It Ain’t No More To It: “When a fresh faced guy in a Chevy offered him a lift, Parker told him to go to hell.”

April 28th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

started at the top of Saul Williams’s “Banged and Blown Through.” 2334 on 04.25.11. images from brian azzarello and eduardo risso’s 100 Bullets Vol. 8: The Hard Way. you can start with issue 1 for ninety-nine cents, though.

Cape comics are nice and all, but my favorite types of comics feature real people doing real things. Crime comics and war comics are what really float my boat, for whatever reason. Sci-fi and fantasy are okay, but never really manage to hold my interest for long. I like seeing people in these books that could live next door, but have this insane other life.

Crime comics are a sorely underserved genre. There’s a lot of crime in cape comics, sure, but that’s not really the same thing. My ideal crime comic would probably read like Elmore Leonard, James Ellroy, Richard Stark, or Dashiell Hammett doing comics. Where cape comics are flashy and make a splash, crime comics are the ones that are a little dirtier, and a lot more down to Earth. People get shot and die, punches hurt, and the dialogue is punchy or mean.

In terms of crime comics, I like them spare, more often than not. The ones that descend into two-fisted gunfights, intense acrobatics, suicide charges that the hero lives through… all of that is sorta bland. It turns it into an action movie, rather than something measured and realistic. I like it when a punch in the face ruins someone’s whole day, or when the violence is inexpert and awkward. You can be trained to shoot guns with deadly accuracy, sure. At the same time, that can be a little boring, can’t it? I like people who mess up.

My favorite crime character is Richard Stark’s Parker, though I don’t know that Stark is my favorite writer, crime or otherwise. I like the spare, stripped down nature of him. He likes money and women, in that order, and he pulls jobs so that he has money to get women. Everything else is just part of the job. Not to say that he hasn’t pulled off some impossible stuff before–Slayground is essentially Home Alone in an amusement park and there’s one book where him and some friends rob an entire town–but when you get down to it, Parker is just a guy who’s talented at what he does. And that happens to be hurting or robbing people.

I liked Sherlock Holmes a lot as a kid. I loved the whole idea of solving mysteries being like unlocking a puzzle. Once you had all the pieces, it was simply a matter of looking at them from the right perspective. All it took was smarts and you could do anything. I don’t remember many specifics about Holmes any more, and it’s been years since I revisited Arthur Conan Doyle’s work, but I still love the idea of him. The Robert Downey Jr movie was pretty okay, but more action-oriented than I’d have liked.

I liked Holmes, but I loved Encyclopedia Brown. That kid was amazing to me. Sherlock Holmes Plus.

A lot of comics tend to screw up the violence. It’s action movie violence, which is great for a two hour picture, but not necessarily good for comics. I like when it gets visceral and personal. One guy fighting thirty ninjas is boring. One guy fighting his brother is great. Give me stakes I can believe in, stakes that go higher than just “If he loses, he dies.” Give me blood and give me tears.

Not say that there’s no place for stylized violence. The other day on Twitter, I said that “I mostly just want stuff where men and women (or ninjas) of visibly legal age wear suits, smoke cigarettes, and kill people.” It’s glib, but it’s also kinda sorta true. I love that whole Rat Pack/mobster/Mad Men aesthetic, and the thought of gentleman thieves is one that I can never let go of. Stylish people doing stylish things is a fetish.

Cigarette smoke is bad for you or whatever, but it’s also one of the best visuals I can think of. You can do a lot with that, from a melancholy moll to a weary hitter. If you know what you’re doing, it can be immensely powerful, you know?

I’m a big fan of Lupin the 3rd. He’s a take on the gentleman thief that I can really get down with. He steals because he’s good at it and because he likes money. His heists are increasingly ridiculous, and he’s chased by a bumbling oaf of a cop. Lupin the 3rd is pretty comedic, but the actual heist portions are always fun. He’s sort of how I wish they’d portray the Riddler in the Batman comics. He does it because he’s good at it, not because he’s a villain. If you’ve got a talent, flex it. Why not?

Another thing I dig about crime stories is the way the conflict between good vs evil plays out. It’s rarely as simple as black and white, and sometimes, morality blurs under the weight of reality. Sometimes a guy just needs to feed his family, and sometimes a cop has to feed his smack habit.

Crime comics/stories can be ugly and mean, but I love them.

I love war comics, too, though my taste in that has gotten very specific very quickly. I like them pared down and lean. Big battle scenes are no good, and one superman vs a faceless horde isn’t my thing. I like my war comics personal, and from the point of view of the man on the ground or his girl back home. The sort of stories where officers are corrupt and ineffectual, and the only real men are the ones with blood on their bayonet.

