The Lost Ultraverse “Sludge” Story

Unpublished inventory script for Steve Gerber’s “Sludge” (Ultraverse) comic. The story was edited and approved by Gerber, and purchased by Malibu Comics for publication as a fill-in issue, but (to my knowledge) was never assigned an artist and thus never saw print.

This isn’t a Gerber story, but he did read it and gave it his OK, so I suppose that makes it an “official” Sludge story — a lost artifact of the Ultraverse!

Inventory Script
“Ghost Of A Chance”
Written by Paul O’Connor
October 27th, 1994


Three supporting characters are required this issue.  Brief descriptions (reinforced in the body of the script) follow:

Jack Ryan:  Jack is a New York City beat cop.  He’s Irish, and just slightly on the heavy side.  Medium build.  He’s not an enforcer, but rather a cop who has learned to use smarts and personality to enforce his will.  He should have an open, trusting face — warm, honest, almost fatherly.  Think of Spencer Tracy or James Whitmore.  We see him first in his NYPD file photo, which shows Jack at about age 50.  In the flashback scenes that form the bulk of this script, Jack should be late thirties or early forties.

Emily Ryan:  Jack’s wife is twenty years his junior, which puts her in her twenties for the flashbacks, and her forties for the contemporary scenes.  In her twenties, Emily is striking in a frustrated housewife sort of way.  She has beautiful legs.  She doesn’t display especially good judgement in her choice of clothes or makeup.  She’s a bit on the cheap side, but that’s part of what make her sexually attractive for Hoag.  She’s a little taller than Jack, brunette, busty.  By her forties, drinking and drug use have clearly taken their toll, but she still has great legs, and to quote Tom Waits, “There’s nothing wrong with her a hundred dollars wouldn’t fix.”

Tam:  Emily’s pusher pal, a disturbing figure, all tall and boney and angular.  He hangs out in a gothic cathedral, and his appearance should suggest a similar, arched, dark, almost exoskeletal appearance.  He is slow moving, imperturbable, lanky, with a taste for dark thrills and a sense of humor about himself that holds right up until Sludge breaks his neck.

Also worth mentioning is the fact this script shows Frank Hoag as we’ve never seen before — as a twenty-something rookie uniformed officer.  You’ll have to work backwards from existing designs of the rumpled and corrupt Hoag to arrive at how he looked before crossing the line and becoming a dirty cop.  How Frank started to cross that line is the subject of this script.


Full page shot.  Grey daytime.  Heavy rain.  Sludge crouches in the shadows of an ill-tended crypt; something gothic, vine-clad, and canted at a crazy angle.  Sludge’s pose is careless.  His mind is wandering.  A copy of the New York Globe has just dropped from Sludge’s nerveless hand.  (See SLUDGE #4, page eleven for reference on the New York Globe headline font and front-page layout.)  The headline reads, “COP WHACKED!”.  Rain puddles in the mud and on the stones, and spatters on the newspaper.  Leave room for title and credits.  Credits may go on tombstones, if you affect that particular cliche.

SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Braining rats and dogs.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Fine day for a funeral.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Even the heavens creep for you, Jerk.


Page two is primarily taken up by the front page of the Globe.  The newspaper lays open on the ground, still somewhat crumpled and slimey from Sludge’s grip.  Rain strikes the newspaper and puddles in the folds.  The ink runs from the page in black rivulets, swirling into a cloudy black background that frames the scattered images on the facing page three.  Extensive text for the Globe’s front page follows, but should be only partially visible.  A photo of the dead officer, Jack Ryan, accompanies the story.  Additional front page text and photographs are smeared or crinkled out of sight.

—————–text begins—————————————–

Forty year veteran victim of gang slaying.

by Shelley Rogers

They shot Jack Ryan in the eyes, and what it did to his face wasn’t pretty.  Catholics like an open casket funeral.  Jack’s killers must have known that when they shot him in the eyes.

New York lost a good cop today.  Jack Ryan was a legend on the force.  He walked his beat for forty years.  He refused promotions to remain on the street with the people he called his family.  He was the last of the old school, incorruptible, a throwback to the days when the worst thing kids did was cut school and steal apples, and the gangs kept their bloodshed off the sidewalks.  Even today, when criminals rule our streets and police patrol neighborhoods in pairs, swathed in layers of kevlar and rarely leaving their cars, Jack Ryan walked his beat without fear, ratcheting his billy club along wrought-iron fences, greeting friends he’d known for decades by their first names, scaring off trouble before it could begin with a resolute moral strength even the most degenerate criminals treated with respect.

