Thursday, August 15, 2013

John Lange Revealed! Michael Crichton & Hard Case Crime.

For me, the intersection between Hard Case Crime and comic books is double-edged.  On the one hand, the award-winning line of new and classic crime fiction was featured in the back pages of early issues of Criminal (and I discovered that HCC books returned the favor), and I'm not sure I would have explored the books without that advertising. 

On the other hand, Hard Case Crime is a big reason I no longer read many new comic books:  few provide the same bang for the buck, either on the first read or for the long haul.

We previously noted the imprint's hiatus and its return, moving from mass-market paperbacks to hardcovers and trade paperbacks.  This summer has been especially big, as Stephen King published Joyland exclusively through HCC without any digital distribution -- it's been startling to see the book at Kroger's and Costco -- and big events just keep coming.

Earlier this week, I noticed the website listed eight(!) new additions for October, two being familiar books in a new edition.  The Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy blog has the details, and at his blog, novelist Paul Bishop has evidently published the email newsletter from editor Charles Ardai.

As a Harvard med student, Michael Crichton wrote eight paperback thrillers that were published between 1966 and 1972 under the pen name of John Lange.  Hard Case Crime previously reprinted two of these books -- Grave Descend (HCC-026) and Zero Cool (HCC-041) -- under the name of Lange, never acknowledging the now fairly open secret of who really wrote it.

Crichton passed away in 2008, but with his family's blessing, all eight Lange novels are being reprinted by Hard Case Crime this October, under his real name for the first time.

(The earlier HCC books will have new numbers and the new authorship, "Michael Crichton Writing as John Lange," as the original listings have been removed from the site.)

What sort of books did "John Lange" write?  Ardai explains:
The books are terrific reads, really delicious examples of Michael experimenting with the genres he would become famous for in later life – you’ll find sinister consequences of bioengineering (on a secret island vacation resort, no less!), you’ll find a race-against-the-clock political thriller penned long before the TV series “24,” you’ll find an archaeology professor hunting for a lost tomb in the Egyptian desert decades before Harrison Ford ever donned a fedora…plus a heist of a luxury hotel planned with the aid of a computer, a case of mistaken identity that pits an innocent man against a league of assassins, and more, all presented behind the gorgeous painted cover art of Greg Manchess and Glen Orbik. 
Unlike Stephen King's latest entry, these books are also available digitally through Open Road Integrated Media, but I think Ardai's comment to WSJ is right on the money:  "We publish books that were meant to be in paperback, with covers that make your pulse race, which is how Michael always wanted these books to appear."

Each book will retail for ten bucks, and they may end up being discounted to about the same price range as the e-books.

Fans of Criminal and the rest of Brubaker and Phillips' work can find a great way to kill a weekend with any of the books from Hard Case Crime.


Wednesday, August 07, 2013

New Fatale Out Today: Previews, Interviews, and More.

After a brief delay of a couple weeks, Fatale #16 is in stores today.  A five-page preview of the latest issue can be found all over the place, including Comic Book Resources, Geekality, Rockin Comics, and Comicsity.

Keen-eyed readers might spot a revised cover for the issue.  At his blog, Sean Phillips explains that, since Nicholas doesn't appear in this issue, they'll save the original cover for another time.

Sean Phillips is also spending the next few months highlighting "reject" images that didn't make the final cut for The Art of Sean Phillips, due in October.  Fans of his collaborations with Ed Brubaker will be particularly interested in two pieces from Sleeper: a preliminary pencil of the cover art for issue #2 and a rough demonstration image for the colorist.  More is sure to come.

Speaking of Brubaker, he announced on his Twitter feed that his upcoming comic Velvet made the October cover of the solicitations magazine Previews.

A few weeks ago, I belatedly mentioned an interview with Brubaker at MTV Geek.  The interview focuses on Fatale and Velvet, I noted a few tidbits about the former.  The next arc will include an experimental issue and a "really weirdly experimental storyline" -- both the result of the freedom inherent in creator-owned comics -- and there are events set in the 1960's that we'll get to, eventually.

MTV Geek subsequently posted a brief video interview with Brubaker at San Diego Comic-Con, focusing on "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," the upcoming movie based on his recent run at Marvel.

Finally, the horror magazine Rue Morgue published an interview with Brubaker and Phillips this past June, promoting Fatale's third trade paperback "West of Hell" and the new story arc "Pray for Rain".  The creators go into what makes the medium effective for horror, and Brubaker discusses the benefits of reading the monthly issues.
"...the best benefit of getting the single issues is that you ensure we get to keep making comics. We earn most of our living on single issue sales, because there’s no big company backing us. The way Image works, you’re basically publishing with them, not working for them, so those single issue sales are what keeps this train running, and our readership has really supported us over the years when our projects weren’t as successful as Fatale has been. It’s important to point that out from time to time, because I feel like sometimes we take stuff we read for granted, not realizing our patronage is what makes those books possible." [emphasis mine]
Sean discusses his goal as an artist -- "to make the reader forget they're reading a comic, to get totally involved in what is happening in the story" -- and the two relish the immediacy and the artistic control that comes with their creator-owned work.

Criminal fans will be most interested to read what Brubaker says about their upcoming plans.
"The plan is to either do a sci-fi or a period piece crime story after this... depending on what feels most ready whenever we get to the end of Fatale."
I'd love to see my favorite comic return with a period piece, but I'm also keenly aware that, in our world, Leo has been languishing in prison for more than six years.

I dig all their collaborations, but the sequel to "Coward" cannot come soon enough for me.

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