Over the last few years, Kickstarter has become one of the best resources for comic fans looking to explore the world outside the big two publishers (Marvel and DC), so it’s no surprise that I found our newest spotlight project while perusing the site. Terrance Grace, a veteran in the film and television industry, is in the final weeks of a campaign to publish his very first full length graphic novel, ‘The Locksmith,’ a scifi noir story that reaches into the past, present, and future.
The story follows Mick Fagan, a New York City detective investigating his brother’s death. Through his investigation he discovers an ancient doorway in the Bronxthat leads to another dimension where past, present and future exist simultaneously. The doorway must never be opened, and is protected by a man known as The Locksmith. Problems arise however when Santiago, the current Locksmith, is murdered. Now the door is open, and the great power it protects has been released.
‘The Locksmith’ began as a movie script, and has transformed into a project that, according to Terrance, will span the graphic novel, an animated app, game, and the film itself. I was recently able to speak with Terrance about the book, and what prompted him to take ‘The Locksmith’ from a high concept feature screenplay, to a trans-media adventure.
AGTM: Tell me a bit about ‘The Locksmith’. Where did the idea come from?
Terrance: When beginning a project, I usually have some sort of image in my head — The beginning or end of the movie… Or perhaps it’s just a concept. “The Locksmith” began with an idea: A room inside a Bronx tenement building that somehow changes your personality. Who discovers this room? Well, it’s a sci-fi/noir mix and so the main character has to be a cop! I pose for myself a series of questions that may or may not have an immediate answer; but it’s a process that I go through in order to ‘find’ the story, context and main characters. It’s a process full of change, especially when your main character becomes fully developed. The best way to write, at that point, is to follow your character’s lead, and in the case of “The Locksmith,” I literally did follow the cop as he uncovered the mystery of this room — I didn’t know what it was all about, until about midway through the original script. Just as he begins to figure it out, so did I. That’s pretty exciting as it allows for a story full of surprises.
AGTM: Why have you decided to pursue the project as a graphic novel instead of a film?
Terrance: My management company had been working hard, developing the screenplay, but like so many other ‘big idea’ projects, the business can by shy about green-lighting a new story model without provenance. Marvel is doing so well, because their brand is tried and tested. There is a ready-to-go, pre-packaged audience lining up for those already familiar characters. “The Locksmith” is a brand new idea, concept and character — Not a super hero, but a character that nevertheless could potentially be franchised.
I thought that if I were to put together a marketing package that better visualized the story, I might gain some traction. After receiving some fantastic feedback, I decided that I really wanted to go all the way with it and put together a complete, 130 plus page graphic novel. In fact, I’m having such a blast doing this, that I’ve got a “Locksmith 2” idea, I’m playing with — As well as two other screenplays that would be equally at home in the graphic novel medium. The process has been quite fruitful. It has forced me to really pare down the story into its most essential elements. It’s stronger now, in every respect.
AGTM: What did you draw from as you created this character and story?
Terrance: I approached the story as if Raymond Chandler had written 2001: A Space Odyssey. I love all of those fantasy/noir, rainy afternoon movies like “Creature From The Black Lagoon.” Humphrey Bogart and Steve McQueen were the models for the main character, Mick Fagan. One of my favorite writers is, Graham Greene (The Third Man) and so even though I don’t read other authors when I write, I’m sure both Chandler, Greene, Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, found their way into my story.
AGTM: What do you hope people get from your story after they read it?
Terrance: The heart of the story is the “key” to saving the universe. Our cop has to find out what that key, is… And it ends up being something very personal and emotional. It is a metaphoric key that, even though it exists in the past, informs every action he takes in the present… which in turn, affects the future. I hope readers will appreciate this aspect of the story — I would like to believe that the emotional journey our main character takes, is quite unlike anything else seen in other sci-fi/noir stories. I hope it lends a certain weight or gravitas to “The Locksmith” as a whole.
