You Have Killed Me.

You Have Killed Me Cover

Cold and windy under nonstop pouring rain, last Saturday would’ve been a good day to stay indoors. But I ventured out to pick up a current events book reserved at the library (there being a current event or two to keep tabs on these days). The local public library’s a bit lean on actual books, but is well appointed with comfy reading nooks, plush seating and even a fireplace. Almost ready to check out, Jamie S. Rich and Joelle Jones’ You Have Killed Me caught my eye on the graphic novel section’s endcap. I have it, of course, being an ardent Jones fan. Still, I paused to flip through the 2018 trade pb edition of this 2009 graphic novel anyway. Before I knew it, I’d dropped into one of those fireside chairs to reread this yummy bit of retro noir fun from cover to cover before dashing back out into the rain.

You Have Killed Me Art

Some will holler cliché. Me? I see nothing but classic noir and hard-boiled genre tropes lovingly celebrated in Rich’s story, a smooth flowing piece of work that reads like a period-perfect screenplay for a 1940’s-50’s noir. As for Joelle Jones art? Fans might be surprised to see some softer lines and curvier faces here and there, but it’s still Joelle Jones’ brilliant, stylized draftsmanship throughout, and an excellent chance to see where she was ten years ago. The pair make an excellent team (as seen since on Lady Killer, for example) in this tale of hard luck P.I. Antonio Mercer, hired by wealthy and beautiful Jessica Roman to locate her sister Julie, who’s gone missing on the eve of her society wedding…the missing Julie also Mercer’s one-time lover. But family dramas and messy love affairs are the least of Mercer’s problems once he begins to tangle with gamblers, gangsters and hard-assed cops in jazz clubs, racetracks and roadhouses. Any savvy noir fan will smell a rat – or at least an untrustworthy femme fatale – early on, but even the savviest may not be ready for what really happened to the missing sister. Trust me: This one’s a treat.

Sure, I got soaked on my way back to my car. But I did get the political rant hardcover I’d reserved a week earlier (just to drive myself nuts) and had a good time savoring Jamie Rich’s wordsmithing and ogling Joelle Jones art, both every bit as tasty today as ten years ago when the book came out.

 

“Cigarette Girls”: Smoke And Guns

Smoke And Guns

Her bio says that Oakland librarian Kirsten Baldock actually worked as a cigarette girl during her first year in San Francisco. I didn’t realize that even was a job during our lifetimes. But let’s assume her cigarette girl gig was slightly less dangerous than the one she imagined for her urban noir graphic novel Smoke And Guns (AIT/Planet Lar, 2005 trade pb). Drawn by Brazilian artist Fabio Moon, Smoke And Guns imagines a Sin City style urban nightmare divvied up into districts serviced by licensed gangs of cigarette girls like The Chinatown Dolls and The Grand Avenue Belles. They may look, act and sound like ‘working girls’, (very well-armed working girls, that is) but they sell cigarettes, not sex, and when Scarlett breaks the fragile peace by selling smokes on another gang’s turf, all hell breaks loose.

Smoke And Guns Page -

Baldock’s idea’s an imaginative one, and her dialog is a treat, while Moon’s straightforward black and white brushwork-style draftsmanship is a good example of comic art pages being ready-to-shoot storyboards for a film. This may be an oldie, but it’s a goodie that I still see on some comic shops’ graphic novel shelves. If you spot it, check it out.

Smoe And Guns Page

The Tommy Gun Dolls

The Tommy Gun Dolls

I always enjoy a surprise, such as discovering something unknown and unexpected on a comic shop’s graphic novel shelves. A recent example: Daniel Cooney’s The Tommy Gun Dolls, a handsome creator-owned hardcover graphic novel set in Prohibition era San Francisco, with both story and art by Cooney himself, assisted on inks and colors by Leigh Walls and Lisa Gonzales.

It’s 1928, and the city’s practically a war zone with rival Irish, Italian and Chinese mobs duking it out over turf, booze, gambling and prostitution. Meanwhile, at the bawdy Frisky Devil speakeasy-burlesque house (and its adjoining bordello), the showgirls and hookers endure the mobsters’ and customers’ abuse. When one of them is murdered and her grisly death hushed up by cops on the take and a tight-lipped coroner, the ladies take matters into their own hands, egged on by part-time grifter, part-time gambler, part-time snoop and full-time trouble-maker Frankie, the dead girl’s lover, and apparently a refugee from a Bob Fosse musical, complete with a black bob, derby and a complete Sally Bowles ensemble.