Until one of them shot Jack Ryan in the eyes.

He was “Officer Jack”, or simply “Jack” to the people who knew him best, the vanishing breed of honest blue-collar New York City street workers, the grocers and the newspaper vendors and the cabbies.  The faces, names, and accents have changed since the day in 1955 when a rookie Jack Ryan first took to the streets, but Jack never changed.  His record was unblemished.  Never a hint of corruption.  Never disciplined.  He never even fired his service revolver in anger.  He didn’t need to.  Jack could suffocate violence before it started.  No one had a problem with Jack Ryan.

Until they found him in an East Side warehouse, his wrists bound behind his back, with jagged red holes where his face used to be.  Evidence found at the scene suggests Jack died on his knees, shot at close range, with as many as a dozen people in attendance.

As if you could find a dozen people who’d want Jack dead.

—————–text concludes————————————–

Other headlines and bullets to show on the newspaper include “Garbage Strike Enters Fifth Week” and veiled references to ultra activity contemporary to the likely publication of this issue.  Remember that smearing ink and folds and tears in the newspaper obscure many of the details.

Page three is a midnight swirl of running ink, framing scattered images of Jack’s funeral.  Sludge’s narrative captions accompany many of them.

PANEL ONE:  Silent rows of officers in dress uniform, their caps wrapped in plastic against the rain.  An honor guard wears white gloves and shoulders rifles.

PANEL TWO:  A flag-draped coffin.  Rain pelts down on the coffin, spreading the flag wet and thin.  The white tarp covering the fresh earth that will fill the open grave is puddled and streaked.  An inch of water stands in the empty grave.

SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Knew him.

PANEL THREE:  An attractive young widow shrouded in black.  She holds a handkerchief to her face, obscuring all but her eyes.  Black limousines wait in the distance.  A Catholic priest reads a prayer.

SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Widow’s a lurker.  Looker.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Young for an old fart like Jack.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  What was her dame?

PANEL FOUR:  The honor guard fires a salute and the mourners disperse to their cars for a silent drive home through the rain.

SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Blew her once, too.

PANEL FIVE:  Close on the widow as she spirits past in her limo.  We get a good look at her profile.  She’s in her young forties, brunette, and despite a drinking habit the years have been kind.  She does not look nearly so distraught as a grieving widow should.  Though she has been holding a handkerchief to her face, there is no evidence of tears.



PANEL ONE:  Street-level angle from behind Sludge as he pushes himself up out of a manhole, his body grotesquely distorted to fit through the tiny opening.  The rain has increased in ferocity.  Across the street, a limousine stops before a shabby apartment building, it’s headlights knifing twin beams of yellow through the murk.  This is an evil neighborhood.  Walls are a continuous scrawl of graffiti, trash is piled on sidewalks and in alleys, and even in the rain, mean-looking scum peer from the shadows.

SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Lies in the same place.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Been twenty years.

PANEL TWO:  Small panel.  Emily steps from the limo.  Her pale white ankle strikes a shocking contrast with the black hem of her dress.

CAPTION (SLUDGE):  Too young for Jerk.

PANELS THREE – ?:  Small panel series.  Studies of the woman’s head and shoulders, jumbled across the page like a series of photos blasted off by a high-speed camera.  She moves from the curb to the glass door of her apartment.  Her face is initially turned away from us, then obscured by her veil, then hidden by shadows, then finally revealed as a gust of wind sweeps the veil aside and light from the apartment bathes her features.


PANEL ONE:  Sludge surges out of hiding, one dripping hand extended toward the woman.  He calls her name, but his tongue mangles it.  Emily digs in her bag, looking for her keys, her back to Sludge.  She starts to turn.

SLUDGE:  Memory.
CAPTION (SLUDGE):  Damn tongue.

PANEL TWO:  Emily sees Sludge, screams.

SLUDGE:  Emily.
EMILY:  Eeeeaaayyygh!
SLUDGE:  Don’t — !

PANEL THREE:  Emily fumbles her way through the door as Sludge closes in.

SLUDGE:  I’m whore.

