The Rise of the Comic Book Crime Novel
After recently reading “Severance Package” by Duane Swierczynski and “Beat the Reaper” by Josh Bazell, DaRK PaRTY has identified a new genre in book publishing that – until now – has gone nameless. We also include Victor Gischler’s novels (like “Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse”) in this new category.
Let’s call it Comic Noir.
Comic Noir combines the elements of a graphic novel – most notably superhero comics by Marvel and DC – and incorporates them into the plot structure and dark themes of classic crime noir such as those written by Jim Thompson and James M. Cain.
This mix provides a vastly entertaining, completely ridiculous crime farce that has a tendency to take itself too serious while being laugh-out loud funny at the same time. Comic Noir novels generally are fast reads, feature huge build-ups, and then implode into groan-inducing, far-fetched conclusions.
But they are fun reads, if forgettable after a few weeks. They are the snack food aisle of literature. Tasty and with a great sugar high! They have also become the new darlings of book publishers and book reviewers.
DaRK PaRTY has identified six core components of the Comic Noir novel. Here they are:
1. Comic Noir books inevitably get compared to Quentin Tarantino films.
• In the review of “Go-Go Girls from the Apocalypse,” the New York Times called the book “Part Christopher Moore, part Quentin Tarantino…”
• In its review of “Severance Package,” Booklist gushed, “This is essentially one long action scene that begs for the next Tarantino to direct.”
• Also on “Severance Package,” the Chicago Tribune said: “…enough gut-churning violence to make a Quentin Tarantino movie look like a Disney musical…”
2. Comic Noir features “high-concept” plots generally found in comic books. The more outlandish the better!• “Severance Package” is about the boss of a shell corporation that is really a covert spy agency calling all of its employees to work on a Saturday, trapping them on the corporate floor by rigging explosives to the exits, and then trying to execute all of them.
• “Beat the Reaper” is about a mafia hitman in the Federal Witness Protection Agency now working as an intern at a hospital being forced to operate on and save the life of a mob stoolie or face being revealed to his mafia enemies.
3. Expect a lot of unrealistic, over-the-top comic book violence with few if any emotional consequences.
• Our favorite: The protagonist from “Beat the Reaper” rips his fibula bone from his calf and uses it to stab to death a room full of heavily armed mobsters.
4. Comic Noir resembles bad Westerns when it comes to gun play: one bullet from the good guy always hits its mark while machine guns and heavily artillery in the hands of many bad guys always miss. And bullet wounds in the extremities are easily fixed in Comic Noir novels by wrapping a piece of clothing around the wound. Yet, guns ultimately don’t get the job done and hand-to-hand fighting is required.
5. The protagonists are generally sociopathic criminals (can you say “hitman”?) who are funny and sarcastic, and, despite being sociopaths, don’t seem to have any sexual hang-ups.
• The main character from Victor Gischler’s “Gun Monkey” is Charlie “The Hook” Swift” a mob enforcer and hitman.
• The protagonist from “Beat the Reaper” is Pietro “Bearclaw” Brnwa a former hitman for the mob.
6. Comic Noir treats female characters in much the same way as the comic book industry draws them (think Power Girl and Wonder Woman) – oozing sex appeal, scantily clad, and ready to punch you in the face (or shoot you in the back).
Please feel free to add any authors or observations about Comic Noir to our comments section.
Our review of "Beat the Reaper"
Our review of "Severance Package"
5 Questions About: Crime Noir
Labels: Comic Noir, Crimes, Duane Swierczynski, Fiction, Josh Bazell, Victor Gischler