“Graphic Novel Peepland ’s Bloodstained Mystery Oozes 80’s NYC” by R.J. Huneke is the last part in a series unveiling both a New York Comic Con interview with the creators as well as a review of the gritty Hard Case Crime graphic novel TPB that was released on August 1, 2017.
Peepland is a page-turner that leaves delicious grime under your fingernails!
The book by Christa Faust (Author), Gary Phillips (co-author), and Andrea Camerini (Illustrator) is 128 pages of mayhem in 1980’s Manhattan.*
Peepland’s beauty lies in the eerily entangled corruption that clings to a New York murder merging 40’s gangster noir with 80’s NYC for a historically bound bloodbath.
The protagonist is a complex and intriguing character, a peep booth worker named Roxy Belle, and she is an unwilling participant in the murder mystery at the thick of the plot.
She has the kindness, craftiness, and nastiness (including willing to do some pee porn promos for a favor or two) to make this tale sexy, thrilling and innovative.
Such insight into the underworld living upworld in the heart of 80’s Midtown is the brainchild of Christa Faust and the help of her editor and the founder of Hard Case Crime Charles Ardai who partnered with Titan Comics for the comic book.
We were fortunate to receive an interview at New York Comic Con 2016 with none other than these two talented people.
R.H.: “How do you get the female perspective from a peepbooth?”
C.F.: “I grew up in the city . . . I have a vagina and I once worked in the peepbooths. So double-chromosome easy-peasy; write what you know.”
That is simple enough.
As a pornographer’s latest tape is bestowed upon Roxy during her shift, she goes home and finds a surprising strangling at the end of the video that is spit out of her VCR.
Later she learns that after dropping off the tape and fleeing her booth, porno filmmaker Dirty Dick is snuffed out in the subway.
Someone is erasing that video.
Roxy does not know who the murderer is or why they are wiping out anyone tied to the flick.
But what is a very well connected real estate mogul’s son to do when he might be implicated?
The world crafted in Peepland is its own badass character.
The writing is top-notch and with the art matches the stunning clarity with which the greasy alleys and shadows contrast the neon lights of Times Square in the 80’s. The air is stuffy with exhaust and cigarette smoke, and the bangs of gunshots go off at random twists and quakes as the plot unfolds.
The white versus black racism, even in New York, is palpably disgusting, and accurately adds an unease that was felt in the city at the time.
This affects the story and the poor characters caught within, for none are wholly unscathed in such a story as this.
You may be thinking: where do NYC’s punk haircuts, perms, and thongs (hiked way over the hips!) get off attempting to spawn a noir crime thriller sans the razor-sharp suits, tommy guns, and fedoras?
Well this book perfectly merges the 40’s noir age of gangster to the 1980’s NYC.
The web of crime and organized crime outfits, from the smallest pimps, hookers, peep booth operators to the corrupt cops, either detectives on the take from a Mafioso or detectives trying to sell out to the highest bidder mirror, in a kind if circus-mirror-way that works, the Al Capone days of Chicago.
The long gone New York age is brought to life again.
Is the Mayor’s office in on it? . . . Maybe . . .
It becomes quickly apparent that noir was meant for the mid-1980’s New York City era and Faust delivers it in spades.
R.H.: “What was your inspiration for PEEPLAND?” C.F.: “It was mostly just because . . . you know being a fellow New Yorker it’s so different now.” R.H.: “The way that is was, the city.” C.F.: “That’s never coming back . . . and I wanted to tell that story [of NYC] in a visual medium, because you can tell people what it was like, but if you can show them, it’s more visceral, it’s grittier, it’s more true.”
And the tale of Peepland could not be more ‘’visceral’ and pointed, as cops use any excuse to grab an African American male, a minor, and accuse him of rape and murder of the white victim in the park.
The depth of the corruption is staggering in its ferocity, as is the massive body count stemming from constant plot twists, from blowjobs turned wrong to shocking melees enveloping any and all characters in a variety of guns and knives as only the 80’s could do it.
R.H.: “What I loved is that the historicism is there. I love the 80’s perms [for example].” And at this point Charles breaks in. C.A.: “This person,” he says with a smile and playfully accusing point to Christa, ‘was the police person, policing in acronyms.” C.F.: “I was the G-string Nazi – I was like ‘hike that aaaall the way up to be here,” she says pointing to high over her hip. C.A.: “What were the buildings, what were the posters, what were [the] hairstyles, ads, shoes . . . what were the characters?”
