A History of Rose Madder, Part 1: A Love-Gone-Wrong-Song

Rose2 color

OUTLINE-ROSE MADDER-“Is That All There Is”
ACT I
1) New York City-The Present
a) Open on the white, wintery sky. We hear “Heat Wave” by Martha and the Vendellas. Pan down to reveal the city in snowy splendor.
b) More of the city. Visible holiday decorations and displays. End on the apartment window of Rose Madder. The alarm clock is buzzing. 1) Rose is a woman in her mid-twenties; out of school, overeducated, unemployed and somewhat adrift.
c) Inside her bedroom. Rose is face down on the bed, asleep. Rose’s calico cat Sienna (short for “Burnt Sienna”) sits on her back, licking the back of her neck. He’s hungry. Drowsy, Rose is at once amused, annoyed, and slightly aroused by the action.
d) Rose forces herself awake. Montage of Rose’s morning routine: shuffling around in pajamas, she feeds the cat, pees, takes some medication, smokes a cigarette. Emphasis on the mundaneness of her ritual.
1) We see a little of her apartment. It’s underfurnished, yet cluttered with books, magazines, newspapers. A few storage boxes, as if Rose has just moved in (she hasn’t). Rose is a little slovenly–not a slob, but unconcerned with the idea of “presentability”. A cello in its case sits in one corner of her bedroom. Ashtrays are everywhere.

About ten years ago I began developing what would become Rose Madder. Originally intended as a graphic novel that would never be noticed in the over-steroided world of comics in the ’90s, Rose Madder has, over the decade, morphed into an animation series pitch, a manga-fied short story, and a fictional blog, before it went full circle and back into graphic novel form–all without actually ever being published, more or less (more on that later).

(The above excerpt is from a treatment I wrote for the above-mentioned series pitch, by the way, from around 2002-3.)

Loosely based on some real-life events and people, my initial idea was to come up with an anti-romance, or, as Thomas Dolby once put it, a love-gone-wrong-song. A story about two people who are perfect for each other, which is why they are utterly wrong for each other.  I wanted, in a way, to reinvent the romance comic for the 21st century, but not in that indie comix, navel-gazing “I’m a loser, so why don’t you kill me” style.  I wanted to do something with all the high drama of mainstream entertainment;  clever, but accessable, that might appeal to a smart adolescent or teen who wants to read about relationships. But, because I’m not a sentimental person, filtered throughout with a healthy amount of skepticism and cynicism to keep me from going into a diabetic coma during its creation.

Keep in mind, this was ten years ago, before manga broke big and created that market that was a pipe dream just a few years earlier. Before the the advent of very capable western creators like Bryan Lee O’Malley who hit the ground running with romances like the Scott Pilgrim series, full of youthful energy and humor that I certainly couldn’t match, and wouldn’t dare to compete with. Before webcomics broadened the appeal of different genres to a new generation of readers.  All of this started to happen while I sat on my story and kind of lived with it for a long time before ever committing anything to paper.

And somewhere along the way, as I was meditating over Rose Madder, it began to mutate into something a little weird.

In Part 2, I go manga.

Below: chiibi Rose and Tarpit, from 2005.
RoseTarpit2A RoseTarpit2B
Rose Madder is © 2009 A.L. Baroza