PANEL FOUR:  The glass door slams in Sludge’s face.  He sees his face reflected in the glass, touches it with one dripping blue finger.


PANEL FIVE:  Sludge turns away, clawing at his face and eyes.  He’s horrified, sick with self-loathing and loss.

SLUDGE:  Still Hoag.


PANEL ONE:  Sludge blunders around the corner and into an alley.  He slams into a heap of several weeks garbage piled in the alley (remember that garbage strike sub-head from page 2?).

SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Still not dead.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Still dismember.

PANEL TWO:  Sludge collapses atop the garbage heap.  He holds his face in his hands, his shoulders hunched against the rain.  He is a picture of dejection and despair.

SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Remember.

PANEL THREE:  Similar angle.  The rain has stopped.  A bright day.

PANEL FOUR:  Sludge looks up and sees the alley not as it is, but as it was twenty years ago, on Frank Hoag’s first day on the job.  Looking down the alley the way he came, Sludge can see the street in front of Emily’s apartment is crowded with foot traffic.  A pair of cops, seen from behind — one fresh-faced, in his twenties, the other a cagey veteran in his forties — walk past Sludge and toward the street.


This is the first of several scenes featuring “Dream Sludge”.  These are Hoag’s memories, distorted by Sludge’s sluggish brain into waking dreams.  We’ll see events more-or-less as Frank remembers them, but Dream Sludge is a part of the scene, walking through it and commentating on events.  Participants in the dream can’t see Dream Sludge, but Dream Sludge can effect background elements of the scene (generally breaking furniture or other props).  The quality of the dream should degrade the longer it goes on, representing Sludge’s sluggish memory.  Note also that Dream Sludge can do things his waking self cannot — specifically, you’ll see him slurping out of a kitchen sink drain into young Jack Ryan’s apartment.  Other distortions are possible, and left to the artist’s discretion.  I weave in and out of dream sequences in the pages to come, so be alert for mention of “Dream Sludge” — that’s your cue we’re in a dream.

PANEL ONE:  Square on the two cops, with Dream Sludge walking behind them.  Remember, neither the cops nor anyone else on the crowded sidewalk can see Dream Sludge.  The elder of the two cops is Jack Ryan, in his late thirties or early forties, confident, at ease though alert, enjoying his rookie partner’s coltish uncertainty.  The younger cop is a rookie Frank Hoag, and this is his first day as a uniformed police officer.  His cap seems too big for his head, and he’s nervous.  Hoag sets his shoulders and swells up his chest to display a confidence he doesn’t feel.

CAPTION (SLUDGE):  Hoag.  As a crook.

PANEL TWO:  Longer shot, now showing details of the street and the pedestrians.  It’s morning.  This is circa 1974, so show Emily’s trashy neighborhood not as it is, but as it was — not nearly so dangerous as it’s become.  The graffiti is nearly invisible, the trash isn’t piled on the streets, the doorways are free of sinister figures.  There are some signs of social decay, but compared to the 90’s, this looks like a golden age.  The fashions, hairstyles, and automobiles should reflect tasteless seventies sensibilities.  Jack and Frank halt in front of a corner grocer.  The grocer carries fresh produce from his store and arranges it on the sidewalk.

GROCER:  Morning, Officer Jack.  This your new partner?
JACK:  Fresh from the academy.  His name’s Frank Hoag.  You’ll be seeing a lot of him around here.

PANEL THREE:  Dream Sludge follows the two cops down the sidewalk.  Dream Sludge is too big for the sidewalk — he bends parking meters with his hips as he passes, and knocks head-shaped holes in low-hanging shop awnings.  Frank, Jack, and everyone else is oblivious to the destruction.  Jack instructs Hoag; Hoag doesn’t really listen, figuring Jack is a fossil and he already learned everything he needs to know at the academy.

JACK:  Always treat people like customers, Frank.
JACK:  I don’t care if you’re writing them a ticket or dragging in a drunk on Saturday night —

PANEL FOUR:  Jack and Frank pass a newspaper stand.  Chas, the blind newspaper vendor from (among other places) SLUDGE #4 runs the stand — but he’s a younger, sighted version of the same man.  If you want to fix a date on this scene, you can show “NIXON RESIGNS!” newspaper headlines on the stand.

JACK:  — treat them with courtesy, like customers you want to see again.  We’re here to serve them.
CHAS:  How’s the wife, Jack?
JACK:  Pretty as the dawn, Chas.


