Slayground: Too Good, Too Short

Cover of Slayground

Richard Stark’s Parker: Slayground

The day before Christmas I received Slayground, the new Parker adaptation from Darwyn Cooke, and, due to family engagements related to the holiday, had to shelve it until late last night. 30 minutes later I was finished, thrilled to the center of my being, yet devastated by the marquee on the final page of the book “PARKER WILL RETURN IN 2015”– And thus I contemplate another year and more of waiting for the next installment…

I hate waiting.

Cooke delivers an exceptional work once again– the art: perfectly retro, the dialogue: stripped down and punchy,  the pace: frenetic. Actually, the speed with which the plot unfolds is almost jarring. More than any of the other adaptations, Slayground had large sections of zero or negligible dialogue; panel upon panel of brutal silence. I issue this criticism with tongue in cheek, because nothing was lost from the telling of the story during these stretches. Cooke appears to have honed this craft  of ‘showing’ rather than ‘telling’ with each subsequent novel, but the result is a much faster pace, and less average time on each page, than in any of the other three. I truly finished the entire book in one half-hour, and though I loved each minute, I couldn’t help feeling disappointed.

Slayground Armored Car Accident

The First Page

Additionally, the plot of Slayground is much more straightforward than any of the other novels. Parker finds himself in the possession of a sack of cash, cornered in an amusement park closed for the winter. Gone to ground with crooked cops and mobsters in the peripheral, he waits for the inevitable violent climax. The story commences mid-heist, and concludes mid-conflict– like a slice of Parker pie (we don’t get the whole thing, only a taste). And then Cooke’s decision to append The 7eventh to the end, felt like a bit like a punchline. The book is an hors d’oeuvre, whetting our appetite for future novels.

(I also noticed that the interior dust jacket of the book was dominated by an advertisement for the upcoming re-release of the Parker hardcover novels, which Darwyn Cooke will be providing cover art and some interior placards for. Perhaps Slayground is simply a clever marketing scheme?)

Slayground isn’t sunk by its brevity, but it’s certainly shorter than the other Parker graphic novels. Let’s be grateful that it retains the same quality we’ve come to expect from Darwyn Cooke.

(pick it up here)

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Character Complexities in “The Killer” by Matz and Jacamon

The Killer Noir Comic

My Copy

Last night, I read a noir comic called “The Killer” volume one by Matz and Jacamon. Originally French, the work has been translated and brought across the Atlantic due to it’s fame. The art is accessible, not hyper realistic, but also strangely devoid of the darkness that persists in most noir-centric comics. Matz style is extremely distinct, and his use of angle and color convey emotional depth throughout the story. For example, at a moment when The Killer appears to be slipping into insanity, the images on the page become choppy and skewed; an outward sign of his inward turmoil. The translation is decent, but there were several moments where I could tell that the verbiage didn’t quite fit; as if the translator didn’t have the language to express authorial intent. But these moments were seldom jarring, and overall immersion in the comic was easily maintained.

The plot of this first volume is clearly foundational– it defines the lifestyle of the hitman, as well as the occupational hazards of such a line of work. Next, the emotional state of our leading man is revealed, bit by bit. What initially seemed glassy on the surface turns out to be a disguise for great turbulence beneath. We’re indoctrinated with his gospel throughout, and we witness his self-inflicted alienation (while we’re simultaneously invited to pity him). Finally, we see him sever his remaining ties with humanity out of necessity– they reject him as he rejected them.

Standing at a distance, and reviewing the story from the beginning to the end of Volume One, “The Killer” is a marvelously succinct story whose complete components create a beautifully balanced work. I know there are subsequent volumes to read, but were the story to end with the final page of Volume One, I would still retain deep satisfaction and affection for this work.

Noir Comics The Killer

Early in the Volume

“The Killer” vs. the noir definition:

1) The Seedy Underworld

A vast tapestry of settings is woven throughout the narrative– The urban sprawl, a lush jungle, white sand beaches, and snow powdered slopes.

2) The Anti-Hero

The Killer is a great character because he is so emotionally complex (although he doesn’t outwardly appear to be)– as the narrator, he is constantly preaching to the reader about his lifestyle, particularly he focuses on the justifications for killing the way he does. He speaks in absolutes, and of his estrangement from the cultural rot of society as a conscious decision. The hitman appears to have no regrets, no emotional baggage, or social attachments, but as the story progresses it becomes apparent that he hasn’t been preaching to the reader, he’s been preaching to himself. In his character flaws, his justifications, his shaky hands, and sweaty brow I found his redeeming quality; at his core, he’s killing himself.