I eat up Garth Ennis’s war comics with a spoon. He’s got a take that I love, one that’s reverent of the men who do the work but scornful of the fact that the work itself exists. There’s this strong strain of hate for the war industry in his comics, the people who profit off bullets and bombs and blood. He’s concerned about the people, rather than the politics, and that makes for good reading. The people in his comics are everyday people pushed to do extraordinary things for sickeningly ordinary reasons.

“Spare” is my watchword, apparently. It’s something I try to do in life. Keeping things as simple and free of flourish as possible is something I try to practice, both in my writing and real life. “I deal with the real, so if it’s artificial, let it be,” right? I like when crime and war tales strip away the fat and just show us the meat and bone. Why are these people doing this? How is it going to affect them? Why do we put them into this?

Cape comics tend to work in the opposite direction. Heroes fight as soon as they team-up because the genre demands it. The villain who just spent a year terrorizing everyone in the country gets punched out, sometimes on live TV, and that’s supposed to be some type of closure any reasonable person can live with. Nobody ever gets stomped out. They just “do battle.”

That’s good, up until a point, but sometimes I just want to see people react to violence like normal people. Seeing somebody get shot is traumatic. Getting punched in the face sticks with you. There’s not enough of that in cape comics, but war and crime tales tend to keep me satisfied.

finished at the end of David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream.” 0001 on 04.26.11

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Fourcast! 40: The Sinner with the Getaway Face

April 12th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

-Two books!
-Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’s Criminal: The Sinners.
-Darwyn Cooke’s The Man With the Getaway Face.
(-The Sinners hits comic shops in trade form this week, make sure you pick it up. Phillips killed on art.)
-We talk about the difference between Parker and other crime heroes.
-We talk about the sociopolitical aspects of crime fiction, vis a vis feminism and racism, filtered through the lens of Parker’s ’50s-era setting and the city without pity of Criminal.
-In other words, we discuss how to deal with overt or covert sexism or racism in crime comics.
-In other other words, is it better to be treated equally and shot by Parker, or treated unequally and condescended to by Tracy Lawless?
-Also, how much noir drama is too much? Just ask Daredevil how running Gitmo: New York City is going.
-We’re gonna spoil one or both of the books for you, but c’mon. The Man With the Getaway Face is based on a forty-year old story and you should already be reading Criminal. No excuses.
-6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental for the theme music.
-You’ll never catch us alive, copper!

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Eisner Nominations are out!

April 8th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

A lot of quality books got nods this year. Naoki Urasawa got five nominations, and Darwyn Cooke, Ed Brubaker, and Mark Waid got three a-piece. I’m very pleased to see more and more manga represented in non-manga categories, because ghettoizing it is dumb. It’s just comics, baby. If you don’t know Urasawa, click here and get to scrolling. I’ve got something cooking on Pluto 8, but that’s a few days away at the earliest. For Darwyn Cooke’s Parker: The Hunter, click here.

There’s a lot of cool stuff in here, including several books I have not read, but will be reading asap. I also want to point out the Eisner nomination for Laura Hudson’s Comics Alliance, a site I freelance for, making me 1/15th Eisner nominated! Congrats, Laura. You deserved the nom, and you definitely deserve the Eisner.

It’s so nice that nothing like Justice League of America #11, the Brad Meltzer/Rags Morales story that got an Eisner a few years back got nominated. You know the story, it had Arsenal and Vixen trapped in a building that was underwater, but they were too dumb to realize they were upside down? Yeah, that was kind of a lame win for DC. This year, though, there’s nothing like tha

Best Single Issue (or One-Shot)

  • Brave & the Bold #28: “Blackhawk and the Flash: Firing Line,” by J. Michael Straczynski and Jesus Saiz (DC)


Click here to check out the official list of Eisners, or just hit the jump, where I got my copy/paste on.
Read the rest of this entry �

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The Man With the Giveaway Face

April 5th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

The Outfit is the latest volume of Darwyn Cooke’s ongoing adaptation of Donald Westlake/Richard Stark’s series of books starring Parker. Last year’s The Hunter made most of the Best Of lists. We did a podcast on it, I reviewed it, and Tucker Stone tells you exactly why you should read it. If you haven’t read it… get with it, mayne, it’s only sixteen bucks. Skip the Siege and Brightest Day tie-ins, they’ll be there when you get back.

