By Michele Brittany, West Coast Bleeding Cool Correspondent
Around the country, flapper gals and dapper fellows crowded into the smoke filled speakeasies serving illegal alcohol to tantalizing jazz tunes that came to represent the Roaring 20s. Mobsters, murder, and mayhem permeated the modern landscape of American cities during era that could be described as the decade of decadence. Inspired by a true story of the seedy underworld of San Francisco, writer/illustrator Daniel Cooney created the burlesque crime thriller The Tommy Gun Dolls.
Meet Rouletta Lockhart, the young burlesque dancer, with the wavy blond bob, tight lavender corset, and long lacy black gloves. She is found dead in a San Francisco alley. Frankie Broadstreet, a woman who likes to cross-dress in men's clothing, forms a gang from Lockhart's dancer friends, Ricochet Rose, Mai Pearl and Poppy Harlow. Together, they become gun totting masked bandits looking to strike back at the people responsible for Lockhart's death and break the mob's control on the city's speakeasies. For those familiar with San Francisco, might recognize Nob Hill, Chinatown, the Tenderloin, and North Beach.
"I don't want to reveal too much of the story surrounding Frankie and the girls, but in the spirit of noir, there are surprises and twists throughout this highly volatile tale of masked maidens, murder, mayhem and bathtub gin," Cooney said about his noir tale. He looked to established illustrators of the era, Russell Patterson (Life and Hearst Sunday newspaper magazine covers), Ethel Hays (Flapper Fanny Says) and Faith Burrows (Flapper Filosofy) for stylistic inspiration for his own 72-page graphic novel. And, for his story, Cooney channeled novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby) and Dashiell Hammett (The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man), who created Sam Spade, resulting in a sharp and stylish illustrated story in black and white. Tommy Gun Dolls promises to be a simmering noir to knock the spats off its readers' shoes.
Cooney's graphic novel is the first of three planned books. He is currently crowd funding Tommy Gun Dolls and in the first day, reached 20% of its funding and was fully funded by the conclusion of week two. Since then, three of the five stretch goals have been met, which just expanded the novel to 96 pages. "Any extra funding goes towards Act Two for the next book which begins production right after completing Act One," Cooney said in his Kickstarter update on Wednesday, May 20. His Kickstarter ends on Monday, June 1.
Cooney is often found in artist alley of the various cons held throughout the year where he sells his sketches, books, and takes commissions, or leading panels for conducting portfolio reviews. He is also an instructor for the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Cooney has written instructional books such as Writing and Illustrating The Graphic Novel and The Complete Guide to Figure Drawing for Comics and Graphic Novels by Barrons, and he is the creator of the Valentine crime fiction series as well as The Atomic Yeti. Look for Cooney online and/or the upcoming San Diego International Comic-Con this July.
All images from the upcoming Tommy Gun Dolls, courtesy of Daniel Cooney.
Michele Brittany is an independent popular culture scholar and semi-professional photographer and editor of James Bond and Popular Culture: Essays on the Influence of the Fictional Superspy (McFarland & Company). She regularly posts reviews and analysis on the spy/espionage genre on her blog, Spyfi & Superspies and can be followed at Twitter @mcbrittany2014.