I don’t think I’ve ever seen this put online before, but these are the prototype designs of Parker Darwyn Cooke showed to Westlake that caused good ol’ Don to call this version of Parker “a hothead”. It’s just a pic from my phone, so, sorry for shitty quality.
Parker by Darwyn Cooke
Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter
"When the knock came at the door, Parker was just turning to the obituary page."
Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter
-Drawn by Darwyn Cooke
Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter. Adapted and Illustrated by Darwyn Cooke.
The Hunter is the story of a man who hits New York head-on like a shotgun blast to the chest. Betrayed by the woman he loved and double-crossed by his partner in crime, Parker makes his way cross-country with only one thought burning in his mind - to coldly exact his revenge and reclaim what was taken from him! For fans of gritty in-your-face crime-fiction graphic novels, there is no comparison.
Savage Wolverine 14.Now variant cover
Noir pulp made into art: Some words on Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter
There’s a difference between being able to draw and being able to weave a narrative out of images. Pick up any cape comic and often you’ll find that the visuals are unable to carry the story on its own, serving merely as talking heads for a wall of speech bubbles, using boring angles from which to portray the action. Or it’s so heavily photoreferenced that all sense of movement and intensity of facial expressions are non-existent. Pretty pictures but visually unstimulating.
Comics are so much more than placing dialogue bubbles with words. The images shouldn’t only be a vehicle for the dialogue but also be able to tell a story on its own, and Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter by Darwyn Cooke is a good example of that. Maybe I’m cheating comparing a graphic novel with some cape stuff but Cooke’s DC stuff is worth checking out as well - together with Brubaker he probably made the best Catwoman we’ve had in recent years (also people like JH Williams III and Jim Steranko proved that experimentation isn’t only limited to graphic novels!)
A bit of background: Darwyn Cooke is a comic book writer and artist, having worked on The Spirit, Catwoman and DC: The New Frontier (which is what the animated movie Justice League: A New Frontier is based on). He adapted The Hunter, a novel in the Parker series written by Richard Stark. Hence the confusing name.
Anyway, observe how Cooke sets the milieu and characterizes Parker with very little words:
It takes 20 pages for us to finally see the face of our main character. Cooke intentionally chose angles that would hide Parker’s identity yet still remain interesting. We follow Parker around as he walks around 60s-era New York - I’ve left out a lot of pages but you can guess the time period from the cars and fashion. He cuts a frightening picture as he stomps down the avenue, head lowered and arms stiffly protruding on each side.
When we are finally treated to his identity we see a man with a deep scowl, with dark rings around his eyes and his mouth set firmly in a menacing snarl, looking both angrily at himself and at the viewer.
Parker is clearly a man on a mission: he’s a crook that wants his money back and enact revenge on the people who betrayed him. One of these people is his wife, whom he visits one night after downing a bottle of vodka:
This is the first interaction we see between Parker and another, identified character, and it sets the tone for future dialogue that takes place. The violence against this woman isn’t glorified as it is in Sanctuary, and throughout the story it’s clear that we’re not supposed to sympathize or cheer Parker on - he is a troubled man, consumed by revenge, attempting to solve everything with violence, angry that he still has feelings for his wife.
I don’t want to give too much of the story away so let me move on: Cooke’s storytelling and his art go hand-in-hand, as sequential art is supposed to be, and he understands the potential of comics really well: the timing between panels, the tension and implied action in the white space between frames, fluctuating effortlessly between deliberate stillness and explosive action. Cooke’s drawing style also fits perfectly with the aesthetics of the time, and it’s evident that he is heavily inspired by it.
It feels like I didn’t have a lot to say but really, Cooke’s knowledge of comics speaks for itself. He’s a true artist, and The Hunter is a perfect marriage of beautiful, compelling imagery with gripping storytelling.