Saturday, April 28, 2007

Jason of Star Command

That's right – this is the hardboiled crime fiction/cheesy space opera blog. Deal with it.

Just got my review discs of the complete Jason of Star Command – Filmation's last live-action show and probably the most expensive kid's program of its era – and I've been having fun watching the show again.

The transfers are on a par with the Space Academy discs, a little soft, but light-years better than the bootlegs floating around the comic book conventions. The stories are slight and silly, but fun; serialized adventures with really remarkable special effects.

In fact, as impressed as I was with the miniatures and effects on Space Academy, the FX work on Jason, by the same team, shows a marked improvement, both in conception and execution. The quantity of and variety of shots is impressive, too, as well as the surprisingly large number of stop-motion alien menaces that appeared on the show. Pretty amazing, considering their limited resources. For fans of old school special effects (guilty!), these discs are something of a treasure trove of pre-computerized FX work.

The new documentary includes on-screen interviews with Craig Littler (Jason) and Sid Haig (Dragos). They both are obviously fond of the show and seem to have had fun making it. Littler is now the Gorton's Fisherman in TV commercials, while Haig continues to appear in horror films and other supporting roles. There's some nice tributes to the late Jimmy Doohan and Tamara Dobson, as well.

This should be on sale soon, and if you're another aging sci-fi fan who came of age in the Seventies, you might want to check it out. Decent price, too.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Something I'm working on...

A Gravedigger short prose story for an upcoming anthology ...
When the door burst open, I put two 9mm slugs into the first man's chest. The guy behind him looked vaguely familiar, but I didn't have time to take a second look as he raised an ugly, efficient-looking machine pistol and sprayed the air with lead.

The slugs didn't come anywhere near me, but they ripped the hell out of the rented cabin. I waited on the floor behind the threadbare sofa, Beretta in my right hand, and when the guy with the squirtgun emptied his clip, I shot him in the head.

I moved carefully over to the two bodies and looked out through the open doorway at the glass-smooth lake. Pale moonlight and flickering stars were reflected in its mirrored surface, and an aluminum rowboat I hadn't seen before was tied to the short dock.

I had no concerns about the gunfire. The nearest neighboring cabin was a good half-mile away, and was, at present, unoccupied.

I pulled the bodies into the room where I could see them clearly. I had been right about the second man; I knew him. His name was Gibbs, a burly Australian I'd worked with a couple years back on a job in New Mexico. The other was unfamiliar, about twenty-five, with short, spiky hair and a bad complexion.

I searched their pockets. Gibbs carried I.D. in the form of a Jersey driver's license and a Visa card that said his name was Potter. The younger man had apparently been going under the name of Wyman. I took their I.D. and credit cards.

I wondered how they'd found me.

And why.

I'd been living in the cabin in Western Maine for three weeks. Not hiding out really, just resting between jobs. Once a week, I took the rented outboard across the lake, hiked a mile and a half to my car, and drove into town for supplies. The rest of the time, I sat on the porch, enjoying the solitude, smoking, and reading trash paperbacks, a habit I'd picked up during my one extended stay as a guest of the state.

I didn't think I was on anyone's shit list, but in my business you can never know for sure. Emotions can run hot when large amounts of cash are on the line, and those who make their living acquiring it at gunpoint tend not to be overly sensitive to other people's feelings.

I tried to think who might be carrying a grudge and who also knew Gibbs. The list was short.


News: Flash DVD Art!

Check out the cover art by Alex Ross for the upcoming Flash Gordon: Saviour of the Universe Edition from Universal Home Video. Ross is well-known to be a fan of the character and the flick; I'm stunned that anyone at Universal was on the ball enough to hire him.

