Graphic Novel and Comic Book Series Analysis

Bitch Planet: Triple Feature Book 1 by DeConnick and De Landro

Comic book series and graphic novels looked at from an editor's perspective on the craft of writing a story that works.

last edited on 29. Sep 2019

published on 29. Sep 2019 by Melanie Naumann

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Copyright of used images (photos takem from the book): Bitch Planet: Triple Feature Book 1 by DeConnick and De Landro

Bitch Planet: Analysis of anthology short stories

Bitch Planet: Triple Feature Book 1 by DeConnick and De Landro - Bitch Planet: Analysis of anthology short stories

Bitch Planet Anthology - Learn the five commandments every short story or scene must have. (Story breakdown of all 15 short stories)


»One credible scientific theory is that these woman do suffer from hormonal, sometimes even chromosomal imbalances. An overabundance of what you could think of as properly masculine humors.« (News Reporter in The Invisible Woman)

 

What’s Bitch Planet - Triple Feature about?

Set in a political patriarchy, triple feature in an anthology companion to Image Comics' hit satire series, BITCH PLANET. Women who displease the regime are labeled non-compliant (NC) and shipped to an off-world prison to fend for themselves.

 

1. What’s the genre?

The Bitch Planet Triple Feature is a collection of short stories that take place in the world of BITCH PLANET but that stand for themselves and do not require any knowledge of the main series.

With that said, some of the short stories differ from the primary genre of the Bitch Planet series. Some are crime, performance or action or might just seem like they are. But looking at each one of those stories they all support the primary genre of the entire series. It’s the society genre.

»Society stories are about power and impotence, particularly the relative power of groups within society. The Society Story is a mini-plot (multiple characters) external genre that culminates in the revolutionary event when power shifts from one segment of the social order to another. Society stories, like War stories, use tightly confined story trajectories in sharply-focused subgenres to represent global social power struggles. But even the epic Society stories focus on deeply personal and specific human conflict.« (Shawn Coyne)

 

Short Story Genres Overview of Bitch Planet - Triple Feature Book 1

Here’s an overview of all the short stories and their primary genre.

Note: even though the primary genre of a particular mini story might not be society, the short story’s plot still supports painting the picture of the world of Bitch Planet and the struggle between the ones without and the ones with power.

The beauty of those short stories is that they start by giving you a promise that they belong to a particular external genre. Like What’s love got to do with it? could be a love story. Or Big Game could be action, but they turn so dramatically und unexpectantly in the end that the reader feels like this story was just another statement to show how impotent women are in that world. Therefore, even if a story starts looking like it’s action, crime, performance, etc., the plot will still underline the overarching society genre.

In this anthology, I do not consider the change of genre expectation as breaking the promise to the reader. Because by reading an anthology to the Bitch Planet series the reader would be disappointed if the resolution of the story would not be about woman trying to survive in this patriarchic society. So it’s mandatory that each short story supports the society element that makes the Bich Planet series so strong.

  1. Windows (Morality – Redemption)
  2. Without and Within (Society – Society Woman)
  3. The invisible Woman (Society – Society Woman)
  4. Bits & Pieces (Performance – Dance)
  5. This is good for you (Society – Society Woman)
  6. What’s love got to do with it? (Society – Society Woman)
  7. Those people (Morality – Test surrender)
  8. Big Game (Action – on the hunt scene)
  9. Love, honor and obey (Crime – interrogation scene)
  10. Life of a sportsman (Status)
  11. Bodymods (Society – Society Woman)
  12. To be free (Action – Action Countdown)
  13. Everyone’s grandma is a little bit feminist (Society – Society Woman)
  14. Mirror, Mirror (Performance – Sports)
  15. Basic Bitch (Society – Society Woman)

 

Note: You reach universality through specificity.

And with all those little stories that show a particular detail of the world of Bitch Planet the writer’s create an authentic world.

 

2. How can we analyze a short story in this book?

Except for the question about the genre, I can’t answer the editor’s six core questions today because there is no global overarching story in this anthology. The single protagonists never cross paths and there is no progression of how the stories progress to one ultimate Ending Payoff.

This book is just a collection of short stories. That’s why today I focus on helping you with your scene writing by analyzing every short story in Bitch Planet Triple Feature Book One.

 

Every writer should learn story structure.

We, editors in the Story Grid universe, look at the 5 commandments to make sure that the scene/sequence/act/short story or story has all the ingredients it needs in order to work.

 

Now what are those 5 commandments?