3) The Femme Fatale

A girl he slept with in college who introduced him to his profession is the femme fatale. She remains a nameless flashback in his past, but it’s her influence that changes the moral trajectory of his life.

4) Misogyny

“The Killer” isn’t laden with any blatant misogyny apart from his professed aloofness in regards to the fairer sex. Women come and go, vehicles of pleasure and release, their companionship worthless in his eyes. Yet, there is one woman who remains on his estate in Venezuela… (Again, I believe he’s an untrustworthy narrator– I believe he cares for her or he wouldn’t let her so close).

5) Redemption

The Killer is obsessed with the reasons for doing what he is doing– he is constantly explaining why he doesn’t need to be redeemed, but we realize he needs it more than anyone. He claims that his redemption is found in cash– but he doesn’t behave like someone who only cares about money.

The Killer Jacamon Matz

Later (not in english, sorry)

6) The Loss of Innocence

I refuse to spoil the greatest scene in the book, but I will say that it’s the emotional climax of the nameless anti-hero’s character. It’s perfect.

7) Smoke

Here and there, throughout– the thick cigar, the petite cigarette; chained together by the nervously smoking cast.

8 ) Emasculation

I’ve racked my brain on this, but I can’t find emasculation thematically in the text. Not that it isn’t there, or that it won’t become a prevalent theme later, but I didn’t recognize any in this volume.

I was surprised by the emotional depth of this noir comic, and I can’t wait to read the next one.

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Joey Bada$$ and Capital STEEZ “Survival Tactics” Channels Urban Neo-Noir

Capital Steez Survival Tactics

Capital Steez

Joey Badass Survival Tactics

Joey Bada$$

See I was raised that way, I’m from the place where they raise that K
Like every day in every way and every where you go, just ain’t safe
The only thing I can say, to you is pray

“Survival Tactics” is a raw piece of music– charged with urban anxiety and angry overtones. I haven’t featured enough rap in my noir music category, as much of it taps directly into the most central themes of the genre (loss of innocence, redemption, the anti-hero, etc.). The sample is simple, but the sincerity of the language is potent, wartime poetry. The video styling reminds me of 100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso— powerful imagery, stark contrasts, and the exposed underbelly of a broken system. Musically hypnotic and undeniably gripping, Joey Bada$$’ flow is superb, and pairs like socks with Capital STEEZ (RIP).

*The song is very explicit so consider yourself warned.

[Intro]
It’s either, them or you
It’s sort of like, survival you know. Survival of the fittest you know
You do what you do to stay alive

[Verse 1: Joey]
Niggas don’t want war
I’m a martian with an army of spartans
Sparring with a knife in a missile fight
Get your intel right, your intelligence is irrelevant
But it’s definite I spit more than speech impediments
Brooklyn’s the residence, the best and it’s evident
We got them niggas P-E-Nuts, like they elephants
Throw ’em in a trunk if they hate though
We don’t give a f*** as long as we collect our pay, so
Ya’ll collect pesos, ya money ain’t right here
I got them girls next to the wood like they lightyear, I’m right chea
Tryna get a buzz, tryna pollinate
STEEZ got that presidential shit out to inaugurate
My P.E conglomerates bout to P-E-E on any wanna B-E, weak MC
Air ’em out to leave ’em empty congratulate the semi-auto
Fire flame spitter like komodo
No time for fake people, they be simmin’ like Kimora
I’m the empor-ah in search of the adora, my heart go:
*Ba boom Ba boom Ba boom boom Ba boom*
It’s panic like Dora when shots blast
See I was raised that way, I’m from the place where they raise that K
Like every day in every way and every where you go, just ain’t safe
The only thing I can say, to you is pray
Cause when niggas start equippin’
And throw the clip in
Your blood drippin’
And got you slippin’
Under the victim
Don’t know whats hit them, through his spinal
Just another man who defeated by survival
That’s your biggest rival, in your whole life
These bars you can’t handle you better hold tight
They sayin’ I’m the best, I’m like you’re so right
Still ain’t got enough shine to last the whole night, nigga

[Interlude]
Yo, f*** the police nigga
F*** every ass corrupt politician on Wall Street
P.E, Public Enemy, Assassinate us, bitch
F*** that, f*** everything son
F*** government, F***, listenin’ and shit