Yes, the “Thriller” jacket is present and yes there were peep booths, and XXX video stores by the dozen in Times Square during the 80’s.
If you do not believe the history, view the photographs Christa includes at the end of the graphic novel.
Without giving away too much, this tale spins faster and harder building up and up and up to a furious conclusion coinciding with the countdown on New Year’s Eve at The Deuce, Times Square.
Ask your local comic shop if they have the hardcover trade graphic novel, or grab one here.
Nothing expected happens in Peepland, and it is truly wicked and wonderful.
“Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini Interview” by R.J. Huneke is the first in a series of articles resulting from our interviews with the creators at New York Comic Con 2017 and discusses the classic mystery graphic novel from Hard Case Crime and Titan Comics.
Cover Art By Robert McGinnis
Based on facts and questions surrounding Harry Houdini’s bizarre death in 1926, Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini is an imbued look into a female private detective taking on a whopper of a first case from long-time Houdini friend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The vibrant history, the tenacious protagonist Minky Woodcock, and the stunning aspects of the art make this book a classic.
Impactful surprises, intricate looks into character personalities, and a fully-fledged and almost surreal world is built to exude the many mysteries of the day.
*The following MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS for Minky Woodcock ISSUE 1*
Renowned artist Cynthia von Buhler had me on page one of Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini.
The graphic novel’s first page has two panels: one remarkable overhead shot of Minky at a typewriter CLICK clicking away in a letter to Agatha Christie about their meeting at Minky’s mother’s funeral, which takes up all of the left side of the page, and the sub-panel to the right tying two images top-to-bottom of the funeral and furthering along the letter telling of Ms. Christie knowing Benedick Woodcock, a private investigator and Minky’s father.
The character of Minky is already established as both ambitious and a member of an interesting family and family business.
The sound of the writing implement, the scarlet locks of Minky’s hair, down to her red nails on the keys in such a stark close-up and unique angle are vivid and intriguing, while on the sub-panel a subdued brown and black coloring scheme goes back in the past to the early twentieth century and a sad and poignant funeral.
The art is utterly spell-binding and unique as it emanates the Roaring Twenties and the young woman who graces the next pages with a trench coat, a hint of bare leg, and a flask in her hand, as she still grieves for her lost mother, which had a great impact on her life.
Minky is not content to be a private detective’s secretary (her father’s request) when she can be one herself.
A case presents itself in her father’s absence, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wants Minky to investigate Harry Houdini, and she smartly says that she can take the case without arousing suspicion, which her father – a well-known P.I. – might very well attract.
Doyle aks Minky to join him for a séance with world renowned Margery, who he says is “adept at manifesting spirit ectoplasm from her orifices.”
This is historically accurate, and it is portrayed with all the zeal that a talented nude spiritualist can bring to a séance for society’s high rollers.
What is overlying all of this . . . a piece of tragic history:
On Halloween of all days, October 31, 1926, Harry Houdini died of very mysterious and suspicious circumstances, and though this is not touched on in the first issue, I suspect Ms. von Buhler’s tale does so as it progresses.
The rich depth of Minky and the portrayal of famed author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are posed, depicted and brought to life through an innovative use of art that is invigorating.
I succinctly asked artist Cynthia von Buhler about this:
R.J.H. – ‘I love your style [in this book].’
C.V.B. – ‘I’m doing more drawing it and ink [on paper] and color on the computer . . . this is my drawing style.’
Cynthia added that she was lucky to have Pearls Daily to model for the character of Minky.
C.V.B. – ‘She’s [Pearls is] great because she’s posing . . . she’s like that all the time.’
And with that Pearls, donning her detective’s trenchcoat did a little twist of her leg in a pose on the floor of New York Comic Con after the Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini signing.
Pearls Daily’s acting abilities helped to give life to the vivacious rendition of Minky Woodcock that Cynthia von Buhler puts on the page masterfully, and you can see it from panel to panel throughout the piece as Minky struts into the ritzy home for the séance, as she deftly grasps a martini glass, and as she flees the scene in a tight and curvilinear dress.
