Tuesday, December 02, 2008

DC Does Crime

During the Bouchercon mystery conference, held in Baltimore earlier this year, DC Comics announced its new Vertigo Crime graphic novel imprint. The list will include graphic novels by Ian Rankin (his first foray into comics), Gary Phillips, Brian Azzarello, and my own first graphic novel, The Chill (with amazing art work by Mick Bertilorenzi, shown on the left).

The Chill is a thriller centered around the investigation of a series of murders in New York City with a mysterious Druid connection. There’s a lot of action, suspense, graphic violence, and sex--you know, all the good stuff. I don’t want to give too much away, but parts of the story are set in the past and the distant past in Ireland, and there are also some supernatural elements to the tale. While readers familiar with my writing will recognize my style in The Chill, I think I do a lot in this book that I haven’t done before. The best way I can describe the process is that when you write a graphic novel you have to use a different part of your brain. You aren’t just using words; you have to tell your story with images as well. It’s like screenwriting, except you are also the co-director and co-cinematographer.

One objective of Vertigo Crime is to attract crime-fiction enthusiasts to cross over and read graphic novels. I think that some of the best crime-writing being done right now can be found in comics. Writers such as Brian Azzarello, Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, and Brian Wood have been doing amazing work for years. Recently, a wave of fast-rising mystery authors, including Gregg Hurwitz, Victor Gischler, Duane Swierczynski, and Charlie Huston, have started writing comics too. Big influences for me were graphic novels like John Wagner and Vince Locke’s A History of Violence and Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner’s The Road to Perdition.

So I have another question for all you mystery and crime readers out there. Do you currently read graphic novels? If not, what has turned you off to them in the past, and what would persuade you to start reading them in the future?


pattinase (abbott) said...

From what I can ascertain, it seems these publications speak to an entirely male world with women portrayed as victims and sexual objects. I would make the exception here of graphic novels like Persepolis, with a political agenda and a few ones meant for children.

Clayton Moore said...

I have to admit, if comic books never existed, I'm not entirely sure I would have ever learned to read, and quite often these days I enjoy the work of people like Brubaker (who will make a brilliant novelist some day) as much as I do that of more traditional storytellers. Among the more stellar offerings are Wood's DMZ (terrific politics + action) and Northlanders, Jason Aaron's Scalped, Rucka's nail-biting pair of Whiteout trades and the epic Queen and Country, and just about anything Warren Ellis or Garth Ennis put their devious minds to. I would also say there's plenty to be gleaned from Robert Kirkman's emotionally mature zombie epic The Walking Dead, David Lapham's Stray Bullets, and Brian Michael Bendis' pre-superstar crime stories Jinx and Goldfish.

Yeah, I read comic books. You got me.

Nice to see you Jason. Keep it up.

JZID said...

I loved comic books when I was a kid- and I really wish I could still get into them- but it just doesn't do it for me anymore. I can still appreciate the art but as no longer can connect to the story, I guess I need something more deep. That being said, I'm a sucker for all the comic book movies. I even like the worst of the super hero movies, and I might be out on a limb here but I'm really looking forward to the upcoming G.I. Joe movie!

James Reasoner said...

I've been reading comics for going on fifty years now and still read at least a couple of graphic novels a week. I'm really looking forward to Vertigo Crime.

Anonymous said...

You're missing out if you haven't read Point Blank, Sleeper, Scene of the Crime, and Criminal. All by Ed Brubaker.

And Scalped is probably my favorite crime comic right now.

Anonymous said...

I;ll second what Clayton said Greg Rucka has come up with two very strong female leads in both Whiteout and spy-tastic Queen & Country. Even taking that character into two novels which follow the comics continuity.

Jason Starr said...

Great comments!
I read comics voraciously growing up, then not as much until several years ago. Now I read as much as I can. Maybe it's because I write crime fiction, but I too have always been attracted to comics with a strong narrative. Others may have differing opinions on this, but I think putting story at the forefront is a trend with recent comics. This is one reason I was so excited about getting involved with Vertigo Crime, because one of the main objectives is to display graphic novels alongside books. The Vertigo Crime books will be roughly similar to the size of Road to Perdition, so they will fit on shelves where mystery novels are sold.