As said every element of a story needs to have the 5 commandments in it.*

So especially if you want to improve your scene work, try to include those five elements in your writing:

 

1. The Inciting Incident

Your POV-character needs to have a goal for the particular scene you are writing. What does he hope to have accomplished when everything works according to plan? It’s not that we are going to let him have exactly what he wants or let him go where he needs to go, but we need to know at least what his scene’s goal is.

Even in our everyday lives, we can look at our daily routine as a sequence of different scenes. Getting ready for work. Getting the bus. Bringing the kids to school, etc. Our goal is then to get up, get coffee and get dressed so that we are able to go to work. A character in a scene may have a simple goal like to get from A to B.

So with the inciting incident for that scene, you give your character a goal that he will try to reach in order to be able to reach his object of desire (his overall WANT).

An inciting incident can either be causal or coincidental. That means the event might be caused by a person or it might be influenced by something we cannot control, like i. e. the weather.

 

2. Progressive Complications

No one reads a story or more than a chapter where a character has a goal and gets to it without any trouble. Stories are about hardship. Trouble needs to be in the scene or it will ring dull and not believable. Even when we get up in the morning, we do not always get dressed and get to work without having to face at least one difficulty. Be it traffic, hitting our toes at the nightstand or spilling the coffee.

Progressive complications mean that there are certain obstacles that others put in your character’s way or that happen by accident. So if we stay with the example of getting to work, a minor complication is hitting a toe (small pain). An even worse complication is spilling the hot coffee over one’s shirt, burning one’s skin (worse pain) a little and having to change the clothes which means arriving late at work (a bigger problem if we have to be there for a presentation, etc.).

If I get into an accident on my way to work, that’s something that will throw me completely off track. It’s an unexpected event. It’s the giant ball of chaos that I can’t ignore anymore. I have to face it. It forces a decision from me. I have to make a choice. This unexpected event is the turning point, the biggest and last progressive complication which catapults me right into a dilemma.

A turning point can either be presented through new information (revelation) or through action.

 

3. Crisis

Being in an accident, I can’t pursue my scene goal anymore. At least not without any major consequences. I’m in a best bad choice situation. I could ignore the accident and as long as I am not hurt, I can try to get to work by taking a cab, a bus or walk so that I can do that presentation I have put all my life’s energy in OR I could help the people that are hurt and risk getting fired at work because I missed my big work opportunity.

Another possible dilemma is the option between two irreconcilable goods. You can’t have both. You can’t help the people to be their hero at the same time as hitting off a great presentation at work to get a promotion. You have to decide.

So the crisis is always a best bad choice or a decision between two irreconcilable goods.

 

4. Climax

Whatever the character decides for is showing the reader what kind of person that character is. Is he self-focused and wants to build his career no matter what or is his moral compass intact so that he puts the well-being of others in need ahead of his own?

So the climax is all about the decision the character makes in his crisis moment.

 

5. Resolution

The resolution is the aftermath. What are the consequences for the character after he has come to a decision? What new obstacles and troubles came forth with his action?


Overview 5 commandments:

  1. Inciting Incident (causal or coincidental)
  2. Progressive Complications that lead up to a Turning Point (Revelation or Action)
  3. Crisis (Best Bad Choice or Irreconcilable Goods Question)
  4. Climax (Decision. Answer to the Crisis question)
  5. Resolution (Consequences of Decision)

 

I can’t stress enough how important it is that you follow the five commandments. But whatever you do, just think of your character getting hit by balls of chaos that he tries to ignore until there is that huge one throwing him off the path. Every scene needs to have a turning point. Because the turning point shifts the value of the scene and brings forward change. And change is what each scene should be about so that it feels dynamic!

(*Exception: Scenes with cliffhangers who usually skip the climax decision and the resolution which should be seen in at the beginning of another chapter.)

 

For more information read:

 

Bitch Planet Triple Feature: Commandments for each short story

Bitch Planet Triple Feature Book 11. Windows (Morality - Redemption)

Windows is a morality redemption story. We get to know this militia woman Lupita who is fired from her job as a prison guard on Bitch Planet. She feels damned now that they’ve taken away her rank and she had lost a female prisoner on her watch. She tries to stay compliant but by finding out how men look at this incident that ruined her life she transforms. She becomes a non-compliant woman and attacks those men.

 

Inciting Incident: Experienced militia woman is fired at her security guard job in the woman’s prison. (Society element: don’t blame it in the man. Women are to blame. Never men.)
Progressive Complications: Gets a job as a cleaning lady. And her academy training doesn’t mean anything anymore.
Turning Point: In Harding’s office, she sees a replay of the incident that caused her to get fired and due to the eye movement of the prisoner she understands the morse coded message: Help.
Crisis: Follow her new job and serve men or fight against men who did not only mistreat her but also the female prisoner that died under her watch.
Climax: Lets the coffee tablet fall and pulls out a knife.
Resolution: Cliffhanger. We do not see if she kills those men or if she is going to get punished.

