Tag Archives: Parker

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)


Filed under Noir Comics

Noir Comics | The Score by Richard Stark and Darwyn Cooke

The Score Darwyn Cooke Richard Stark

My Copy

Darwyn Cooke has an amazing talent for novel-to-comic adaptation, and The Score is a particularly delicious example. Originally a noir crime fiction novel by Richard Stark (AKA Donald Westlake), Mr. Cooke has turned a great heist plot into a visual treat of diabolical noir. The Score is the third such release in the last few years, and is easily the most ambitious of the trio not only in the broad scope of the heist but also in the breadth of the characters.

I imagine that one of the most difficult things about such an undertaking is making sure that each character is represented correctly and is easily recognizable from panel to panel. In the previous volumes, there were only five to six characters maximum, but The Score is comprised of a cast more than twice that. As a result, the story seems to be more shallow than the previous two, albeit no less entertaining or engaging. I feel compelled to read the entire graphic novel again, purely to make sure that all the moving parts fall into place.

The Score begins with Parker wandering the streets of a deserted city at night. A smallish fellow in a plaid coat obviously follows him, though Parker seems to be ignorant of the tail (the keyword here is “seems”). The little guy is quickly cornered and interrogated, his last mistake pulling a knife in defense. Parker kills him with bare hands.

Noir Comics Parker The Score

Page 16

This sort of thing doesn’t spook Parker, it annoys him. He returns to a hideout and tells a small gang waiting there, “The deals off. I’m out.” You see, to Parker, something like this is a sign that the job is sour; and he won’t take a job that’s sour. The finger, a man named Edgars, prevails upon Parker to at least hear the job out before walking, and it’s in the details that Parker can’t resist: They’re going to knock over a whole town.

Parker is a great protagonist because he feels like an antagonist. He’s unfeeling, cold, and abrasive. Donald Westlake writes:

The idea of the book had come about in a very mundane way; I walked across the George Washington Bridge. I’d been visiting a friend about 30 miles upstate from New York, and had taken a bus back to the city. However, I’d chosen the wrong bus, on that terminated on the New Jersey side of the bridge instead of the New York side (where I could catch my subway). So I walked across the bridge, surprised at how windy it was out there (when barely windy at all anywhere else) and at how much the apparently solid bridge shivered and swung from the wind and the pummeling of the traffic. There was speed in the cars going by, vibration in the bridge under my feet, tension in the whole atmosphere.

Riding downtown in the subway I slowly began to evolve in my mind the character who was right for that setting, whose own speed and solidity and tension matched that of the bridge. People I knew came and went, but he quickly took on his own face, his own hard-skeletoned way of walking; I saw him as looking something like Jack Palance, and I wondered: Why is he walking across the bridge? Not because he took the wrong bus. Because he’s angry. Not hot angry; cold angry. Because there are times when tools won’t serve, not hammers or cars or guns or telephones, when only the use of your own body will satisfy,  the hard touch of your own hands.

So I wrote the book, about this sonofabitch called Parker, and in the course of the story I couldn’t help starting to like him, because he was so defined; I never had to brood about what he’d do next. He always knew. To some extent, I suppose, I liked Parker for what he wouldn’t tell me about himself.

I absolutely love this series, these books are the noir crown jewels of my bookcase. The binding is the highest quality possible, and the hardback is beautifully vintage. My only peeve is that I have to wait until 2013 for the next one!

Parker Richard Stark

Page 18

Parker Darwyn Cooke

Page 19

The Score Comic

Page 25

Noir Comics The Score Darwyn Cooke

Page 27

Richard Stark's Parker The Score

Page 49

Femme Fatale Parker The Score

Page 53

Parker Novels Darwyn Cook

Page 78

Noir Comics Darwyn Cook

Page 119

The Score by Richard Stark and Darwyn Cooke

sans dustjacket

The Score by Darwyn Cooke and Richard Stark

sans dustjacket 2

I hate the quality of these images (taken with my last gen Android)- but the internet has a pitiful offering where the contents of this great noir comic is concerned. I wanted to at least give you a peek at some of the quality work being done here, even if the pics don’t do it justice.


