Markley’s Fevered Brain: I’m Hardboiled

Wayne Markley

Wayne Markley


by Wayne Markley

To know me is to know that the last thing in the world I am is hard, but I do really enjoy Hard Case Crime, originally a series of novels and more recently a series of comics under the same name published by Titan Comics. (Who also publish the Hard Case Crime novels under their Titan Books imprint). Hard Case Crime was originally an imprint founded by Charles Ardai and Max Phillips with the intent of doing a line of paperback books in the style of the crime novels of the 1940s and ‘50s. This was a mix of original stories in the style of hardboiled detective fiction and reprints of books from that time period. What I loved about these books was the design and the cover paintings. While not all of these books were home runs, more were good than bad. A few years ago, Ardai took the imprint to Titan Books where they continued the prose books and added a comic book line where they adapted some of the novels and also did all-new stories in comic format of hardboiled crime. I wrote about their early releases a while back but now I am going to look at a batch of their newest releases.

Normandy Gold

Normandy Gold


Normandy Gold is written by Megan Abbot and Alison Gaylin and is drawn by Steve Scott and Rodney Ramos. It is a five issue series about a female sheriff named Normandy Gold who goes to New York City in search of her baby sister in the 1970s. From there the story delves into New York’s dark underbelly of prostitution and crime and eventually leads to the White House. This book read like a classic ‘70s grind house movie mixed with All the Presidents Men, which was the intent. It has a tough as nails female lead beating heads and taking names, and shedding her clothes to get to the truth, no matter what it takes. The art is good and really captures the feel of New York in the ‘70s; well, it is cleaner than New York was in the ‘70s. I found it to be a great read and one of the better books of the series. It is available as five single issues or they will be collected in a very nice trade this spring. For mature readers due to violence and nudity.

Quarry's War

Quarry’s War


Quarry’s War is written by Max Allen Collins and drawn by Szymon Kudranski. This is part of Collins’ ongoing series of Quarry prose novel series, also from Titan’s Hard Case Crime prose novel series and was also a TV show on Cinemax. This story is set in Chicago in 1970 and Quarry is recently back from the Vietnam War and is down on his luck. He gets a job using his war experience working for a man known as “Booker” doing things that are not always legal, or even a little bit legal, to be honest. As with the novels, this is a hardboiled crime thriller that focuses on the dark side of life. Like Normandy Gold, the art is clean and professional, not in the least a flashy superhero style. While it does at times look a bit simple, it is perfect for this story. This is a five issue miniseries (with promises of more to come) and will be collected into a trade paperback in the summer. Also like Normandy Gold, this book is a dark crime story that is very rough in passages and probably is not for everybody. For mature readers due to violence and nudity.

Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini

Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini


Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini is written and drawn by Cynthia Von Buhler. Minky is tired of working for her father’s detective agency so she strikes out on her own and lands up with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the creator of Sherlock Holmes) and Harry Houdini in a madcap adventure of magic and murder. I really like this book even though Von Buhler‘s art style is unique in a cartoony way. It really works for this story. It is filled with red herrings and misdirection that makes for a very entertaining story. This is far more whimsical than the very hardboiled and dark stories that are in Quarry and Normandy Gold. As with all of the previous Hard Case Crime comics, this is a miniseries that will be collected into a trade collection after the miniseries wraps up. Also, like the earlier Hard Case stories, this book is for mature readers due to nudity and sexuality. Who knew there was so much sex involved with murder?

Babylon Berlin

Babylon Berlin


Babylon Berlin is a change of pace as this is a standalone story complete in a deluxe hardcover. This is a European graphic novel written and drawn by Arne Jysch adapting a novel by Volker Kutscher. The story involves Detective Inspector Gereon Roth who has recently transferred to the Berlin police department where he gets involved with a case about a pornography ring (here comes the sex and murder again) which spreads throughout the police force and the government and he finds he can trust no one. I thought this book was great. By far the best Hard Case comic so far. Jysch’s art is very fluid and simple and reminds me of Jacque Tardie. The story moves at a quick pace and is like watching the best kind of detective show. Jysch is able to avoid the traditional crime stories tricks and provide a solid read that has no wasted words or images. I enjoyed this graphic novel so much I now want to go back and read Kutscher’s novel. I should also note that there is a television adaption of the novel that was a huge hit in Europe and will be shown this fall in America on Netflix. It is a 200 page plus story that is pitch perfect from page one to the last panel. A great read. And of course for mature readers due to sex and violence.

A quick note for something to look forward to. Hard Case Crime has announced coming in later 2018 they will be doing a Mike Hammer comic based on the classic character created by Mickey Spillane. This new comic series will be written by Max Allen Collins, who in the past was Spillane’s handpicked successor to finish his unfinished stories. This new series is supposed to start this summer. I am looking really forward to this. Mike Hammer was one of the best known hardboiled P.I.s where sex and violence intermingled freely. Truly the definition of the genre.

This wraps it up for this time. While I really enjoy these Hard Case Crime books, I realize they are not for everyone. I am predisposed towards liking mysteries so that helps. Also, as I mentioned, the art is not always the most appealing, but I would still recommend you check out these books as you might find one that appeals to you. As always, I would love to know if you have read any of the books and what you thought. Did you enjoy them? Hate them? I can be reached at MFBWAY@AOL.COM or on Facebook at Wayne Markley. The words written here are all mine and in no way reflect the thoughts or opinions of Westfield Comics or their employees…

Thank you.

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