ADDENDUM: Apparently Ross makes it into the Bonus Features, too. Here are the main extras on this SE DVD, according to the Universal press release I just got:
• ALEX ROSS, RENOWNED COMIC ARTIST, ON FLASH GORDON - World-renowned comic artist Alex Ross talks about his favorite movie of all time, Flash Gordon, and about how the film has inspired him in his life and work.
• WRITING A CLASSIC: SCREENWRITER LORENZO SEMPLE, JR. - Screenwriter Lorenzo Semple, Jr. speaks about the deliberately campy script for Flash Gordon.
• FLASH GORDON 1936 SERIAL EPISODE - Chapter One of Planet of Peril.
Excuse me? "Writing a Classic?" Hey, I like the movie as much – okay, much more – than the next guy (unless the next guy is Alex Ross), but c'mon! A "classic?"

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Busy Busy Busy

Sorry I haven't been posting much, but I'm trying to write three comic book scripts at the same time: Femme Noir #3, Gravedigger: Dangerous Prey, and Captain Midnight. None of them are going all that quickly... although they are coming along.

Hopefully, I'll get caught up over the weekend and have time for a proper post.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Barry Nelson, R.I.P.

Well, I certainly couldn't let the passing of the very first actor to portray James Bond on screen go without comment.

Back around '83, I got a hold of Steven Jay Rubin's The James Bond Films, the first of many books I would buy on the subject over the next few decades. The first chapter detailed the earliest, pre-Dr. No attempts to get Ian Fleming's character onto the silver screen. That chapter also examined the CBS television production of Casino Royale on the anthology series Climax! in 1954, starring American actor Barry Nelson as U.S. secret agent "Card-Sense Jimmy" Bond.

Being the Bond fan I was (and still am), seeing that version of Royale became something of a major life goal for me (sad, huh?).

It was another ten years or so until I stumbled onto a cheap EP VHS tape of the kinescope of that live production in a bargain bin, but by then – now that I knew to look for him – I had seen Nelson in a number of TV shows, including The Twilight Zone, Battlestar Galactica and even Magnum P.I.

Nelson was a a fairly prolific second-leading man/guest star type who appeared in close to a hundred movies and television shows. He's probably best known now as the ghostly bartender in the Stanley Kubrick version of The Shining and – among diehard Bondophiles and trivia buffs – as the first actor to play James Bond.

Considering the shoestring budget and the limitations of live TV in the fifties, the Climax! version of Casino Royale isn't that bad. The adaptation is pretty fair, actually. Having to truncate the novel to fit it into an hour timeslot actually makes it move along at a nice clip (unlike the new version, which is at least 20 minutes too long), and Nelson's "American" Bond isn't the travesty it could have been. Sure, Nelson's a little shaky in the beginning, but he rises to the challenge and delivers a fairly decent, if seemingly under-rehearsed, performance. Of course, he's lucky to have Peter Lorre as his LeChiffre. Lorre's clearly slumming in the show, but he brings his usual reptilian menace to the role, and it works. It's not Nelson's finest performance, but it's not anything to be ashamed of, either.

Barry Nelson passed away on April 7th.

Rest in peace, "Card-Sense Jimmy."

Monday, April 16, 2007

Kolchak Art

Back in September, I showed you some of Tim Hamilton's art from the first issue of the upcoming Kolchak: Night Stalker of the Living Dead miniseries that I've written for Moonstone.

Well, for various reasons – mostly because of my health issues – progress on this series has been somewhat slow, but I do have some cool pages from Issue #2 that I can share with you, penciled and inked by Tim Hamilton.

This scene represents Carl Kolchak's, and the local female sheriff's, first encounter with the cannibalistic ghoulies of the title (the first three panels on Page 2 are Kolchak on a plane, narrating his adventure into his recorder), before jumping into her patrol car and taking off. Most of page four is a monologue of sorts, with Carl explaining a bit about his experiences as a "wierdness magnet."

Frankly, I think Tim is doing an amazing job.

I'm supposed to be seeing the colored pages from Issue #1 soon, 'cause I'll be lettering the book, too. When those show up, I'll try and preview a page or two here.


The End of an Era

My first website, Supernatural Crime, is no more. Although I'll be retaining the domain name, and there's a memorial page there now, the site itself is officially closed down.