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Noir Crime Fiction | The Man With The Getaway Face by Richard Stark

Noir Crime Fiction The Man With The Getaway Face by Richard Stark

my copy from Amazon.com

The Man With The Getaway Face is the sequel to Richard Stark’s The Hunter, and is a great piece of noir crime fiction. Richard Stark A.K.A Donald Westlake has a certain measured coldness to his writing that bounces perfectly off his hard-boiled hero, Parker. I think it fitting to place this review between the noir comic renditions of The Hunter and The Outfit because that’s exactly where this novel fits in Mr. Westlake’s chronology. Essentially, the plot follows a fresh-faced Parker as he lines up a new job to get back on his feet. He has had drastic plastic surgery to throw The Outfit off his trail, and now he must find work in order to make ends meet. The only caveat is the job is rotten and he can see the double-cross coming from a mile away. We get to meet a couple of his old associates in crime, Handy and Skimm, and a broad-shouldered femme fatale named Alma. Although he didn’t pick the job, Parker assumes control of the operation because of all the holes he can see in it. With Handy as his only reliable cohort, and Skimm with his head between Alma’s breasts, Parker must rely on every ounce of his cunning to make it work. Noir crime fiction perfection; here’s how it measures up the the noir definition:

1) The Seedy Underworld

The north eastern United States, particularly New Jersey, serve as the back drop for this novel. An abandoned barn used as a hideout, a greasy diner, and bars frequented by good ‘ole boys make their fair share of appearances throughout The Man With The Getaway Face. Think post-war 1940’s.

2) The Anti-Hero

Parker is calculating and inflexible. He is a man of routines, and his way of life makes no allowances for exceptions. This hard-boiled anti-hero follows his own rigid code of conduct to a fault, even when to abandoned his principles would be easier. More importantly, he sees all the angles and won’t take orders from anyone.

Noir Crime Fiction The Man With The Getaway Face Darwyn Cooke

The Darwyn Cooke Noir Comics Rendition via joeshusterawards.com

3) The Femme Fatale

The femme fatale is a thick set waitress who’s sleeping with Skimm, one of Parker’s associates. She serves as “the finger” for the job (the one who saw the opportunity) and from the onset of her appearance the reader can tell she has ulterior motives. Parker and Handy (his other associate), can see it clearly, but Skimm’s mind is clouded by perfume and Alma’s other assets. Makes for great femme fatale drama.

4) Misogyny

The book throws all of its misogyny at Alma, the dame who is rotting Skimm’s senses. The ending sentiment is that women are self-serving liars who always try to control the men around them through sex.

“Let Skimm take over Thursday. I want to show you the doublecross.” -Parker (pg. 77)

Noir Crime Fiction The Man With The Getaway Face Cover

via img.neoseeker.com

5) Redemption

The Man With The Getaway Face takes an unexpected turn late in the story when the surgeon who performed Parker’s plastic surgery is murdered. Parker must then work to exonerate himself or his new face goes public, bringing unwanted attention from the enemies of his past along with it. It’s in this segment of the book that we get to see Parker’s code of honor, and how he avoids killing at all costs; not because its wrong, but because it draws unnecessary attention. All of his actions are utterly selfish. He is the ultimate survivor.

6) Loss of Innocence

None that I can remember.

7) Eroticism

Only one instance: After Parker pulls a job, he always has a ravenously sexual appetite. Now that his wife has died, he has no one to express it with. So he uses some of his new found money to splurge on hookers (sorry about the word choice) in several different cities. He also confesses that the one thing he hates about prostitutes is that you always have to hit them first to get them interested.