You want f****n’ energy? Dickheads

[Verse 2: Steez]
It’s like 6 milli ways to die my nigga choose one
Doomsday comin’ start investin’ in a few guns
New gats, booby traps, and bazooka straps
Better play your cards right, no booster packs
Everybody claim they used to rap
But these ain’t even punchlines no more, I’m abusing tracks
Leaving instrumentals blue and black
I’m in Marty McFly mode, so tell em’ that the future’s back
Riding on hoverboards, wiping out motherboards
Stopped spitting fire cause my motherf****n lung is scorched
King Arthur when he swung his sword
A king author I ain’t even use a pen in like a month or four
I had a hard time writing lyrics
Now I’m way over heads, science fiction
You can try and get it, my man the flyest with it
With a mind of fine of interest for your finest interests
They say hard work pays off
Well tell the Based God don’t quit his day job
Cause P.E’s about to take off
With protons and electrons homie that’s an A-bomb
F****n’ ridiculous
Finger to the president screamin’ “f*** censorship!”
If Obama got that president election
Then them P.E. boys bout to make an intervention
F*** what I once said, I want the blood shed
Cause now-a-days for respect you gotta pump lead
I guess Columbine was listenin’ to Chaka Khan
And Pokémon wasn’t gettin’ recognized at Comic-Con
It’s like we’ve been content with losin’
And half our students fallen victim to the institution
Jobs are scarce since the Scientific Revolution
And little kids are shootin Uzi’s cause its given to ’em
Little weapon, code name: Smith and Wesson
And you’ll be quick to catch a bullet like an interception
If your man’s tryna disrepect it
Send a message and it’s over in a millisecond
Nigga

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Web of The City by Harlan Ellison

Web of the City by Harlan Ellison

my copy (cover art by Glen Orbik)

Web of the City by Harlan Ellison is the author’s first novel, beautifully republished in Hard Case Crime’s definitive collection. From the jump, it’s obvious that Harlan is a skilled wordsmith– and his prose has all the bleak accoutrements of the most skilled hard-boiled writers. Yet initially the book reads like “West Side Story”, with Jets and Sharks (now Cougars and Cherokees) dancing down the paragraphs. But any resemblance to the musical classic is brutally shattered by horrible (and frightfully realistic) violence mere pages into the work.

Russell “Rusty” Santoro was the leader of the Cougars, but now he wants out. In his neighborhood, he’s a traitor and a chicken- to his mother, a disappointment- to his sister, an embarrassment. As he copes with unexpected loss and the inner turmoil of his shifting morals, he’s filled with the hope for a future that he may never obtain.

Today had taught him something. The break had to be a violent and final one. No one gradually grew away from the streets.

Web of the City vs. the Noir Definition:

1) The Seedy Underworld

The setting for Ellison’s creation is the gritty crime-centric streets of New York City. Almost post apocalyptic in its rendering, the violent youth  control their progenitors with the looming threat of chaos. Drugs, sex, money, and power drench the streets with the portent of ‘rumble.’

It was a gaping hole in a line of apartment buildings. The street was run-down. The houses had once been stately brown-stones, but refugee owners had divided each apartment into dozens of minor one-room closets and had rented them to Puerto Ricans, fresh to New York. It was a dirty, noisy street with cardboard milk cartons crushed flat in the gutters, battered garbage cans on the sidewalks and obscenities chalked on pavements and walls. Laundry hung from windows. The smell was oregano and some sweet, the odor of cigarettes and pine cleanser fighting a losing battle with dirt-caked corners. It was a depressing street. It was all too familiar to Rusty.  It was typical.

2) The Anti-Hero

Rusty is a Salinger-esque creation– a hard-nosed kid who understands the language of the streets yet despises the dialect. He’s a dynamic anti-hero who you’ll applaud even as he drowns in the slime of his own poor choices. He despises his father for abandoning his family, yet he obliviously imitates this behavior. I was pleased with his complexity and irked by his weaknesses– he not only moves through the drama, he creates it as well.

But there seemed no way out, no way to escape being dragged in. It somehow, terrifyingly, seemed predestined. He was forging his own chains.

3) The Femme Fatale

Rusty’s girlfriend Louise “Weezee” seems the obvious cast for the femme fatale, but she doesn’t fit the part. The real femme fatale is Dolores “Dolo”– Rusty’s younger sister. Introduced to the gang world by her older brother, she becomes the embarrassed sibling of a ‘chickie’ traitor– and her shame drives a painful wedge between the two. When her anger and recklessness places her in danger, Rusty must plunge himself back into the gangland to pull her out. Her actions are fatal to his newly woven moral fiber.

