"Doing What I Can"
By Marlan Harris

Heroes are everyday people, just like anyone.  Everyone starts his or her day just like anyone else.  No one has any idea what the day will hold for him or her.  No one has any idea that this might be the day they're called upon to be a hero.  But when there's a call, the true heroes rise to the task and do what has to be done.  What does a hero think when he's starting his day, a day just like any other?

This is the story of a man, just like anyone, that starts his day, not knowing what will happen next or that this might be the most important day of his life.  This man also contemplates the meaning of the word "hero" and wonders if that title could possibly apply to him.


No identifying features on any of the characters.  Do your best to obscure or cover faces or cut them off visually at the panel boarders.  The point is to make the characters appear to be like they could be anyone.

I was also considering the idea of showing the characters' faces and distinguishing features, but have them change from panel to panel, again, like they could be anyone: one panel they're white and middle class, the next they're black, the next they're working class, etc.  But I thought this might be confusing for readers.  However, if you have an idea that could make this work and you like this idea better, let me know and we can modify the story.

The two pages are 11 panels, 6 on the first page and 5 on the second.  A standard six-panel grid, 2 by 2 by 2 horizontally, 3 by 3 vertically.  What would be the last two panels on the second page, making up the bottom third of the page, are combined into one panel, making for 4 panels that are each 1/6 of the page on top, then on the bottom one panel making up 1/3 of the page.

Please, no insert panels, no tricky sequences.  No need to draw attention to a potentially confusing configuration -- the action and emotion are in the pictures and words; let them speak for themselves. 


Two people sleeping in a very dark bedroom.  In the very near foreground is a digital alarm clock, reading "4:59" in stark red.  The rest of the panel is in dark colors, dark grays or blues, making the red of the alarm clock's numbers really jump out.  In the background are two people in bed, asleep, covers pulled up close, a man nearer and a woman on the other side of him.  They are both facing the other way so we can't see their faces but it's very obvious that they're just two people sleeping.  Also, the panel likely cuts their bodies off at their necks, since the main object in the panel is the alarm clock.  Minimal detail, nothing to distract from the alarm clock primarily and the two people sleeping secondarily.

CAPTION:  Some days are easier than others.

The alarm clock goes off.  Exactly the same as Panel 1 -- I even encourage you to use a stat panel.  However, the alarm clock now reads "5:00."  Also, a line of words reading "BEEP" "BEEP" "BEEP" being as big and obtrusive as possible, however, not letting them obscure the rest of the panel  maybe making the letters transparent so we can see the people sleeping in the bed behind them.  I know this doesn't make much sense, but I'd like to show how obnoxious and sudden the alarm clock is.  Perhaps the words running down the side of the panel?

(described above)

The man in the shower.  Through a shower curtain, the blurry image of the man showering, his hands raised, washing his hair (a very obvious image).  Water flowing from the showerhead, etc.  This can be a very undetailed panel and well-lit.

CAPTION: Getting out of bed, getting ready for the day.  Every day it's tough, but no tougher than anyone else's day.  It's just part of the job.

The same man, shaving.  From behind (on the left side of the panel) as he's standing with a towel around his waist, looking in the mirror (on the right side of the panel, nearer to the middle), the man's face lathered in shaving cream.  Since his face in the mirror needs to be obscured, perhaps a cleverly placed arm in front of the face in the mirror as he's shaving, unless you have a better suggestion.

CAPTION:Who am I?  I'm an average joe, just like anyone.

The same man tying his tie, getting ready.  The man (in the middle of the panel, looking toward the left side of the panel), putting on his uniform in front of a mirror (on the left side of the panel) in the bedroom, considerably better lit now than in the first two panels.  The action in the panel is shot from the side, a rather plain angle, the man's body cut off at the neck by the top panel boarder (the easiest way to obscure his features).  He's putting on not so much a uniform but rather a nice buttoned-down shirt, and at this point he's tying a tie.  Perhaps a bureau or the edge of the bed in the near background, but nothing that will distract from the image of the man.  In the far background (on the right side of the panel) is a bedroom door and leaving the room is the woman (the man's wife): she's dressed in a robe, her hair long and mildly frazzled (from the night's rest).  She's easily blended into the background, not drawing any attention  as a matter of fact, feel free to use the right panel boarder to cut her off, further blending her into the background and not taking the focus from the main image of the man.

CAPTION:Sometimes I save lives, rescue lives, or protect lives. 

A kid.  It's the man and woman's kid, sleepy from being awakened so early but wanting to see his dad before the man leaves for work.  The kid is 5 years old or so, dressed in pajamas, those one-piece jumpers that were so comfortable, with a whole in the big toe.  The angle of the kid is from above, just like an adult (the dad) looking down on the kid.  They're in the hallway and it's fairly dark in the early light of the morning but the background (mostly the floor, from this angle) is insignificant.

The kid's face is obscured, in one of two ways:
The man, on the left side of the panel (but mostly cut off, since the kid is the focus of the panel), reaching out to muss the kid's hair, and his arm and hand are in the way of clearly seeing the kid's face.  However, I'm not sure how this would look when it's actually drawn so I also offer:
The kid's hand in front of his face, using the back of his hand to wipe the sleep from his eyes, his fingers splayed out in all directions, obscuring his mouth and eyes, his other arm lying limp at his side.

