Comic in development: The Jade Queen

note cards

Hi everyone!

In last month’s Tone Report, I decided to rip off the movie Angel Heart for The Jade Queen. Talent borrows, genius steals. While I’m no genius, I am capable of theft. And I’m only stealing the twist, and moving it to the end of the first act. No one will ever know!

Of course, the hook is not a story on its own, so I opened an empty notebook and spitballed ideas into it. Just tossing every stray thought that might tie into the story for a few weeks; scenes, dialog, characters, etc.. I love this phase because I can do it while watching TV and call it working.

When I have a few pages full of ideas, the plot starts to rise between the lines. I pull all the scenes from the notebook, give them their own cards and arrange them in sequence, pictured above. The cards give me the flexibility to move scenes around, but also trash and replace them.

Once the sequence has gelled, I import the cards into Scrivener, a word processor for longer pieces. I don’t lose the flexibility of the cards, because the text in Scrivener is also arrangeable.

Like so:


The Comics Experience message board’s given me some good feedback on issue #1. I’m about to upload issue #2 on the board, but you have to give 4 feedbacks for every upload and I’ve already touched on every viable document.

Here’s the current script for issue #1. Of course, no script survives contact with the editor. so please feel free to comment on the Google Doc.

Plug of the Month: The SomaFM app for Windows has made my listening experience while working so much better. The Secret Agent channel in particular is my theme music for writing thrillers like The Jade Queen.

Comic in development: The Jade Queen

Comic in development: The Jade Queen


The Jade Queen is in its second draft. An occult-thriller, graphic novel about a noir detective hired to solve the mystery of his own existence.

If that pitch sounds familiar, you probably remember Angel Heart, a story I’ve wanted to rip off homage for decades. I won’t spoil one of the best twist endings in film, but if you know, you know. My goal is to deliver that pay-off without the creepy bits.

The second influence came while playing Mage: the Ascension, the urban fantasy game of subjective reality. My character’s place in the World of Darkness doesn’t matter. What I tacked on is what I enjoyed about playing Chet Blankenship. He wasn’t just a mage. He was a living spell. Some magician needed a mystery solved, pulled Chet from a black and white detective movie, and died before the case was solved, leaving Chet existentially stranded. Close, but not too close to Harry Angel. I got to play up all the classic detective tropes while surrounded by the supernatural.

While brainstorming plot points, I realized I was going to have multiple flashbacks to three different backstories. Too much for prose, but good for comics because in a comic, I can cheat. I can cheat by putting each flashback in a different art style. That style shift lets the reader know where the flashbacks begin and end and keep the eras straight.

Writing a book takes time. Writing a comic takes money. To pitch a comic, a writer at my level of success needs an artist on board, with at least 6 pages drawn at the very least. Colored and lettered is better. I’ve been down this road before, and it’s expensive. But this time, I have Kickstarter in mind as a plan B.

I’ve put off crowdfunding because of the mantra; You can’t Kickstart without an audience. 14 years trying to build an audience on Twitter without success, it’s now or never. I’ll still pursue the traditional path to publishing first. (I know how much work self-publishing is. The only way I can go that route is digital-only. That’s limited distribution, but it’s better than nothing.)

Next, I’m going to run this script on the Comics Experience message board for feedback. And who knows, maybe find an artist or a publisher.

Plug of the month: Resolution; a movie about a man chaining up his friend in a cabin to clean his addiction. Shot in San Diego’s East County, it’s a wonderful study in male relationships and giving up. The producers’ body of work is loosely connected. They all mention a guy named ‘Shitty Carl,’ so my wife calls it the Shitty Carliverse.