He didn’t get his kicks from hurting whores, it was just the only way he knew to get them interested. (pg. 180)

Noir Crime Fiction The Man With The Getaway Face Cover

Old Pulp Cover via noirboiled.blogspot.com

8 ) Blaxploitation

This whole book is white-bread 1940’s America. The lack of racism is racism enough.

9) Smoke

Every scene is held together by the sticky tendrils of cigarette smoke. I seemed to picture Parker in this one like a smoking mean version of Cary Grant.

I love Donald Westlake’s writing style, and Parker is one of the best creations in the noir crime fiction genre to date. I bought my copy from Amazon.com.

by Chad de Lisle


Filed under Noir Crime Fiction

Noir Comics | Richard Stark’s The Hunter

Noir Comics Richard Starks Parker The Hunter Splash Page

The paneling in this noir comic is inspired.

As far as noir comics are concerned, it’s hard to find much better than The Hunter. Donald E. Westlake aka “Richard Stark” pens like a boss and the adaptation from Darwyn Cooke is flawless. (Not to mention the fact that his art is erection inducing. Why can’t Darwyn and Brubaker get together for some noir comics creation you say? What if I told you they did? More to follow later). iFanboy named this graphic novel 2009’s “Book of the Year,” and I’m here to testify, they weren’t wrong. Once again, lets run The Hunter down the noir definition that we have created thus far:

1) The Seedy Underworld

New York City, 1962 for the majority, with a couple of dips down to Miami Beach for some R&R. A criminal’s gotta spend that grr somewhere right?


Noir Comics Richard Starks Parker The Hunter New York City 1962

perfect setting for a perfect noir comic

2) The Anti- Hero

Parker is one of the most fabulous noir creations in the entire genre. So bad you hate to love him, yet so damn cool you’re seduced regardless. In the noir comic The Hunter, Parker is on the warpath for revenge. A dame and a fiend who screwed him out of his take in his cross hairs. He never wavers and never relents, and come hell or high-water he’ll get his money back.

Noir Comics Richard Starks Parker The Hunter Parker

Parker himself, a mean noir comic S.O.B. and anti-hero

3) The Femme Fatale

Lynn. The dame that should have known better.  The following interaction between the two is priceless:

Lynn: “I’m glad you’re not dead. Isn’t that stupid?”

Parker: “Yes.”

Lynn: “You ought to kill me.”

Parker: “Maybe I will.”

Lynn: “I keep taking pills. Every night. If I don’t take the pills I don’t sleep. I think about you and how you’re dead and how I wish– I wish it was me.”

Parker: “Take too many pills.”

The greatest way to say, “go kill yourself” that I have ever heard.


Noir Comics Richard Starks Parker The Hunter Mal

desperation dive from Mal

4) Misogyny

Noir misogyny was found in healthy doses throughout the novel, particularly in Parker’s “equal opportunity” killing style. Doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman, if you are in Parker’s way you get killed. In one scene where the theme really shines through he lifts a hooker off the ground by her hair to get some information that he wants.

5) Redemption

Revenge. Parker won’t feel the cleansing breath of redemption until his money is back where it belongs.

Noir Comics Richard Starks Parker The Hunter Cover

the dust cover and title art

6) Loss of Innocence

Lynn was Parker’s wife and she betrayed him. What once was holy became defiled and fed the monster of vengeance inside Parker.

7) Eroticism

There really wasn’t much eroticism in this noir comic, but there were several prostitutes/sex workers who visited Mal (the dirty double-crosser). Mal bought women because they wouldn’t want him for free.

Mal was disgusted. He wasn’t sure why he splurged on the penthouse suite anymore than he was sure why he was throwing away a c-note on a broad who couldn’t possibly do more for him than Pearl would- probably for less.

“Sweet baby Jesus.”

He knew he would never have better.

“Hello, Mal. I’m Linda.”

If he lived a hundred years he’d never have anything again as good as this. Better in the rack maybe, but not better looking, not more desirable or perfect than this.

If you have not read this noir comic, “Take too many pills.”

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