4) Misogyny

The women in the plot are sexual play-things– possessed by the strongest ‘studs’ in the gang. Rusty’s view and treatment of females is challenged and altered throughout the text, but the changes are neither easy nor swift. The older women in the Puerto Rican community demand more respect, yet it’s seldom given. The tradition of abuse, marginalization, and disloyalty are too ingrained; a culture of heartbreak.

He took her with him in the way the rules decreed. Not by the hand, gently, as he wanted to for that would have left her confused– but with the hand at the back of her neck. Commanding, leading, directing, roughly, the way a mean stud did it to his broad.

5) Redemption

Redemption is the strongest theme in the novel– Rusty’s desire to redeem himself from his past, and to redeem his sister from her present, motivate his every action. The central conflict orbits about his struggle to utilize his new morals in world that lacks them– and the guilt that grips him when he fails to do so.

Harlan Ellison Web of the City

Harlan Ellison

6) The Loss of Innocence

Rusty feels the most anguish over inducting his sister into the gang world. He feels as though he robbed her of her innocence, and destroyed the only pure influence in his life. This guilt knits his fate to hers, and drives him to desperation. (Love and guilt are his slave masters).

7) Smoke

More reefer than tobacco, the silky signal of addiction hangs thick over the streets and crawls across the minds of the indifferent youth. They’re inoculated from their guilt by both druggy haze and habit.

Rusty dragged out a cigarette, lit it by snapping his thumb against the head of a kitchen match. It flamed abruptly, casting a bloody shadow over his face.

8 ) Emasculation

As Rusty surrenders his leadership of the Cougars, his masculinity is immediately challenged by his former friends and allies. He’s ruthlessly teased and abused until he’s willing to stoop to their level of violence again (the only language they understand). His journey through the piece is fraught with constant challenges to his self-constructed definitions of masculinity as a basically fatherless loner in the ghetto.

Web of the City is not the best work of noir crime fiction that I’ve ever read– but it sure was fun to read. Harlan does come across as a novice, but his passion more than makes up the difference. You can get it here.

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Noir Quotes | Jim Steranko

Jim Steranko

Jim Steranko

“I’ve got 72 hours to live, Mr. Chandler. I want you to find my murderer.”

Jim Steranko

Red Tide: A Chandler Novel

1976

Red Tide Chandler Jim Steranko

My tasty 37 year old copy…

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Hothouse Bruiser: Neo-Noir Audio Drama

I’m not going to apologize for being away from noirwhale.com for so long, but I figure I at least owe everyone an explanation. As some of you know, I’m still attending school while maintaining a full-time job. April just happened to be a particularly brutal work-load convergence, finals on one hand, thousands of dollars worth of needy clients on the other. By the end of the month, I was feeling a bit wrung-out and needed a break. I’ve got a few personal noir projects on the back burner and was able to spend a few joyful weeks tinkering with them (someday I’ll share). Additionally, I’ve been reading Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and his prose is as seductive as everyone promised. But I’m back now, and eager to share some mighty fine noir.

Hothouse Bruiser Noir Radio Drama

“Hothouse Bruiser”

“Hothouse Bruiser” is a particularly intriguing piece of noir media– It’s a homage to the radio dramas of the pre-tv generation, but feels (and sounds) fresh to death. The drama is thick and cold, and the jazzy soundtrack is catchy and intoxicating. Great vocal talents, snappy dialogue, and creative storytelling collide in a work that is not entirely noir, nor entirely sci-fi. It straddles the neon window like Blade Runner or (more recently) Looper. Both rely on the potent noir atmosphere to set the tone in a futuristic story-scape.

Here is the teaser video:

“Hothouse Bruiser” vs. the noir definition:

1) The Seedy Underworld

The setting for the audio drama is a city-within-a-city, the Los Angeles ‘Quarantine’– supposedly the inhabitants within have contracted a ‘binary virus’, and any contact with someone outside the quarantine will result in both individuals’ deaths. Saeger Corp runs the Quarantine like a maximum security prison, and hand out privileges to those who show obedience.

2) The Anti-Hero

Jason Bruiser is the anti-hero of the story (voiced brilliantly by Paul Nobrega). He’s an ex-cop who’s separated from his family, trapped in the Quarantine. But he’s got connections, on the inside and out, and he’s used them to earn a reputation. Bruiser is conflicted by the man he ought to be and the man he’s becoming- with a teenage boy and little girl on the outside (and neighbor who may be inching in on his wife), he’s struggling to remain pure in a world that rewards the wicked.

