Posts Tagged ‘noir’

City of Spies

Published May 7, 2010 by Molly

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With certain cultural products you can tell how much you’re going to love them based only on a few key words from their description. City of Spies is a good example of this phenomenon. Words and phrases mentioned in relationship to the graphic novel include “World War II spy tale”, “intrigue”, “espionage” and “German conspiracy”.

Written by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan and illustrated by Pascal Dizin, the book combines super-precise illustration with shiver-inducing mysteries, historical atmospherics and a cast of amiable, adventure-hungry characters. To be honest, we’re fans of anything that involves the kid detective genre and/or having hunches, so this book is the answer to our most fervent prayers. It doesn’t hurt that the tale has also been likened to a Tintin book directed by Hitchcock. Dream team!

David Jien

Published April 29, 2010 by Molly



In an interview at Little Paper Planes, artist David Jien talks a bit about his process, noting that he starts with an idea and progresses to research, references, sketches, and finally, a drawing. The artist, who works with graphite and paper, admits that “I work pretty slowly and my finishing time varies with every picture, but small ones usually take 2-3 days, and large ones take up to 3 months.” This makes sense, given the meticulous detail and technical verve of Jien’s drawings.

The drawings remind us (a bit obscurely) of the great Carol Reed noir film “The Third Man”, with its burnt-out postwar Vienna streetscapes, dark shadows, and sinister lurkers. Jien himself has talked about the influence of Nintendo, anime, Roald Dahl and Chinese scroll painting on his works, so what do we know? Only that there’s plenty of room for both interpretations. These are great, great drawings.

West Coast Blues

Published October 5, 2009 by Molly

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The graphic novel, it turns out, is a form especially well-suited to the noir genre. Maybe this isn’t surprising––comics have always run the gamut of moods from goofy to autobiographical to just plain smutty. But it still gives a shiver of pleasure to stumble upon a graphic novel that captures the hardboiled tone of classic noir as perfectly as West Coast Blues, Jacques Tardi’s adaptation of a 1976 crime novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette.

The book is drawn in scratchy old-school high style, and the central story concerns a shiftless Parisian executive who finds himself pursued by a pair of assassins for something he may or may not have done. The plot includes bursts of bruality, dark realizations, alluring women and grizzled observations from its antihero––all the best conventions of noir, in other words, preserved and reborn in a fresh new medium. File it next to Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.

Inherent Vice

Published August 6, 2009 by Graham


Literary mastermind Thomas Pynchon has a new book out this week, only the seventh novel in his 45-year career. Clocking in at a slim 416 pages, the hardboiled noir Inherent Vice is being marketed as Pynchon’s “most accessible” book yet, but don’t count on anything so gauche as a straightforward narrative from the king of postmodern prose.

Taking place just after the cold conclusion to those free-loving 1960s, Pynchon’s heavily influenced P.I. Doc Sportello leads us through the paranoid haze of beach-side L.A. culture, crossing paths with a motley crew of oddball characters including “surfers, hustlers, dopers and rockers, a murderous loan shark, a tenor sax player working undercover, an ex-con with a swastika tattoo and a fondness for Ethel Merman, and a mysterious entity known as the Golden Fang, which may only be a tax dodge set up by some dentists.” Yep, sounds like Pynchon. Check out this online commercial for the book, narrated by the enigmatic author himself: