Adapted by various (iBooks)
If you’re going to adapt classic, evocative crime stories into graphic narrative there really isn’t any better source material than Raymond Chandler. This follow-up to the graphic novel interpretation of Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe: The Little Sister (ISBN: 0-684-82933-9) was also packaged by comics visionary Byron Preiss and adapts three short tales from the master of hard-boiled fiction, rendered in a variety of unique and impressive styles.
Opening the show is ‘Goldfish’, first published in 1949, the writer’s ninth short story sale and preceding his first Marlowe novel by three years. Adapted by Tom DeHaven and lettered by Willie Schubert, it’s stylishly illustrated by British designer and artist Rian Hughes in muted colour tones that have only the merest hint of hue to them; the effect is powerfully evocative and atmospheric.
When ex-cop Kathy Horne sidles into the tough guy’s seedy office she brings a tale of lost pearls, an absconded convict and a huge reward just waiting to be claimed. Dragged far out of his comfort zone and sent up and down the Pacific Seaboard, the world-weary gumshoe is just steps ahead of the sadistic and casually murderous Carol Donovan and her gang of thugs in a superb thriller of double-cross and double-jeopardy.
Next up is ‘The Pencil’, scripted award-winning mystery novelist Jerome Charyn, brilliantly rendered by British comics legend David Lloyd in moody, dry-brush black and white, and lettered by long-term collaborator Elitta Fell. This was Chandler’s twenty-first – and final – Marlowe adventure, published in 1959, shortly after the author’s death. You might know it as ‘Marlowe Takes on the Syndicate’, ‘Wrong Pigeon’ or even ‘Philip Marlowe’s Last Case’.
Hollywood 1955: Ikky Rossen was a bad man, a career gangster and mob leg-breaker. When he crossed his bosses he thought Marlowe could get him safely out of the City of Angels before The Organization’s East Coast Button Men could send him to Hell. Marlowe knew that these were people who should be avoided at all costs and only one thing is always true: everybody lies…
Closing the book and woefully misplaced is ‘Trouble is My Business’ by James Rose, Lee Moyer and Alfredo Alcala, with Schubert again filling the word balloons.
This weak tale of vengeful Harriet Huntress who intends to destroy two generations of wealthy socialites mixed up in the gambling rackets is from 1939: a rather tame and straightforward yarn in comparison to the other stories here, not to mention the landmark first full novel The Big Sleep, also published in that year. Moyer and Alcala do a solid job of illustrating the plot (although it’s a little pretty for my tastes) but the cynical edge that is the hallmark of this brilliant crime creation is muted if not actually extinguished here.
Despite a disappointing end this is a great book of crime comics that any fan will delight in, and the incredible Steranko cover alone is well worth the effort of tracking it down.
Adaptations and illustrations © 2003 Byron Preiss Visual Publications Inc. Original stories “Goldfish” and “Trouble is my Business” © 2003 Philip Marlowe BV (Estate of Raymond Chandler) All Rights Reserved. “The Pencil” © 1971 Helga Greene, Executrix, Estate of Raymond Chandler. All Rights Reserved.