3) The Femme Fatale

The Quarantine is full of deadly dames, and they all take their shots at Bruiser. He gives as good as he gets, and the dialogue is a tasty tribute to the noir tradition (just enough cheese and sleaze to keep us tuned in). If I had to choose one of the many as THE femme fatale, Vera Grayle  is it (voiced by the famous Traci Lords). She’s the buxom prospector of a local dive, where shots are $100.00 a piece and your secrets are for sale.

4) Misogyny

Enough of the old school machismo floats around in “Hothouse Bruiser” to raise the temperature of the more feminist listeners– but the dames aren’t all body and beauty, they’re cruel and calculating also. The most obvious misogyny is Bruiser piling threats of physical harm on the broads that cross him.

5) Redemption

In the Hothouse redemption is only found beyond the wall, and everyone will do anything to get it. As the plot steeps Bruiser in sin, he begins to lose hope that redemption exists; when his hope evaporates, his morals go with it.

6) Loss of Innocence

Bruiser’s story is framed by the ‘fallen angel’ archetype. Early on, he’s pushing away the lusty ladies, talking about fidelity and refusing to kill no matter the odds. But, as the story winds on… he starts dipping his toes in the gray areas.

7) Smoke

One of my favorite lines was something like this: “I flicked the cigarette out of her mouth, and kissed her so she’d know I was serious.”– SO good.

8 ) Emasculation

Bruiser feels handcuffed inside the quarantine. He can’t defend his family from the incursion of men on the outside, and he’s powerless to free himself. He’s like a bird with clipped wings– and too often he’s at the mercy of the owners of the cage.

I love “Hothouse Bruiser”– we need more radio dramas of this quality on the airwaves. Oh? Did I forget to mention that it’s FREE?

Free iPhone App

Free Android App

Follow on Twitter

YouTube Channel

Podcast on iTunes

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Noir Art | Robert Maguire

Robert Maguire Noir Art

(via littlebunnysunshine.tumblr.com)

Robert Maguire is an easy addition to noirwhale.com’s noir artist gallery— the guy created over 600 amazing covers for pulps since 1950.

He was born in 1921, and only died recently in 2005. He studied at Duke University until he joined the war effort in WWII, and when he returned he quickly joined the Art Students League. During that time, He was the pupil of the relatively famous Frank Reilly. His career was immensely successful, and he produced art for dozens of publishing firms.

He’s known for his mastery of the female form, particularly his emphasis on the femme fatale archetype (the beautiful yet deadly siren of the noir genre). A softness exists in his work which renders it alluring and atmospheric, a window into the colorful pages of the novel beyond. I find his art to be extremely seductive, an ode to the manipulative women who spur the plotlines and control our anti-heroes. Looking at his covers, it’s easy to see why he has become a prized piece of any collectors’ library.

Cover for "Dame in Danger" by Robert Maguire

Cover for “Dame in Danger” by Robert Maguire (via bookpalace.com)

Here are a couple of great anecdotes from Robert that I found in the American Art Archives:

“My first wife was a model, but for the most part, I didn’t go near models. They were too fast living. I used one model quite a bit and she invited my wife and I down to see her dancing around ’53, ’54, and she was dancing in a mafia club. The Copacabana, in fact.

“The models were very ‘active.’ They weren’t real. A lot of them were on drugs. I had one girl posing against a backdrop. She put her arms over her head and slowly slumped to the floor. I had to go over and shake her awake in order to finish the shoot. We had deadlines.”

Unfortunately, the first marriage didn’t last, though his second did, thanks to an introduction to a lovely woman by his friend, Leone. “I was divorced and John introduced me to an available lady whose husband died. That was over 20 years ago when I met Janice.” They’ve been happily married ever since.

“My friends and I were mostly in paperback books. The magazines were dying, mostly due to the advent of television. But we couldn’t wait to get the magazine copies and see what guys like Coby Whitmore were doing. All these great artists, Whitcomb, Al Parker, Bob Peak, Joe DeMers. We weren’t allowed to be that sophisticated. They could do this intricate design work. We tried to do use some sophisticated design and the paperback guys would say, ‘Why don’t you just show the girls with the big boobs.’ I used to work with a very crude individual — he shall be nameless — he was an art director — but one painting he wanted the gown lowered on the woman, ‘show more cleavage.’ So I’d lower it and he’d want it lowered some more. Well, another quarter of an inch and I’d be showing the nipples. That’s anatomy! But still, ‘Well, make it a little lower.’ Any lower and her breasts were down around her stomach. And then he wondered why the girl didn’t look quite right. But you couldn’t argue with some of these people (though of course, I did).”