What is Minky running from exactly? Her mother’s ghost?
Well I leave that to you, the reader, to find out!
Get down to your local comic book shop and pick up this book, it just came out this week, before it sells out forever.
I will be scouring my LCS, Red Shirt Comics, for whatever variant covers are left on the shelf.
And check out all of the beautiful cover variants. The alternatives are stark in contrast from Charles Ardai’s photograph of Pearls Daily as Minky, to Cynthia von Buhler’s cover, to David Mack’s portrait, and last but not least to a legend that Cynthia spoke on with reverence:
C.V.B. – This cover [she said holding up the cover bearing Margery] is by Robert McGinnis . . . he’s ninety years old and he’s doing this style of painting for years in the James Bond movie posters . . . and it’s such an honor for him to do this cover.
All of the covers are unique and excellent views of the book, and the Robert McGinnis cover seems to pull you to it, as though it were magnetic.
The biggest qualm with this issue is that there is not enough Houdini (though he does pass through a wall briefly). But he is almost certainly lurking not far from Minky’s investigation in the future pages to come.
The hardcover graphic novel for Minky Woodcock is soon to be held!
And in the meantime check out the evidence and real history that was used in creating Minky Woodcock’s tussle with Houdini, Doyle, and the séance craziness of the time at minkywoodcock.com.
“Quarry’s War Hits Comics: Insights With Editor Charles Ardai” By R.J. Huneke
Charles Ardai of Hard Case Crime was kind enough to speak with POWkabam Comics in an interview to discuss Quarry’s War, Hard Case Crime’s newest revelation in the Titan Comics lineup, a four-issue graphic novel written by famed Max Allan Collins (Road To Perdition; Flying Blind) based on his hard boiled assassin Quarry.
The artwork by Szymon Kudranski is compelling in its portrayal of the character Quarry, who has really no readable expression.
The poker face and the Laissez-faire attitude of the intelligent gun-for-hire with more than a semblance of a conscience is a perfect emanation of Quarry on page one of issue 1.
The insights into war, from the ‘good hunting’ diction to the portrayal of moods surrounding the American sniper team are incredibly interesting – because the snipers do not kill in battle they, like the Vietcong, are ‘strange…crawly things in the jungle’ even to their own comrades in arms.
For fans of the Quarry books, the Quarry’s War comic has backstory that Mr. Collins has never explored before on the page!
For those of you not familiar with Max Allan Collins’ oldest running series to date, we will explore the history of Quarry in detail with someone who is intimately familiar with his work, Charles Ardai.
Charles Ardai is an accomplished author, editor, noir-buff, and co-founder of the Hard Case Crime publishing company, which has in the last couple of years started to create incredible editions of graphic novels through Titan Comics, like Cynthia Von Buhler’s Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini.
How did it all start?
C.A.: Max Allan Collins is probably better known for comics than for anything else. He started doing Dick Tracy, the newspaper strip, for something like ten years; he took over for Chester Gould, the guy who created Dick Tracy. He crated his own comic called Ms. Tree, which I think was one of the longest running crime comics in history, and he did Batman, and a bunch of other things, but he really hit it big with a book called Road To Perdition. Road To Perdition was a stand-alone graphic novel that became an academy award-winning movie with Tom Hanks.
Artwork By Szmon Kudranski + Quarry’s War By Max Allan Collins
Aside from his work in comic books, Max Allan Collins has dozens of riveting novels, including his Nathan Heller series where a private detective with a penchant for cash becomes a high-profile private dick, as he ends up working with the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Bobby Kennedy (in Bye Bye, Baby), and Amelia Earhart (Flying Blind); the historical fiction combined with the tragic figures of legend make for addictive masterpieces.
C.A.: [Max] started Quarry in the 70’s when he was a student in college, and he never did a Quarry comic. So here’s this guy who’s been doing comics his entire life, and here’s his longest running character – [Quarry] even became a TV series – and he’s never shown up in comics.
R.J.H.: So how did this innovative noir character, a good-guy gun-for-hire finally come to comic books?
C.A.: When we started Hard Case Crime for comics, I said Max: you’ve got to do Quarry. I want to see what this guy looks like. I’ve been reading about him for thirty years!
