration.”
2. An overhead shot of Irene and Tommy lying in bed together. He’s lying back, basking in the afterglow. She’s caressing his hair, gazing into his eyes. Caption: “At first I loved his money. I needed to be cold to marry a man I hadn’t known.”
3. A side view of Irene caressing his hair and gazing into his eyes. Caption: “But I came to love him. How could I not?”
4. A shot of Tommy following Irene on the street in her old neighborhood, prior to their marriage. Caption: “He had picked me because I was so beautiful.”
5. A shot of Irene in a white fur coat, looking at herself in a lavish mirror. Caption: “He had given me everything just for being his wife.”
6. A shot of Tommy lying on top of Irene, as seen from the side of their heads. She is gazing at him. Caption: “He had made me a woman and made me love pleasuring him.”
1. A shot of Tommy and Irene at a large table in an exceptionally fine restaurant. Rich Greek businessmen are talking with him. Caption: “The only thing I had to do was accompany him to an occasional dinner. He’d instructed me in how to behave at such events, how to hold myself, what to say, how much to reveal about our personal lives. So that, I believed, I wouldn’t show my parents’ awkwardness. And I’d appreciated it.”
2. A similar shot only much later, when everyone’s had a good deal of wine. Caption #1: “I wasn’t to enter the discussions, which mostly focused on obscure points of business. I got the sense that he was showing me off, as if he was proud of me, of my beauty and manners. His trophy wife.” Caption #2: “There were worse things.”
1. A shot of Irene in her marriage bed, though Tommy is absent. Caption: “Then came the day, half a year into our marriage, when Tommy wasn’t there when I awoke.”
2. A shot of Irene at a glass-topped table in the kitchen of her house. A servant waits on her as she drinks coffee and reads the newspaper. She’s got the paper wide open. The front reads: “SHIPPING MAGNATE FOUND DEAD” -- in Greek with a subtitle if this is possible. The date is partially visible: 1974. Caption: “I eventually decided to have my breakfast as usual, if only to take my mind off it.”
1. A shot of Tommy’s assistant -- the same man who drove his car earlier -- answering the door. Caption: “Until the knock at the door.”
2. A shot of Tommy’s assistant opening the door, only to have it pushed in as three thugs enter.
3. A shot of Irene at the table in the foreground, dropping the paper and getting up. In the background we see Tommy’s assistant being beaten by two men while the third closes the door, having just entered behind the other two. One of the two men beating the assistant is clearly noticing Irene.
4. A shot of the assistant, bleeding, in the foreground. His arm is bent back behind him. In the background we see Irene running off. In the middle ground, though nearer to the foreground, we see one of the other thugs dashing off after Irene.
1. A shot of Irene caught by her pursuer. He does this by grabbing her torso area, the easiest to grab in a pursuit. They’re on the edge of the kitchen.
2. A shot of Irene slammed into the wall by this pursuer. This is a larger shot and here we can see clearly that we’re on the edge of the kitchen.
3. A shot of Irene elbowing her attacker in the face.
4-5. Two shots, from two different angles, of the two struggling in the kitchen, her thrashing and hitting, him continuing to hold her from behind. It’s frantic. Not orchestrated, choreographed. They’re knocking things over, off the counters, etc. One of the things knocked over is a wooden block with kitchen knives in it.
1-2. Two more such shots. Irene is slammed into the counter, an easy way for him to maintain his hold and still subdue her.
3. A shot of the two other thugs bringing a beaten assistant into the kitchen. Thug #1 is one of these two. Thug #1: “You need help with that?”
4. A shot of Irene, subdued against the counter, her attacker lifting her head.
5. A similar shot, only here the attacker is pounding the head into the counter. He is Thug #2. Thug #2: “No.”
6. A shot of the assistant with a gun in his face. Thug #3 is questioning him. Thug #3: “Where’s your boss?”
7. A shot of the frightened assistant, staring at the gun that is inches from his face. Assistant: “I don’t know, I don’t know! He’s not here!”
1. A shot of the frightened assistant as Thug #3 presses the gun into the assistant’s face. Thug #3: “How do you know?”
2. A similar shot. Thug #3: “He didn’t come home last night.”
3. A knowing glace passing between Thug #3 and Thug #2.
4. A shot of Thug #2 looking into Irene’s slightly battered face. Thug #2: “That right?”
5. A similar shot. Irene: “No, he’s not here.”
6. A larger shot of Thug #1 exiting the kitchen, gun in hand, as Thug #2 looks up from Irene and at him expectantly, and Thug #3 continues to hold his gun in the assistant’s face. Thug #1: “I’m on it.”
1. A shot of Irene, her head pressed to the countertop, a gun pointed at her face. Caption: “As they waited nervously for their friend to return, my mind raced: what they might do to me, what my husband was involved with, whether I’d ever see him again.”
2. A shot of Thug #1 re-entering the kitchen, more relaxed than when he left. Thug #1: “He’s not here.”
3. A shot of Thug #3 with his gun against the assistant. Thug #3: “You sure?”
4. A shot of Thug #1 standing in the kitchen. Thug #1: “I’m fuckin’ sure. I searched every goddamn room. He’s not here.”
5. A shot of Thug #2, his gun against Irene’s horizontal face. Thug #2: “You hear that, bitch? Your husband abandoned you. He’s probably halfway to Japan by now.”
1. A close-up of Thug #2’s mouth, real close to Irene’s face, distorted from being pressed into the countertop. Thug #2: “We’re going to have to leave a message just in case. And I’m inclined to take it out on your ass.”
2. A close-up on his hand, pushing against her dress at the crotch area.
3. A shot of Thug #3 pushing the assistant away into the kitchen. Thug #3: “Ease up.”
4. A shot of Thug #2 moving Irene’s head upright but keeping her pressed against the counter. He’s got a gun to her head.
5. A shot of Thug #2 in the foreground, holding Irene in this posture, making her look at Thug #3 in the background, who is now holding his gun outright at the assistant -- who’s a foot or so away from Irene in the middle ground, pushing himself back against the counter, getting as far back as he can. Thug #3, while pointing at the assistant, is looking at Irene and therefore at us. Thug #3: “Where is he? Tell us or I’ll shoot ‘im.”
1. A reverse shot. Here we’re behind Thug #3. The assistant is slightly to the side, with Thug #2’s arm extended in that direction, the gun ready to fire into the assistant. Directly in front of us is Irene and Thug #3. Irene is starting to cry. Irene: “I don’t know.”
2. An extreme close-up on Thug #2’s lips, whispering to Irene’s ear. Thug #2: “You’d better tell him. My friend will fuckin’ do it. He’s not kidding around.”
3. A shot focusing on the assistant, scared out of his mind, the gun pointed at him by Thug #3. Thug #3: “This man is a dead man unless one of you tells me.”
4. A close-up on the assistant’s face, utterly petrified. Assistant: “I swear I don’t know.”
5. A close-up on Irene’s face, crying. Irene: “He didn’t come home last night.”
1. A shot of Thug #3 firing into the assistant’s head, the back of which is exploding outward in a fine red mist.
2. A shot of the white cupboards behind the assistant’s head. We see a streak of blood, as well as its texture, the little fragments of bone and brain.
3. A shot of Irene’s face, crying, eyes shut, spattered with blood.
4. A shot of Thug #2 talking to Irene, her eyes closed. Thug #2: “When your husband reads about how they discovered your body, he’s going to read about how you were violated before you died. And violently. Real nasty. How do you think he’ll like that?”
5. A large shot of Irene springing up, pushing Thug #2 while the others watch, covering her. The corpse is also visible, slumped over on the floor. Irene: “Just kill me.”
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