So, with THE BIG KAHN a month from dropping in your hot little hands, I thought I’d duck in here and tease my third NBM book a little, currently titled “AMERICAN CAESAR.”
It’s interesting; BIG KAHN was written before BROWNSVILLE, my first book, and CAESAR was actually penned even before that, but as both a stage play and graphic novel. At the time, I was involved in a local theatre troupe on the Upper East Side where we took the Bard’s more popular works (as well as a few Chekovs and Dickens…es) and reimagined them for various genres and time periods, much like many film versions of old Will’s plays and passages. We set “Midsummmer Night’s Dream” in Central Park, “Macbeth” in Peron’s Argentina, “Romeo and Juliet” in a trailer park, “Merchant of Venice” in 1945 Poland, and “Merry Wives of Windsor” in a seventies-Three’s Company style suburban sitcom. Oh, we also did a mafia version of “Julius Caesar,” my favorite Shakespearean play, in which I portrayed a Silvio Dantesque mob capo who survives the gunplay and helps icepick Cicero in a strip club. Classy.
But I’d always wanted to do Caesar a different way—to me, the intrigue, backstabbing, ambition and greed of the Roman Senate always set me in the mind of Gordon Gecko, Wall Street, the end of the 1980s/beginning of the Nineties and all that corporate America represents. Julius—I’m sorry, JULIAN—Caesar, captain of industry, backstabbed by the bloodthirsty young executives desperate to climb the corporate ladder. How could I resist?
But a play or a comic? Tread the boards or fill the panels? In the end, I wrote it both ways.
In 2005, I was fortunate to hook up with another production company that wanted to workshop the play and after three months of sets, planning, costumes and rehearsals, AMERICAN CAESAR ran for a week at the Second Stage theatre to good reviews.
But a lot of the play had to be edited for technical reasons: on stage, we could only shatter a window so many times. We couldn’t use the technical morays involved with the presentation of Caesar’s ghost. And truthfully, the director cut out alot of my story for her own vision, casting aside scenes and conversations that wouldn’t play on stage that might on paper.
And so, to Rome.
Presently, I’m working through my second redraft of the 128 page graphic novel and while we’re making offers to a few artists, we’re stilling casting about for my collaborator. We’re hoping to have this one out next year, but it truly depends on timing, schedules and the like… but here’s a quick peek at a page:
Page 44 (5 PANELS)
Caesar turns to the table, explaining his position.
CAESAR: MALCOLM SILVER MISHANDLED DECIUS SOFTWARE; ROME LOST A FORTY-FIVE MILLION DOLLAR COMPANY TO MICROSOFT AND THOUSANDS OF JOBS WITH IT.
CAESAR: IT WAS A BUSINESS DECISION, MICHAEL, AND HAD TO BE MADE.
DAVIS (OP): THE DEADLINE WAS TIGHT, JULIAN, AND THEIR BUDGET WAS –
Caesar turns to Davis and BREUER, who are pleading. He points a finger, adamant. Cassius has his head down, staring at his lap.
CAESAR: NONE OF MY CONCERN. THAT’S SOMETHING HE SHOULD HAVE CONSIDERED.
CAESAR: I WON’T BE SWAYED ON THIS. KEEP IT UP, MICHAEL, AND YOU’LL JOIN YOUR BROTHER AT THE UNEMPLOYMENT OFFICE.
Close on a pissed Silver, hands cleched, white-knuckled.
SILVER: AND IS THAT THE SORT OF TYRANNY WE SHOULD EXPECT FROM NOW ON?
CAESAR (OP): TYRANNY?
Caesar leans in to Silver, getting in his face. Silver rises a little – they are facing off with one another.
CAESAR: THAT’S LEADERSHIP! MAKING HARD DECISIONS IS NO EASY TASK, BUT I MAKE THEM FOR THE SAKE OF THE COMPANY. HOW ELSE WILL ROME SURVIVE?
SILVER: SO LET’S BE CLEAR. THE POLICY IS ZERO TOLERANCE? FAIL, CHEAT, STEAL AND YOU’RE OUT?
Caesar pulls away, collecting himself.
CAESAR: ABSOLUTELY. EXCEPTIONS LEAD TO PRECEDENTS AND THAT LEADS TO ANARCHY. ROME WASN’T BUILT IN A DAY; YOU CAN BE DAMN SURE I WON’T LET IT FALL IN A WEEK.
DAVIS (OP): BUT JULIAN, SURELY YOU –
CAESAR: I SAID ENOUGH, DAVIS.
Neil Kleid’s AMERICAN CAESAR. Coming from NBM Publishing in the near future.