PANEL ONE:  Several strides in front of the two officers, a punk snatches a woman’s purse and makes a break for it.

WOMAN:  Hey!
CAPTION (DREAM SLUDGE):  Another satisfied customer.

PANEL TWO:  Hoag draws his revolver and nervously aims at the punk along a crowded sidewalk, uncertainly ordering him to freeze.  We sight over his shoulder along the sidewalk, and catch just the merest glimpse of the punk as he runs through the crowd — women and children scatter, caught between the criminal and a rookie cop waving his gun around.


PANEL THREE:  Ryan knocks Hoag’s hand up in the air before he can fire.

JACK:  Watch where you’re waving that pistol, son.
DREAM SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Had him dead.  Shoulda shot the bastard…


PANEL ONE:  Jack hurls his billy club low along the sidewalk.

DREAM SLUDGE (CAPTION):  …but the Blue Knight’s gotta play Bowling for Daughters.

PANEL TWO:  Low shot, with the fleeing punk in the foreground and the two cops in the distance.  Jack’s club hits the punk in the ankles, tripping him to the sidewalk.  Jack’s made quite a long and accurate throw, right on the money.


PANEL THREE:  Frank puts the punk in handcuffs while Jack hands the purse back to it’s grateful owner.  Dream Sludge cannot be seen, but Frank’s face is starting to turn blue and run a bit.

JACK:  Read him his rights.
DREAM SLUDGE:  You have the right to remain violent.
SFX (CUFFS):  — skitch —

PANEL FOUR:  Frank searches the punk’s pockets, and finds a wad of twenty dollar bills.  His hand is Sludge’s hand — misshapen and dripping.

FRANK:  Look what we have here —

PANEL FIVE:  Dream Sludge, now completely replacing Frank, holds up the wad of bills.  Jack snatches it away, and looks at his partner reprovingly.

DREAM SLUDGE:  — little bonus for a couple under-laid public serpents.
JACK:  It’s evidence, Frank.  Nothing more.
JACK:  Just because it might seem easy to pocket that cash is no reason to do it.

PANEL SIX:  On Jack.

JACK:  Not because you can’t give the money back.  Because once you cross that line there’s no limit to how far you can fall.


End of dream.  Sludge is back atop his garbage heap, in the alley around the corner from Emily’s apartment.  We know some time has passed because the rain has let up and the street is mostly dry.  We can still see where the alley meets the street, where we saw the two cops pass by on page six, panel four.  This panel should have similar composition, to frame the preceding dream sequence.  The garbage should seem especially vile, and Sludge drips even more than usual, perhaps from the recent rain.  This should be a hellish image.

CAPTION (SLUDGE):  Fell all the way down to well.
CAPTION (SLUDGE):  Damn Jackass Ryan.
CAPTION (SLUDGE):  They didn’t have to shoot your eyes.

PANEL TWO:  Emily rushes past the gap in the buildings that forms the entrance to the alley.

PANEL THREE:  Emily still wears her funeral dress but without her hat and veil.  She rushes up the street, weaving drunkenly, not terribly alert.  Sludge follows.

CAPTION (SLUDGE):  Weaving like a skunk.

PANEL FOUR:  Emily aims for an open trash can with an empty whiskey bottle; misses.

CAPTION (SLUDGE):  Never used to miss my bed with those.

PANEL FIVE:  Sludge watches the swiftly-moving white columns of Emily’s legs emerge from the split of her coal-black skirt.  He remembers those legs.

CAPTION (SLUDGE):  Dropped those eggs.


PANEL ONE:  Another dream sequence.  Shot from behind Emily, standing over the stove in the kitchen of the tiny apartment she shares with Jack — the same apartment building we saw on Page Four.  Emily’s wearing a house dress but it’s a couple sizes too small, hemmed high, and slit up the back, showing off her wonderful legs.  Emily looks back over her shoulder at us, sweaty from the heat of the kitchen, and looking sensual in a sort of disheveled, bored-housewife kind of way.


PANEL TWO:  Jack and Frank crowd into the tiny kitchen.  Frank has two bags of groceries in his arms.  Both men are in uniform, but they’ve removed their caps and loosened their collars.  They picked up groceries on their way home for dinner.  Dream Sludge slurps out of the kitchen sink drain (this is a dream, so Sludge can fit through even smaller openings than usual) while Jack introduces Frank to his wife.