 

Value shift: subordinate to powerful (-/+)


2. Without and Within (Society – Society Woman)

Without and Within belongs to the Society Woman genre. This story shows clearly how a woman only wanting to do her job is only considered an object to a man’s sexual desires. She is not validated for her abilities but only for her looks.

 

Inciting Incident: Anna Winters from the administrative office gets a job as the secretary for Ward. (Causal)
Progressive Complications: Anna has to go and print out a speech which means working with a mouse and a computer and no holo-touchscreen which she isn’t used to.
Turning Point: Bisbee molests her and holds her off to get back to her boss to give him the speech. (Action)
Crisis: Agree to go on a date with him so that he lets her go or not agree and miss handing the speech to her boss. (Best bad choice)
Climax: She agrees to go to dinner with Bisbee.
Resolution: Her boss tells her next time she’s looking for a date she should finish her work first.

 

Value shift: motivated to used (+/-)

Looking at the internal genre: Worldview: blind belief to doubt or naiveté to cognitive dissonance (Here the value shift is from negative - to positive + because the protagonist is pushed out of her belief system and is made to see the world not only in black and white but see the paradoxical world for what it is.)


3. The invisible Woman (Society – Society Woman)

This story is about another woman who follows the rules only to find out that her compliance was not enough to get her the promotion she wanted. Almost run over because she is just a woman makes her recognize she is invisible to the world of men BUT being recognized by the spray painter woman helps her figure out where she belongs in this world and who will ›see‹ her. So she decides to stop being compliant and finally make her move to be not visible anymore, which means start acting out and be non-compliant!

 

Inciting Incident: Woman gets her hair done to be ready for the promotion
Progressive Complications: Her hair looks like a lion’s mane. She gets fired. Spray painter woman tells her that she can see her, too. (Woman recognize her. She’s not invisible to them!)
Turning Point: A man almost runs her over with his car and calls her titless.
Crisis: Stay invisible, go home and find another dream some men will take away from her or stop being invisible by fighting men gaining recognition from other non-compliant women.
Climax: She shows her tits in the camera: Eleanor lives written on her chest.
Resolution: Police officers tackle her to the ground. She is finally not invisible anymore.

 

Value Shift: invisible to noticed (-/+)

 

Bitch Planet Triple Feature Book 14. Bits & Pieces (Performance – Dance)

A parody of a beauty competition that supports the messed up world of where the series Bitch Planet takes place. Girls are collected for a particular body feature – without them knowing. Taking pills to win the competition and society’s admiration.

 

Inciting Incident: The ninth annual Miss Tween Neck Competition. (Causal)
Progressive Complications: Forced to take vitamin pills to stay in the competition. As well as the measurement of their teeth. Only the ones whose teeth have grown stay in the competition. A tool that helps the POV-character can also be a progressive complication: Here it’s the shining stones they put on their outfit.
Turning Point: Tabitha wins the competition. (Action/Revelation)
Crisis: Arguable: Does the crisis question belongs to Tabitha’s friend who has to decide if she helps Tabitha get the rose off? Or does Tabitha herself has to decide if she pulls that thing off that is wrapping itself around her neck?
Climax: LEFT OUT
Resolution: Tabitha is just a collectible item for society who wants her only because of one body aspect of hers.

 

Value Shift: hopeful to admired to stowed away (+/++/--)

 

5. This is good for you (Society – Society Woman)

A propaganda/education screening in a cinema to teach women what is expected of them in the society they’re living on. Totally messed up but another good way of adding colour to the world of the Bitch Planet series.

 

Inciting Incident: Two female friends in a cinema with lots of other women. (Causal)
Progressive Complications: Hurried inside. Talk of radicals.
Turning Point: Watching what others think is good for you. (Revelation)
Crisis: Believe and comply but giving up on oneself, not believe and comply and selling out or not believing and not complying knowing to be send off to Bitch Planet?
Climax: LEFT OUT
Resolution: LEFT OUT

The decision of the black woman is not on the page. It’s a cliffhanger. We have no idea how she will decide what she’s going to do with the information she’s seen on screen. But we clearly have a sense of how shocked she is. And that her friend is receivable for being brainwashed.

 

Value Shift: Suspicious to shocked (-/--)

 

6. What’s love got to do with it? (Society – Society Woman)

Another story that takes the weird unfairness of this society to another level. Baby skin color that waives the old maid tax that parents have to pay for their daughters who are not married.

