Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter - Darwyn Cooke

Like many fans of hardboiled and noir fiction, I’ve read most of the novels about the professional thief Parker that Donald E. Westlake wrote under the name Richard Stark. They’re great books, and one of these days I’ll catch up on the ones I haven’t read. But the idea of adapting one of them into a graphic novel probably never would have occurred to me.

Luckily, it occurred to Darwyn Cooke, who took the first Parker novel, THE HUNTER, and turned it into an excellent graphic novel of the same name. Cooke’s art is distinctive, to say the least, and it works very well here. He’s made the wise decision to set his adaptation in 1962, the era in which the source novel was published, and he does a fine job of capturing the feel of the early Sixties. Also, although it’s been a good while since I read the book and I don’t remember all the details, the script strikes me as a very faithful version that uses a lot of Westlake’s dialogue and narration. And man, does it move fast, just like Westlake’s novel.

There’s not much to say about this one. I liked it a lot. If you’re a fan of the Parker novels and haven’t read it yet, you really should.


Chris said...

This is a book I credit with opening the door to crime fiction for me. It led me to actual Parker novels by Stark, and from there into so much more. I love Darwyn Cooke's art. I know he is following up this GN with The Man with the Getaway Face later this year. I don't know how many Stark books he's going to adapt, but I say keep 'em coming!

As a comics fan, James, you might think about checking out the miniseries he did called DC: The New Frontier. This is from wikipedia that explains what it's all about:

Cooke's next project was the ambitious DC: The New Frontier (2004), a six issue miniseries which sought to tell an epic storyline bridging the gap between the end of the golden and the start of the silver age of comic books in the DC Universe. The story, which was set in the 1950s, featured dozens of super-hero characters and drew inspiration from the comic books and movies of the period as well as from Tom Wolfe's non-fiction account of the start of the US Space Program The Right Stuff. The major DC characters are introduced in The New Frontier in the same order that DC originally published them, even down to the correct month and year in the story's timeline. In 2005, Cooke won an Eisner Award for "Best Limited Series", and a Joe Shuster Award for "Outstanding Canadian Comic Book Cartoonist" for his work on the series.

I think it's very well done. They even released it on DVD as part of their animated series of movies. Even THAT format for it is pretty good. Fun stuff!

Richard R. said...

Wow, I've got to lay hands on this one. It's available now, you say? When was it published?

James Reasoner said...

I read the first volume of THE NEW FRONTIER from the library but never saw the second one. I'll have to hunt down both volumes. I like Cooke's art a lot. I have a collection of his Spirit stories but haven't read it yet.

I believe THE HUNTER came out last year. Your comics shop ought to be able to get it without much trouble. The publisher is IDW.

Neil Sarver said...

I agree. This is a great book!

To answer the question implicit in Chris's comment, Cooke is finishing and adaptation of The Outfit, which will include a single chapter of The Man with the Getaway Face. After that he says he's planning to do The Score and Slayground, after which he says he'll be done.

I guess that's plenty more to look forward to, but some part of me wishes he'd keep going forever, I enjoy these so much.

As far as Cooke's stuff goes, the Spirit books are terrific, I also can't recommend Catwoman: Selina's Big Score enough. It's actually his first exploration of the Parker type storytelling and even includes a character named Stark who is clearly modeled after Lee Marvin from Point Blank. It's available, although perhaps out of print, on its own, but also in a collection called Batman: Ego that features a number of other stories from within the Batman group, and includes another appearance from the Stark character.

pattinase (abbott) said...

This seems to be our future. I guess I need to begin to get into it. Never much of a comic book reader, it doesn't come naturally. I am unable to take information from both sources--the words and the picture.

Chris said...

Patti, one of the things I think is particularly genius about this particular book is the first 20-or-so pages have no text at all. We see Parker crossing the bridge into New York, scamming up some money, getting his clothes, etc. with the story told entirely in the art. It is pretty excellent.

That said, I hope you're wrong about this being our future. As much as I love it, I still prefer a good "regular" book.

James Reasoner said...

When there are long wordless sections in a graphic novel, like the one Chris describes, I have to make myself slow down and really look at the art. I'm such a word guy that if there's no text my tendency is to skim over it. However, when I do make an effort to really let the art soak in, I usually get a lot out of it. There are all sorts of little touches in Cooke's art that are really nice.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I guess it's like watching a sub-titled movie. You acquire the knack and suddenly you don't even realize you are reading and watching the action above at the same time.

George said...

SLAYGROUND is my favorite Parker novel so I'll certainly be looking for Darwyn Cooke's adaptation of that book!