There are number of reasons for this. First, and foremost, I haven't been able to devote any real attention to it in months and months. The way the site was designed and intended, there was supposed to be a steady stream of new content on an almost daily basis. But as the years rolled past, I learned just how unrealistic my original goals were. Also, relationships with some of my old collaborators and contributors have changed, and, well, it just wasn't the site I wanted it to be. In fact, it was starting to feel a bit like an albatross around my neck, and a constant reminder of various failed endeavors.

Second, as my attention has shifted to my print projects – specifically the upcoming Femme Noir miniseries – it seemed that the site's best possible use was as a promotional tool for those comic books. Unfortunately, the site had become cluttered with lots of extraneous material and abandoned projects, and just plain unwieldy. In the next couple of months, I'll be launching, which will have a lot of the old Supernatural Crime material, but will be much more tightly focused, with a streamlined, stripped-down design. I'll let you know when it goes live.

Third, I'm just plain moving on to other things. With the imminent re-launch of DVD Late Show, my new Guns In the Gutters blog, this blog, a revised Atomic Pulp homepage, and my new focus on print projects – both comics and prose – I no longer felt a need for the site, never mind have the time to maintain it.

Besides, a lot of people kept getting it mixed up with Batton Lash's Supernatural Law.

But I don't move on without a pang of nostalgia and regret. Much of my online persona and many of my most important web acquaintances and online friendships are directly tied to the Supernatural Crime site and my role as its "Crimeboss." I learned a lot about web design by revising and reworking the layout of the site over the years. It was the birth place of Femme Noir and Brother Grim. And, damn it, it was a lot of fun.

But five years is a long time – especially in Internet terms – and I'm ready to move on to new challenges and projects, both on the web and off.

Thanks to everyone who visited the site over the years, and especially those who discovered me and my work there, and have followed me to my other ventures. I'm deeply grateful.

Supernatural Crime. 2001-2006. R.I.P.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Busy Weekend

Found out on Friday that my short story, "The Beast of Bava Pass," has definitely been accepted for inclusion in the upcoming Moonstone Monsters prose anthology, Werewolves: Dead Moon Rising. The book is currently planned for an October, 2007 release – just in time for Halloween.

Obviously, it's a collection of new werewolf stories. My story is kind of a tribute to old late night monster flicks, very much in the Universal or Hammer Films mold... with just a tad more blood and sex. Hope people dig it.

I don't know much about this book – not even the names of any of the other contributors – but I do know that the cover is by Dave Dorman and the editor is Dave Ulanksi. I'll post more details when I get them.

Since the weather was so unpredictable and generally crappy this weekend, I spent most of Saturday and today re-designing my Atomic Pulp website. I had been fiddling around with a redesign much of last year, but was never very happy with it, and with everything that was going on, I never got around to finishing it. The version I've been working on the past few days is graphically more ambitious, yet also simplified in many ways. I hope to have it up and running in the next month or so.

At the same time, my beloved missus was re-building my DVD Late Show site in WordPress, which should allow me to update it again on a regular basis – at least as often as I can crank out new columns, anyway. You see, when I replaced my old computer last fall with a newer old computer, I lost some files and some software, including the program I had used to build the DVD Late Show site... which is why it hasn't been updated since then. Assuming that Brandi can work out the remaining bugs – and I'm confident she can – I hope to have the damned site a working concern again very soon.

Picked up the latest Hard Case Crime paperback – The Vengeful Virgin by Gil Brewer – last night, along with the Batman: Detective trade paperback by Paul Dini. For the most part, I was pretty pleased with Dini's work; strong, standalone stories that emphasize the Batman's deductive abilities, while simultaneously making him less of an asshole than he's been in recent years. None of the five stories in the book really knocked my socks off, but they were pretty good Batman tales... and that's rare enough these days.