The Man With the Getaway Face is a prelude to The Outfit. It’s the first chapter of the novel, a story complete unto itself, and is a great lead-in to what’s sure to be a great work. Westlake and Cooke are masters at what they do and IDW knows how to package a book. October feels far away, but Cooke’s adaptation of The Man With the Getaway Face has me convinced that The Outfit will be just as good, if not better, than The Hunter.

Here’s an excerpt from The Outfit, which is one of my most favorite bits of writing. You can see this scene with Robert Duvall in the Parker role, playing a man named Macklin, in 1973’s The Outfit, but I think the book still wins out for sheer poetry.

The receptionist knew that no one was supposed to come behind the desk. If anyone tried to without permission, she was to push the button on the floor under her desk. But this time she didn’t even think of the button. She reached, instead, for the package. Suddenly, the mailman grabbed her wrist, yanked her from the chair, and hurled her into a corner. She landed heavily on her side, knocking her head against the wall. When she looked up dazed, the mailman had an automatic trained on her. “Can you scream louder than this gun?” he said in a low voice.

She stared at the gun. She couldn’t have screamed if she’d wanted to. She couldn’t even breathe.

The outer door opened and the four men came in, two carrying shotguns, and two machine guns. The girl couldn’t believe it, it was like something in the movies. Gangsters carried machine guns back in 1930. There was no such thing as a machine gun in real life. Machine guns and Walt Disney mice, all make-believe.

The mailman put his gun away under his coat, and removed the mailbag from his shoulder. He took cord from the mail sack and tied the receptionist’s hands and feet. She gaped at him unbelievingly as he tightened the knots. They were in the wrong office, she thought. It might be a television show shooting scenes on location, they must have wanted the office next door and these men had come into the wrong place. It must be a mistake.

The mailman gagged her with a spare handkerchief as one of the other men brought the two musical instrument cases and two briefcases in from the outside hall. The mailman took the briefcases. The men with the machine guns led the way. They all walked down the inner hall and stopped at the door next to the book-keeping room. The mailman opened the door, and all five of them boiled into the room.

This was the room where the alarm buzzer would have rung if the receptionist had remembered to ring it. Four men in brown uniforms wearing pistols and Sam Browne belts, were sitting at a table playing poker. They jumped up when the door burst open, then they all froze. They believed in machine guns.

The Man With the Getaway Face is the only look you’ll get at The Outfit until its release in October.

Except… I have two extra copies of the The Man With the Getaway Face oversized preview. So, who wants them? Who is ready to work for them? Here are the terms. You need to give me answers to one of the three prompts below this paragraph. Use your real name when you answer, not your pseudonym. Make sure your email address is legit, too. And please be from the United States– overseas shipping is pricey.

1) What is your favorite scene from a book Darwyn Cooke drew, wrote, or created on his own? Why is it your favorite?
2) What is your favorite scene from a crime comic, movie, or novel, and why? Make sure to tell me the title, author, and actors involved, depending on the medium.
3) Tell me why you liked The Hunter.

Sound good? Hit the comments, let’s get it going.

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Darwyn Cooke’s Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter

September 18th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

There are three books all comics readers should be forced to read this year, at gunpoint if necessary. One is David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp. It’s the kind of book you read a couple times, discuss with your friends, and dig into to figure out what it really means. The second is Naoki Urasawa’s Pluto. Pluto re-contextualizes a children’s character for an adult audience and creates a compelling work that inspires complicated emotional reactions and rewards careful reading. The third is Darwyn Cooke’s Parker: The Hunter, which presents a classic revenge tale in a new format and is just an all-around great read.

Richard Stark’s The Hunter is a classic novel and an almost archetypal revenge tale. Man is wronged by his partner and his woman, has his money stolen, and is on a quest to get it back, no matter the consequences. The titular hunter is Parker, no other name given, and he is, almost to a fault, a professional crook.

Cooke’s adaptation a word for word transplant of the novel into comic form, nor the rote adaptation of a work you’d see other companies hack out to secure a quick buck. Cooke took the book, examined what worked as a novel, figured out what would work as a comic, and, well, he did it and he succeeded.

There are two two-page spreads in The Hunter, which are roughly 80 pages away from each other. The first of two two-page spreads opens the book with an overhead shot of a city, with “New York City 1962” stamped on top of it. The second spread is inevitable, something we all knew was coming and eager to see. Parker finally locates and gets a chance to get his hands on Mal, who has literally been caught sleeping.

thehunter_02That first spread is a starter’s pistol, as the next 80-some pages build up directly to the second spread. We see Parker’s long walk into the city and solvency, a largely wordless sequence save for a couple of muttered insults. While the wordlessness is nice, the real thing to pay attention to is Parker’s reaction to society.

