Lois Lane Returns

Lois Lane Jenny Frison variant cover

One of comics’ original ‘plucky’ girl reporters (and surely the best known) will be getting her own title once again with a 12-issue series starting this July. Superman’s Girl friend Lois Lane was a DC Comics silver age staple with over 130 issues, and she’s made countless appearances in various Superman titles, but after that comic was cancelled, the Daily Planet reporter only had a one-shot in the late 90’s.

There’s already a bit of understandable frustration buzzing in comicdom though, since the book will be scripted by Greg Rucka with art by Mike Perkins, and many wonder why a series about the world’s best investigative journalist and a comic character icon couldn’t land a woman on the creative team. Jenny Frisson has been tapped for at least one variant cover so far (shown above). The comics world is not what it was back when 1950’s/60’s Lois Lane tales depicted her endlessly scheming to trap Superman into marriage or needing to be rescued by the man of steel. Kinda would make sense for a Lois Lane reboot to be penned by a woman writer or drawn by any of the top women artists, wouldn’t it?

ArtGerm’s Villainesses

Bat And The Cat

Comics are as good a place as any to look for crime fiction’s bad girlz, DC Comics and the Girlz of Gotham City in particular. Stanley Lau (who uses the brand name Artgerm) renders some of the best versions of them. Go to his site at artgerm.com to view more of the artist’s work and collectibles, but enjoy Selina Kyle, Harleen Frances Qunizel and Pamela Lillian Isley, better known as Catwoman, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy right here for a start.

Selina KyleDetective COmics 1000

Master Stylist: Darwyn Cooke

Darwyn Cooke - 6 - Parker

No one’s passing is good news. But when beloved or talented people leave us at a young age, it’s doubly painful. We can’t help but wonder what else they’d have created if granted more time.

Darwyn Cooke - 5 - Parker

Canadian artist, illustrator and animator Darwyn Cooke was just such a case. The master stylist was born in Toronto but grew up in Nova Scotia, where he learned to draw at an early age by ‘deconstructing’ comics, attempting to replicate the style of the illustrations…and in doing so, developing his own very distinctive style. Know him for his stunning comics work on Batman, Catwoman (that’s where I first discovered his work) and Richard Stark’s Parker, or for his animation work for The New Adventures Of Batman and Batman Beyond, or know him for winning thirteen Eisner Awards. But know that, sadly, he succumbed to cancer in 2016 at age 53. But his work lives on…

Darwyn Cooke - 7 ParkerDarwyn Cooke - 3 - The SpiritDarwyn Cooke 1Darwyn Cooke 2Darwyn Cooke 4 - ParkerDarwyn Cooke - 8 - Parker

Criminal #6: Can’t Wait

Criminal 6

I just picked up Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillip’s Criminal #4 this past weekend, and now I see that the cover for Criminal #6 just appeared at Sean Phillips’ site on Monday morning – theartofseanphillips.blogspot.uk. Not due out till mid-July…but I’ll be waiting.

Lady Killer: Joelle Jones

Lady Killer 1

I never say this person’s the best artist, the best writer, the best actor, etc. But I’m not timid about saying who are my favorites, and the brilliant Joelle Jones is on that list. Incredibly skilled with design and composition as well as an artful stylist, Jones isn’t content being a terrific artist, but has to be an inventive and creative writer as well…the show-off. Some handiwork of her best project so far (IMHO) shown here: Lady Killer, about 1960’s suburban housewife Josie Schuller, who’s also happens to be a lethal hit woman.

Lady Killer 2Lady Killer 3

The Dames

pulp fiction the dames

Otto Penzler’s Pulp Fiction: The Dames is a follow-up to his previous anthologies Pulp Fiction: The Crimefighters and Pulp Fiction: The Villains. My copy shown here is a 2008 Quercus UK edition, a big fat 500+ page trade paperback which includes 22 stories plus two saucy Sally The Sleuth comic strips from 1930’s – 40’s pulp fiction magazines, including the top tier mags like Black Mask, Dime Detective and Detective Fiction Weekly, right down to the bottom rung in publications like Gun Molls, and Spicy Romantic Adventures. Penzler’s preface and Laura Lippman’s well-written introduction frame the material well. As she writes, “The pulps of the early 20thcentury will never be mistaken for proto-feminist documents…(but) there is just enough kink in these archetypes of girlfriend/hussy/sociopath to hint at broader possibilities for the female of the species.” Indeed, the roots of V.I. Washawski, Kinsey Millhone and even Lippman’s own Tess Monaghan can be traced right back here.

Pulp Fiction The Dames Back

The anthology opens with a terrific Cornell Woolrich 1937 tale, Angel Face, about a chorus girl trying to keep her wayward younger brother out of trouble, but when he’s framed for murder, she ignores the cops and does her own sleuthing to nab the mobster she’s sure did the deed. It may end abruptly and even a bit implausibly, but every sentence absolutely sings with vintage slang and retro word-smithing that’s a dark delight. That’s followed by Leslie T. White’s Chosen To Die from 1934 with husband and wife team of P.I. Duke Martindel and attorney Phyllis Martindel, the well-intended gumshoe relying on his savvy spouse to get him out of jams with the law. The book includes stories from Dashiell Hammett, a Lars Anderson’s Domino Lady tale, a T.T. Flynn Trixie Meehan story and even Raymond Chandler’s 1935 Killer In The Rain, which he cannibalized (along with material from other short stories) for The Big Sleep. Read it and see if you don’t spot some mighty familiar scenes and passages, even if the private eye isn’t named Marlowe.

