by Jesse Marinoff Reyes ( Jesse Marinoff Reyes Design, Maplewood, N.J.)
Donald Westlake AKA Richard Stark (1933-2008)
Well, not quite THAT deep in the Archives, but read on…
In 1962, the Brooklyn-born Westlake, as Richard Stark (one of 16 pen names), created the master thief “Parker,” launching a series of novels that are now considered seminal works of crime fiction. Several of Westlake’s novels were made into motion pictures, including Point Blank (1967), based on the Parker novel, The Hunter, with Lee Marvin as Parker, (renamed “Walker” in the film); The Split (1968), based on The Seventh, with Jim Brown as Parker (renamed McClain); The Outfit (1973), with Robert Duvall as Parker (changed to Macklin); and Payback (1999), also adapted from The Hunter, with Mel Gibson as Parker (renamed “Porter”); and several other works as well. Not to mention Westlake’s own work in movies including his script based on Jim Thompson’s novel for The Grifters (1990).
Westlake wrote crime fiction (and some occasional forays into science fiction) and is a three-time Edgar Award winner (one of only two writers to have won writing in three different categories—1968, Best Novel, God Save the Mark; 1990, Best Short Story, “Too Many Crooks”; 1991, Best Motion Picture Screenplay, The Grifters). The Mystery Writers Association named him a Grand Master in 1993.
The exceptional graphic designer, animator, and (since the late-1990s) comic artist, Darwyn Cooke, something of a “young fogey” and one of the best creatives working in comics today has long been a fan of hardboiled crime fiction and has cited the Parker novels as a source of inspiration. Though more widely known for his work on the DC pantheon of super heroes (notable work on Batman and Cat-Woman; a recent renewal of Will Eisner’s The Spirit; and his epic retelling of the origin of the Justice League of America—set with the Cold War and the Space Race as a backdrop—The New Frontier, which was also adapted into an animated film and subsequently nominated for an Emmy), Cooke in 2009 launched the first in a series of graphic novels adapting Westlake/Stark’s Parker books beginning with The Hunter (IDW, 2009).
Cooke’s adaptation made the New York Times Bestseller list and won both the Harvey and Eisner Awards (The Outfit has mirrored The Hunter’s reception and is nominated for the same major awards). Brilliantly graphic (in two-color), Cooke’s work evokes the kind of classic comic narrative one associates with Frank Robbins, Milt Caniff, and Jack Kirby (along with generational-comrade David Mazzucchelli, especially if you remember Mazzucchelli’s work on Batman: Year One in the late-1980s, or his alt-comics magazine Rubber Blanket in the 1990s) and is not to be missed if you like to enjoy the art of comics at its very best, or mid century modern crime noir at it’s most hard boiled.
IDW Publishing, 2010
Illustration: Darwyn Cooke
Design: Robbie Robbins
Art Director: Neil Uyetake