by Terrance Grace
When I moved to Los Angeles after living for most of my life in New York City, I began writing the screenplay for The Locksmith. Many drafts later, it landed me a manager and some interest from a couple of heavy-hitters in the business.
NOIR meets FANTASY and SCI-FI in this 5 issue graphic novel series: A cop guards a gateway to the beginning and end of the universe.
That’s the logline for the kickstarter campaign. But let’s get back to where this story took the first turn…
Everyone wanted to know what I based the screenplay on. Surely there must be some kind of source material I used – A graphic novel, perhaps? Well no, there wasn’t. And that’s when the idea to turn it into its own source material began.
I was never obsessed with comics as a kid. I read Archie, Batman and Jonny Quest. I loved Dondi, for some reason. Even though he was a war orphan, with no memory of parents or even his real name; I somehow related to his day-to-day travails of growing up while trying to make sense of the world.
What connects me to the graphic novel format though is what lies at the heart of how I write. Images come first. I write what I see. It’s always been that way. I had a rough transfer from Minneapolis College of Art and Design to NYU’s film program, because back then, I was more interested in creating moving paintings than the standard narrative.
So, it really wasn’t a big leap for me when I first began The Locksmith graphic novel project. After some starts and stalls, I found an artist who was able to work sequentially, while at the same time, remain open to a fluid working style… One that allowed me to remain involved in the layout and design of panels.
Silvio Db, an Eagle Award-winning artist is a perfect fit for The Locksmith. There is a spontaneity evident in his work: brush strokes and ink splotches – everything that is part of the process of drawing, remains integral to the final image.
The core of story follows the traditional three-act structure. But given the fantastical element that is introduced into a typical noir setup, there are ways to branch out from that core, into side stories that wouldn’t necessarily work with a feature film.
And this brings me to what I really mean by the ‘twists and turns’ of The Locksmith. The very first kickstarter campaign launched back in 2012. I ambitiously sought to create the entire graphic novel, right out of the gate. We came close, raising nearly $14k of a $19k goal. It was disappointing, but enough of a vote-of-confidence to revamp the project and turn it into a 5-issue series – kickstarting each issue’s printing costs.
Issue #1 launched one year later and successfully raised 219% of our goal. All rewards were promptly shipped and work began on the next issue. Since each issue is slated to be 44 pages and I am self-financing the artwork, the return to kickstarter, with #2, has taken longer than I would have liked.
Now for the twist:
There were some upper tier kickstarter rewards for The Locksmith #1, offering backers the chance to appear in issue #2 – either as a background character or a character with a speaking part. This is not necessarily unusual – I’ve seen a few creators offer the same thing. But, I’d like to think that what happened when crafting these unique characters (at least for this creator), is.
The core of The Locksmith story follows Detective Mick Fagan as he unravels the mystery behind the dead bodies beginning to pile up around him. Santiago’s missing head. The opera-singing housekeeper. The murder of his brother. All of these bizarre events seem to lead to a dark power that knows no time: Lucero.
Lucero is based upon an orisha or spirit that is part of the Yoruba religion, originally based in what is now Nigeria, Benin and Togo. Fate, destiny and a universal cosmology are central to this spiritual tradition.
Without giving anything more away… The idea that we are all linked through a complex system of energy that everyone has the power to manifest, gives a creator – the writer – great power to travel down hidden roads and through locked doors, in order to bring to light the essence of the story.
Lucero: He who keeps the road and guards the door. Trickster spirit who heals. Child who plays in the sun. Enter my heart and dance with me. Now, open the door so that I may enter the temple. On my way back, I shall thank you for this favor.
At the close of The Locksmith issue #1 kickstarter campaign, I had four backers who were rewarded with speaking character parts in issue #2. I wanted them to really work within the story and so I developed a character biography (based on real events) that helped Silvio sketch out each of these new characters.
Suffice it to say, these four characters have now found a home inside The Locksmith universe; and in turn, they have expanded the story beyond what was initially planned.
James Dakota Kendrick studied criminal law at New York University, but upon graduating, he promptly enrolled in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s national academy. Having had no known background in law enforcement or the military, it is not known who recommended D.K. as a candidate for the invitation-only training. Nevertheless, he placed third in his class after breaking a record in the six mile fitness challenge, known as the Yellow Brick Road. After graduation, D.K. went to work for a private security firm, based in New Jersey. His Yellow Brick Road record, still stands.
Anna Panucci was born to Anna and Franco Panucci from the Bronx. It was at her father’s bakery where she developed the desire to become a chef. After graduating from the Bronx High School of Science and against her father’s wishes, she enrolled in the Institute of Culinary Education. But, a fire that burned the family bakery to the ground, brought her back to the Bronx to care for her ailing parents. She soon met a young detective investigating the case: Tony Franelli. After the two were married, Anna re-opened her father’s bakery, where today, it is known to have the best cannolis in the city.
It is not known when or where, Ricardo Fabbro was born. Whether or not Fabbro is indeed his family name, is also a mystery. Although trained as a locksmith, Fabbro’s fascination with medicine and former career as a singer of songs, allowed him to pose as a traveling surgeon, of sorts. It was in Genoa that, according to documents, Fabbro was arrested for heresy. The Inquisition claimed that his medical experiments sought to bridge the gap between life and death. Surprisingly, it was Pope Urban VIII that granted him a pardon, after which, according to rumor, Fabbro boarded a boat bound for Africa.
Nicola Battista entered the Dominican Order in 1573. His duties included maintaining the College of St. Thomas’ collection of scientific letters in Rome. It was here that he discovered Mysterium Cosmographicum — Johannes Kepler’s astronomical treatise that supported the Copernician idea that the universe was made in the image of God. Battista was specifically interested in the proposed connection between the physical and spiritual worlds. However, he abruptly fled the college one evening after injesting poisonous mushrooms that resulted in visions of an undocumented nature.
I can’t guarantee the three kickstarter rewards for speaking character parts in The Locksmith issue #2 will result in a character that sticks around for more than one issue… But I do guarantee that whoever decides to take the plunge, might one day wake up feeling a little odd.
Something along the lines of Déjà vu. Only, the feeling goes deeper – as if you are not who you think you are. Perhaps someone else, long dead — from another era and another time, had slipped into your shoes that morning. And maybe every morning thereafter, the person you once called me, slowly recedes into the background, until that person is nothing more than a memory of something you thought you read about once, in a novel.
The Locksmith issue #2 – All 44 pages of neo-noir mystery is currently on kickstarter: where you can also pickup issue #1.
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