‘The Dames’ from pulp fiction aren’t all snoopy reporters, private investigators or even uniformed cops (rare as those were). The bad girlz might be some of the more memorable characters in this anthology, from gun molls to gang leaders. Unlike Penzler’s recent – and enormous – The Big Book Of Female Detectives (see link below for a post on that book) this one’s strictly vintage pulp fiction. Which isn’t always literary, can sometimes be a little squirm-worthy, but is almost always entertaining, and the female private eyes, girl reporters, sleuthing secretaries and, yes — even former chorus girls – make for one terrific tale after another.

https://thestilettogumshoe.com/2019/03/09/the-big-book-of-female-detectives/

Tinsel Town

Masthead

I never saw this five-issue series from Alterna Comics which apparently ran last year, and just happened to stumble across it recently at a blog. I’ve looked for it since with no luck. But a trade pb collecting the whole series is due out this summer, though not till the end of July (which could just as easily mean anywhere from August through Autumn). I suppose I’ll pre-order now.

 

Tinsel Town 1 Cover

 

Sure looks interesting: David Lucarelli writes a story drawn by Henry Ponciano set in the silent film era, when Abigail Moore dreams of becoming a police officer. Of course, women weren’t welcome then, but she takes a job as a studio security officer, where soon enough she’s mixed up in a noir-ish behind the screen mystery. Well, that cover art’s a little bright for ‘noir-ish, but I’m still eager to check this out.

HIT 1955 – 1957

Hot 1955 #1

HIT, from BOOM Comics, written by Bryce Carlson with art (and some of the series covers) by the great Vanesa R. Del Rey.

There are two HIT series: 1955 and a follow-up, 1957. Both are dark, noir-ish hard-boiled crime fiction at its very, very best. The set-up’s reminiscent of James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential, and films like Mulholland Falls or Gangster Squad, dealing with LAPD Detective Harvey Slater, who’s an undercover member of the secret Hit Squad, lawless thugs with badges on a top-brass-endorsed mission to purge Los Angeles of organized crime. But Detective Slater’s due for real trouble when the woman from his past returns to L.A., none other than Bonnie Brae, who just happens to be his Captain’s daughter. Brae’s pure trouble in a dress, and one of the finest femme fatales to appear in comics in years.

Hit 1955

Like many comic trade paperbacks, the HIT books include extras, like a Duane Swierczynski introduction and cover alternates from Erik Gist, Trevor Hairsine, Terry Dodson and Ryna Soo. But best of all, both of these have bonus short stories, which were a real treat. I loved both series, loved Carlson’s storytelling and Del Rey’s art, but most of all, I loved Bonnie Brae, and I bet you will too.

Hit 1957

Not The Best, Only The Better

Spicy Detective Stories

Spicy Detective Stories is a used bookstore find, a 1989 Malibu Graphics trade paperback reprinting six stories and a Sally The Sleuth strip from various 1935 – 1937 issues of the iconic pulp magazine of the same name, all re-typeset, but including the original interior B&W illustrations. It leads off with a Robert Leslie Bellem Dan Turner – Hollywood Detective story, “Temporary Corpse”, the dialog and period slang a real treat. Not Bellem’s best, perhaps, but still fun. In fact, the book’s Tom Mason foreword notes, “This collection of Spicy Detective Stories is not intended to be a ‘best of’ collection. It’s more like a ‘better of’, a sampling, as close to a better-than-average issue of the real thing”.

Uhm…well, if they say so.

Strangely, the book doesn’t use a piece of cover art from the era…something by H. J. Ward or Norm Saunders would seem in order. Instead, there’s an original contemporary illustration by “Madman” (don’t know who that really is) which is nice, though looking like a better fit for a Spicy Mystery or Spicy Adventure pulp reprint than Spicy Detective. The book closes with a short 13-panel 1937 Sally The Sleuth strip, “Matinee Murder”, where Adolphe Barreaux’ sassy snoop finds herself (no surprise) in jeopardy, but being tied up in lacy lingerie never stopped Sally from landing a well-placed kick to the snoot of any villain, and then solving the crime. All in a dozen-plus panels, mind you.

I don’t know if this was a stand-alone book or part of a Malibu Graphics series. I’ve noted before that I don’t collect pricey pulp magazine originals, but I do have some Adventure House trade paperback reprints, those being complete single issues using the original typesetting, capturing all the original art and even the hilarious ads, right down to the classifieds. They’re not “best of’s” or even “better of’s”, but a pretty affordable way to understand the 1930’s – 40’s pulp era in all its tawdry glory. I’ll profile some of those here soon…promise.

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