Monday, November 9, 2009


I've been spending the past few days working on the graphic novel script for Die Like A Lady, so I've been going over all my original research (which I hung on to - my pack rat ways once again vindicated) and looking at some new material. A couple of years ago John Gilmore put out a book, L.A. Despair, which includes a nice, long meaty chapter on Barbara Graham. I'm finding it incredibly useful.

I seem to be getting all obsessed with crime again. Maybe I'll finally get around to doing something on the murder of William Desmond Taylor. Maybe a graphic novel is the only medium that will do what I want with the material, as it's the most complicated murder I've ever read about.

I've also been playing around with a lot of ideas for what the novel should look like. I first thought maybe ink, ink wash - a nice noiry black and white. Now I'm leaning towards something a little grainier, more tabloid-y. On Saturday I went to my first Dr. Sketchy's. The wonderful Darenzia and Nicholas held poses inspired by "Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman Co-Creator Joe Shuster". Apparently, after being swindled out of his stake in Superman by DC Comics, Shuster made his living by drawing fetish comics, many using characters identifiable from his more mainstream creations. They're pretty amazing stuff.

I didn't realize until today that the four images I chose to upload are completely different stylistically from each other. Aside, of course, from making my blog ever more Not Safe For Work, they almost look as if they were done by different people. Hmm.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Barbara Redux

In addition to "Lucy Troma: the Graphic Novel", or perhaps as a test run, I may be doing "Die Like A Lady: the Graphic Novel". In 2002 I wrote and directed a play of the same title which has haunted me in one way or another ever since. The production nearly put me in the hospital from exhaustion, malnutrition and stress. I weighed about 100 pounds at the end of it and I was just shattered. "Die Like A Lady" tells the bad girl life story of Barbara Graham, the last woman to be executed in the state of California. I first read her life story on a true crime website and I thought it was such fascinating stuff - mainly because she had a series of opportunities to escape her downward spiral to the gas chamber and managed to either be bludgeoned by fate or to fuck things up herself. My play was a clown show and a comedy and an example of the self mythologizing nature of all Americans. The famous Susan Hayward movie "I Want To Live" was based on her life, but although it was pretty racy for the '50s it was full of lies. It tried to make her more sympathetic by pretending that she wasn't a junky and a murderer (the movie was okay with her being a whore).

When I was in the middle of working on the show people asked me why I found her story so fascinating and I never had an answer. One thing I do know is that I'm not done with it. I think I know what this story itself is, however. You know those incredibly dangerous women in the noirs of the 40s and 50s? Did you ever wonder what Brigid O'Shaughnessy's life was like before she ran into Sam Spade? Or what had happened to that monstrous woman played by Jane Greer in "Out of the Past"? Or all the damaged, slutty, criminal women played by Lizabeth Scott and Gloria Grahame? Or Hammett's girl with the silver eyes? Take them out of the context of making Robert Mitchum's or Humphrey Bogart's life a misery, and their lives were very likely a lot like Barbara's, just with better clothes and lighting.

So I've been working on some sketches. I've done some ink/ink wash drawings which are a mess as I did them on the wrong kind of paper. Can one be in love with pencils? Because I'm in love with my color pencils. They arrived in the mail yesterday as buying the 72 pencil set from Amazon turned out to be cheaper than buying the 48 pack from Pearl. As I fleetingly mentioned, I've been trying to branch out into color, and one of the problems with this is that I'm not a very good painter. So I got these colored pencils and so far I love them. The only downside that I can see is that I think I have a repetitive stress injury from a marathon of pencil sharpening last night.

But I'm super excited about this and my script is so spare and carefully plotted and so light on dialogue it's pretty much ready to go, story-wise. I miss Barbara, though like a true noir dame she has infected me like a virus.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Patchwork Girl (Last Oz Related Post This Week!)

This is total insanity. I was looking up the previously mentioned unfunny comedian Charles Ruggles on imdb, and the first credit listed is an unconfirmed role in a 1914 film of Patchwork Girl of Oz! It's not precisely a masterpiece, but interesting nonetheless.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For For Getting Our Lips Sewn Shut and Being Eaten By Crocodiles

Murders In the Zoo is on DVD for the first time and maybe it's the Benadryl talking but I thought it was pretty great. I am completely obsessed with Kathleen Burke, the crazily perfectly art deco looking actress. And then I noted that the film was directed by Edward Sutherland, Louise Brooks' first husband. I think he has a type. But really, she looks like a piece of illustration. Unfortunately she winds up being eaten by crocodiles. It's that kind of movie. Okay, she wasn't much of an actress, but it's a total shame she never wound up hanging out with the surrealists in Europe because they would have gone mad for her.

There is also some modern CSI style lab work and an inexplicably hammy turn by somebody named Charles Ruggles. This is pretty much a straight up horror movie. There's the delightfully creepy murderer played by Lionel Atwill, a bunch of people who are there to be killed, and the love interest (the boring couple who survive). But Charles Ruggles gets top billing as the unnecessary and annoying Zoo publicist. Since when does the unnecessary comic relief get top billing? I have a feeling someone if the front office thought the movie was "too dark" and it needed someone more famous, so they shoe-horned in this unfunny comedian.

Lionel Atwill and Kathleen Burke

I really wonder what happened to Kathleen Burke. She got married and retired from the movie business at 25. She did lots of radio until about 1940 (when she was still not yet 30) and then fell off the radar. She died in 1980, and no one's really sure what became of her in the intervening 40 years. Maybe she became a hard-boiled Chandleresque dame. But I suppose it's more likely she became a housewife and led a perfectly ordinary, uneventful life. But I can dream, can't I? Or perhaps at one point I can invent an exciting and fictional alternate 40 years and all questions will answered and all mysteries solved.

Here is the completely grisly opening sequence:

Zoo isn't on Netflix and TCM sadly doesn't have it On Demand. You can purchase the DVD at the TCM store either as a part of their Universal Cult Horror collection (which looks awesome) or individually.