When I wasn't working at the computer or reading, I was watching the second season of The Wild Wild West on DVD. This is season when everything really clicked into place: both leads were in their prime, the scripts were particularly sharp and clever, the production design was colorful and imaginative, the guest stars were great, and there was an omnipresent sense of sheer fun. What a wonderfully inventive and entertaining show!

Now... back to work.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Snappy Patter

From the Mike Shayne film, The Man Who Wouldn't Die (1942).

News: Flash?

Well, apparently, they're moving ahead with the new SciFi Channel Flash Gordon series after all.

Actor Eric Johnson, 28, who played Clark Kent's romatic rival "Whitney" on the first season or so of Smallville has been cast as Flash.

None of the other roles have yet been filled, although the show's supposed to debut in August. That bodes well...

No real opinion on this guy as yet. He's blond, so they won't have to go the bleach route that so plagued Buster Crabbe, and he's got a good chin. He's also not quite as young as I thought he was – 28 is a pretty good age for Flash... if they let him play that. If they go the "teen" route with this, I'm going to be pissed.

As I recall, though, wasn't he so boring on Smallville that they wrote him out of the show by having him join the Marines and be killed in Iraq?

Oh well. Still hoping that this show doesn't suck and kill the franchise for another decade. I also still haven't heard if it's going to be updated or not – but I bet it will.

I hate Hollywood. But I love movies/TV. Go figure.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Cranked Up

Watched Crank last night and friggin' loved it.

Now, I enjoy Jason Statham's Transporter flicks, for all their faults, because the guy is pretty much the only screen action hero tough-guy right now that I actually believe is tough. For all I know, he may be a big ol' pansy in real life, knitting doilies and playing with kittens, but in his movies, I genuinely buy him as a badass. There aren't many guys like that around anymore. Most of today's leading actors just don't possess whatever it is that makes for a convincing hardcase. Eastwood, Bronson, Marvin... those guys had it... and Statham does, too.

I'm not going to go into a long review of Crank here; frankly the movie doesn't need or deserve one. It's just an extended video-game – an ultraviolent, hard-R cartoon that I can best describe as D.O.A. meets Run, Lola, Run meets a Chuck Jones or Friz Freleng Road Runner short. It's got tons of gratuitious violence and sex, and it's utterly without redeeming value... except that it's also funny as hell – intentionally so – and it was the humor more than anything else that won me over.

And the funniest thing is that the DVD comes with a "family friendly" audio option that removes all the swear words. A feature which – considering all the film's gory violence, constant drug use, explicit public sex, on-screen blowjobs and scenes of Statham running around the city in a hospital gown, bareassed and sporting wood – just cracks me up.

Good stuff.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Yesterday evening, I made a trip to Wally-Mart and picked up a copy of the Payback Straight-Up: Director's Cut DVD. I had originally intended to wait a while, but my impatience got the better of me, and my beloved was surprisingly accomodating.

When I got home, I decided that the best way to appreciate the new version of the movie was by watching the original, studio-and-Mel-compromised, 1999 cut again first. Well, I did – and you know what? I still like it. It's a great little hardboiled flick, and if there's a bit too much sympathy generated for the Porter character, well, it's okay. It works, mostly. And, since the added humor is appropriately wry and dark, it doesn't detract too much from the grittiness of the story.

That said, though, I like Straight-Up better.

Much darker and drier. No voice-over narration to clearly – and patronizingly – spell out everything to an underestimated audience. (Worst offender: "Crooked cops. Are there any other kind?" as if we didn't get it, from their actions and dialogue.) The scenes that remain in common between the two versions sometimes have different dialogue (obviously altered and post-dubbed in the original theatrical cut) that makes Porter far less sympathetic and/or amusing. No more "obligatory Mel Gibson torture scene." Hell, Kris Kristoferson isn't in this cut. Even the music score is new.

