[Editor’s Note: The story of “Inky” Grant and his comic strip will appear here every week or two (or sometimes three). Read the whole saga from the beginning, if you wish.]
I am a genius, the cartoonist Inky Grant wrote in his diary. I am an earth-shaking, staggering, monumental genius.
And then this:
No one will work with me. No one respects my integrity, the purity of my vision. If my idea for a science fiction comic book is to have life, I will need to bring it to life myself.
In late 1923, as the New Year dawned, Inky had hit rock bottom. Drunk, drug-addled, alienated, broke … but inspired. He felt certain that his new idea for a long-form “comic book” could catch on, that his idea for a depiction of the outrageous world a hundred years in the future would sell in the millions, and that it would inspire films and stage shows, and more.
Which meant that he needed money to print the first issue of his “comic book” himself, in volume. He would go from newsstand to newsstand across the city and into New Jersey. He would advertise. He would make this a success.
He had wired the motion picture star John Gilbert, with whom he had recently struck up a superficial and drunken friendship, offering him a role in the inevitable “Starguards” film but asking for an investment; and he left a message with the telephone answering service of “the Girl Who is Too Beautiful,” Barbara La Marr, with whom he had recently struck up a superficial and drunken love affair, telling her that something big was brewing.
He waited three weeks.
In the meantime, he drew panels every day and every night. As he waited for word from Barbara and Gilbert, his mood grew darker, and his vision of 2023 grew more bleak. Nearly a month passed. At last he gave up.
No one would fund his project, because funding his project meant talking to Inky Grant, which no one wanted to do. No one would help him. Not even the starlet who had recently slept in his bed, nor the motion picture legend with whom he had recently vomited.
That decides it, he concluded. I have no friends. The people I thought were my friends are not. I float defenseless and alone in a hostile universe. I cannot remain defenseless. Crime it is. Crime it shall be. Crime is my friend.
Purse-snatching and pickpocketing would no longer suffice. He needed bigger and better crimes.
So he did what one should never, ever, ever do.
He called his brother-in-law.