I’m a Backer: The Locksmith
Welcome to our regular Wednesday column, “I’m a Backer.” This week we switch gears from the gaming categories that have dominated this column since its inception, and take a look at category near and dear to my heart: Comic Books! You would think that since I am currently working on a comic book project of my own, I would have done a column on this subject before now; alas when it comes to comic books I am very picky, and had yet to find a story I really resonated with till I ran across this week’s project: The Locksmith, a noir/scifi detective story with metaphysical implications. When I say metaphysical, I’m talking about other worlds, doorways to beyond, and death. It’s hard to say for certain; the author does a good job of limiting exposure to the exact story.
Interested? Me too. The creator of this project, Terrance Grace, describes his book thusly:
There is a room inside an old tenement building in the Bronx. Inside the room is a doorway that leads to another dimension where past, present and future exist simultaneously. This gateway must remain protected — by the Locksmith. The problem: Santiago, the Locksmith, has died. The power is unleashed. What was once dead, seeks life. And that is just the beginning… And possibly end of the world — And the universe. While investigating the sudden and inexplicable murder of his own brother, Detective Mick Fagan uncovers a strange series of events, all leading back to the Bronx apartment. He soon becomes convinced that he too is somehow part of this mystery, and joins forces with Santiago’s family in trying to contain what lurks beyond the doorway.
Though I like super heroes as much as the next guy, I’m very much a story guy in comic books. These things don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but I have observed that violence and special effects are often substituted for story in many of my favorite floppies. For story i read Vertigo comics, and this comic – The Locksmith, has that kind of feel to me.
Not to be outdone by the story though, the art is also top notch, though I know that color printing and shipping is expensive, I would wager that the majority of the project’s $19,000 budget is earmarked for art; quality like this doesn’t come cheap. I think the style suits the self described noir/mystery as well – though the lettering is occasionally a little too ‘digital’ for the rest of the piece, the colors and the ink really suit the subject matter.
Product aside, the presentation of the project is quite good too. The page has some wonderful comic title images that I wish I had been smart enough to think of. The video, which isn’t something I always watch as many of you know, was very good. You can tell that the author has worked in film, and either has skills or friends to help him produce a top notch presentation. The hard-boiled narration and the sound effects as Terrance pans across the pages is also a nice touch.
I appreciate that the creator tells us the story of his work, and that it started out as a film script. It adds flavor to an already well presented product. I also really like that he is a backer of many projects (including my own in the interest of full disclosure) and is really a member of the Kickstarter community. He goes on to provide some details, talking about production and schedules and such. The only thing he could have done better here, would be to tell us a bit more about how the funds he is raising will be used; even with this wonderful art, $19,000 is still a large number for a comic book project.
I had a chance to sit down with Terrance and ask him a couple questions:
There are some truly fantastical things that happen as the story builds. As a reader, I certainly don’t like a story to be ‘spoiled’ and so with my description, I try to convey the context of action and plot, without giving specifics away. The science fiction aspect of “The Locksmith” is not aliens and spaceships — It is grounded in that period of film noir when you did on occasion see fantasy and sci-fi enter into what might appear to be, a typical noir setup. Think Fritz Lang, for example.Noir is very much about ordinary men and women in extraordinary circumstances, caught up in a tidal wave of mystery that is beyond their comprehension. “The Locksmith” ups the ante, by using the metaphysical aspects of science fiction as the ‘gun’ lurking behind the corner, just ahead. I really want to keep it a mystery for the reader so that hopefully, this graphic novel is a real ‘page turner’.
My first love has always been science fiction. I credit “2001: A Space Odyssey” for first, my enrollment in art school and then film school (NYU). Years later, after writing several screenplays that were consciously geared towards the indie art crowd, I was feeling a little stale and needed some motivation to start a new project. I decided to try my hand at fantasy, but wanted to keep New York City as a backdrop. It was important for me that whatever story would develop, it should remain grounded in the grit of the city. Even if the main character travels back through time to encounter a (oops spoiler alert) a Neanderthal, it should feel real.Noir has the ‘real man’ in ‘unreal circumstance’ so that was the first step: A combo noir/science fiction story. There always seems to be a cop or ex-cop in every noir story and so the main character was given life: A cop, born and raised in Queens, NY encounters… What? A room, where past, present and future, exist simultaneously. Naturally that room has to be in the Bronx… And so on. This is the process I take myself through when starting a new project. When you imagine a locksmith, you think of keys and locked/unlocked doors. What interests me first about a character, is the internal emotional history and psychology that drives that character through the action of decision-making. So, our cop finds himself in the middle of some pretty extraordinary elements — He is searching for the ‘key’ to this mystery. Because the future of the universe is at stake, this key, naturally has to be more than just a key and a lock: It has to be part of this cop’s psychological makeup. It has to be something that informs every bone in his body.
I’ve always seen “The Locksmith” as being a transmedia project. Since I’m first and foremost a screenwriter, the project began as a screenplay, but in Hollywood, there is reticence around stories and characters that are ‘original’ — Studios want tested material. They like to see that there is provenance, particularly with science fiction/fantasy. So with that in mind, I decided to try “The Locksmith” out in this new medium. The story was a natural fit in the graphic novel format, which unlike mainstream cinema, allows for complex mythologies and characters that are not always ‘popular’ in the heroic sense. This adaptation process has in turn, strengthened the story. It has forced me to really pare down the elements into the essential. So naturally, “The Locksmith” project became a progression of formats: First, a graphic novel, then an animated graphic novel app… Game and eventually a movie and possibly, TV series. There is a serial aspect to the story — I am already working out some basics for a sequel: How does “The Locksmith – Unchained” sound? I have this image of Prometheus, chained to a rock, in my head — And no, that not-so-good movie of late, is not an influence.
I really like “Watchmen.” I love how real history, turned on its head, was used as a backdrop for these characters. I’m particularly enamored of Dr. Manhattan. What a fantastic idea that this character should be ‘reborn’ out of a nuclear accident into some metaphysical buddhist.The “Parker” trilogy — Darwyn Cooke’s take on Richard Stark. I am a visual person, when I write, I am just putting down on paper, what I see in my head. That’s what I like about the graphic novel format: It’s a combination of word, picture and design. Cooke’s design is fantastic. It’s a perfect blend of the 50’s and 60’s graphic elements; and that, coupled with the pulp nature of Stark’s anti-hero, makes for a great experience. I find myself going back through the pages, over and over again.I also want to mention a graphic novel app called, “Operation Ajax.” It’s about the CIA’s involvement in Iran in the 50’s — And the installation and eventual ouster of, The Shah. The presentation is great and it turns what might possibly be, dry history, into an exciting page turner. I would like to explore the technology behind the simple motion used in this app, for “The Locksmith.”
As mentioned earlier… “2001: A Space Odyssey” was a primary influence, along with perhaps, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” Philip K. Dick’s story, that eventually became “Blade Runner.” But also, there were those rainy sunday afternoons as a kid, spent watching “Creature From the Black Lagoon” and “Frankenstein,” followed by “The Maltese Falcon” and my favorite Bogart turn as a self-destructive screenwriter in Nicholas Ray’s, “In a Lonely Place.” Raymond Chandler and Graham Greene are two of my favorite writers and although I do not read other authors, when I am writing, I’m sure they have served as great influencers of my work.