The tone is quite different, much closer to the 70's crime films that director Helgeland was inspired by. Even the look is different – in order to assemble this version, Helgeland and the editor had to go back to the original film elements, so, instead of giving the movie the cold, blue-gray tones of the theatrical cut (a look that I happened to love, by the way), they instead went with a high-contrast, almost bleached-out look. Frankly, it took me a few reels to get used to it, but once I did, I realized that it, too, added to the 70's feel of the flick, and decided I liked it.

The entire third act is completely and dramatically different, but there are major changes scattered throughout. Frankly, this is the best performance that Mel Gibson has given since The Road Warrior. In this version, Porter is much closer to the Richard Stark "Parker" character, and for that reason, more than any other, this is now my preferred cut.

But I'm definitely hanging onto my old DVD. I've got a feeling that I'll be watching both versions from time to time in the years to come, depending on my mood, and there are a few things in the theatrical cut that I still very much enjoy. This new edition does not replace the old one for me, but does improve upon it in most ways, and I'm grateful for it.

The behind-the-scenes documentary is quite good, too. Both Mel and director Brian Helgeland seem to be up-front and frank about their parts in the convoluted production history of this film, with Mel making some good points about why the original changes were felt necessary. Helgeland never backs down from his position, but also admits that this "Director's Cut" isn't exactly the one he was fighting for in '98, either. Overall, though, I gotta give Mel his props for facilitating this new version. I won't say it took guts, necessarily, but it was a stand-up move on his part.

If you're a fan of the theatrical cut of Payback, I highly recommend picking up Straight-Up.

ADDENDUM – I just found out that John Flynn, director of the 1973 Richard Stark adaptation, The Outfit, recently passed away. The Outfit was a pretty damned decent '70s crime film. Robert Duvall made a suitably badass Parker (called "Earl Macklin" in this one) and a number of veteran noir actors – like Robert Ryan, Marie Windsor, Elisha Cook, and Jane Greer – filled out the strong supporting cast. It really should be on DVD.

Flynn was a journeyman director who also directed stuff like Lock-Up and Out for Justice. A solid filmmaker, if not much of a stylist; Rolling Thunder and The Outfit are probably his best films. My condolences to his family.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Monday Morning Musings

I'm feeling considerably better this morning than I have in several weeks. My sciatica has finally improved to a point where I can once again relax in my recliner and spend long hours working at my desk – although riding in the car is still agonizing. Must be something about the angle of the seats in the Saturn. I dunno.

Starting to make some progress catching up on my work, at last. Turned in an overdue short story last week, and have been working on comic scripts the last few days. Now that I can watch TV and movies again, I figure that, not this week, but probably next, I'll have a new DVD Late Show column up over at Quick Stop. Also, my new crime comics blog, Guns In the Gutters, is going well, with a dozen reviews posted so far, and a surprisingly high number of hits. I'm having fun with it, too, which is always a plus.

There's a very good chance I'll be shutting down my MySpace account in the next few days. Every time I try to post a legitimate bulletin over there, it blocks my account and insists that it's been phished. I've had to change my password three times tonight, and I'm not sure it was worth the effort. I shall ponder.

Anyway, I'm busy as hell. This week, I've got Captain Midnight and Femme Noir scripts on my plate, with another short story and another comics script lined up right after.

Wish more of it paid, though. Money's tight and medical bills have mounted up. Insurance just plain doesn't cover everything, unfortunately, and it looks like our taxes are going to be a bitch this year, too.

Changing gears... Joe Staton sent me a copy of the recent DC trade paperback Huntress: Darknight Daughter, which reprints most if not all of the old Earth-2 Huntress stories that Joe and current DC publisher Paul Levitz did back in the Seventies. It's great stuff!

I mean it. All-ages superhero adventures with awesome art, plenty of action, solid chracterization and an appealing, attractive, moral heroine. My only complaint is with Levitz's introduction, where it sounds like he's apologizing for the quality of his work on these stories.

I've got news for you, Paul: this stuff is better than 90% of the cynical, overblown, depressing Hollywood wannabe shit you guys are publishing these days. If you feel like apologizing, apologize for that crap.