Slice of Hell by Mike Roscoe Cover by Robert Maguire

Slice of Hell by Mike Roscoe, Cover by Robert Maguire(via pulpcovers.com)

The Last Kill by Charlie Wells Cover by Robert Maguire

The Last Kill by Charlie Wells, Cover by Robert Maguire (via pulpcovers.com)

Hell's Angels by Hank Janson Cover by Robert Maguire

Hell’s Angels by Hank Janson, Cover by Robert Maguire(via pulpcovers.com)

Morals Squad by Samuel A. Krasney Cover by Robert Maguire

Morals Squad by Samuel A. Krasney, Cover by Robert Maguire(via pulpcovers.com)

The Brass Halo by Jack Webb Cover by Robert Maguire

The Brass Halo by Jack Webb, Cover by Robert Maguire(via thatgirlupstairs.tumblr .com)

Dead Man Dead by David Alexander Cover by Robert Maguire

Dead, Man, Dead by David Alexander, Cover by Robert Maguire(via thatgirlupstairs.tumblr.com)

The Night is for Screaming by Robert Turner Cover by Robert Maguire

The Night is for Screaming by Robert Turner, Cover by Robert Maguire (via pulpcovers.com)

Wild to Possess by Gil Brewer Cover by Robert Maguire

Wild to Possess by Gil Brewer, Cover by Robert Maguire(via brudesworld.tumblr.com)

Stone Cold Blonde by Adam Knight Cover by Robert Maguire

Stone Cold Blonde by Adam Knight, Cover by Robert Maguire(via illustrationgallery.com)

Kiss Me Quick by Karl Kramer Cover by Robert Maguire

Kiss Me Quick by Karl Kramer, Cover by Robert Maguire(via killercoversoftheweek.blogspot.com)

Pulp Art Robert Maguire

Cover art by Robert Maguire (via littlebunnysunshine.tumblr.com)

Prelude to Murder by Sterling Noel Cover by Robert Maguire

Prelude to Murder by Sterling Noel, Cover by Robert Maguire (via mudwerks.tumblr.com)

(His most famous book cover is ‘Black Opium’-– I’ve only provided a link to it because it does feature mild nudity)

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Noir Comics | The Last Days of American Crime by Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini

Noir Comics The Last Days of American Crime

my copy (cover by Alex Maleev)

This isn’t the first review I’ve done of this noir comic. When I first created a blog, this was one of the books that I was most internally divided upon; half of me loved it’s raw appeal and profane characters, while my other side felt it lacked sincerity (truth, even). I’ve decided to include an excerpt from my younger self, a sort of time capsule review of The Last Days of American Crime— I feel like much of it still fits:

The Last Days of American Crime follows a nobody thug named Graham Burke as he tries to pull off one last heist. The American Government is taking paper money out of the equation in favor of Federally-Controlled electronic credits. Also, they intend to broadcast a signal country-wide that will effectively brainwash the populous, making it impossible for any citizen to knowingly break the law. Initially, Graham has to hire some new partners because the Mexican gang he was allied with double-crossed him (and he “burned” them for it). He hired Kevin (a safe cracking specialist) and his girlfriend Shelby (who knows her way around computers (and the bedroom *wink)). Kevin says he knows where to find a laser cutter, and he leaves Graham and Shelby to prepare for the heist. The problem is Graham’s old partners want back in, and they are willing to do anything to get revenge.

Remender seems to let his pen trace the edge of the taboo and outré, slicing the “politically correct” and daring all to be offended. He forces his readers to the cliff of what they will accept, and then he shoves them just as they were achieving balance. I admire his daring, but I wonder how much of his writing is tied down by this gimmick. Is he a good author because of his extreme style and taste? or are his depictions of the bizarre and offensive a smokescreen for poor writing? For me, it’s too early to say.

Even now, a few years later, I’m not sure about Remender’s style. Certainly I feel that he deserves merit for his literary accomplishments, but there’s some perfume clinging to his work that smells insincere and contrived. As a reader, I recognized that the plot was pushing boundaries– but it felt…unnatural. Overall, I’m pleased with the appraisal delivered by my younger self, and I could definitely see his point while re-reading this comic.

The noir definition vs. The Last Days of American Crime:

1) The Seedy Underworld

A futuristic Chicago underworld– not quite post-apocalyptic, but well on it’s way. Dive bars, condemned buildings, and chaotic streets aflame with debauchery and self-destruction.

