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SYFY WIRE Indie Comics Spotlight

Roxane Gay is bringing her feminist heist graphic novel 'The Banks' to the screen

Author Roxane Gay's multigenerational story about a family of Black thieves is getting a TV adaptation. 

By Karama Horne
The Banks Syfy Hdr

Celia Banks grew up in a wealthy suburb of Chicago with two moms, got an SUV for her 16th birthday, and a full ride to college. In other words, she comes from money — money her mother and grandmother just so happened to have stolen. Not exactly something you can put on a college application, which is exactly the discussion Celia was having with her mom when she found out she was related to two generations of professional criminals.

The Banks, written by award-winning author Roxane Gay (Bad Feminist, Black Panther: World of Wakanda), follows a family of women thieves who live by two rules — steal from those who prey on the poor and never get greedy. Featuring art from the award-winning artist Ming Doyle and colors by Jordie Bellaire, The Banks is one of the most popular comics from indie publisher TKO Studios and another popular graphic novel series headed to live action.

News Regency Productions, a division of Regency Films (Bohemian Rhapsody, The Revenant) announced last month that the production company was collaborating with TKO Studios to adapt The Banks into a TV series and that Gay would be penning the script.

The story revolves around Grandmother Clara, who helped start the "family business" when her husband Melvin invited her in on a job. The money funded the family's legacy, but after he's caught and arrested trying to save Clara on a heist gone wrong, daughter Cor grows up without him. But, when he's finally released from prison, Melvin is mysteriously murdered, and while Clara knows who's behind her father's death, she and Cor decide to keep their exploits secret to provide a normal, albeit charmed life for young Celia.

Eventually, Celia turns her back on the family to pursue a career in finance. But after being repeatedly passed over for a promotion at a high-powered firm, she uncovers a secret that will allow the family to avenge her grandfather's death and earn them the payday of their lives.

SYFY WIRE spoke with Gay about the project's inception, how the movie Set It Off inspired the screenplay, and why we need more stories about Black women simply being loved.

The Banks Cvr

Was The Banks a story that you always wanted to tell?

TKO approached me with a list of about ten stories, and one was about three generations of bank robbers who go on the heist of a lifetime. That one [caught my attention] because we don't see many heist stories involving Black women. I think the best, of course, was Set if Off, but it was so depressing at the end. So there are challenges and difficulties in this story, but the protagonists don't die, which was very important to me.

There are many parallels in this story. One of the most interesting is Celia, who at one point rejected her family to go "straight" and now works for a corrupt investment firm.

Yes, that's deliberate. When I came up with that, I knew people would look down on this family for being thieves, but let's talk about the real thieves. The Banks are pulling in pennies compared to investment banking fraud. You don't get that kind of money generally by being nice.

The Back bag 1_tko

The antagonists in the story seem to be corporate greed, racism, and generational patriarchy. Was that your intention?

For sure. I envisioned Clara as part of the tail end of The Great Migration when she comes to Chicago. Even though she's a stranger there, she has a solid sense of self, and when she meets Melvin, everything seems possible. They got to partake in some of the blessings of the mid-century that were born of the G.I. Bill, and there was a sense of possibility and change until there wasn't.

Her daughter Cor grew up with a father who spent most of her childhood incarcerated. Although she knew that he was a good father in the ways that he could be, it affected her feelings about law enforcement and softened the ground for her to be like, "You know what, I'm going to get mine with my mama."

As for Celia, because her mother and grandmother had accumulated so much wealth, she took it for granted. Of course, Celia's been around long enough to know that's unrealistic, but it's still hard to disabuse her of some of those notions.

Is that why Celia leaps from being passed over for a promotion to grand larceny so quickly?

That's Celia. Every time Celia encounters an obstacle that she knows she can't overcome, which is, in this case, corporate racism, she [lashes out]. That's why she's quick to jump on the bandwagon. That's also why Claire's reaction is, "Excuse me? Why do you think we want to work with you?" That will be a fun dynamic to play around with on the show because they don't get along. Her grandmother just thinks she's spoiled.

The Banks pg2 -TKO

Will we learn more about Cora and Aida's relationship in the show? Unfortunately, there are very few representations of Black married women onscreen.

We are absolutely going to learn more about Cora and Aida's marriage, their courtship, and how Cora shows up in this relationship pregnant. We're going to get to see more of the courtship between Melvin and Clara and Celia and her man Winston as well. The romantic relationships for all three of these women are not the sources of tension in this story. Of course, every relationship has its ups and downs, and we'll see that throughout the show. But again, let's tell stories about Black women being seen and loved and appreciated.

the banks pg 3

Who is your dream cast for The Banks women?

She's too young for the role, but I would love to see Viola Davis play Clara because she's just so phenomenal. And I would love to see Queen Latifah play Cor. I think Meagan Good would bring something interesting to Celia.

After the show is complete, will you also write another graphic novel about The Banks?

I'm open to it. I'm working on another graphic novel [with TKO] called The Ends. It's about a Black woman in Los Angeles who's a detective and finds out that she has terminal lung cancer. So she decides to become a vigilante to right all of the wrongs that she has seen in her career, first as a prosecutor and then as a detective.

The Banks is available for purchase through TKO Studios and at local comic book shops.