Thing a day


23rd Letter

A Few More Scenes

It’s been fun to deconstruct the screenplay of The 23rd Letter and present scenes out of order, and it’s been fantastic to see Patrick visualize and bring the words into pictures.

I don’t want to give away the ending, you’ll have to wait for the graphic novel and the film, but let’s just say it’s groundbreaking, and involves the whales, a volcano, and an earthquake, among other earth-shattering events!

Here are a few other scenes:

  1. A mysterious and possibly magical monkey frees Dexter from the ship’s hold where Shiyama’s cultists have imprisoned him.
  2. Dexter and Shiyama duke it out in the desert outside Jerusalem, in the midst of the war.
  3. Lola meets an old Turkish man who takes her into Israeli waters by piyade (a small boat).

I salute all the creative Thing a Day contributors!

Stephen Billias


The 23rd Letter and the Middle East

A big question for me is how will people react to a graphic novel about war in the Middle East? Even though the story is whimsical, it involves talking whales and a miracle at the end, it’s still about Israel and Palestine, and the ever tense situation in the Middle East.  Will people accept the idea that you can treat this story as magical, and not have to meet the standards of a high-tech thriller or a dark apocalyptic vision?  Our story is, ultimately, one of hope. Is there room for hope among the conflicts, clashes, and brutality of the current situation?  These are big questions, and the answers will come when we put our vision out there as a graphic novel, and later as a film.

Where We’re Going

During Thing a Day month in February, we’ve been posting snippets from the screenplay of The 23rd Letter, to accompany artist Patrick McColley’s illustrations for the graphic novel we’re writing of the story.  Without giving away the whole plot, so far we’ve revealed that a mysterious rabbi sends our hero Dexter Sinister on  a mission to find the missing letter and sound. Dexter’s psychic daughter Rachel is on a trip to Israel when Japanese fanatic Shiyama’s Shidoists blow up the Dome of the Rock, precipitating a Middle East conflict that they hope will bring on the apocalypse.  The whole Dexter Sinister family including Dex’s wife Lola Corolla will be involved in the events culminating in the midst of an Arab-Israeli war. There  a few subplots we haven’t delved into yet, like the boyhood friendship between Israel Dan Epstein and Arab leader Ras Mohamed. Maybe we’ll get to those before the end of this year’s Thing a Day. But we’ll have to hold back on revealing the exciting resolution to the screenplay, when the whales arrive in the Mediterranean by parachute and…gotta save something for the movie!

Day Ten: Whales and parachutes

photo (4)

From a camera trailing behind them we see the rear of the tanks come down and a cascade of water, followed by the whales, harnessed in enormous parachutes of the kind used to slow the descent of space capsules…

Dexter, The 23rd Letter, and The 36

The 23rd Letter is the second story by Billias and Lanson to use Dexter Sinister, “cosmic detective”, as its hero.  The first story is The 36, also based on Jewish folkore.  In The 36, Dexter has to find and bring together the Thirty-Six Just Men of legend, to restore order a world that is getting wildly out of balance.  Check out Seeking the 36, where you can watch a free half-hour documentary using the same ideas in non-fiction. The 36 is based on the novel Quest for the 36 by Billias and a screenplay by Billias and Lanson that was optioned twice by production companies but never produced.

We’re excited that Patrick McColley has decided to make a graphic novel version of The 23rd Letter !

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