As for other recent diversions, those Michael Shayne movies were fantastic. Fast-paced, funny, and very well acted by some of the best character actors of the era – Lloyd Nolan, included. I hope Fox puts out the remaining ones in the series ASAP. I wonder who has the rights to the PRC Shayne films with Hugh Beaumont? Hmmmm...

So, I'm now hoping to get that Payback Director's Cut after Brandi gets the taxes paid. Hope we can swing it, and I won't have to put it off too long. We'll see.

Well, gotta get back to work. More later.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Michael Shayne in the House

Just received the first Michael Shayne Mysteries set from Fox. I'm guessing there will be a second set in six months or so. This set contains four movies on two double-sided "flipper" discs: Michael Shayne, Private Detective, The Man Who Wouldn't Die, Sleepers West and Blue, White And Perfect.

The art on the box and the two slimcases appear to be brand new paintings by the astounding Robert McGinnis (who painted the covers of many of the Shayne paperbacks – althought these paintings actually feature Lloyd Nolan), and there's a McGinnis featurette on Side B of the first disc.

From the fact that all four sides include the same "Restoration Comparison" feature, I have to wonder if Fox originally intended to put each movie on its own disc, as in their Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto sets, and went with this more economical package because the sales on those considerably more expensive mystery sets were less than expected. While I think I would have prefered seperate discs for aesthetic reasons – we might have got another coulple McGinnis covers and these discs would have matched my Chans and Motos (not to mention the one previous Shayne film that Fox released a year or so ago), I can't really complain. After all, I'm all for saving 20 bucks.

Fortunately, my sciatica has improved enough in the past week or so that I can finally sit in my recliner again, and usually make it through a short movie. I've only seen one previous Michael Shayne film – the above mentione earlier release, Dressed to Kill – and it was great. Short, fast-paced and extremely entertaining, with snappy dialogue delivered by a top-notch B-movie cast. I'm looking forward to watching these four over the next few days.

Now, if only Warners would bring out all their Saint and Falcon ficks...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Something to look forward to:

And, man, with the way things have been going, lately, I really need something to look forward to right now. I first wrote about this disc last October.

Payback: Straight-Up. The Director's Cut. April 10th.

Amazon has it for pre-order for 15 bucks.


Monday, April 02, 2007

R.I.P. Donald Hamilton

I know that it's just a matter of that I'm getting older, and that I discovered these guys rather late in their lives, but all of my favorite writers are dying, and it's tearing me up.

Especially Donald Hamilton.

I can clearly remember the first Matt Helm novel I ever read. I found a copy of The Ambushers in a pile of old books in my parents' basement, and it looked both interesting and short, so I took it to school to read during study hall and on the bus.

It completely changed my life.

Hamilton was the gateway drug that hooked me on hardboiled. From there, it was a short step to Spillane. If Hamilton was cocaine, Spillane was crack, and soon I was a hopeless junkie, going to great lengths to get that next "fix." There was a used bookstore in my hometown then, run by an old couple out of their garage. Up until Hamilton, I rarely made the hilly, 6-mile bicycle trip to their shop, and when I did, I never looked beyond the old comic books and the sci-fi paperbacks. But after The Ambushers, I was there every weekend, blowing my allowance (a whopping buck a week) in the mystery and adventure section, snagging every Hamilton, Spillane, Dan Marlowe, Richard Stark and Nick Carter, "Killmaster," paperback they had. I don't remember a single long car trip that Matt Helm didn't accompany me on, and no matter where I lived, the Hamilton paperbacks were always shelved in easy reach, never boxed away or stored out of sight.

Donald Hamilton was – and is – my all-time favorite writer. The quote from an article I wrote for Thrilling Detective that appeared on the back cover of Hard Case Crime's edition of Don's novel Night Walker – even if it wasn't correctly and completely attributed to me – is probably the bit of published writing I'm most proud of.

I'd write more... but I'm too wracked up. Here's the e-mail that I got from Hard Case Crime's Charles Ardai this evening:


Earlier today I learned that Donald Hamilton has died.

