NIGHTJAR EPISODE ONE
Right…maybe this first page could be laid out something along the lines
suggested in the sketch to the right. Two tiers of three frames each with all
the frames the same size, then a narrow strip along the bottom with frame seven
quite small and frame eight being the title logo. If you’ve got a better idea
then please don’t feel intimidated by all this junk…just go ahead and do what
First of the six flash-back frames that form the opening sequence. I’m still
quite fond of the idea of maybe using some different medium for these first few
panels to give them a different look. If you’re doing the rest of the strip
using a half-tone maybe you could do these frames in pencil? Just a thought…This
first frame shows a view of an overgrown and untended terraced garden, looking
towards the peeling back door which is opening towards us showing a rectangle of
darkness within. Someone unseen is opening the door from inside…we can see his
fingers clasped round the edge of it. The garden is deathly still, maybe just a
couple of insects droning somewhere. There’s junk everywhere…bricks, pram
wheels, tin bath, plant pots…I want to give the impression of a frozen instant,
like something out of an old photograph album. As an almost subliminal detail
there is a small bird swooping low over the garden, it’s shadow falling neatly
beneath it. We have caught it at one split instant of it’s flight. It’ll be gone
by next frame.
BOX: IT WAS A STICKY AUGUST AFTERNOON IN 1964 WHEN DEMDYKE STAGGERED OUT, OUT
THROUGH THE BACK DOOR, OUT INTO THE SILENT, SWELTERING GARDEN…
(UNDER)BOX: FAT AND OLD WHEN HE DIED, HE HAD NO JOB. BUT DEMDYKE WAS THE EMPEROR
OF ALL THE BIRDS.
Same shot. Harold Demdyke is staggering out into the garden, collapsing in
horrifying pain, eyes rolling, spittle flecking his lips. He looks like
everybody’s dad after Sunday dinner…white shirt, denim trousers and braces,
sleeves rolled up, fat, florid, fiftyish. The bird is gone.
BOX: IT WAS A DIRTY DEATH, STUMBING AND FALLING AMIDST THE YELLOW GRASS AND
RUSTED PRAM WHEELS, EYES ROLLING, WHITE FOAM FLECKED ON BLACKENING LIPS.
(UNDER) BOX: IT WAS A SUNDAY. “SEMPRINI SERENADE” WAS ON THE RADIO. THE EMPEROR
OF ALL THE BIRDS WAS CRAWILING OUT INTO THE WEEDS TO DIE.
Still hanging onto the same shot and angle…Harold Demdyke is now sprawled full
length in the f/g. He is convulsing horribly, sweat standing out on his brow and
cheeks. I want to really get a lot of sordid, painful pathos out of this… a fat
old man dying in a scruffy garden on a Sunday afternoon. From the b/g running
out through the open back door comes the ten-year old Mirrigan Demdyke, dressed
however a ten-year old schoolgirl dress on a Sunday in 1964… skirt, cardigan,
ankle socks? Something like that. She looks very scared.
BOX: NOW DEMDYKE HAD A DAUGHTER, MIRRIGAN. SHE WAS A BIRD, TOO. SHE WAS A
(UNDER) BOX: MIRRIGAN DEMDYKE WAS JUST TEN WHEN HER FATHER WAS MURDERED BY
Change angle and shot for second tier of frames. We’re looking at a side-on shot
of the prone Harold Demdyke, Mirrigan kneeling the other side of him clutching
his hand. He is trembling violently, eyes glazed and bulging. From the look on
Mirrigan’s face she is obviously being torn up inside. Her father is dying in
terrible pain and there’s nothing she can do to help him. She isn’t crying.
BOX: SHE KNELT ON THE PARCHED, CRACKED MUD AND HELD HIS HAND. HE TRIED TO SPEAK,
BUT HIS MOUTH WAS FULL OF DRY BLACK FEATHERS.
(UNDER) BOX: HE COULD SEE THAT HER LIPS WERE MOVING, BUT HE COULD NOT HEAR HER
VOICE. HIS EARS WERE FILLED WITH THE BEATING OF TERRIBLE WINGS...
Close in on Harold Demdyke so that all we can see is one hand coming from the
bottom of the frame. It is clutching suddenly, tightly, and violently on
Mirrigan’s smaller ones which are holding it. Apart from that hand, the frame is
taken up with the kneeling Mirrigan, eyes wide in sudden numb shock as a sudden
explosion of blood and tissue erupts from her father's chest, which is
mercifully off pic.
BOX: ...AND THEN HIS HEART EXPLODED.
Close in still further so that we have a very tight close up of Mirrigan’s
dazed, horror-stricken face, blood-covered and dripping, eyes staring down at
the carnage which we cannot see.
BOX: SHE DIDN’T CRY. SHE TOOK HER GRIEF TO A COLD AND SILENT PLACE WITHIN HER
WHERE SHE KEPT IT AND POLISHED IT LIKE A BLACK AND SECRET TREASURE.
(UNDER) BOX: SHE WAS HER FATHER'S DAUGHTER.
Small frame. Sudden cut to nearly twenty years later. What we have is basically
a tight close up of Mirrigan Demdyke, now in her late twenties, as she sits
behind the wheel of her car (I'll leave the model up to you). We are looking at
her through the rain-splattered windshield, maybe one wiper blade coming into
the pic. I’d be nice if we could keep the angle and posture as close as possible
to that in frame six to try and get a visual continuity that bridges the sudden
twenty year jump.
BOX: NEARLY TWENTY YEARS LATER, SHE STILL IS...