 

Inciting Incident: Thirty-year-old girl gets the wristband ›The biological clock‹ from her mom’s. (Causal)
Progressive Complications: Old Maid Tax that girl’s father can’t afford anymore. The girl is too busy at work to meet someone. Tries different dating tactics, but fails and pressure increases.
Turning Point: A friend of hers has found a loophole so that her father will not lose the house by having to continue to pay the old maid tax. (Revelation)
Crisis: LEFT OUT to increase suspense.
Climax: Got pregnant for another couple and gives them her baby.
Resolution: Baby’s skin color decides how big the tax credit will be. She managed a full tax credit and tells her mom the good news.

 

Value Shift: Desperate to Saved (-/+)

 

Bitch Planet Triple Feature Book 17. Those people (Morality – Test surrender)

Parody of military misconduct. It can’t be denied that even in our society people mess up and are not punished for what they’ve done because powerful people back them up if they have supported their agenda. The blame is just shifted and in the eye of the one victorious he can always say it was self-defense if the other one does not live to fight that statement.

 

Inciting Incident: Special force unit on its way to check up on a place in the woods. (Causal)
Progressive Complications: The stories the commander is telling his guys about those people. He’s painting a picture of an enemy that is supernaturally strong and evil. They storm a ›Love without fear dance‹. Just people dancing.
Turning Point: Soldier shoots his comrade because he thought she’d get out a gun. (Note: It’s not his crisis question because it’s the fear that makes him shoot. And he can’t even aim. That’s why he shoots his comrade in the back.) (Action)
Crisis: Shall he tell his commander that he was the one who shot first? Or shall he keep silent and not get this blame of his chest?
Climax: He tells his commander that his bullet started the massacre.
Resolution: Commander comforts the soldier telling him it was only preemptive self-defense and the soldier was right to be afraid of those people.

This scene could also be the inciting incident of a morality redemption story. The soldier clearly feels the blood of those people is on his hands. He feels damned because he has to live with the guilt of having caused those people’s death. So there could be a story about him and how he redeems himself – maybe even by fighting the very people who backed him up to set things right.

 

Value Shift: Lost to saved (-/+)

 

8. Big Game (Action – on the hunt scene)

Listen to the ranger and the deputy talking. You think they talk about a wild animal. They are misleading the reader with every word they are saying. Of course, to those familiar with Bitch Planet, you already know what’s coming. But I feel like each time it’s just amazing of how the writers turn the scenes to stress the weird and unjust world this series is set in.

Bitch Planet Triple Feature Book 1 - Big Game

Inciting Incident: A ranger and a deputy walk through the woods looking for a dangerous wild beast. (Causal)
Progressive Complications: Orders are: Humane capture instead of a bullet or a cage.
Turning Point: They find the one they are looking for. (Action)
Crisis: LEFT OUT
Climax: LEFT OUT
Resolution: Woman brought back to her husband.

There is no crisis question for the deputy. He’s scared to miss his shot. That’s all there is. The turning point in this scene is directly addressed to the reader. We think the deputy missed because he failed to hit the puma but shot at the woman instead. It’s just moments later that we find out that the woman was the real target (revelation to the reader).

 

Value Shift: searching to recovery (-/+)


9. Love, honor and obey (Crime – interrogation scene)

Here we have a typical interrogation scene. Another parody of the phrase: whatever you say can and will be used against you. The POV-character is the detective.

 

Inciting Incident: Detective questions a woman about Mr. Hornby’s death. (Causal)
Progressive Complications: Manslaughter is on the table for Betty.
Turning Point: It’s not in her programming to be very bright. (Revelation)
Crisis: Look the other way in this case or do not.
Climax: He has to ship her off.
Resolution: Dames always disappoint because it’s in their programming.

Bitch Planet Triple Feature Book 1 - Love, honor and obey

Value Shift: suspicious to be proven right (-/+)

 

Bitch Planet Triple Feature Book 110. Life of a sportsman (Status – Pathetic)

Great message in this story: No matter what you do and even if you become the best of your game, one day, there will be someone else to step into your shoes. And no one might remember you. Sad but true. And at least portraying that even the men have some troubles in their life.

 

Inciting Incident: Megaton player Mitch Herman makes it into the big Megaton league. (Causal)
Progressive Complications: Herman gets a girl. Advertising campaigns. Murder suspect. Lost his girlfriend. Career on the line. Returns.
Turning Point: Last game of his career and Herman is embarrassed by newcomer Tyshawn Carter. (Action)
Crisis: Accept having lost the game or come up with silly excuses?
Climax: Herman calls it a cheap shot. Doesn’t recognize the other player’s effort.
Resolution: And makes a fool out of himself.