Oh yeah, and a tommy gun.

The Tommy Gun Dolls – Volume One: “The Big Takeover”  was a Kickstarter campaign project that resulted in a very handsome book. I don’t know the status of Volume Two – “Double Cross On Maiden Lane”, though the first book clearly was a ‘to-be-continued thing’, so I hope we’ll see that next book and more from Mr. Cooney soon. This is a pretty complex tale full of double-crosses and retro-decadence, all rendered in some mighty nice artwork. Not sure if I buy ‘proto-punk’ Frankie’s torn stockings and unlaced Doc Martens get up in the story’s opening scenes, but let’s give the artist some creatively anachronistic leeway there and just say they were World War One doughboy surplus gear. The boots, that is.

The Tommy Gun Dolls 2

Nasty Pills

Nasty Pills 2

Evil biotech corporation, Golden Dusk, developed a new DNA altering drug called (appropriately) ‘Nasty Pills’, which can modify users’ appearance, health, mood and behavior. But Nasty Pills aren’t being administered to cure diseases, only to breed beautiful, submissive, STD-immune young girls abducted from St. Stephens orphanage to be reconditioned and then auctioned off to the highest bidders as sex slaves. But the evil execs at Golden Dusk didn’t reckon on gun-packing gumshoe May Campbell, who may not care much about the law – or anything – but does care about her one true love, Rebecca, one of the Nasty Pills’ victims. The oversize “crazy pulp book” first issue is from Amigo Comics, written and drawn by ‘Massacre’ along with additional art by Dani Seijas. It’s just a two-issue series, so May Campbell’s campaign of violence and vengeance on millionaires and mobsters will wrap up quickly.

Nasty Pills 1

Steranko’s Hornet

The Green Hornet - Jim Steranko

I think I saw this original painting on exhibit at the one and only local paperback and pulp con I ever attended. This is the Jim Steranko cover art done for the first issue of Now Comics’ 1989 The Green Hornet series. I don’t know if the comics/illustration master was a guest speaker or if the piece was being auctioned off, but it was nice to see an original in the flesh.

It was my one and only pulp con, and I was a little dismayed (or creeped out) by all the kinda-scary guys bypassing oodles of collectible 1930’s – 50’s pulp gems to stock up on bags full of genuinely icky 1960’s – 70’s era hard core porn paperbacks. So my visit to the dealers room was brief.

If you missed it, check out the recent Green Hornet post, link below.

https://wordpress.com/view/thestilettogumshoe.com

 

Enemy Of The People

Lois Lane #2, cover by Nicola Scott

Man, have we hard that rap lately…

Just picked up the first issue of the new Lois Lane 12-issue maxi series this weekend: “Enemy Of The People”, written by Greg Rucka with art by Mike Perkins. It’s a meaty story and already off to a good start. I’ve never been much for the whole Superman universe (despite the CW’s Supergirl show being one of my TV guilty pleasures), and when it comes to the capes-n-tights crowd, it’s always been Batman and the whole Gotham universe for me. But this series seems promising, and I’m on board. Mike Perkins cover art shown above, and the second issue’s Nicola Scott cover art shown below.

Number One Cover art

Colton Worley

Colton Worley

Dynamite Entertainment’s reboot of The Green Hornet (see prior post) has included two volumes/storylines as well as a parallel Kato – Origins series, with various writers and artists. While not a name I’ve spotted with the current Volume Two series that features Kato’s daughter Mulan assuming The Green Hornet’s mantle, Colton Worley has delivered some gorgeous covers for prior issues and other Dynamite vintage crimefighter and contemporary character titles, including The Shadow, Miss Fury and Jennifer Blood. Background information on Worley seems sparse. I think he’s from Spokane, but don’t hold me to it. But then, bio’s aren’t important. It’s the art that counts. Above: A Noir-ish masterpiece from Kato: Origins Issue 9, and below, some stunning Worley work for Lamont Cranston, The Shadow and other Dynamite Entertainment titles.