Don was 90 years old. Though his name may be little remembered today, in the 1960s and 70s he was well known as the best-selling author of the "Matt Helm" novels, a series of well-written and popular stories about a ruthless agent of the U.S. government who fought evil in the Cold War world (and eventually -- briefly -- the post-Cold War world). Helm starred in 27 novels between 1960's DEATH OF A CITIZEN and 1993's THE DAMAGERS; he was also featured in several movies starring Dean Martin, as well as a short-lived TV series starring Anthony Franciosa that reimagined the character as a private eye. More recently, Dreamworks optioned the rights to all the Helm novels for feature film development. A final Matt Helm novel exists but has never been published.

Don also wrote a dozen non-Helm novels, including several popular Westerns (including THE BIG COUNTRY, which became the Gregory Peck movie, and SMOKY VALLEY, which was filmed as "The Violent Men" starring Glenn Ford). And he wrote several outstanding noir crime novels, including one -- NIGHT WALKER -- which we're proud to have reprinted last year in the Hard Case Crime series.

In the last decade of his life, Don moved back to Sweden, where he'd been born, and lived there with his son, Gordon. He died peacefully, in his sleep, this past November. Gordon kept the fact of his death private until today, when he confirmed it in a phone conversation with me.

We've lost a number of giants of the mystery field over the past few years -- Mickey Spillane, Ed McBain, and Richard S. Prather, among others -- and Donald Hamilton is very much of that caliber. He sold more than 20 million books during his lifetime. But unlike Spillane, McBain and Prather, all of whom were widely remembered at the time of their death, Don's passing has sadly gone unremarked.

I thought you might be interested to know about it, and that perhaps you would have an opportunity to let other people know as well. If you would like additional information, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

Editor, Hard Case Crime

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Guns In the Gutters

After posting my comments on Abuli & Bernet's Torpedo early this morning, it occurred to me that a blog focusing solely on reviews of crime comics would be fun to read. So I went looking for one, but came up empty.

So I started one myself.

It's called Guns In the Gutters, and along with a modified and expanded version of my Torpedo review, there's a new post on Moonstone's Pat Novak for Hire one-shot, too. The plan is to eventually re-read all of the crime, mystery and espionage comics and graphic novels in my collection and review them. I intend to hit them all – from Ms. Tree, Jon Sable, The Maze Agency, and Sin City to Tony Bravado, The Grackle, Last of the Independents, Dominique and Shut Up And Die!

Check it out.

The Art of Jordi Bernet's Torpedo

Pretty much my favorite crime comic of all – based on the relative handful of stories I've been able to read – is E. Sanchez Abuli and Jordi Bernet's Torpedo. The beautifully-drawn European comic chronicles the "adventures" of Depression-era New York hitman Luca Tortelli, alias "Torpedo," probably the nastiest piece of work to ever headline his own strip.

Utterly ruthless and amoral, Torpedo makes my own criminal comics protagonist, "Gravedigger" McCrae, look like a boy scout. In one of the few stories I've managed to read, Torpedo shoots a priest in the back, in church, and then washes his face in holy water before smashing open the alms box to snag a twenty. In another, he wipes out a bunch of thugs who've been hassling a fishmonger, and then takes his payment by raping the seafood merchant's gorgeous wife.

The guy's no role model, that's for sure.

Unfortunately, the English versions of the graphic album collections are long out of print, hard to find, and expensive when you do, so I haven't got many. I do have the four Torpedo comic books that Fantagraphics put out in the early 90's (under the "Hardboiled Comic" imprint), but those only whetted my appetite.

It's genuinely hardboiled, uncompromising crime fiction with some of the most beautiful art I've ever seen. Both Alex Toth and Joe Kubert have sung Bernet's praises, and it's no wonder.

Here's hoping that I'll be able to track down more of these books, eventually, or that some other enterprising U.S. publisher will have the balls to reprint them in English again.