CAPTION: It's what I do, day in and day out.


Wife handing coffee to husband.  The wife (on the right side of the panel), in her bathrobe, fairly close-up, her head cut off by the top panel boarder and most of the rest of her body cut off by the right panel boarder.  In her left hand (the only one visible) is a cup of steaming coffee, on the side of the mug reading "#1 DAD" (but much of it cut off, from this angle).  On the appropriate finger is a wedding band.

In the background is the husband, his head cut off by the top panel boarder, dressed for work, reaching for the coffee.  In the farther background are a stove and/or a refrigerator, traditional markings that the two are in the kitchen.

CAPTION: Am I a hero?

The three family members, enjoying their breakfast.  The father (on the right side of the panel) is sitting at the breakfast table (in the near foreground), reading the newspaper.  His face is hidden behind the newspaper.  From the other side of the newspaper is his hand, his fingers casually holding the "#1 DAD" mug, the coffee no longer steaming.  The top page of the newspaper is nonchalantly folded down, covering the main headline on the front page.  However, there's a tiny headline, one that barely got onto the front page that says in tiny, tiny letters:  "EXPERTS SAY PEACE COULD LAST FOREVER."

Also at the table is the kid (on the left side of the panel), a box of cereal sitting (on the far left of the panel, likely cut off by the left panel boarder) on the table covering most of his face and body, as well as a bowl (of cereal) in front of him.  A small bit of the kid's head would be okay, just enough to see the side of his still mussed-up head of hair.  The kid is holding his spoon high above his head, pointed at the bowl, playing with his food like it's an airplane  typical kid stuff.

The bathrobed wife is in the background, shuffling through her day, half turned toward the man and holding the pot of steaming coffee.  The top panel boarder cuts off her head at the neck.

CAPTION:Some might say I'm a hero but I don't know.  It's my job and it's what I do  it's as simple as that.

Man grabs coat.  Super-close-up of man's hand grabbing a dark suit-coat (though the coat should be casually indistinguishable  like it could either be part of a uniform or just a regular coat) from a hanger in a closet.  It's such a tight close-up that there's nothing else in the panel besides the man's hand, the coat, and perhaps the other contents of the closet: other coats, the kid's jacket, the wife's winter jacket.

CAPTION: Do I make a difference?  I'm not really sure.

Husband kisses wife.  Obviously, since we're trying to obscure the characters' features, this could be tricky.  The man and woman leaned in toward each other, engaged in a quick, everyday kiss before he leaves for work.  The top panel boarder cuts both of their heads and faces off just above their mouths, if even that.  That there faces are so close is indication enough of what they're doing.  The man is holding his coat, the woman's robe is tastefully tied.  It's not a tight, romantic embrace, just a quick peck before another day.

A background is unnecessary, though they're intended to be in the kitchen.  The main focus of the panel is the two characters and their kiss and anything else is just clutter.  Unless you want to add something and it doesn't distract from the focus.

Perhaps between them, since there is intended to be space, is the kid, his head tilted up toward his parents and looking up at them, but the bottom panel boarder cutting off his head and face just below his hairline.  However, this is completely unnecessary and I offer it for you to decide if you want to include it or not; it could very well be distracting and not contribute to the panel.  It's just something to throw in to completely unify the image of the family, if you choose.

CAPTION:I just hope that what I do is enough.

This is the panel that takes up the bottom third of the page, with two panels put together.

The man leaving for work (walking toward the right side of the panel), the kid waving good-bye, the wife changing the calendar.  The man is leaving through the back door in the kitchen; we can see him through the back window, waving, the back door closing behind him.  Perhaps use the doorframe and the area of the wall between the door and the window to obscure his face, the rest of his body sticking out, his arm outstretched and waving back to his family.  If it's possible, a standard, everyday family car parked just outside the door, maybe in a carport or so, if the composition of the panel allows it.

The kid (near the middle of the panel, off-center) is standing at the window, his back to us, waving good-bye to his dad (another option to cover the dad's face is to use the kid's waving hand, but I'll leave it to what you think is best).  This is the fullest shot of the kitchen but it's a normal, everyday kitchen, cluttered with breakfast dishes, the morning sun shining through the windows.

The wife is in the very near foreground (on the left side of the panel), so close that we only see her hand and maybe a bit of her body, just to frame it properly.  Also in the very near foreground is a desk calendar, upon a counter-top.  The woman's hand is changing the calendar, tearing off the top sheet to reveal the sheet underneath with today's date.  Which reads, clearly and in big letters: "SEPTEMBER 11, 2001" (but in whatever variation or assembly that you or the letterer choose.  Just so it's not a theme calendar, with cartoons or sayings.  Just the very crucial date, please, with nothing to distract from it or its importance).

CAPTION:I may or may not be a hero; I just do what needs to be done.  Like anyone would.

CAPTION (at the bottom of the panel):
This is dedicated to the families of the heroes who didn't make it back on September 11, and to those that did.  We thank you.

CREDITS appear here, on the very bottom of the panel, or perhaps even below the bottom panel boarder, though nothing necessarily fancy.  The title of the story is "Doing What I Can."