JACK:  Emily, this is my new partner, Frank.
JACK:  Figured I’d show him the joys of married life.

PANEL THREE:  There is electricity between Frank and Emily.  The groceries slip from Frank’s arms.  Frank’s jaw goes slack and his eyes are blank with surprise.

FRANK:  This…is your wife?
CAPTION (SLUDGE):  Pick up your jaw, Hoag.
CAPTION (SLUDGE):  She’s trouble.

PANEL FOUR:  Frank and Emily both go down to their hands and knees to recover the dropped groceries.  Smashed eggs should be visible.  Their faces are quite close to each other.  They eye each other with predatory lust.  Jack natters on in the background, perhaps only his legs are visible.

JACK:  Guess you could say I robbed the cradle.
JACK:  Good things happen to good people.


PANEL ONE:  Time passes.  This is an honest cop’s apartment — nothing matches, the furniture isn’t tasteful, the living room doubles as a dining room.  A small card table is covered with the remains of dinner.  Jack slouches in front of the television set, wearing a sleeveless white undershirt, his belly bulging a bit as he snores away, oblivious to the Knicks game on the tube and Dream Sludge sitting in the (now-broken) armchair beside him.

DREAM SLUDGE:  Hell of a place you got here, pal.

PANEL TWO:  Through the open door to the kitchen, we see Frank and Emily embrace, kiss.  Jack continues to snore, his chin on his chest.

DREAM SLUDGE:  You got wife knocked.
DREAM SLUDGE:  Bridle half your age.  Cop partner who worships you.

PANEL THREE:  Angle on Jack’s service revolver, hanging on a peg near the door along with his cap and coat.  In the background, Sludge is leaning over Jack, pointing toward the kitchen, trying to wake the sleeping man.

DREAM SLUDGE:  Christ, who could weep through that kind of racket?
DREAM SLUDGE:  Get your gum, Jack.
DREAM SLUDGE:  Plug ‘em both.  Save me a lot of mystery.

PANEL FOUR:  Over Sludge’s shoulder, we catch a glimpse of Jack and Emily’s ankles as they roll about the kitchen floor.  This is deliberately cheap and sordid.  Sludge observes, and shakes his head, sadly.

DREAM SLUDGE:  Pure ass.

PANEL FIVE:  Finish the page on Jack’s sleeping face.  Maybe a bit of drool creeps down his chin.  He snores.  Sludge slurps out the door.

DREAM SLUDGE:  Thanks for dinner.
DREAM SLUDGE:  Let’s do her again sometime.


PANEL ONE:  Back to the present.  Emily has led Sludge into an even worse part of town.  Burned-out cars are permanently parked atop naked wheels along dark, trash-strewn alleys.  The rain has done nothing to wash away the filth — instead, the ghost image of rain is preserved in rust-brown water circles atop car hoods and smashed newspaper vending machines.

SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Should have shot Jack in the eyes.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Would have been blinder than taking his wife.

PANEL TWO:  Sinister figures shelter in the shadows of decrepit doorways.  A few predators pick up Emily’s trail, but flee when they see Sludge pursues her as well.

SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Jack’s dead a day and the neighborhood’s gone to hell.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  No.  Been sliding for twenty years.  Just feels like a pray.

PANEL THREE:  Emily passes through the wrought-iron gate of an abandoned church yard.

SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Little late to get religion, Emmy.

PANEL FOUR:  She enters the fire-blackened church.  Let’s make the church neo-gothic — flying buttresses, black spires, and gargoyles smeared by soot and rain as if weeping dirty black tears.


PANEL ONE:  Shot from high in the apse, sighting down the length of the church, flanked by massive, fan-vaulted columns, as Emily pushes open one great door to enter the church.  The nave is a jumble of smashed and overturned benches.  Windows are jagged collections of once-brilliant stained glass.

PANEL TWO:  Now at ground level, we see the cross above the altar is broken, casting a long shadow down the middle of the church thanks to a late-rising full moon.  It is important to establish both the broken cross and the broken shadow it casts — we’ll return to this angle for the script’s final scene.  Trash is stirred by cold wind sweeping in from the open door and broken windows.  The floor is filled with bodies swaying clumsily to unheard music.

PANEL THREE:  Emily hurls herself into the arms of a sepulchral man, someone right at home in a gothic cathedral, a tall and austere man all angular and boney in a tailored suit.  His name is Tam.  He gently reproaches Emily.

TAM:  You shouldn’t have come.  You’ll disturb my customers.

PANEL FOUR:  We see the bodies on the floor are junkies — half of them, anyway.  The other half are mannequins.  The junkies waltz with the mannequins, their eyes glassy, their jaws slack.  Some mannequins are missing arms or heads; all are unclothed and hairless, recently stolen from a department store supply warehouse.  Emily is frightened by the display.

TAM:  I found them in a warehouse.  The mannequins.  Not the customers.
TAM:  Scant difference, I suppose.
EMILY:  Tam, this is sick.

PANEL FIVE:  Tam looks down his long nose at Emily, still holding her by the shoulders.  Emily turns away, and tries to ward off Tam’s bony face with her hands.

TAM:  Losing your appetite for things dark and delightful?  You came to me seeking thrills.  You were such a nasty girl.
TAM:  Your face was slack with ecstasy when I shot Jack for you.  You looked just like that fellow over there.
TAM:  Wasn’t it worth it?  Wasn’t it the thrill you were expecting?

PANEL SIX:  Emily breaks free, and hugs herself against a chill.  Tears come to her eyes.  She’s on the edge of hysterics.

EMILY:  You don’t understand.
EMILY:  I saw something.  After the funeral.  A monster.
EMILY:  I knew it’s eyes.  It’s a ghost, or a demon.  It’s coming to kill us for what we did to Jack.


PANEL ONE:  High in the choir, framed by the massive pipes of a dead organ, Sludge observes the strange scene below.

SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Oughtta kill us for what we did to Jack.

PANEL TWO:  This is tricky.  We pull back from Sludge as we fade to another flashback.  The organ pipes turn to columns of a pier.  Dream Sludge looks as if he’s laying in the water, floating on his back, near one of the columns, sharing dirty sea water with drifting garbage and dead rats.  Hoag and Jack are standing on the pier, leaning out over the rail, looking out to sea, not noticing Dream Sludge below them.  They’re dressed in civilian clothes.

JACK:  I’ll come right to the point.

PANEL THREE:  Dream Sludge now stands behind the two.  He drips sea water and maybe garbage.  Perhaps a seagull perches atop his head.  Jack looks at Frank.  Frank won’t meet his gaze, preferring to look out over the water.

JACK:  Are you sleeping with Emily?

PANEL FOUR:  On the two men, favoring Frank, who still won’t look Jack in the eye.  Jack clearly doesn’t believe Frank, but he’s not enraged.  He understands what’s happened, and is more interested in getting things straightened out than fixing blame.  Jack must look kind, sympathetic, the sort of guy it would kick your guts out to cheat.

JACK:  Because I’d understand if you were.
JACK:  Emily’s half my age.  We’ve had our problems.

PANEL FIVE:  On Frank, with Dream Sludge screaming (unheard) in his ear.  Frank hesitates.  He half looks at Jack.  This is his chance to come clean, to cross back over the line, straighten himself out, do the right and honest thing.  Frank’s at war with himself.


PANEL SIX:  Back on the two men, again favoring Frank.  Frank has his head down, his shoulders slumped.  His folded hands are those of Sludge.  Dream Sludge is not visible in this panel.  Hoag still won’t look at Jack.  He’s made the cowardly choice, and he’s disappointed with himself even as he says it, but where Frank could have come clean before, he’s now consigning himself to corruption with the finality of a slamming cell door.  He must look weak and broken.  Jack, too, abruptly looks his age.  His chin is down, he looks at Frank out the corner of his eyes.  His face is dark, and for the first time we see a bit of rage in him.  But there’s more disappointment than rage in Jack’s expression.

FRANK:  — I never touched her, Jack.
DREAM SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Wrong answer.
DREAM SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Crossed the line.
DREAM SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Made us into a monster.


PANELS ONE – THREE:  The top of the page is multiple head and shoulder shots of Hoag.  We’re going to age him twenty years in just a couple panels.  We start on young Hoag, still at the docks, looking out at us.  Grim expression.  Then the corrupt Hoag, the Hoag we saw in issue #1, rumpled, ill-shaven, at the end of the line.  Finally we’re on Sludge.  The background darkens in each panel, fading from the light at the docks and finishing with the gloom of the church.  If possible I’d like to use a smear technique to make Hoag’s features somewhat plastic, they should blend and merge across the panel lines as we slide downhill to the monstrous Sludge portrait at the end of the sequence.  Sludge’s thoughts mirror his decline.

SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Queasy to lie to Jerk.  Too easy.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  And when you get away with it —
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  — anything is possible.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Screw a man’s life.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Start taking brides.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Work for the slob.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Shell your self-respect.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Kill a cop.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Everything’s possible.

PANEL FOUR (BIG):  The rest of the page shows Sludge in an attitude of rage.  He’s snapped back to the present.  He smashes the keys or pipes of the organ with one mighty fist.

SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Won’t kill a chop.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Not even a crime like Quinn.*
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  I’m not that far gone.  Not yet.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  They didn’t have to shoot his eyes.


Two page action spread.  Panel allocation is best left to the artist.

Sludge leaps down into the church.  Benches shatter beneath him.  Emily loses it, collapsing at the base of the broken cross, screaming hysterically.  The junkies pay Sludge no heed, even as they are knocked aside by the rampaging monster.  One may weep over the crushed torso of his mannequin partner, but they are otherwise oblivious to Sludge.

SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Jack died here.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  On his knees.  Ballets in his eyes.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  They laughed when he died.

Not so Tam.  He is a seeker of sensation, and he analyzes his own feelings out loud with cold detachment, even as a rictus grin somewhere between madness and exultation steals across his face.

TAM:  Emily!  Your demon is here.  Bless you!
TAM:  Whatever else he may be, he’ll never be a dancer.

Sludge hurls dancers from his path.

TAM:  And now I feel icy nails transfix my spine.  This is novel.

Sludge is very close.  Tam pulls out a HUGE revolver, and shoots Sludge through the head at near point-blank range.

Angle from behind Tam.  The bullet carried a good chunk of Sludge’s head away, but he’s still more or less intact, and about to murder Tam.  Tam’s sang-froid holds to the last.

TAM:  Well.
TAM:  I’m damned.


PANEL ONE:  Sludge turns from Tam’s body, the man’s back broken in his mighty hands.  The flesh of Tam’s trunk runs in streams to the ground, like a fleshy bathtub spilling over.  The dead man’s face still has that idiot grin, as if he found his demise amusing.  Sludge’s head is putting itself back together, but he’s still a sight, leaking blood and brains and slime down his face, and his eyes burn with killing fire.  Emily cowers on the floor below him, scrambling like an animal to back away from Sludge, unable to get to her feet from sheer panic.

SLUDGE (CAPTION):  She killed Jack.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Same reason we killed him.

PANEL TWO:  Emily is driven into a corner beneath the shadow of the broken cross, trying to make herself small.  She slides her legs across the stone floor, trying to scuttle sideways, but her back is against the wall.

SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Everything’s possum.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Got to see how mulch you can take.

PANEL THREE:  She breaks a heel.  Her makeup is running from the tears, a horror show clown, or a human take on the gruesome gargoyles that surmount the church.  Sludge closes in on her.  Emily screams.  It’s not a scream of horror, not any more.  Her mind is broken.

EMILY:  I know who you are!

PANEL FOUR:  Sludge is brought up short.  Emily’s shocked him out of his killing rage.

EMILY:  I know your eyes.
EMILY:  “Memory!”


PANEL ONE:  Cut to the mirror reflection of Hoag standing behind Emily, in the bedroom of her apartment.  They’ve just made love, and the bloom is off the rose — the two are now bound more by hate than lust.  A half-full bottle of whisky is on the dressing table, a cigarette burns in an ashtray.  Emily wears a shabby bathrobe as she touches up her makeup (too much and inexpertly applied).  Hoag is behind her.  They argue, looking at their own reflections in the bedroom mirror.  Hoag is breaking off their affair.  Emily is smugly convinced Frank will be back.

EMILY:  We’re the same, Frank.  We see something we want, we take it.
EMILY:  It’s that easy.

PANEL TWO:  Emily smears on the makeup.  She runs off the ridges of her lips and scrawls a bit on her cheek.  She tries to sound calm and collected, but her face is anything but.  She’s cracking up.