4 Colton Worley CoversThe Shadow 1The Shadow 2The Shadow 3The Shadow 4

 

Some Vintage ‘Stiletto Gumshoes’

Klassik Komix Holywood Detective Front

Mini-Komix’ (or is it Klassik Komix?) Hollywood Detective is a 100-page trade paperback combining several Dan Turner – Hollywood Detective stories (most of which I already had in other compilations or pulp reprints) with some relative rarities, including genuine ‘stiletto gumshoes’ from the 1940’s – 50’s. Now I’m no vintage crime comics historian, but I think the non-Dan Turner pieces aren’t from Dan Turner – Hollywood Detective magazines, but from the vintage crime pulp Speed Detective, which included (and actively promoted) a comics section in most issues, including Ray McClelland’s “Gail Ford – Girl Friday” and Gene Leslie’s “Queenie Starr – Glamour Girl Of Hollywood” along with Newt Alfred’s “Ray Hale – News Ace”.

3 Super Detectives

This book includes all of those, plus a “Betty Blake” four page shortie. H. L. Parkhurst’s Betty Blake was a contemporary of Alphonse Barreaux’ Sally The Sleuth, both launched in the Spring of 1934, though Betty only managed to survive for a half dozen appearances while Sally The Sleuth continued (in evolving forms) well into the 1950’s. Additionally, Betty, the daughter of a New York police inspector, somehow managed to keep her clothes on while solving crimes, unlike Sally The Sleuth. I’d tell you more, but Hollywood Detective includes no introduction, back matter, dates, details…nothing. There’s a write-up on this early female detective pulp/comics character from Kevin Burton Smith at the Thrilling Detective site. Check it out.

Gail Ford

For me, the real treats in this slim book are the Gail Ford – Girl Friday story, “Girl Snatchers” (a sample page shown above) and the three Queenie Starr – Glamour Girl Of Hollywood stories. I’d read little snippets here and there about these characters, perhaps seen some random panel art (typically unidentified or credited) at a Tumblr blog, Pinterest or elsewhere. But now I finally got to read a few complete pieces. If you’re into the roots of female detectives, cops, reporters and sundry snoops from the mid-twentieth century, they were a real find.

Queenie Starr

McClelland’s Gail Ford and Leslie’s Queenie Starr (Ms. Starr shown right above) have a bit of the era’s pervy peekaboo Good Girl Art feel to them, no question. Queenie Starr in particular, seems to spend a lot of time posing for cheesecake photos or sunning poolside in a bathing suit…reasonable enough, perhaps for a ‘Hollywood Glamour Girl’. But not unlike Barreaux’ Sally The Sleuth, she spends an inordinate amount of time getting dressed and undressed. Unfortunately for the various Hollywood crooks, schemers and murderers she gets mixed up with, prancing about in negligees or lingerie doesn’t seem to hinder her ability to solve Tinsel Town’s crimes. All in all, quirky retro stuff, but very interesting.

Super Detective May 1950

 

 

Amber Blake

Amber Blake 1 Variant Cover

Headlines about billionaires engaged in sex trafficking and rampant abuse of underage girls make a comics series feel all too uncomfortably real. Case in point: IDW Publishing’s current Amber Blake series, written by Jade Lagardere and drawn by Butch Guice, with inking, coloring and lettering assistance by Mike Perkins, Christa Miesner, Robbie Robbins and Dan Brown.

Only a toddler, Amber’s left on a bleak orphanage’s doorstep. Several years later, she and bestie Amanda are given the chance to live in one of billionaire Arnav Aslam’s Cleverland institutions: Opulent, state of the art living and educational campuses located around the world and intended to gather together gifted youngsters in order to cultivate the next generation of leaders in the arts, sciences, business, government and technology. But even in Cleverland hallowed halls, Amber and Amanda are forced to endure the evil headmaster’s abuse, and after graduation, Amber vows to get her revenge. Three issues in, Amber Blake finds herself enlisted as an agent of a secret paramilitary/espionage organization, which she embraces in order to track the elusive headmaster, only to discover that she’s being used and that the head of the organization is none other than her presumed benefactor, Arnav Aslam, whose billions can buy more than power.

 

Amber Blake is another in an expanding number of magazine-sized comics series, blending some taut action sequences with a bit of suspense, a dash of romance and an overall thought provoking storyline that feels, in part, ripped right form current headlines (though obviously it was written months and months ago). Amber herself is determined and capable, tough but vulnerable, and definitely not a superhero, which is refreshing. I’m looking for to the next issues. Check it out.

 

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