This was a project I started with the rather awesome Jack Couvela – do check out other examples of his art here : http://jackcouvela.blogspot.com/ for domestic reasons neither of us could move the project to fruitition but with Jack’s permission I’m sharing it here:
First of all our heroine
She wears a pirate headscarf which incorporates a mask over the eyes. Her hair is cut short and within the scarf. Open necked shirt with a plunging neckline with a leather waist coat worn over the top. Tight trousers with a buttons down the side in the style of Mexican bandito and Captain America style boots. She wears a short sword (in the style of a US 1917 Navy cutlass, just in case,) and has some leather pouches on her belt (wider than tall so don’t look like a Bat-Belt) – she also has leather gloves. She will have a longer coat around when she needs to disguise the costume; she will also fight crime in plain clothes.
Jane Bensaid was born into a respectable South Shields Yemeni family in 1944. Her mother was actually from County Durham and Jane had a pale complexion though she took a sun tan swiftly.
Jane was a bright girl and wanted to see the world. She was also headstrong and enjoyed sports. She found the idea of being an air hostess too much like helping out in her parents Café so she became a ‘Wren’ a member a Women’s Royal Naval Service, despite her families rejections and prejudices she encountered.
She did get to see the world getting postings around the dwindling Empire. In 1965 she was posted to the Royal Navy base at Aden – in the Yemen, the ancestral home she’d never known in the middle of ‘the Emergency’ Communist rebellion against the British. With her knowledge of the language, colouring, intelligence and initiative Jane served as an undercover agent with British Army ‘Kneei Meeni’ operations.
When the local troops mutinied in 1967 Jane was trapped in the Souk of Aden being pursued by a bloodthirsty mob. Running for her life she ran into a derelict building and fell through rotten floorboards falling into an ancient cave and upsetting a battered bronze lamp.
With the rebels breaking into the building Jane looked on in amazement as a creature of legend, a Djinn – the Djinn offered her a wish, but she would of course owe him a favour. While the braying mob got closer Jane used the resolution she had always had as a stubborn daughter.
‘Get me out of this mess’ seemed to bring no change – but as the mob attacked Jane found herself swifter, stronger and more agile. The hand to hand combat training the Navy had given her was aided by a new instinctive fighting ability. After the first 30 rebels had been knocked out the rest fled the building and Jane was able to scramble out, lamp in hand and return to British safe areas.
When the British left Aden so did Jane. She carried on in the Wrens with a cushy number in London with Naval Intelligence but being expected to make the tea, put up with pats on the arse and shuffle papers didn’t really appeal. The Sixties was dying London was stopping swinging. Shallow love affairs and the capital just capital did not appeal. Jane taking her inspiration from a favourite childhood film ‘the Crimson Pirate’ Jane took to crime fighting on the edges of the Capital.
Jane met and moonlighted as a research assistant for globe trotting mystery writer Kent Servant. Hitting her thirties she retired from the Wrens and Servant offered her accommodation at his guesthouse on his ‘Wrenhouse’ estate on the Flyde Coast just outside Blackpool as a security consultant. With some savings from her Naval service and taking on the odd private detective job Jane makes ends meet while also fighting crime in area.
She is aided by her friends – Fergal O’Shaunessy ‘FO’ – Irish ex-Royal Marine who served with her in Aden who’s working as a cab driver in Blackpool and coaches rugby & cricket for deprived neighbourhood kids. Another chum is an ex-Wren colleague Ella James who runs a local British Legion club and has all sorts of shady contacts.
Jane also has a fractious relationship with the Mr Servant’s housekeeper Hilda Henry, local busy body, Women’s institute stalwart, Chairwoman of the British Legion who seems to have had some eventful wartime career herself (SOE perhaps.)
(So much for the origin story – which isn’t the story I would want to tell – I’d prefer to have it filter in! You may notice the similarities with Magnum PI – had an idea to pastiche Magnum in 80s New Brighton for years – if it’s good enough for Greg Rucka *to do all the time it’s good enough for me – but think they’d be more going on in Blackpool in the 70s and more resonant.)
(* Queen & Country borrows freely from Sandbaggers, Gotham Central borrows heavily in tone from Homicide: Life on the Street.)
Thinking of a blag of a bookies on Grand national day – cue Sweeney action and then a ‘super villain’ who masterminded the thing turning up at the end – Blockhouse*– cue Issue 2 punch up – perhaps ending up the Blackpool Tower?
*I like the idea of a criminal mastermind wannabe ‘brick’ – imagine a square headed Ben Grimm in a velvet smoking jacket and uses a cigarette holder.
Future Plot points
- What favour does the Djinn want?
- Old Forces contacts wanting her to do jobs
- Kent Servant will have guests coming in and out of his country pile all the time (though he doesn’t stay there himself.)
- The showbiz side of Blackpool – visiting bands, comics etc; Miss Blackpool competitions and shady criminal events around that.
- Party political conferences at Blackpool
- It’s on the coat + day trippers = drug smuggling
- It’s the 70s so plenty of now quaint terrorism to fight too…