 

Value Shift: Success to Failure (+/-)

 

11. Bodymods (Society – Society Woman)

Another great parody of cosmetic surgeries to please men ... taken to the end of the line. Even though the climax decision is left out, the story delivers its point clearly.

 

Inciting Incident: Old friend asks for a spa date together. (Causal)
Turning Point: Girl gets asked to be the bridesmaid. (Revelation)
Crisis: Girl has a chance to maybe get the attention of the best man who is still single, but she has to change a little more for him. Will she be blonde and get hooves or does she stay as she is?
Climax: LEFT OUT
Resolution: Girl has already changed so much she can’t even hurry to get to the bus anymore. That means surgeries, fashion styles and trying to look good at all times will keep you from living or even being able to live like a normal human being.

 

Value shift: invited to left (+/-)

 

12. To be free (Action – Action Countdown)

A ballerina girl is assigned the mission to get a birth control handbook that will change the world for the better. What a great revelation at the end of the story. And well-played with mixing the spy action story with the society aspect of the Bitch Planet series.

 

Inciting Incident: Ballerina Girl gets a secret mission. (Causal)
Progressive Complications: Ticking Clock. Temptations along the path that want to distract her from her mission.
Turning Point: Security Guards get to her. (Action)
Crisis: Fight them and risk getting hurt or surrender.
Climax: Fights.
Resolution: Girl is in a coma, and the mission failed.

 

Value Shift: Live to coma (+/-)

 

Bitch Planet Triple Feature Book 113. Everyone’s grandma is a little bit feminist (Society – Society Woman)

In this short story the question is answered 1. how much time has passed since the patriarchy has changed the values of society and 2. what happened with the old people who grew up in a ›different‹ world.

 

Inciting Incident: Engaged couple visits girl’s parents' house. (Causal)
Progressive Complications: The grandma and her talk from earlier times.
Turning Point: Grandma makes a point that she would never get a man a drink who pats her ass while asking. (Revelation/Action)
Crisis: Leave the family reunion because she has stepped over the line or keep trying to convince the younger girls that they should not be subordinate to men.
Climax: Grandma decides to leave.
Resolution: Grandma is an NC and it was just a test run to see if she has changed her worldview. But grandma has failed.

 

Value Shift: power to powerless (+/-)

 

14. Mirror, Mirror (Performance – Sports)

Another story about the competition in the men’s world.

 

Inciting Incident: Jackson Wong and Van Norris train for becoming the best of the best. They want to star in a movie. (Causal)
Progressive Complications: Jackson can’t deliver the lines believably. Jackson and Van get a call to come back to the studio.
Turning Point: Van gets the part. Jackson shall be the stunt coordinator.
Crisis: Fight against the decision or accept it?
Climax: Jackson accepts.
Resolution: You can’t get everything even though you might be the best at one particular thing, but if people look for slightly something else, then you might not be the best fit for them.

 

The last frame shows the decision of Jackson as well as his crisis question. Very well done in only one frame. A crisis question right to the point.

Bitch Planet Triple Feature Book 1 - Mirror, Mirror

Value shift: excited to okay (+/-)


15. Basic Bitch (Society – Society Woman)

Crazy story about racial prejudices.

 

Inciting Incident: A girl wants to get more attention than her girls. (Causal)
Progressive Complications: The white girls look more ›black‹ than she does.
Turning Point: Her stylist knows a way to make the girl look even more ›black‹. (Revelation)
Crisis: Will the girl change her skin color to win the secret competition against her girls or will she stay as she is.
Climax: Girl is now ›black‹ woman.
Resolution: Girl can’t pull off her flirtation with a police officer because she is black and she gets shot.

 

Value Shift: life to death (+/-)

 

 

After looking at the five commandments (+ turning point) for each of those little stories, do you still have questions about those elements?
If so, just write your questions in the comments below and I will answer them.
Bitch Planet: Analysis of anthology short stories


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Melanie Naumann - I help comic book writers craft authentic stories in every kind of setting. Melanie Naumann - I help comic book writers craft authentic stories in every kind of setting.
Editing Comics

Story Consultant

Melanie is a developmental editor and action/thriller writer from Germany. She specializes in applying the Story Grid methodology to the art of writing graphic novels. She is currently working on a case study to show how the principles of story structure can be applied for telling stories that work through the art of captivating pictures, captions, and dialogue.

Melanie has traveled the world and lived in New Zealand, Australia, and Spain before settling down in her home village in Saxony, Germany.

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