EMILY:  I want to be a detective’s wife.
EMILY:  I want out of this stinking apartment.
EMILY:  I want to go out someplace nice every once in awhile.  Have some fun.
FRANK:  Aim high, darlin’.

PANEL THREE:  Hoag has his back to Emily.  He stuffs his shirt into his pants.  The bed is a tangle of twisted sheets.  A cigarette dangles from Frank’s lips.

EMILY:  Jack’s never going to make detective.
EMILY:  He won’t leave those creeps on his beat.
EMILY:  You’re my ticket out of here.

PANEL FOUR:  Frank picks his coat up off the ground and heads for the door.

FRANK:  It’s over.
FRANK:  I’m sick of sneaking around, puttin’ my keys in my shoes when I take ‘em off so I’ll know where they are if I gotta run outta here.
FRANK:  Actin’ like a punk kid.  And to tell the truth, Emmy — you ain’t worth it.
EMILY:  You’re guilty because you think you’re cheating Jack?  He was born to be cheated.  Let me tell you something —

PANEL FIVE:  Emily cuts Frank off before he can leave the room.

EMILY:  — Jack knows all about us.
EMILY:  He didn’t even flinch when I told him.
EMILY:  Nothing can make that guy crack.  What I wouldn’t give, just once, to see him crack.  That bastard.  Nothing gets to him.  Thinks he’s a goddamn saint.

PANEL SIX:  Frank shoves Emily out of the way.  Emily hangs on the doorway and cries stridently after Frank.

EMILY:  There’s people like us and people like Jack.  And people like us always get our way.
EMILY:  You got no choice!  You’ll be back!


PANEL ONE:  Back to the present.  Sludge looms over Emily.  Emily starts to shriek.

SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Well, I’m crack.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Frank’s got a serious case of the uglies and Emily’s jumped the rails.

PANEL TWO:  First in a series of thin horizontal panels covering the balance of the page.  We see Sludge gradually reaching out to smother a shrieking Emily.  Sludge is on the left side of the panel, Emily on the right.  We needn’t see more than their heads, arms, and shoulders.

SLUDGE (CAPTION):  We cheated Jack, and now he’s dead.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Emmy killed him.  To make him crack.  Crazy witch.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Should kill her.  Easy.  We killed Jack.

PANEL THREE:  Sludge’s hand is close to Emily’s face.  She shrinks back, still shrieking.

SLUDGE (CAPTION):  SHE killed him.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Jack was my friend.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Slept with his wife.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Lied to him.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Hell of a guy.

PANEL FOUR:  Sludge’s hand covers Emily’s face.  She struggles.

SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Never could crook at him after he knew.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Never should have died.

PANEL FIVE:  Emily falls down out of panel.  Sludge holds up his hands, looks at them.

SLUDGE (CAPTION):  So now what?
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Anything is possible.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  But only one thing…
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  …is the tight thing.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Right thing.


PANEL ONE:  Angle down on Emily.  Her face is scarred from where Sludge touched her, but it isn’t the full-on killing distortion we’ve seen in previous issues.  Her face looks something like Sludge.  She’s marked for life, but she’ll live.  She claws at her face.

SLUDGE (CAPTION):  And it’s not the sleazy thing.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Killing us — would be easy.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Remembering is hard.

PANEL TWO:  Sludge stands and turns away from Emily.

SLUDGE:  You were right.  We are the shame.
SLUDGE:  And now you’ve got my face.

PANEL THREE:  Sludge heads for the exit.  He shoulders a junkie out of the way, who has abandoned his mannequin and wants to dance with Sludge.

SLUDGE:  Want to kill us.
SLUDGE:  But that’s too sneezy.
SLUDGE:  Living with that face —
SLUDGE:  — now, that’s hard.

PANEL FOUR:  Sludge leaves the church.  Behind him, we see the STILL BROKEN CROSS (established on Page 14, Panel 2, and hopefully used often in the preceeding pages), but the long shadow it cast across the floor IS NOW WHOLE.  Emily lies athwart the shadow, crying into her folded arms.

SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Did things easy.  Got me jack.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Try things hard for awhile.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Might get my face back.
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Who knows?
SLUDGE (CAPTION):  Anything’s possible.


  1. conde wasteland

    Do you have a copy of “Swamp of Souls”, the unreleased Sludge Annual?


  1. Pingback: #34 Gerber’s Baby « Longbox Graveyard

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