If you like crime fiction and caper stories, I have a pair of graphic novels that are required reading for you.
Parker is a cold criminal who is nearly killed when his wife and partner turn on him for money. Parker then methodically goes about seeking revenge, which brings him in conflict with the mob. Author Donald Westlake created the character after walking over the George Washington Bridge, where he was struck by how the cold steel bridge responded to the gusting wind and speeding cars. That speed, solidity and tension was transformed by Westlake into Parker, who debuted in the 1962 crime thriller The Hunter by Richard Stark (a pseudonym). The book was a hit and kicked off a series of crime novels starring Parker. It also inspired a number of movie adaptations (Point Blank, Full Contact, and most recently Payback starring Mel Gibson) but Westlake never allowed the use of Parker’s names in those movies, perhaps a statement that he never felt they were authentic enough. In fact Westlake has never allowed any adaptation to use the Parker name until a recent series of graphic novels.
Starting in 2009, illustrator Darwyn Cooke has been releasing graphic novels with the full approval and cooperation of Donald Westlake and his estate. Sadly Westlake didn’t live long enough to see the release of the first book, but he collaborated with Cooke during its creation. The Hunter and The Outfit are both wonderful adaptations that use the medium of comics to really enhance the feeling of being in the early 1960s, and seeing this compelling yet dangerous man named Parker go to work. Cooke uses differing storytelling devices and stylistic changes to lay out the various capers. His skills at depicting this world make for a fully engrossing and cool read.
The original plan was to adapt four books but there has already been talk of expanding it to five. The third book is expected to be The Score, where Parker joins a group of criminals for an ambitious heist of an entire town. It’s scheduled for next summer from IDW Publishing.
Never read a graphic novel before? Haven’t read a comic book in years?
Here’s some brand new stuff coming out this week that I think is worth a look-see for someone with little to no history with comics. That means you should be able to pick any of these up cold without having read anything else. So take a look and see if something doesn’t grab your fancy. If so, follow the publisher links or Amazon.com links to buy yourself a copy. Or, head to your local friendly comic book shop.
Disclaimer: While it may seem like it, I do not live in the future. For the most part, I have not read these yet, so I can’t vouch for their quality. But, from what I’ve heard and seen, odds are good they just might appeal to you.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep #1 – $3.99
By Philip K. Dick & Tony Parker
32 pages; published by Boom! Studios
THE BOOK THAT INSPIRED THE FILM BLADE RUNNER COMES TO BOOM with backmatter by Warren Ellis!
Worldwide best-selling sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick’s award-winning DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? has been called “a masterpiece ahead of its time, even today” and served as the basis for the film BLADE RUNNER. BOOM! Studios is honored to present the complete novel transplanted into the comic book medium, mixing all new panel-to-panel continuity with the actual text from the novel in an innovative, ground-breaking 24-issue maxi-series experiment!
San Francisco lies under a cloud of radioactive dust. The World War has killed millions, driving entire species to extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remained coveted any living creature, and for people who couldn’t afford one, companies built incredibly realistic fakes: horses, birds, cats, sheep… even humans. Rick Deckard is an officially sanctioned bounty hunter tasked to find six rogue androids — they’re machines, but look, sound, and think like humans – clever, and most of all, dangerous humans. Rick Deckard, Pris, The Voight-Kampff Test, Nexus 6 androids, the Tyrell Corporation: join us for the publishing event of the year!
Oh and the by the way, this story inspired the movie Blade Runner.
Interesting idea. Usually when something is adapted to comic book, there’s a writer to re-work the source material. But this comic is apparently taking the original novel word-for-word and having an artist illustrate it out. Here’s a preview, so you can get a feel of what this will be like in execution. I’m not completely sold on the concept but I like that it’s something different, and it’s worth noting. And I’m sure sci-fi fans will want to check this out.
Creepy Comics #1 – $4.99
By a bunch of people
48 pages; published by Dark Horse Comics
What’s black and white and clawing its way onto your reading list? It’s the newly resurrected Creepy, of course! Now, don’t fret, my putrid pets — these new terror tales are cut from the same cursed cloth as the outlandish originals, telling contemporary horror stories with gorgeously ghoulish art from a lineup that’ll make you lose your head!
Original Creepy artist Angelo Torres teams up with devilish Dan Braun on “Hell Hound Blues”; Michael Woods and artist Saskia Gutekunst serve up a dose of “Chemical 13″; Neil Kleid and Brian Churilla provide “All the Help You Need” at a weird weight-loss camp; and jaundiced Jason Shawn Alexander brings his phenomenal painting skills to Joe Harris’s “The Curse”! Plus Bernie Wrightson, the return of “Loathsome Lore,” and more. All this, plus one classic story from Uncle Creepy’s dank dungeon, and you’ve got 48 freakish pages of terror to bring home to mummy!
In 1964, Creepy magazine resurrected the horror genre (huge in the ’50s) using a massively talented collection of artists and writers. Dark Horse is now resurrecting that resurrection. A bit derivative? Maybe. But modern comics have a host of very talented individuals who have injected new life into today’s horror stories in comics. Here’s a preview.
The Hunter, the first book in the Parker series, is the story of a man who hits New York head-on like a shotgun blast to the chest. Betrayed by the woman he loved and double-crossed by his partner in crime, Parker makes his way cross-country with only one thought burning in his mind—to coldly exact his revenge and reclaim what was taken from him!
Darwyn Cooke, the Eisner-Award-winning writer/artist of such classics as DC: The New Frontier, Selina’s Big Score, and The Spirit, now sets his artistic sights on bringing to life one of the true classics of crime fiction: Richard Stark’s Parker. Stark was a pseudonym used by the revered and multi-award-winning author, Donald Westlake.
Darwyn Cooke is fantastic. Here’s a preview. Classic hard-boiled crime. I can’t wait to get this.
Franklin Richards: School’s Out – $3.99
By Chris Eliopoulos
32 pages; published by Marvel Comics
Enough of the pencils, enough of the books, enough of teacher’s dirty looks! It’s summertime and school is out of session which gives Franklin more time to get into trouble. Join Franklin, his robot nanny, H.E.R.B.I.E., his teleporting dog, Puppy, in more adventures and laughs. Put on your shorts and come out and play!
This fun all-ages read is like if Calvin & Hobbes took place in the super-hero filled Marvel Universe. Lots of fun yet smart enough for older readers too.
That’s it for this week.