The magic was in the making: Quarry’s mug would come to comics.
C.A.: The idea was Quarry was a soldier in Vietnam. He comes back stateside from his tour of duty, [and] he can’t get a job. The only thing he knows how to do is kill people. He was a sniper in Vietnam; and the government trained him in how to shoot people, and he has no other skills. He discovers his wife was cheating on him, and he kills the guy she’s sleeping with, and so now he really can’t get a job. And someone shows up at [Quarry’s] door and says, ‘why don’t you do for good pay what the government had you doing for pennies over in Vietnam?’, and he becomes a killer.
And three interesting twists on the hard boiled crime genre here are as follows: Quarry stands in a United States in chaos in the Vietnam War era (this was contemporary when the first books were written by Collins), the tales take place in the middle of the country, and in many rural and suburban areas – not in the atypical L.A. or New York City – and Quarry himself is utterly unique as a character in that he is as honest a killer as he is an efficient survivor.
Charles Ardai worked as consulting editor on the first comic book adaptation of the character, Quarry’s War, along with editor Tom Williams.
C.A. But what we never saw in any of the books – and this is what is so exciting – we’ve never seen his Vietnam experience…and when they did the TV show there was an episode and part of it takes place in Vietnam, and it got phenomenal reviews. But what Max is doing [with Quarry’s War] is an interesting structure [where] half of each book is set in Vietnam – and we see Quarry as a marine sniper in Vietnam – and the other half is back home after the war. And it’s done alternating pages: every left-hand page tells the story in the present day America [being July 1972 in Issue #1] and every right-hand page tells the story of Vietnam [in 1969].
R.J.H.: Was this done to invoke a sense of the parallels between the two lifestyles?
C.A.: So if you just read the right-hand pages, you get the Vietnam story and if you just read the left-hand pages you get the current day story in America, and, of course, they get integrated.
Like most of the innovative works of Collins’ career, the integration of the past and the present pose dramatic expositions in the visuals and story on the page.
The first issue is dubbed “Partners In Crime” and throughout it we get to know Quarry’s partners, both in crime in America with Boyd, who is the interesting “passive-side” of the hit team, compiling the stakeout part of their jobs, and in Vietnam with Quarry’s sniper partner, a spotter, Lance Corporal Lance Roberts ‘who took plenty of shit for the double name’ – this quote is some of Collins’ witty genius, as he shares a character’s innards in brevity.
Getting back to the comic: the current tale in America is also in Quarry’s past, and his Vietnam story is deeper into that past.
There is a connection to the soon-to-be-dead partner, Boyd, and the partner from the war.
The connection comes abruptly in the form of a twist, like a gut-shot, as the new job’s target for Quarry in America winds up being his old Vietnam spotter Lance.
The young marine who tries to smoke pot while setting up a target in the jungle, and is quickly threatened to be killed by Quarry for potentially alerting the ‘VC’ to their whereabouts if he smokes, comes to work well with the humorless sniper Quarry. But as the reader gets to know the sniper team in the Vietnam turmoil, there is a sense of foreboding. After all, Boyd is dead in the books and now Lance is supposed to be soon-to-be-dead, as Quarry’s next victim. *SPOILER ALERT ENDING
The detail of the jungle trees, the paddy fields, and the people all seemed to be immersed in a tint of shadow that may signal the past, or just a darker world in general.
It is compelling alongside the brighter America complete with Quarry’s best stress reliever, a swim and subsequent bikini-clad dame that takes an interest in him.
*SPOILER ALERT Even the casual one night stand highlights Quarry’s need to be cautious and meticulous: as a sexy shower curtain silhouette of the buxom companion graces the background, Quarry checks out her purse to ensure no mob ties, or guns, lie in wait.
The Vietnam mission comes without backup on the opposite page, and the brains of armed Vietnamese teenagers burst from their skulls, as the job is carried out. *SPOILER ALERT ENDING
Quarry’s War from Max Allan Collins is a gem, as dirty and sharp as an unpolished diamond.
Grab the last issue (and the preceding ones if you do not have them yet) that just hit shelves at your local comic shop, like Red Shirt Comics.
And a gorgeous collection of the entire graphic novel Quarry’s War is coming soon!