2) The Anti-Hero

Graham is old and sour. He’s a security guard with a big idea, and a timeline that’s applying enough pressure to make him risky. He’s calculating and violent, unafraid of any hombre and lacks ties that would render a similar man vulnerable. He’s the sole caretaker of his Alzheimer’s diseased mother, and the proud proprietor of a trailer home. As a character, he’s static and predictable.

Noir Comics The Last Days of American Crime

Graham (via mainstreamclub.org)

3) The Femme Fatale

Shelby Dupree is an exquisite femme fatale– she’s manipulative and beautiful, with her alliances set to roulette. She’s the most dynamic character in the story, and easily the best creation of the piece. Yet she’s still a victim of the classic noir male-author pitfall; she’s completely male-defined– the silver lining is that from her first scene to the last panel, you can’t trust her. I got the feeling that she was betting on horses (each of the male characters) and because she bet on all of them she’s bound to win something in the end. I loved that.

4) Misogyny

Within The Last Days of American Crime, horrible violence is perpetrated against females (to be fair, all of the characters are victims of violence, but the women take more than their fair share). I’m willing to bet that this comic would upset most female readers (I know it upset me).

5) Redemption

Not as much of a redemption theme as you’d think– at least not for Graham. For Shelby, I can see a redemption plot line pretty clearly, but even this is minimal. No, this story is about money– its a smash and grab bank robbery at heart; redeem us from our poverty! redeem us from government control!

The Last Days of American Crime Noir Comics

Shelby (via comicbookdaily.com)

6) Eroticism

Greg Tocchini locks this theme down. Rick’s dialogue was alright, but there are a couple scenes that are incredibly sexy just because of the way they’re drawn. Mr. Tocchini has an superb gift, and I admit he was the primary reason that I re-read the comic. Conversely, there are many scenes that try to be erotic and come off as disgusting– just rote crap that panders to teenage boys and requires zero finesse.

7) The Loss of Innocence

The Last Days of American Crime has many scenes that are meant to shock you as a reader. The trouble is where to find the line drawn between progressive authorial intent and contrived B.S. — You’ll have to read it and tell me I’m wrong.

8 ) Smoke

All the butts in all the trays– the tobacco tar grime stains our fingers as we turn page to page. Delightful.

The Last Days of American Crime Noir Comics

(via mainstreamclub.org)

9) Emasculation

This theme is the most prevalent in the noir comic– each of the men are afraid that they’re being manipulated or played by Shelby (and of course they all are). Additionally, there is a blackmail scenario that involves one of Shelby’s beautiful girlfriends getting the best of Graham’s supervisor– and I don’t want to spoil it beyond that but it’s a complete blitz on his masculinity.

I was surprised by the ending because it wrapped up so nicely– I was prepped for a train-wreck, but the thing rattled through the chaos to a perfect conclusion (this bugged me a bit though, because noir comics shouldn’t leave us with warm fuzzies).

Read it if you’re not easily offended. Buy it for the art— it’s freaking awesome.

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Femme Fatales | Jean Harlow

The “Femme Fatale” segment on NoirWhale.com is designed to highlight the life and merits of exceptional film noir actresses. These women are the embodiment of the femme fatale archetype, and propel possibly the most recognizable and integral theme in the noir genre.

Femme Fatales Jean Harlow Red-Headed Woman

Harlean Harlow Carpenter (March 3, 1911 – June 7, 1937) (via doctormacro.com)

“When you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.”

Jean Harlow, commonly called ‘the Blonde Bombshell’ or ‘the Platinum Blonde,’ was born Harlean Harlow Carpenter on March 3rd, 1911. So much has been said about her illustrious career and iconic sex appeal that I won’t claim this article to be an exhaustive biography– But! I would like to dwell for a few paragraphs on some of (what I found to be) the most interesting aspects and intricacies of her incredible life. I hope you’ll appreciate the reflection and forgive me the authorial liberty I take in ignoring broad strokes of her history.

In retrospect, the commanding presence of this little blonde lady from Kansas City Missouri during the 1930s is indeed remarkable. At that point in American Film, she was undoubtedly the most sexually magnetic actress on the silver screen– and having achieved this reputation at such a young age her future had the appearance of all the worldly splendor fame provides. Sadly renal failure at age 26 robbed her of this, and robbed the clamouring masses likewise. (Renal failure, for those curious, is when your kidneys no longer adequately filter waste products from the blood).