AGTM: Tell me a little about the team working on the project?
Terrance: The team is just myself and a fantastic artist, Silvio Db. Silvio recently won an Eagle Award for his work on a short comic called, “Time of Reflection.” It was that comic that was the deciding factor for me when I was narrowing down my list of artists I wanted to work with. I have an art and design background and am very specific when it comes to panel layout. I tend to approach things cinematically, and so I not only wanted to work with someone who had strong technical skills, but it was equally important that the artist understood and had a natural ability to break down a scene sequentially. I immediately saw this in Silvio’s work.
Our process is all remote. He has the completed screenplay, but I do quite a bit of editing and adapting as we go along. I’ll break down a scene into panels and then maybe even send off some suggested images or ideas, along with my own rudimentary sketches. Silvio will more often than not, already be there with a sketch that improves upon my layout idea. Once I get the pencils, I start planning out the lettering and send back any changes if needed, for the artwork. I usually have all the lettering in place as I wait for coloring… But it’s a continual process as I sometimes go back to ‘finished’ pages and tweak the dialogue or lettering layout. I’ll probably be doing that all the way to the end, just before printing.
AGTM: What are some of your favorite graphic novels or comic writers?
Terrance: The “Parker” trilogy by Darwyn Cooke and Richard Stark was top of the list when I first got the idea of turning “The Locksmith” into a graphic novel. That character is a perfect noir anti-hero and the artwork and design of the graphic novel, is exquisite. I love the whole retro 50’s and 60’s art/design sensibility.
I’m also a fan of “Watchmen.” What a brilliant idea to turn real history on its head when forming the backdrop for these super hero characters. Dr. Manhattan is my favorite character. Again, brilliant to create this buddhist-like being, born from a nuclear accident.
Speaking of history (real or imagined mythology), “300” — both the movie version and the graphic novel, are also favorites of mine. I do like the idea of being able to present what quite possibly be ‘dry’ material, in a fantastic way. “Operation Ajax” is an animated graphic novel app that tells the story of the CIA’s involvement in Iran, beginning in the early 50’s. It’s a real page-turner (or finger flipper).
AGTM: You mention that you will be expanding the universe through an app, and the actual film. Tell me something about those?
Terrance: Once the idea of a graphic novel adaption came about, then it became clear that “The Locksmith” was truly a ‘transmedia’ project. The technology behind “Madefire” is something I’d like to explore in the next phase of “The Locksmith.” Naturally, a game would be a fantastic way to explore the characters and story. I remember when “Blade Runner” came out as a pc game, years ago — I loved the realtime aspects of that game and that it wasn’t all about killing monsters. I’d like to see a combination shooter and puzzle-solving aspect for “The Locksmith” game. Imagine a cross between Myst, Quake and Amnesia!
The film, I hope, will be jumpstarted by the visibility of our campaign. In fact I did get an email on launch day from a production company behind a pretty big project with graphic novel roots, currently in production. They stumbled upon “The Locksmith” and were very interested in taking a look at the screenplay.
The Kickstarter campaign is, in and of itself, the book’s first line of distribution (you can preorder the book right there), but that isn’t the end of the road. Terrance says he’s hoping to approach a few indie publishers about facilitating future graphic novels, including a ‘Locksmith’ sequel. In addition, he’s planning to expand the official website to include an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the 10 month long process of creating the graphic novel, including sketches, pencils, inks, colors, and lettering. Says Terrance, “I think that including your readership in this process is key (pun intended) to building a base, that in turn, supports that process.”
‘The Locksmith’ has just 12 days left on it’s Kickstarter campaign, and at the time of this article, is dangerously close to hitting their 50% mark. They have some great backer perks including an autographed copy of the completed project for $30, and a digital copy for just $10 (plus original artwork and your likeness in the book for higher pledge levels). You can learn more about the project by visiting their Kickstarter page, or the official website, or you can just watch their campaign video below.