Interviews: Writer JC Lacek Talks About His Upcoming Comic Jazz Legend

There’s a peculiar new drug on the streets of Motocity. Its effects are unlike any other–an immersive psychedelic dreamscape with visions of animalistic abominations and god-like humanoids. This is bad news for Martin Comity, who lives for two things: playing jazz and getting his next fix. As Martin’s fascination with the drug turns to obsession, his loosening grip on reality becomes more evident by the day. An eccentric writer, the reclusive Benjamin Way, takes an odd interest in Martin’s predicament after experiencing visions of his own: A phantom specter with a single cryptic message: wake Martin to the nature of his “true” self, and quickly, or bear witness to the unraveling of that which bonds space and time. Jazz Legend is a neo-noir meets cosmic fantasy inspired by the lives and works of jazz great Miles Davis, and the father of beat literature, William S Burroughs.

Jazz Legend is written by JC Lacek with art by Vasco Duarte and Cristian Docolomansky.

JC's published comic credits include several releases on the southern-gothic themed, Whiskey Tango Comics, with titles including Dogs Days of Raleigh Bottom, Andy Griffith Must Die, and The Devil's Share. In addition, JC's one-off, Northern Exposure, was featured in GrayHaven Comics' graphic novel anthology, Kaiju. JC also currently works as resident playwright for The Raleigh Playhouse and Theatre in southern West Virginia. His original play, Abomination on Bolt Mountain, has been produced nationwide and headlined San Francisco's Greenhouse Theatre Festival in 2016.

We had the opportunity to speak with him about the comic book.

TMS: What’s up with Jazz Legend? What do you want people to know about the comic? 

JCL: Ha, hmm... What's up with Jazz Legend? To put it in easily digestible genre terms it's a noir smashed together with psychedelic fantasy mostly taking place in a 60's style American jazz club setting. I suppose the most important tidbit of info I want people to know about the series is that it's different, structurally speaking, than a lot of titles on the market, especially noir. So if different is your thing and you like genre-benders, add it to your pull list.

TMS: Do you remember when the idea for this project first sprouted? 

JCL: I do. I was driving across the Bay Bridge in San Francisco. The idea had been gestating for a while but for some reason, everything crystallized in mind that night as I sat there stuck in traffic looking at the lights from downtown over the water. Probably didn't hurt I was listening to jazz, ha. I had an idea and now I had a title, Jazz Legend. Everything you need to know about the story was right there, jazz and legend. Instead of looking at that phrase as a way to describe a famous jazz musician, it suddenly took on a new meaning, a way to describe the story, a jazz legend.

TMS: What was the inspiration behind this story? 

JCL: I'm very much a fan of the writings of William S Burroughs, especially Naked Lunch. Over the years I've also become a fan Miles Davis and the 60's jazz scene in general. I began to take notice that these megalithic figures of literature and music actually had quite a bit in common regarding their general outlook on life and their art, and well... they weren't exactly choir boys either. They were very much like characters you'd find in a classic pulp noir. They lived hard, they made groundbreaking art and they kicked ass along the way. They were huge inspirations for this story.

TMS: Can you talk a little about how you go about writing and submitting a comic? Is your process any different to the norm? 

JCL: Ha, well what I can say to anyone reading this interested in submitting a comic of their own... give the publisher what they are asking for. One of the first ideas I attempted to pitch I spent over half a year on. I made a 24-page comic with wraparound cover and fully developed roughly 20 issues worth of story. Including the 24 pages of comic, the character drafts, and story arc treatment, my pitch package was over 60 pages. It was simply just too much for most publishers. Where I thought I was knocking their socks off, showing them I was capable of swinging for the fences, what the publishers saw was overkill. Yes, a story should be thoroughly developed, I would never discourage anyone from putting in the work to make a competitive product, but that doesn't mean you should send everything to a publisher. These days when I pitch, I give them pretty much exactly what they ask for, usually 6-10 pages of sequential art and a page or less of summary. You can always send them your additional materials if they show interest down the road.

TMS: How long did it take to write the initial draft? 

JCL: Like a lot of comic writers, I wouldn't say I necessarily work in drafts, technically speaking. I like giving the story and the characters the chance to present new revelations and changes to me issue-to-issue. I essentially just revise and boil down my outlines over and over always keeping my eye on the conclusion. When I get to the script it's usually one and done. The only revisions I do script-wise is in the lettering phase. No matter how much I can plan dialogue, once I see the characters on the page I give them a chance to tell me what they need to say.

TMS: Is there anything you found particularly challenging about writing this series? 

JCL: Doing something different structurally has been the hardest part plot-wise. I'd be lying if I said it wouldn't have been nice to look to another similar work, a touchstone so-to-speak, and analyze what did and didn't work about it. It's easy to second guess yourself when veering off course of story structures people are more familiar with.

TMS: In terms of writing choices, anyone that you try to emulate? Or ones that have influenced you? 

JCL: I haven't really thought about that before as far as comic writers honestly. I mean, I'm a fan of the usual heavyweights like Mignola, Miller, Vaughan, and Aaron, but emulate, no, at least not consciously. I come from a playwriting background so I would say that has had the most impact on how I approach comic writing.

TMS: The comic mixes a variety of subgenres into it. What made you choose that style and were there any specific comics, books, or films that influenced the style?

JCL: I genuinely feel genre benders (or genre mashups, although I hate that term) are the future. They come in a lot of forms these days, some of which are much more apparent than others. Westworld, for example, is pure mind twisting genre blending perfection in my opinion. A good genre-bender gives you what's appealing about a particular genre and then in combination with another genre becomes something else altogether, something new. I mean, even looking at The Walking Dead, for example. It's easily just as much a southern gothic drama as it is zombie horror, if not more so. Even with Marvel's films, you are seeing this more and more. The latest Spider-Man, a teen comedy. Deadpool, a dark comedy. It's gradually becoming the norm in pop culture. So, to answer your question, I wouldn't say I have had any particular work directly influence Jazz Legend, but more so have been inspired by the concept of genre-bending itself.

TMS: Can you tell us anything about the other projects that you are working on or planning on working on? Or, anything else that you would like to plug?

JCL: I do have three other books in development, one of which with current Jazz Legend illustrator Vincent Dubourg. However, to reduce the chances of any unintentional jinxing, I'm going to refrain from saying much more. What I can say though is none of them is anything like Jazz Legend. There's an all-ages interdimensional space comedy, a southern political drama, and a retrospect on the birth of the psychedelic 60's. All of which I'm working to get in stores in 2019. 

Jazz Legend #1 comes out on May 16th.