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“Peepland Brings Hard Case Crime’s Grit, Noir To Titan Comics” by R.J. Huneke is the first part in a series that will unveil a New York Comic Con interview with the creators as well as offer up a retrospective of each issue of Peepland leading up to the fifth and final book coming out on February 22, 2017.
Peepland brings Hard Case Crime’s grit and noir to Titan Comics in a new ongoing series of thrilling graphic novel titles that began with the premiere releases of Triggerman and Peepland in the fall and winter of 2016/2017. We were fortunate to receive an exclusive interview at New York Comic Con 2016 with none other than two of the talented people behind this new visual chapter in Hard Case Crime: writer and founder and editor of Hard Case Crime himself, Charles Ardai, and the co-author of Peepland, and homegrown New York novelist, Christa Faust.
The backdrop for the interview was beneath the shadow of a Javits Center pole that stood as a beleaguered island amidst the swarms of hungry readers and fans waiting outside the Titan Comics booth to meet the Hard Case Crime team for a signing of their revolutionary break into the comic book medium.
"That one image had to drag you kicking and screaming through 200 pages." ~Charles Ardai on the cover art for Hard Case Crime's novels.
With authors ranging from Lawrence Block to Stephen King, Hard Case Crime’s paperback books have brought literary quality to a force that is good old-fashioned mystery and gritty noir, the way Raymond Chandler always hoped the world would receive such stories.
The release of the graphic novel comic book series, partnering with Titan comics, is just another step in the evolution of Hard Case Crime, and it is one its co-founder Charles Ardai pictured early on.
C.A.: “We started in 2004 as a reference to the old paperbacks of the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s. And those were driven by illustration, but only one illustration per book.
“You had the cover art, painted beautifully, and then you had 200 pages of text, and that one image had to drag you kicking and screaming through 200 pages.”
Hard Case Crime brought back the dime paperback era noir and hardboiled crime novels with intriguing and innovative new tales.
All of Hard Case Crime’s novels feature stunning cover art that is often featuring heroines dripping of sexuality or fearsome scenes, snapshots into murder scenes, mysterious carnivals, or the darker soul emanating from a key character’s off-putting expression.
But as Charles points out there is only one, albeit incredibly enticing and often enthralling image, for an entire novel.
C.A.: “From the beginning I had the notion it would be fun to do something with more visuals where the ratio between art to text was different. And I was a comic reader from childhood.”
This vision was put in motion in 2010 when Hard Case Crime hooked up with Titan Comics and began to formulate a plan for half a dozen noir-esque titles, the first of which are Triggerman, whose final issue came out on February 8, and Peepland, whose fifth and final book comes out in just two weeks.
Both of the premiere Hard Case Crime comic book titles are masterfully illustrated and written.
Triggerman, written by Matz and The Warriors director Walter Hill and illustrated by Jef is a gun-toting smash of a tale; the heat of the gun barrels can nearly be felt through the art on the page.
But what took this writer thoroughly by the tufts of his beard, and ‘kicking and screaming’ – as Charles puts it – from panel to panel and page to page was the utterly unique tale of murder and mystery coming from a peepbooth in 1986 Times Square, when New York City was at its height of derelictness meets art meets punk rock; this is the story held within the pages of Peepland.
When porno filmmaker Dirty Dick rushes into Peepland, he begs a young woman he knows working a peepbooth, Roxy, to take his VHS tape before he takes off for the subway without explanation.
What is on the tape?
We will get back to that in a minute.
The mohawks, lightning rod spikes and 80’s perms adorn the heads of the vintage New Yorkers in Peepland, as this piece reflects a unique era in history that you can see so well you can almost smell the hairspray in the crowds and the black clove cigarettes being smoked beneath the bright neon signs of “XXX” and soda ads at Times Square.
Christa Faust and Gary Philips write Peepland; the artwork is by Andrea Camerini, the colors by Marco Lesko, and the letters by Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt.
Each centimeter of the page pours history and makes the reader long for more.
The great characters, especially the formidable female protagonist Roxy and her enticing storyline break new ground in this 1980’s noir work of art.
Christa brings an intelligent, courageous and attractive New Yorker Roxy to life with past experience from her hometown.
C.F.: “Well [for] Peepland, I grew up in the city. My mother’s . . . off of 9th Avenue . . . she’s been there for forty-I-don’t-know-I-foget-how-many years, and I used to work the peepbooths back in the day.”
After thinking on this an apt question followed.
R.H.: “How do you get the female perspective from a peepbooth?”
C.F.: “Well I have a vagina and I once worked in the peepbooths. So double-chromosome easy-peasy; write what you know.”
She says this, and it is great advice for any writer, with an infectious smile that is almost a wink of knowing.
Again the question of Issue #1:
What is on the tape?
$SPOILER ALERT$ Roxy gives in to her curiosity and the VCR shows a public porno session that turns voyeur, Dirty Dick-style, as the camera floats over and captures two lovers, unbeknownst to them, as they embrace up against a wall . . . until the important-looking suited man murders the young woman with his bare hands.
What happens to Dirty Dick, you ask? Well, his run from Peepland does not throw off two pursuers desperate for the tape, and his journey ends abruptly as one of them pushes him in front of the “A” train.
$END OF SPOILER ALERT$
This is just the first part of our Rune Works and POWkabam Comics series of articles conveying the interview of the creators of Peepland. In the Part 2, we will continue the interview, explore Peepland Issue #1 a little further and then delve fully into the second scintillating issue.
Peepland Issue #1 is on sale February 22, 2017.