As a child in Kansas, she was nicknamed “The Baby,” and this sobriquet stuck with her until her death. Oddly enough, she didn’t learn that her name was Harlean and not “Baby” until she was five years old when she was enrolled in finishing school. When her mother and father divorced in 1922, “Baby” moved with her mother Jean to Hollywood (who hoped to become an actress herself, but was considered too old). Although she bounced back to Kansas, then Michigan, then Illinois, she would return to Los Angeles as a married woman in 1928. Her husband, Chuck McGrew, was heir to fortune, and she embraced the life of a socialite in LA (I’m told she did quite well for herself).

She made friends with an aspiring actress and was spotted and approached by Fox executives while sitting in her car outside a casting. Rather against her will, she was roped into auditioning and accepting several minor roles by her persistant mother (who at that time lived nearby). These films were not wildly successful and she struggled to gain traction, and it was during this time period that she was divorced from McGrew but everything changed in 1931 when she was cast with Loretta Young in Platinum Blonde.

In a stroke of marketing genius Howard Hughes publicity machine coined Harlow’s hair color ‘platinum’and created a bleaching craze accross the nation. As a result, “Baby’s” personal appearances were packed, excited affairs (and all this in spite of critical disgust for her acting ability).

Superstardom arrived at MGM– when she was signed for a contract and given the leading role in Red-Headed Woman (again with the hair, right?) She began to star opposite powerful leading men; six films with Clark Gable, a few with Spencer Tracy and William Powell. Apparently she even helped a few up-and-comers get started: Robert Taylor and Franchot Tone.

Let’s talk femme fatale appeal– MGM tried to change her public persona, they were angling for a more mainstream ‘apple pie’ look, but they couldn’t quell the nation’s hunger for the brash, poised, and sexual Platinum Harlow.

Her second husband, Paul Bern, was found shot dead in their home, and there were rumors that Harlow had committed the crime herself but none of the accusations stuck. The scandal only propelled her further into stardom.

She began an illicit affair with a married boxer named Max Baer (any of this starting to sound torn from the pages of the pulp rags?)– she was even censured in their divorce proceedings as an adultress. To save face, MGM arranged a marriage between Harlow and Harold Rosson (a cinematographer)– it worked, and Harlow and Rosson were able to discreetly divorce several months later.

During these subsequent scandals, Harlow was still acting prolifically and James Stewart (who was opposite her in Wife vs. Secretary) shares one of my favorite “Blonde Bombshell” stories:

“Clarence Brown, the director, wasn’t too pleased by the way I did the smooching. He made us repeat the scene about half a dozen times…I botched it up on purpose. That Jean Harlow sure was a good kisser. I realized that until then I had never been really kissed.”

In 1937 her health took a serious dive that ended with her in a coma. She never woke up. Like the beautiful sirens of Poe’s visions, she was stolen in the full flush of youth. Thus she’ll will remain in her beauty forever, whilst we are steeped in woe.

I’m proud to add her to the side-bar line up of immortal dames on noirwhale.com

“My God, must I always wear a low-cut dress to be important?”

Jean Harlow George Hurrell 1933 Dinner At Eight

by George Hurrell (Dinner At Eight, 1933) (via doctormacro.com)

Femme Fatale Jean Harlow

(via doctormacro.com)

Actress Jean Harlow

12th August 1932 by Clarence Sinclair Bull (via doctormacro.com)

American actress Jean Harlow

15th June 1932 (via doctormacro.com)

Hells Angels Jean Harlow

by Margaret Chute, Hell’s Angels 1930 (via doctormacro.com)

Jean Harlow Blonde Bombshell

(via doctormacro.com)

Jean Harlow Platinum Blonde

(via doctormacro.com)

Jean Harlow femme fatale

(via doctormacro.com)

Jean Harlow Actress

(via doctormacro.com)

Jean Harlow film noir

(via doctormacro.com)

Jean Harlow Smokes

(via thingscanhope.tumblr.com)

Jean Harlow Swim Suit

1934 (via doctormacro.com)

Jean Harlow Clark Gable Red Dust 1932

with Clark Gable in Red Dust 1932 (via doctormacro.com)

Femme Fatale Jean Harlow

(via shhshesabombshell.tumblr.com)

Jean Harlow Femme Fatale

(via marisacm55.tumblr.com)

*All biographical details obtained from:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Harlow

*Quotes obtained from:

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/j/jean_harlow.html

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Noir Music | Jazz in the Rain

I cannot take any credit for this. My friend Chase O. in Georgia sent me an email with the following instructions:

Visit www.RainyMood.com and watch this video at the same time:

Changed my life. Enjoy.

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