Title frame. The way I see this is as follows... We have the word NIGHTJAR
designed so that it's letters are highly stylized and run together, forming
almost a regular and elongated rectangle. Making up, in fact, the entire panel
border, with holes in the panel where the 'G' an the ‘R' and so on are. Right,
so that's the shape of the panel…the word "NIGHTJAR"... the actual picture shows
an exterior shot of Mirrigan's car driving through the countryside. The beams of
it's headlamps are picking out a sign which bears the word 'SABDEN’. If this is
tricky and complicated, or if you genuinely haven't the faintest fucking idea
what I'm talking about then please do it how you like.
Okay, I figure we're at the top of the second page now. I had a layout idea for
this page too, but, as before, if you don't rate it then ignore it. I figured we
could lay the page out into six horizontal bands of equal depth with the band at
the bottom of the page being split vertically in two. This will give the page
the look of an I-Ching Hexagram and will sort of subliminally tie in with the
shot of Mirrigan's granny playing with her yarrow stalks. I know the wide
shallow frame-shape is restrictive but I think if we play around with the angels
within the frame we’ll get an interesting page with a nice feel of mounting
tension emphasized by the rigid panel layout. Right, this first frame has maybe
the front wheels of Mirrigan’s Car quite large in the f/g to the left. Mirrigan
has walked a few steps away from the car and is standing staring up at the old
cottage. There are no lights on within.
BOX: IT IS LATE, AND THE TINY VILLAGE OF SABDEN CROUCHES IN THE DARKNESS ON THE
SLOPES OF PENDLE HILL.
(UNDER) BOX: BREATH FOGGING IN THE NOVEMBER AIR SHE LOOKS UP AT THE DUST-BLIND
WINDOWS IN THEIR SPLIT AND PEELING FRAMES...
Shot from inside the darkened passageway of the cottage. The front door is open
and we can see Mirrigan, a shadowy figure peering hesitantly in.
BOX: …GRANDMA'S HOUSE.
Mirrigan has now ventured deeper within the darkened house. Maybe we have a
tight facial close-up in this frame showing her expression. She looks puzzled
and faintly worried. She’s wondering what's happened to her grandmother.
MIR: ANYBODY HOME?
(SMALL) MIR: GRAN?
We are looking from one end of a table. Granma is seated at the other end,
looking like a tiny wizened mummy. There are candles arranged around the table
which are magically springing to life, igniting without the touch of a taper.
The whole scene has a weird and candlelit glow as a result. Mirrigan need not be
seen as we are seeing things more or less from her point of view.
Long shot of the room showing Granny seated and Mirrigan standing, the tiny room
with all of it's quaint supernatural detail lit by the candlelight. In front of
her on the table Granny has some yarrow stalks (Or maybe Chinese coins which are
round with a square hole in the centre) which she has been throwing, presumably
in the dark, for an I-Ching reading. Her expression is impassive. Mirrigan’s is
slightly reprimanding but nonetheless faintly amused.
MIR: HELLO GRAN.
MIR: STILL NOT LOST THE THEATRICAL TOUCH, I SEE.
This is the first of the two smaller frames on the bottom tier. It just shows an
ordinary simple middle-distance shot of the old lady sitting at the table with
her coins or yarrow stalks. Her eyes are invisible within the shadows of their
GRAN: SAY AS YE LIKE, LASS. I’LL NOT BE MYTHERED. THE LIGHTS ARE FOR THY
Tight close-up of granny. We can now see her eyes. The lids are stitched
together with tiny strands of catgut. She is impossibly old.
GRAN: ...NOT MINE.
Okay, this is page three. You'll be relieved to know that I haven't the faintest
idea what layout would be best for this bit. Maybe it'd be nice to have the
camera sort of circling round the tiny room like a bird, focusing upon the two
women, but bringing lots of interesting shapes and sorcerous bric-a-brac into
the picture in the f/g. In this first frame Mirrigan looks wryly piqued at her
grandmother’s cantankerousness. Grandmother looks totally unconcerned. We can
also see a minor detail that I should have mentioned earlier… before granny, on
the table, is a tiny agate statuette of a nightjar. I believe they're quite
small birds so maybe it could be life-size, without a base or pedestal. It still
needn't be terribly conspicuous, just so long as it’s there.
MIR: GRAN, WHY DID YOU CALL ME HERE TONIGHT?
Main emphasis upon the motionless figure of Mirrigan's grandmother as she calmly
tells Mirrigan that she is shortly to die. Maybe one of the minor details in the
room could provide some sort of symbolic counterpoint to this revelation.
GRAN: BECAUSE I'VE SEEN THE WHITE CROW, MIRRIGAN. BECAUSE TONIGHT I SHALL BE
JOURNEYING TO THE DUSK LATITUDES AND I'LL NOT BE COMING BACK.
GRAN: I’M GOING TO DIE, JUST AS YOUR FATHER DIED THESE EIGHTEEN YEARS SINCE. AND
THERE ARE MATTERS TO BE CONCLUDED AND LEGACIES TO BE SETTLED.
Close up of the agate nightjar, maybe one of grandmothers liver-spotted
bird-like hands resting lightly upon it.
GRAN: THERE IS THE NIGHTJAR IN AGATE...
Maybe Mirrigan is now holding the tiny stone bird, looking down at it in
puzzlement and wonder.
GRAN: IT WAS YOUR FATHER'S WISH THAT YOU SHOULD HAVE IT, ONCE YOU WERE OF AN
AGE. ONLY TREAT IT WITH CAUTION. SOMETIMES IT SINGS...
GRAN: THAT IS ALL. I HAD ONLY TO PASS ON THE STONE BIRD...
Sudden dramatic emphasis on grandmother. Maybe a tight close-up.
GRAN: ...AND TO TELL YOU WHO IT IS THAT YOU MUST KILL.
NIGHTJAR script TM and Copyright 2004 Alan Moore. NIGHTJAR created by
Moore and Bryan Talbot. Used with permission of Avatar Press, Inc.