He blends in very well. People, innocent people, offer him rides, give him blushing looks, and proposition him. He’s large and imposing, but he isn’t immediately identified as trouble. He’s enticing. Parker’s reaction to all this, though, is contempt at every turn. He tells the man who offers him a ride to “go to hell,” he walks down the middle of the bridge, he hops a subway turnstile, and he bums a smoke off a cute waitress before blowing the smoke in her face and leaving. Parker’s an outlaw. He’s got no place in proper society, and he doesn’t want one. He knows that he can take what he wants and, with proper planning, get away with it.

When the words come back, Parker’s reintroduction to the world is over and he’s all business from there on out. There’s little to no emotion to be found, and Cooke’s art reflects that. He doesn’t break from a strict grid for action shots or cool poses. It just hits, one after the other- bam-bam-bam.

When the grid finally breaks, it’s due to a change in the story. Parker’s flashback of his betrayal forces the words and the art into separate boxes, giving both room to breath and stretch their legs. They snap back to the grid soon after, though, and the story proceeds apace.

The first spread comes before books one and two. Book one is Parker’s reintroduction, while book two features the last days of the traitor, Mal. The second spread is the last image in book two, and it’s Parker coming through the window for Mal’s throat.

While the first two books were far from actionless, the second spread sets the stage for the rest of the book. Parker is within spitting distance of his target, and from here on out there is only going to be violence and death. Book three is the chase, and culminates in the end of Mal Resnick.

TheHunter_01Mal’s death, despite being a big deal, is treated as economically as the rest of the book. There’s no grand struggle, no promises, nothing. There is just a man and his big hands wrapped around the throat of the man who wronged him. Cooke is telling a story first and foremost, and everything is subject to that. Dialogue is to the point, the art enhances what’s going on. Characters act through facial expressions and body language. When Parker twists the filter off a cigarette, that’s character. When he slouches on a couch to sleep and awakes from his nightmare, you can see the malice in his pose.

Even the art style is economical. Black, white (though really an off-white/cream, due to the paper), and brushed green are the only colors you’ll find in Parker: The Hunter. Nothing stands in the way of the story that Cooke is telling. The limited palette gives the book a different feel than your normal black and white affair. It feels murky, not in a muddled art sense, but in the sense of a tale that’s nice and grimy. It’s dirty and thick, with some panels colored in completely and others decorated by splashes of green.

I think part of why I love The Hunter so much is because it doesn’t mess around at all. Each page is packed with info, whether there are words on it or not, and the grid is only broken for very specific reasons. The fact that it’s in a grid makes it very easy to read, but it also gives it an inevitable feel. The book moves along at a rapid pace, building up momentum toward Parker’s revenge like a snowball rolling down a hill, and you can’t escape from it any more than Mal can.

Parker: The Hunter is a page turner. You start it and you burn through it, and you’re left feeling satisfied and thirsty for more. The art and the story came together in a way that resulted in an excellent adaptation that’s extremely faithful, but still different enough to stand on its own. I read over a dozen of Stark’s Parker novels in the month or two leading up to Parker: The Hunter’s release, but this book still felt as fresh as a new Caddy. This is how you do an adaptation.

Three books: Asterios Polyp, Pluto, and Parker: The Hunter. As far as I’m concerned, Best of the Year is a three-way tie.

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Portfolio Review: Darwyn Cooke

September 15th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Darwyn Cooke, cartoonist.

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Fourcast! 16: The Hunter

September 14th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Because YOU demanded it! David and Esther talk about Darwyn Cooke’s adaptation of Richard Stark’s The Hunter, which was published (and recently reprinted) by IDW Publishing. We talk about the book, its plot, its titular character, the adaptation itself, and a number of other things before finally closing out on a bit about graphic novels careful listeners may have heard before…

Short and sweet this week, because I’ve got a dentist’s appointment in three hours! However, keep an eye on the site over the next three or four days, as this isn’t the only Darwyn Cooke-centric thing due up! Assuming I don’t die at the dentist’s spot, anyway.

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Joe Casey Fanclub Linkblogging

August 5th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

It’s been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you…

Here’s some catchup for you, Joe Casey Fanclub style-

-I joined my Joe Casey Fanclub gang on The Factual Opinion‘s Television of the Weak a couple weeks ago. Thrill as I talk about Leverage, the last TV show I watch! You can read the first entry here and click on through to the second. Read the third here. Just wait until Matthew Brady gets back on the Television of the Weak train. That’s the Comics Blogger Death Squad right there.

