Showing posts with label Books: Richard Stark's Parker. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Books: Richard Stark's Parker. Show all posts

Monday, 11 June 2012

Books: Richard Stark's Parker

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Richard Stark's Parker
Book One: The Hunter
By Darwyn Cooke
2009




Available now from Islington Libraries
You can reserve this item for free here:
http://www.library.islington.gov.uk/TalisPrism/

Richard Stark's Parker
Book Two: The Outfit
By Darwyn Cooke
2010




Available now from Islington Libraries
You can reserve this item for free here:
http://www.library.islington.gov.uk/TalisPrism/


If Frank Miller's Sin City is crime comics as cheap gut-rot whiskey- filthy and dirty as the cracked glass it's poured into: bad news for your stomach lining but with one hell of a kick- then Parker (written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke) is an elegant and expensive martini - mixed with only the finest gin and vermouth available - served up in a fancy-looking glass and garnished with an olive skewered on a cocktail stick: yes both of contain enough alcohol to leave you completely discombobulated and both of them dwell with life on the underside of society and the unpleasantness that sort of thing entails (namely: violence, double-crossing and bending the truth until it snaps) but unlike the luggishness of Sin City - Parker does it all with a good suit, a neat haircut and a nifty sense of style.

Darwyn Cooke is a guy who's managed to build himself up a lot of love over his many years in the industry. If his bare-bones go-getting art style seems familiar then that might be because he was one of the storyboard artists for the Batman [1] and Superman The Animated Series and (altho this is a little bit after I stopped watching cartoons) he animated the main title design for Batman Beyond (which seems like the perfect thing for 12 year olds - Batman as a teenager in the future? Ha. Amazing). That animation work ended up with him creating Batman: Ego for DC Comics whose critical success acted as a springboard for a full-on comics career and lead to DC: The New Frontier which propelled him even further into dizzy heights of comics superstardom [2].

Now - when George Bush won the 2004 election he said: "I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it." And - hell - say what you like about George Bush (and lord knows I have) that sorta philosophy of using your gains in order to push things further is one that makes a lot of sense. Coming up in the comics industry the only way it seems to really get anywhere is to superhero stuff - but once you hit the top those who know tend to set their sights further afield and spend their amassed political capital- so: after Alan Moore hit it big with Watchmen he buggered off and wrote things like Big Numbers, A Small Killing and From Hell - and after everyone in the world brought The Dark Knight Returns Frank Miller let loose with Martha Washington, Hard Boiled and (hey - there it is again) Sin City. And at least for a while there [3] Darwyn Cooke did the same thing and took a bit of a leap into the unknown: stepping away from the men in tights and into the work of professional thievery (or - if you don't mind the awful wordplay: men with tights over their faces).

And that's Parker. Cooke at the top of his game - with nothing and everything to prove and going: hell - screw it: I'm going to adapt a cheap little low-down and nasty hard-boileded crime thriller from 1962 [4] and stylize it into a glamorous slice of sophistication and cool. The one description of Parker that keeps popping into my head is that he's like James Bond's dark twin: dangerous, single-minded and totally unscrupulous - only (unlike Bond) he's American and living way over on the other side of the law (in fact - from Parker's point of view - the law is just a dot on the horizon and living illegally is the only sensible life-choice going).

Over the span of these two books: Cooke does lots of showing off tasty ways to make a point. Never adverse to keeping things silent if the scene calls for it or breaking out the chunks of prose if it'll make a nice change of pace - if you like reading comics with a little savoir-vivre - then Parker is perfect company.

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[1] The Superman I don't think I ever actually watched but the Batman: The Animated Series? I think that might have been one of my favourites way back in the day (the kind of show that you'd wait to eat your cereal with - just to make it extra special). In fact I reckon that title sequence is forever etched into the deep recesses of my brain. (If you wanted to I could hum the whole song from start to end: but let's not).

[2] "In this country, you gotta make the comics first. Then when you get the comics, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women."

[3] Although since that point he has slipped a little in lots of people's estimation by deciding to take part in DC's "Before Watchmen" project and writing and drawing the Minutemen series because - hey - who cares about creators rights or respecting the integrity of blahblahblah when there's money to be made - right? My favourite fan response is the tumblr dedicated to taking quotes Cooke had previously given in interviews saying stuff like: “The work that excites me is by Bryan O’Malley. I’m dying to see Chester Brown’s new book, it’s going to be outrageous. This is the stuff to get excited about. This is where the industry is growing and making in roads back into mass culture. But most of your traditional mainstream American comic readers aren’t looking for something new. They’re just looking for something comfortable.” and “I want them to stop catering to the perverted needs of 45 year old men. […] I want to see new characters for a new time, and when the industry of superhero comics realigns its sights to the young people it was meant for, I’ll be there with both arms and feet.” and putting it below a picture of The Comedian (see here).

[4] One that had already been adapted into three (!) different films: Point Blank (1967) directed by John Boorman starring Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson; Full Contact (1992) directed by Ringo Lam starring Chow Yun-fat, Simon Yam, Anthony Wong, and Ann Bridgewater and Payback (1999) directed by Brian Helgeland and starring Mel Gibson. None of which I've (yet) seen.

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Links: Comics Alliance Interview with Darwyn Cooke, Comic Book Resources Interview with Darwyn CookeiFanboy Review of The Hunter, The Comics Journal Review of The Outfit, Grantland Article: The Many Lives of Donald Westlake.

Further reading: Red, Sin City, Button Man, DC: The New Frontier.

All comments welcome.