-Speaking of Matthew Brady… that guy has been on fire lately. He’s finally finished 100 Bullets, and he came with the big guns in “100 Bullets: Everyone dies in a flurry of arrows” and “100 Bullets: My only friend, the end.” On top of that, he’s doing these Jack Kirby flashback posts that rock my world. In “No goddling! No faltering! No whining!,” he’s got a great big panel, and then a wonderful sequence of Big Barda nonchalantly destroying things while Scott Free quips, and then a look at Holocaust imagery that Kirby used in his 4th World. He’s also got “Wow! Get that Orwell ‘double think!’ I’ve read ‘1984’–It sounds nastier–when spoken!” This is another flashback piece, and just as good as the rest.

If you aren’t reading him, you should be. Here, I’ll make it easy– here’s his blog and here’s his rss.

Comixology‘s Comics app for iPhone/iPod Touch is pretty great. Just saying. I haven’t gotten a chance to see Longbox yet, though.

Tucker Stone and Jog wrote my favorite reviews of The Hunter. Tucker’s is here and Jog’s is here. Neither of them approach it like a normal review (here’s the art, here’s the words, here are some opinions, in conclusion…) and the reviews are all the better for it.

Sean Witzke‘s found a couple awesome things lately. There’s James Brown reading Werewolf by Night and ALL CAPS, an idea that I totally wish I’d thought of first. If something similar appears here, don’t be too surprised. Sorry, Sean! Ideaspace! Information wants to be free!

-Advanced Common Sense Episode 4:

In non-JSCF news–

-Laura Hudson wrote an excellent post on the direct market over at Comics Alliance. You should definitely read it sooner rather than later.
-You should read Charlie Huston‘s Twitter. He’s writing a story. Start from the bottom.

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San Diego Comic-con

July 23rd, 2009 Posted by david brothers

I’m here! And judging by my voice mails, Esther is here, too!

I’m going to be walking the floor today, attending only a few panels. Here’s a brief list:

10:30-11:30 Science Fiction That Will Change Your Life— The staff of io9.com, Eisner Award–winning author Douglas Wolk (Reading Comics), and others talk about science fiction from the last year that does more than blow things up. It might also blow your mind. What science fiction should you be reading and watching if you want your brain to grow so big it pops out of the top of your skull and starts throbbing and shooting lasers? The panelists have some tips. Room 8

12:30-1:30 Crime: Usual and Unusual— The heart of crime fiction is a crime committed against people or institutions—but the range of subgenres is diverse and fascinating. Panelists: Max Allan Collins (The Goliath Bone), Jeffrey J. Mariotte (Cold Black Hearts), Alexander Irvine (Buyout), Gregg Hurwitz (Trust No One), Thomas Greanias (The Atlantis Revelation), and Kat Richardson (Vanished) cover traditional mysteries, espionage, paranormal mystery, and more. Moderator: Maryelizabeth Hart, Mysterious Galaxy. Room 3

2:00-3:00 A Darker Shade of Ink: Crime and Noir in Comics— Crime comics are back with a bang! Darwyn Cooke (Parker: The Hunter), Greg Rucka (Gotham Central), and Steve Lieber (Whiteout) join moderator/noted mystery and comics writer Max Allan Collins (The Road to Perdition) to talk about the new incarnations of crime and noir in comics. Room 5AB

5:30-6:30 All-Stars of Comics Podcasting— Comics podcasting has grown from a novelty to a force within the industry, providing an outlet for reviews, interviews, news and general entertainment for comic book fans. Comic book podcasting veterans Jimmy Aquino (Comics News Insider), Charlito (Indie Spinner Rack), Brian “Pants” Christman (Comic Geek Speak), Bob Bretall (Comic Book Page—who will be giving away comics to the first 200 people to attend the panel), and Ron Richards (iFanboy) discuss the future of comics podcasting. You never know what may happen in podcasting, so be sure to come as some surprise guests may be appearing! Plus this is your chance to meet and talk to your favorite podcasters! Room 32AB

If you see me, say hello. I’m sure Esther will be at every DC-related panel ever. You can email me or twitter at me if you like.

I’ve pretty much got everything I want out of the con, as you can see here.

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Hunting for The Hunter

July 15th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

I’m a huge Darwyn Cooke fan, and a big Richard Stark fan, and I was going to read and review The Hunter today. Except Amazon is sold out and I can’t get a copy until apparently August 10th.

So, yeah, don’t hold your breath on that one. I’d still kill a man for this dang book, but I guess I’ll have to wait.

If you see it, buy it. I’m positive it’s gonna be good.

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